HOLD! Prompter, hold! a word before your nonsense;
I'd speak a word or two, to ease my conscience.
My pride forbids it ever should be said,
My heels eclips'd the honours of my head;
That I found humour in a piebald vest, 5
Or ever thought that jumping was a jest.
('Takes off his mask.')
Whence, and what art thou, visionary birth?
Nature disowns, and reason scorns thy mirth,
In thy black aspect every passion sleeps,
The joy that dimples, and the woe that weeps. 10
How has thou fill'd the scene with all thy brood,
Of fools pursuing, and of fools pursu'd!
Whose ins and outs no ray of sense discloses,
Whose only plot it is to break our noses;
Whilst from below the trap-door Demons rise, 15
And from above the dangling deities;
And shall I mix in this unhallow'd crew?
May rosined lightning blast me, if I do!
No -- I will act, I'll vindicate the stage:
Shakespeare himself shall feel my tragic rage. 20
Off! off! vile trappings! a new passion reigns!
The madd'ning monarch revels in my veins.
Oh! for a Richard's voice to catch the theme:
'Give me another horse! bind up my wounds!
-- soft -- 'twas but a dream.'
Aye, 'twas but a dream, for now there's no retreating: 25
If I cease Harlequin, I cease from eating.
'Twas thus that Aesop's stag, a creature blameless,
Yet something vain, like one that shall be nameless,
Once on the margin of a fountain stood,
And cavill'd at his image in the flood. 30
'The deuce confound,' he cries, 'these drumstick shanks,
They never have my gratitude nor thanks;
They're perfectly disgraceful! strike me dead!
But for a head, yes, yes, I have a head.
How piercing is that eye! how sleek that brow! 35
My horns! I'm told horns are the fashion now.'
Whilst thus he spoke, astonish'd, to his view,
Near, and more near, the hounds and huntsmen drew.
'Hoicks! hark forward!' came thund'ring from behind,
He bounds aloft, outstrips the fleeting wind: 40
He quits the woods, and tries the beaten ways;
He starts, he pants, he takes the circling maze.
At length his silly head, so priz'd before,
Is taught his former folly to deplore;
Whilst his strong limbs conspire to set him free, 45
And at one bound he saves himself, -- like me.
('Taking a hump through the stage door'.)