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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;
While botanists, all cold to smiles and dimpling,
Forsake the fair, and patiently-go simpling;
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 trading-
Yet ere he lands, has ordered 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 'em
Pit. Here trees of stately size and billing turtles in 'em
(Balconies. Here ill-conditioned 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 stored-in yonder creek we've laid her,
His honour 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 BENEFIT.
Hold! prompter, hold! a word before your nonsense;
I'd speak a word or two to ease my conscience.
My pride forbids it ever should be said,
My heels eclipsed the honours of my head;
That I found humour in a piebald 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 mirth;
In thy black aspeet every passion sleeps,
The joy that dimples, and the wo that weeps.
How hast thou filled the scene with all thy brood.
Of fools pursuing, and of fools pursued !
Whose ins and outs no ray of sense discloses;
Whose only plot it is, to break our noses;
Whilst from below the trap-door demons rise,
And from above the dangling deities.
And shall I mix in this unhallowed crew?
May rosined lightnings blast me, if I do!
No-I will act I'll vindicate the stage:
Shakspeare himself shall feel my tragic rage.
Off! off! vile trappings! a new passion reigns!
The maddening 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!”
Ay, '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 cavilled at his image in the flood: “The deuce confound,” he cries, “these drumstick shanks! 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, astonished! 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 prized 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.
What! five long acts--and all to make us wiser!
Our authoress sure has wanted an adviser,
Had she consulted me, she should have made
Her moral play a speaking masquerade;
Warmed up each bustling scene, and in her rage
Have emptied all the green-room on the stage.
My life on't, this bad kept her play from sinking;
Have pleased our eyes, and saved the pain of thinking.
Well, since she thus has shown 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 maskers, you, you, you.
[To boxes, pit, and gallery.
Lud! what a group the motley scene discloses!
False wits, false wives, false virgins, and false spouses!
Statesmen with bridles on; and, close beside 'em,
Patriots in party-coloured suits that ride 'em.
There Hebes, turned 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 to have robbed his vizor from the lion;
Who frowns, and talks, and swears, with round parade,
Looking, as who should say, damme! who's afraid?
Strip but this vizor off, and sure I am
You'll find his lionship a very lamb.
Yon politician, famous in debate,
Perhaps, to vulgar eyes, bestrides the state;
Yet, when he deigns his real shape tassume,
He turns old woman, and bestrides a broom.
Yon patriot, too, who presses on your sight,
And seems to every gazer all in white,
If with a bribe his candour you attack,
He bows, turns round, and whip—the man's in black!
Yon critic, too--but whither do I run?
If I proceed, our bard will be undone!
Well, then, a truce, since she requests it too:
Do you spare her, and I'll for once spare you.