The Canongate Play-House in Ruins
A Burlesque Poem.
Ye few whose feeling hearts are ne'er estranged
From soft emotions: ye who often wear
The eye of pity, and oft vent her sighs,
When sad Melpomene, in woe-fraught strains,
Gains entrance to the breast: or often smile
When brisk Thalia trips along
Scenes of enlivening mirth; attend my song.
And Fancy! thou whose ever-flamimg light
Can penetrate into the dark abyss
Of chaos, and of hell: O! with thy blazing torch
The wasteful scene illumine, that the muse,
With daring pinions may her flight pursue,
Nor with timidity be known to soar
O'er the theatric world, to chaos chang'd.
Can I contemplate on those dreary scenes
Of mould'ring desolation, and forbid
The voice elegiac and the falling tear!
No more from box to box the basket pil'd
With oranges as radiant as the spheres,
Shall with their luscious virtues charm the sense
Of taste and smell. No more the gaudy beau,
With handkerchief in lavender well drench'd,
Or bergamot, or rose-watero pure,
With flavoriferous sweets shall chace away
The pestilential fumes of vulgar cits,
Who, in impatience for the curtain's rise,
Amus'd the lingering moments, and applied
Thirst-quenching porter to their parched lips.
Alas! how sadly alter'd is the scene!
For lo! those sacred walls, that late were brush'd
By rustling silks and waving capuchines,
Are now become the sport of wrinkl'd time!
Those walls, that late have echo'd to the voice
Of stern King Richard, to the seat transform'd
Of crawling spiders and detested moths,
Who in the lonely crevices reside;
Or gender in the beams, that have upheld
Gods, demi-gods, and all the joyous crew
Of thunderers in the galleries above.
O Shakespeare! where are all thy tinsel'd kings,
Thy fawning courtiers, and thy waggish clowns?
Where all thy fairies, spirits, witches, fiends,
That here have gambol'd in nocturnal sport,
Round the lone oak, or sunk in fear away
From the shrill summons of the cock at morn?
Where now the temples, palaces, and towers?
Where now the groves that ever verdant smil'd?
Where now the streams that never ceas'd to flow?
Where now the clouds, the rains, the hails, the winds,
The thunders, light'nings, and the tempests strong?
Here shepherds, lolling in their woven bowers,
In dull recitativo often sung
Their loves, accompanied with clangor strong
From horns, from trumpets, clarinets, bassoons;
From violinos sharp, or droning bass,
Or the brisk tinkling of a harpsichord.
Such is thy pow'r, O music! such thy fame,
That is has fabled been, that foreign song,
Soft issuing from Tenducci's slender throat,
Has drawn a plaudit from the gods enthron'd
Round the empyreum of Jove himself,
High seated on Olympus' airy top.
Nay, that his fev'rous voice was known to soothe
The shrill-ton'd prating of the females tongues,
Who, in obedience to the lifeless song,
All prostrate fell; all fainting died away
In silent ecstacies of passing joy.
Ye who oft wander by the silver light
Of sister Luna, or to church-yard's gloom,
Or cypress shades, if chance shou'd guide your steps
To this sad mansion, think not that you tread
Unconsectated paths; for on this ground
Have holy streams been pour'd, and flow'rets strew'd;
While many a kingly diadem, I ween,
Lies useless here intomb'd, with heaps of coin
Stamp'd in theatric mint: offenceless gold!
That carried not persuasion in its hue,
To tutor mankind in their evil ways.
After a lengthen'd series of years,
When the unhallow'd spade shall discompose
This mass of earth, then relics shall be found,
Which, or for gems of worth, or Roman coins,
Well may obtrude on antiquary's eye.
Ye spouting blades! regard this ruin'd fane,
And nightly come within those naked walls,
To shed the tragic tear. Full many a drop
Of precious inspiration have you suck'd
From its dramatic sources. O! look here
Upon this roofless and forsaken pile,
And stalk in pensive sorrow o'er the ground
Where you've beheld so many noble scenes.
Thus, when the mariner to foreign clime
His bark conveys, where odiferous gales,
And orange-groves and love-inspiring wine,
Have oft repaid his toil: if earthquake dire,
With hollow groanings and convulsive pangs,
The ground hath rent, and all those beauties foil'd,
Will he refrain to shed the grateful drop,
A tribute justly due ( tho' seldom paid)
To the remembrance of happier times?