George Pope Morris

(1802-1864 / USA)

Address For The Benefit Of Henry Placide. Poem by George Pope Morris


The music's done. Be quiet, Mr. Durie!
Your bell and whistle put me in a fury!
Don't ring up yet, sir--I've a word to say
Before the curtain rises for the play!

Your pardon, gentlefolks, nor think me bold,
Because I thus our worthy promoter scold:
'Twas all feigned anger. This enlightened age
Requires a RUSE to bring one on the stage!

Well, here I am, quite dazzled with the sight
Presented on this brilliant festal night!
Where'er I turn, whole rows of patrons sit--
The house is full--box, gallery, and pit!
Who says the New-York public are unkind?
I know them well, and plainly speak my mind--
'It is our right,' the ancient poet sung--
He knew the value of a woman's tongue!
With this I will defend ye--and rehearse
FIVE glorious ACTS of yours--in modern verse;
Each one concluding with a generous deed
For Dunlap, Cooper, Woodworth, Knowles, Placide!
'Twas nobly done, ye patriots and scholars!
Besides--they netted twenty thousand dollars!
'A good round sum,' in these degenerate times--
'This bank-note world,' so called in Halleck's rhymes;
And proof conclusive, you will frankly own,
In liberal actions New-York stands alone.

Though roams he oft 'mong green poetic bowers,
The actor's path is seldom strewn with flowers.
His is a silent, secret, patient toil--
While others sleep, he burns the midnight oil--
Pores o'er his books--thence inspiration draws,
And waste's his life to merit your applause!
O ye, who come the laggard hours to while,
And with the laugh-provoking muse to smile,
Remember this: the mirth that cheers you so,
Shows but the surface--not the depths below!
Then judge not lightly of the actor's art,
Who smiles to please you, with a breaking heart!
Neglect him not in his hill-climbing course,
Nor treat him with less kindness than your horse:
Up hill, indulge him--down the steep descent,
Spare--and don't urge him when his strength is spent;
Impel him briskly o'er the level earth,
But in the stable don't forget his worth!
So with the actor--while you work him hard,
Be mindful of his claims to your regard.

But hold!--methinks some carping cynic here
Will greet my homely image with a sneer.
Well--let us see--I would the monster view:
Man with umbrageous whiskers, is it you?
Ah, no--I was mistaken: every brow
Beams with benevolence and kindness now;
Beauty and fashion all the circles grace--
And scowling Envy here were out of place!
On every side the wise and good appear--
The very pillars of the State are here!
There sit the doctors of the legal clan;
There all the city's rulers, to a man;
Critics and editors, and learned M.D.'s,
Buzzing and busy, like a hive of bees;
And there, as if to keep us all in order,
Our worthy friends the Mayor and the Recorder!

Well, peace be with you! Friends of native worth,
Yours is the power to call it into birth;
Yours is the genial influence that smiles upon
The budding flowerets opening to the sun.
they all around us court your fostering hand--
Rear them with care, in beauty they'll expand--
With grateful odors well repay your toil,
Equal to those sprung from a foreign soil;
and more Placides bask in your sunshine then,
The first of actors and the best of men.

Submitted: Wednesday, October 6, 2010

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