Prologue spoken by Mr Woods


When by a generous Public's kind acclaim, That dearest meed 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 heav'nly 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' 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 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 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 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; 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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Douglas Henshall

About this work

This is a poem by Robert Burns. It was written in 1787 and is read here by Douglas Henshall.

Themes for this poem

nationalism brotherhood work

Selected for 17 April

Although it bears today’s date (in 1787), this poem has been held over for twenty four hours to allow verse commemoration of the Battle of Culloden. That conflict set Scot against Scot. Forty one years on, Burns stirs the sentiments of his fellow patriots with some curtain raising rhetoric in honour of their, 'ancient nation, fam'd afar'. Sadly, the only writing the Bard ever did for the theatre took the form of pre-show orations such as this one. Over the top? Of course. But Burns, a proud Scot, believed his own speechifying: 'Hail, Caledonia, thy name for ever dear'...

Donny O'Rourke

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