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For how should moderns, mushrooms of the day,
Who ne'er those masters knew, know how to play?
Grey-bearded vet’rans, who, with partial tongue, -
Extol the times when they themselves were young,
Who, having lost all relish for the stage,
See not their own defects, but lash the age,
Receiv'd with joyful murmurs of applause,
Their darling chief, and lin'd his fav’rite cause.
Far be it from the candid Muse to tread
Insulting o'er the ashes of the dead,
But, just to living merit, she maintains,
And dares the test, whilst Garrick's genius reigns;
Ancients in vain endeavour to excel,
Happily prais'd, if they could act as well.
But though prescription's force we disallow,
Nor to antiquity submissive bow ;
Though we deny imaginary grace,
Founded on accidents of time and place;
Yet real worth of ev'ry growth shall bear
Due praise, nor must we, Quin, forget thee there.
His words bore sterling weight, nervous and
In manly tides of sense they roll'd along.
Happy in art, he chiefly had pretence
To keep up numbers, yet not forfeit sense.
No actor ever greater heights could reach
In all the labour'd artifice of speech.
Speech! Is that all ? - And shall an actor found
An universal fame on partial ground ?
Parrots themselves speak properly by rote,
And, in six months, my dog shall howl by note.
I laugh at those, who, when the stage they tread,
Neglect the heart, to compliment the head;
With strict propriety their cares confin'd
To weigh out words, while passion halts behind.
To syllable-dissectors they appeal,
Allow them accent, cadence, - fools may feel;
But, spite of all the criticising elves,
Those who would make us feel, must feel themselves.
His eyes, in gloomy socket taught to roll,
Proclaim'd the sullen habit of his soul.
Heary and phlegmatic he trod the stage,
Too proud for tenderness, too dull for rage.
When Hector's lovely widow shines in tears,
Or Rowe's gay rake dependant virtue jeers,
With the same cast of features he is seen
To chide the libertine, and court the queen.
From the tame scene, which without passion flows,
With just desert his reputation rose;
Nor less he pleas'd, when, on some surly plan,
He was, at once, the actor and the man.
In Brute he shone unequallid : all agree Garrick's not half so great a brute as he. When Cato's labour'd scenes are brought to view, With equal praise the actor labour's too ; For still you 'll find, trace passions to their root, Small diff'rence 'twixt the stoic and the brute. In fancied scenes, as in life's real plan, · He could not, for a moment, sink the man. In whate'er cast his character was laid, Self still, like oil, upon the surface play'd. Nature, in spite of all his skill, crept in : Horatio, Dorax, Falstaff, - still ’t was Quin.
Next follows Sheridan - a doubtful name, As yet unsettled in the rank of Fame.
This, fondly lavish in his praises grown,
Gives him all merit; that allows him none.
Between them both we ’ll steer the middle course,
Nor, loving praise, rob Judgment of her force.
Just his conceptions, natural and great :
His feelings strong, his words enforc'd with weight.
Was speech-fam'd Quin himself to hear him speak,
Envy would drive the colour from his cheek :
But step-dame Nature, niggard of her grace,
Deny'd the social pow’rs of voice and face.
Fir'd in one frame of features, glare of eye,
Passions, like chaos, in confusion lie:
In vain the wonders of his skill are try'd
To form distinctions Nature hath deny’d.
His voice no touch of harmony admits,
Irregularly deep and shrill by fits:
The two extremes appear like man and wife,
Coupled together for the sake of strife.
His action 's always strong, but sometimes such, That candour must declare he acts too much. Why must impatience fall three paces back ? Why paces three return to the attack ? Why is the right leg too forbid to stir, Unless in motion semicircular ? Why must the hero with the Nailor vie, And hurl the close-clench'd fist at nose or eye ? In royal John, with Philip angry grown, I thought he would have knock'd poor Davies
down. Inhuman tyrant! was it not a shame, To fright a king so harmless and so tame? But, spite of all defects, his glories rise ; And Art, by Judgment form'd, with Nature vies:
Behold him sound the depth of Hubert's soul,
Whilst in his own contending passions roll;
View the whole scene, with critic judgment scan,
And then deny him merit if you can.
Where he falls short, 't is Nature's fault alone;
Where he succeeds, the merit 's all his own.
Last Garrick came. - Behind him throng a train
Of snarling critics, ignorant as vain.
One finds out, -" He's of stature somewhat
Your hero always should be tall, you know. -
True nat'ral greatness all consists in height.”
Produce your voucher, Critic. — “ Sergeant Kite."
Another can't forgive the paltry arts
By which he makes his way to shallow hearts;
Mere pieces of finesse, traps for applause -
“ Avaunt, unnat'ral start, affected pause.”
For me, by Nature form'd to judge with phlegm,
I can't acquit by wholesale, nor condemn.
The best things carried to excess are wrong:
The start may be too frequent, pause too long;
But, only us'd in proper time and place,
Severest judgment must allow them grace.
If bunglers, form'd on Imitation's plan, Just in the way that monkies mimic man, . Their copied scene with mangled arts disgrace, And pause and start with the same vacant face; We join the critic laugh; those tricks we scorn, Which spoil the scenes they mean them to adorn. But when, from Nature's pure and genuine source, These strokes of acting flow with gen'rous force,
When in the features all the soul 's pourtray'd,
And passions, such as Garrick's, are display'd,
To me they seem from quickest feelings caught :
Each start is Nature, and each pause is Thought.
When Reason yields to Passion's wild alarms,
And the whole state of man is up in arms;
What but a critic could condemn the play'r,
For pausing here, when Cool-Sense pauses there?
Whilst, working from the heart, the fire I trace,
And mark it strongly flaming to the face;
Whilst, in each sound, I hear the very man;
I can't catch words, and pity those who can.
Let wits, like spiders, from the tortur'd brain, Fine-draw the critic-web with curious pain : The gods, - a kindness I with thanks must pay, Have form'd me of a coarser kind of clay; Not stung with envy, nor with pain diseas'd, A poor dull creature, still with Nature pleas'd; Hence to thy praises, Garrick, I agree, And, pleasd with Nature, must be pleas'd with thee.
Now I might tell, how silence reign'd throughout, And deep attention hush'd the rabble rout: - How ev'ry claimant, tortur’d with desire, Was pale as ashes, or as red as fire:, But, loose to fame, the Muse more simply acts, Rejects all flourish, and relates mere facts.
The judges, as the several parties came, [claim, With temper heard, with judgment weigh'd each And, in their sentence happily agreed, In name of both, great Shakspeare thus decreed.
“ If manly sense ; if Nature link'd with Art; If thorough knowledge of the human heart;