The cause with learn’d investigation fraught,
Behold at length to this tribunal brought,
No fraud your penetrating eyes can cheat,
None here can Shakespeare’s writing counterfeit.
As well the taper’s base unlustrous ray
Might strive to emulate the orb of day,
As modern bards, whom venal hopes inspire,
Can catch one spark of his celestial fire,
If our scenes your eyes delighted find
Marks that denote the mighty master’s mind,
If at his words, the tears of pity flow,
Your breasts with horror thrill, with rapture glow,
If on your harrow’d souls impress’d you feel
The stamp of nature’s uncontested seal,
Demand no other proof–nor idly pore
O’er mouldy manuscripts of ancient lore,
To see if every tawny line display
The genuine ink of fam’d Eliza’s day.
Nor strive with curious industry to know
How poets spelt two centuries ago.
But if these proofs should fail; if in the strain
You seek the drama’s awful fire in vain,
Yet in our ancient legend should you trace
Truth’s genuine features, tho’ of humbler grace,
Condemn not rashly–o’er the forest glade
Tho’ the oak spread no patriarchal shade,
Yet may a shrub of no unlovely green
With vivid foliage deck the sylvan scene,
Some tuneful notes the vocal woodlands fill,
And soothe the ear, tho’ philomel be still.
Then each extraneous matter laid aside,
By its own merit be our drama tried.
Forget the prejudice of rigid art,
To read the code of nature in the heart;
Consult her laws, from partial favour free,
And give, as they decide, your just decree.