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Poem by Thomas Gent
Respectfully inscribed, with permission, to the Committee (of which His Majesty is the Patron) for the proposed Monuments to SHAKSPEARE at Stratford and in London. Intended to be spoken at one of the Theatres.
While o'er this pageant of sublunar things Oblivion spreads her unrelenting wings, And sweeps adown her dark unebbing tide Man, and his mightiest monuments of pride- Alone, aloft, immutable, sublime, Star-like, ensphered above the track of time, Great SHAKSPEARE beams with undiminish'd ray. His bright creations sacred from decay, Like Nature's self, whose living form he drew, Though still the same, still beautiful and new. He came, untaught in academic bowers, A gift to Glory from the Sylvan powers: But what keen Sage, with all the science fraught, By elder bards or later critics taught, Shall count the cords of his mellifluous shell, Span the vast fabric of his fame, and tell By what strange arts he bade the structure rise- On what deep site the strong foundation lies? This, why should scholiasts labour to reveal? We all can answer it, we all can feel, Ten thousand sympathies, attesting, start- For SHAKSPEARE'S Temple, is the human heart! Lord of a throne which mortal ne'er shall share- Despot adored! he rales and revels there. Who but has found, where'er his track hath been, Through life's oft shifting, multifarious scene, Still at his side the genial Bard attend, His loved companion, counsellor, and friend! The Thespian Sisters nurtured in the schools Of Greece and Rome, and long coerced by rules, Scarce moved the inmates of their native hearth With tiny pathos and with trivial mirth, Till She, great muse of daring enterprise, Delighted ENGLAND! saw her SHAKSPEARE rise! Then, first aroused in that appointed hour, The Tragic Muse confess'd th' inspiring power; Sudden before the startled earth she stood, A giant spectre, weeping tears and blood; Guilt shrunk appall'd, Despair embraced his shroud, And Terror shriek'd, and Pity sobb'd aloud;- Then, first Thalia with dilated ken And quicken'd footstep pierced the walks of men; Then Folly blush'd, Vice fled the general hiss, Delight met Reason with a loving kiss; At Satire's glance Pride smooth'd his low'ring crest, The Graces weaved the dance.-And last and best Came Momus down in Falstaff's form to earth. To make the world one universe of mirth! Such Sympathies the glorious Bard endear! Thus fair he walks in Man's diurnal sphere. But when, upborne on bright Invention's wings. He dares the realms of uncreated things, Forms more divine, more dreadful, start to view, Than ever Hades or Olympus knew. Round the dark cauldron, terrible and fell, The midnight Witches breathe the songs of hell; Delighted Ariel wings his fiery way To whirl the storm, the wheeling Orbs to stay; Then bathes in honey-dews, and sleeps in flowers; Meanwhile, young Oberon, girt with shadowy powers, Pursues o'er Ocean's verge the pale cold Moon, Or hymns her, riding in her highest noon. Thus graced, thus glorified, shall SHAKSPEARE crave The Sculptor's skill, the pageant of the grave? HE needs it not-but Gratitude demands This votive offering at his Country's hands. Haply, e'er now, from blissful bowers on high, From some Parnassus of the empyreal sky, Pleased, o'er this dome the gentle Spirit bends, Accepts the gift, and hails us as his friends- Yet smiles, perchance, to think when envious Time O'er Bust and Urn shall bid his ivies climb, When Palaces and Pyramids shall fall- HIS PAGE SHALL TRIUMPH-still surviving all- 'Till Earth itself, 'like breath upon the wind,' Shall melt away, 'nor leave a rack behind!'
Poem Theme: William Shakespeare
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