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Prologue
SPOKEN BY Mr. WOODS ON HIS BENEFIT NIGHT, MONDAY, 16TH APRIL, 1787

 

Burns Original

Standard English Translation

 

When by generous Public's kind acclaim
That dearest need 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 barb'rous throng:
It needs no Siddons's powers in Southern'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 honor'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),
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;
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
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.
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
Has oft been stretch'd to shield the honor'd land!
Strong my 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!

 

 

When by generous Public's kind acclaim
That dearest need 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 impassioned with the grateful throe?

Poor is the task to please a barbarous throng:
It needs no Siddons's powers in Southern's song.
But here an ancient nation, famed afar
For genius, learning high, as great in war.
Hail, Caledonia, name for ever dear!
Before whose sons I am honored to appear!
Where every science, every nobler art,
That can inform the mind or mend the heart,
Is known (as grateful nations often 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 Empire's fluctuating course;
Here Douglas forms wild Shakespeare into plan,
And Harley rouses all the God in man.
When well-formed taste and sparkling wit unite
With manly lore, or female beauty bright
(Beauty, where faultless symmetry and grace
Can only charm us in the second place),
Witness my heart, how often with panting fear,
As on this night, I have met these judges here!
But still the hope Experience taught to live:
Equal to judge, you are candid to forgive.
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 You, dread Power, Whose empire-giving hand
Has often been stretched to shield the honored land!
Strong my she glow with all her ancient fire;
May every son be worthy of his sire (father);
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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