The Step-Mother, by Terence

Another Prologue.

I come a pleader, in the shape of prologue:
Let me then gain my cause, and now grown old.
Experience the same favor as when young;
Who then recover’d many a lost play,
Breath’d a new life into the scenes, and sav’d
The author and his writings from oblivion.
Of those which first I studied of Cæcilius,
In some I was excluded; and in some
Hardly maintain’d my ground. But knowing well
The variable fortunes of the scene,
I was content to hazard certain toil
For an uncertain gain. I undertook
To rescue those same plays from condemnation,
And labor’d to reverse your sentence on them;
That the same Poet might afford me more,
And no ill fortune damp young Genius in him.
My cares prevail’d; the plays were heard; and thus
Did I restore an Author, nearly lost
Through the malevolence of adversaries,
To study, labor, and the Poet’s art.
But had I at that time despis’d his plays,
Or labor’d to deter him from the task,
It had been easy to have kept him idle,
And to have scar’d him from attempting more:
For my sake, therefore, deign to hear with candor
The suit I mean to offer to you now.

Once more I bring the Step-Mother before you,
Which yet in silence I might never play;
So did confusion crush it: which confusion
Your prudence may allay, if it will deign
To second our endeavors. — When I first
Began to play this piece, the sturdy Boxers,
(The dancers on the rope expected too,)
Th’ increasing crowds, the noise and women’s clamor,
Oblig’d me to retire before my time.
I, upon this occasion, had recourse
To my old way. I brought it on again.
In the first act I please: meanwhile there spreads
A rumor of the Gladiators: then
The people flock together, riot, roar,
And fight for places. I meanwhile my place
Could not maintain — To-day there’s no disturbance;
All’s silence and attention; a clear stage:
’Tis yours to give these games their proper grace.
Let not, oh let not the Dramatic Art
Fall to a few! let your authority
Assist and second mine! if I for gain
Ne’er overrated my abilities,
If I have made it still my only care
To be obedient to your will, oh grant
That he who hath committed his performance
To my defense, and who hath thrown himself
On your protection, be not giv’n to scorn,
And foul derision of his envious foes!

Admit this plea for my sake, and be silent;
That other Poets may not fear to write,
That I too may hereafter find it meet
To play new pieces bought at my expense.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:01