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Written and Spoken by the Poet Laberius, a Roman
Knight whom Cæsar forced upon the Stage.
Preserved by Macrobius.*
WHAT! no way left to shun th' inglorious stage,
And save from infamy my sinking age!
Scarce half alive, oppress'd with many a year,
What in the name of dotage drives me here?
A time there was, when glory was my guide,
Nor force nor fraud could turn my steps aside;
Unaw'd by power, and unappall’d by fear,
With honest thrift I held my honor dear :
But this vile hour disperses all my store,
And all my hoard of honor is no more ;
For ah! too partial to my life's decline,
Cæsar persuades, submission must be mine ;
Him I obey, whom heaven itself obeys,
Hopeless of pleasing, yet inclin'd' to please.
Here then at once I welcome every shame,
And cancel at threescore a life of fame;
No more my titles shall my children tell,
The old buffoon will fit my name as well;
This day beyond its term my fate extends,
For life is ended when our honor ends.
PROLOGUE TO ZOBEIDE,
IN these bold times, when learning's sons explore
The distant climates, and the savage shore;
When wise astronomers to India steer,
And quit for Venus many a brighter here;
* This translation was first printed in one of our Author's earliest works, " The Present State of Learning in Europe."
While botanists, all cold to smiles and dimpling,
Forsake the fair, and patiently--go simpliug,
Our bard into the general spirit enters,
And fits his little frigate for adventures.
With Scythian stores, and trinkets deeply laden,
He this way steers his course, in hopes of tradingco
Yet ere he land has order'd me before,
To make an observation on the shore.-
Where are we driven ? our reckoning sure is lost!
This seems a rocky and a dangerous coast.
Lord, what a sultry climate am I under!
Yon ill foreboding cloud seems big with thunder:
[Upper Gallery. There mangroves spread and larger than I've seen e'm
[Pit. Here trees of stately size--and billing turtles in e'm
[Balconies. Here ill-condition'd oranges abound- [Stage. And apples, bitter apples, strew the ground:
[Tasting them. The inhabitants are cannibals I fear : I heard a hissing-there are serpents here! O, there the people are-best keep my distance ; Our Captain (gentle natives) craves assistance ; Our ship’s well stor'd-in yonder creek we've laid her; His honor is no mercenary trader. This is his first adventure, lend him aid, And we may chance to drive a thriving trade. His goods, he hopes, are prime, and brought from far, Equally fit for gallantry and war. What, no reply to promises so ample? -I'd best step back and order up a sample.
In the Character of Harlequin, at his
HOLD! Prompter, hold! a word before your
I'd speak a word or two, to ease my conscience.
My pride forbids it ever should be said,
My heels eclips'd the honors of my head ;
That I found humour in a pye-bald vest,
Or ever thought that jumping was a jest.
[Takes off his mask.
Whence, and what art thou, visionary birth!
Nature disowns, and reason scorns thy unirth ;
In thy black aspect every passion sleeps,
The joy that dimples, and the woe that weeps.
How hast thou fill'a the scene with all thy brood,
Of fools pursuing and of fools pursu'd !
Whose ins and outs no ray of sense discloses,
Whose only plot it is to break our noses ;
Whilst from below, the trap-door Dæmons rise,
And from above the dangling deities;
And shall I mix in this unhallow'd crew ?
May rosin'd lightning blast me, if I do!
No I will act, I'll vindicate the stage:
Shakespeare himself shall feel my tragic rage.
Off! off! vile trappings! a new passion reigns !
The mad'ning monarch revels in my veins.
Oh! for a Richard's voice to catch the theme:.
Give me another horse! bind up my wounds!-soft-
'twas but a dream.
Aye, 'twas but a dream, for now there's no retreating,
If I cease Harlequin, I cease from eating.
'Twas thus that Æsop's stag, a creature blameless,
Yet something vain, like one that shall be nameless,
Once on the margin of a fountain stood,
And cavill'd at his image in the flood :
“ The deuce confound," he cries, “these drumstick
“ They neither have my gratitude nor thanks :
“ They're perfectly disgraceful ! strike me dead!
" But for a head, yes, yes, I have a head.
“ How piercing is that eye! how sleek that brow!
“ My horns ! I'm told horns are the fashion now."
Whilst thus he spoke, astonish'd ! to his view,
Near, and more near, the hounds and huntsmen drew.
Hoicks ! hark forward! came thundering from behind!
He bounds aloft! outstrips the fleeting wind :
He quits the woods, and tries the beaten ways;
He starts, he pants, he takes the circling maze.
At length his silly head, so priz'd before,
Is taught his former folly to deplore;
Whilst his strong limbs conspire to set him free,
And at one bound he saves himself, like me.
[Taking a jump through the stage door.
Our Authoress sure has wanted an adviser.
Had she consulted me, she should have made
Her moral play a speaking masquerade ;
Warm'd up each bustling scene, and in her rage
Have emptied all the greep-room on the stage.
My life on't, this had kept her play from sinking;
Have pleas'd our eyes, and sav'd the pain of thinking.
Well, since she has thus shewn her want of skill,
What if I give a masquerade ?-I will.
But how? ay, there's the rub! (pausing]—I've got
my cue :
The world's a masquerade! the masquers, you, you,
[To Bores, Pit, and Galleries.
Lud! what a group the motly scene discloses !
False wits, false wives, false virgins, and false spouses!
Statesmen with bridles on; and close beside 'em,
Patriots in party.colour'd suits that ride 'em.
There Hebes, turn'd of fifty, try once more
To raise a flame in Cupids of threescore.
These, in their turn, with appetites 'as keen,
Deserting fifty, fasten on fifteen.
Miss, not yet full fifteen, with fire uncommon,
Flings down her sampler, and takes up the woman;
The little urchin smiles, and spreads her lure,
And tries to kill, ere she's got power to cure.
Thus 'tis with all their chief and constant care
Is to seem every thing but what they are.
Yon broad, bold, angry spark I fix my eye on,
Who seems t' have robb’à his vizor from the lion;
Who frowns, and talks, and swears, with round pa
Looking, as who should say, Damme ! who's afraid?