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But let the generous actor still forbear To copy features with a mimic's care! 'Tis a poor skill, which ev'ry fool can reach, A vile stage-custom, honor'd in the breach. Worse as more close, the disingenuous art But shews the wanton looseness of the heart. When I behold a wretch, of talents mean Drag private foibles on the public scene, Forsaking nature's fair and open road To mark some whim, some strange peculiar mode, Fir'd with disgust, I loath his servile plan, Despise the mimic, and abhor the man. Go to the lame, to hospitals repair, And hunt for humor in distortions there! Fill up the measure of the motley whim With shrug, wink, snuffle, and convulsive limb; Then shame at once, to please a trifling age, Good sense, good manners, virtue, and the stage b
'Tis not enough the voice be sound and clear, 'Tis modulation that must charm the ear. When desperate heroines grieve with tedious moan; And whine their sorrows in a see-saw tone, The same soft sounds of unimpassioned woes Can only make the yawning hearers doze.
The voice all modes of passion can express,
Some o'er the tongue the labor'd measures roll Slow and delib'rate as the parting toll, Point ev'ry stop, mark ev'ry pause so strong, Their words, like stage-processions, stalk along. All affectation but creates disgust, And e'en in speaking we may seem too just.
Nor proper, Thornton, can those sounds appear Which bring not numbers to thy nicer ear: In vain for them the pleasing measure flows, Whose recitation runs it all to prose; Repeating what the poet sets not down, The verb disjointing from its friendly noun, While pause, and break, and repetition join To make a discord in each tuneful line.
Some placid natures fill th' allotted scene With lifeless drone, insipid and serene; While others thunder ev'ry couplet o'er, And almost crack your ears with rant and roar.
~. More nature oft and finer strokes are shown,
He, who in earnest studies o'er his part, Will find true nature cling about his heart.
The modes of grief are not included all
In the white handkerchief and mournful drawl;
In vain Ophelia gives her flowrets round,
In Cibber's look commanding sorrows speak,
There is a fault which stirs the critic's rage;
I have seen actors, and admir'd ones too,
Divest yourself of hearers, if you can,
So, 'mid th' harmonious tones of grief or rage,
To suit the dress demands the actor's art, Yet there are those who over-dress the part. To some prescriptive right gives settled things, Black wigs to murd'rers, feather'd hats to kings: But Michael Cassio might be drunk enough, Tho' all his features were not grim'd with snuff. Why should Poll Peachum shine in sattin cloaths? Why ev'ry devil dance in scarlet hose?
But in stage-customs what offends me most
When chilling horrors shake th' affrighted king,. And guilt torments him with her scorpion sting; When keenest feelings at his bosom pull, And fancy tells him that the seat is full; Why need the ghost usurp the monarch's place, To frighten children with his mealy face?
The king alone shou'd form the phantom there, And talk and tremble at the vacant chair.
If Belvidera her lov'd loss deplore,
Why for twin spectres bursts the yawning floor
Poet and actor thus, with blended skill, Mould all our passions to their instant will; 'Tis thus, when feeling Garrick treads the stage, (The speaking comment of his Shakspere's page) Oft as I drink the words with greedy ears, I shake with horror, or dissolve with tears.
O! ne'er may folly seize the throne of taste, Nor dullness lay the realms of genius waste! No bouncing crackers ape the thund'rer's fire, No tumbler float upon the bending wire ! More natural uses to the stage belong, Than tumblers, monsters, pantomime, or song, For other purpose was that spot design'd: To purge the passions, and reform the mind,