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HE TRAVELLER" is memorable as the first of Goldsmith's
publications which appeared with his own name. Pas the experiences and the reflections of his Continental travel. Upon it he spent, during eight years of ungrateful labour,
many an hour of deep yet pleasant meditation. To it he looked, in hope and in fear, as that which was to give him name and fame. And he was not disappointed. The charms of its
composition, elegant yet simple ; the power of its descriptions, true to Nature, lively, pathetic, and picturesque; the moral, philosophic, and social opinions propounded ; the vigour and loftiness of expression which it occasionally displays—all these commended “THE TRAVELLER" to the judgment of every critic as a work of the highest merit. . Great names endorsed the popular praise. Johnson pronounced it a poem “to which it would not be easy to find anything equal since the days of Pope;" and Charles Fox said it was one of the finest poems in the English language. Time has confirmed the criticism of contemporaries. Every year " THE TRAVELLER" has grown in favour. It is now read everywhere and by every one.
Two great moralities are inculcated in this poem. One, a deep moral feeling-Home-love, the very soul of all patriotism, as it was an abiding passion in Goldsmith's heart; the other, a high moral principle of universal truth and application—that man finds his greatest happiness not in any particular region, or under any particular form of government, but in his own mind; a thought finely expressed by Milton
“The mind is its own place, and in itself
Can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven;" and that the worst of ills humanity everywhere endures are to be cured, not by human laws, but by a Divine philosophy that humanity cannot teach.
DEDICATION. TO THE 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 rest 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.
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 greater danger from the mistaken efforts of the learned to improve it. What criticisms have not been heard of late in favour of blank verse and Pindaric odes, choruses, anapests, and iambics, alliterative care and happy negligence! Every absurdity has now a champion to defend it; and as he is generally 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 dignisy with the name of a poet; his tawdry lampoons are called satires ; his turbulence is said to be force, and his frenzy fire.
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 party, I have attempted to moderate the rage of all. I have endeavoured to show 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,
· Elder's birthright. The complaint which Goldsmith (following Dryden) here makes against the sister arts of Music and Painting can scarcely be sustained. They follow the muse of Song to compete with, not to rival—to sustain, not to supplant. The painter and sculptor draw much of their inspiration from the poet, and repay him by presenting his thoughts through the medium of another sense. In our days, assuredly, the elder sisters do not engross, though they largely share, the public favour,
EMOTE, unfriended, melancholy, slow,
Or by the lazy Scheld, or wandering Po;
A weary waste expanding to the skies;
My heart, untravell’d, fondly turns to thee:
Eternal blessings crown my earliest friend,
from toil, and trim their evening fire;
| Slow.–Notwithstanding Johnson's contradiction of Goldsmith as to what he meant by this word, I am disposed to think the poet really knew what he intended to express by the term "slow" better than the lexicographer. The context is certainly in favour of “tardiness of locomotion," and to modern cars Johnson's interpretation would savour of slang. Probably the Doctor differed from his friend for the pleasure of doing so.
Laugh at the jests or pranks that never fail,
But me, not destined such delights to share,
E'en now, where Alpine solitudes ascend,
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 glittering towns, with wealth and splendour crown'd; Ye fields, where summer spreads profusion round: Ye lakes, whose vessels catch the busy gale; Ye bending swains that dress the flowery vale; For me your tributary stores combine : Creation's heir, the world, the world is mine!
As some lone miser visiting his store,