Poem By Josias Homely
Exposed !—unmask'd !—mark'd with deception's brand
A hypocrite confess'd, to night I stand.
(Comes forward to the audience)
Nor should you deem it impious to reveal
The dark deceits which pious frauds conceal,
For real goodness, still respect we ask,
'Tis false pretension, only, we unmask.
When Greece, when Rome, in each enlightened age
Saw vice and folly tread the comic stage—
They saw them brought to view in mimic strife.
And man's worst failings pictured to the life—
Then were their youth (when sage instruction faii'd)
Laugh'd into wisdom, into virtue rail'd.
When Terrence wing'd with moral truth the joke—
A Cato listen'd—or a Roscious spoke—
Unblighted was thy smile, sweet liberty !
The world was blest—and Rome, great Rome, was free,
But mark the change, when greatness all had flown,
The wild beast fill'd the theatre—a brute the throne.
'Tis plain the wise and good, of every age.
Have taught or learnt the lessons of the stage ;
Vii'tue's true friend the comic muse has been,
Where love of goodness fill'd each moving scene ;
Her youthful votaries, who came to play,
Unconscious took the moral truth away,
As from our mimic tale sound morals rise,
Learn vice to hate and folly to despise.
What vice more hateful—of a deeper die—
Folly more gross, than curst hypocrisy ?
Where could the comic bard find fairer game ?
What meaner vice hold up to public shame ?
Or where with better aim the mimic art
Convey each well wrote period to the heart ?
Patrons of worth—protectors of the stage—
Who hear with scorn the furious bigot's rage,
The slandered muse still holds her hand to you,
When she is wrong'd—why you're insulted too.
For me your servant, and her humble friend,
Whate'er the lot the wayward fates intend,
To meet with mild forgiving scorn their hate,
And bad example not to imitate
Will be my choice—aye—let them rage,
We claim the noble morals of the stage.
What Shakespeare penn'd we fearlessly repeat,
And acting nature call we no deceit.
What Milton fancied—old, alone and blind.
Visions that floated in a Byron's mind,
Emotions trembling round a Goldsmith's heart—
We bring to life—and then to you impart!
We teach by these (despite the Cantwell clan,)
The morals of an honourable man.
But there are other claims which must impart,
A vigorous firmness to my trembling heart ;
In helpless innocence my children see,
One grasps my hand—one clings around my knee ;
O who could wrong them—steal their Father's name,
The honest means which feeds them, blight with shame,
Pronounce them pests—unchristian, unforgiven—
And say by doing this he's serving Heaven !
—But let that pass—one task I feel is due,
The pleasing task I mean of thanking you.
And thanks so due—Our thanks so kindly won
Admit I feel of being briefly done.
Expect not speeches stollen from player's books,
Accept as thanks— my children's silent looks.