The character of Oliver Goldsmith offers many points of deep disquisition, which have never yet been entered upon, in an interesting, and still less in a satisfactory, manner. I feel my own inability, as well as my want of materials, to execute this task myself at any time, but more especially at the present, when a want of time and a great hurry of spirits must weaken the little powers I possess. Nevertheless the occasion calls; and I must do the best, which it admits.
Genius, we well know, surmounts the barriers of unpropitious circumstances, and is independent of birth, fortune, and opportunity. In the descent and early education of Goldsmith there was indeed nothing unfavourable to the powers he afterwards displayed; but in the events of his life, which immediately followed, in the indiscretion of his conduct, which had often the appearance of absolute fatuity, he had violent prejudices and difficulties to conquer, over which his brilliant talents triumphantly prevailed.
Our poet, a native of Ireland, was born 29 Nov. 1728, at the parish of Forney, in the county of Longford. His father was the Rev. Charles Goldsmith, afterwards minister of Kilkenny West in the county of Westmeath. His mother's name was Anne Jones. He received the first rudiments of learning from a village schoolmaster, who had been a quarter-master in Queen Anne's wars, and having been a great traveller, and possessing a romantic turn of mind, is supposed to have given his pupil the first tincture of that wandering and unsettled turn, which afterwards became a prominent trait of his life.
At this period his relations describe him to have exhibited many of those characteristics of moody thoughtfulness, or sudden vivacity, which Beattie so beautifully attributes to his young Minstrel, Edwin. These qualities at length induced his father, embarrassed as he was by a large family, and small income, to send him to the University of Dublin, with the assistance of the Rev. Thos. Contarine, a man of eminent learning, and a generous spirit, who had married his aunt. In June 1744 he was accordingly entered at Dublin College. But his tutor, Mr. Wilder, was a man of savage disposition, and perhaps laid the seeds of all his future misfortunes. Once when Goldsmith offended against the discipline of the place, by giving a supper and dance in his rooms, this man broke in upon the party with so much rudeness, and treated his pupil with such ferocity, that the disgraced lad fled from the University, and wandered about for six weeks, none of his friends knew whither, till all his money and claims of hospitality were exhausted, when he returned pennyless to his mother's house.
While he remained at college he gave few proofs of those extraordinary endowments, which Nature had bestowed on him. His hard-hearted and undiscerning tutor had broken his spirit, and brought on an habitual despondence, which was attended by its constant concomitant, a morbid indolence. He was generally seen lounging in the gateway in a state of apparent stupor; while flimsy witlings passed him by in scorn, and gloried in their own superiority.
Conceive the indignant flashes, which must now and then even at this period have lightened through the gloom of his mind. "These triflers, so vain of their slender faculties; these insects now fluttering in the short sunshine of unmerited encouragement! The day will yet come, when the blaze of my reputation shall eclipse and mortify them, and give me ample vengeance for these insults! Stupid and heavy as they deem my intellects, that very heaviness is brooding over scenes of future fertility, which shall put my enemies to shame, and unexpectedly astonish my despairing friends!"
He was not admitted to the degree of A.B. till Feb. 1749, two years after the regular time. It seems that he had lost his father at this time, and that his uncle Contarine supplied his place. This good man enabled him to remove to Edinburgh in 1752 to study physic; where he attended the lectures of Monro, and other professors in the medical line. In a letter dated 26 Sept. 1753, he has given a ludicrous account of Edinburgh society at this time.
From Edinburgh he removed to Leyden, where he stayed about a year. Here he suffered many vicissitudes from an indulgence of that unhappy love of gambling, from which he never afterwards was free, and which rendered the affluent income of his latter days not much more capable of preserving him from pecuniary embarrassment, than the slender one of his former life.
Driven by distress thus created from Leyden, he is said to have set out, with no money in his pocket, a pedestrian wanderer on the tour of Europe; and many of the particulars ascribed to the traveller in the Vicar of Wakefield are believed to have happened to himself; especially, his obtaining entrance and entertainment at the houses of the peasantry by the exhibition of his humble skill in music. When he approached one of these cottages at night-fall, he played one of his merriest tunes; and the doors of the generous inhabitants were instantly opened to him. What an affecting picture of fortitude in adversity! What a romantic tale, if exhibited in all its circumstances, by the glowing pencil of Genius! With a sensibility acute in itself, which must ever be the case with men of vivid intellect; but rendered trebly active by the scenes of difficulty, in which he was placed,
Remote, unfriended, melancholy —
with what gratitude and delight, must he have looked on those, who thus received "the houseless stranger." With what feelings of admiration and affection must he have beheld the face of the simple peasant-girl listening to his music and his stories!
