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Grim darkness furls his leaden shroud,
Shrinking from her glance in vain. Her touch unlocks the day-spring from above, And lo! it visits man with beams of light and love.
YES, 'tis the pulse of life! my fears were vain;
I wake, I breathe, and am myself again.
Still in this nether world; no seraph yet!
Nor walks my spirit, when the sun is set,
With troubled step to haunt the fatal board,
Where I died last-by poison or the sword;
* After a Tragedy, performed for her benefit, at the Theatre Royal in Drury-lane, April 27, 1795.
Blanching each honest cheek with deeds of night,
Done here so oft by dim and doubtful light.
-To drop all metaphor, that little bell
Called back reality, and broke the spell.
No heroine claims your tears with tragic tone;
A very woman-scarce restrains her own!
Can she, with fiction, charm the cheated mind,
When to be grateful is the part assigned?
Ah, no! she scorns the trappings of her Art;
No theme but truth, no prompter but the heart!
But, Ladies, say, must I alone unmask?
Is here no other actress, let me ask.
Believe me, those, who best the heart dissect,
Know every Woman studies stage-effect.
She moulds her manners to the part she fills,
As Instinct teaches, or as Humour wills;
And, as the grave or gay her talent calls,
Acts in the drama, till the curtain falls.
First, how her little breast with triumph swells,
When the red coral rings its golden bells!
To play in pantomime is then the rage,
Along the carpet's many-coloured stage;
Or lisp her merry thoughts with loud endeavour,
Now here, now there,-in noise and mischief ever!
A school-girl next, she curls her hair in papers, And mimics father's gout, and mother's vapours; Discards her doll, bribes Betty for romances; Playful at church, and serious when she dances;
Tramples alike on customs and on toes,
And whispers all she hears to all she knows;
Terror of caps, and wigs, and sober notions!
A romp that longest of perpetual motions!
-Till tamed and tortured into foreign graces,
She sports her lovely face at public places;
And with blue, laughing eyes, behind her fan,
First acts her part with that great actor, MAN.
Too soon a flirt, approach her and she flies!
Frowns when pursued, and, when entreated, sighs!
Plays with unhappy men as cats with mice;
Till fading beauty hints the late advice.
Her prudence dictates what her pride disdained, And now she sues to slaves herself had chained!
Then comes that good old character, a Wife, With all the dear, distracting cares of life; A thousand cards a day at doors to leave, And, in return, a thousand cards receive; Rouge high, play deep, to lead the ton aspire, With nightly blaze set PORTLAND-PLACE on fire; Snatch half a glimpse at Concert, Opera, Ball, A meteor, traced by none, tho' seen by all; And, when her shattered nerves forbid to roam, In very spleen-rehearse the girls at home.
Last the grey Dowager, in ancient flounces, With snuff and spectacles the age denounces; Boasts how the Sires of this degenerate Isle Knelt for a look, and duelled for a smile.
The scourge and ridicule of Goth and Vandal,
Her tea she sweetens, as she sips, with scandal;
With modern Belles eternal warfare wages,
Like her own birds that clamour from their cages;
And shuffles round to bear her tale to all,
Like some old Ruin, "nodding to its fall!"
Thus WOMAN makes her entrance and her exit;
Not least an actress when she least suspects it.
Yet Nature oft peeps out and mars the plot,
Each lesson lost, each poor pretence forgot;
Full oft, with energy that scorns controul,
At once lights up the features of the soul;
Unlocks each thought chained down by coward Art,
And to full day the latent passions start!
-And she, whose first, best wish is your applause,
Herself exemplifies the truth she draws.
Born on the stage-thro' every shifting scene,
Obscure or bright, tempestuous or serene,
Still has your smile her trembling spirit fired!
And can she act, with thoughts like these inspired?
Thus from her mind all artifice she flings,
All skill, all practice, now unmeaning things!
To you, unchecked, each genuine feeling flows;
For all that life endears-to you she owes.