Unknowing and unknown, the hardy Muse
Boldly defies all mean and partial views;
With honest freedom plays the critic's part,
And praises, as she censures, from the heart.
Roscius deceased, each high aspiring player
Push'd all his interest for the vacant chair.
The buskin'd heroes of the mimic stage
No longer whine in love, and rant in rage;
The monarch quits his throne, and condescends
Humbly to court the favour of his friends;
For pity's sake tells undeserved mishaps,
And, their applause to gain, recounts his claps.
Thus the victorious chiefs of ancient Rome,
To win the mob, a suppliant's form assume;
In pompous strain fight o'er the extinguish'd war,
And show where honour bled in every scar.
But though bare merit might in Rome appear
The strongest plea for favour, 'tis not here;
We form our judgment in another way;
And they will best succeed, who best can pay:
Those who would gain the votes of British tribes,
Must add to force of merit, force of bribes.
What can an actor give? In every age
Cash hath been rudely banish'd from the stage;
Monarchs themselves, to grief of every player,
Appear as often as their image there:
They can't, like candidate for other seat,
Pour seas of wine, and mountains raise of meat.
Wine! they could bribe you with the world as soon,
And of 'Roast Beef,' they only know the tune:
But what they have they give; could Clive do more,
Though for each million he had brought home four?
Shuter keeps open house at Southwark fair,
And hopes the friends of humour will be there;
In Smithfield, Yates prepares the rival treat
For those who laughter love, instead of meat;
Foote, at Old House,--for even Foote will be,
In self-conceit, an actor,--bribes with tea;
Which Wilkinson at second-hand receives,
And at the New, pours water on the leaves.
The town divided, each runs several ways,
As passion, humour, interest, party sways.
Things of no moment, colour of the hair,
Shape of a leg, complexion brown or fair,
A dress well chosen, or a patch misplaced,
Conciliate favour, or create distaste.
From galleries loud peals of laughter roll,
And thunder Shuter's praises; he's so droll.
Embox'd, the ladies must have something smart,
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