1774 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Oliver Goldsmith

Anonymous, A Monody on the Death of Oliver Goldsmith (1774) 1-26.



Dark as the night, which now in dunnest robe
Ascends her zenith, o'er the silent globe;
Sad melancholy wakes, awhile to tread,
With solemn step, the mansions of the dead:
Led by her hand, o'er this yet recent shrine
I sorrowing bend; and here essay to twine
The tributary wreath of laureate bloom,
With artless hands, to deck a poet's tomb;
The tomb where Goldsmith sleeps, Fond hopes, adieu!
No more your airy dreams shall mock my view;
Here will I learn ambition to controul,
And each aspiring passion of the soul:
When late he meditated flight from care,
When as imagination fondly hied
To scenes of sweet retirement, thus he cried.

"Ye splendid fabricks, palaces, and towers,
Where dissipation leads the giddy hours,
Where pomp, disease, and knavery reside,
And folly bends the knee to wealthy pride,
Where luxury's purveyors learn to rise,
And worth, to want a prey, unfriended dies,
Where warbling Eunuchs glitter in brocade,
And hapless Poets toil for scanty bread;
Farewell! to other scenes I turn my eyes,
Embosom'd in the vale where Auburn lies,
Deserted Auburn, those now ruin'd glades,
Forlorn, yet ever dear and honour'd shades,
There thro' the Hamlet boasts no smiling train,
Nor sportful pastime circling on the plain;
No needy villains proul around for prey,
No slanderers, no sycophants betray;
No gaudy foplings scornfully deride
The swain, whose humble pipe is all his pride.
There will I fly to seek that soft repose,
Which solitude contemplative bestows:
Yet, oh fond hope! perchance there still remains
One lingering friend behind, to bless the plains;
Some Hermit of the dale, inshrined in ease,
Long lost companion of my youthful days;
With whose sweet converse in his social bower,
I oft may chide away some vacant hour;
To whose pure sympathy, I may impart,
Each latent grief, that labours at my heart,
Whate'er I felt, and what I saw relate,
The sholes of luxury, the wrecks of state;
Those busy scenes, where science wakes in vain,
In which I shared, ah! ne'er to share again.
But whence that pang? does nature now rebel?
Why faulters out my tongue the word farewel?
Ye friends! who long have witness'd to my toil,
And seen me ploughing in a thankless soil,
Whose partial tenderness hush'd every pain,
Whose approbation made my bosom vain:
'Tis you, to whom my soul divided hies
With fond regret, and half unwilling flies,
Sighs forth her parting wishes to the wind,
And lingering leaves her better half behind.
Can I forget the intercourse I shar'd,
What friendship cherish'd, and what zeal endear'd?
Alas! remembrance still must turn to you,
And to my latest hour, protract the long adieu.
Amid the wood lands, wheresoe'er I rove,
The plain, or secret covert of the grove,
Imagination shall supply her store
Of painful bliss, and what she can restore;
Shall strew each lonely path with flowrets gay,
And wide as is her boundless empire stray,
On eagle pinions traverse earth, and skies,
And bid the lost and distant objects rise.
Here, where encircled o'er the sloping land
Woods rise on woods, shall Aristotle stand;
Lyceum round the godlike man rejoice,
And bow with reverence to wisdom's voice.
There, spreading oaks shall arch the vaulted dome,
The Champion, there, of liberty and Rome,
In attick eloquence shall thunder laws,
And uncorrupted senates shout applause.
Not more extatic visions rapt the soul
Of Numa, when to midnght grots he stole,—
And learnt his lore, from virtue's mouth refin'd,
To fetter vice, and harmonize mankind.
Now stretch'd at ease beside some fav'rite stream,
Of beauty, and enchantment will I dream;
Elysium, seats of art, and laurels won,
The Graces three, and Japhet's fabled son:
Whilst Angelo shall wave the mystic rod,
And see a new creation wait his nod;
Proscribe his bounds to Time's remorseless power,
And, to my arms, my absent friends restore,
Place me amidst the group, each well known face,
The sons of science, lords of human race;
And as oblivion sinks at his command,
Nature shall rise more finish'd from his hand.
Thus some Magician fraught with potent skill,
Transforms, and moulds each varied mass at will;
Calls animated forms of wonderous birth,
Cadmean offspring, from the teeming eaarth,
Uncears the ponderous tombs, the realms of night,
And calls their cold inhabitants to light;
Or, as he traverses a dreary scene,
Bids every sweet of nature there convene,
Huge mountains skirted round with wavy woods,
The shrub deckt lawns, and silver sprinkled floods,
Whilst flowrets spring around the smiling land,
And follow on the traces of his wand.

