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Oliver Goldsmrth, an eminent poet, and a miscellaneous writer, was born in 1729, according to one account, at Elphin ; according to another, at Pallas, in the county of Longford, Ireland. From his father, who was a clergyman, he received a literary education, and was sent at an early period to Dublin College. Thence he was removed as a medical student to the University of Edinburgh, where he continued from 1751 to the beginning of 1754. From the slight tincture of science which he seems to have acquired, it is probable that he paid little attention to the studies of the place; and his necessity for quitting Edinburgh to avoid paying a debt, said to have been contracted by a fellowstudent, augurs but little for his moral character. With these unfavourable beginnings, in the midst of penury, he resolved to indulge his curiosity in a visit to the continent of Europe; and after a long ramble, and various fortune, he found means to get back to England in 1758. For a considerable time he supported himself by his pen, in an obscure situation, when, in 1765, he suddenly blazed out as a poet, in his “Traveller; or, A Prospect of Society.” It was at the instigation of Dr. Johnson that he enlarged this piece, and finished it for publication; and that eminent critic liberally and justly said of it, that “there had not been so fine a poem since Pope's time.” It was equally well received by the public; and conferred upon Goldsmith a celebrity which introduced him to some of the most distinguished literary characters of the time. The poet continued to pursue his career, and in 1766 was published his novel of the “Vicar of Wakefield,” which was received with deserved applause, and has ever since borne a distinguished rank among similar compositions. Some of his most pleasing and successful works in prose were given to the world about this time; and he paid his respects to the Theatre, by a comedy entitled “The Good-Natured Man,” acted at Covent-Garden in 1768, which, however, defects of plot, and ignorance of dramatic effect, rendered not very successful. His poetical fame reached its summit in 1770, by the publication of “The Deserted Village,” a delightful piece, which obtained general admiration. The price offered by the bookseller, amounting to nearly five shillings a couplet, appeared to Goldsmith so enormous, that he at first refused to take it, but the sale of the poem convinced him that he might fairly appropriate to himself that sum out of the profits. In 1772 he produced another comedy, entitled “She Stoops to Conquer; or, The Mistakes of a Night;" and though in character and plot it made a near approach to farce, yet such were its comic powers that the audience received it
with uncommon favour. Although this was a gainful year to him, yet thoughtless profusion, and a habit of gaming, left him at its close considerably in debt. In the two succeeding years he supplied the booksellers with a “ Grecian History,” and “A History of the Earth and Animated Nature.” the last chiefly taken from Buffon. He had planned some other works, but these were cut off by his untimely death. In March 1774 he was attacked with the symptoms of a low fever; and having taken, upon his own judgment, an over-dose of a powerful medicine, he sunk under the disease, or the remedy, and died on the tenth day, April 4th. He was buried, with little attendance, in the Temple Church; but a monument has since been raised to his memory, with a Latin inscription by Dr. Johnson. Goldsmith was a man of little correctness either in his conduct or his opinions, and is rather admired for his genius, and beloved for his benevolence, than solidly esteemed. The best part of his character was a warmth of sensibility, which made him ready to share his purse with the indigent, and in his writings rendered him the constant advocate of the poor and oppressed. The worst feature was a malignant envy and jealousy of successful rivals, which he often displayed in a manner not less ridiculous than offensive. He was one of those who are happier in the use of the pen than the tongue; his conversation being generally confused, and not seldom absurd ; so that the wits with whom he kept company seem rather to have made him their butt, than to have listened to him as an equal. Yet, perhaps, no writer of his time was possessed of more true humour, or was capable of more poignancy in marking the foibles of individuals. This talent he has displayed in a very amusing manner in his unfinished poem of “Retaliation,” written as a kind of retort to the jocular attacks made upon him in the Literary Club. Under the mask of Epitaphs, he has given masterly sketches of some of the principal members, with a mixture of serious praise and good-humoured raillery. It may indeed
be said that the latter sometimes verges into tart
ness, which is particularly the case with his delineation of Garrick. On the whole, his literary fame must be considered as rising the highest in the character of a poet, for it would be difficult, in the compass of English verse, to find pieces which are read with more gratification than his Traveller and his Deserted Village. There are, besides, his elegant ballad of The Hermit, his stanzas on Woman, and some short humorous and miscellaneous pieces, which are never without interest.