It is said that in these wanderings Goldsmith first felt within him the powers of a poet; and that at this time he first made many of the sketches, which lie afterwards worked into such beautiful pictures in his poem, entitled "The Traveller."
In this way he passed through Flanders, and some parts of France and Germany, to Switzerland, a country, in which he found peculiar pleasure. "I fought my way," said he, "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."
He now visited all the northern part of Italy; and beheld Venice, Verona, and Florence. At this period he lost his uncle, who was his principal supporter, and resolved to return home. He had still no means of travelling but on foot; in which manner he returned through France, and reached Dover in 1756.
Hence he resorted to the capital, where yet without money, or friends, he had to seek the means of subsistence. Those means were difficult to be found even in an humble capacity, by a stranger of unpolished manners and neglected appearance. He sought admission as an usher into some school or academy; but even there experienced little facility in the attainment of his wishes. Such however was his well-grounded pride, and just confidence in his future eminence, that his applications were made in a feigned name; and when he had occasion to seek the recommendation of Dr. Radcliff, who had been joint tutor to him with his cruel enemy, he informed him of this circumstance, and requested him to humour this innocent concealment.
He probably did not long continue this degrading employment, but next applied for the place of an assistant in the shops of apothecaries and druggists, which from his forlorn figure and uncouth dialect he did not procure without much mortification and many denials.
At length he met with his friend Dr. Sleigh, with whom he had been a fellow-student at Edinburgh. By the assistance of this affectionate and liberal man, he resolved to commence the practice of his original profession of physic, which he began first in Southwark, and afterwards in the neighbourhood of the Temple. It is probable he was not very successful; but the comparative dignity of his new situation perhaps revived his spirits, and gave him leisure to attempt those literary occupations, by which he was ere long to acquire so much fame, and so much money.
In a letter to an Irish friend, dated 27 Dec. 1757, written with all that simplicity and naivete, which afterwards so much distinguished the style of this writer, he says, "I suppose you desire to know my present situation. As there is nothing in it, at which I should blush, or which mankind could censure, I see no reason for making it a secret; in short, by a very little practice as a physician, and a very little reputation as a poet, I make I shift to live. Nothing is more apt to introduce us to the gates of the Muses than poverty; but it were well, if they only left us at the door: the mischief is, they sometimes give us their company at the entertainment; and Want, instead of being gentleman-usher, often turns master of the ceremonies. Thus, upon hearing I write, no doubt you imagine I starve; and the name of an author naturally reminds you of a garret. In this particular I do not think proper to undeceive my friends."
The next year Goldsmith had an intention of going physician to one of the factories in India, for which he obtained a regular appointment. This intention gradually cooled, and was at last laid aside. At this time he was employed about eight months by Mr. Griffiths in writing for the Monthly Review. And in 1759 he published his Enquiry into the present State of Polite Literature in Europe. Printed for Dodsley, 1759. 12mo.
At this time the poet occupied mean and dirty lodgings in Green-Arbour-Court, Old Bailey. He afterwards removed to better apartments in Wine-Office-Court, Fleet Street, where he wrote his Vicar of Wakefield, which he sold on a pecuniary emergency to Mr. Newbery, for £60. In 1761 commenced his acquaintance with Dr. Johnson. In the course of the three or four subsequent years, his connection with Newbery drew on him many other literary tasks, which he executed for his subsistence. Among these were his Letters on English History, 2 vols. 12mo. and his Letters of a Chinese Philosopher, published in the "Ledger," and collected by Newbery into 2 vols. 12mo. His best fugitive pieces were also collected under the title of Essays, 1765, 12mo.
At this period he had a project of obtaining a mission into the internal parts of Africa, in search of knowledge; and applied to Lord Bute for a salary to enable him to undertake it. But in vain: for his reputation was not yet established.
At length in 1765 his celebrated poem, The Traveller, was given to the public, and immediately raised him to a high seat in the temple of fame. Lord Nugent, himself a minor poet, now became his patron; and introduced him to the Earl of Northumberland, who regretted he did not know his desire of travelling to Africa, during his Lieutenancy of Ireland, which he had lately resigned, as he would have procured him a salary on the Irish establishment for that purpose: though Johnson observed that of all men Goldsmith was least fitted for such an employment, as he knew nothing of the state of the arts he was about to quit.
