James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

November 15

The Comedian’s Last Night

By Edmund Clarence Stedman (1833–1908)

  • George Belmore, playing Nat Gosling in “The Flying Scud” at Booth’s Theatre, died during the run of the play, Nov. 15, 1875.

  • NOT yet! No, no,—you would not quote

    That meanest of the critic’s gags?

    ’Twas surely not of me they wrote

    Those words, too late the veteran lags:

    ’Tis not so very late with me;

    I’m not so old as that you know,

    Though work and trouble—as you see—

    (Not years) have brought me somewhat low.

    I failed you say? No, no, not yet!

    Or, if I did,—with such a past,

    Where is the man would have me quit

    Without one triumph at the last?

    But one night more,—a little thing

    To you,—I swear ’tis all I ask!

    Once more to make the wide house ring,

    To tread the boards to wear the mask,

    To move the coldest as of yore,

    To make them laugh, to make them cry,

    To be—to be myself once more,

    And then, if must be, let me die!

    The prompter’s bell! I’m here, you see:

    By Heaven, friends, you’ll break my heart!

    Nat Gosling’s called: let be, let be,—

    None but myself shall act the part!

    Yes, thank you, boy, I’ll take you chair

    One moment while I catch my breath.

    D’ye hear the noise they’re making there?

    ’Twould warm a player’s heart in death.

    How say you now? Whate’er they write,

    We’ve put that bitter gibe to shame;

    I knew, I knew there burned to-night

    Within my soul the olden flame!

    Stand off a bit: that final round,—

    I’d hear it ere it dies away

    The last, last time!—there’s no more sound:

    So end the player and the play.

    The house is cleared. My senses swim;

    I shall be better, though, anon,—

    One stumbles when the lights are dim,—

    ’Tis growing late: we must be gone.

    Well, braver luck than mine, old friends!

    A little work and fame are ours

    While Heaven health and fortune lends,

    And then—the coffin and the flowers!

    These scattered garments? let them lie:

    Some fresher actor (I’m not vain)

    Will dress anew the part;—but I—

    I shall not put them on again.