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Why? There 's no cause — at least no cause we
know It was the fashion twenty years ago. Fashion, a word which knaves and fools may use Their knavery and folly to excuse. To copy beauties, forfeits all pretence To fame – to copy faults, is want of sense.
Yet (though in some particulars he fails, Some few particulars, where mode prevails) If in these hallow'd times, when sober, sad, All gentlemen are melancholy mad, When 'tis not deem'd so great a crime by half To violate a vestal, as to laugh, Rude Mirth may hope presumptuous to engage An act of toleration for the stage, And courtiers will, like reasonable creatures, Suspend vain fashion, and unscrew their features, Old Falstaff, play'd by Love, shall please once more, And humour set the audience in a roar.
Actors I 've seen, and of no vulgar name, Who, being from one part possess’d of fame, Whether they are to laugh, cry, whine, or bawl, Still introduce that fav’rite part in all. Here, Love, be cautious - ne'er be thou betray'd To call in that wag Falstaff's dangerous aid ; Like Goths of old, howe'er he seems a friend, He 'll seize that throne, you wish him to defend. In a peculiar mould by Humour cast, For Falstaff fram'd — Himself, the first and last, He stands aloof from all-maintains his state, And scorns, like Scotsmen, to assimilate,
Vain all disguise — too plain we see the trick,
Arms cross'd, brows bent, eyes fix’d, feet march-
But if some man, more hardy than the rest, Should dare attack these gnatlings in their nest; At once they rise with impotence of rage, Whet their small stings, and buzz about the stage. “ 'Tis breach of privilege ! — Shall any dare To arm satiric truth against a player ? Prescriptive rights we plead time out of mind; Actors, unlash'd themselves, may lash' mankind.”
What! shall Opinion then, of nature free And lib'ral as the vagrant air, agree. To rust in chains like these, impos'd by things Which, less than nothing, ape the pride of kings? No— though half-poets with half-players join To curse the freedom of each honest line; Though rage and malice dim their faded cheek; What the Muse freely thinks, she 'll freely speak. With just disdain of ev'ry paltry sneer, Stranger alike to flattery and fear, In purpose fix'd, and to herself a rule, Public contempt shall wait the public fool.
Austin would always glisten in French silks, Ackman would Norris be, and Packer Wilks.
For who, like Ackman, can with humour please ?
If I forget thee, Blakes, or if I say
Long, from a nation ever hardly us'd, At random censur'd, wantonly abus'd, Have Britons drawn their sport, with partial view Form'd gen'ral notions from the rascal few; Condemn'd a people, as for vices known, Which, from their country banish'd, seek our own. At length, howe'er, the slavish chain is broke, And Sense, awaken’d, scorns her ancient yoke : Taught by thee, Moody, we now learn to raise Mirth from their foibles; from their virtues, praise.
Next came the legion, which our Summer Bayes, From alleys, here and there, contriv'd to raise, Flush'd with vast hopes, and certain to succeed With wits who cannot write, and scarce can read. Vet'rans no more support the rotten cause, No more from Elliot's worth they reap applause ; Each on himself determines to rely, Be Yates disbanded, and let Elliot fly,
Never did play’rs so well an author fit,
As one with various disappointments sad,
In person tall, a figure form'd to please ; If symmetry could charm, depriv'd of ease; When motionless he stands, we all approve; What pity 'tis the thing was made to move.
His voice, in one dull, deep, unvaried sound, Seems to break forth from caverns under ground. From hollow chest the low sepulchral note Unwilling heaves, and struggles in his throat.
Could authors butcher'd give an actor grace,
Still in extremes, he knows no happy mean,
In cold-wrought scenes the lifeless actor flags,
How few are found with real talents bless'd,
What then could tempt thee, in a critic age,
A vacant throne high plac'd in Smithfield view,