Published on June 6th, 2014 | by Andy Green

‘Address to a Warrington Theatre’ by John Fitchett

Written by poet John Fitchett as an address for the opening of the first permanent theatre in Warrington (located in Scotland Road) in December 1818.

Where winding Mersey pours his narrowed tide
Her friendly Ford an ancient town supplied:
The well-known pass, that linked in early time
Mercia’s wide realm to proud Northumbria’s clime:
Dear to the olden Heroes, and afar
Famed, as the needful post of ceaseless war.
In milder days, while oe’r Britannia’s isle
Her happy plains in peaceful culture smile,
Here studious art a structured union yields
Twixt Cestrian vales and high Lancastria’s fields:
Calls oe’r the stream the admiring South to see
The pomp and pride of Northern industry:
On either hand invites the ravish’d gaze
Where commerce all her treasured wealth displays,
To the throng’d port, where by broad Mersey’s side
Forests of masts in haboured safety ride,
Queen of the Western shores – the favoured seat
For all of enterprising, fair and great –
Then to the right, where Art triumphant smiles,
The world’s vast store-house rears her mighty piles;
And thence to every grateful land supplies
Robes, pure as snow, or rich with Tyrian dyes –
Or Northward, mark, where o’er each busy plain
In peopled towns, arts, knowledge, commerce reign;
And social pleasure, harmless and refined
Delights, as it informs, the unfolding mind:
With each, with all, old Mersey’s Ford-Town still
Holding communion freely at her will –
Shall then, ‘mid these so seated, no like grace
Adorn with equal step this favoured place?
Shall she her native rank omit to claim,
Her talents, knowledge, riches, thoughts, the same?
Not idly do her sons that claim deny,
But ask their station in their country’s eye.
See! o’er her streets successive buildings rise
Where commerce with each rival station vies,
Fair charity here deigns an angel smile,
And rears for human pain a sheltering pile:
And all her sons in compact blend, that here
Order and comfort may their homes endear.
Pleas’d with the prosperous scene, the Muses view
The tranquil spot, and add their offerings too:
Nor stay aloof, in heavenly rapture still,
But lured, approach from off their sacred hill:
Thalia waves on high her snowy hand,
And soon, as touched by some Enchanter’s wand,
Gradual – reveal’d before the charmed eyes
See! from the ground this Fairy structure rise:
Destined within its walls with magic power
T’amuse, delight, inform the evening hour.
Here, as you sit, by smiling Beauty’s side
Before your eyes a mimic world shall glide;
Not light or vain: for here the historic page
At time shall ope her maxims, grave and sage;
Not in dull precepts, or in sentence cold,
To study pale, or yawning patience told;
But here, restored to life, shall ages past
Before your eyes their vivid image cast:
With power beyond mere memory’s thoughtful art,
And rouse to purpose firm and throbbing heart,
The tragic Muse shall here with awful woe
Wild Passion’s power in dread example show.
O’er storied grief the eye of beauty here
Shall shed delicious Pity’s tender tear:
And while the full heart seeks that soft relief,
Itself be better’d with “the joy of grief”
Or, various, else sly Mirth shall offer here
Folly and pride to Laughter’s useful jeer;
O’er common life, and every station run
Show what is worthy; what it were best to shun.
Wit and gay converse shall dull gloom surprise
Heal while it wounds, and as it jests, chastise.
And while amusement seems alone to claim
The vacant hour, or even an idler name,
Instruction, not with painful study won,
Shall teach at once, ere Thought shall seem begun:
While the feign’d passing object none offends,
Here own’d by none, but without pain, amends.
Elegance here, and Taste, a charm may own;
Nor ask a pleasure, selfish and alone,
For from his round of labour, oft at eve
Industrious Art may here his cares relieve,
Not spent in revels and contentious strife,
But here the many-colour’d scenes of life,
Pleas’d and refresh’d, behold: then eased his pain
Content pursue his wonted toils again,
While then for your delight, by cares of ours,
This temple, sacred to the Muses, towers:
And still to please we use each various art,
Yours to be pleas’d is sure the sweeter part.
‘Tis yours with favour still to mark, and guide
Our efforts these your pleasures to provide:
To foster merit in its young essay,
And bid Hope bloom beneath that cheering ray:
And while we humbly labour in your cause,
To add the rich reward of your applause.

About John Fitchett (1776-1838)

John Fitchett (1776-1838) was the son of a Liverpool wine merchant. Orphaned at the age of 9, he was brought to Warrington by a relative: local solicitor and co-founder of Parr’s Bank, Walter Kerfoot, who enrolled him at Boteler grammar school.
On completing his education, Fitchett was articled to Kerfoot’s law practice and went on to become a successful local attorney.
In literary circles he is perhaps best known for his epic romantic poem ‘King Alfred”. Recalling the life and times of Alfred the Great, it was once described as ‘the longest poem written in Britain’. Fitchett spent 40 years writing the piece. The completed poem, finished by Robert Roscoe, a close friend of Fitchett who took up the challenge on his acquaintance’s death, comprised around 130,000 lines spread over 3,000 pages.
Fitchett’s first solo published work, ‘Bewsey – A Poem’, was published in 1796 and is of significant local interest due to its subject matter – the alleged murder of a former lord of Warrington at Bewsey Old Hall in 1463.
John Fitchett is buried at St Oswalds Church, Winwick.

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