In 1764 our author took up his abode in the Temple, where after changing his chambers twice he closed his life. About this time he was one of the institutors of the Literary Club. In 1765 he gave the public his Ballad of The Hermit.
He was now encouraged to try the drama by his comedy of "The Good Natured Man," which was represented at Covent Garden, 29 Jan. 1768. During the intervals of his greater works, he supported himself, as usual, by several historical compilations for the booksellers.
The Deserted Village appeared in 1769. The next year he made a short trip to Paris, in company with a party of ladies. In 1771, it appears by a letter to Mr. Bennet Langton, that he was busily employed about his History of the Earth and Animated Nature, which did not make its appearance till 1774, in 8 vols. 8vo.
On 15th March, 1773, his second comedy, The Mistakes of a Night; or She Stoops to Conquer, was acted at Covent Garden, with the highest applause.
Notwithstanding the various works, which he had now produced with so much credit, and for which he was most liberally paid, his total want of prudence and management, added to that unfortunate addiction to gambling, which had aggravated the difficulties of his earlier life, had now so far embarrassed his circumstances, as to prey upon his mind, which in the Spring of 1774, brought on his old complaint, the strangury. This increased so far, as on the 25th of March to bring on a violent fever. Medical assistance was called in; but the symptoms became every day more unfavourable; and unluckily he persisted against the advice and importunities of those who attended him, in an improper use of James's Powders. After ten days struggle, his disorder terminated in death, on the 4th of April 1774, in the 46th year of his age.
Of this extraordinary, but inconsistent man, what Garrick said, is well known, that
He wrote like an angel, but talk'd like poor Poll!
Garrick further characterized him with much severity in the following fable.
JUPITER AND MERCURY.
Here, Hermes, says Jove, who with nectar was mellow,
Go, fetch me some clay; I will make an odd fellow;
Right and wrong shall be jumbled; much gold and some dross
Without cause be he pleas'd, without cause be he cross;
Be sure, as I work, to throw in contradictions,
A great love of truth, yet a mind turn'd to fictions;
Now mix these ingredients, which, warm'd in the baking,
Turn'd to learning and gaming, religion and raking.
With the love of a wench, let his writings be chaste;
Tip his tongue with strange matter, his pen with fine taste;
That the rake and the poet o'er all may prevail,
Set fire to the head, and set fire to the tail:
For the joy of each sex, on the world I'll bestow it,
This scholar, rake, Christian, dope, gamester, and poet:
Though a mixture so odd, he shall merit great fame,
And among brother mortals be GOLDSMITH his name.
When on earth this strange mixture no more shall appear,
You, Hermes, shall fetch him, to make us sport here.
Beattie's opinion of his character, not inconsistent with this, has already been given in Vol. III. p. 130 of this work. "Goldsmith's common conversation," says he, "was a strange mixture of absurdity and silliness; of silliness so great, as to make me think sometimes that he affected it. Yet he was a great genius of no mean rank: somebody, who knew him well, called him an inspired ideot. His ballad of Edwin and Angelina, is exceedingly beautiful; and in his two other poems, though there be great inequalities, there is pathos, energy, and even sublimity."
CHARACTER OF GOLDSMITH BY BOSWELL.
"No man had the art of displaying with more advantage as a writer, whatever literary acquisitions he made. 'Nihil quod tetigit von ornavit.' His mind resembled a fertile, but thin soil. There was a quick, but not a strong vegetation, of whatever chanced to be thrown upon it. No deep root could be struck. The oak of the forest did not grow there; but the elegant shrubbery, and the fragrant parterre appeared in gay succession. It has been generally believed that he was a mere fool in conversation; but in truth this has been greatly exaggerated. He had, no doubt, a more than common share of that hurry of ideas which we often find in his countrymen, and which sometimes produces a laughable confusion in expressing them. He was very much what the French call 'un etourdi,' and from vanity and an eager desire of being conspicuous wherever he was, he frequently talked carelessly without knowledge of the subject, or even without thought. His person was short, his countenance coarse and vulgar, his deportment that of a scholar awkwardly affecting the easy gentleman. Those, who were in any way distinguished, excited envy in him to so ridiculous an excess, that the instances of it are hardly credible, When accompanying two beautiful young ladies (the Miss Hornecks) with their mother, on a tour to France, he was seriously angry that more attention was paid to them than to him; and once at the exhibition of the Fantoccini in London, when those who sat next him observed with what dexterity a puppet was made to toss a pike, he could not bear that it should have such praise, and exclaimed, with some warmth, 'Pshaw! I can do it better myself!'"
