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AT THE THEATRE ROYAL, IN DRURY LANE,
BY HIS MAJESTY'S SERVANTS.
Ecce spectaculum dignum, ad quod respiciat, intentus operi suo, Deus! Ecce par Deo dignum, vir fortis cum malâ fortuna compositus! Non video, inquam, quid habeat in terris Jupiter pulchrius, si convertere animum velit, quam ut spectet Catonem, jam partibus non semel fractis, nihilominus inter ruinas publicas erectum. SEN. DE DIVIN. PROV.
TO THE AUTHOR OF THE TRAGEDY OF CATO
WHILE you the fierce divided Britons awe,
And Cato with an equal virtue draw;
While envy is itself in wonder lost,
And factions strive who shall applaud you most;
Forgive the fond ambition of a friend,
Who hopes himself, not you, to recommend,
And join the applause which all the learn'd bestow
On one, to whom a perfect work they owe.
To my1 light scenes I once inscribed your name,
And impotently strove to borrow fame:
Soon will that die, which adds thy name to mine;
Let me then live, joined to a work of thine.
THOUGH Cato shines in Virgil's epic song,
Prescribing laws among the Elysian throng;
Though Lucan's verse, exalted by his name,
O'er gods themselves has raised the hero's fame;
1 Tender Husband, dedicated to Mr. Addison.
The Roman stage did ne'er his image see
Drawn at full length; a task reserved for thee.
By thee we view the finished figure rise,
And awful march before our ravished eyes;
We hear his voice asserting virtue's cause;
His fate renewed our deep attention draws,
Excites by turns our various hopes and fears,
And all the patriot in thy scene appears.
On Tiber's banks thy thought was first inspired;
'Twas there, to some indulgent grove retired,
Rome's ancient fortunes rolling in thy mind,
Thy happy muse this manly work designed:
Or in a dream thou saw'st Rome's genius stand,
And, leading Cato in his sacred hand,
Point out the immortal subject of thy lays,
And ask this labour to record his praise.
'Tis done the hero lives, and charms our age!
While nobler morals grace the British stage.
Great Shakespear's ghost, the solemn strain to hear,
(Methinks I see the laurel'd shade appear!)
Will hover o'er the scene, and wondering view
His favourite Brutus rivaled thus by you.
Such Roman greatness in each action shines,
Such Roman eloquence adorns your lines,
That sure the Sibyls' books this year foretold,
And in some mystic leaf was seen enrolled,
Rome, turn thy mournful eyes from Afric's shore,
Nor in her sands thy Cato's tomb explore!
When thrice six hundred times the circling sun
His annual race shall through the zodiac run,
An isle remote his monument shall rear,
And every generous Briton pay a tear."
WHAT do we see! is Cato then become
A greater name in Britain than in Rome?
Does mankind now admire his virtues more,
Though Lucan, Horace, Virgil, wrote before?
How will posterity this truth explain?
"Cato begins to live in Anna's reign:"
The world's great chiefs, in council or in arms,
Rise in your lines with more exalted charms;
Illustrious deeds in distant nations wrought,
And virtues by departed heroes taught,
Raise in your soul a pure immortal flame,
Adorn your life, and consecrate your fame;
To your renown all ages you subdue,
And Cæsar fought and Cato bled for you.
All-Souls' College, Oxon.
'Tis nobly done thus to enrich the stage,
And raise the thoughts of a degenerate age;
To show how endless joys from freedom spring,
How life in bondage is a worthless thing.
The inborn greatness of your soul we view,
You tread the paths frequented by the few.
With so much strength you write, and so much ease,
Virtue, and sense! how durst you hope to please?
Yet crowds the sentiments of every line
Impartial clapped, and owned the work divine.
Ev'n the sour critics, who malicious came,
Eager to censure, and resolved to blame,
Finding the hero regularly rise,
Great while he lives, but greater when he dies,
Sullen approved, too obstinate to melt,
And sickened with the pleasures which they felt.
