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a bold man, having lost the character of a wise one”, "they dignify with the name of poet ; his tawdry lampoons are called satires; his turbulence is said to be force and his phrenzy fire.”
II. When he departed from his own special poetic line, it was either to join the new ballad school, or the school of humourous society verses that belongs to every highly artificial social organisation. His verses to suit occasions were often happy; and none of them ever approached to ill-nature, they were the outcome of his lighter moods, not only witty in themselves, but “the cause that wit was in others.” His best were “ The Haunch of Venison, a Poetical Epistle to Lord Clare," written in 1771, and Retaliation, written in 1774, to take humourous revenge on some friends who had in his absence composed epitaphs upon him at St. James's Coffee House, where they often met; the best was Garrick's ;
“Here lies Poet Goldsmith, for shortness called Noll,
Poll.” Goldsmith's epitaph on the great actor in reply. was also the best and keenest-edged in the poem ;
“On the stage he was natural, simple, affecting ;
And the puff of a dunce he mistook it for fame.” These were the sharpest thrusts; all else was the acknowledgment of his great talents. His character-sketch of Burke is quite as good, and, though the orator had the best of his career to pass through, nothing equals it in truth;
“Who, too deep for his hearers, still went on refining,
And to party gave up what was meant for mankind." One of the most striking things about Goldsmith's genius was its surprises ; he “talked like poor Poll,” and blundered through life, and yet no man of his time has survived his age so well ; his best productions are evergreen in their attractions; in society he was ever so busy rescuing himself from the jests at his expense and from his own clumsiness
that he seemed incapable of observation ; yet no man of his circle had so keen an eye for the foibles of human nature ; he could not fail to be a successful dramatist or novelist, to judge by this character-poem. The other “The Haunch of Venison ” is more dramatic; but it is slighter and has no epigram in it. His prologues and epilogues are nearly all in heroic couplet and semi-dramatic in spirit; one, an Intended Epilogue to She Stoops to Conquer is dramatic or rather operatic in form. Twice he was employed to write libretto for music, and on each occasion he reached only an average success; his “ Threnodia Augustalis, Sacred to the Memory of her Royal Highness the Princess Dowager of Wales was written, or rather compiled, he says, in two days and had too solemn a theme to suit him ; the lyrics are abortive attempts at hymns, and in his recitative he once or twice resorts to the blank verse to which he so objected. His Oratorio (1764), though it has a theme, the Captivity in Babylon, that might have given scope to his never-dying love of home, is in the same style, and not much better; he was too far removed from the genius of Milton to manage a religious topic that demanded sublimity. Two or three imitations of Swift's octosyllabic humour have themes and treatment much more to his taste. His epitaphs are too solemn to be successful. His best short pieces are an anticipation of the style of Hood with a clever instance of intentional bathos in every verse; they were An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog (in the Vicar of Wakefield), and An Elegy on that Glory of her Sex, Mrs. Mary Blaize ; a stanza from each will illustrate ;
“ But soon a wonder came to light,
That showed the rogues they lied ;
Had Goldsmith been less of a butt in private life, and fallen upon a period of comic periodicals, he would have developed more into a versifying punster.
123 CALIFORNIA 12. It was a happy thing for literature that he did not ; his bright humour and goodhumour served better to set off the romance and sentiment that he drew from the new currents of his age. There is none of it to relieve the love-story of his one ballad "Edwin and Angelina,” which he wrote in 1764, and inserted in his Vicar of Wakefield (1766), under the title of The Hermit, putting it into the mouth of the baronet disguised as Mr. Burchill, who recites it to the impoverished but happy family of the vicar as an appeal to Sophia's love and romantic feeling. His friend Percy, afterwards bishop, was just about to publish his famous Reliques of Ancient Poetry (1765), and was collecting and collating for the book. Goldsmith at once felt the true poetry of these products of the popular genius, and knew that nothing would so appeal to the heart of the new audience; he had never forgotten the folk-lyrics of his boyhood, and Peggy Golden's singing of “Johnny Armstrong's Good-night" on the hearth at dear Lissoy. And his instincts told him that the people, with passion for the romance and sentiment of love, were about to take, possession of English literature again. Hence his Edwin and Angelina, with its story of the rejected lover turning hermit and having to entertain in his cell his repentant mistress wandering disguised as a youth, has become to modern sentiment and burlesque the typical expression of amorous romance. He had to write to the St. James' Chronicle in June 1767 to refute the charge of plagiarism or imitation, and to explain that his ballad was shown to Percy before the latter "formed the fragments of Shakespeare " into his “Friar of Orders Grey.
