To a Play Acted in a Nobleman’s Barn
Friends of this ancient theatre of verse,
Hear the awakening Muse her claims rehearse!
Not Drury’s pile in second birth sublime,
Crown’d with a thousand tons of lead and rhyme,
In prouder greatness meets your wond’ring sight,
Than this broad Barn, the glory of to-night:
There giant Pomp and tinsel’d Whim appear,
Plenty and Pleasure’s mingled reign is here!
Tho’ by no Phidias or Vitruvio plann’d,
Our dome may boast a fire by Genius fann’d—
Not such a fire as o’er affrighted Thame
“Shook its red mantle” like a Bond-street dame:
A fire that made the “sighing city” pout,
And Phœbus “drop a tear” to put it out!
But that soft light which with reflected beam
Gilds the wide course of Fancy’s frolic stream.
Thro’ wintry darkness spreads its welcome sway,
And bids astonish’d night contend with day.
“Oft on these boards you’ve heard—no
—not these boards.”
Yet here our Barn a simile affords:
With small and great comparisons are good,
And boards and barns alike are made of wood.
Oft in our barn, Thalia’s ancient throne,
The shafts of Wit—the darts of love have flown.
Wit to soft Satire lends her painted plumes,
And Love’s light torch the festive scene illumes:
Tho’ Art may here no tripod-altars raise,
With “hydrostatic, pyro-technic” blaze,
Wit’s rarest gas sustains our constant lamp,
Secure from Folly’s smoke or Envy’s damp;
And if too swiftly spreads th’electric fire,
Mild Wisdom comes like Congreve’s reservoir.
Friends, Allies!—ye who bid our glories live.
And like kind patrons “gild the means ye give.”
Come, and as Banquo view’d the magic glass,
Admire your sceptred children as they pass.
In these illustrious days of pure delight,
When ladies read—and even lords can write.
Light is the toil to grace our attic scene,
And bid abundance be—where it has been
Fulfill the gentle task—with paper-aid
Come every sighing swain and soft-ey’d maid—
So may, each tender heart with hope be thrill’d,
And every lover win a Barn well-fill’d!
May never stubborn rhymes your verse confuse,
Nor fires consume them, nor committees chuse:
But such Committees as to-night preside,
Their purpose Pleasure—Elegance their guide—
Prompt to praise others as themselves excell,
And most exalted when they cry “How well!”