Prologue Spoken By Mr. Woods On His Benefit Night, Monday, 16 April, 1787.

A poem by Robert Burns

When by a generous Public's kind acclaim,
That dearest meed is granted, honest fame;
When here your favour is the actor's lot,
Nor even the man in private life forgot;
What breast so dead to heavenly virtue's glow,
But heaves impassion'd with the grateful throe?

Poor is the task to please a barbarous throng,
It needs no Siddons' powers in Southerne's song;
But here an ancient nation fam'd afar,
For genius, learning high, as great in war,
Hail, CALEDONIA, name for ever dear!
Before whose sons I'm honoured to appear!
Where every science, every nobler art,
That can inform the mind, or mend the heart,
Is known; as grateful nations oft have found
Far as the rude barbarian marks the bound.
Philosophy, no idle pedant dream,
Here holds her search by heaven-taught Reason's beam;
Here History paints, with elegance and force,
The tide of Empires' fluctuating course;
Here Douglas forms wild Shakspeare into plan,
And Harley[1] rouses all the god in man.
When well-form'd taste and sparkling wit unite,
With manly lore, or female beauty bright,
(Beauty, where faultless symmetry and grace,
Can only charm as in the second place,)
Witness my heart, how oft with panting fear,
As on this night, I've met these judges here!
But still the hope Experience taught to live,
Equal to judge, you're candid to forgive.
Nor hundred-headed Riot here we meet,
With decency and law beneath his feet:
Nor Insolence assumes fair Freedom's name;
Like CALEDONIANS, you applaud or blame.

O Thou dread Power! whose Empire-giving hand
Has oft been stretch'd to shield the honour'd land!
Strong may she glow with all her ancient fire:
May every son be worthy of his sire;
Firm may she rise with generous disdain
At Tyranny's, or direr Pleasure's chain;
Still self-dependent in her native shore,
Bold may she brave grim Danger's loudest roar,
Till Fate the curtain drop on worlds to be no more.

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