Oliver Goldsmith (10 November 1730 – 4 April 1774 / County Longford / Ireland)
Epilogue to 'The Sister'
WHAT! five long acts -- and all to make us wiser!
Our authoress sure has wanted an adviser.
Had she consulted 'me', she should have made
Her moral play a speaking masquerade;
Warm'd up each bustling scene, and in her rage
Have emptied all the green-room on the stage.
My life on't, this had kept her play from sinking;
Have pleas'd our eyes, and sav'd the pain of thinking.
Well! since she thus has shown her want of skill,
What if I give a masquerade? -- I will.
But how? ay, there's the rub! ('pausing') -- I've got my cue:
The world's a masquerade! the maskers, you, you, you.
('To Boxes, Pit, and Gallery'.)
____, what a group the motley scene discloses!
False wits, false wives, false virgins, and false spouses!
Statesmen with bridles on; and, close beside 'em,
Patriots, in party-coloured suits, that ride 'em.
There Hebes, turn'd of fifty, try once more
To raise a flame in Cupids of threescore.
These in their turn, with appetites as keen,
Deserting fifty, fasten on fifteen,
Miss, not yet full fifteen, with fire uncommon,
Flings down her sampler, and takes up the woman:
The little urchin smiles, and spreads her lure,
And tries to kill, ere she's got power to cure.
Thus 'tis with all -- their chief and constant care
Is to seem everything but what they are.
Yon broad, bold, angry spark, I fix my eye on,
Who seems to have robb'd his vizor from the lion;
Who frowns, and talks, and swears, with round parade,
Looking as who should say, D__ __! who's afraid?
Strip but his vizor off, and sure I am
You'll find his lionship a very lamb.
Yon politician, famous in debate,
Perhaps, to vulgar eyes, bestrides the state;
Yet, when he deigns his real shape t' assume,
He turns old woman, and bestrides a broom.
Yon patriot, too, who presses on your sight,
And seems to every gazer all in white,
If with a bribe his candour you attack,
He bows, turns round, and whip -- the man's a black!
Yon critic, too -- but whither do I run?
If I proceed, our bard will be undone!
Well then a truce, since she requests it too:
Do you spare her, and I'll for once spare you.
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