THE TRAVELLER :
or, A PRosPECT or society.
Rowork, unfriended, melancholy, slow, Or by the lazy Scheld, or wandering Po; Or onward, where the rude Carinthian boor Against the houseless stranger shuts the door; Or where Campania's plain forsaken lies, A weary waste expanding to the skies; Where’er I roam, whatever realms to see, My heart, untravell'd, fondly turns to thee: Still to my brother turns with ceaseless pain, And drags at each remove a length'ning chain. Eternal blessings crown my earliest friend, And round his dwelling guardian saints attend; Blest be that spot, where cheerful guests retire To pause from toil, and trim their ev'ning fire; Blest that abode, where want and pain repair, And ev'ry stranger finds a ready chair; Blest be those feasts with simple plenty crown'd, Where all the ruddy family around Laugh at the jests or pranks that never fail, Or sigh with pity at some mournful tale; Or press the bashful stranger to his food, And learn the luxury of doing good. But me, not destin'd such delights to share, My prime of life in wand'ring spent and care; Impell'd with steps unceasing to pursue Some fleeting good, that mocks me with the view; That, like the circle bounding earth and skies, Allures from far, yet, as I follow, flies; My fortune leads to traverse realms alone, And find no spot of all the world my own. Ev’n now, where Alpine solitudes ascend, I sit me down a pensive hour to spend; And plac'd on high above the storm's career, Look downward where an hundred realms appear; Lakes, forests, cities, plains extending wide, The pomp of kings, the shepherd's humbler pride. When thus creation's charms around combine, Amidst the store, should thankless pride repine? Say, should the philosophic mind disdain That good which makes each humbler bosom vain? Let school-taught pride dissemble all it can, These little things are great to little man; And wiser he, whose sympathetic mind Exults in all the good of all mankind. [crown'd, Ye glitt'ring towns, with wealth and splendour Ye fields, where summer spreads profusion round, Ye lakes, whose vessels catch the busy gale, Ye bending swains, that dress the flow'ry vale, For me your tributary stores combine; Creation's heir, the world, the world is mine. As some lone miser, visiting his store, Bends at his treasure, counts, recounts it o'er, Hoards after hoards his rising raptures fill, Yet still he sighs, for hoards are wanting still; Thus to my breast alternate passions rise, splies; Pleas'd with each good that Heav'n to man supYet oft a sigh prevails, and sorrows fall, To see the hoard of human bliss so small; And oft I wish, amidst the scene to find Some spot to real happiness consign'd, Where my worn soul, each wand'ring hope at rest, May gather bliss, to see my fellows blest. But where to find that happiest spot below, Who can direct, when all pretend to know? The shudd'ring tenant of the frigid zone Boldly proclaims that happiest spot his own;
Extols the treasures of his stormy seas,
Man seems the only growth that dwindles here. Contrasted faults through all his manners reign;. Though poor, luxurious; though submissive, vain; | Though grave, yet trifling; zealous, yet untrue; | And ev'n in penance planning sins anew. All evils here contaminate the o That opulence departed leaves nd ; For o was theirs; not far remov’d the date, when commerce proudly flourish'd thro' the state; At her command the palace learnt to rise, , . Again the long-fall'n column sought the skies;
The canvass glow'd, beyond e'en Nature warm, The pregnant quarry teem'd with human form: Till, more unsteady than the southern gale, Commerce on other shores display'd her sail; While nought remain'd of all that riches gave, But towns unmann'd, and lords without a slave : And late the nation found, with fruitless skill, Its former strength was but plethoric ill. Yet still the loss of wealth is here supply'd By arts, the splendid wrecks of former pride; From these the feeble heart and long-fall'n mind An easy compensation seem to find. Here may be seen, in bloodless pomp array'd, The pasteboard triumph and the cavalcade: Processions form'd for piety and love, A mistress or a saint in ev'ry grove. By sports like these are all their cares beguil'd, The sports of children satisfy the child: Each nobler