1827 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

George Colman the Younger

Anonymous, "The Author's Apostrophe to the Deputy Licenser" The Age (9 December 1827) 213.



Oh thou, who o'er the busy world dramatic
Presides in awful dignity, attend,
And to the hapless wight whose muse erratic
Thou prov'st a foe to, while thou seemst a friend,
For once an ear considerative lend;
Nor scorn the apostrophic verse to heed,
Of him doomed once beneath thy lash to bend,
Who now may write most feelingly indeed,
Nor but to speak of facts experienced has he need.

Thou Redcross Knight! o'er op'ra, play, burletta,
Whose searching eye is every where confest,
So nice a stickler for the form and letter,
While oft the sense and spirit's unsuppressed;
Oh thou, endowed with mind above the best.
To put thine own construction on a word,
And to decide if any where's expressed
A sense immoral or a point absurd;
Stage lexicographer for every sound that's heard.

Impartial judge to scribes unknown to fame
How rigorously thou preachest of thy rules,
While to the author who's achieved a name
No such stage purgat'ry his talent schools.
The reason's plain — the public are such fools
When favorite authors write improperly
All's overlooked, they're ignorant as mules;
But when bad comes from sources not so high
The crowd have sense — the author has much infamy.

How vast the honour to the age redounds
When you arose to govern its reflection.
When language felt a curb in chaster bounds,
And Army, Church, and State received protection.
So fierce thy holy zeal, thou giv'st ejection
To every sad or funny oath he uses;
If a man damn's himself he meets correction;
And if a sad appeal to Heaven he chooses,
Such as "God bless me," "God forgive thee," he abuses!

There was a time when thou wert young and wild,
And wrote thyself: thou didst not then respect
An odd "damnation," if a joke it spoiled—
Or what was moral, that produced effect.
But times are altered — in arm-chair elect,
Changed from the writer to the judge of plays;
What then was pardonable, when hunger pricked,
Now to thy mind, as Licenser, conveys
A different meaning — either too impure or base.

Fare thee well, George, reformed and pious one,
Mayst thou continue (author of "Broad Grins,"
And many sad "Vagaries") still to atone,
By stickling now, for all thy former sins:
So shall each piece that thy approval wins,
Cleansed of impurity, a pinion prove
To waft thy soul (a piece of many scenes)
Before the immortal Licensers above,
Whom, 'tis to be hoped, more charity may move
Towards thee, than thou hast shown to authors in a drove.