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From the Remonftrance of SHAKSPEARE, Supposed to have been fpoken at the TheatreRoyal, when the French Comedians were acting by fubfcription.
By the fame Author.
What though the footsteps of my devious mufe The meafur'd walks of Grecian art refufe? Or though the franknefs of my hardy style Mock the nice touches of the critick's file? Yet what my age and climate held to view Impartial I furvey'd, and fearless drew. And fay, ye fkilful in the human heart, Who know to prize a poet's nobleft part, What age, what clime, could e'er an ampler field For lofty thought, for daring fancy yield? I faw this England break the fhameful bands Forg'd for the fouls of men by facred hands; I faw each groaning realm her aid implore; Her fons the heroes of each warlike fhore; Her naval ftandard, (the dire Spaniard's bane,) Obey'd through all the circuit of the main. Then too great commerce, for a late-found world, Around your coaft her eager fails unfurl'd: New hopes new paffions thence the bofom fir'd; New plans, new arts, the genius thence infpir'd; Thence every scene which private fortune knows, In ftronger life, with bolder fpirit, rose.
Difgrac'd I this full profpect which I drew? My colours languid, or my ftrokes untrue? Have not your fages, warriors, fwains, and kings, Confefs'd the living draught of men and things? What other bard in any clime appears, Alike the master of your fmiles and tears? Yet have I deign'd your audience to entice With wretched bribes to luxury and vice?
Or have my various fcenes a purpose known, Which freedom, virtue, glory, might not own?
When learning's triumph o'er her barb'rous foes First rear'd the ftage, immortal Shakspeare rofe; Each change of many-colour'd life he drew, Exhausted worlds, and then imagin'd new: Existence faw him fpurn her bounded reign, And panting time toil'd after him in vain: His pow'rful ftrokes prefiding truth impress'd, And unrefifted passion storm'd the breast.
Prologue at the opening of Drury-lane Theatre in 1747. By Dr. Samuel Johnson.
Upon Shakspeare's Monument at Stratford-uponAvon.
Great Homer's birth feven rival cities claim;
His wond'rous worth; what Egypt could bestow,
Thy bard was thine unfchool'd, and from thee brought
More than all Egypt, Greece, or Afia taught;
From Mr. Collins's Epiftle to Sir Thomas Hanmer on his edition of Shakspeare's works.
Hard was the lot thofe injur'd strains endur'd, Unown'd by fcience, and by years obfcur'd: Fair fancy wept; and echoing fighs confefs'd A fixt despair in every tuneful breast. Not with more grief the afflicted fwains appear, When wintry winds deform the plenteous year; When lingering frofts the ruin'd feats invade Where Peace reforted, and the Graces play'd.
Each rifing art, by juft gradation moves, Toil builds on toil, and age on age improves : The mufe alone unequal dealt her rage, And grac'd with nobleft pomp her earliest stage. Preferv'd through time, the fpeaking fcenes im
Each changeful with of Phædra's tortur'd heart; Or paint the curfe, that mark'd the Theban's3 reign,
A bed incestuous, and a father flain.
To Rome remov'd, with wit fecure to please, The comick fifters kept their native ease. With jealous fear declining Greece beheld Her own Menander's art almoft excell'd: But every Mufe effay'd to raise in vain Some labour'd rival of her tragick ftrain; Illyffus' laurels, though transferr'd with toil, Droop'd their fair leaves, nor knew th' unfriendly
3 The Oedipus of Sophocles.
As arts expir'd, refiftlefs Dullness rofe; Goths, priests, or Vandals,-all were learning's foes.
Till Julius firft recall'd each exil'd maid,
But heaven, ftill various in its works, decreed The perfect boast of time should laft fucceed. The beauteous union muft appear at length, Of Tuscan fancy, and Athenian ftrength: One greater Muse Eliza's reign adorn, And even a Shakspeare to her fame be born.
Yet ah! fo bright her morning's opening ray, In vain our Britain hop'd an equal day. No fecond growth the western ifle could bear, At once exhaufted with too rich a year. Too nicely Jonfon knew the critick's part; Nature in him was almoft loft in art.
Of fofter mold the gentle Fletcher came,
Each melting figh, and every tender tear,
4 Julius II. the immediate predeceffor of Leo X.
s Their characters are thus diftinguished by Mr. Dryden.
Drawn by his pen, our ruder paffions ftand
With gradual steps," and flow, exacter France Saw Art's fair empire o'er her fhores advance: By length of toil a bright perfection knew, Correctly bold, and just in all she drew: Till late Corneille, with Lucan's' spirit fir'd, Breath'd the free ftrain, as Rome and He infpir'd; And claffick judgment gain'd to fweet Racine The temperate ftrength of Maro's chafter line.
But wilder far the British laurel fpread, And wreaths lefs artful crown our poet's head. Yet He alone to every fcene could give The hiftorian's truth, and bid the manners live. Wak'd at his call I view, with glad furprize, Majestick forms of mighty monarchs rife. There Henry's trumpets spread their loud alarms, And laurell'd Conqueft waits her hero's arms. Here gentler Edward claims a pitying figh, Scarce born to honours, and fo foon to die! Yet fhall thy throne, unhappy infant, bring No beam of comfort to the guilty king: The time fhall come, when Glofter's heart fhall
In life's laft hours, with horror of the deed:
6 About the time of Shakspeare, the poet Hardy was in great repute in France. He wrote, according to Fontenelle, fix hundred plays. The French poets after him applied themselves in general to the correct improvement of the stage, which was almost totally difregarded by thofe of our own country, Jonfon excepted.
7 The favourite author of the elder Corneille.
Turno tempus erit, magno cùm optaverit emptum