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Immortal Bard, all hail! may every Spring
Around thy tomb the Nymphs of Avon bring!
Around, ye grateful Nymphs, around him tread,
Record his beauties, and bemoan him dead.

All hail, immortal Bard! thee witlings damn,
For errors scarce enough to prove thee man:
Errors there are, for who so partial sees
The Prince of Playwrights in his Péricles ?
But when the youthful Dane to raptures swells
At the sad tale his poison'd father tells ;

When Caesar triumphs, when his murderers plot,
When Hecate deceives the valiant Scot;
When Fairies round the ring, when Spirits fly,
Compell'd by magic from their native sky,
I know him then, I know the Muse's shrine,
'Tis he, 'tis he himself, 'tis Shakspere, 'tis divine.

None may attempt the next great Poet's fame,
Whilst Denham's numbers blazon Jonson's name;
'Twas he first methodis'd the Muse's rage,
To him we owe correctness on the stage:
By tracing Jonson's humorists and lays,
Even blundering Shadwell now and then can please.

Apollo thus to bend his bow, 'tis said,
Upon a senseless stone his lyre had laid;
Th' infectious harmony the marble caught,
His instrument a new one strait begot;

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The stone when struck on imitating still
In feeble sounds the master godhead's skill.

Shadwell perhaps may coast along the shore, But fears the dangerous ugly deep t'explore. Jonson alone with wit and judgment braves The rising storm, and quells the raging waves; Here distant twinkling beauties rarely meet, There's a bright galaxy of dazzling wit.

But like the Graces, moving hand in hand, Fletcher and Beaumont next the crown command: The first too far presuming on his wit, His lavish lays luxuriantly writ;

Whilst Beaumont modell'd every darling thought,
And interpos'd his beautifying blot,

Taught him to manage the Pierian steed,
Or curb him close, or urge his utmost speed.

Minerva thus, to rout the Thracian God,
In the same chariot with Tydides rode;

She wields the whip, his forward courage chides,
His fiery self and fiery coursers guides,

Now checks their haste, now thunders o'er the plain,
The Hero darts the spear, the Goddess rules the rein.

Fletcher, when fir'd with a poetic heat, Was ever rambling after rant and wit;

'Twas then his friend, all fortify'd with rules, Show'd him the scene could tickle none but foals.

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Convinc'd, amaz'd, the guilty Poet stood,
And blush'd himself should ever think it good.

So Bacchus, when he drove his conquering car
O'er sun-burnt climes, and urg’d the Indian war,
Soon as the generous grape had reach'd his head,
His troops to many a rash adventure led;

Silenus saw the fault, by his advice

The God allay'd his rage, and cool'd his cup with ice.

Long felt the Drama an inglorious dearth,
Nor wept the Tragic Muse, nor smil'd the Comic

At length his lyre harmonious Dryden strung,
Excell'd in both, and both alternate sung.
At first indeed he made his heroes rant,
Or quibbled Folly in his Wild Gallant :
But, as in music, when the artist long
Has try'd each note, and dwelt upon the song,
The strings become familiar to his hand,
Around his lute the Graces take their stand;
He rises in his skill, the crowd controls,
And robs his ravish'd audience of their souls.
Our Author so, when perfect in his art,
Alarm'd the brave, and seiz'd the fair-one's heart.

So Nature's workmanship, in paint display'd,
By mellowing Time more beautiful is made.

So Nature's self, whom he so well could paint, Acts as at first she suffer'd some restraint: The tender babe of less than pigmy size, Wrapt up and jellying in the cradle lies, By just degrees his little limbs dilate, By just degrees improves his growing state, At length he stretches to his utmost span, And looks, and stalks, that lordly creature, Man.

But what so potent charm, what chain so strong, Can curb or silence the malicious tongue ? Superior merit on the Laureat drew A Blackmore, Milbourne, and a Montagu: Angred at last, he threw his pencil down, Nor strove again to please a thankless town. Wrapp'd in the Prophet's robe arose his friend, Congreve alone the Hero's bow could bend, Congreve, his second-self, his Congreve rose, And soars like Dryden, and like Dryden flows.

Thus did Achilles from the dusty plain Laden with bays and injuries abstain ; But when Patroclus to the battle went, His golden panoply the Hero lent; And him so well the mighty arms became, So like Achilles all his graceful frame, Both host a-gaze the raging war suspend, And none but Phoebus knows him from his friend.

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Thy Comic Muse, and trust me, Congreve, I
With greater truth than Foresight prophecy,
Far as thy Ben can sail, or waters flow,
Receiv'd with praise thy Comic Muse shall go;
Bless her, ye Lovers, for from her the Fair
Have learnt to prize the constant in despair,
No more your sighs, no more your tears are scorn'd,
But Love for Love shall ever be return'd.

Some know the sock and some the buskin's pace, But Congreve treads in both with equal grace: When dress'd in widow'd weeds his Muse appears, Who can refuse the Mourning Bride his tears?

So when Adonis dy'd, her grief became,
Well as her former mirth, the laughter-loving dame.
Long would the labor be, and vain the toil,
To sing the master-strokes of Otway's stile,
Ev'n the most loyal must his Pierre commend,
Nor can his Orphan ever want a friend.

Read Etherege, you that would appear genteel; The friend, the father, and the mistress, Steele: How soft the scene where Cibber paints the beau? How manly Wycherley! how moving Rowe! The lays how strong! how passionate the page! When Granville's Agamemnon mounts the stage! How loud the din when his magicians fight! When good Urganda battles for her knight, Spirits of air with Daemons dire engage,

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