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OLIVER GOLDSMITH, 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 un timely 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 1 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 Tempie 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 ether in his conduct or his opinions, and is rather a mired for his genius, and beloved for his benera lence, 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 riva's which he often displayed in a manner not less ridculous 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 be kept company seem rather to have made him their butt, than to have listened to him as an equal. Ya perhaps, no writer of his time was possessed of more true humour, or was capable of more pignancy in marking the foibles of individuals. talent he has displayed in a very amusing marner in his unfinished poem of "Retaliation," writ as a kind of retort to the jocular attacks made upot him in the Literary Club. Under the mask để 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 tar ness, which is particularly the case with his delines tion of Garrick.
On the whole, his literary fame must be carsdered as rising the highest in the character of 2 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 De serted Village. There are, besides, his elegak ballad of The Hermit, his stanzas on Woman, sal some short humorous and miscellaneous pics. which are never without interest.
OR, A PROSPECT OF SOCIETY.
REMOTE, unfriended, melancholy, slow,
Or by the lazy Scheld, or wandering Po;
Eternal blessings crown my earliest friend,
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. 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, [plies; 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,
But let us try these truths with closer eyes, And trace them through the prospect as it lies: Here for awhile, my proper cares resign'd, Here let me sit in sorrow for mankind; Like yon neglected shrub, at random cast, That shades the steep, and sighs at ev'ry blast.
Far to the right, where Appenine ascends,
Could Nature's bounty satisfy the breast,
But small the bliss that sense alone bestows,
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
Here may be seen, in bloodless pomp array'd,
By sports like these are all their cares beguil'd,
My soul, turn from them, turn we to survey
But man and steel, the soldier and his sword:
Yet still, e'en here, content can spread a charm,
Sees no contiguous palace rear its head,
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 breast,
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 fies, 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 reign, I turn; and France displays her bright domain: Gay sprightly land of mirth and social case, 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 stil, But mock'd all tune, and marr`d the dancer's skil; 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 mare; And the gay grandsire, skill'd in gestic lore, Has 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 e'en 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 all are taught an avarice of praise; They please, are pleased, they give to get esteem, Till, seeming blest, they grow to what they seem. 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 men of other minds my fancy flies,
Thus, while around the wave-subjected soil
Convenience, plenty, elegance, and arts;
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 are those charms that dazzle and endear;
Ferments arise, imprison'd factions roar,
And scholars, soldiers, kings, unhonour'd die.
Yet think not, thus when freedom's ills I state, I mean to flatter kings, or court the great : Ye pow'rs of truth, that bid my soul aspire, Far from my bosom drive the low desire! And thou, fair Freedom, taught alike to feel The rabble's rage, and tyrant's angry steel; Thou transitory flow'r, alike undone
By proud contempt, or favour's fost'ring sun;
That those who think must govern those that toil;
Oh then how blind to all that truth requires,
Thine, Freedom, thine the blessings pictur'd In barren solitary pomp repose?
To call it freedom when themselves are free;
Yes, brother, curse with me that baleful hour,
Have we not seen, at Pleasure's lordly call,
E'en now, perhaps, as there some pilgrim strays Thro' tangled forests, and thro' dangerous ways;.
While beasts with man divided empire claim,
Vain, very vain, my weary search to find
With secret course, which no loud storms annoy,
THE DESERTED VILLAGE.
SWEET Auburn! loveliest village of the 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;
Ill fares the land, to hast'ning ills a prey,
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,
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 't is 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;