[Author's note: Boswell's Life of Johnson, I. 377. At p. 380 Boswell gives Johnson's account of Goldsmith's arrest at the suit of his landlady; and his release by the sale to a bookseller of The Vicar of Wakefield for £60 through Johnson's intervention, which is related differently by Mrs. Piozzi, Anecdotes, p. 119; and with still greater variation by Cumberland, Life, p. 273. All from Johnson's own relation — so difficult is it to get at truth. Boswell's is probably the accurate story, as taken down at the moment, and bearing internal marks of exactness.]
CHARACTER OF GOLDSMITH BY CUMBERLAND.
"That he was fantastically vain all the world knows but there was no settled and inherent malice in his heart. He was tenacious to a ridiculous extreme of certain pretensions that did not, and by nature could not belong to him, and at the same time inexcusably careless of the fame which he had power to command. His table-talk, was, as Garrick aptly compared it, like that of a parrot, whilst he wrote like Apollo; he had gleams of eloquence, and at times a majesty of thought, but in general his tongue and his pen had two very different styles of talking. What foibles he had, he took no pains to conceal; the good qualities of his heart were too frequently obscured by the carelessness of his conduct, and the frivolity of his manners. Sir Joshua Reynolds was very good to him; and would have drilled him into better trim and order for society, if he would have been amenable; for Reynolds was a perfect gentleman, had good sense, great propriety, with all the social attributes, and all the graces of hospitality, equal to any man. He well knew how to appreciate men of talents, and how near akin the muse of poetry was to that art, of which he was so eminent a master. From Goldsmith he caught the subject of his famous Ugolino; what aids he got from others, if he got any, were worthily bestowed, and happily applied.
"There is something in Goldsmith's prose, that to my ear is uncommonly sweet and harmonious; it is clear, simple, easy to be understood; we never want to read his period twice over, except for the pleasure it bestows; obscurity never calls us back to a repetition of it. That he was a poet there is no doubt; but the paucity of his verses does not allow us to rank him in. that high station, where his genius might have carried him. There must be bulk, variety, and grandeur of design to constitute a first-rate poet. [Author's note: These opinions of Mr. Cumberland I cannot subscribe to. They would exclude Pindar, Horace, Dryden, Gray, &c. &c. from the list of great poets, and so it is apparent that Mr. C. thinks of the last, whom he calls the most 'costive' of all writers in this line. But we must estimate poems by the quality of sterling ore they contain, and not by the number of their verses, or the extent of their design. It is natural, however, for Mr. Cumberland, who has written epic poems himself, to indulge these sentiments!] The Deserted Village, Traveller, and Hermit, are all specimens, beautiful as such; but they are only birds' eggs on a string, and eggs of small birds too. One great magnificent whole must be accomplished before we can pronounce upon the maker to be the [Greek characters]. Pope himself never earned this title by a work of any magnitude but his Homer, and that being a translation, only constitutes him an accomplished versifier. Distress drove Goldsmith upon undertakings neither congenial with his studies, nor worthy of his talents. I remember him, when in his chamber in the Temple, he shewed me the beginning of his Animated Nature: it was with a sigh such as genius draws, when hard necessity diverts it from its bent to drudge for bread, and talk of birds and beasts, and creeping things, which Pidcock's showman would have done as well. Poor fellow! he hardly knew an ass from a mule, nor a turkey from a goose, but when he saw it on the table. But publishers hate poetry, and Paternoster-Row is not Parnassus," &c. [Author's note: This is scarcely a liberal or just assertion at the present moment. There are poets, who, if report speaks true, can prove the contrary — witness Bloomfield, Walter Scott, &c. &c. Cumberland's Life, 257, 258.]
Such is the testimony of men, who had a personal acquaintance with Goldsmith, and whose own talents and experience enabled them to form a due estimate of his moral and intellectual qualities.
