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Yet bards like these aspir'd to lasting praise,
And proudly hop'd to pimp in future days.
Their cause was gen'ral, their supports were strong,
Their slaves were willing, and their reign was long :
Till Shame regain'd the post that Sense betray'd,
And Virtue call’d Oblivion to her aid.
Then, crush'd by rules, and weaken'd as refin'd,
For years the pow'r of Tragedy declin'd;
From bard to bard the frigid caution crept,
Till Declamation roar'd whilst Passion slept;
Yet still did Virtue deign the stage to tread,
Philosophy remain'd, though Nature fled.
But forc'd, at length, her ancient reign to quit,
She saw great Faustus lay the ghost of Wit;
Exulting Folly hail'd the joyful day,
And Pantomime and Song confirm'd her sway.
But who the coming changes can presage,
And mark the future periods of the Stage?
Perhaps, if skill could distant times explore,
New Behns, new Durfeys, yet remain in store;
Perhaps where Lear has rav'd, and Hamlet dy’d,
On flying cars new sorcerers may ride:
Perhaps (for who can guess th’ effects of chance?)
Here Hunt may box, or Mahomet" may dance.
Hard is his iot that, here by Fortune plac'd,
Must watch the wild vicissitudes of taste;
With ev'ry meteor of caprice must play,
And chase the new-blown bubbles of the day.
* Hunt, a famous boxer on the stage; Mahomet, a rope-
dancer, who had exhibited at Covent-Garden Theatre the winter before, said to be a Turk.
! set not Censure term our fate our choice, he stage but echoes back the publick voice; The drama's laws, the drama's patrons give, For we that live to please, must please to live. Then prompt no more the follies you decry, As tyrants doom their tools of guilt to die; 'Tis Yours, this might, to bid the reign commence Of rescued Nature and reviving Sense; To chase the charms of Sound, the pomp of Show, For useful Mirth and salutary Wo; Bid scenic Virtue form the rising age, And Truth diffuse her radiance from the stage.
YE glitt'ring train, whom lace and velvet bless,
Suspend the soft solicitudes of dress
From grov'ling business and superfluous care,
Ye sons of Avarice, a moment spare
Vot'ries of Fame, and worshippers of Power,
Dismiss the pleasing phantoms for an hour !
Our daring bard, with spirit unconfin'd,
Spreads wide the mighty moral for mankind.
Learn here how Heav'n supports the virtuous mind,
Daring, though calm; and vigorous, though resign'd.
Learn here what anguish racks the guilty breast,
In pow'r dependent, in success deprest.
Learn here that Peace from Innocence must flow ;
All else is empty sound and idle show.
If truths like these with pleasing language join ;
Ennobled, yet unchang'd, if Nature shine;
If no wild draught depart from Reason's rules,
Nor gods his heroes, nor his lovers fools:
Intriguing Wits his artless plot forgive;
And spare him, Beauties though his lovers live,
Be this at least his praise, be this his pride;
To force applause no modern arts are try’d.
Should partial cat-calls all his hopes confound,
He bids no trumpet quell the fatal sound.
Should welcome sleep relieve the weary wit,
He rolls no thunders, o'er the drowsy pit.
No Snares to captivate the judgment spreads,
Nor bribes your eyes to prejudice your heads.
Unmov'd though Witlings sneer and Rivals rail;
Studious to please, yet not asham'd to fail.
He scorns the meek address, the suppliant strain,
With merit needless, and without it vain.
In Reason, Nature, Truth, he dares to trust:
Ye Fops, be silent: and ye Wits, be just