aim, represt by long control, Now sinks at last, or feebly mans the soul; While low delights, succeeding fast behind, In happier meanness occupy the mind: As in those domes, where Cesars once bore sway, Defac'd by time, and tott'ring in decay, There in the ruin, heedless of the dead, The shelter-seeking peasant builds his shed; And, wond'ring man could want the larger pile, Exults, and owns his cottage with a smile. My soul, turn from them, turn we to survey Where rougher climes a nobler race display, Where the bleak Swiss their stormy mansions tread, And force a churlish soil for scanty bread: No product here the barren hills afford But man and steel, the soldier and his sword: No vernal blooms their torpid rocks array, But winter ling'ring chills the lap of May : No zephyr fondly sues the mountain's breast, But meteors glare, and stormy glooms invest. Yet still, e'en here, content can spread a charm, Redress the clime, and all its rage disarm. Though poor the peasant's hut, his feasts tho' small, He sees his little lot the lot of all ; Sees no contiguous palace rear its head, To shame the meanness of his humble shed; No costly lord the sumptuous banquet deal, To make him loathe his vegetable meal; But calm, and bred in ignorance and toil, Each wish contracting, fits him to the soil. Cheerful at morn, he wakes from short repose, Breathes the keen air, and carols as he goes; With patient angle trolls the finny deep, Or drives his vent'rous ploughshare to the steep; Or seeks the den where snow-tracks mark the way, And drags the struggling savage into day. At night returning, ev'ry labour sped, He sits him down the monarch of a shed; Smiles by his cheerful fire, and round surveys His children's looks, that brighten at the blaze; While his lov'd partner, boastful of her hoard, Displays her cleanly platter on the board: And haply too some pilgrim, thither led, With many a tale repays the nightly bed. Thus ev'ry good his native wilds impart Imprints the patriot passion on his heart; And e'en those hills, that round his mansion rise, Enhance the bliss his scanty fund supplies: Dear is that shed to which his soul conforms, And dear that hill which lifts him to the storms; And as a child, when scaring sounds molest, Clings close and closer to the mother's breat,
So the loud torrent, and the whirlwind's roar, But bind him to his native mountains more. Such are the charms to barren states assign'd : Their wants but few, their wishes all confin'd : Yet let them only share the praises due, If few their wants, their pleasures are but few ; For ev'ry want that stimulates the breast Becomes a source of pleasure when redrest: Whence from such lands each pleasing science flies, That first excites desire, and then supplies; Unknown to them, when sensual pleasures cloy, To fill the languid pause with finer joy; Unknown those pow'rs that raise the soul to flame, Catch ev'ry nerve, and vibrate through the frame. Their level life is but a mould'ring fire, Unquench'd by want, unfann'd by strong desire; Unfit for raptures, or, if raptures cheer On some high festival of once a year, In wild excess the vulgar breast takes fire, Till, buried in debauch, the bliss expire. But not their joys alone thus coarsely flow; Their morals, like their pleasures, are but low; For, as refinement stops, from sire to son Unalter'd, unimprov'd, the manners run; And love's and friendship's finely pointed dart Falls blunted from each indurated heart. Some sterner virtues o'er the mountain's breast May sit, like falcons cow'ring on the nest: But all the gentler morals, such as play Thro' life's more cultur'd walks, and charm the way, These, far dispers'd, on tim’rous pinions fly, To sport and flutter in a kinder sky. To kinder skies, where gentler manners rei I turn; and France displays her bright domain: Gay sprightly land of mirth and social ease, Pleas'd with thyself, whom all the world can please, How often have I led thy sportive choir, With tuneless pipe, beside the murm'ring Loire! Where shading elms along the margin grew, And freshen'd from the wave the zephyr flew : And haply, though my harsh touch, falt'ring still, But mock'd all tune, and marr'd the dancer's skill; Yet would the village praise my wond’rous pow'r, And dance, forgetful of the noontide hour. Alike all