« AnteriorContinuar »
And loosed his love-shaft smartly from the bow,
Midsummer Night's Dream, ii. 2. 97–105.
Taliessin. •Taliessin, Chief of the Bards, flourished in the sixth century. His works are still preserved, and his memory held in high veneration among his Countrymen.' — Gray.
125-134. These lines refer to Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton. Determine the particular lines that refer to each poet.
135-144. repairs the golden flood. Compare Lycidas, 169.
Few poets would have the artistic self-restraint to end this poem where Gray ended it. Thomson, for instance, on such a subject could hardly have contented himself with less than a thousand lines. Even Shelley, sometimes, 'cannot get done.' Gray's practice was based upon a sound theory which he states in a letter to Mason, as follows: ‘The true lyric style, with all its flights of fancy, ornaments, and heightening of expression, and harmony of sound, is in its nature superior to every other style; which is just the cause why it could not be borne in a work of great length, no more than the eye could bear to see all this scene that we constantly gaze upon the verdure of the fields and woods, the azure of the sea and skies turned into one dazzling expanse of gems.'
BORN at Pallasmore in County Longford, Ireland, in 1728. His father was a poor clergyman and with difficulty sent his son to Trinity College, Dublin, where he entered at the bottom of his class. In 1749 he was graduated in the same honorable position; after a year and a half's intermittent study of medicine at Edinburgh, he spent some two years strolling over western Europe. How he supported himself during much of this time is a mystery; possibly the twentieth chapter of The Vicar of Wakefield and parts of The Traveller may furnish a clue. Between 1756 and 1759 he tried clerking it in a chemist's shop, practising medicine, proof-reading, school-teaching, and hack-writing. In only the last did he succeed; in the Enquiry into the Present State of Polite Learning in Europe (1759) he emerges from the purlieus of Grub-Street and in The Citizen of the World he has left us some of the most delightful Essays in English. While we may well object to the unphilosophic conclusion of The Traveller we are charmed by its pen-pictures of Italy, Switzerland, Holland and France, its easy and melodious versification, its sweet and genial humanity. The manuscript of The Vicar of Wakefield (1766) was sold by Johnson for £60 to release Goldsmith from an arrest for debt. His excellent comedy The Good Natured Man brought him further pecuniary relief — but temporary only, for Goldsmith had now accustomed himself to a manner of living that could dispense with the comforts of life, but must have the luxuries. In poetry, Goldsmith reaches his culmination in The Deserted Village; in comedy, it would be difficult to find a writer, French or English, who can better the skilful construction and easy, natural dialogue of She Stoops to Conquer (1773). Goldsmith's later years were honored by the friendship of such men as Garrick, Reynolds, Burke and Johnson. Johnson really loved him. When Goldsmith died in 1774, owing two thousand pounds, it was Johnson who gave us the key to his friend's character in saying 'Was ever poet so trusted before ?'
BIBLIOGRAPHY. LIFE AND TIMES. Of the numerous books on Goldsmith, The Life and Adventures of Oliver Goldsmith by John Forster is the most scholarly extended study. But perhaps Goldsmith would not have thanked the author for his attitude of persistent and sentimental compassion. Among the shorter works, the life by Dobson (Gt. Wr.) contains much trifling and uninteresting detail; Black's Life of Goldsmith (E. M. L.) is artistically proportioned, exquisitely sympathetic and admirably sane. Boswell has many anecdotes of Goldsmith, all colored by Bozzy's lack of the sense of humor and by his jealousy of anybody who got nearer to Johnson than did Bozzy himself.
CRITICISM. – Macaulay; Essay on Goldsmith. Brings out clearly the fact that Goldsmith's misfortunes were due more to himself than to the neglect of society. In nearly every other respect, shows a complete misunderstanding of Goldsmith's character.
De Quincey; Essay on Goldsmith. A review of Forster's Life of Goldsmith, in sympathy with the general tone of that work. Contains also, in characteristic De Quincey style, digressions on the state of the literary body in France, and on the relation of literature to politics.
Thackeray; Sterne and Goldsmith in The English Humorists. Contains little about Goldsmith's works, but shows a loveable estimate of his character.
Fitzgerald; Principles of Comedy. Those interested in Goldsmith's dramatic genius will find some excellent criticism here.
THE DESERTED VILLAGE. This poem, published in 1770, was dedicated to Sir Joshua Reynolds. Six years later Adam Smith published The Wealth of Nations, from which, had Goldsmith lived, he could have learned that the economic change he laments was a blessing in disguise for those poor emigrants to whom it seemed a curse. But we do not read The Deserted Village for its Political Economy: we read it for its idyllic sweetness; for its portraits of the village preacher, of the village schoolmaster, of the country inn; for its pathetic description of the poor emigrants; for the tender and noble feeling with which Goldsmith closes the poem in his Farewell to Poetry. 1-34. Sweet Auburn!
