Runnamede, A Tragedy. Prologue - Poem by John Logan
Before the records of renown were kept,
Or theatres for dying heroes wept,
The race of fame by rival chiefs was run,
The world by former Alexanders won;
Ages of glory in long order roll'd,
New empires rising on the wreck of old;
Wonders were wrought by nature in her prime,
Nor was the ancient world a wilderness of time.
Yet lost to fame is virtue's orient reign;
The patriot lived, the hero died in vain,
Dark night descended o'er the human day,
And wiped the glory of the world away:
Whirled round the gulf, the acts of time were tost,
Then in the vast abyss for ever lost.
Virtue, from fame disjoin'd, began to plain
Her votaries few, and unfrequented fane.
Her voice ascended to almighty Jove;
He sent the muses from the throne above.
The bard arose; and full of heavenly fire,
With hand immortal touch'd th' immortal lyre;
Heroic deeds in strains heroic sung,
All earth resounded, all heaven's arches rung;
The world applaud what they approved before;
Virtue and fame took separate paths no more.
Hence to the bard, interpreter of Heaven,
The chronicle of fame by Jove is given;
His eye the volume of the past explores,
His hand unfolds the everlasting doors;
In Minos' majesty he lifts the head,
Judge of the world, and sovereign of the dead;
Dooms to perdition, or to heaven admits;
Dethrones the tyrant, though in triumph hurl'd,
Calls up the hero from th' eternal world,
Surrounds his head with wreaths that ever bloom,
And vows the verse that triumphs o'er the tomb.
While here the muses warbled from their shrine,
Oft have you listen'd to the voice divine.
O nameless youth beheld with noble rage,
One subject, still a stranger to the stage;
A name that's music to the British ear!
A name that's worshipp'd in the British sphere!
Fair Liberty; the Goddess of the Isle,
Who blesses England with a guardian smile.
Britons! a scene of glory draws to-night!
The fathers of the land arise to sight:
The legislators and the chiefs of old,
The roll of patriots and the barons bold,
Who greatly girded with the sword and shield,
At storied Runnamede's immortal field,
Did the grand charter of your freedom draw,
And found the base of liberty on law.
Our author, trembling for the virgin muse,
Hopes in the favourite theme a fond excuse.
If while the tale the theatre commands,
Your hearts applaud him, he'll acquit your hands;
Proud on his country's cause to build his name,
And add the patriot's to the poet's fame.
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