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Spoken at the opening of Drury-lane Theatai,
Saturday, October toth, 181a.
In one dread night our city saw, and sighed,
Bowed to the dust, the Drama's tower of pride;
In one short hour beheld the blazing fane,
Apollo sink, and Shakspeare cease to reign.
Ye who beheld, (oh ! sight admired and mourned,
Whose radiance mocked the ruin it adorned !)
Through clouds of fire, the massy fragments riven,
Like Israel's pillar, chase the night from heaven;
Saw the long column of revolving flames
Shake its red shadow o'er the startled Thames,
While thousands, thronged around the burning dome,
Shrank back appalled, and trembled for their home,
As glared the volumed blaze, and ghastly shone
The skies, with lightnings awful as their owu,
Till blackening ashes and the lonely wall
Usurped the Muse's realm, and marked her fall;
Say—shall this new, nor less aspiring pile,
Reared where once rose the mightiest in our isle,
Know the same favour which the former knew,
A shrine for Shakspeare—worthy him and you?
Yes—it shall be—the magic of that name DeGes the scythe of Time, the torch of flame;
On the same spot still consecrates the scene,
And bids the Drama be where she hath been:
This fabric's birth attests thc potent spell—
Indulge our honest pride, and say, How well!
As soars this fane to emulate the last,
Oh ! might we draw our omens from the past,
Some hour propitious to'our prayers may boast
Names such as hallow still the dome we lost.
On Drury first your Siddons' thrilling art
O'erwhelmed the gentlest, stormed the sternest heart.
On Drury, Garrick's latest laurels grew;
Here your last tears retiring Roscius drew,
Sighed his last thanks, and wept his last adieu:
But still for living wit the wreaths may bloom
That only waste their odours o'er the tomb. .
Such Drury claimed and claims—nor you refuse
One tribute to revive his slumbering muse;
With garlands deck your own Menander's head!
Nor hoard your honours idly for the dead!
Dear are the days which made our annals bright, Ere Garrick fled, or Brinslcy ceased to write. Heirs to their labours, like all high-born heirs, Vain of o/y/''ancestry as they of theirs; While thus Remembrance borrows Ranquo's glass To claim the sceptred shadows as they pass, And we the mirror hold, where imaged shine Immortal names, emblazoned on our line, Pause—ere their feebler offspring you condemn, Reflect how hard the task to rival them,!
Friends of the stage! to whom both Players and Playi Must sue nlike for pardon, or for praise,
"Whose judging voice and eye alone direct
The boundless power to cherish or reject;
If e'er frivolity has led to fame,
And made us blush that you forbore to blame;
If e'er the sinking stage could condescend
To sooth the sickly taste it dare not mend,
All past reproach may present scenes refute,
And censure, wisely loud, be justly mute!
Oh ! since your fiat stamps the Drama's laws,
Forbear to mock us with misplaced applause;
So pride shall doubly nerve the actor's powers,
And reason's voice be echoed back by ours I
This greeting o'er, the ancient rule obeyed,
The Drama's homage by her herald paid,
Receive our welcome too, whose every tone
Springs from our hearts, and fain would win your own.
The curtain rises—may our stage unfold
Scenes not unworthv Drury's days of old!
Briton's our judges, Nature for our guide,
Still may we please—long, long may^OH preside I
Written after swimming from Sestos to Abido*, 1810.
If, in the month of dark December,
Leandcr, who was nightly wont
(What maid will not the tale remember?)
To cross thy stream, broad Hellespont!
If, when the -wintry tempest roared,
Ho sped to Hero, nothing loth, And thus of old thy current poured,
Fair Venus! how I pity both!
For me, degenerate modern wretch,
Though in the gemal month of May,
My dripping limbs I faintly stretch,
And think I've done a feat to-day.
But since he crossed the rapid tide,
According to the doubtful story,
To woo,—and—Lord knows what beside,
And swam for Love, as I for Glory;
'Tvvere hard to say who fared the best:
Sad mortals ! thus the Gods still plague yon!
. He lost his labour, I my jest:
For he was drowned, and I've the ague.
Thine eye's blue tenderness, thy long fair hair,
And the wan lustre of thy features—caught
From contemplation—where serenely wrought,
Seems Sorrow's softness charmed from its despair-
Have thrown such speaking sadness in thine air,
That—but I know thy blessed bosom fraught
With mines of unalloyed and stainless thought—
I should have deemed thee doomed to earthly care.
With such an aspect, by his colours blent, -
When from his beauty—breathing pencil born,
(Except that thou hast nothing to repent)
The Magdalen of Guido saw the morn—
Such seem'st thou—but how much more excellent
With nought Remorse can claim—nor Virtue scorn.
Thy cheek is pale with thought, but not from woe,
And yet so lovely, that if Mirth could flush
Its rose of whiteness with the brightest blush,
My heart would wish away that ruder glow:—
And dazzle not thy deep-blue eyes—but, oh!
While gazing on them sterner eyes will gush,
And into mine my mother's weakness rush,
Soft as the last drops round heaven's airy bow. *