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Full Online Book HomePoemsPrologue To Coleridge's Tragedy Of "remorse"
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Prologue To Coleridge's Tragedy Of 'remorse' Post by :Triority Category :Poems Author :Charles Lamb Date :August 2011 Read :1019

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Prologue To Coleridge's Tragedy Of "remorse"

(1813)


There are, I am told, who sharply criticise
Our modern theatres' unwieldy size.
We players shall scarce plead guilty to that charge,
Who think a house can never be too large:
Griev'd when a rant, that's worth a nation's ear,
Shakes some prescrib'd Lyceum's petty sphere;
And pleased to mark the grin from space to space
Spread epidemic o'er a town's broad face.--
O might old Betterton or Booth return
To view our structures from their silent urn,
Could Quin come stalking from Elysian glades,
Or Garrick get a day-rule from the shades--
Where now, perhaps, in mirth which Spirits approve,
He imitates the ways of men above,
And apes the actions of our upper coast,
As in his days of flesh he play'd the ghost:--
How might they bless our ampler scope to please,
And hate their own old shrunk up audiences.--
Their houses yet were palaces to those,
Which Ben and Fletcher for their triumphs chose.
Shakspeare, who wish'd a kingdom for a stage, }
Like giant pent in disproportion'd cage, }
Mourn'd his contracted strengths and crippled rage. }
He who could tame his vast ambition down
To please some scatter'd gleanings of a town,
And, if some hundred auditors supplied
Their meagre meed of claps, was satisfied,
How had he felt, when that dread curse of Lear's
Had burst tremendous on a thousand ears,
While deep-struck wonder from applauding bands
Return'd the tribute of as many hands!
Rude were his guests; he never made his bow
To such an audience as salutes us now.
He lack'd the balm of labor, female praise.
Few Ladies in his time frequented plays,
Or came to see a youth with aukward art
And shrill sharp pipe burlesque the woman's part.
The very use, since so essential grown,
Of painted scenes, was to his stage unknown.
The air-blest castle, round whose wholesome crest,
The martlet, guest of summer, chose her nest--
The forest walks of Arden's fair domain,
Where Jaques fed his solitary vein.
No pencil's aid as yet had dared supply,
Seen only by the intellectual eye.
Those scenic helps, denied to Shakspeare's page,
Our Author owes to a more liberal age.
Nor pomp nor circumstance are wanting here;
'Tis for himself alone that he must fear.
Yet shall remembrance cherish the just pride,
That (be the laurel granted or denied)
He first essay'd in this distinguish'd fane,
Severer muses and a tragic strain.


(The end)
Charles Lamb's poem: Prologue To Coleridge's Tragedy Of "remorse"

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