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Prologue To 'Zobeide'
(10 November 1730 – 4 April 1774 / County Longford / Ireland)

Prologue To 'Zobeide'

Poem By Oliver Goldsmith

IN these bold times, when Learning's sons explore
The distant climate and the savage shore;
When wise Astronomers to India steer,
And quit for Venus, many a brighter here;
While Botanists, all cold to smiles and dimpling,
Forsake the fair, and patiently -- go simpling;
When every bosom swells with wond'rous scenes,
Priests, cannibals, and hoity-toity queens:
Our bard into the general spirit enters,
And fits his little frigate for adventures:
With Scythian stores, and trinkets deeply laden,
He this way steers his course, in hopes of trading --
Yet ere he lands he 'as ordered me before,
To make an observation on the shore.
Where are we driven? our reck'ning sure is lost!
This seems a barren and a dangerous coast.
____ what a sultry climate am I under!
Yon ill foreboding cloud seems big with thunder.
('Upper Gallery'.)
There Mangroves spread, and larger than I've seen 'em --
('Pit'.)
Here trees of stately size -- and turtles in 'em --
('Balconies'.)
Here ill-condition'd oranges abound --
('Stage'.)
And apples ('takes up one and tastes it'),
bitter apples strew the ground.
The place is uninhabited, I fear!
I heard a hissing -- there are serpents here!
O there the natives are -- a dreadful race!
The men have tails, the women paint the face!
No doubt they're all barbarians. -- Yes, 'tis so,
I'll try to make palaver with them though;
('Making signs'.)
'Tis best, however, keeping at a distance.
Good Savages, our Captain craves assistance;
Our ship's well stor'd; -- in yonder creek we've laid her;
His honour is no mercenary trader;
This is his first adventure; lend him aid,
Or you may chance to spoil a thriving trade.
His goods, he hopes are prime, and brought from far,
Equally fit for gallantry and war.
What! no reply to promises so ample?
I'd best step back -- and order up a sample.

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