Scarce a Performer there below a Duke.
He sate, and mused how in his Shakspeare’s mind
The idea of old Nobility enshrined
Should thence a grace and a refinement have
Which passed these living Nobles to conceive,—
Who with such apish, base gesticulation,
Remnants of starts, and dregs of playhouse passion,
So foul belied their great forefathers’ fashion!
He saw—and true Nobility confessed
Less in the high-born blood, than lowly poet’s breast.
If Lords enacting
Lords sometimes may fail,
What gentle plea, Spectators, can avail
For wight of low degree who dares to stir
The long-raked ashes of old Lancaster,
And on his nothing-martial front to set
Of warlike Gaunt the lofty burgonet?
For who shall that Plantagenet display,
Majestical in sickness and decay?
Or paint the shower of passions fierce and thick
On Richard’s head—that Royal Splenetic?
Your pardon, not
your plaudits, then we claim
If we’ve come short, where Garrick had been tame!
PROLOGUE TO SHERIDAN KNOWLES’ COMEDY, “THE WIFE”
Untoward fate no luckless wight invades More sorely than the Man who drives two trades; Like Esop’s bat, between two natures placed, Scowl’d at by mice, among the birds disgraced. Our author thus, of two-fold fame exactor, Is doubly scouted,—both as Bard, and Actor! Wanting in haste a Prologue, he applied To three poetic friends; was thrice denied. Each glared on him with supercilious glance, As on a Poor Relation met by chance; And one was heard, with more repulsive air, To mutter “Vagabond,” “Rogue,” “Strolling Player!” A poet once, he found—and look’d aghast— By turning actor, he had lost his caste. The verse patch’d up at length—with like ill fortune His friends behind the scenes he did importune To speak his lines. He found them all fight shy, Nodding their heads in cool civility. “There service in the Drama was enough, The poet might recite the poet’s stuff!” The rogues—they like him hugely—but it stung ’em, Somehow—to think a Bard had got among ’em. Their mind made up—no earthly pleading shook it, In pure compassion ’till I undertook it. Disown’d by Poets, and by Actors too, Dear Patrons of both arts, he turns to you! If in your hearts some tender feelings dwell From sweet Virginia, or heroic Tell: If in the scenes which follow you can trace What once has pleased you—an unbidden grace— A touch of nature’s work—an awkward start Or ebullition of an Irish heart— Cry, clap, commend it! If you like them not, Your former favours cannot be forgot. Condemn them—damn them—hiss them, if you will— Their author is your grateful servant still!