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But everlasting dictates crowd his tongue
Perversely grave, or positively wrong.
The still returning tale, and ling'ring jest,
Perplex the fawning niece, and pamper'd guest,
While growing hopes scarce awe the gath'ring sneer,
And scarce a legacy can bribe to hear :
The watchful guests still hint the last offence;
The daughter's petulance, the son's expense,
Improve his heady rage with treach'rous skill,
And mould his passions till they make his will.
Unnumber'd maladies his joints invade,
Lay siege to life, and press the dire blockade ;
But unextinguish'd av'rice still remains,
And dreaded losses aggravate his pains ;
He turns, with anxious heart and crippled hands,
His bonds of debt, and mortgages of lands;
Or views his coffers with suspicious eyes,
Unlocks his gold, and counts it till he dies.
But grant, the virtues of a temp’rate prime
Bless with an age exempt from scorn or crime;
An age that melts with unperceiv'd decay,
And glides in modest innocence away ;
Whose peaceful day benevolence endears,
Whose night congratulating conscience cheers ;
The gen’ral fav’rite as the gen’ral friend :
Such age there is, and who shall wish its end ?
Yet ey’n on this her load Misfortune flings,
To press the weary minutes' flagging wings;
New sorrow rises as the day returns,
A sister sickens, or a daughter mourns.
Now kindred Merit fills the sable bier,
Now lacerated Friendship claims a tear;
Year chases year, decay pursues decay,
Still drops some joy from with’ring life away ;
New forms arise, and diff'rent views engage,
Superfluous lags the vet’ran on the stage,
Till pitying Nature signs the last release,
And bids afflicted worth retire to peace.
But few there are whom hours like these await,
Who set unclouded in the gulphs of Fate.
From Lydia's monarch should the search descend,
By Solon caution'd to regard his end,
In life's last scene what prodigies surprize,
Fears of the brave, and follies of the wise !
From Marlb'rough's eyes the streams of dotage flow,
And Swift expires a driv'ler and a show.
The teeming mother, anxious for her race, Begs for each birth the fortune of a face ; Yet Vane could tell what ills from beauty spring ; And Sedley curs’d the form that pleas'd a king. Ye nymphs of rosy lips and radiant eyes, Whom pleasure keeps too busy to be wise ; Whom joys with soft varieties invite, By day the frolic, and the dance by night; Who frown with vanity, who smile with art, And ask the latest fashion of the heart; [save, What care, what rules, your heedless charms shall Each nymph your rival, and each youth your slave? Against your fame with fondness hate combines, The rival batters, and the lover mines. With distant voice neglected Virtue calls, Less heard and less, the faint remonstrance falls; Tir'd with contempt, she quits the slipp’ry rein, And Pride and Prudence take her seat in vain,
In crowd at once, where none the pass defend,
The harmless freedom, and the private friend.
The guardians yield, by force superior ply'd :
To Int'rest, Prudence; and to Flatt’ry, Pride.
Here Beauty falls betray'd, despis’d, distress’d,
And hissing Infamy proclaims the rest.
Where then shall Hope and Fear their objects find ?
Must dull Suspense corrupt the stagnant mind?
Must helpless man, in ignorance sedate,
Roll darkling down the torrent of his fate?
Must no dislike alarm, no wishes rise,
No cries invoke the mercies of the skies?
Inquirer, cease ; petitions yet remain
Which Heav'n may hear, nor deem religion vain.
Still raise for good the supplicating voice,
But leave to Heav'n the measure and the choice :
Safe in his pow'r, whose eyes discern afar
The secret ambush of a specious pray'r ;
Implore his aid, in his decisions rest,
Secure, whate'er he gives, he gives the best.
Yet, when the sense of sacred presence fires,
And strong devotion to the skies aspires,
Pour forth thy fervours for a healthful mind,
Obedient passions, and a will resign'd;
For love, which scarce collective man can fill;
For patience, sov'reign o'er transmuted ill;
For faith, that, panting for a happier seat,
Counts death kind Nature's signal of retreat :
These goods for man the laws of Heav'n ordain,'
These goods he grants, who grants the pow'r to
With these celestial Wisdom calms the mind,
And niakes the happiness she does not find.
SPOKEN BY MR. GARRICK, AT THE OPENING OF THE
THEATRE-ROYAL, DRURY-LANE, 1747.
When Learning's triumph o'er her barb'rous foes
First rear'd the stage, immortal Shakspeare rose ;
Each change of many-colour'd life he drew,
Exhausted worlds, and then imagin'd new:
Existence saw him spurn her bounded reign,
And panting Time toil'd after him in vain.
His pow'rful strokes presiding Truth impress'd,
And unresisted Passion storm'd the breast.
Then Jonson came, instructed from the school,
To please in method, and invent by rule;
His studious patience and laborious art,
By regular approach assail'd the heart :
Cold Approbation gave the ling'ring bays,
For those who durst not censure, scarce could
praise. A mortal born, he met the gen'ral doom, But left, like Egypt's kings, a lasting tomb.
The wits of Charles found easier ways to fame, Nor wish'd for Jonson's art, or Shakspeare's flame. Themselves they studied, as they felt they writ; Intrigue was plot, obscenity was wit. Vice always found a sympathetic friend ; They pleas'd their age, and did not aim to mend. 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 Aled. 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 lot that, here by Fortune plac'd,
Must watch the wild vicissitudes of taste;
With every meteor of caprice must play,
And chase the new-blown bubbles of the day.
Ah! let not Censure term our fate our choice,
The stage but echoes back the public voice;
The drama's laws, the drama's patrons give,
For we that live to please, must please to live.
* Hunt, a famous boxer on the stage ; Mahomet, a rope-dancer, who had exhibited at CoventGarden theatre the winter before, said to be a Turk.