It is probable that the striking inconsistency between the elegance, propriety, and wisdom of his writings, and the aukwardness and folly of his conversation, arose from the irritability of his passions, which were excited by company, and clouded his faculties; while in the calmness of the closet his judgment had full power to operate. His intolerable vanity, which made him aspire to be universally brilliant and distinguished wherever he appeared, instead of giving him a superiority over the eminent, degraded him below the stupid. His perpetual failures and mortifications, arising from this cause, must have deeply affected the complacency of his mind, when alone: for with a rectitude of thinking, which in the hours of quiet and seclusion was exquisite, he must have reflected on the appearances, he was continually exhibiting in society, with the compunctious visitings of regret and shame. It was probably his lot, like all those who give up the rein to their passions, daily to sin in this way, and daily to repent.
They, who heard him talk as if he was scarce capable of a clear comprehension of any thing; and if he did comprehend it, utterly unable to express and explain it; must have read, almost with a doubt of their own senses, successive publications by him on various subjects, in which he exhibited the power of expressing every thing in the neatest and most perspicuous manner; and relating even what he never pretended to understand or study deeply, better than those who understood it best. "He is now writing a Natural History," said Johnson, "and will make it as entertaining as an Arabian Tale." In another place this powerful critic has pronounced, that "Goldsmith was a man of such variety of powers, and such felicity of performance, that he always seemed to do best, that which he was doing; a man, who had the art of being minute without tediousness, and general without confusion; whose language was copious without exuberance, exact without constraint, and easy without weakness."
His poems I esteem to possess great value, because they are both original, and among the most finished of their kind; but I never can yield to the school of criticism, of which Dr. Johnson was the master, that that is a very high kind! Goldsmith, was like Pope, a poet rather of reason than of fancy or pathos; and his popularity does not appear to me by any means a test (though a favourite test with Johnson) of his transcendent claims. But it seems the style of poetry he adopted, resulted not merely from the character of his genius, but from the conviction of his judgment that it was the best. For in his life of Parnell he has given us the following critical opinions.
"The universal esteem in which Parnell's poems are held, and the reiterated pleasure they give in the perusal, are a sufficient test of their merit. He appears to me the last of that great school that had modelled itself upon the ancients, and taught English poetry to resemble what the generality of mankind have allowed to excel. A studious and correct observer of antiquity, he set himself to consider nature with the lights it lent him; and he found that the more aid he borrowed from the one, the more delightfully he resembled the other. To copy nature is a task the most bungling workman is able to execute; to select such parts as contribute to delight, is reserved only for those, whom accident has blest with uncommon talents, or such as have read the ancients with indefatigable industry. Parnell is ever happy in the selection of his images, and scrupulously careful in the choice of his subjects. His productions bear no resemblance to those tawdry things, which it has for some time been the fashion to admire; in writing which the poet sits down without any plan, and heaps up splendid images without any selection; where the reader grows dizzy with praise and admiration, and yet soon grows weary, he scarce can tell why. Our poet on the contrary gives out his beauties with a more sparing hand; he is still carrying his reader forward, and just gives him refreshment sufficient to support him to his journey's end. At the end of his course the reader regrets that his way has been so short; he wonders that it gave him so little trouble, and so resolves to go the journey over again.
"His poetical language is not less correct than his subjects are pleasing. He found it at that period, at which it was brought to its highest pitch of refinement; and ever since his time it has been gradually debasing. It is indeed amazing, after what has been done by Dryden, Addison, and Pope, to improve and harmonize our native tongue, that their successors should have taken so much pains to involve it into pristine barbarity. These misguided innovators have not been content with restoring antiquated words and phrases, but have indulged themselves in the most licentious transpositions, and the harshest constructions, vainly imagining that the more their writings are unlike prose, the more they resemble poetry. They have adopted a language of their own, and call upon mankind for admiration. All those who do not understand them, are silent, and those who make out their meaning are willing to praise, to shew they understand. From these follies and affectations the poems of Parnell," (and it may he added, those of Goldsmith) "are free; he has considered the language of poetry as the language of life, and conveys the warmest thoughts in the simplest expression."
All this abstractedly may be very just; though it must be observed that it applies rather to the outward dress than to the substance and essence of poetry. At the same time we cannot help feeling a little disgust, when we consider the purpose with which it was written, and recollect that it became on every occasion the cant both of Goldsmith and Johnson, with a view to depress and degrade the compositions of Gray, Collins, and others of that stamp, to whom they undoubtedly alluded, and of whom they indulged an illiberal envy.
But I am confident that neither Johnson nor Goldsmith possessed fancy or sensibility sufficiently lively to relish duly the higher flights of the muse. It is scarcely necessary to remind the reader of Shakspeare's description of the real poet's powers.
