A MONODY TO THE MEMORY OF MRS. MARGARET WOFFINGTON*
* She died the 28th of March, 1760..
Flebilis indignos elegia solve capillos,
Ah! nimis ex vero nunc tibi nomen erit.
1 THERE fled the fair, that all beholders charm'd,
2 Whose beauty fir'd us, and whose spirit warm'd!
3 In that sad sigh th' unwilling breath retir'd;
4 The grace, the glory of our scene expir'd!
5 And shall she die, the Muse's rites unpaid,
6 No grateful lays to deck her parting shade?
7 While on her bier the sister Graces mourn,
8 And weeping Tragedy bedews her urn?
9 While Comedy her chearful vein foregoes,
10 And learns to melt with unaccustom'd woes?
11 Accept (O once admir'd) these artless lays;
12 Accept this mite of tributary praise.
13 Oh! could I paint thee with a master's hand,
14 And give thee all thy merits could demand;
15 These lines should glow with true poetic flame,
16 Bright as thy eyes, and faultless as thy frame!
17 We mourn'd thy absence, from our scene retir'd,
18 Each longing heart again thy charms desir'd.
19 Yet still, alas! we hop'd again to view
20 Our wish, our pleasure, every joy in you!
21 Again thy looks might grace the tragic rage;
22 Again thy spirit fill the comic stage.
23 But lo! Disease hangs hovering o'er thy head;
24 Dire Danger stalks around thy frighted bed!
25 Those starry eyes have lost each beamy ray,
26 And ghastly Sickness makes the fair her prey!
27 Death shuts the scene! — and all our hopes are o'er!
28 Those beauties now must glad the sight no more!
29 Say ye, whose features youthful lustre bloom,
30 Whose lips exhale Arabia's soft perfume,
31 Must every gift in silent dust be lost,
32 No more the wish of man, or female boast?
33 Ah me! with time must every grace be fled!
34 She once the pride of all our stage, is dead!
35 Clos'd are those eyes that every bosom fir'd!
36 Pale are those charms that every heart inspir'd!
37 Where now the mien with majesty endu'd,
38 Which oft surpriz'd a ravish'd audience view'd?
39 What forms too oft the tragic scene disgrace?
40 What tasteless airs the comic scene deface?
41 Tho' tuneful Cibber still the Muse sustains,
42 By nature fram'd to pour the moving strains,
43 Tho' from her eye each heart-felt passion breaks,
44 And more than music warbles when she speaks:[Page 87]
45 When shall we view again, like thine, conjoin'd,
46 A form angelic, and a piercing mind?
47 Alike in every mimic scene to steer,
48 The gay, the grave, the lively, and severe.
49 Thy judgment saw, thy taste each beauty caught,
50 No senseless parrot of the poet's thought!
51 Thy bosom well cou'd heave with fancy'd woe,
52 And, from thy own, our tears were taught to flow.
53 Whene'er we view'd the Roman's sullied same,
54 Thy beauty justify'd the hero's shame.
55 What heart but then must Anthony approve,
56 And own the world was nobly lost for love?
57 What ears could hear in vain thy cause implor'd,
58 When soothing arts appeas'd thy angry lord?
59 Each tender breast the rough Ventidius blam'd,
60 And Egypt gain'd the sigh Octavia claim'd,
61 Thy eloquence each hush'd attention drew,
62 While Love usurp'd the tears to Virtue due.
63 See! Phaedra rise majestic o'er the scene,
64 What raging pangs distract the hapless Queen!
65 How does thy sense the poet's thought refine,
66 Beam thro' each word, and brighten every line!
67 What nerve, what vigour glows in every part,
68 While classic lays appear with classic art!
69 Who now can bid the proud Roxana rise,
70 With love and anger sparkling in her eyes?
71 Who now shall bid her breast in fury glow,
72 With all the semblance of imperial woe? [Page 88]
73 While the big passion, raging in her veins,
74 Would hold the master of the world in chains:
75 But Alexander now forsakes our coast: —
76 And, ah! Roxana is for ever lost!
77 Nor less thy power when rigid Virtue fir'd
78 The chaster bard, and purer thoughts inspir'd:
79 What kneeling form appears with stedfast eyes,
80 Her bosom heaving with Devotion's sighs!
81 Tis she! In thee we own the mournful scene,
82 The fair resemblance of a martyrl
l Lady Jane Grey, Act V. queen!