ages. Dames of ancient days Have led their children thro' the mirthful maze; And the gay grandsire, skill'd in gestic lore, IIas frisk'd beneath the burthen of threescore. So blest a life these thoughtless realms display, Thus idly busy rolls their world away: Theirs are those arts that mind to mind endear, For honour forms the social temper here: Honour, that praise which real merit gains, Or elen imaginary worth obtains, Here passes current; paid from hand to hand, It shifts, in splendid traffic, round the land: From courts, to camps, to cottages it strays, And ail are taught an avarice of praise; They please, are pleased, they give to get esteen, Till, seeming blest, they grow to what they seen. But while this softer art their bliss supplies, It gives their follies also room to rise; For praise too dearly lov'd, or warmly sought, Enfeebles all internal strength of thought; And the weak soul, within itself unblest, Leans for all pleasure on another's breast. Hence ostentation here, with tawdry art, Pants for the vulgar praise which fools impart; Here vanity assumes her pert grimace, And trims her robes of frieze with copper lace;
Here beggar pride defrauds her daily cheer, To boast one splendid banquet once a year: The mind still turns where shifting fashion draws, Nor weighs the solid worth of self-applause. To men of other minds my fancy flies, Embosom'd in the deep where Holland lies. Methinks her patient sons before me stand, Where the broad ocean leans against the land, And, sedulous to stop the coming tide, Lift the tall rampire's artificial pride. Onward, methinks, and diligently slow, The firm connected bulwark seems to grow; Spreads its long arms amidst the wat'ry roar, Scoops out an empire, and usurps the shore: While the pent ocean, rising o'er the pile, Sees an amphibious world beneath him smile: The slow canal, the yellow-blossom'd vale, The willow-tufted bank, the gliding sail, The crowded mart, the cultivated plain, A new creation rescu'd from his reign. Thus, while around the wave-subjected soil Impels the native to repeated toil, Industrious habits in each bosom reign, And industry begets a love of gain. Hence all the good from opulence that springs, With all those ills superfluous treasure brings, Are here display’d. Their much-lov'd wealth imparts Convenience, plenty, elegance, and arts; But view them closer, craft and fraud appear, E’en liberty itself is barter'd here. At gold's superior charms all freedom flies, The needy sell it, and the rich man buys; A land of tyrants, and a den of slaves, Here wretches seek dishonourable graves, And, calmly bent, to servitude conform, Dull as their lakes that slumber in the storm. Heav'ns ! how unlike their Belgic sires of old ! Rough, poor, content, ungovernably bold; War in each breast, and freedom on each brow; How much unlike the sons of Britain now ! Fir’d at the sound, my genius spreads her wing, And flies where Britain courts the western spring; Where lawns extend that scorn Arcadian pride, And brighter streams than fam'd Hydaspis glide; There all around the gentlest breezes stray, There gentle music melts on every spray; Creation's mildest charms are there combin'd, Extremes are only in the master's mind; Stern o'er each bosom reason holds her state, With daring aims irregularly great; Pride in their port, defiance in their eye, I see the lords of human kind pass by ; Intent on high designs, a thoughtful band, By forms unfashion'd, fresh from Nature's hand, Fierce in their native hardiness of soul, True to imagin'd right, above control; While e'en the peasant boasts these rights to scan, And learns to venerate himself as man. Thine, Freedom, thine the blessings pictur'd here, Thine are those charms that dazzle and endear; Too blest indeed were such without alloy; But foster'd e'en by freedom, ills annoy; That independence Britons prize too high, Keeps man from man, and breaks the social tie; The self-dependent lordlings stand alone, All claims that bind and sweeten life unknown; Here, by the bonds of nature feebly held, Minds combat minds, repelling and repell'd;
Ferments arise, imprison'd factions roar,
! Where kings have toil'd, and poets wrote for fame,
One sink of level avarice shall lie,
While beasts with man divided empire claim,
THE DESERTED WILLAGE.
