1746 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Lord Chesterfield

Thomas Sheridan, "Prologue spoken on his Excellency the Earl of Chesterfield's first coming to the Theatre" General Advertiser (23 January 1746).



In wise Augustus' Time, those Golden Days,
Great was the Run of Poetry and Plays;
From well-tim'd Verse politer Manners sprung,
A Roscius acted, and a Flaccus sung;
The Drama mended Life (so will'd the Fates)
Critics had Wit, nay, Poets had Estates!
And, what was stranger still, in that good Age,
The Place to learn Religion was the Stage.

Taught by the Cunning of the well-wrought Scene,
Men plainly saw what Nature should have been,
What Pleasures conscious Virtue can impart,
Or how wild Passions riot in the Heart;
What makes the good Man feel a constant Feast,
Whence spring the Joys a CHESTERFIELD can taste.

Hail sacred Name! auspicious to infuse
Life to the Scene, and Spirit to the Muse;
To call forth Arts, to bid true Genius shine,
And raise our drooping Laurels fast by thine;
We saw the Wise, the Gen'rous, and Polite,
In various Chiefs; in you they all unite.
How old is Praise! how seldom is it due,
Here we may praise, and still say something new:
No God need interpose to grace the Theme,
For Wit and Wisdom wait on STANHOPE'S Name.

Hark! the Prophetic Muse, in mystic Strain,
Divines her rising Bliss from STANHOPE'S Reign,
Her future Fortune from his Taste can tell,
Who best improves those Arts he knows so well;
Sooner shall white-rob'd Peace desert our Lands,
Or Conquest not pursue when GEORGE commands;
Sooner shall Britain's Standards not proceed,
Or not one Traytor live beyond the Tweed;
Sooner a Rebel Clan the Muses prove,
Or bright Parnassus to the Highlands move,
Or (if the God of Wit could be so mad)
Shall Phoebus change his Robes and wear a Plad,
Sooner be lost what Deathless Shakespear writ,
Than STANHOPE not protect the Realm of Wit.