Since Athens first began to draw mankind,
To picture life, and show the impassion'd mind;
The truly wise have ever deem'd the stage
The moral school of each enlighten'd age.
There, in full pomp, the tragic Muse appears,
Queen of soft sorrows, and of useful fears.
Faint is the lesson reason's rules impart:
She pours it strong, and instant through the heart.
If virtue is her theme, we sudden glow
With generous flame; and what we feel, we grow.
If vice she paints, indignant passions rise;
The villain sees himself with loathing eyes.
His soul starts, conscious, at another's groan,
And the pale tyrant trembles on his throne.
To-night, our meaning scene attempts to show
What fell events from dark suspicion flow;
Chief when it taints a lawless monarch's mind,
To the false herd of flattering slaves confined.
The soul sinks gradual to so dire a state;
E'en excellence but serves to feed its hate:
To hate remorseless cruelty succeeds,
And every worth, and every virtue bleeds.
Behold, our author at your bar appears,
His modest hopes depress'd by conscious fears.
Faults he has many-but to balance those,
His verse with heart-felt love of virtue glows:
All slighter errors let indulgence spare,
And be his equal trial full and fair.
For this best British privilege we call,
Then-as he merits, let him stand or fall.