A Poem: To The Memory of Mrs. Oldfield
Oldfield's no more!-And can the Muse forbear,
O'er Oldfield's Grave to shed a grateful Tear?
Shall she, the Glory of the British Stage,
Pride of her Sex, and Wonder of the Age;
Shall she, who living charm'd th'admiring Throng,
Die undistinguish'd, and not claim a Song?
No. Feeble as it is, I'll boldly raise
My willing Voice to celebrate her Praise,
And with her Name immortalize my Lays.
Had but my Muse her Art to touch the Soul,
Charm ev'ry Sense, and ev'ry Pow'r controul.
I'd paint her as she was-the Form divine,
Where ev'ry lovely Grace united shine;
A Mein, majestick as the Wife of Jove,
An Air, as winning as the Queen of Love;
In every Feature rival Charms should rise,
And Cupid hold his Empire in her Eyes.
O! she was more than Numbers can express,
Creation's Darling in her fairest Dress.
A Form so charming, with such Beauties fraught,
As might have nigh excus'd the Want of Thought;
And yet a Mind with such Perfections stock'd,
As made the Beauties of her Form o'er look'd.
A Soul with ev'ry Elegance refin'd,
By Nature, and the Converse of Mankind,
Wit, which could strike assuming Folly dead;
And Sense-which temper'd every thing she said;
Judgment, which ev'ry little Fault could spy;
But Candor, which would pass a Thousand by.
That native Force-that Energy of Mind,
Which left the toiling Pedant far behind.
Such finish'd Breeding, so polite a Taste,
Her Fancy always for the Fashion past:
So sweetly serious, so discreetly gay,
None went unpleas'd, or unimprov'd away.
And yet so negligent she seem'd of Fame,
As if she thought Applause beneath her Aim.
Disdaining Flattery, she was still sincere;
Warm to approve, and modestly severe.
Whilst every social Virtue fir'd her Breast,
To help the Needy, succour the Distrest,
A Friend to all in Misery she stood.
And her chief Pride was plac'd in doing Good.
But say, ye Few, ye happy Few, who e'er
Enjoy'd the private Friendship of the Fair;
Who saw the Charmer in a nearer Light,
All open, free, and unreserv'dly bright;
Who felt the Raptures which her Smiles bestow'd,
And prov'd the Joys which from her Converse flow'd:
Oh speak her friendly, affable, and mild,
Brave, generous, firm, by no false Shows beguil'd.
With ev'ry Art and Talent form'd to please,
The Scholars Learning, and the Ladies Ease;
The Gay, the Grave, the Florid and Serene,
Mix'd in her Soul, and sparkling in her Mein.
Thrice happy Churchill! who her Love could gain,
For whom so many Thousands sigh'd in vain;
Whose wondrous Charms made every one her Slave
Dear to the Wise, the Witty, and the Brave.
And justly did she judge to place her Name
With thine, the greatest in the Books of Fame.
Thus join'd, Advantages to each accrue,
Renown to her, Beauty and Wit to you.
Renown should ever on the Fair One wait,
And Beauty be the Portion of the Great,
From such a Pair we well may hope to see
Another Malbro', Charles, appear in thee.
But now, my Muse, the arduous Task engage,
And show the Charming Figure on the Stage,
Describe her Look, her Action, Voice and Mein,
The gay Coquette, soft Maid, or haughty Queen,
So bright she shone in every different Part,
She gain'd despotick Empire o'er the Heart,
Knew how each various Motion to controul,
Sooth every Passion, and subdue the Soul:
As she, or gay, or sorrowful apears,
She claims our Mirth, or triumphs in our Tears:
Whilst from her Eyes delusive Sorrows flow,
Our Breasts are touch'd with undissembled Woe;
Or if Ambition calls her forth to Arms,
The Thirst of Glory every Bosom warms;
No Souls so senseless but what felt her Flame,
Nor Breast so savage but her Art could tame.
