Drury-lane Prologue Spoken by Mr. Garrick at the Opening of the Theatre in Drury-Lane, 1747

1      When Learning's triumph o'er her barb'rous foes
2First rear'd the stage, immortal Shakespear rose;
3Each change of many-colour'd life he drew,
4Exhausted worlds, and then imagin'd new:
5Existence saw him spurn her bounded reign,
6And panting Time toil'd after him in vain:
7His pow'rful strokes presiding Truth impress'd,
8And unresisted Passion storm'd the breast.
9      Then Jonson came, instructed from the school,
10To please in method, and invent by rule;
11His studious patience, and laborious art,
12By regular approach essay'd the heart;
13Cold Approbation gave the ling'ring bays,
14For those who durst not censure, scarce could praise.
15A mortal born he met the general doom,
16But left, like Egypt's kings, a lasting tomb.
17      The Wits of Charles found easier ways to fame,
18Nor wish'd for Jonson's art, or Shakespear's flame,
19Themselves they studied, as they felt, they writ,
20Intrigue was plot, obscenity was wit.
21Vice always found a sympathetic friend;
22They pleas'd their age, and did not aim to mend.
23Yet bards like these aspir'd to lasting praise,
24And proudly hop'd to pimp in future days.
25Their cause was gen'ral, their supports were strong,
26Their slaves were willing, and their reign was long;
27Till Shame regain'd the post that Sense betray'd,
28And Virtue call'd Oblivion to her aid.
29      Then crush'd by rules, and weaken'd as refin'd,
30For years the pow'r of tragedy declin'd;
31From bard, to bard, the frigid caution crept,
32Till Declamation roar'd, while Passion slept.
33Yet still did Virtue deign the stage to tread,
34Philosophy remain'd, though Nature fled.
35But forc'd at length her ancient reign to quit,
36She saw great Faustus lay the ghost of wit:
37Exulting Folly hail'd the joyful day,
38And pantomime, and song, confirm'd her sway.
39      But who the coming changes can presage,
40And mark the future periods of the stage?--
41Perhaps if skill could distant times explore,
42New Behns, new Durfoys, yet remain in store.
43Perhaps, where Lear has rav'd, and Hamlet died,
44On flying cars new sorcerers may ride.
45Perhaps, for who can guess th' effects of chance?
46Here Hunt may box, or Mahomet may dance.
47      Hard is his lot, that here by Fortune plac'd,
48Must watch the wild vicissitudes of taste;
49With ev'ry meteor of caprice must play,
50And chase the new-blown bubbles of the day.
51Ah! let not censure term our fate our choice,
52The stage but echoes back the public voice.
53The drama's laws the drama's patrons give,
54For we that live to please, must please to live.
55      Then prompt no more the follies you decry,
56As tyrants doom their tools of guilt to die;
57'Tis yours this night to bid the reign commence
58Of rescu'd Nature, and reviving Sense;
59To chase the charms of Sound, the pomp of Show,
60For useful Mirth, and salutary Woe;
61Bid scenic Virtue form the rising age,
62And Truth diffuse her radiance from the stage.
Original Text: 
Gentleman's Magazine London, 1747. AP 4 G3 ROBA.
Publication Start Year: 
1747
RPO poem Editors: 
N. J. Endicott
RPO Edition: 
2RP 1.667.
Form: