1774 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Oliver Goldsmith

Cerynx, "Tears of the Muses. An Elegy, on the Death of Dr. Goldsmith" Sentimental Magazine 2 (April 1774) 174-75.



When vulgar spirits of the rich and great
Submit unwilling to the stroke of Fate,
No bosoms vibrate with the falling blow,
No virtues weep the friend of man laid low;
Ere the clos'd grave concludes the solemn scene,
Past is their fame, as tho' they ne'er had been.
But when each worth that animates our frame,
When genius, warm'd with ev'ry social aim,
The glowing heart, and the dilated mind,
"Exulting in the good of all mankind;"
When these, expiring, leave the body's clay,
To moulder in its kindred dust away,
The pious tears from every eye that flow,
The general grief, proclaim the general woe.

Where now, blest bard, shall worth like thine be found!
Where now, the breast where virtues so abound!
Of Paean's sons, doth one possess thy fire?
Doth love of truth one bosom yet inspire?
Say, now thy soul has gain'd its native heav'n,
To whom is thy inspiring mantle given?
Or is now fellow-prophet left behind,
To catch the spirit that infus'd thy mind?
Shall dulness raise once more her hated head,
And while Cimmerian glooms around her spread,
Exulting, see restor'd her reign of lead?
Ye puny bards, who sicken at the ray
That genius sheds in its meridian day:
Ye bardlings, who contrive with wond'rous pains,
To scribble still, without the gift of brains.
Ye sons of earth, who loath with ranc'rous hate
The godlike worth you cannot imitate,
With Io Paeans rend the vaulted skies,
For hated genius, hated virtue dies;
Unaw'd, ye now may dare th' exploring light,
Nor seek the deep recesses of the night:
Unlash'd, your malice now may spend its rage,
Nor dread damnation from the poet's page.
But where, ye virtues, will ye now retreat!
Where will ye fix on earth once more your seat?
Thou melting fair, whose kindly list'ning ear,
(And eye for ever moisten'd with a tear)
To griefs sad voice attend in piteous mood,
And "learn the luxury of doing good."
To what protecting bosom wilt thou fly,
First born of Jove, and best lov'd, Charity?
And thou, Simplicity, untutor'd maid,
In modest garb of purest white array'd,
Who know'st no artifice,or mean disguise,
The ray of truth emaning from thine eyes;
Forlorn, lost maid! ah, well with drooping head,
And tear unceasing, may'st thou mourn the dead;
Thy fav'rite gone, no shelt'ring breast remains
To stay thy flight, and keep you on our plains;
Vain now thy charms untaught, and unadorn'd,
For tawdry art succeeds while you are scorn'd.

Unhappy Britain! thou too are undone,
Thou weep'st the loss of her last virtuous son;
Who now will rouze her senatorial band,
When desolation spreads around the land;
When her deserting faithless children fly
To climes remote beneath the western sky?
E'en now they plough their sad, long watry way,
And leave her realm to slav'ry and decay.
Ill-fated wretches! who forsake a home,
Where peace and plenty crown your hours, to roam
In deadly swamps, and forests that display
An endless tract, impervious to the day;
Where wintry blasts scowl dreadful o'er the plain,
And summer scourges with a fiery reign;
Where the brown Indian takes his treach'rous stand,
His bow and painted arrows in his hand;
From him no warning prompt to shun the wound,
But unseen death for ever hovers round.
Ah, wretches! often shall ye wish to gain
Those careless hours you've lost, but wish in vain;
In beachen shades, on margin green to play
No more, but heartless toil thro' the long day.
Those harmless sports that ye have left behind,
Those hearty joys that speak the vacant mind,
Those simple scenes in which your hours were spent,
Your aukward jests, and bursts of merriment,
Your cottage fires, oft when "the sun was set,"
With eager glee the village circle met;
Where, at the woodman's song, or barber's tale,
Full many a laugh went round, and much brown ale;
How well he sung, whose oaten pipe no more
Shall warble music to our list'ning shore,
That oaten pipe we well may break in twain,
For sure no lip will tune so well again.

If, happy bard, a muse so mean as mine
May form a wreath to decorate thy shrine;
Accept the humble tribute that she pays,
If not in tuneful, yet in honest lays:
Blest task! when sporting with the muse's lyre,
We sing what truth and gratitude inspire.