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himself to indulge. “Of all kinds of ambition,” he remarks in the Dedication to the TRAVELLER,“ what from the refinement of the times, from different systems of criticism, and from the division of party, that which pursues poetical fame is the wildest." These two great poems are the only fruits of that native ambition : his other works were written for the booksellers.
Both The Traveller and The Deserted VilLAGE were the result of the inspiration of genuine feeling. The characteristic sketches of the several nations visited by the Traveller, derived from actual observation the philosophical accuracy with which they are drawn: and it is remarkable how, in many instances, the more romantic estimate of the poet is corrected by the nearer view which the TRAveller takes of the scenes that delight the imagination; we need only refer to that exquisite passage, in which he points out the evils which counterbalance the advantages of an inferior degree of civilisation.
“If few their wants, their pleasures are bat few;
To fill the languid pause with finer joy.' Goldsmith has introduced bimself into one of his landscapes, in which be alludes to the manner in which he made “ the grand tour,”
-on foot, and “trusting to Providence for his resources.” The lines are these:
“How often have I led thy sportive choir With tuneless pipe, beside the murmuring Loire ! Where shading elms along the margin grew, And freshen'd from the wave tbe zephyr flew : And haply, though my harsh touch, faltering still, But mock'd all tune, and marr’d the dancer's skill; Yet would the village praise my wondrous power, And dance, forgetful of the noontide hour.” The account which he was accustomed to give of his own travels, so nearly resembled those of the wanderer in the Vicar of WAKEFIELD, that the following particulars are, not without good reason, conjectured by his biographer to refer to himself. “I had some knowledge of music, and now turned what was once my amusement into a present means of subsistence. Whenever I approached a peasant's house towards night-fall, I played one of my most merry tunes, and that procured me not only a lodging, but subsistence for the next day. Ionceortwice attempted to play to people of fashion, but they still thought my performance odious, and never rewarded me even with a trifle.” His classical learning also procured him a hospitable reception, and sometimes a gratuity, at the monasteries. “Thus” says he, “I fought my way from convent to convent, walked from city to city, examined mankind more nearly, and, if I may so express it, saw both sides of the picture.”
The professed design of The Traveller, is to establish as an axiom, “ that every state has a particular principle of happiness, and that this principle in each may be carried to a mischievous excess.” The reader, however, concerns himself little with our author's position ; but as scene after scene is presented to his imagination in all the force of contrast, and all the warmth and vividness of a poet's colouring, his admiration grows into sympathy, he realizes the feelings of the Traveller, and is at length pleased to find himself conducted so pleasantly to the gratifying conclusion, that
" where'er we roam, “ His first, best country ever is at home.” The Deserted Village is the favourite poem of the two; and perhaps no poem in the language, of equal length, has been more generally or repeatedly read by all classes, or has more frequently supplied extracts, to be spontaneously committed to memory. It abounds with couplets and single lines, so simply beautiful in point of sentiment, and so perfect in expression, that the ear is delighted to retain them for their melody, and the memory is unwilling to lose them for their truth. A person who has never perused this poem, or who having once perused it has suffered it to lay by him for a series of years, is surprised, on taking it up, to recognise at every paragraph, lines with which he has long been familiarized, although not aware of their author. Pope himself, with all his sparkling antitheses, which serve admirably to point a sentence, is not referred to with that fondness with which a quotation is made from The Deserted VILLAGE, because Pope rarely, if ever, comes home to the feelings like Goldsmith, or appeals to those best affections of our nature which consecrate the names of country and of home. Milton, especially in his Comus, Shakspeare, and in an inferior degree Thomson, and Young, and Cowper, may be enumerated as the only poets, besides Pope and Goldsmith, whose works have come into general use as text books of expression, and which have thus become in a measure identified with the language. It is unnecessary to point out how widely these all differ in style and character. Goldsmith's charateristic is a prevailing simplicity, which conceals the artifices of versification. His delineations of rural scenery, and his village portraits, are marked by singular fidelity and chasteness: they are delicately finished, without being overwrought; and there is a mixture of pleasantry and tender melancholy throughout the poem, which adds much to its interest.
