Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub
[graphic]

JOHNSON.

FROM "LONDON, A POEM.”
On Thames's banks, in silent thought, we stood
Where Greenwich smiles upon the silver flood;
Struck with the seat that gave Eliza birth,
We kneel, and kiss the consecrated earth;
In pleasing dreams the blissful age renew,
And call Britannia's glories back to view;
Behold her cross triumphant on the main,
The guard of commerce, and the dread of Spain,
Ere masquerades debauch'd, excise oppress'd,
Or English honour grew a standing jest.

A transient calm the happy scenes bestow,
And for a moment lull the sense of woe.
At length awaking, with contemptuous frown,

m

PROLOGUE, 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 fled. But forc'd, at length, her ancient reign to quit, She saw great Faustus lay the ghost of Wit; Exulting Folly haild the joyful day, And Pantomime and Song confirm'd her sway.

But who the coming changes can presage,

Perhaps if skill could distant times explore,
New Behns, new Durfeys, yet remain in store ;
Perhaps where Lear has rav'd, and Hamlet died,
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.

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 rescued Nature and reviving Sense;
To chase the charms of sound, the pomp of show,
For useful mirth and salutary woe;
Bid scenic Virtue form the rising age,
And Truth diffuse her radiance from the stage.

ON THE DEATH OF Min. ROBERT LEVET, A PRACTISER IN PHYSIE,

Condemn'd to Hope's delusive mine,

As on we toil from day to day,
By sudden blasts, or slow decline,

Our social comforts drop away.
Well tried through many a varying year,

See Levet to the grave descend,
Officious, innocent, sincere,

Of ev'ry friendless name the friend.
Yet still he fills affection's eye,

Obscurely wise, and coarsely kind;
Nor, letter'd Arrogance, deny

Thy praise to merit unrefin d.
When fainting nature call’d for aid,

And hov'ring death prepar’d the blow,
His vig'rous remedy display d

In Misery's darkest cavern known,

His useful care was ever nigh,
Where hopeless Anguish pour'd his groan,

And lonely Want retir'd to die.
No summons mock’d by chill delay,

No petty gain disdain'd by pride,
The modest wants of ev'ry day

The toil of ev'ry day supplied.
His virtues walk'd their narrow round,

Nor made a pause, nor left a void;
And sure th' Eternal Master found

The single talent well employ'd.
The busy day—the peaceful night,

Unfelt, uncounted, glided by;
His frame was firm—his powers were bright,

Though now his eightieth year was nigh.
Then with no fiery throbbing pain,

No cold gradations of decay,
Death broke at once the vital chain,

And freed his soul the nearest way.

FROM THE VANITY OF HUMAN WISHES.

“ ENLARGE my life with multitude of days !".
In health, in sickness, thus the suppliant prays:
Hides from himself his state, and shuns to know
That life protracted is protracted woe.
Time hovers o'er, impatient to destroy,
And shuts up all the passages of joy :
In vain their gifts the bounteous seasons pour,
The fruit autumnal, and the vernal flow'r;
With listless eyes the dotard views the store,
He views, and wonders that they please no more;
Now pall the tasteless meats, and joyless wines,
And Luxury with sighs her slave resigns.
The still returning tale, and ling'ring jest,

*

*

*

*

*

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 expence,
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 e'vn on this her load Misfortune Alings,
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 teár ;
Year chases year, decay pursues decay,
Still drops some joy from with’ring life away ;
New forms arise, and different 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 gulf 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 surprise,
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.

[ocr errors]
« ПредишнаНапред »