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From the Remonstrance of SHAKSPEARE, Supposed to have been spoken at the Theatre
atre Royal, when the French Comedians were acting by subscription.
By the same Author. What though the footsteps of my devious muse The measur'd walks of Grecian art refuse? Or though the frankness of my hardy style Mock the nice touches of the critick's file? Yet what my age and climate held to view Impartial I survey'd, and fearless drew. And say, ye skilful in the human heart, Who know to prize a poet's noblest part, What age, what clime, could e'er an ampler field For lofty thought, for daring fancy yield? I saw this England break the shameful bands Forg'd for the souls of men by sacred hands; I saw each groaning realm her aid implore; Her sons the heroes of each warlike shore; Her naval standard, (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 coast her eager sails unfurld: New hopes new passions thence the bosom fir'd; New plans, new arts, the genius thence inspir’d; Thence every scene which private fortune knows, In stronger life, with bolder spirit, rose.
Disgrac'd I this full prospect which I drew ? My colours languid, or my strokes untrue ? Have not your sages, warriors, swains, and kings, Confess’d the living draught of men and things? What other bard in any clime appears, Alike the master of your smiles and tears? Yet have I deign'd your audience to entice With wretched bribes to luxury and vice?
Or have my various scenes a purpose known, Which freedom, virtue, glory, might not own?
When learning's triumph o'er her barb'rous foes First rear'd the stage, immortal Shakspeare rose; Each change of many-colour'd life he drew, Exhausted worlds, and then imagin'd new : Existence saw him spurn her bounded reign, And panting time toil'd after him in vain : His pow’rful strokes presiding truth impress’d, And unresisted 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-upon
Great Homer's birth seven rival cities claim;
From Mr. Collins's Epistle to Sir Thomas Hanmer
on his edition of Shakspeare's works.
Hard was the lot those injur'd strains endur'd,
Each rising art, by just gradation moves,
To Rome remov’d, with wit secure to please,
3 The Oedipus of Sophocles.
As arts expir’d, resistless Dullness rose; Goths, priests, or Vandals,-all were learning's
foes. Till Julius * first recall’d each exil'd maid, And Cosmo own'd them in the Etrurian fhade: Then deeply skill'd in love's engaging theme, The soft Provencial pass’d to Arno's stream: With graceful ease the wanton lyre he strung; Sweet How'd the lays,—but love was all he sung. The gay description could not fail to move; For, led by nature, all are friends to love.
But heaven, still various in its works, decreed The perfect boast of time should last succeed. The beauteous union must appear at length, Of Tuscan fancy, and Athenian strength: One greater Muse Eliza's reign adorn, And even a Shakspeare to her fame be born.
Yet ah! so bright her morning's opening ray, In vain our Britain hop'd an equal day. No second growth the western isle could bear, At once exhausted with too rich a year. Too nicely Jonson knew the critick's part; Nature in him was almost lost in art. Of softer mold the gentle Fletcher came, The next in order, as the next in name. With pleas'd attention ’midst his scenes we find Each glowing thought, that warms the female
Each melting figh, and every tender tear,
4 Julius II, the immediate predeceffor of Leo X.
Drawn by his pen, our ruder passions stand
With gradual steps, and flow, exacter France
But wilder far the British laurel spread,
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 disregarded by those of our own country, Jonson excepted.
7 The favourite author of the elder Corneille.
Intactum Pallanta, &c.