Ev'n the Pert Templer, and the City Prig,
Who come to Plays to show their Wit-or Wig.
The snarling Critick, and the sneering Beau,
Who neither Sense of Worth, or Manners know,
Aw'd by her Looks their Brutish Din forbear,
And for a while a little Human are,
So Orpheus charm'd the Savages of old,
And all Hell's Furies with his Harp controul'd.
Painters may sketch the Image of a Face,
And Sculptors Form and Attitude express;
Poets the Graces of the Mind relate,
And Hist'ry tells the Actions of the Great.
Still each wants something to compleat the Whole,
The Poet wants a Form, the Painter Soul.
But Oldfield all the Heroine display'd,
Show'd how she look'd, she mov'd, she wept, she pray'd
And was herself the Character she play'd,
When Cleopatra's Form she chose to wear,
We saw the Monarch's Mien, the Beauty's Air;
Charm'd with the Sight, her Cause we strait approve,
And like her Lover, gave up all for Love;
Antony's Fate, instead of Cæsar's, chuse,
And wish for her, we had a World-to lose.
But when a more familiar Part did please,
Letitia's Artifice, or Townley's Ease
Each Beauty in the finest Light she plac'd,
Improv'd each Charm, and every Action grac'd.
Nay, so enchanting was her lovely Frame,
She spoilt, against her Will, the Poet's Aim;
Making those Follies which we should despise,
When seen in her, seem Virtues in our Eyes.
So, when with Cytherea's Girdle bound,
The homeliest Hag, a shining Fair is found.
But now the gay delightful Scene is o'er,
And that sweet Form must glad the World no more;
Relentless Death has stop'd the tuneful Tongue,
And clos'd those Eyes, for all but Death too strong;
Blasted that Face where every Beauty bloom'd,
And to eternal Rest the graceful Mover doom'd.
Calm and serene she met the fatal Hour,
Smil'd at Death's Terrors, and contemn'd its Power.
Sustain'd unmov'd the cruel Scourge of Pain.
Whilst blund'ring Doctors try'd their Art in vain;
(Those lawful Executioners, whose Skill
Is shown not when they cure-but when they kill.)
She only griev'd to see her Churchill grieve,
And for his Sake alone desir'd to live?
Her long-imprison'd Soul rejoyc'd to see
The wish'd-for Moment come to set it free;
Then bravely strugling leapt its Bounds of Day,
And to the Place from whence it came, impetuous wing'd its Way.
Thus subterranean Fire in Ætna pent,
Which long in vain has labour'd for a Vent,
(When once some weaker Part begins to yield
Its long resisted Enemy the Field)
Grows more enrag'd, with double Fury plays,
And once got Air, it mounts into a Blaze.
O'ercharg'd with Sorrow at the Thought-the Muse
Drooping-no more her airy Flight pursues;
With Oldfield all her flattering Hopes are fled,
In her the Muses dearest Friend is dead:
For lo! the sinking Stage attends her Fall,
Whilst Opera, Farce, and Trick prevail o'er all,
Wilks, Nature's Master, soon, by Years opprest,
And tir'd with Bus'ness, must retire to Rest;
And Cibber, baulk'd by the ungrateful Town,
Will lay th'unprofitable Burthen down,
Mourn then ye Muses, all your Sorrows vent;
Your Shafts are useless, and your Bows unbent.
Now weep, ye Forrests; droop, ye shady Bowers;
Be dry, ye Fountains; sicken all ye Flowers;
The Night of universal Ign'rance comes,
In Darkness e'ry pleasing Scene entombs;
With Oldfield the last Glympse of Light is fled,
Wit, Nature, Sense, with her their Exits made:
The Goddess Dulness lifts her cloudy Head,
And smiles to see her dark Dominions spread,
Chaos o'er all his Leaden Scepter rears,
And not one Beam throughout the Gloom appears.
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