To That Noble And True Lover Of Learning

Sir Walter Aston

Knight Of The Bath

Sir, I must ask your patience and be true;
This play was never liked, unless by few
That brought their judgments with ’em; for, of late,
First the infection, then the common prate
Of common people, have such customs got,
Either to silence plays or like them not:
Under the last of which this interlude
Had fallen for ever, pressed down by the rude,
That like a torrent, which the moist south feeds,
Drowns both before him the ripe corn and weeds,
Had not the saving sense of better men
Redeemed it from corruption. Dear sir, then,
Among the better souls, be you the best,
In whom, as in a center, I take rest
And proper being; from whose equal eye
And judgment nothing grows but purity.
Nor do I flatter, for, by all those dead,
Great in the Muses, by Apollo’s head,
He that adds anything to you, ’tis done
Like his that lights a candle to the sun:
Then be, as you were ever, yourself still,
Moved by your judgment, not by love or will;
And when I sing again (as who can tell
My next devotion to that holy well?)
Your goodness to the Muses shall be all
Able to make a work heroical.

Given to your service,
John Fletcher.

To The Inheritor of all Worthiness

Sir William Skipwith


If, from servile hope or love,
    I may prove
But so happy to be thought for
Such a one, whose greatest ease
    Is to please,
Worthy sir, I’ve all I sought for:

For no itch of greater name,
    Which some claim
By their verses, do I show it
To the world; nor to protest
    ’Tis the best;—
These are lean faults in a poet;—

Nor to make it serve to feed
    At my need,
Nor to gain acquaintance by it,
Nor to ravish kind attornies
    In their journies
Nor to read it after diet.

Far from me are all these aims,
    Fittest frames
To build weakness on and pity.
Only to yourself, and such
    Whose true touch
Makes all good, let me seem witty.

The admirer of your virtues,
John Fletcher.

To The Perfect Gentleman

Sir Robert Townshend

If the greatest faults may crave
Pardon where contrition is,
Noble sir, I needs must have
A long one for a long amiss.
If you ask me, how is this?
   Upon my faith, I’ll tell you frankly,
   You love above my means to thank ye.

Yet, according to my talent,
As sour fortune loves to use me,
A poor shepherd I have sent
In home-spun gray for to excuse me;
And may all my hopes refuse me,
   But when better comes ashore,
   You shall have better, newer, more!

Till when, like our desperate debtors,
Or our three-piled sweet protestors,
I must please you in bare letters,
And so pay my debts, like jesters;
Yet I oft have seen good feasters,
   Only for to please the pallet,
   Leave great

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