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IMPROMPTU, IN REPLY TO A FRIEND.
WHEN from the heart where Sorrow sits,
And clouds the brow, or fills the eye;
SPOKEN AT THE OPENING OF DRURY-LANE THEATRE,
IN one dread night our city saw, and sigh'd,
Ye who beheld, (oh! sight admired and mourn'd, Whose radiance mock'd the ruin it adorn'd!) Through clouds of fire the massy fragments riven, Like Israel's pillar, chase the night from heaven; Saw the long column of revolving flames Shake its red shadow o'er the startled Thames, While thousands, throng'd around the burning dome, Shrank back appall'd, and trembled for their home, As glared the volumed blaze, and ghastly shone The skies, with lightnings awful as their own, Till blackening ashes and the lonely wall Usurp'd the Muse's realm, and mark'd her fall; Say-shall this new, nor less aspiring pile, Rear'd where once rose the mightiest in our isle, Know the same favour which the former knew, A shrine for Shakspeare-worthy him and you?
Yes-it shall be-the magic of that name Defies the scythe of time, the torch of flame;
On the same spot still consecrates the scene,
As soars this fane to emulate the last, Oh! might we draw our omens from the past, Some hour propitious to our prayers may boast Names such as hallow still the dome we lost. On Drury first your Siddons' thrilling art O'erwhelm'd the gentlest, storm'd the sternest heart. On Drury, Garrick's latest laurels grew; Here your last tears retiring Roscius drew, Sigh'd his last thanks, and wept his last adieu : But still for living wit the wreaths may bloom That only waste their odours o'er the tomb. Such Drury claim'd and claims-nor you refuse One tribute to revive his slumbering muse; With garlands deck your own Menander's head! Nor hoard your honours idly for the dead!
Dear are the days which made our annals bright,
While thus Remembrance borrows Banquo's glass
Friends of the stage! to whom both Players and
Must sue alike for pardon, or for praise,
And made us blush that you forbore to blame;
This greeting o'er, the ancient rule obèy'd, The Drama's homage by her herald paid, Receive our welcome too, whose every tone Springs from our hearts, and fain would win your own. The curtain rises-may our stage unfold Scenes not unworthy Drury's days of old! Britons our judges, Nature for our guide,
Still may we please long, long may you preside!
TIME! on whose arbitrary wing
For now I bear the weight alone.
I would not one fond heart should share
Retards, but never counts the hour.
Thy cloud could overcast the light,
But could not add a night to woe; For then, however drear and dark,
My soul was suited to thy sky;