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Themselves they studied, as they felt they writ;
long; Till Shame regain’d the Post that Sense betray'd, And Virtue callid Oblivion to her Aid.
Then crush'd by Rules, and weaken’d as refin’d, For Years the Power of Tragedy declin'd: From Bard to Bard the frigid Caution crept Till Declamation foar'd, while 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 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 Bhens, new Durfeys, yet remain in Store. Perhaps, where Lear has rav’d, and Hamlet dy'd, On fiying Cars new Sorcerers may ride, Perhaps (for who can guess the 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 chace 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,
E glittring Train! whom Lace and Velvet
bless, Suspend the soft Sollicitudes of Dress ; From grov'ling Business and superfluous Care, Ye Sons of Avarice! a Moment spare : Vot'ries of Fame and Worshippers of Pow'r! Dismiss the pleasing Phantoms for an Hour. Our daring Bard, with Spirit unconfin'd, Spreads wide the mighty Moral for Mankind. Learn here how Heav'n supports the virtuous Mind, Daring, tho' calm ; and vigorous, tho' resign'd. Learn here what Anguish racks the guilty Breast, In Pow'r dependent, in Success deprest. Learn here that Peace from Innocence must flow; All else is empty Sound, and idle Show.
If Truths like these with pleasing Language join; Ennobled, yet unchang’d, if Nature shine: If no wild Draught depart from Reason's Rules, Nor Gods his Heroes, nor his Lovers Fools: Intriguing Wits! his artless Plot forgive; And spare him, Beauties! tho' his Lovers live.
Be this at least his Praise ; be this his Pride; To force Applause no modern Arts are try'd. Shou'd partial Cat-calls all his Hopes confound; He bids no Trumpet quell the fatal Sound. Shou'd welcome Sleep relieve the weary Wit, He rolls no Thunders o'er the drowsy Pit,
No Snares to captivate the Judgment spreads ;
MILTON's Grand-daughter, and only surviving
E patriot Crouds, who burn for England's Fame,
At length our mighty Bard's victorious Lays Fill the loud Voice of universal Praise, And baffled Spite, with hopeless Anguish dumb, Yields to Renown the Centuries to come.