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The feeling sense all other want supplies,
Theatric monarchs, in their tragic gait,
Unskilful actors, like your
apes, Will writhe their bodies in a thousand shapes : However foreign from the poet's art, No tragic hero but admires a start. What though unfeeling of the nervous line ; Who but allows his attitude is fine ?
go While a whole minute equipois'd he stands, Till praise dismiss him with her echoing hands! Resolv'd, though nature hate the tedious pause, By perseverance to extort applause. When Romeo sorrowing at his Juliet's doom, With eager madness bursts the canvas tomb, The sudden whirl, stretch'd leg, and lifted staff, Which please the vulgar, make the critic laugh.
To paint the passion's force, and mark it well, The proper action nature's self will tell : No pleasing pow’rs distortions e’er express, And nicer judgment always loaths excess. In sock or buskin, who o’erleaps the bounds, Disgusts our reason, and the taste confounds. Of all the evils which the stage molest, I hate your fool who overacts his jest; Who murders what the poet finely writ, And, like a bungler, haggles all his wit, With shrug, and grin, and gesture out of place, And writes a foolish comment with his face. Ito Old Johnson once, tho' Cibber's perter vein But meanly groupes him with a num'rous train, With steady face, and sober hum'rous mien, Fillid the strong outlines of the comic scene. What was writ down, with decent utt'rance spoke, Betray'd no symptom of the conscious joke; The very man in look, in voice, in air, And tho’ upon the stage, appear's no play'r.
The word and action should conjointly suit, But acting words is labor too minute. 130 Grimace will ever lead the judgment wrong; While sober humour marks th' impression strong. Her proper traits the fixt attention hit, And bring me closer to the poet's wit ; With her delighted o'er each scene I go, Well-pleas'd, and not asham'd of being so.
But let the generous actor still forbear To copy
features with a mimic's care ! 'Tis a poor skill, which ev'ry fool can reach, A vile stage-custom, honor'd in the breach. Worse as more close, the disingenuous art But shews the wanton looseness of the heart. When I behold a wretch, of talents mean Drag private foibles on the public scene, Forsaking nature's fair and open road To mark some whim, some strange peculiar mode, Fir'd with disgust, I loath his servile plan, Despise the mimic, and abhor the man. Go to the lame, to hospitals repair, And hunt for humor in distortions there! Fill up the measure of the motley whim With shrug, wink, snuffle, and convulsive limb; Then shame at once, to please a trilling age, Good sense, good manners, virtue, and the stage !
'Tis not enough the voice be sound and clear, 'Tis modulation that must charm the ear. When desperate heroines grieve with tedious moan, And whine their sorrows in a see-saw tone, The same soft sounds of unimpassioned woes Can only make the yawning hearers doze.
The voice all modes of passion can express,
Some o'er the tongue the labor'd measures roll Slow and delib'rate as the parting toil, Point ev'ry stop, mark ev'ry pause so strong, Their words, like stage-processions, stalk along. All affectation but creates disgust, And e’en in speaking we may seem too just. 4o.
Nor proper, Thornton, can those sounds appear Which bring not numbers to thy nicer ear : In vain for them the pleasing measure flows, Whose recitation runs it all to prose ; Repeating what the poet sets not down, The verb disjointing from its friendly noun, While pause, and break, and repetition join To make a discord in each tuneful line.
Some placid natures fill th' allotted scene With lifeless drone, insipid and serene; -100 While others thunder ev'ry couplet o’er, And almost crack your ears with rant and roar.
More nature oft and finer strokes are shown,
He, who in earnest studies o'er his part, Will find true nature cling about his heart: 142
The modes of grief are not included all
In vain Ophelia gives her flowrets round, And with her straws fantastic strews the ground, 200 In vain now sings, now heaves the desp'rate sigh, If phrenzy sit not in the troubled eye. In Cibber's look commanding sorrows speak, And call the tear fast trickling down my
There is a fault which stirs the critic's rage : A want of due attention on the stage. I have seen actors, and admir'd ones too, Whose tongues wound up set forward from their cue; In their own speech who whine, or roar away, Yet seem unmov'd at what the rest may say; Whose eyes and thoughts on diff'rent objects roam, Until the prompter's voice recal them home.
Divest yourself of hearers, if you can,