Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

The orchard, the meadow, the deep-tangled wild-wood,

And every loved spot which my infancy knew :
The wide-spreading pond, and the mill which stood by it,

The bridge and the rock where the cataract fell;
The cot of my father, the dairy-house nigh it,
And e'en the rude bucket which hung in the well.

The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket,
The moss-covered bucket which hung in the well.

That moss-covered vessel I hailed as a treasure ;

For often, at noon, when returned from the field,
I found it the source of an exquisite pleasure-

The purest and sweetest that nature can yield.
How ardent I seized it, with hands that were glowing,

And quick to the white-pebbled bottom it fell ;
Then soon, with the emblem of truth overflowing,
And dripping with coolness, it rose from the well,-

The old oaken bucket, the iron-bound bucket,
The moss-covered bucket arose from the well.

*

Reverting again in imagination to one of the “ nooks and corners of Old England, yclept the “Grecian Coffee-House,” let us endeavour to recall from the buried past, that once famous rendezvous of the wits, poets, and playwrights. It was here that a somewhat portly personage, of ungainly gait, but of good-tempered face, was wont to meet with his cosy companions, and while away many an hour consecrated to poetry, politics, and potations. We refer to “poor Goldy,” as he was familiarly called ; and a more generoushearted, gifted man,-one so studious of the happiness of others, and as strangely indifferent to his own,-it would not be easy to instance. His eccentricities of character have imparted to his history a romantic interest, rarely found in the record of a scholar's life. A restless love of adventure, combined with an incorrigible

[ocr errors]

imprudence, perpetually involved him in difficulties ; so that while the powers of his genius provoked the admiration of the world, his ludicrous inconsistencies of conduct no less excited its ridicule. Our smiles and tears are alike provoked by his mad exploits, hi College career, his Aight to Cork, his utter destitution, and also his unconquerable passion for roaming over Europe on foot,beguiling his troubles and replenishing his purse, meanwhile, by means of his Aute: or, as we follow him to his infelicitous, though brief, apprenticeship to “the poor chemist,”—from which condition his good friend and patron, Johnson, not only released him, but introduced him to the world of letters. Speaking of GoldsMITH, Johnson remarked, that “ no man was more foolish than he was when he had not a pen in his hand, or none more wise when he had.” The Doctor was, indeed, a true friend to the author of The Vicar of Wakefield, in a time of especial need,—that critical dilemma with his landlady.

GOLDSMITH was a hard worker with his brain. He considered four lines a day, good work. Occasionally he read much at night, in bed; and when he wished to extinguish his candle, it is said he used to throw his slipper at it,-for, like Thomson and others, he was afflicted with a very indolent body. He was greatly astonished when Dodsley, his publisher, offered five shillings a couplet for his Deserted Village, when each line was fairly worth as many pounds ; for it took him seven years in beating out its pure gold. Of all his poems, this bears the palm for finished excellence; and our interest in it is not lessened by knowing that it describes scenes in which he was, in early life, himself an actor. Auburn, the poetical name for the village of Lissoy, is situated in the county of Westmeath; the name of the schoolmaster was Paddy Burns, “a man severe to view;" and the ale-house, with its large spreading hawthorn bush, has also been identified,—where

[graphic]

Imagination fondly stoops to trace
The parlour splendours of that festive place.

The church which tops the neighbouring hill, the mill, and the brook, all remain the same as when his brother was the officiating clergyman. Mark how gracefully the poem opens :

Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain,
Where health and plenty cheer'd the labouring swain
Where smiling Spring its earliest visit paid,
And parting Summer's lingering blooms delayed ;
Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease,
Seats of my youth, when every sport could please ;
How often have I loitered o'er thy green,
Where humble happiness endeared each scene!
How often have I paused on every charm,
The sheltered cot, the cultivated farm,
The never-failing brook, the busy mill,
The decent church that topped the neighbouring hill,
The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade,
For talking age, and whispering lovers made !
How often have I blest the coming day,
When toil remitting lent its turn to play,
And all the village train, from labour free,
Led up their sports beneath the spreading tree;
While many a pastime circled in the shade,
The young contending as the old survey'd ;
And many a gambol frolick'd o'er the ground,
And sleights of art and feats of strength went round;
And still, as each repeated pleasure tired,
Succeeding sports the mirthful band inspired;
The dancing pair that simply sought renown,
By holding out, to tire each other down;
The swain, mistrustless of his smutted face,
While secret laughter tittered round the place ;
The bashful virgin's sidelong looks of love,
The matron's glance, that would those looks reprove ;

[graphic]

These were thy charms, sweet village ! sports like these,
With sweet succession, taught e'en toil to please ;
These round thy bowers their cheerful influence shed,
These were thy charms,—but all those charms are Aed.

Now let us con over his tribute to Retirement :

O blest Retirement ! friend to life's decline,
Retreats from care, that never must be mine,
How blest is he who crowns, in shades like these,
A youth of labour with an age of ease :

Who quits a world where strong temptations try,
And, since 'tis hard to combat, learns to fly!
For him no wretches, born to work and weep,
Explore the mine, or tempt the dangerous deep;
No surly porter stands in guilty state,
To spurn imploring famine from the gate :
But on he moves to meet his latter end,
Angels around befriending virtue's friend ;
Sinks to the grave with unperceived decay,
While resignation gently slopes the way :
And, all his prospects brightening to the last,
His heaven commences ere the world be past.

[blocks in formation]

He thus picturesquely portrays the clergyman of the village :-

Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,
And e'en his failings leaned to virtue's side ;
But in his duty prompt at every call,
He watched and wept, he prayed and felt for all :
And, as a bird each fond endearment tries,
To tempt its new-fledged offspring to the skies,
He tried each art, reproved each dull delay,
Allured to brighter worlds, and led the way.

*

E'en children followed, with endearing wile,
And plucked his gown, to share the good man's smile.
His ready smile a parent's warmth expressed,
Their welfare pleased him, and their cares distrest.
To them his heart, his love, his griefs, were given,
But all his serious thoughts had rest in heaven.
As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm,

« AnteriorContinuar »