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Robert Burns (1759–1796).  Poems and Songs.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
157. Prologue, spoken by Mr. Woods at Edinburgh
 
 
Spoken by Mr. Woods on his benefit-night, Monday, 16th April, 1787.
 
 
WHEN, by a generous Public’s kind acclaim,
That dearest meed is granted—honest fame;
Waen 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,        5
But heaves impassion’d with the grateful throe?
 
Poor is the task to please a barb’rous throng,
It needs no Siddons’ powers in Southern’s song;
But here an ancient nation, fam’d afar,
For genius, learning high, as great in war.        10
Hail, CALEDONIA, name for ever dear!
Before whose sons I’m honour’d 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,        15
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 Empire’s fluctuating course;        20
Here Douglas forms wild Shakespeare into plan,
And Harley 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        25
Can only charm us 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.        30
No 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        35
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;        40
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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