In olden time--in great Eliza's age,
When rare Ben Jonson ruled the humorous stage,
No play without its Prologue might appear
To earn applause or ward the critic's sneer;
And surely now old customs should not sleep
When merry Christmas revelries we keep.
He loves old ways, old faces, and old friends,
Nor to new-fangled fancies condescends;
Besides, we need your kindly hearts to move
Our faults to pardon and our freaks approve,
For this our sport has been in haste begun,
Unpractised actors and impromptu fun;
So on our own deserts we dare not stand,
But beg the favour that we can't command.
Most flat would fall our "cranks and wanton wiles,"
Reft of your favouring "nods and wreathed smiles,"
As some tame landscape desolately bare
Is charmed by sunshine into seeming fair;
So, gentle friends, if you your smiles bestow,
That which is tame in us will not seem so.
Our play is a charade. We split the word,
Each syllable an act, the whole a third;
My first we show you by a comic play,
Old, but not less the welcome, I dare say.
My second will be brought upon the stage
From lisping childhood down to palsied age.
Last, but not least, our country's joy and pride,
A British Jury will my whole decide;
But what's the word you'll ask me, what's the word?
That you must guess, or ask some little bird;
Guess as you will you'll fail; for 'tis no doubt
One of those things "no fellow can find out."