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Poem by Royall Tyler

The Prologue

Exult each patriot heart!-this night is shewn
A piece, which we may fairly call our own;
Where the proud titles of 'My Lord! Your Grace!'
To humble Mr. and plain Sir give place.
Our Author pictures not from foreign climes
The fashions, or the follies of the times;
But has confin'd the subject of his work
To the gay scenes-the circles of New-York.
On native themes his Muse displays her pow'rs;
If ours the faults, the virtues too are ours.
Why should our thoughts to distant countries roam,
When each refinement may be found at home?
Who travels now to ape the rich or great,
To deck an equipage and roll in state;
To court the graces, or to dance with ease,
Or by hypocrisy to strive to please?
Our free-born ancestors such arts despis'd;
Genuine sincerity alone they priz'd;
Their minds, with honest emulation fir'd,
To solid good-not ornament-aspir'd;
Or, if ambition rous'd a bolder flame,
Stern virtue throve, where indolence was shame.
But modern youths, with imitative sense,
Deem taste in dress the proof of excellence;
And spurn the meanness of your homespun arts,
Since homespun habits would obscure their parts;
Whilst all, which aims at splendour and parade,
Must come from Europe, and be ready made.
Strange! we should thus our native worth disclaim,
And check the progress of our rising fame.
Yet one, whilst imitation bears the sway,
Aspires to nobler heights, and points the way.
Be rous'd, my friends! his bold example view;
Let your own Bards be proud to copy you!
Should rigid critics reprobate our play,
At least the patriotic heart will say,
'Glorious our fall, since in a noble cause.
The bold attempt alone demands applause.'
Still may the wisdom of the Comic Muse
Exalt your merits, or your faults accuse.
But think not, 'tis her aim to be severe;-
We all are mortals, and as mortals err.
If candour pleases, we are truly blest;
Vice trembles, when compell'd to stand confess'd.
Let not light Censure on your faults, offend,
Which aims not to expose them, but amend.
Thus does our Author to your candour trust;
Conscious, the free are generous, as just. 

Royall Tyler

Royall Tyler's other poems:
  1. Convivial Song for General Morris
  2. The Death Song of Alknomook
  3. Ode to Night Yalden's Ode
  4. A Christmas Hymn Sung in the Episcopal Church at Claremont on the Anniversary of That Festival Decem
  5. Original Epitaph on a Drunkard

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