Archive for September 8th, 2017

Friday, 8 September 2017

A Receipt to Make a Tragedy by William Hayley

Take a virgin from Asia, from Afric, or Greece,
At least a king’s daughter, or emperor’s niece:
Take an elderly miss for her kind confidante,
Still ready with pity or terror to pant,
While she faints and revives like the sensitive plant:
Take a hero thought buried some ten years or more,
But with life enough left him to rattle and roar;
Take a horrid old brute who deserves to be rack’d,
And call him a tyrant ten times in each act:
Take a priest of cold blood, and a warrior of hot,
And let them alternately bluster and plot:
Then throw in of soldiers and slaves quantum suff.
Let them march, and stand still, fight, and halloo enough.
Now stir all together these separate parts,
And season them well with Ohs! faintings, and starts:
Squeeze in, while they’re stirring, a potent infusion
Of rage, and of horror, of love and illusion;
With madness and murder complete the conclusion.
Let your princess, tho’ dead by the murderous dagger,
In a wanton bold epilogue ogle and swagger:
Prove her past scenes of virtue are vapour and smoke,
And the stage’s morality merely a joke;
Let her tell with what follies our country is curst,
And wisely conclude that play-writing’s the worst.
Now serve to the public this olio complete,
And puff in the papers your delicate treat.

From: Hayley, William, Poems: consisting of odes, sonnets, songs, and occasional verses, 2008, University of Michigan Library: Ann Arbor, Michigan, pp. 47-48.

Date: 1786

By: William Hayley (1745-1820)