There can be no doubt that AUBURN was employed to designate the scene of Goldsmith's earliest local attachment. The landscape, the characters, and the circumstances of the tale, all appear to have had a seal existence in the eye and in the heart of the poet. It is no objection, that the scene is purely English: the poem was designed for English readers; but the feelings and the remembrances which it imbodies, were drawn from his native soil. It is supposed that the village of Lishoy, in the county of Westmeath, Ireland, where his early years were passed, is the
spot to which he pays this tribute of affection. His letters, no less than his poetry, breathe an ardent attachment to bis native country. He speaks of his
unaccountable fondness” for a country out of which be brought nothing except his brogue and his blunders; describes himself as suffering from the maladie de pays; and confesses that he carries this fondness to the souring of the pleasures he possesses.
If I go to the Opera, where Signora Columba pours out all the mazes of melody, I sit and sigh for Lishoy fireside, and Johnny Armstrong's Last Good Night from Peggy Golden; if I climb up Falmstead Hill, than where Nature never exhibited a more magnificent prospect, I confess it fine; but then I had rather be placed on the little mount before Lishoy gate, and there take in, to me the most pleasing horizon in nature.”
In confirmation of this conjecture, it seems that the inhabitants of Lisboy pointed out, to a recent visitant of the spot, remains of the principal objects referred to in the poem, the situation of which exactly corresponded with the description there given.
“The never failing brook, the busy mill,
The hawthorn bushSome circumstances, too*, which occurred at Lishoy during our poet's life, and which issued in the emigration of some hundreds to other parts of the country and to America, may well be supposed to bave suggested the subject of the poem.
The “ Village Preacher,” which has every appearance of being drawn from the life, answers to the character of the poet's brother, to whom he dedicated his TRAVELLER, and of whom he always spoke in terms of the warmest affection. It is singular, that the income on which, in the Dedication to the Traveller, Goldsmith represents his brother as retiring to happy
Goldsmith's Poetical Works, with topographical illustrations of the Deserted Village, by the Rev. Mr. Newell. 4to. 1811, p. 72.
obscurity, exactly corresponds with the stipend of the village preacher;
- passing rich with forty pounds a year.” He was curate of Lishoy upon a small salary, and died “ within four years preceding the publication of The Deserted VILLAGE.” The “ Broken Soldier” also is supposed to have had a prototype in the person of a schoolmaster, from whom Goldsmith had received instruction in reading, writing, and arithmetic, and who had served as a quarter-master in Queen Anne's wars. “Having traveled over a considerable part of Europe,” we are informed, and being of a romantic turn, he used to entertain Oliver with his adventures ; and the impression they made upon his scholar was believed by his family to have given him that wandering and unsettled turn which so much appeared in his future life.”
Among Goldsmith's minor poems, the beautiful ballad of The Hermit deserves to be particularized. It was first printed in the year 1765; in which year Dr. Percy, afterwards Bishop of Dromore, published his elegant collection, entitled “ Reliques of Ancient English Poetry.” That work contains a tale framed on a plan so similar, that the Doctor was taxed by the scribblers of the day with having taken bis ballad from the “Friar of Orders Gray.” This charge he repelled in a letter to the editor of the St. James's Chronicle, June, 1767, with all a poet's feverish solicitude for fame, asserting the priority of his own poem. But it appears from Dr. Percy's statement, that the story on which both poems are founded was taken from a very ancient ballad in that collection, beginning, “ Gentle heardsman.” This ballad Dr. Goldsmith had seen and admired long before it was printed ; and some of the stanzas he appears, perhaps undesignedly, to have imitated in The Hermit.
The following additional stanza, which should come after the twenty-ninth, is given in the octavo edition