The Playhouse

Near to the Rose where punks in numbers flock
To pick up cullies, to increase their stock;
A lofty fabric does the sight invade,
And stretches round the place a pompous shade;
Where sudden shouts the neighborhood surprise,
And thund'ring claps, and dreadful hissings rise.
Here thrifty Rich hires heroes by the day,
And keeps his mercenary kings in pay;
With deep-mouthed actors fills the vacant scenes,
And drains the town for goddesses and queens:
Here the lewd punk, with crowns and scepters graced,
Teaches her eyes a more majestic cast;
And hungry monarchs with a numerous train
Of suppliant slaves, like Sancho starve and reign.
But enter in, my Muse, the stage survey,
And all its pomp and pageantry display;
Trap-doors and pit-falls, from th' unfaithful ground,
And magic walls, encompass it around:
On either side maimed temples fill our eyes,
And intermixed with brothel-houses rise;
Disjointed palaces in order stand,
And groves obedient to the mover's hand
O'er-shade the stage, and flourish at command.
A stamp makes broken towns and trees entire:
So when Amphion struck the vocal lyre,
He saw the spacious circuit all around,
With crowding woods, and rising cities crowned.
But next survey the tyring-room and see
False titles, and promiscuous quality
Confusedly swarm, from heroes and from queens
To those that swing in clouds and fill machines;
Their various characters they choose with art,
The frowning bully fits the tyrant's part:
Swol'n cheeks and swagging belly make a host;
Pale meager looks, and hollow voice, a ghost;
From careful brows, and heavy downcast eyes,
Dull cits, and thick-skulled aldermen arise:
The comic tone, inspired by Farquhar, draws
At every word, loud laughter and applause:
The mincing dame continues as before,
Her character unchanged, and acts a whore.
Above the rest, the prince with haughty stalks,
Magnificent in purple buskins walks:
The royal robes his awful shoulders grace,
Profuse of spangles and of copper-lace:
Officious vassals, to his mighty thigh,
Guiltless of blood, th' unpointed weapon tie:
Then the gay glittering diadem put on,
Pondrous with brass, and starred with Bristol stone.
His royal consort next consults her glass
And out of twenty boxes culls a face;
The whit'ning first her sallow looks besmears,
All pale and wan th' unfinished form appears;
'Till on her cheeks the blushing purple glows,
And a false virgin modesty bestows.
Her ruddy lips the deep vermillion dyes;
Length to her brows the pencil's touch supplies,
And with black bending arches shades her eyes.
Well pleased at last the picture she beholds,
And spots it o'er with artificial moles:
Her countenance complete, the beaux she warms
With looks not hers, and spite of nature, charms.
Thus artfully their persons they disguise,
'Till the last flourish bids the curtain rise.
The prince then enters on the stage in state;
Behind, a guard of candle-snuffers wait:
There, swol'n with empire, terrible and fierce,
He shakes the dome, and tears his lungs with verse:
His subjects tremble, the submissive pit,
Wrapped up in silence and attention, sit;
Till freed at length, he lays aside the weight
Of public business, and affairs of state:
Forgets his pomp, dead to ambitious fires,
And to some peaceful brandy-shop retires;
Where in full gills his anxious thoughts he drowns,
And quaffs away the cares that wait on crowns.
The princess next her painted charms displays,
Where every look the pencil's art betrays.
The callow 'squire at distance feeds his eyes,
And silently for paint and patches dies:
But if the youth behind the scenes retreat,
He sees the blended colors melt with heat,
And all the trickling beauties run in sweat.
The borrowed visage he admires no more,
And nauseates every charm he loved before:
So the same spear, for double force renowned,
Applied the remedy, that gave the wound.
In tedious lists 'twere endless to engage,
And draw at length the rabble of the stage,
Where one for twenty years has given alarms,
And called contending monarchs to their arms;
Another fills a more important post,
And rises every other night a ghost,
Through the cleft stage, his mealy face he rears,
Then stalks along, groans thrice, and disappears;
Others with swords and shields, the soldiers pride,
More than a thousand times have changed their side,
And in a thousand fatal battles died.
Thus several persons, several parts perform;
Pale lovers whine, and blust'ring heroes storm.
The stern exasperated tyrants rage,
Till the kind bowl of poison clears the stage.
Then honors vanish, and distinctions cease;
Then with reluctance, haughty queens undress.
Heroes no more their fading laurels boast,
And mighty kings, in private men are lost.
He, whom such titles swelled, such power made proud,
To whom whole realms and vanquished nations bowed,
Throws off the gaudy plume, the purple train,
And in his own vile tatters stinks again.
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