"The First Lion Thought The Last A Bore"
Context: People looking at the short and thick-set Mr. Rhodes, plodding about London, saw nothing in him to indicate humor. There was no twinkle in his eyes. He did his business as Chief Teller in the Bank of England in a serious way. However, in his leisure time, he collected manuscripts of dramas and attended theatrical performances in company with a fellow bank clerk, a tall, gaunt gentleman who ardently admired Siddons and Kemble. Together they beheld Thalia and Melpomene in all their glory at Covent Garden. Between the acts, Rhodes amused himself with extemporaneous parodies on speeches that shortly before had "drowned the stage with tears." Not that he loved Shakespeare less, but he loved burlesque more. And so there came into existence the one-act burlesque tragedy Bombastes Furioso, sometimes called Artaxominous the Great, performed at the Theatre Royal, London, about 1803, with a noteworthy cast that included Liston as General Bombastes, Liston's diminutive wife as the attractive Distaffina, Mathews as the King, and Taylor as Minister of State Fusbos. The lyrics included in the work are parodies of well-known songs, using familiar melodies. In addition to this work, Rhodes published a mediocre volume of Epigrams, and also supposedly completed two dramatic pieces that were neither performed nor published. The boasting and bombastic soldier provided humor in many a medieval drama under the name of Miles Glorioso or Miles Furioso. Here he is called General Bombastes, commander of the army of cigar-smoking King Artaxominous of Utopia. According to the stage directions, the general wears "a general's military suit–jack boots–comic powdered wig and pigtail–long sword–small cocked hat and plume." The dialog is in a variety of meters. The play opens with His Majesty, in pain after a night of drinking and smoking, uttering such majestic lines as "Get out of my sight, or I'll knock you down." Nevertheless, Minister Fusbos lingers long enough to announce the return of General Bombastes with rich booty after a successful campaign. The king, however, is more concerned wih his problem of how to replace Queen Griskinissa" with the charming Distaffina. Upon being consulted, she confesses she loves Bombastes, but a handful of gold coins persuades her to forget the general. Their conversation is interrupted by the sound of the approaching Bombastes. The king flees to a closet, unfortunately leaving his well-known tricorn in sight. At such evidence of Distaffina's inconstancy, furious Bombastes determines to die. To save himself the necessity of suicide, he goes to a woods, fastens his boots to a tree, and displays above them a universal challenge. "Who dares this pair of boots displace Must meet Bombastes face to face," Thus do I challenge all the human race. King Artaxominous appears and knocks down the boots with the declaration: Where'er thou art, with speed prepare to go Where I shall send thee–to the shades below! Bombastes answers his roar with the fable of a lion, and is topped by the king's reply. Thereupon he kills the King of Utopia. Into the woods comes Fusbos, and in a duel put to a duet, he slays the regicide. Distaffina then joins Fusbos in a lament, interrupted by the resurrected corpses, and all unite in a jolly final quartet. Here is the fable of the lions:
BOMBASTESSo have I heard on Afric's burning shore,A hungry lion give a grievous roar;The grievous roar echoed along the shore.ARTAXOMINOUSSo have I heard on Afric's burning shoreAnother lion give a grievous roar,And the first lion thought the last a bore.BOMBASTESAm I then mocked? Now by my fame I swearYou shall soon have it–There! [They fight.]ARTAXOMINOUSWhere?BOMBASTESThere,–and there.