Embalm'd in fame, and sacred from decay,
What mighty name, in arms, in arts, or verse,
From England claims this consecrated day.
Her nobles crowding round the shadowy hearse?
Hark! from yon fane, within whose hallow'd mounds,
Her bards, her warriors, and her statesmen, sleep;
The solemn, slow, funereal bell resounds,
While mournful echoes dread accordance keep.
Spirits revered! beyond that awful bourne.
Who share the dark communion of the tomb,
A kindred genius seeks your dread sojourn;
Ye heirs of glory! hail a brother home.
Obscured, as SHERIDAN to dust descends,
Recedes each ray from Wit's effulgent sphere;
Lo! every Muse in silent sorrow bends,
Her votive laurels mingling o'er his bier.
But chiefly thou, from whose polluted shrine
His filial hand Circean rabble drove;
What pangs, Thalia! in this hour are thine;
What fervent anguish of maternal love!
How long perverted, had the Comic scene,
(The flattering reflex of a sensual age)
Shown prurient Folly's rank licentious mien,
Refined, embellish'd on the pander stage:
While Vanburgh, Congreve, Farquhar, heaven-endow'd,
To scourge bold Vice with Wit's resistless rod,
Embraced her chains, stood forth her priests avow'd,
And scatter'd flowers in every path she trod:
Inglorious praise! though Judgment's self admired
Those wanton strains which Virtue blush'd to hear;
While pamper'd Passion from the scene retired,
With wilder rage to urge his fierce career.
At length, all graced in Fancy's orient hues,
His native fires with added culture bright,
Rose SHERIDAN! to vindicate the Muse,
And gild the drama with meridian light.
Him, skill'd alike great Nature's genuine form,
Or Fashion's light factitious traits to trace,
The scene confess'd;--with glowing pathos warm,
Or gaily sportive in familiar grace.
With what nice art his master-hand he flung
O'er each fine chord which thrills the polish'd breast,
Let Faukland tell! with woes ideal stung;
Let gentle Julia's generous flame attest!
Satire, that oft with castigation rude
Degrades, while zealous to correct mankind,
Refined by him, more generous aims pursued,
Reform'd the vice--but left no sting behind.
Yet, though with Wit's imperishable bays
Enwreath'd, he held an uncontested throne;
Though circling climes, unanimous in praise,
Confirm'd the partial suffrage of his own:
In careless mood he sought the Muse's bower;
His lyre, like that to great Pelides strong,
The soft'ning solace of a vacant boor,
Its airy descant indolently rung.
But when, portentous 'mid the storms of war,
Glared Public danger; when, with withering din,
The spoil-flush'd foe strode furious from afar;
And direr dread! Rebellion raged within:
Then SHERIDAN! dilating to the storm,
Bright as the pharos, as the watch-tower strong,
With all the patriot's inspiration warm,
Thy genius pour'd its thundering voice along.
Who heard thee not, in that tremendous hour,
When Britain mourn'd her surest anchor lost,
And saw her alienated Navies lour,
Like the charged tempest, round their parent coast?
With active zeal, which no cold medium knew,
Nor party ruled, nor prejudice confined,
But, to thy heart's spontaneous impulse true,
Thou gay'st thy country ALL thy mighty mind.
What time Iberia, gash'd with many a scar,
Braved the fierce Gaul, in fervour uncontroll'd,
Though doubts and fears bedimm'd her struggling star,
Its bright ascent thy prescient soul foretold.
Late, too, when France, with sophist cunning fraught,
Essay'd that field which force had fail'd to gain,
And proudly question'd, by success untaught,
Britannia's lineal right--her watery reign!
While meaner foes denounced with equal hate
Her flag, which wide in Freedom's cause unfurl'd,
The saving sign of many a sinking state,
Had chased Oppression from th' insulted world.--
Oh! that beyond the light diurnal page,
Inscribed on high in monumental gold,
That strain might kindle each succeeding age,
Which thus thy generous indignation roll'd:
"If e'er, of ancient energy bereaved,
Britannia, bent by menace or design,
Should stain her naval sceptre, hard-achieved,
And yield one claim, one cherish'd right resign:
"Then, hurl'd in ruin from her radiant sphere,
Sunk her proud Isle in Ocean's depths profound;
May all her glories pass from Memory's ear,
An idle legend--a derided sound!"
Such were his merits whom the Muse deplores,
The Wit, the Statesman, Orator, and Bard!
Nor when his frailties jealous truth explores,
Shall Candour shrink from her supreme award?
If, all propitious, when his ardent prime
Beat high with hope, in conscious powers elate,
Ambition woo'd him from her height sublime,
And partial Fortune op'd her golden gate;
What hostile influence, glooming o'er his way,
Chill'd each fine impulse, each aspiring aim,
Effused bleak clouds round Life's declining ray,
And left his labours no reward but fame?
'Twas not alone that in the festive bower,
Prompt in the social sympathies to melt,
Too long he linger'd; that the genial hour
His fervid sense too exquisitely felt.
But that in tasks of public duty proved,
Onward with faith inflexible he trod;
Alike by Fortune's dazzling lure unmoved,
Or stern Necessity's relentless rod.
E'en Envy's self shall sanction that applause:
And oft, slow pacing yon sepulchral gloom,
With fond regret shall Meditation pause,
And breathe these accents o'er his honour'd tomb:
Ye Muses! come, with ministry divine.
Protect the shrine where SHERIDAN is laid;
Ye Patriot Virtues! here your homage join;
Assert his worth, and soothe his hovering shade.
Emblazon'd high in Albion's rolls of fame,
A guiding star by which her sons may steer;
This proud inscription let his memory claim--
Above himself, he held his Country dear!