Sweet Auburn' loveliest village of the plain, Where health and plenty cheer'd the lab'ring swain, Where smiling Spring its earliest visit paid, And parting Summer's ling'ring blooms delay'd: Dear lovely bow'rs of innocence and ease, Seats of my youth, when ev'ry sport could please: How often have I loiter'd o'er thy green, Where humble happiness endear'd each scene! How often have I paus'd on ev'ry charm, The shelter'd cot, the cultivated farm, The never-failing brook, the busy mill, The decent church that topt the neighb'ring hill, The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade, For talking age and whisp'ring lovers made 1 How often have I bless'd 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 slights of art and feats of strength went round; And still, as each repeated pleasure tir’d, Succeeding sports the mirthful band inspir'd 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 titter'd round the place; The bashful virgin's side-long looks of love, The matron's glance that would those looks reprove: These “. thy charms, sweet village 1 sports like nese With sweet succession, taught e'en toil to please; These round thy bow'rs their cheerful influence shed, These were thy charms—but all these charms are fled. Sweet smiling village, loveliest of the lawn, Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn; Amidst thy bow'rs the tyrant's hand is seen, And desolation saddens all thy green: One only master grasps the whole domain, *nd half a tillage stints thy smiling plain.
No more thy glassy brook reflects the day, But chok'd with sedges works its weary way; Along thy glades, a solitary guest, The hollow-sounding bittern guards its nest; Amidst thy desert walks the lapwing flies, And tires their echoes with unvary'd cries. Sunk are thy bow'rs in shapeless ruin all, And the long grass o'ertops the mould'ring wall; And, trembling, shrinking from the spoiler's hand, Far, far away thy children leave the land. Ill fares the land, to hast'ning ills a prey, Where wealth accumulates, and men decay; Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade: A breath can make them, as a breath has made: But a bold peasantry, their country's pride, When once destroyed, can never be supply'd, A time there was, ere England's griefs began, When ev'ry rood of ground maintain'd its man; For him light labour spread her wholesome store, Just gave what life requir'd, but gave no more: His best companions, innocence and health; And his best riches, ignorance of wealth. But times are alter'd; trade's unfeeling train Usurp the land, and dispossess the swain; Along the lawn, where scatter'd hamlets rose, Unwieldy wealth and cumb'rous pomp repose; And ev'ry want to luxury ally'd, And ev'ry pang that folly pays to pride. Those gentle hours that plenty bade to bloom, Those calm desires that ask'd but little room, Those healthful sports that grac'd the peaceful scene, Liv'd in each look, and brighten’d all the green; These, far departing, seek a kinder shore, And rural mirth and manners are no more. Sweet Auburn! parent of the blissful hour, Thy glades forlorn confess the tyrant's pow'r, Here, as I take my solitary rounds, Amidst thy tangling walks and ruin'd grounds, And, many a year elaps'd, return to view Where once the cottage stood, the hawthorn grew, Remembrance wakes with all her busy train, Swells at my breast, and turns the past to pain. In all my wand'rings round this world of care, In all my griefs—and God has giv'n my shareI still had hopes my latest hours to crown, Amidst these humble bow'rs to lay me down; To husband out life's taper at the close, And keep the flame from wasting, by repose: I still had hopes, for pride attends us still, Amidst the swains to show my book-learn'd skill, Around my fire an ev'ning group to draw, And tell of all I felt, and all I saw; And, as a hare, whom hounds and horns pursue, Pants to the place from whence at first she flew, I still had hopes, my long vexations past, Here to return – and die at home at last. 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 dang'rous 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 unperceiv'd decay, While resignation gently slopes the way;