« ZurückWeiter »
and of the melancholy life of the fad historian of this rural desolation.'
• Sweet was the found when oft at evening's clofe,
Up yonder hill the village murmur rose ;
There as I past with careless steps and slow,
The mingling notes câme softened from below;
The swain responsive as the milk-maid fung,
The sober herd that lowed to meet their young;
The noisy geese that gabbled o'er the pool,
The playful children just let loose from school;
The watch-dog's voice that bayed the whispering wind,
And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind :
These all in soft confufion fought the fhade,
And filled each pause the nightingale had made,
But now the sounds of population fail,
No chearful murmurs fluctuate in the gale,
No busy steps the grass-grown foot-way tread,
But all the bloomy flush of life is filed.
All but yon widowed, solitary thing
That feebly bends beside the plafhy spring ;
She, wretched matron, forced, in age, for bread,
To strip the brook with mantling cresses spread,
To pick her wintry faggot from the thorn,
To seek her nightly shed, and weep till morn;
She only left of all the harmless train,
The sad historian of the pensive plain.
• Near yonder copse, where once the garden sinild,
And still where many a garden flower grows wild ;
There, where a few torn shrubs the place disclose,
The village preacher's modest manfion rose.
A man he was, to all the country dear,
And pafling rich with forty pounds a year;
Remole from towns he ran his godly race,
Nor ere had changed, nor with'd to change his place;
Unskilful he to fawn, or seek for power,
By doctrines fashioned to the varying hour;
Far other aims his heart had learned to prize,
More bent to raise the wretched than to rise.
His house was known to all the vagrant train,
He chid their wanderings, but relieved their pain ;
The long remembered beggar was his guest,
Whose beard descending swept his aged breast;
The ruined spendthrift, now no longer proud,
Claimed kindred there, and had his claims allowed ;
The broken soldier, kindly bade to stay,
Sate by his fire, and talked the night away ;
Wept o'er his wounds, or tales of sorrow done,
Shouldered his crutch, and shewed how fields were won.
Pleased with his guests, the good man learned to glow,
And quite forgot their vices in their woe;
Careless their merits, or their faults to scan,
His pity gave ere charity began.
• Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,
And even his failings leaned to Virtue's fide ;
But in his duty prompt at every call,
He watched and wept, he prayed and felt, for all.
And, as a bird each fond endearment tries,
To tempt its new-fledged offspring to the skies ;
He tried each art, reproved each dull delay,
Allured to brighter worlds, and led the way.
• Beside the bed where parting life was layed,
And sorrow, guilt, and pain, by turns dismayed,
The reverend champion ftood. At his controul,
Despair and anguith fled the struggling soul;
Comfort came down the trembling wretch to raise,
And his last faultering accents whispered praise.
• At church, with meek and unaffected grace,
His looks adorned the venerable place ;
Truth from his lips prevailed with double sway,
And fools, who came to scoff, remained to pray.
The service past, around the pious man,
With ready zeal each honest rustic ran;
Even children followed with endearing wile,
And plucked his gown to Mare the good man's smile.
His ready smile a parent's warmth exprest,
Their welfare pleased him, and their cares distrest;
To them his heart, his love, his griefs were giveit,
But all his serious thoughts had rest in heaven.
As Tome tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm,
Tho'round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
Eternal sunshine settles on its head.' We rarely see a poem in which there are fewer instances of improper sentiment, or expression, than in this. Two lines, however, we must beg leave to animadvert upon.
• The fad historian of the penfive plain.' Penfive is too bold an epithet, even in poetry ; as it attributes too much of soul to inanimate matter.—Dryden, indeed, is guilty of a like impropriety in his noble iinitation of the beginning of the first book of Lucretius : addresling himself to Venus, he says, of Mars,
• Who oft retires from fighting fields, to prove The pleasing pains of thy eternal love." Dryden here ascribes too much action to the Fields, as Dr. Goldsmith has inspired his Plain with too reflecting a melancholy. Dryden has attributed to his Fields too strong a characteristic of the impetuous warriour ; and Dr. Goldsmith has given to his Plain too much of the sensibility and contemplation of the poet : we should emulate the natural and great sublime of Drydın, but we should avoid his negligence and excess.
· His pity gave ere charity began.' This line violates the perspicuity of poetry. And the thought it contains is but a quaint one; more worthy of Seneca, or of the worst poetry of Dr. Young, than of the author of the Deserted Village.
In giving the following lines to the sentimental reader, we need not delire him principally to mark the unhappy situation of the ruined country-girl: a home reproof to obdurate men ; and a strong warning to unguarded innocence.
• Where then, ah, where shall poverty reside,
To scape the pressure of contiguous pride ;
If to some common's fenceless limits strayed,
He drives his flock to pick the scanty blade,
Those fenceless fields the sons of wealth divide,
And even the bare-worn common is denied.
• If to the city sped-What waits him there?