The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven,
And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation, and a name.
[Midsummer Night's Dream, Act V. Sc. 1.]
Instruction is not the first object of poetry; it is not to the reason that she addresses herself. When we resort to her power to exercise our faculties, we expect to be carried into the realms of fancy and passion; we demand voluntary delusions, and strive to escape from the dull seventies of truth. Didactic verse, therefore, which can only aspire to some of the outward clothing, and minor embellishments, (as the metaphors and the rhythm) of the muse, must always stand in a subordinate class. It is wonderful how much more distinctly and universally these distinctions are understood in the sister art of painting. There the most conspicuous honours of the art are without hesitation decreed to those who have shewn the boldest and most sublime invention; to figures which surpass in strength or beauty the imperfect specimens of reality, or scenes which exceed in richness and variety the proudest productions of nature. The portrait-painter, the ingenious Dutchman, who brings forth with such exquisite minuteness the pictures of familiar life; nay, the delineator of historic groups, neither obtains, nor even for a moment asks, a seat in the upper ranks of his profession.
Let us then put the class, to which Goldsmith belongs, in its proper rank; and having done so, we can have no scruple in placing him among the very first of that class. The Traveller is indeed a very finished and a very noble poem. The sentiments are always interesting, generally just, and often new; the imagery is elegant, picturesque, and occasionally sublime; the language is nervous, highly finished, and full of harmony. The Deserted Village is a poem far inferior to The Traveller, though it contains many beautiful passages. I do not enter into its pretensions to skill in political economy, though, in that respect, it contains a strange mixture of important truths and dangerous fallacies. My business is with its poetry. Its inferiority to its predecessor arises from its comparative want of compression, as well as of force and novelty of imagery. Its tone of melancholy is more sickly, and some of the descriptions, which have been most praised, are marked by all the poverty and flatness, and indeed are peopled with the sort of comic and grotesque figures, of a Flemish landscape,
The sheltered cot, the cultivated farm,
The never-failing brook, the busy mill,
The decent church that topt the neighbouring hill,
The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade,
For talking age and whispering lovers made.
How often have I blest the coming day,
When toil remitting lent its turn to play,
And all the village train, from labour free,
Led up their sports beneath the spreading tree;
While many a pastime circled in the shade,
The young contending as the old survey'd;
And many a gambol frolick'd o'er the ground,
And sleights of art and feats of strength went round.
And still as each repeated pleasure tir'd,
Succeeding sports the mirthful band inspir'd;
The dancing pair, that simply sought renown
By holding out to tire each other down;
The swain, mistrustless of his smutted face,
While secret laughter titter'd round the place, &c.
Are not these the exact verbal description of a scene of Teniers?
In the mention of the village murmurs, which rise of a still evening to the neighbouring hill, occurs a line of this sort, which never could have been admitted by one endued with high taste.
The noisy geese that gabbled o'er the pool.
The recollected scene of the village ale-house contains also several passages strikingly liable to this censure.
The white-wash'd wall, the nicely-sanded floor,
The varnish'd clock that click'd behind the door;
The chest contriv'd a double debt to pay,
A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day.
The pictures plac'd for ornament and use,
The twelve good rules; the royal game of goose;
The hearth, except when Winter chill'd the day,
With aspen boughs, and flowers, and fennel gay;
While broken tea-cups, wisely kept for show,
Rang'd o'er the chimney, glitter'd in a row.
If these were meant to be comic, they ought not to have occurred in a serious poem; and if they were not meant to he so, they must be admitted to be in a very bad style, and very unfortunate! But I do not doubt that Goldsmith thought them, as the mob always think a Dutch piece of drollery, highly simple and natural! And there are not a few readers, who of course consider them among the best verses of the poem.
How different is the following part of an Address to Poetry, with which he closes.
Farewell! And O! where'er thy voice be try'd,
On Torno's cliffs, or Pambamarca's side;
Whether where equinoctial fervors glow,
Or Winter wraps the polar world in snow;
Still let thy voice, prevailing over Time,
Redress the rigours of th' inclement clime;
Aid slighted Truth with thy persuasive strain,
Teach erring man to spurn the rage of gain;
Teach him that states, of native strength possest,
Tho' very poor, may yet be very blest;
That Trade's proud empire hastes to swift decay,
As Ocean sweeps the labour'd mole away;
While self-dependent power can time defy,
As rocks resist the billows and the sky.
May 21, 1807.