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IN THE CHARACTER OF HARLEQUIN, AT HIS BENEFIT.
HOLD! prompter, hold! a word before your nonsense ;
I'd speak a word or two to ease my conscience.
My pride forbids it ever should be said,
My heels eclipsed the honours of my head;
That I found humour in a piebald vest,
Or ever thought that jumping was a jest.
[Takes off his Mask.
Whence, and what art thou, visionary birth?
Nature disowns, and reason scorns thy mirth ;
In thy black aspect every passion sleeps,
The joy that dimples, and the woe that weeps.
How hast thou fill'd the scene with all thy brood,
Of fools pursuing, and of fools pursued !
Whose ins and outs no ray of sense discloses ;
Whose only plot it is to break our noses ;
Whilst from below the trapdoor demons rise,
And from above the dangling deities.
And shall I mix in this unhallow'd crew?
May rosin'd lightning blast me, if I do!
No, I will act, I'll vindicate the stage :
Shakspeare himself shall feel my tragic rage.
Off! off! vile trappings! a new passion reigns !
The maddening monarch revels in my veins.
Oh! for a Richard's voice to catch the theme:
Give me another horse! bind up my wounds!
Ay, 'twas but a dream, for now there's no retreating; If I cease Harlequin, I cease from eating. 'Twas thus that Æsop's stag, a creature blameless, Yet something vain, like one that shall be nameless, Once on the margin of a fountain stood, And cavil'd at his image in a flood. “ The deuce confound,” he cries, “ these drumstick
shanks, They neither have my gratitude nor thanks :
They're perfectly disgraceful! strike me dead !
But for a head-yes, yes, I have a head.
How piercing is that eye! how sleek that brow!
My horns !-- I'm told horns are the fashion now.”
Whilst thus he spoke, astonish'd! to his view,
Near, and more near, the hounds and huntsmen drew.
Hoicks! hark forward ! came thundering from behind,
He bounds aloft, outstrips the fleeting wind :
He quits the woods, and tries the beaten ways;
He starts, he pants, he takes the circling maze.
At length his silly head, so prized before,
Is taught his former folly to deplore;
Whilst his strong limbs conspire to set him free,
And at one bound he saves himself, like me.
[Taking a jump through the Stage Door.
What! five long acts—and all to make us wiser!
Out authoress sure has wanted an adviser.
Had she consulted me, she would have made
Her moral play a speaking masquerade ;
Warm’d up each bustling scene,
and in her rage
Have emptied all the green-room on the stage.
My life on't, this had kept her play from sinking;
Have pleased our eyes, and saved the pain of thinking.
Well, since she thus has shown her want of skill,
What if I give a masquerade? I will. (my cue:
But how? ay, there's the rub! [pausing]—I've got
The world's a masquerade; the maskers, you, you,
[To Boxes, Pit, and Gallery.
Lud! what a group the motley scene discloses !
False wit, false wives, false virgins, and false spouses !
Statesmen with bridles on; and, close beside them,
Patriots in party-colour'd suits that ride them.
There Hebes, turned of fifty, try once more
To raise a flame in Cupids of threescore.
These in their turn, with appetites as keen,
Deserting fifty, fasten on fifteen.
Miss, not yet full fifteen, with fire uncommon,
Flings down her sampler, and takes up the woman;
The little urchin smiles, and spreads her lure,
And tries to kill, ere she's got power to cure.
Thus 'tis with all their chief and constant care
Is to seem every thing but what they are.
Yon broad, bold, angry spark, I fix my eye on,
Who seems to have robb’d his vizor from the lion;
Who frowns, and talks, and swears, with round pa-
Looking, as who should say, damme! who's afraid ?
[Mimicking: Strip but his vizor off, and sure I am You'll find his lionship a very lamb.