"Such prospects, lovely Auburn! then, be thine;
And what thou canst of bliss impart be mine:
Amid thy humble shades, in tranquil ease,
Grant me to pass the remnant of my days.
Unfetter'd from the toil of wretched gain,
My raptur'd muse shall pour her noblest strain,
Within her native bowers the notes prolong,
And, grateful, meditate her latest song.
Thus, as adown the slope of life I bend,
And move, resign'd, to meet my latter end,
Each worldly wish, each worldly care represt,
A self approving heart alone possest,
Content, to bounteous heaven I'll leave the rest."

Thus, spoke the Bard: but not one friendly power,
With nod assentive crown'd the parting hour;
No eastern meteor glar'd beneath the sky,
No dextral omen; Nature heav'd a sigh
Prophetic of the dire impending blow,
The presage of her loss, and Britain's woe.
Already portion'd, unrelenting Fate
Had made a pause upon the number'd date;
Behind, stood Death, too horrible for sight,
In darkness clad, expectant, prun'd for flight;
Pleas'd at the word, the shapeless monster sped,
On eager message to the humble shed,
Where wrapt by soft poetic Visions round,
Sweet slumbering, Fancy's darling son he found.
At his approach the silken pinion'd train
Affrighted, mount aloft, and quit the brain;
Which late they fann'd: now other scenes the dales
Of woody pride, succeed, or flow'ry vales;
As when a sudden tempest veils the sky,
Before serene, and streamy lightnings fly;
The prospect shifts, and pitchy volumes roll,
Along the drear expanse, from pole to pole;
Terrific horrors all the void invest,
Whilst the Archspectre issue forth confest.
The Bard beholds him beckon to the tomb
Of yawning night, eternity's dread womb;
In vain attempts to fly, th' impassive air
Retards his steps, and yields him to despair,
He feels a gripe that thrills thro' ev'ry vein,
And panting struggles in the fatal chain.
Here paus'd the fell Destroyer to survey
The pride, the boast of man, his destin'd prey:
Prepar'd to strike, he pois'd aloft the dart,
And plung'd the still in Virtue's bleeding heart;
Abhorrent, back the springs of life rebuond,
And leave on nature's face a grisly wound,
A wound enroll'd among Britannia's woes,
That ages yet to follow, cannot close.

Oh, Goldsmith! how shall sorrow now essay
To murmur out her slow incondite lay?
In what sad accents mourn the luckless hour,
That yielded thee to unrelenting power;
Thee, the proud boast, of all the tuneful train
That sweep the lyre, or swell the polish'd strain?
Much honour'd Bard! if my untutor'd verse
Could pay a tribute, worthy of thy hearse,
With fearless hands I'd build the fane of praise,
And boldly strew the never fading bays.
But ah! with thee my guardian Genius fled,
And pillow'd in thy tomb his silent head:
Pain'd Memory alone behind remains,
And pensive stalks with solitary plains,
Rich in her sorrows, honours without art,
And say, what boots it o'er thy hallow'd dust
To heap a graven pile, or laurell'd bust;
Since by thy hands already rais'd on high,
We see a fabrick tow'ring to the sky;
Where hand and hand with time, the sacred lore
Shall travel on, till nature is no more?

Illustrious Bard! is this thy sad adieu,
Are these the prospects bright'ning to the view,
Such the expected solace of thy years,
Thy blest retirement from a world of cares?
Mourn, mourn the sad reverse, ye shady hills,
Ye vales of Auburn, and ye falling rills!
Ah, could not Science ward the cruel blow,
And snatch her darling from the fates below?
Could that etherial spark of vital fire,
Sink down to naught and in the dust expire?
Must Virtue, undistinguish'd, yield her breath,
And glut the all devouring maw of death?
Remorseless Power! no other could'st thou find,
Amidst the various crouds, that swell mankind?
No Miser bending o'er his sordid ore,
No Atheist, that spread his venom'd store?
None, but the glory of a beggar'd age,
To mark the annals of thy bloody page?
Thee, Tyrant! hadst thou waked his slumbering lyre,
He would have sooth'd, and charm'd away thy ire;
With sweeter numbers, than the dulcet strain
That wrapt in wonders Pluto's gloomy reign,
He would have turn'd aside the lifted spear,
And taught thy orbs to drop the molten tear.

