The Poetry Corner

Prologue To Mr Addison's Tragedy Of Cato.

By Alexander Pope

To wake the soul by tender strokes of art, To raise the genius, and to mend the heart; To make mankind, in conscious virtue bold, Live o'er each scene, and be what they behold: For this the tragic Muse first trod the stage, Commanding tears to stream through every age; Tyrants no more their savage nature kept, And foes to virtue wonder'd how they wept. Our author shuns by vulgar springs to move The hero's glory, or the virgin's love; In pitying love, we but our weakness show, And wild ambition well deserves its woe. Here tears shall flow from a more generous cause, Such tears as patriots shed for dying laws: He bids your breasts with ancient ardour rise, And calls forth Roman drops from British eyes. Virtue confess'd in human shape he draws, What Plato thought, and godlike Cato was: No common object to your sight displays, But what with pleasure[59] Heaven itself surveys, A brave man struggling in the storms of fate, And greatly falling with a falling state. While Cato gives his little senate laws, What bosom beats not in his country's cause? Who sees him act, but envies every deed? Who hears him groan, and does not wish to bleed? Even when proud Caesar, 'midst triumphal cars, The spoils of nations, and the pomp of wars, Ignobly vain and impotently great, Show'd Rome her Cato's figure drawn in state; As her dead father's reverend image pass'd, The pomp was darken'd and the day o'ercast; The triumph ceased, tears gush'd from every eye; The world's great victor pass'd unheeded by; Her last good man dejected Rome adored, And honour'd Caesar's less than Cato's sword. Britons, attend: be worth like this approved, And show you have the virtue to be moved. With honest scorn the first famed Cato view'd Rome learning arts from Greece, whom she subdued; Your scene precariously subsists too long On French translation, and Italian song. Dare to have sense yourselves; assert the stage, Be justly warm'd with your own native rage; Such plays alone should win a British ear, As Cato's self had not disdain'd to hear.