Before the Curtain

A poem by Francis Bret Harte

Behind the footlights hangs the rusty baize,
A trifle shabby in the upturned blaze
Of flaring gas and curious eyes that gaze.

The stage, methinks, perhaps is none too wide,
And hardly fit for royal Richard’s stride,
Or Falstaff’s bulk, or Denmark’s youthful pride.

Ah, well! no passion walks its humble boards;
O’er it no king nor valiant Hector lords:
The simplest skill is all its space affords.

The song and jest, the dance and trifling play,
The local hit at follies of the day,
The trick to pass an idle hour away,

For these no trumpets that announce the Moor,
No blast that makes the hero’s welcome sure,
A single fiddle in the overture!

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