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At the Opening of the Theatre in DRURY-LANE 1747.
WHEN learning's triumph o’er her barb?rous foes
First rear'd the stage, immortal SHAKESPEAR 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 unrefifted passion storm'd the breast.
Then JOHNSON came, instructed from the school, To please in method, and invent by rule ; His ftudious patience, and laborious art, By regular approach assaild the heart ; Cold approbation gave the ling'ring bays, For those who durst not censure, scarce cou'd praise. A mortal born, he met the general doom, Bat left, like Egypt's kings, a lasting tomb.
The wits of Charles found easier ways to fame,
Nor with'd for Johnson's art, or SHAKESPEAR's flame;
Themselves they studied, as they felt they writ;
Intrigue was plot, obscenity was wit.
Vice always found a sympathetick 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 fenfe 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, while passion slept,
Yet ftill 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 Fauftus lay the ghost of Wit:
Exulting Folly haild the joyful day,
And pantomime and song confirmn'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 ravid, and Hamlet dy'd,
On flying cars new sorcerers may
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 placid, Must watch the wild vicissitudes of taste; With every meteor of caprice must play, And chace the new-blown bubbles of the day. Ah ! let not cenfure term our fate our choice ; The 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 night to bid the reign commence Of rescu'd nature, and reviving sense ; To chace the charms of found, the pomp of show, For useful mirth, and falutary woe; Bid scenic virtue form the rising age, And truth diffuse her radiance from the stage.
Of Active and RETIRED LIFE,
Meo quidem judicio neuter culpandus, alter dum expetit debitos titulos, dum alter mavult videri contempfile.
-First printed in the Year MDCCXXXV,
YES, you condemn those lages too refin’d,
That gravely lecture ere they know mankind;
Who whilst ambition's fiercer fires they blame,
Would damp each useful spark that kindles fame.
'Tis in false estimates the folly lies ;
The passion's blameless, when the judgment's wife,
In vain: philofophers with warmth conteft,
Life's secret fade, or open walk is beft :
Each has its separate joys, and each its use :
This calls the patriot forth, and that the mufe.
Hence not alike to all the species, heay'n
An equal thirst of publick fame has given :
· Patrius it forms to shine in action great ;
While Decio's talents best adorn retreat.
If where Pierian maids delight to dwell,
The haunts of filence, and the peaceful cell,
Had, fair Aftræa! been thy Talbot's choice,
Could liftning crowds now hang upon his voice ?
And thou, blest maid, mightft long have weptin vain
The distant glories of a second reign,
In exile doom'd yet ages to complain.
Were high ambition still the
That ruld with equal sway in every breast,
Say where the glories of the sacred nine ?
Where Homer's verse sublime, or, Milton, thine ?
Nor thou, sweet bard! who “ turn'd the tuneful art,
“ From found to sense, from fancy to the heart."
Thy lays instructive to the world hadft giv'n,
Nor greatly justified the laws of heav'n.
Let satire blaft with ev'ry mark of hate,
The vain aspirer, or dishonest great,
Whom love of wealth, or wild ambition's sway
Push forward, still regardless of the way ;
High and more high who aim with restless pride,
Where neither reason, nor fair virtue guide :
And him, the wretch, who labors on with pain,
For the low lucre of an useless gain,
(Wise but to get, and active but to save)
May scorn deserv'd still follow to the grave.
But he who fond to raise a splendid name,
On life's ambitious height would fix his fame,