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' For praise, too dearly lov'd, or warmly sought,
Nor weighs the solid worth of self-applause.'
'Stern o'er each bosom Reason holds her state
By forms unfashion'd, fresh from Nature's hand.' “ With the inconveniences that harass the sons of freedom, this extract shall be concluded
That independence Britons prize too high,
And scholars, soldiers, kings, unhonour'd die.' “ Such is the poem on which we now congratulate the public, as on a production to which, since the death of Pope, it will not be easy to find any thing equal."- Critical Review, Dec. 1764.
“Goldsmith's poetry,” says Mr. Campbell, “enjoys a calm and steady popularity. It inspires us, indeed, with no admiration of daring design, or of fertile invention ; but it presents, within its narrow limits, a distinct and unbroken view of poetical delightfulness. His descriptions and sentiments have the pure zest of nature. He is refined without false delicacy, and correct without insipidity. Perhaps there is an intellectual composure in his manner, which may, in some passages, be said to approach to the reserved and prosaic; but he unbends from this graver strain of reflection, to tenderness, and even to playfulness, with an ease and grace almost exclusively bis own; and connects extensive views of the happiness and interests of society, with pictures of life that touch the heart by their familiarity. His language is certainly simple, though it is not cast in a rugged or careless mould. He is no disciple of the gaunt and famished school of simplicity. Deliberately as he wrote, he cannot be accused of wanting natural and idiomatic expression. He uses the ornaments which must always distinguish true poetry from prose ; and when he adopts colloquial plainness, it is with the utmost care and skill, to avoid a vulgar humility. There is more of this sustained simplicity, of this chaste economy and choice of words, in Goldsmith, than in any modern poet, or perhaps than would be attainable or desirable as a standard for every writer of rhyme. But let us not imagine that the serene graces of this poet were not admirably adapted to his subjects. His poetry is not that of impetuous, but of contemplative sensibility; of a spirit breathing its regrets and recollections, in a tone that has no dissonance with the calm of philosophical reflection. He betrays so little effort to make us visionary by the usual and palpable fictions of his art; he keeps apparently so close to realities, and draws certain conclusions, respecting the radical interests of man, so boldly and decidedly, that we pay him a compliment, not always extended to the tuneful tribe,- that of judging his sentiments by their strict and logical interpretation. In thus judging him by the test of his philosophical spirit, I am not prepared to say that he is a purely impartial theorist. He advances general positions, respecting the happiness of society, founded on limited views of truth, and under the bias of local feelings. He contemplates only one side of the question. It must be always thus in poetry. Let the mind be ever so tranquilly disposed to reflection, yet if it retains poetical sensa. tion, it will embrace only those speculative opinions that fall in with the tone of the imagination.”- Specimens of British Poets, vol. vi. p. 261].
REV. HENRY GOLDSMITH.
DEAR SIR, I am sensible that the friendship between us can acquire no new force from the ceremonies of a Dedication ; and perhaps it demands an excuse thus to prefix your name to my attempts, which you decline giving with your own. But as a part of this poem was formerly written to you from Switzerland, the whole can now, with propriety, be only inscribed to you. It will also throw a light upon many parts of it, when the reader understands that it is addressed to a man, who, despising fame and fortune, has retired early to happiness and obscurity, with an income of forty pounds a year.
I now perceive, my dear brother, the wisdom of your humble choice. You have entered upon a sacred office, where the harvest is great and the labourers are but few; while you have left the field of ambition, where the labourers are many and the harvest not worth carrying away. But of all kinds of ambition, what from the refinement of the times, from different systems of criticism, and from the divisions of party, that which pursues poetical fame is the wildest. (')
(1) [" But of all kinds of ambition, as things are now circumstanced, perhaps that which pursues poetical fame is the wildest. What from the increased refinement of the times, from the diversity of judgments produced by opposing systems of criticism, and from the more prevalent ivisions of
Poetry makes a principal amusement among unpolished nations ; but in a country verging to the extremes of refinement, painting and music come in for a share. As these offer the feeble mind a less laborious entertainment, they at first rival poetry, and at length supplant her; they engross all that favour once shown to her, and, though but younger sisters, seize upon the elder's birthright.
Yet, however this art may be neglected by the powerful, it is still in great danger from the mistaken efforts of the learned to improve it. What criticisms have we not heard of late in favour of blank verse, and Pindaric odes, chorusses, anapests, and iambics, alliterative care and happy negligence ! Every absurdity has now a champion to defend it: and as he is generally much in the wrong, so he has always much to say ; for error is ever talkative.
But there is an enemy to this art still more dangerous—I mean party. Party entirely distorts the judgment and destroys the taste. When the mind is once infected with this disease, it can only find pleasure in what contributes to increase the distemper. Like the tiger, that seldom desists from pursuing man, after having once preyed upon human flesh, the reader, who has once gratified his appetite with calumny, makes ever after the most agreeable feast upon murdered reputation. Such readers generally admire some half-witted thing, who wants to be thought a bold man, having lost the character of a wise one.
Him they dignify with the name of poet : his tawdry lampoons are called satires; his turbulence is said to be force, and his phrensy fire.
opinion influenced by party, the strongest and happiest efforts can expect to please but in a very narrow circle. Though the poet were as sure of his aim as the imperial archer of antiquity, who boasted that he never missed the heart; yet would many of his shafts now fly at randomn, for the heart is too often in the wrong place.”- First edit.)
What reception a poem may find which has neither abuse, party, nor blank verse to support it, I cannot tell, nor am I solicitous to know. My aims are right. Without espousing the cause of any
rty, I have attempted to moderate the rage of all. I have endeavoured to shew, that there may be equal happiness in states that are differently governed. from our own; that every state has a particular principle of happiness, and that this principle in each may be carried to a mischievous excess. (') There are few can judge better than yourself, how far these positions are illustrated in this poem.
I am, dear Sir,
Your most affectionate Brother,
OLIVER GOLDSMITH. (*)
(1) [“ And that this principle in each state, and in our own in particular, may be carried to a mischievous excess."-- First edit.]
(2) [A feeling worthy of all praise produced this dedication to bis brother. Careless of any interests of his own which might be promoted by conciliating the powerful or the wealthy, it was intended not merely as a return of respect and attention for the kindness shown to his earlier years, but to bring into notice, and perhaps preferment, should the work become popular, a worthy, though friendless clergyman. Allusions to the motive took place in conversation with his friends, and afterwards found its way into the newspapers ; in a paragraph in imitation of a paper of Swift, where, among other instances of men who have acted nobly, is the following :—“ Dr. Goldsmith, when he dedicated his beautiful poem, the Traveller, to a man of no greater income then forty pounds a year.”-See Life, ch. xiv.]