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CHAPTER VIII.

AN AMOUR, WHICH PROMISES LITTLE GOOD FORTUNE, YET MAY BE PRODUCTIVE OF MUCH.

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HE next morning we were again visited by Mr. Bur

chell, though I began, for certain reasons, to be displeased with the frequency of his return; but I could

not refuse him my company and fire-side. It is true, his labour more than requited his entertainment; for he wrought among us with vigour, and, either in the meadow

or at the hay-rick, put himself foremost. Besides, he had always something amusing to say that lessened our toil, and was at once so out of the way, and yet so sensible, that I loved, laughed at, and pitied him. My only dislike arose from an attachment he discovered to my daughter. He would, in a jesting manner, call her his little mistress, and when he bought each of the girls a set of ribands, hers was the finest. I knew not how, but he every day seemed to become more amiable, his wit to improve, and his simplicity to assume the superior airs of wisdom.

Our family dined in the field, and we sat, or rather reclined, round a temperate repast, our cloth spread upon the hay, while Mr. Burchell gave cheerfulness to the feast. To heighten our satisfaction, two blackbirds answered each other from opposite hedges, the familiar red-breast came and pecked the crumbs from our hands, and every sound seemed but the echo of tranquillity. “ I never sit thus," says Sophia, “but I think of the two lovers, so sweetly described by Mr. Gay, who were struck dead in each other's arms. There is something so pathetic in the description, that I have read it an hundred times with new rapture.”—“In my opinion,” cried my son, “the finest strokes in that description are much below those in the 'Acis and Galatea’ of Ovid. The Roman poet understands the use of contrast better, and upon that figure, artfully managed, all strength in the pathetic depends.”—“ It is remarkable,” cried Mr. Burchell, “ that both the poets you mention have equally contributed to introduce a false taste into their respective countries, by loading all their lines with epithet. Men of little genius found them most easily imitated in their defects; and English poetry, like that in the latter empire of Rome, is nothing at present but a combination of luxuriant images, without plot or connection; a string of

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epithets, that improve the sound without carrying on the sense.

But, perhaps, madam, while I thus reprehend others, you'll think it just that I should give them an opportunity to retaliate ; and, indeed, I have made this remark only to have an opportunity of introducing to the company a ballad, which, whatever be its other defects, is, I think, at least free from those I have mentioned."

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While this ballad was reading, Sophia seemed to mix an air of tenderness with her approbation. But our tranquillity was soon disturbed by the report of a gun just by us; and immediately after, a man was seen bursting through the hedge to take up the game he had killed. This sportsman was the Squire's chaplain, who had shot one of the blackbirds that so agreeably entertained us. So loud a report, and so near, startled my daughters; and I could perceive that Sophia, in the fright, had thrown herself into Mr. Burchell's arms for protection. The gentleman came up, and asked pardon for having disturbed us, affirming that he was ignorant of our being so near. He therefore sat down by my youngest daughter, and, sportsman-like, offered her what he had killed that morning. She was going to refuse, but a private look from her mother soon induced her to correct the mistake, and accept his present, though with some reluctance. My wife, as usual, discovered her pride in a whisper, observing that Sophy had made a conquest of the chaplain, as well as her sister had of the Squire. I suspected, however, with more probability, that her affections were placed upon a different object. The chaplain's errand was to inform us that Mr. Thornhill had provided music and refreshments, and intended that night giving the young ladies a ball by moonlight on the grass-plat before our door. “Nor can I deny,” continued he, “but I have an interest in being first to deliver this message, as I expect for my

* This poem, under the title of “ Edwin and Angelina,” was written in 1774, when a few copies were printed for private use. On its first publication in “ The Vicar of Wakefield," in 1776, Goldsmith was charged with having plagiarised from his friend Dr. Percy's “Friar of Orders Gray," which had appeared the year previously in the “Reliques of Early English Poetry.” This charge Goldsmith at once publicly refuted, stating that his ballad was written and shown to Percy before the latter had composed the “Friar.” The truth of this statement was confirmed by Percy, and has ever since been admitted. It is probable the plot of both ballads was suggested by “The Gentle Herdsman,” which Percy showed to Goldsmith For pathos, sentiment, simplicity, and finish, this ballad has few equals, and has ever enjoyed the largest popularity. The numerous emendations which the author made, prove the care he bestowed on it; even sacrificing two very sweet final verses, rather than weaken the effect of its close.

reward to be honoured with Miss Sophia's hand as a partner.” To this my girl replied, that she should have no objection if she could do it with honour. “But here,” continued she, “is a gentleman," looking at Mr. Burchell, “ who has been my companion in the task for the day, and it is fit he should share in its amusements.” Mr. Burchell returned her a compliment for her intentions, but resigned her up to the chaplain, adding, that he was to go that night five miles, being invited to an harvest supper. His refusal appeared to me a little extraordinary, nor could I conceive how so sensible a girl as my youngest could thus prefer a man of broken fortunes to one whose expectations were much greater. But as men are most capable of distinguishing merit in women, so the ladies often form the truest judgments of us. The two sexes seem placed as spies upon each other, and are furnished with different abilities, adapted for mutual inspection.

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