Fall thus the hopes of man; shall Merit claim
No sublunary crown beside a name?
Where vanish'd all those groves, and happy bowers,
That fond imagination strew'd with flowers?
Is there, on earth below, no destin'd spot,
Where certain happiness is Virtue's lot,
Where labour terminates in blissful rest,
And Age unmock'd sits down securely blest?
Why ventures Science in th' unfathom'd deep
Of letter'd lore, or why the weary steep
Does proud Ambition climb; since Death at will
Surmounts all bounds, and traverses our skill;
Treads on the footsteps of unfinish'd toil,
And strews his path with the illustrious spoil;
And e'er the travell'd volume of renown,
Matures a name, enrolls it as his own?

Ah! what avails it o'er the sacred head,
That wreaths of never fading laurels spread,
Since he, for whom they wore their choicest bloom,
Is sunk for ever in an early tomb?
Goldsmith, the sweetest shepherd of the plain,
Whose pipe in rapture held the list'ning swain,
Whilst all the rustick nymphs with wonder hung,
On the soft numbers of his tuneful tongue;
And all the feather'd Soothers of the spray
In silence husht, forget their thrilling lay.
Since he is dead, on whose melodious song
Sequester'd Echo paus'd her wilds among,
Whom passing Winds attentive stoop'd to hear,
And furl'd their pinions in the mild career.
Sweet was his voice, and from the oozy beds
Of Thames, the Naids rais'd their dropping heads
To catch the sound; oft sought the spardeckt cave,
Where once Musaeus charm'd the lucid wave;
And fondly deeming him, they long had mourn'd,
From bowers elysian, to his grot return'd,
With joy elate, along the sloping banks,
Tripp'd o'er the spangled sand, in azure ranks.
Sweet were his notes, as e'er down his shore
With woody verdure pendant, Mincius bore:
Or e'er were heard from muses harp inspir'd,
On Pindus' top, with lofty note attir'd:
Or Dorian reed, that 'mid Sicilia's shades,
Drew forth the Hamadryads from their glades,
When Fawns, and shaggy Satyrs crouding round,
Grinn'd their applause, and frolick'd at the sound.

Now let dark Envy to her ragged rocks
Retire content, and smooth her snaky locks.
Let Ignorance in triumph o'er the dead,
From Lethe's pool her drowsy myriads lead.
Now issue forth ye scribbling motley race;
Ye taudry witlings deckt in tarnish'd lace.
Aspire to fame, ye sons of careless rhyme,
Who reel in verse, and fancy that you climb,
Eccentrically dull; and you ye croud,
In affectation turgid, minstrels loud,
Who tottering with loads of antique phrase,
Pursue simplicity within a maze;
Or bind your temples with barbaric pride,
And ape in tortur'd strut the buskin'd stride.
Now like the the frantic Thyades of yore,
Sing evohe! and swell the hideous roar,
Orpheus is gone, and harmony's no more!
Mute is the voice that late so sweetly sung,
His pipe is broken, and his lyre unstrung;
Low in the earth the tuneful bard is laid,
And the green turf now blossoms o'er his head.

Oh, say, ye sacred nine! who now remains
To strike the lyre on Britain's lonely plains?
Why were ye absent in that fatal day,
When Goldsmith sunk to fell disease a prey?
What rites on distant climes did ye prepare,
Unmindful of your charge your darling care;
What infant bard, with honey dropping lip,
Did ye in Aganippe's fountain dip?
Or tripp'd ye then along the Danube's shores,
Where proud Vienna views his copious stores?
Or trimm'd your smiling brows with wanton bays,
Where the loud Rhone his rapid wave displays?
How will ye now compensate for the hour
That swept away the pride of Auburn's bower?
Say, do ye oft around his tomb repair,
To vent your grief, and drop the silent tear?
For, ah! if yet ye have not fled this isle,
Haply you then may deign with me awhile
To pour your plaints; and kindly lend your aid
To deck the grave, where your lov'd bard is laid.

