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The Works of the Rev. Jonathan Swift/Volume 7/Epilogue to a Play for the Benefit of Distressed Weavers



WHO dares affirm this is no pious age,
When charity begins to tread the stage?
When actors, who, at best, are hardly savers,
Will give a night of benefit to weavers?
Stay — let me see, how finely will it sound!
Imprimis, From his grace[1] a hundred pound.
Peers, clergy, gentry, all are benefactors;
And then comes in the item of the actors.
Item, The actors freely give a day —
The poet had no more who made the play
But whence this wondrous charity in players?
They learn it not at sermons, or at prayers:
Under the rose, since here are none but friends,
(To own the truth) we have some private ends.
Since waiting-women, like exacting jades,
Hold up the prices of their old brocades;
We'll dress in manufactures made at home;
Equip our kings and generals at the Comb[2].
We'll rig from Meath street Ægypt's haughty queen,
And Antony shall court her in ratteen.
In blue shalloon shall Hannibal be clad,
And Scipio trail an Irish purple plaid.
In drugget drest, of thirteen pence a yard,
See Philip's son amid his Persian guard;
And proud Roxana, fir'd with jealous rage,
With fifty yards of crape shall sweep the stage.
In short, our kings and princesses within
Are all resolv'd this project to begin;
And you, our subjects, when you here resort,
Must imitate the fashion of the court.
O! could I see this audience clad in stuff,
Though money's scarce, we should have trade enough:
But chints, brocades, and lace, take all away,
And scarce a crown is left to see the play.
Perhaps you wonder whence this friendship springs
Between the weavers and us playhouse kings;
But wit and weaving had the same beginning;
Pallas first taught us poetry and spinning:
And, next, observe how this alliance fits,
For weavers now are just as poor as wits:
Their brother quillmen, workers for the stage,
For sorry stuff can get a crown a page;
But weavers will be kinder to the players,
And sell for twenty pence a yard of theirs.
And, to your knowledge, there is often less in
The poet's wit, than in the player's dressing.

  1. Abp. King.
  2. A street famous for woollen manufactures.