PROLOGUE TO THE PLAY OF KING JOHN, ACTED AT MR. NEWCOMB'S, AT HACKNEY, IN MARCH MDCCLXIX.
1 THE Bard whose scenes this night your thoughts engage,
2 Has somewhere told us, All the world's a stage,
3 Where all in one great farce their talents try,
4 Are born, love, wed, grow covetous, — and die.
5 From hence I think we fairly may infer,
6 That NATURE is, or should be manager;
7 And yet in NATURE's spite, we every day
8 Cast cur own parts ourselves, and spoil her play;
9 Some vain conceit disturbs her sober plan,
10 And ART debauches that strange creature, man:
11 Hence, ere Life's curtain drops, this truth is plain,
12 That few, the characters they take, sustain.
13 See, CATO-like, in Freedom's boasted cause
14 The maddening PATRIOT raves of dying Laws;
15 With ready lash pursues the venal tribe:
16 But what's the sequel? — Exit with a bribe. —
17 Not less a Player the METHODIST appears:
18 In some hir'd barn his casual stage he rears;
19 Prophane, loquacious, insolent, and loud,
20 The grave Jack-Pudding of a sniveling crowd,
21 Who promis'd heaven in change for pence receive;
22 For those who teach to die, know how to live.
23 The PRUDE austere, who shuns each forward spark,
24 Meets less reserv'd her footman in the dark;
25 The gay COQUET, the COXCOMB, and the WIT,
26 Across Life's stage like airy phantoms flit,
27 Applause nor pity sure their parts command:
28 The mark of scorn let Affectation stand!
29 If, then, the finish'd man can sometimes err,
30 And make mistakes on the World's Theatre,
31 Desert himself, as various passions call,
32 And prove at last no character at all;
33 We ask your candour, if in us appears
34 Th' imperfect growth of unexperienc'd years;
35 Tho' buds, yet Learning like the sun has power
36 To rear the stem, and paint the future flower!
37 If JOHN should not each stroke of guilt impart,
38 Nor CONSTANCE triumph o'er the feeling heart,
39 Think, in Life's happy morn we cannot know
40 The sad extent of baseness or of woe!
41 Boys as we are, to us each scene is new,
42 If sometimes wrong, e'en there we copy you:
43 To bold attempts be then indulgence shewn,
44 And learn to pity faults so like your own.