Blog- Tribute to Samuel Johnson
Drury-lane Prologue Spoken by Mr. Garrick at the Opening of the Theatre in Drury-Lane, 1747
BY SAMUEL JOHNSON
When Learning’s triumph o’er her barb’rous foes
First rear’d the stage, immortal Shakespear rose;
Each change of many-colour’d life he drew,
Exhausted worlds, and then imagin’d new:
Existence saw him spurn her bounded reign,
And panting Time toil’d after him in vain:
His pow’rful strokes presiding Truth impress’d,
And unresisted Passion storm’d the breast.
Then Jonson came, instructed from the school,
To please in method, and invent by rule;
His studious patience, and laborious art,
By regular approach essay’d the heart;
Cold Approbation gave the ling’ring bays,
For those who durst not censure, scarce could praise.
A mortal born he met the general doom,
But left, like Egypt’s kings, a lasting tomb.
The Wits of Charles found easier ways to fame,
Nor wish’d for Jonson’s art, or Shakespear’s flame,
Themselves they studied, as they felt, they writ,
Intrigue was plot, obscenity was wit.
Vice always found a sympathetic friend;
They pleas’d their age, and did not aim to mend.
Yet bards like these aspir’d to lasting praise,
And proudly hop’d to pimp in future days.
Their cause was gen’ral, their supports were strong,
Their slaves were willing, and their reign was long;
Till Shame regain’d the post that Sense betray’d,
And Virtue call’d Oblivion to her aid.
Then crush’d by rules, and weaken’d as refin’d,
For years the pow’r of tragedy declin’d;
From bard, to bard, the frigid caution crept,
Till Declamation roar’d, while Passion slept.
Yet still did Virtue deign the stage to tread,
Philosophy remain’d, though Nature fled.
But forc’d at length her ancient reign to quit,
She saw great Faustus lay the ghost of wit:
Exulting Folly hail’d the joyful day,
And pantomime, and song, confirm’d her sway.
But who the coming changes can presage,
And mark the future periods of the stage?—
Perhaps if skill could distant times explore,
New Behns, new Durfoys, yet remain in store.
Perhaps, where Lear has rav’d, and Hamlet died,
On flying cars new sorcerers may ride.
Perhaps, for who can guess th’ effects of chance?
Here Hunt may box, or Mahomet may dance.
Hard is his lot, that here by Fortune plac’d,
Must watch the wild vicissitudes of taste;
With ev’ry meteor of caprice must play,
And chase the new-blown bubbles of the day.
Ah! let not censure term our fate our choice,
The stage but echoes back the public voice.
The drama’s laws the drama’s patrons give,
For we that live to please, must please to live.
Then prompt no more the follies you decry,
As tyrants doom their tools of guilt to die;
’Tis yours this night to bid the reign commence
Of rescu’d Nature, and reviving Sense;
To chase the charms of Sound, the pomp of Show,
For useful Mirth, and salutary Woe;
Bid scenic Virtue form the rising age,
And Truth diffuse her radiance from the stage.
Illuminations, Temptations, Life's Travails Endured
Weep for Truth that man's inherent evil betrayed
Zeus hurled lightning bolts, paradise dreams delayed;
Intriguing words, those tales of mythological beasts
Sirens tempt, alluring songs, dark orgasmic feasts:
Man that so blindly eats, stirring to walk upright,
Consuming illusions of life's selfish delights:
No more than mere cannibals of impish degrees
Born of midnight madness and seed from dying trees.
Man in darkened lusts seeking illicit spoils
Raping with greed, as seas of sewage churns and boils
Flying through phantasms of barbaric hate
Rising as a charred Phoenix of dooming Fate
Unto dawn's fiery breath, its unfulfilled dreams
While harbinger of death, drowns with malignant streams
Gasping from a multitude of overwhelming lust
Avoiding light, truth of one day turning back to dust.
From the beginnings of aspirations and greed
First wailing cry, signifying an evil seed
Crawling as a mere babe down in well trodden dirt
Yet unacquainted, to life's many flesh-born hurts
Weak, ever needful under mother's tender cloak
Destined to serve, slave under temptation's yoke
Taught to seek, what sensual pleasures thus abound
Ecstasy's whispers, allures that truly astound.
Born of flesh, a searing flame too oft set to rage
Whether a pauper or prince, each coming of age
Reaching that mature stage when new blacken chart sets
Course of life, and all, whatever future begets
Letting dark to sully and run its wicked course
Rampaging, destroying, without fear or remorse
A Caesar in power, born of demonic ways
God of deceit, creator of a dancing malaise.
Standing aloft, contemptuous of good and light
Evolving monster, lurking into darker nights
Beset by arrogance, stand of a know it all
An Achilles well before his sad fated fall
Ignorant of Time, ill winds of eternal wrath
Prancing, before a tumble from a crumbling path
Left behind as humanity's cycles repeat
Death touched, final blow, mankind's greatest defeat.
Cast into oblivion, reduced to bleached bones
Memory, marked by a plot, one white headstone
Perhaps some tears that time too will one day erase
Fruit of iniquity, sad harvests, a disgrace
Ending, befit for one that embraced the dark
Reduced to dust and sorrows, a stained mark
Alas! To in error, such futile life so choose
Playing with a marked deck, destined to lose!
Robert J. Lindley, started 2-03- 2020.
completed to post 8-06-2020
A tribute to Samuel Johnson...