To see profusion that he inust not share ;
To see ten thousand baneful arts combined
To pamper luxury, and thin mankind;
To see each joy the sons of pleasure know,
Extorted from his fellow-creature's woe.
Here, while the courtier glitters in brocade,
There the pale artist plies the sickly trade ;
Here, while the proud their long drawn pomps display,
There the black gibbet glooms beside the way.
The dome where pleasure holds her midnight reign,
Here richly deckt admits the gorgeous train,
Tumultuous grandeur crowds the blazing square,
The rattling chariots clash, the torches glare;
Sure scenes like these no troubles ere annoy!
Sure these denote one uniyersal joy!
Are these thy serious thoughts—Ah, turn thine eyes
Where the poor houseless Thivering female lies.
She once, perhaps, in village plenty blest,
Has wept at tales of innocence distrest;
Her modest looks the cottage might adorn,
Sweet as the primrose peeps beneath the thorn ;
Now loft to all; her friends, her virtue fled,
Near her betrayer's door she lays her head,
And pinch'd with cold, and shrinking from the lower,
With heavy heart deplores that luckless hour,
When idly first, ambitious of the town,
She left her wheel and robes of country brown.' The close of the poem is beautiful, but mere imagination and romance. In his enthusiastic vision, Commerce and Lux. ury drive the rural virtues from the land. Unfortunate Poetry too is transported; and the author takes a most pathetic leave of her.
• And thou sweet Poetry, thou loveliest maid,
Still first to fly where sensual joys invade;
Unfit in these degenerate times of shame,
To catch the heart, or strike for honest fame;
Dear charming nymph, neglected and decried,
My shame in crowds, my solitary pride.
Thou source of all my bliss, and all my woe,
That found'st me poor at first, and keep'st me so;
Thou guide by which the nobler arts excell,
Thou nurse of every virtue, fare thee well.
Farewell, and O where'er thy voice be tried,
On Torno's cliffs, or Pambamarca's side,
Whether where equinoctial fervours glow,
Or Winter wraps the polar world in snow,
Still let thy voice prevailing over time,
Redress the rigours of the inclement cline ;
Aid Nighted truth, with thy persuasive strain
Teach erring man to spurn the rage of gain ;
Teach him that states of native strength positsi,
Tho' very poor, may still be very bleft;
That trade's proud empire haltes to swift decay, ,
As ocean sweeps the labour'd mole away;
While self-dependent power can time defy,
As rocks refift the billows and the sky.' England is certainly not so in hospitable to poetry as the cquinoctial fervour, or the polar cold would be. Poetry is of a delicate constitution ; she would infallibly die, if the was banished either to Guinea, or to Greenland. Her powers would be dissolved in Guinea, and congealed in Greenland. She would want objects to enrich her genius, and her vigorous ex. ertion would forsake her, in the one climate, or in the other, She would be employed on none of the noble themes, which
the poet requests her to embellish in her exile, for the good of mankind. We differ so far from Dr. Goldsmith's theory, that we think the country distinguished from all others for its extensive commerce, its refined luxury, and its generous plan of freedom, the most favourable region to the muses. There the poet will find the amplest field for his imagination ; the best judges, and the highest rewards of his merit. London, there. fore, is the place to which a son of Apollo should direct his views; and by no means to the cliffs of Torno, or to the side of Pambamarca. In London, he will have the richest fund of thought, and the warmest incentives to write : and without these advantages in perfection, a great genius can never be perfeetly displayed.--Here, it must be confessed, a poet often treads on dangerous ground; and the greater his talents are, his ruin is the more probable ; for his sensibilty is the more quick, and nis virtuous conduct the more difficult. But if his abuse of external objects will lead him to destruction, his proper application of them will procure him, at least, a competent subsistence, and high reputation., Why do we excel the ancients in writing, (for that we do excel thein, blind prejudice only and ftupidity will deny) because the improvement of literature hath kept pace with all other improvements ; because a juftness, a delicacy of thinking, the true sublime, are the confequences of polished life; because genius is now furnished with the greatest variety of ideas, and stimulated by the most powerful incitements to excel. Do the ancients excel us in poeetry ? Certainly not, upon the whole. It is true, they preceded us; and therefore have transmitted many noble sentiments, which we can only repeat. They are likewise more fortunate than we are in another circumstance; they gave the fire of genius its imınediate and full play; but we are apt to restrain and subdue it too much by art. They are often too negligent; we are sometimes too elaborate. But none of them are so sublime as our divine Shakespeare and Milton ; in none of them is to be found so much vigour and corre&tness united as in Pope. Are the ancient historians preferable to our best historians as writers ? By no means. They dwell up. on trifles; they tell us a string of barbarous tales, which now would only be pardonable from the mouth of an old woman in a chimney.corner. Indeed they exhibit giants of virtue and patriotism to our view, of whom we have no living similitudes. Let us discriminate before we pronounce ; and not mistake old characters, which we owe to the government, and manners of their country, for the excellence of old authors.
The reader, we hope, will not be displeased with this digression, which is not much out of the way, when we are ani.