Attempts to identify "Sweet Auburn' with any particular village are futile and unnecessary. The description is idealized, as any one who has had even small experience in the making of verses can see. lent (16) = yielded. simply (25)
artlessly. Smutted (27) would not be used in serious poetic diction to-day. No description of Rustic Mirth to compare with these thirty-four lines had been written in England since Milton's L'Allegro. If one might point out a flaw in this gem, it would be the too frequent personification of abstract terms, such as gambol (21) and sleights (22).
35-50. The hollow-sounding bittern. The bittern has a hollow, throaty cry, and generally builds its nest on the ground. Perhaps this line is a reminiscence of Isaiah xiv. 23: ‘I will also make it a possession for the bittern and pools of water; and I will sweep it with the besom of destruction, saith the Lord of Hosts.' the lapwing, sometimes called the 'pewit,' from its cry.
51-56. Princes and lords. Compare Burns' Cotter's Saturday Night, 165; also his song, For A' That and A’ That (p. 113 of this book). Lines 55 and 56 point a real moral. The strength of a country lies largely in its yeomanry or small-farmer class. In this respect, France leads the world.
57-62. Here we have again the myth of a Golden Age of which the poets are so fond. History teaches plainly that there never was a time ere England's griefs began.
63-74. trade's unfeeling train. This is a remnant of the Mercantile Theory, wide-spread in Europe during the Middle Ages and not dead yet in unintelligent communities. According to this theory Commerce is a war, and when A. gains, B. must lose. An elementary knowledge of Economics shows us now, that where Commerce (Trade) is unrestricted, both A. and B. gain; otherwise there would be no Commerce. rural
The ordinary meanings attached to "rustic manners' and 'bucolic manners' hardly bear out the poet's eulogy. What is there in city life that tends to refine and polish the manners ?
75-96. The sincerity that breathes through these lines makes us feel that here is a bit of genuine autobiography.
97-112. unperceived decay. Evidently suggested by Vanity of Human Wishes, 293. Throughout this passage the influence of Johnson is perceptible. his latter end. Hear counsel and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.' Proverbs xix. 20.
113-136. careless = free from care. loud laugh. Fatness and laughter have long been associated — perhaps unjustly — with the idea of weak mentality. Compare :
Let me have men about me that are fat:
Julius Cæsar, i. 2. 192-5. Yet Falstaff was a tun of a man. pause; the interval between the strains of the nightingale's song.
Listen Eugenia, -
Matthew Arnold's Philomela, 28–32. Compare also Keats' Ode to a Nightingale (p. 168 of this book). No cheerful murmurs Auctuate in the gale. A stiff and commonplace line, in Pope's earliest and worst manner. bloomy. Compare the opening lines of Milton's Sonnet to the Nightingale :
O Nightingale, that on yon bloomy spray
Warblest at eve, when all the woods are still. mantling = covering as with a mantle.
137-162. We can find many points of resemblance between this beautiful portrait of the village preacher and Chaucer's Poor Parson (Dryden's character of a Good Parson). Goldsmith's sketch seems to contain allusion to his father and to his brother Henry. To the latter he had dedicated The Traveller. disclose allow to be
mansion; in its original sense of dwelling-place' (Latin, ‘manēre,' to stay, remain). place = position, as in “He has a place in the Custom-House.' doctrines fashioned to the changing hour. Perhaps Goldsmith was thinking of The Vicar of Bray:
And this is law that I'll maintain
Until my dying day, Sir,
Still I'll be the Vicar of Bray, Sir.
tales of sorrow done. For this absolute use of the participle, compare L'Allegro 115, and see Whitney, § 395-7. shewed how fields were won. Compare Alexander's Feast, 66-8.
His pity gave; his natural sentiment (Pity) relieved them before his theological virtue (Charity) came into play.
163-192. Allured to brighter worlds and led the way. In Chau
But Christes lore and his apostles twelve,
fools, who came to
dismayed = affrighted (the dying man). scoff. Compare Pope's
For fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
Essay on Criticism, 625.
The service past. For the construction, compare line 157. As some tall cliff. See this same figure with a different but equally fine application, in Matthew Arnold's Sonnet on Shakespeare:
For the loftiest hill
193-216. his morning face. Compare
the whining school-boy, with his satchel And shining morning face.
As You Like It, ii. 7 (near the end).