Bring hither ev'ry flower of fragrant bloom,
And strew the drooping violets o'er his tomb.
Goldsmith is gone, whom mental grace refin'd,
At once the friend of virtue, and mankind.
Great nature spread her bounties at his feet,
Exalted was his soul, his converse sweet.
Tho' Science there had heap'd her fairest store,
No haughty pedantry display'd the lore:
Instructive without pride, or labour'd art,
His precepts flow'd the emblems of his heart.
Tho' simple, witty; tho' polite, sincere;
By Knaves, and Coxcombs only found severe.
Unskill'd was he his feelings to disguise,
Too proud for flattery, too meek to rise.
The bosom friend of unsuspicious ease,
Pleasing, unconscious of his power to please.
From him the momentary fancy broke,
And expectation prais'd him e'er he spoke.

Bring hither ev'ry flower of fragrant bloom,
And strew sweet Amaranthus o'er his tomb.
What now shall painful memory review,
Or how shall I the mournful theme pursue?
Witness, ye shepherds! what ye oft have shar'd,
What kind benevolence the man endear'd:
Witness, ye sons of want! for ye can tell,
What blessings from his ample bounty fell.
No wealth had he; yet lib'ral, tho' poor,
He shar'd with penury the scanty store:
Wretches in vain ne'er made their misery known,
He gave, and in their wants, forgot his own.

Here o'er his tomb the flow'ry Jes'mine strew,
With Roses freshen'd from the morning dew.
What tho' our plaintive murmurs flow in vain,
Tho' memory but swells the hoard of pain?
Hence, weak Philosophy! that would'st repress
The rising throb, and chide away distress:
Not all the boastful pedantry of schools,
Nor all the Stoicks pomp of specious rules,
Shall all the blush upon one rising sigh,
Or check the friendly tribute of the eye:
Fit lesson for the torpid cloyster'd Drone,
To tutor feelings, that were ne'er his own,
Who unendear'd to ev'ry noble tie,
Has learnt in pride to quench humanity.
Too soon, alas! untaught, reflection hies
To other scenes, where other cares arise;
Too soon remembrance follows on behind
To Virtue's tomb, and quits the shifting mind.
But o'er the earth, where Goldsmith's relicks sleep,
Let me in sorrow wrapt, my vigils keep;
And see some nobler muse than mine, adorn
With never fading wreaths his laureate urn.

Here bring the Myrtle green, the mantling Bays,
And o'er his tomb poetic Trophies raise.
High, above alpine solitudes sublime,
He soars secure, and seeks a fairer clime.
Like some proud Eagle on a mountain's brow
Awhile he tow'r'd, and cast his eye below;
In hopes some real Happiness to find,
Some Bliss yet unalloy'd among mankind;
Then spurn'd aloft, to heaven's portal flew
A welcome guest, and bad the world adieu.

Here bring the Myrtle green, the mantling Bays,
And o'er his tomb poetic Trophies raise.
He, who e'er while with philosophic eye,
Scann'd Nature's treasure, and her social tie;
Weigh'd different good, or ill to nations given
And in the balance found each portion even;
[Since, tho' Egyptia boasts no vernal showers,
That round Italia, call the blushing flowers;
Yet from the Nile the genial shore's supplied,
When Abyssinia's summits swell the tide:
Since here tho' wild Tornadoes threat the skies,
There the dread Siroc, or the Saniel flies:]
He, now exalted treads the realms above,
Where worlds immense on worlds contentral move;
And stretching wide his prospect unconfin'd,
Discerns how all their blessings are combin'd,
Whether they bask within the scorching glare,
Or trail remote in frost, their dark career.
Now soars where Mercury on wings of fire,
Flies, unattended, in his rapid gyre:
Or where with epicycled Orbs around,
Slow Saturn wheels, begirt, the dread profound:
And views, as Systems above Systems roll,
The vast Oeconomy that guides the whole.

