The Drama

Where is the light that shed its holy beam
And fired the bard by Avon's silver stream,
When Nature threw her mantle o'er her child
And woke his infant voice to wood-notes wild,
Bathed in her kindling flood his ardent soul,
And bade his heavenward eye in frenzy roll,—
That falcon eye which looked creation through,
From earth to heaven in quick conception flew,
Left all the fainter pinions far behind,
And read at one wide glance th' expanded mind,
Knew every spring and passion of the heart,
And rivalled Greece in all the pride of art?

Where is that daring, strong, gigantic age,
The glorious morning of the English stage,
When Genius took a bold and lofty flight,
And burst, all dazzling, from her Gothic night?
O, where are now those souls, that seemed on fire
And burning with a poet's wild desire,
Who saw and keenly loved the grand and fair,
And bodied forth their forms of viewless air?
O, where are now those thoughts and words of flame,
That shine most brightly on the roll of fame,
Those passion-speaking sounds, which fire and thrill,
And bind, as with a magic chain, the will,
Those streams of native eloquence, that flow
Like torrents rushing to the vales below,
Pouring their white floods down the mountain's height,
And sparkling in the blaze of solar light?

Is Genius dead? shall fancy wake no more?
Are all the triumphs of our drama o'er?
Is there no infant Shakespeare, who would spring,
And soar, with upward breast and daring wing,—
Who gnaws with restless tooth his galling chain,
And toils for freedom, toils and strives in vain,—
Who looks on glory with untiring eyes,
Who would be great, but cannot, dare not rise?
Awake, ye sons of poesy! awake,
And, with determined grasp, your fetters break;
Against the painted swarms of fashion dare,
And from their locks her perfumed garlands tear,
Indignant sweep her cobweb strains away,
And hush the love-sick warblers of the day:
Dare with a frown to front this downward age,
And drive melodious weakness from the stage,
And once more seating Nature on her throne,
There bid her reign for ever and alone,
And from her full, exhaustless fountain roll
The words that kindle and exalt the soul.

Where, throned on Alps, eternal winter reigns,
And Freedom wanders through her rude domains,
A race of demigods she loves to breed,
And with the bitter bread of hunger feed;
Till, hardy as the rocks that round them rise,
And stainless as their own unclouded skies,
Her strong-nerved sons, by want and labor nursed,
Like giants from those hard-bound mountains burst,
Fierce as the tiger, when he stands at bay,
And wild as gaunt wolves rushing on their prey;
Cruel as hyæns, when they rend the grave,
And on the red field tear the slaughtered brave:
Thus, in their new-waked might, they rush amain,
And crush the puny driv'lers of the plain,
Then, sheathing in a myrtle wreath their swords,
Walk with the port and majesty of lords.
So wake, ye true and native sons of song!
Pour all your unbought wealth of soul along,
And every energy to Nature give:—
Then once more Hamlet, Richard, Lear, shall live.
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