1774 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Oliver Goldsmith

Anonymous, in An Impartial Character of the late Dr. Goldsmith (1774); London Chronicle (9 July 1774) 29.



Here rests from the cares of the world, and his pen,
A Poet whose life we shall scarce meet again,
Who though form'd in an age when corruptions ran high,
And folly alone seem'd with folly to vie,
When Genius, with traffic too commonly train'd,
Recounted her merits by what she had gain'd,
Yet spurn'd at those walks of debasement and pelf,
And, in poverty's spite, dare think for himself.
Thus free from those fetters the Muses oft bind,
He wrote from the heart to the hearts of mankind;
And such was the prevalent force of his song,
Sex — ages, and parties, he drew in a throng.

The lovers, 'twas theirs to esteem and commend,
For his Hermit had prov'd him their tutor and friend;
The Statesman, his politic passions on fire,
Acknowledg'd repose from the charms of his lyre;
The Moralist too had a feel for his rhymes,
For his Essays were curbs on the rage of the times;
Nay the Critic, all school'd in grammatical sense,
Who look'd in the glow of description for tense;
Reform'd as he read, fell a dupe to his art,
And confess'd by his eyes what he felt at his heart.
Yet, blest with original powers like these,
His principal forte was on paper to please;
Like a fleet-footed hunter, tho' first in the chace,
On the road of plain sense he deserted his pace,
Whilst dullness and cunning, by whipping and goring
Their hard-footed hackneys paraded before him;
Compounded likewise of such primitive parts,
That his manners alone would have gain'd him our hearts;
So simple from truth — so ingenuously kind,
So ready to feel for the wants of mankind:
If an Author once held but a popular quill,
This flux of Philanthropy quickly stood still;
Transform'd from himself he grew meanly severe,
And rail'd at those talents he ought not to fear.

Such then were his foibles — but though they were such
As shadow'd the picture a little too much,
The style was all graceful, expressive and grand,
And the whole the result of a masterly hand.