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Themfelves they ftudied, as they felt they writ;
Intrigue was Plot, Obfcenity was Wit.
Vice always found a fympathetic Friend,
They pleas'd their Age, and did not aim to mend.
Yet Bards like these afpir'd to lafting Praise,
And proudly hop'd to pimp in future Days.
Their Caufe was gen'ral, their Supports were ftrong,
Their Slaves were willing, and their Reign was
Till Shame regain'd the Poft that Senfe betray'd,
And Virtue call'd Oblivion to her Aid.
Then crush'd by Rules, and weaken'd as refin'd,
For Years the Power of Tragedy declin'd:
From Bard to Bard the frigid Caution crept
Till Declamation foar'd, while Paffion flept.
Yet ftill did Virtue deign the Stage to tread,
Philofophy remain'd, though Nature fled.
But forc'd at length her ancient Reign to quit,
She faw great Fauftus lay the Ghoft of Wit;
Exulting Folly hail'd the joyful Day,
And Pantomime and Song confirm'd her Sway.
But who the coming Changes can prefage,
And mark the future Periods of the Stage?
Perhaps if Skill could distant Times explore,
New Bhens, new Durfeys, yet remain in Store.
Perhaps, where Lear has rav'd, and Hamlet dy'd,
On flying Cars new Sorcerers may ride,
Perhaps (for who can guess the Effects of Chance?)
Here Hunt may box, or Mahomet may dance.
Hard is his Lot, that here by Fortune plac'd,
Muft watch the wild Viciffitudes of Tafte,
With every Meteor of Caprice muft play,
And chace the new-blown Bubbles of the Day.
Ah! let not Cenfure term our Fate, our Choice:
The Stage but echoes back the public Voice,
The Drama's Laws, the Drama's Patrons give,
For we that live to please, muft please to live.
Then prompt no more the Follies you decry,
As Tyrants doom their Tools of Guilt to die:
Tis yours this Night to bid the Reign commence
Of refcu'd Nature, and reviving Sense;
To chace the Charms of Sound, the Pomp of Show,
For useful Mirth and falutary Woe,
Bid Scenic Virtue form the rifing Age,
And Truth diffuse her Radiance from the Stage.
E glitt'ring Train! whom Lace and Velvet
Sufpend the foft Sollicitudes of Drefs;
From grov'ling Business and superfluous Care,
Ye Sons of Avarice! a Moment fpare:
Vot'ries of Fame and Worshippers of Pow'r!
Difmifs the pleasing Phantoms for an Hour.
Our daring Bard, with Spirit unconfin'd,
Spreads wide the mighty Moral for Mankind.
Learn here how Heav'n fupports the virtuous Mind,
Daring, tho' calm; and vigorous, tho' refign'd.
Learn here what Anguifh racks the guilty Breaft,
In Pow'r dependent, in Succefs depreft.
Learn here that Peace from Innocence muft flow;
All elfe is empty Sound, and idle Show.
If Truths like these with pleafing Language join;
Ennobled, yet unchang'd, if Nature shine:
If no wild Draught depart from Reason's Rules,
Nor Gods his Heroes, nor his Lovers Fools:
Intriguing Wits! his artlefs Plot forgive;
And fpare him, Beauties! tho' his Lovers live.
Be this at least his Praise; be this his Pride;
To force Applause no modern Arts, are try'd.
Shou'd partial Cat-calls all his Hopes confound;
He bids no Trumpet quell the fatal Sound.
Shou'd welcome Sleep relieve the weary Wit,
He rolls no Thunders o'er the drowsy Pit,
No Snares to captivate the Judgment spreads;
Nor bribes your Eyes to prejudice your Heads.
Unmov'd tho' Witlings fneer and Rivals rail:
Studious to please, yet not afham'd to fail.
He fcorns the meek Addrefs, the fuppliant Strain,
With Merit needlefs, and without it vain.
In Reason, Nature, Truth he dares to truft;
Ye Fops be filent! and ye Wits be just!
For the Benefit of Mrs. ELIZABETH FOSTER, MILTON'S Grand-daughter, and only furviving Defcendant.
E patriot Crouds, who burn for England's Fame,
Ye Nymphs, whofe Bofom's beat at Milton's
Whofe gen'rous Zeal, unbought by flatt'ring Rhimes,
Shames the mean Penfions of Auguftan Times;
Immortal Patrons of fucceeding Days,
Attend this Prelude of perpetual Praise!
Let Wit, condemn'd the feeble War to wage
With clofe Malevolence, or public Rage;
Let Study, worn with Virtue's fruitlefs Lore,
Behold this Theatre, and grieve no more.
This Night, diftinguifh'd by your Smile, fhall tell
That never Briton can in vain excel;
The flighted Arts Futurity fhall truft,
And rifing Ages haften to be juft.
At length our mighty Bard's victorious Lays
Fill the loud Voice of univerfal Praise,
And baffled Spite, with hopeless Anguish dumb, Yields to Renown the Centuries to come.