our theatre

by Augustus Watters

Image: Mural Locator
Image: Mural Locator

When Winter comes, with horrid roar,
        And all the trees are stark and cold,
While glorious Sol doth hide his face,
        And all the world seems growing old,
All hail! our little Thespian church,
        Where only mirth and music sound;
Where no joy-killing bell is heard,
        And every imp of gloom is drowned.

As outwardly the world grows dark,
        Within the scene doth brighter shine,
And deathless Shakespeare’s regal wit
        Still glows like immemorial wine.
Nor saint nor devil haunt this place,
        But men that thrill at others’ woe—
Mankind with blood within their veins,
        Who fain would make a heaven below.

A heaven where sense and beauty dwell,
        And poetry of form and sound—
Where all is genial, kind, and bright,
        And music sheds a glory round.
Here may poor Goldsmith oft appear,
        And Sheridan, and Bulwer too,
And all the dazzling sons of fame
        Who wrote more wisely than they knew.

Long may Bob Acres make us roar
        With cowardice sublimely quaint,
And Tony Lumpkin teach again
        How love can make a clown a saint.
And mistress Coghlan (fairest Rose)
        Enchant us with her Rosalind
A type of what sweet woman was
        Before the day when Adam sinned.

Let none to vulgar tricks descend
        To split the ears of boors and knaves,
For any acting so o’erdone
        Is far from what good breeding craves.
Men are but babes of larger growth,
        And all must end as they began;
And since ‘tis so, then let’s be sure
        Our play is such befits a man.

Park Presbyterian Church occupied West Park Street until 1872, when its building became the 1,063-seat Park Theatre. A magnet for star performers in its day (Oscar Wilde once lectured there), the theater was converted in 1889 for use as the Free Public Library, and from 1901 to 1931 housed the New Jersey Historical Society. The Prudential Tower now occupies the site.

Augustus Watters, who gave yearly public recitations from Shakespeare, dedicated these verses to the manager of the Park Theatre, Leonard Gray. They were printed in the 1882 volume Poems.

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