Section 3 I. But this is isolated and is significant only as connecting him with the new popular movement in poetry. by his Traveller and Deserted Village that he affected the current of English poetry. Crabbe, his lineal descendant, was sixteen years old and already ambitious in verse when the latter first ran through so many editions in 1770. His first poem, Inebriety, published at Ipswich in 1775, shows more study of Pope than of Goldsmith in its rhythm, style,
and diction. But its strong realistic portraits of the various types of the drinkers of last century have their art from his contemporary, and make the pompous Queen-Anne verse in which they appear sound like a burlesque of Pope; verses like these have alınost a mocking echo of the great epigrammatist in them :
' Champagne the courtier drinks, the spleen to chase,
The colonei burgundy, and port his grace.
Fire in his head and frenzy at his heels ;
And shapes his way in ill-proportioned curves”.
Weigh gout and gravel against ale and rest ;
Now creeps on earth, now triumphs in the skies;
Through midnight mists, the fluctuating shores.”
Grunts through the nasal duct and joins the sound.” “Learn'd but not wise, and without virtue brave,
A gay, deluding, philosophic knave.” " Pope in worsted stockings” was no random epithet of Horace Smith's for the man who could write such couplets. The "worsted stockings" came, partly from Goldsmith, partly from his own surroundings. At twenty years of age he never could have had the confidence choose such themes for poetry, had The Deserted Village not pointed the way. And through his earlier poems at least there are numerous echoes of lines from that and The Traveller, as, for example, in the First Book of The Village ;
“Who only skilled to take the finny tribe
The yearly dinner or septennial bribe.” He had been brought up by his father on Milton and Young ; but there is not a trace of the rhythm or style of either; he rejected blank verse and never departed from the heroic couplet, as modelled by Pope and modified by Johnson and Goldsmith, except in four brief and by no means successful poems written in 1807. And his style is completely formed in this his earliest attempt ; it has the didactic purpose, the descriptive method, and the earnestly satiric touch; it aims at the full-length portrait, and the
rhetorical balance and rise of the period and paragraph; and it never shrinks from any details of rustic life as too low for poetry. What is new is the microscopic observation of both nature and human nature, and the almost scientific love of fact. His early profession, that of a surgeon, seems to have bent his mind almost morbidly in the direction of watching the most repulsive details of life as symptoms of disease, even when he had no remedy. And his sympathy with the growing sciences, his interest, first in botany, and afterwards in geology, kept alive his faculty of minute observation, when he had entered the church. His mental constitution indeed was scientific rather than artistic; he had little faculty of selection, no special instinct for beauty ; fidelity to fact was his ruling passion; his pictures were almost photographs, and the framework of his poems almost v classifications ; only his strong middle class feelings and his stoical ethics kept him from anticipating the coarse realism of the latest fiction. As it is, his poetry is as documentary, as scientifically faithful to fact, as any Zolaesque novel. But Balzac and Zola and Taine would have shuddered at the simplicity and openness of his morals. He could never refrain from preaching, the surest mark in the literature of last century of an author or book coming from or appealing to the middle class, even though he hated all dissent and the efforts of Wesley and Whitefield. Every poem is as naked and commonplace in its ethics as a copy-book heading. And yet it is the inner and spiritual results of crime or vice that he paints with most tragic pathos.
2. We can see that he is far closer to the heart of the middle class, far more representative of its real thoughts and feelings and modes of viewing life than Goldsmith. The romantic and sentimental fallacies never came between him and his theme. In his two excursions out of the provincialism of his class, the first when a youth in London he lived in Burke's house, and the second when he was chaplain to the Duke of Rutland, he seems to have wholly escaped the influence of these half-cultured moods. And yet there is no surer sign of the rising power of the middle class in literature than his poetry. The return to nature was nothing but the literary resurgence of the people