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“My horse! my horse!” Lo! now to their abodes,
Come lords and lovers, empresses and gods.
The master mover of these scenes has made
No trifling gain in this adventurous trade;
Trade we may term it, for he duly buys
Arms out of use and undirected eyes;
These he instructs, and guides them as he can,
And vends each night the manufactured man:
Long as our custom lasts they gladly stay,
Then strike their tents, like Tartars! and away!
The place grows bare where they too long remain,
But grass will rise ere they return again.
Children of Thespis, welcome! knights and queens !
Counts ! barons ! beauties! when before your scenes,
And mighty monarchs thund'ring from your throne;
Then step behind, and all your glory's gone:
Of crown and palace, throne and guards bereft,
is vanished and the care is left.
Yet strong and lively is the joy they feel,
When the full house secures the plenteous meal;
Flatt'ring and flattered, each attempts to raise
A brother's merits for a brother's praise:
For never hero shows a prouder heart,
Than he who proudly acts a hero's part;
Nor without cause; the boards, we know, can yield
Place for fierce contest, like the tented field.
Graceful to tread the stage, to be in turn
The prince we honor, and the knave we spurn;
Bravely to bear the tumult of the crowd,
The hiss tremendous, and the censure loud:
These are their parts,
and he who these sustains
Deserves some praise and profit for his pains.
Heroes at least of gentler kind are they,
Against whose swords no weeping widows pray,
No blood their fury sheds, nor havoc marks their way.
Sad happy race! soon raised and soon depressed,
Your days all passed in jeopardy and jest;
Poor without prudence, with afflictions vain,
Not warned by misery, not enriched by gain:
Whom Justice, pitying, chides from place to place,
A wandering, careless, wretched, merry race,
Who cheerful looks assume, and play the parts
Of happy rovers with repining hearts;
Then cast off care, and in the mimic pain
Of tragic woe feel spirits light and vain,
Distress and hope -- the mind's the body's wear,
The man's affliction, and the actor's tear:
Alternate times of fasting and excess
Are yours, ye smiling children of distress.
Slaves though ye be, your wand’ring freedom seems, And with your varying views and restless schemes, Your griefs are transient, as your joys are dreams.
Yet keen those griefs - ah! what avail thy charms,
Fair Juliet! with that infant in thine arms;
What those heroic lines thy patience learns,
What all the aid thy present Romeo earns,
Whilst thou art crowded in that lumbering wain
With all thy plaintive sisters to complain?
Nor is their lack of labor — To rehearse,
Day after day, poor scraps of prose and verse;
To bear each other's spirit, pride, and spite;
To hide in rant the heartache of the night;
To dress in gaudy patchwork, and to force
The mind to think on the appointed course;
This is laborious, and may be defined
The bootless labor of the thriftless mind.
There is a veteran dame: I see her stand
Intent and pensive with her book in hand;
Awhile her thoughts she forces on her part,
Then dwells on objects nearer to the heart;
Across the room she paces, gets her tone,
And fits her features for the Danish throne;
To-night a queen - I mark her motion slow,
I hear her speech, and Hamlet's mother know.
Methinks 'tis pitiful to see her try
For strength of arms and energy of eye;
With vigor lost, and spirits worn away,
Her pomp and pride she labors to display;
And when awhile she's tried her part to act,
To find her thoughts arrested by some fact;
When struggles more and more severe are seen,
In the plain actress than the Danish queen,
At length she feels her part, she finds delight,
And fancies all the plaudits of the night;
Old as she is, she smiles at every speech,
And thinks no youthful part beyond her reach.
But as the mist of vanity again
Is blown away, by press of present pain,
Sad and in doubt she to her purse applies
For cause of comfort, where no comfort lies :
Then to her task she sighing turns again “Oh! Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain!”
And who that poor, consumptive, withered thing,
Who strains her slender throat and strives to sing ?
Panting for breath, and forced her voice to drop,
And far unlike the inmate of the shop,
Where she, in youth and health, alert and gay,
Laughed off at night the labors of the day;
With novels, verses, fancy's fertile powers,
And sister converse passed the evening hours;
But Cynthia's soul was soft, her wishes strong,
Her judgment weak, and her conclusions wrong:
The morning call and counter were her dread,
And her contempt the needle and the thread;
But when she read a gentle damsel's part,
Her woe, her wish! she had them all by heart.
At length the hero of the boards drew nigh,
Who spake of love till sigh reëchoed sigh;
He told in honeyed words his deathless flame,
And she his own by tender vows became;
Nor ring nor license needed souls so fond,
Alfonso's passion was his Cynthia's bond:
And thus the simple girl, to shame betrayed,
Sinks to the grave forsaken and dismayed.
Sick without pity, sorrowing without hope,
See her! the grief and scandal of the troop;
A wretched martyr to a childish pride,
Her woe insulted, and her praise denied ;
Her humble talents, though derided, used;
Her prospects lost, her confidence abused;
All that remains — for she not long can brave
Increase of evils — is an early grave.
Ye gentle Cynthias of the shop, take heed What dreams ye cherish, and what books ye read!
[For biographical sketch, see page 267.)
The twentieth year is well-nigh past,
Since first our sky was overcast;
Ah, would that this might be the last!
Thy spirits have a fainter flow,
I see thee daily weaker grow;
'Twas my distress that brought thee low,
Thy needles, once a shining store,
For my sake restless heretofore,
Now rust disused, and shine no more,
For though thou gladly wouldst fulfill
The same kind office for me still,
Thy sight now seconds not thy will,
But well thou playedst the housewife's party
And all thy threads with magic art
Have wound themselves about this heart,
Thy indistinct expressions seem
Like language uttered in a dream;
Yet me they charm, whate'er the theme,
Thy silver locks, once auburn bright,
Are still more lovely in my sight
Than golden beams of orient light,
For, could I view nor them nor thee,
What sight worth seeing could I see?
The sun would rise in vain for me,
Partakers of thy sad decline,
Thy hands their little force resign;
Yet, gently prest, press gently mine,
Such feebleness of limbs thou provest,
That now at every step thou movest
Upheld by two, yet still thou lovest,