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THANKS to much Industry and Pains,
Much twisting of the Wit and Brains,
Translation has unlock'd the Store,
And spread abroad the Grecian Lore,
While Sophocles his Scenes are grown,
No more shall Taste presume to speak,
From its Enclosures in the Greek;
But, all its Fences broken down,
Lie at the Mercy of the Town.
Critic, I hear thy Torrent rage,
"'Tis Blasphemy against that Stage,
"Which Aeschylus his Warmth design'd,
"Euripides his Taste refin'd,
"And Sophocles his last Direction,
"Stamp'd with the Signet of Perfection."
Perfection's but a Word ideal,
And bears about it nothing real,
And Excellence was never hit
In the first Essays of Man's Wit.
Shall ancient Worth, or ancient Fame
Preclude the Moderns from their Claim?
Must they be Blockheads, Dolts, and Fools,
Who write not up to Grecian Rules?
Who tread in Buskins or in Socks
Must they be damn'd [...],
[Page 4] Nor Merit of good Works prevail,
Except within the classic Pale?
'Tis Stuff that bears the Name of Knowlege,
Not current half a Mile from College;
Where half their Lectures yield no more
(Besure I speak of Times of yore)
Than just a niggard Light, to mark
How much we all are in the Dark.
As Rushlights in a spacious Room,
Just burn enough to form a Gloom.
When Shakespeare leads the Mind a Dance,
From France to England, hence to France,
Talk not to me of Time and Place;
I own I'm happy in the Chace.
Whether the Drama's here or there,
'Tis Nature, Shakespeare, every where.
The Poet's Fancy can create,
Contract, enlarge, annihilate,
Bring past and present close together,
In spite of Distance, Seas, or Weather.
And shut up in a single Action,
[Page 4] So, Ladies at a Play, or Rout,
Can flirt the Universe about,
Whose geographical Account
Is drawn and pictur'd on the Mount.
Yet, when they please, contract the Plan,
And shut the World up in a Fan.
True Genius, like Armida's Wand,
Can raise the Spring from barren Land.
While all the Art of Imitation,
Is pilf'ring from the first Creation;
Transplanting Flowers with useless Toil,
Which wither in a foreign Soil.
As Conscience often sets us right,
By its interior active Light,
Without th' Assistance of the Laws
To combat in the moral Cause;
So Genius, of itself discerning,
Without the mystic Rules of Learning,
Can from its present Intuition,
Strike at the truth of Composition.
Yet those who breath the classic Vein,
Enlisted in the mimic Train,
Who ride their Steed with double Bit,
Not run away with by their Wit,
Delighted with the Pomp of Rules,
The specious Pedantry of Schools;
Which Rules, like Crutches, ne'er became,
Of any Use but to the Lame.
Persue the Method sat before 'em,
Talk much of Order and Decorum.
Of Probability, of Fiction,
Of Manners, Ornament and Diction.
And with a Jargon of hard Names,
A Privilege which Dulness claims,
And merely us'd by way of Fence,
To keep out plain and Common Sense.
Extoll the Wit of antient Days,
The simple Fabric of their Plays,
Then from the Fable, all so chaste,
Trick'd up in modern, antient Taste,
So mighty gentle all the while,
[Page 6] While Chorus, marks the servile Mode
With fine Reflexion, in an Ode,
Present you with a perfect Piece,
Form'd on the Model of old Greece.
Come, prithee Critic, set before us,
The Use and Office of a Chorus.
What! Silent! Why then, I'll produce,
Its Services from antient Use.
'Tis to be ever on the Stage,
Attendants upon Grief or Rage,
To be an arrant Go-between,
Chief-Mourner, at each dismal Scene.
Shewing its Sorrow, or Delight,
By shifting Dances, left and right.
Not much unlike our modern Notions,
Adagio or Alegro Motions;
To watch upon the deep Distress,
And plaints of Royal Wretchedness;
And when, with Tears, and Execration,
They've pour'd out all their Lamentation,
[Page 7] And with their Hai's and Hee's and Hoe's
To make a Symphony of Woes.
Doubtless the Antients want the Art,
To strike at once upon the Heart.
Or why their Prologues of a Mile
In simple—call it—humble Stile,
In unimpassion'd Phrase to say
'Fore the Beginning of this Play,
I hapless Polydore was found,
By Fishermen or others drown'd?
Or, I a Gentleman, did wed,
Great Agamemnon's royal Daughter,
Who's coming hither to draw Water?
Or need the Chorus to reveal,
Reflexions which the Audience feel;
And jog them least Attention sink,
To tell them how and what to think?
Oh, where's the Bard, who at one View,
Cou'd look the whole Creation through,
[Page 8] He scorn'd the Modes of Imitation,
Of Altering, Pilfering, and Traslation,
Nor painted Horror, Grief, or Rage
From Models of a former Age;
The bright Original he took,
And tore the Leaf from Nature's Book.
'Tis Shakespeare, thus who stands alone—
Why need I tell what you have shown.
How true, how perfect, and how well,
The Feelings of our Hearts must tell.

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