Not so the fair their passions secret kept,
Silent they heard, but as they heard they wept,
When gloriously the blooming Marcus died,
And Cato told the gods, I'm satisfied.
See! how your lays the British youth inflame!
They long to shoot and ripen into fame;
Applauding theatres disturb their rest,
And unborn Catos heave in every breast;
Their nightly dreams their daily thoughts repeat,
And pulses high with fancied glories beat.
So, grieved to view the Marathonian spoils,
The young Themistocles vowed equal toils;
Did then his schemes of future honours draw
From the long triumphs which with tears he saw.
How shall I your unrivalled worth proclaim,
Lost in the spreading circle of your fame!
We saw you the great William's praise rehearse,
And paint Britannia's joys in Roman verse.
We heard at distance soft, enchanting strains,
From blooming mountains, and Italian plains.
Virgil began in English dress to shine,"
His voice, his looks, his grandeur still divine.
From him too soon unfriendly you withdrew,
But brought the tuneful Ovid to our view.
Then, the delightful theme of every tongue,
The immortal Marlborough was your daring song;
From clime to clime the mighty victor flew,
From clime to clime as swiftly you pursue;
Still with the hero's glowed the poet's flame,
Still with his conquests you enlarged your fame.
With boundless raptures here the muse could swell,
And on your Rosamond for ever dwell:
There opening sweets, and every fragrant flower,
Luxuriant smile, a never-fading bower.
Next, human follies kindly to expose,
You change from numbers, but not sink in
Whether in visionary scenes you play,
Refine our tastes, or laugh our crimes away.
Now by the buskined muse you shine confest,
The patriot kindles in a poet's breast.
Such energy of sense might pleasure raise,
Though unembellished with the charms of phrase:
Such charms of phrase would with success be crowned,
Though nonsense flowed in the melodious sound.
The chastest virgin needs no blushes fear,
The learn'd themselves not uninstructed hear.
The libertine, in pleasures used to roll,
And idly sport with an immortal soul,
Here comes, and by the virtuous heathen taught,
Turns pale, and trembles at the dreadful thought.
Whene'er you traverse vast Numidia's plains,
What sluggish Briton in his isle remains?
When Juba seeks the tiger with delight,
We beat the thicket, and provoke the fight.
By the description warmed, we fondly sweat,
And in the chilling east wind pant with heat.
What eyes behold not, how "the stream refines,
Till by degrees the floating mirror shines ?"
While hurricanes "in circling eddies play,
Tear up the sands, and sweep whole plains away,"
We shrink with horror, and confess our fear,
And all the sudden sounding ruin hear.
When purple robes, distained with blood, deceive,
And make poor Marcia beautifully grieve,
When she her secret thoughts no more conceals,
Forgets the woman, and her flame reveals,
Well may the prince exult with noble pride,
Not for his Libyan crown, but Roman bride
But I in vain on single features dwell,
While all the parts of the fair piece excel,
So rich the store, so dubious is the feast,
We know not which to pass, or which to taste.
The shining incidents so justly fall,
We may the whole new scenes of transport call.
Thus jewellers confound our wandering eyes,
And with variety of gems surprise.
Here sapphires, here the Sardine stone is seen,
The topaz yellow, and the jasper green.
The costly brilliant there, confusedly bright,
From numerous surfaces darts trembling light.
The different colours mingling in a blaze,
Silent we stand, unable where to praise,
In pleasure sweetly lost ten thousand ways.
Trinity College, Cambridge.
Too long hath love engrossed Britannia's stage,
And sunk to softness all our tragic rage;
By that alone did empires fall or rise,
And fate depended on a fair one's eyes:
The sweet infection, mixt with dangerous art,
Debased our manhood, while it soothed the heart.
You scorn to raise a grief thyself must blame,
Nor from our weakness steal a vulgar fame:
A patriot's fall may justly melt the mind,
And tears flow nobly, shed for all mankind.
How do our souls with generous pleasure glow! Our hearts exulting, while our eyes o'erflow,