83 Here Guido's skill might mark thy speaking frame,
84 And catch from thee the painter's magic flame!
85 Blest in each art! by nature form'd to please,
86 With beauty, sense, with elegance and ease!
87 Whose piercing genius study'd all mankind,
88 All Shakespear opening to thy vigorous mind.
89 In every scene of comic humour known;
90 In sprightly sallies wit was all thy own.
91 Whether you seem'd the cit's more humble wife;
92 Or shone in Townly's higher sphere of life;
93 Alike thy spirit knew each turn of wit;
94 And gave new force to all the poet writ.
95 Nor was thy worth to public scenes confin'd,
96 Thou knew'st the noblest feelings of the mind.
97 Thy ears were ever open to distress;
98 Thy ready hand was ever stretch'd to bless. [Page 89]
99 The breast humane for each unhappy felt;
100 Thy heart for other's sorrows prone to melt.
101 In vain did Envy point her scorpion sting;
102 In vain did Malice shake her blasting wing:
103 Each generous breast disdain'd th' unpleasing tale,
104 And cast o'er every fault Oblivion's veil:
105 Confess'd, thro' every cloud, thy deeds to shine,
106 And own'd the virtues of Compassion thine!
107 Saw mild Benevolence her wand disclose,
108 And touch thy heart at every sufferer's woes:
109 Saw meek-ey'd Charity thy steps attend,
110 And guide thy hand the wretched to befriend:
111 Go, ask the breast that teems with mournful sighs,
112 Who wip'd the sorrows from Affliction's eyes:
113 Go, ask the wretch, in want and sickness laid,
114 Whose goodness brighten'd once Misfortune's shade.
115 O! snatch me hence to lone sequester'd scenes,
116 To arching grottoes and embowering greens!
117 Where scarce a ray can pierce the dusky shade,
118 Where scarce a footstep marks the dewy glade:
119 Where pale-hu'd Grief her secret dwelling keeps;
120 Where the chill blood with lazy horror creeps:
121 Where awful Silence spreads her noiseless wing;
122 And Sorrow's harp may tune the dismal string. —
123 Or rather lead my steps to distant plains,
124 Where closing earth enfolds her last remains;
125 What time the moon displays her silver beam,
126 And groves and floods reflect the milder gleam:[Page 90]
127 When Contemplation broods with thought profound,
128 And fairy visions haunt the sylvan ground.
129 Lo! Fancy now, on airy pinions spread,
130 With scenes ideal hovers o'er my head.
131 I see! I see! more pleasing themes arise:
132 What mystic shadows flit before my eyes!
133 Imagination paints the sacred grove,
134 The place devote to poesy and love.
135 Here grateful poets hail the actors' name,
136 And pay the rightful tribute to their fame:
137 Around their tomb in generous sorrow mourn,
138 And twine the laurels o'er the favour'd urn.
139 Methinks I view the last sepulchral frame,
140 That bears inscrib'd her much lamented name,
141 See! to my view the Drama's sons display'd:
142 What laurell'd phantoms croud the awful shade!
143 First of the choir immortal Shakespear stands,
144 Whose searching eye all Nature's scene commands:
145 Bright in his look celestial spirit blooms,
146 And Genius o'er him waves his eagle plumes!
147 Next tender Southern, skill'd the soul to move;
148 And gentle Rowe, who tunes the breast to love.
149 The witty Congreve near with sprightly mien;
150 And easy Farquhar with his lighter scene.
151 A numerous train of bards the shrine surround,
152 In tragic strains and comic lore renown'd.
153 See! on the tomb yon pensive form appear,
154 Heave the full sigh, and drop the frequent tear:[Page 91]
155 The garments loose her throbbing bosom show;
156 Dispers'd in air her careless tresses flow:
