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To wake the soul by tender strokes of art,
To raise the genius, and to mend the heart,
To make mankind in conscious virtue bold,
Live o'er each scene, and be what they behold:
For this the tragic muse first trod the stage;
Commanding tears to stream through every age;
Tyrants no more their savage nature kept,
And foes to virtue wonder'd how they wept.
Our author shuns by vulgar springs to move
The hero's glory, or the virgin's love;
In pitying love we but our weakness show,
And wild ambition well deserves its woe.
Here tears shall flow from a more gen'rous cause,
Such tears as patriots shed for dying laws:
He bids your breasts with ancient ardour rise,
And calls forth Roman drops from British eyes.
Virtue confess'd in human shape he draws,
What Plato thought, and godlike Cato was:
No common object to your sight displays,
But what with pleasure heav'n itself surveys;
A brave man struggling in the storms of fate,
And greatly falling in a falling state!
While Cato gives his little senate laws,
What bosom beats not in his country's cause?
Who sees him act, but envies ev'ry deed ?
Who bears him groan, and does not wish to bleed?
Ev'n when proud Cæsar, 'midst triumphal cars,
The spoils of nations, and the pomp of wars,
Ignobly vain, and impotently great,
Show'd Rome her Cato's figure drawn in stale;
As her dead father's rev’rend innage past,
The pomp was darken'd and the day o'ercast,
The triumph ceas'd—tears gush'd from ev'ry eye,
The world's great victor pass'd unbeeded by:
Her last good man dejected Rome ador'd,
And honour'd Cæsar's, less iban Cato's sword.
Britons attend: Be worth like this approv'd, And show you have the virtue to be mov'd. With honest scorn the first fam'd Cato view'd Rome learning arts from Greece, whom she subda'd; Oar scenes precariously subsist too long On French translation, and Italian song: Dare to have sense yourselves; assert the stage; Be justly warm’d with your own native rage: Such plays alone shonld please a British ear, As Cato's self had not disdain'd to hear.
As originally acted. Covent Garden, 1814. Cato.
Mr. Booth. Mr. Kemble. Portius
Mr. Powell. Mr. Abbott. Marcus
Mr. Ryan. Mr. Hamerton. Sempronius
Mr. Mills. Mr. Barrymore. Juba
Mr. Wilks. Mr. Conway. Syphax
Mr. Cibber. Mr. Egerton. Lucius
Mr. Keen. Mr. Murray: Decius
Mr. Bowman. Mr. Creswell. Junius
Mr. King. Lucia.
Mrs. Cibber. Miss S. Booth. Marcia
Mutineers, Guards, &c.
SCENE,—The Governor's Palace in Utica.
SCENE I. A Hall,
Enter Portius and MARCUS.
Por. The dawn is overcast, the morning low'rs,
And heavily in clouds brings on the day,
The great, th' important day, big with the fate
Of Cato and of Rome our father's death
Would fill up all the guilt of civil war,
And close the scene of blood. Already Cæsar
Has ravag'd more than half the globe, and sees
Mankind grown thin by his destructive sword:
Should be go further, numbers would be wanting
To form new battles, and support his crimes.
Ye gods, what bavoc does ambition make
Among your works!
Marc. Thy steady temper, Portius,
Can look on guilt, rebellion, fraud, and Cæsar,
In the calm lights of mild philosophy;
I'm tortur'd, e'en to madness, when I think
On the proud victor: ev'ry time he's nam'd
Pharsalia rises to my view !-I see
Th’ insulting tyrant, prancing o'er the field,
Strew'd with Rome's citizens, and drench'd in slaughler;
His horses hoofs wet with patrician blood !
Oh, Portius! is not there some chosen curse,
Some hidden thunder in the stores of heav'n,
Red with uncommon wrath, to blast the man
Who owes his greatness to his country's ruin?
Por. Believe me, Marcus, 'tis an impious greatness,
And mix'd with too much horror to be envied :
How does the lastre uf our father's actions,
Through the dark cloud of ills that cover him,
Break out, and burn with more triuinplant brightness !
His sufferings shine, and spread a glory round him;
Greatly unfortunate, he fights the cause
Of honour, virtue, liberty, and Rome.
Marc. Who knows not this? But what can Cato do
Against a world, a base, degen'rate world,
That courts the yoke, and bows the neck to Cæsar?
Pent up in Utica, he vainly forms
A poor epitome of Roman greatness,
And, cover'd with Numidian guards, directs
A feeble array, and an empty senate,
Remnants of mighty battles fought in vain.
By heav'n, such virtoes, join'd with such success,
Distracts iny very soul! our father's fortune
Would almost tempt us to renounce his precepts.
Por. Remember what our father oft has told us :
The ways of heav'n are dark and intricate;
Puzzled in mazes, and perplex'd with errors,
Our understanding traces them in vain,
Lost and bewilder'd in the fruitless search ;
Nor sees with how much art the windings run,
Nor where the regular confusion ends.
Marc. These are suggestions of a mind at ease:--
Oh, Portius, didst thou taste but half the griefs
That wring my soul, thou couldst not talk thus coldly.
Passion anpitied, and successless love,
Plant daggers in my heart, and aggravate
My other griefs.Were but my Lucia kind-
Por. Thou seest not that thy brother is thy rival;