Here strew the laurel Chaplets, hither bring
The earliest honours of the blooming spring.
Say, thou bright Spirit! dost thou deign to bend
Thy radiant eyes below, and here descend
To visit those whom thou hast left behind,
And trace the weary mazes of mankind?
Say, do thy sympathetic sorrows fall
To see the hoard of human bliss so small:
Or does thy soul each wandering Hope at rest,
Rejoice at last in viewing Mortals blest?
In all the busy walks of Life, shall Man
Extend his own, beyond his fellows span?
Can he, who plods with science through the Chain,
Of social bliss, diffuse a various reign,
O'er space already trod; and turn the mind
To gather up each link he left behind;
Or shifting place, still measures he no more,
And drops for new, some link possess'd before?
As when some Vessel ploughs her briny way,
To distant shores, along the trackless sea;
Still as the Prow each adverse billow braves,
Its Furrow closes with the parting waves;
Still tho' she traverses the aqueous round,
An equal concave in her prospect's bound.
Why, then, should philosophic pride disdain,
That Joy, which makes each humbler bosom vain?
Or shares he less, who shuns th' ambitious toil
Of plucking happiness from Learning's soil;
Nor idly lur'd, a distant good pursues,
'Till Death steps in, and intercepts his views;
'Till Age stripos off the glitt'ring dress it wore,
And those he wish'd to share it, are no more;
Nor from the hoard concenter'd in his breast,
Learns to derive his Joys, and be self blest:
But gathers sweets, whilst yet within his pow'r,
And clasps the blessing of the present hour?
Thou gentle Spirit! haply now the eye
Wakes o'er the Mansions, where thy relicks lie,
And smiles, complacent, as it round surveys
The humble tribute veneration pays.

Here strew the laurel wreaths, and hither bring
The earliest honours of the blooming Spring.
O thou! beneath whose guidance, and whose skill
I fondly hop'd to climb the sacred hill
Of steep Parnassus, and from thence aspire
To snatch some portion of celestial fire:
Too early lost, e'er yet I durst essay
To tempt with infant step, the weary way:
Deign, now, thy secret influence to impart,
And still correct, and aid a feeble heart,
Teach me the path of virtue to explore,
And guide thro' mazes thou hast trod before,
Instruct me in her praise like thee to sing,
And sweep with manly strength the sounding string.
But oh! whene'er for flatt'rys servile hire,
I meanly stoop to prostitute the lyre,
Or, loosely vile, contrive the luring strain,
To add some thoughtless wretch to vices train;
Let torpid dullness o'er my fancy spread,
And not one Laurel bloom to crown my head.

Here to this tomb, ye tuneful Muses! bring
The earliest Incense of the fragrant Spring.
Here, as the pendant Umbrage nods above,
And twining Myrtles croud into a Grove;
A chaster Fount than Helicon shall flow,
And spread around its mirror'd wave below.
Here, future Bards shall quaff inspiring streams,
And on the margin wait poetic dreams.
No impious wretch with step profane and rude,
Shall dare within these awful shades intrude.
No profligate shall e'er presume to sip
The wavy crystal, with unhallow'd lip.
Far be the converse of the busy croud,
The sons of noisy Mirth, and riot loud;
No sound shall wake the stillness of the bower,
Save, where, the soother of the pensive hour,
Sweet Philomel responsive to the strains,
Of some soft lyre, melodiously complains.
Oft whilst such musick lulls the vacant ear,
I'll turn to drop the tributary tear,
And oft with musing Melancholy tread
Along the green, where Britain's bard is laid.

Here, let us cease the laureate Wreaths to strew,
And bid awhile the mournful theme adieu.
Ye Rocks, and Mountains far from ev'ry eye,
Sequester'd solitudes, to you I fly!
Receive me early to your blest retreats,
Far from the curse that on Ambition waits:
With you, I'll lull each idle wish to rest,
And learn, tho' poor, to think myself still blest.
For, ah! what now remains since he is fled,
Whose friendly hand my footsteps shou'd have led.
What hope for me, since he on whose sweet tongue,
The softest accents of the Muses hung,
Drew on in penury his toilsome days,
And reap'd no recompence but empty praise?
Farewell ye Nymphs Pierian, and ye strains
Of plaintive woe: tho' much unsung remains.
Here let us cease our laureate wreaths to strew,
Goldsmith, accept our sorrow's sad Adieu.

[pp. 1-26]