157 Round her pale brows a myrtle wreath is spread,
158 A gloomy cypress nods above her head.
159 See! while her hand a solemn lyre sustains,
160 Her trembling fingers wake the languid strains:
161 Soft to the touch the vocal strings reply,
162 And tune the notes to answer every sigh.
163 She, (child of Grief!) at human misery weeps;
164 At every death her dismal vigil keeps.
165 But chief she mourns, when Fate's relentless doom
166 Gives Wit and Beauty victims to the tomb,
167 Her lays their merits and their loss proclaim,
168 (A mournful task!) and Elegy her name!
169 Now bending o'er the pile she vents her moan,
170 And pours these sorrows o'er the senseless stone.
171 Ah! lost, for ever lost! the breath that warm'd,
172 The wit that ravish'd, and the mien that charm'd!
173 Here sleeps beneath, the fairest of the fair,
174 The Graces' darling, and the Muses' care!
175 Who once could fix a thousand gazers eyes,
176 Now cold and lifeless unregarded lies!
177 Who once the soul in bonds of love detain'd,
178 Now lies, alas! in stronger bonds restrain'd.
179 Pale Death has risled all her pleasing store,
180 And Nature loaths a sorm so lov'd before!
181 Is there a fair whose features point the dart,
182 Charm the six'd eye, and fascinate the heart? [Page 92]
183 Behold what soon disarms the childish sting,
184 And plucks the wanton plume from Cupid's wing!
185 Then boast no longer Wit's fallacious store;
186 The sweets of sprightly Converse boast no more:
187 Those lips so fram'd to each persuasive art,
188 No more shall touch the ear, and win the heart!
189 Let Beauty here her transient blessing weigh,
190 Let humbled Wit her pitying tribute pay:
191 Let Female Grace vouchsafe the kindly tear:
192 Wit, Grace, and Beauty, once were center'd here!
193 Ye sacred Bards, who tun'd the drama's lays,
194 Here pay your incense of distinguish'd praise!
195 She gave your scenes with every grace to shine:
196 She gave new feeling to the nervous line;
197 Her beauties well supply'd each tragic lore,
198 And shew'd those charms your Muse but feign'd before!
199 Here round her shrine your votive wreaths bestow,
200 Around her shrine eternal greens shall grow.
201 The listning groves shall learn her name to sing,
202 And zephyrs wast it on their downy wing;
203 Till every shade these doleful sounds return,
204 And every gale in sullen dirges mourn!
205 The mourner ends with sighs; her hand she rears,
206 And with her vesture dries the gushing tears.
207 Behold each Bard the soft contagion feels;
208 From every eye the trickling sorrow steals.
209 See! Nature's son lament her hapless doom,
210 See! Shakespear bending o'er his favourite's tomb. [Page 93]
211 Each shadowy form declines his awful head,
212 And scatters roses on the funeral bed.
213 In slow procession round the shrine they move,
214 And chant her praises thro' the tuneful grove.
215 Farewel the glory of a wondering age,
216 The second Oldfield of a sinking stage!
217 Farewel the boast and envy of thy kind,
218 A female softness, and a manly mind!
219 Long as the Muses can record thy praise,
220 Thy fame shall last to far succeeding days:
221 While wit survives, thy name shall ever bloom,
222 And wreaths unfading flourish round thy tomb!
223 While, thus I tune the plaintive notes in vain,
224 For her, whose worth demands a nobler strain;
225 Lo! to my thought some warning Genius cries:
226 Attempt not, swain, beyond thy flight to rise.
227 Shall thy weak skill attempt to raise our woes,
228 Or paint a loss that every bosom knows?
229 'Tis not thy lays can teach us tears to shed;
230 What eye refrains! — for Woffington is dead!