The Centaur. A Pastoral Ballad, in Four Parts. In the Style of Shenstone.

The Sun (6 May 1811).


A burlesque pastoral ballad, not signed. The poem mocks John Philip Kemble's difficulties at Covent Garden theater. "The Centaur" appears to mock the famous actor's perpexity as he is pulled in competing directions by his commitment to Shakespearean roles and his aristocratic friends who prefer horses to Hamlet: "Thus clad in a horse jockey suit, | And stripp'd of my classical brags; | Sly Hope is the game that I shoot, | JOHN BULL may grow sick of the Nags." The remaining four parts of the ballad seem not to have appeared. The Sun, which was owned by John Taylor Esq. had particularly close ties to the London theaters.

J. W. Croker: "Philip Astley, a celebrated horse-rider, who first exhibited equestrian pantomimes, in which his son (who survived his father but a short time) rode with great grace and agility. Astley had at once theatres in Paris, London, and Dublin, and migrated with his actors, biped and quadruped, from one to the other" Boswell, Life of Johnson, ed. Croker (1831) 4:285n.

Ye Four-in-hand Knights of the Whip
Whose tits from the traces e'er roam,
Should KEMBLE e'er give him the slip,
Oh drive the poor wanderers home.
Allow me a while to take breath,
Nor quiz the concern as ye pass,
None once was so great in MACBETH—
I have sent all the Muses to grass.

Now I know what it is to trepan
From ASTLEY, by trick or by force;
What it is to change nectar for bran,
And give up a Muse for a Horse.
Ah, water my steeds in the morn,
And rub them each evening well;
Alas! I must run for their corn,
I have bade my dear Muses farewell.

When aw'd by MELPOMENE'S frown,
I never once dream'd of a saddle;
May I founder my pyeball and brown,
If ever I mounted astraddle.
The Gallery folks that pass'd by,
Began to assemble at four;
But now to no purpose I sigh,
I can't bring a soul to the door.

O where is my murderous Thane,
And where is old choleric LEAR?
Why give up my lunatic Dane,
To trot like a lunatic here?
They tell me my favourite maid,
The pride of Parnassus, is sick;
Alas! where with her I have stray'd,
Grooms canter, and quadrupeds kick.

When forc'd by young ****** to jig,
To Brentford or Banbury Cross;
I did not much relish the rig,
But grumbled, and felt at a loss.
MELPOMENE taught me to ride,
And flourish'd her whip to the wall;
So queerly she set me astride,
I thought that she meant I should fall.

The Cockney who rambles all day,
From Clapham to Bow with a gun,
If he shoot a tom-tit by the way,
Is happy, and fancies it fun.
Thus clad in a horse jockey suit,
And stripp'd of my classical brags;
Sly Hope is the game that I shoot,
JOHN BULL may grow sick of the Nags.