1773 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Oliver Goldsmith

Richard Fenton, "To Dr. Goldsmith, on the Publication of his Deserted Village" Poems (1773) 26-33.



Long had the Muses felt their pow'rs expire,
Their laurels wither'd, nerveless ev'ry lyre;
Or only strung, when to secure the bays
The Laureat toils to find a dress for praise;
And through each lyric, each pindaric mode,
Fatigues the Proteus features of the ode:
'Till thou wert sent to reinstate their reign,
And bid th' Aonian grove look green again;
Whilst each mute chord grows vocal at thy hand,
As gush'd the mountain at the prophet's wand:
And to thy breast in gratitude the Nine
Transplant their laurels, and remove their shrine.
Safe from this point shall mem'ry dare to range
O'er the past scenes, exulting in the change;
Recal the frequent cause that wak'd their fears,
Each pang they felt to justify their tears:
When with exotic wreaths their shrine was hung,
And Shakespeare silenc'd by an Eunuch's tongue;
When sad they thought, expiring ev'ry hope,
That poetry had left the world with POPE.
But see a brighter aera now commence!
Their joys augmented by such dread suspence!
Enough is wept for our degen'rate taste,
Our strains enervate, and our scenes disgrac'd.
For POPE enough; if at the sad review
The tears will ever cease to stream anew.
See from his sweets another Phoenix rise,
And of his kind alone salute the skies!
Hark! what melodious numbers wake the strings!
He lives again! or is it GOLDSMITH sings?
Who next discover'd after him, has found
The magic treasures of persuasive sound.
If to ought mortal he incline an ear,
If ought from earth can dare to enter there,
Where now preferr'd to charm th' angelic throng,
To notes coelestial he adapts the song:
How will he hasten to divide our joy,
And steal a moment from his blest employ?
And sure such strains without a crime might stay
Some list'ning Seraph on his heavenly way.
Say, wer't thou by to catch his latest breath,
Harmonious, like a dying swan's in death;
That thus thy breast with all his virtue glows;
That thus thy line with all his music flows?

Blest Bard, whose subject so excels thy lays!
Whose matchless numbers are thy second praise!
Let spurious rhymers, dubious of applause,
Suborn the ear a party in their cause;
With song as empty as a harlot's smile,
Play round the sense our reason to beguile.
Not to the ear alone thy notes addrest
Wait the free suff'rage of the thinking breast;
To mend the heart in ev'ry line we find
A transcript of thy own harmonious mind.
Unlike the world, which lies in wait for blame,
And seeks occasion to obscure a name;
Thy kinder muse unwilling to expose,
A friendly veil o'er human folly throws;
Nor to thy kindred failings more a friend,
Than foremost ev'ry virtue to commend;
Proud where she can our nature to adorn,
And paint for admiration more than scorn.
No longer foul with each opprobrious stain,
The mark of fools, and jest of the profane;
With parts our imitation to engage
The village preacher dignifies thy page:
Already half divine he wears an air
Like Heav'n serene, and like his Mission fair;
And ere the glass which measures life be run,
The occupation of the Saint's begun.
Pitch'd to the gentlest key, what strings impart
The touch of pity to thy feeling heart!
Whether thy muse, in misery's defence,
Shall plead the cause of injur'd innocence;
So feelingly through all her sorrows flow,
That cruelty might soften at her woe:
Or to the shore the fugitives attend,
And pay the last sad office of a friend.
What complicated pangs! what fresh delay!
What fond reluctance sadden all the way!
Whilst all that ever charm'd, and still is dear,
At once awake to agonize the tear.
The parting scene, what heart will not deplore!
What eye not weep that never wept before!
Still as I read I seem to catch thy flame,
Which quick as light'ning shoots thro' all my frame;
At ev'ry line I feel thy mingled pain,
And indignation boils in ev'ry vein.
Sincerely felt, forbid me not to join
My sighs and sympathetic tears with thine;
Of bitt'rest curses let me swell the score,
To heap on luxury's pernicious pow'r:
Whose throne, destructive of the great and good,
By pride supported founds itself in blood;
Whilst scar'd at the Usurper's stern command,
The gentler blessings all forsake the land;
Far from their native seats injurious driv'n,
Without a friend, "save innocence and heav'n."
Peace be your guide fair train, the muse devotes
One sad farewel, unheeding of her notes!
Your lost condition helpless to retrieve,
'Tis all she can, indulge the muse to grieve.
Felt thro' thy page where'er we turn our view,
New horrors rising as we still pursue,
We mark the rural desolation true.
But poetry shall still unhurt remain,
'Till thou be number'd of the exile train;
And as the spreading ruin more alarms,
Round her last hope shall closer throw her arms:
In thee of all her richest care possest,
Grow with redoubled fondness to thy breast.
In life thro' ev'ry state so long ally'd,
Such friends sincere death only shall divide.
Thus, when the fierce contagion mocks relief,
Some tender mother, overwhelm'd with grief,
Turns her affrighted mem'ry from the bed,
Where half her little family lies dead;
And as the circle of affection fails,
And fiercer still the work of death prevails,
Her sole surviving babe has all her fear,
And all her hopes collected centre there:
Still at each fainter groan she clings more fast,
Nor quits her darling, till she breathes her last.