WRITTEN TO BE SPOKEN BY
MRS. SIDDONS. [Footnote]
Yes, ’tis the pulse of life! my fears were vain!
I wake, I breathe, and am myself again.
Still in this nether world; no seraph yet!
Nor walks my spirit, when the sun is set,
With troubled step to haunt the fatal board,
Where I died last—by poison or the sword;
Blanching each honest cheek with deeds of night,
Done here so oft by dim and doubtful light.
—To drop all metaphor, that little bell
Call’d back reality, and broke the spell.
No heroine claims your tears with tragic tone;
A very woman—scarce restrains her own!
Can she, with fiction, charm the cheated mind,
When to be grateful is the part assign’d?
Ah, No! she scorns the trappings of her Art;
No theme but truth, no prompter but the heart!
But, Ladies, say, must I alone unmask?
Is here no other actress? let me ask.
Believe me, those, who best the heart dissect,
Know every Woman studies stage-effect.
She moulds her manners to the part she, fills,
As Instinct teaches, or as Humour wills;
And, as the grave or gay her talent calls,
Acts in the drama, till the curtain falls.
First, how her little breast with triumph swells,
When the red coral rings its golden bells!
To play in pantomime is then the rage,
Along the carpet’s many-colour’d stage;
Or lisp her merry thoughts with loud endeavour,
Now here, now there—in noise and mischief ever!
A school-girl next, she curls her hair in papers,
And mimics father’s gout, and mother’s vapours;
Discards her doll, bribes Betty for romances;
Playful at church, and serious when she dances;
Tramples alike on customs and on toes,
And whispers all she hears to all she knows;
Terror of caps, and wigs, and sober notions!
A romp! that longest of perpetual motions!
—Till tam’d and tortur’d into foreign graces,
She sports her lovely face at public places;
And with blue, laughing eyes, behind her fan,
First acts her part with that great actor, MAN.
Too soon a flirt, approach her and she flies!
Frowns when pursued, and, when entreated, sighs!
Plays with unhappy men as cats with mice;
Till fading beauty hints the late advice.
Her prudence dictates what her pride disdain’d,
And now she sues to slaves herself had chain’d!
Then comes that good old character, a Wife,
With all the dear, distracting cares of life;
A thousand cards a day at doors to leave,
And, in return, a thousand cards receive;
Rouge high, play deep, to lead the ton aspire,
With nightly blaze set PORTLAND-PLACE on fire;
Snatch half a glimpse at Concert, Opera, Ball,
A Meteor, trac’d by none, tho’ seen by all;
And, when her shatter’d nerves forbid to roam,
In very spleen—rehearse the girls at home.
Last the grey Dowager, in antient flounces,
With snuff and spectacles the age denounces;