1806
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

A Parody on the Pastoral Ballad beginning "Despairng beside a clear Stream."

Gentleman's Magazine 76 (February 1806) 159.

Philo R.


Seven double-quatrain stanzas, signed "Philo R." The poem is a burlesque of Nicholas Rowe's Collin's Complaint, in which the fickleness of the original lover is duplicated by the fickleness of a London audience. Young Roscius finds a formidable rival in that old favorite, John Philip Kemble (1757-1823): "Ah, Roscius, thy hopes are in vain, | Thy visions delusive forego! | See to Kemble the Town turn again, | On him all its smiles to bestow!"

Robert Shelton Mackenzie: "John Philip Kemble, brother of Mrs. Siddons and long at the head of English actors, was born in February, 1757; made his first London appearance (as Hamlet) in 1783; obtained a large range of first-rate characters in 1788, on the retirement of 'Gentleman Smith;' became manager and part proprietor of Covent Garden Theatre in 1802; went through the O. P. Riots, in 1809, on the rise of prices after the burnt theatre had been re-built; quitted the stage, June, 1817, in the character of Coriolanus; and died at Lausanne, in Switzerland, in February, 1823" Noctes Ambrosianae, ed. Mackenzie (1854) 2:3n.



In a Theatre sad and alone,
An Actor forsaken complain'd,
And whilst he accus'd the false Town,
Conscious worth to support him remain'd.
The wind that blew round shrill and keen
Return'd all his sighs with a sigh,
And the trees of the nodding side-scene
Seem'd to murmur a mournful reply!

"Alas! simple youth that I was!"
Thus sadly his grief he display'd,
"Oh! ere I had seen this fine place,
'Twere better I never had play'd!
I appear'd, and enraptur'd they gaz'd!
I spoke, and they cried, how divine!
I mov'd, ev'ry action they prais'd!
When was Kemble himself e'er so fine!

"Ah, why! by this favour deceiv'd,
Did I fancy no change would ensue!
And could I not tell I receiv'd
The homage to novelty due?
To think that a town of such wit
Should prove so preposterous and wild,
Great Kemble and Siddons to quit,
And exclusively favour a child!

"What though, touch'd with tragical fire,
My temples Melpomene crown'd!
What though, when they see me expire
The ladies sit weeping around!
Ah, Roscius, thy hopes are in vain,
Thy visions delusive forego!
See to Kemble the Town turn again,
On him all its smiles to bestow!

"For you imitative young fools,
Impell'd by no impulse divine,
Repair to your nurseries and schools,
Nor longer in tragedy shine!
Though o'er the wide kingdom you rov'd,
'Tis in vain you your fall would resist,
'Tis mine to be courted and lov'd,
'Tis yours to be laugh'd at and hiss'd!

"Now let me this kind Town engage,
To see me play here once again,
To hear my heroical rage,
And list to my amorous pain!
Oh! then, if I fail to delight,
If Roscius no longer can please,
If, grown disagreeable to sight,
He's lost all his graces and ease.

"Then, Criticks, to Kemble repair,
And engross the wide Pit's foremost seat,
Squeeze, press, crowd, and languish for air,
And faint in December with heat!
While Roscius forgotten and gone,
No longer your thoughts shall engage,
Unless by a pale paper-moon,
His ghost should glide over the stage!"

[p. 159]