Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

university, Goldsmith made the tour of Europe on foot, finding his support in the hospitality of the peasants, who, in their turn, danced around his flute. The record of this tour survives in his poem, The Traveller, of which the first sketch was made in Switzerland. The rest of Goldsmith's history is the history of his works, interspersed with innumerable little troubles into which he was brought by an indefensible recklessness, and as often by his generosity. He was the favourite of all the wits of the day; who, while they valued his good-heartedness, laughed at his simplicity: and his death was deplored by Johnson, Reynolds, and Burke, as a domestic calamity. It took place A.D. 1774.

The works of Goldsmith are probably, in their own style, the most accomplished which the age produced. His Vicar of Wakefield has a perfection which belongs to few prose narratives in the language; and his two comedies, while rich in genial humour, are wholly free from the corruptions by which the comic drama has too commonly been stained. His poetry is admirable for its grace and felicity of expression, as well as for its purity and refinement of sentiment. It was formed, as to its versification, on the model which, from the time of Pope, had become a tradition; but in its tenderness, serene pathos, and sympathy with nature and man, it opened out a richer vein of poetry, and one which has been further worked in our day by Rogers and others.

THE VILLAGE SCHOOLMASTER.

Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way,
With blossomed furze unprofitably gay,
There, in his noisy mansion skilled to rule,
The village master taught his little school;
A man severe he was, and stern to view;
I knew him well, and every truant knew.
Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace
The day's disasters in his morning's face;
Full well they laughed with counterfeited glee
At all his jokes, for many a joke had he;
Full well the busy whisper circling round,
Conveyed the dismal tidings when he frowned:
Yet he was kind; or, if severe in aught,
The love he bore to learning was in fault.
The village all declared how much he knew ;
"Twas certain he could write, and cipher too;
Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage;
And even the story ran that he could gauge;
In arguing, too, the parson owned his skill,
For even though vanquished he could argue still;

While words of learned length and thundering sound
Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around;
And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew,
That one small head could carry all he knew.
But past is all his fame: the very spot
Where many a time he triumphed, is forgot.

THE VILLAGE INN.

Near yonder thorn that lifts its head on high,
Where once the sign-post caught the passing eye,
Low lies that house where nut-brown draughts inspired,
Where graybeard mirth and smiling toil retired;
Where village statesmen talked with looks profound,
And news much older than their ale went round.
Imagination fondly stoops to trace

The parlour splendours of that festive place;
The whitewashed wall, the nicely sanded floor,
The varnished clock that clicked behind the door;
The chest, contrived a double debt to pay,
A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day;
The pictures placed for ornament and use,
The twelve good rules, the royal game of goose;
The hearth, except when winter chilled the day,
With aspen boughs, and flowers, and fennel gay;
While broken tea-cups, wisely kept for show,
Ranged o'er the chimney, glistened in a row.

Vain transitory splendour! could not all
Reprieve the tottering mansion from its fall?
Obscure it sinks, nor shall it more impart
An hour's importance to the poor man's heart.
Thither no more the peasant shall repair,
To sweet oblivion of his daily care;

No more the farmer's news, the barber's tale,
No more the woodman's ballad shall prevail;
No more the smith his dusky brow shall clear,
Relax his ponderous strength, and lean to hear;
The host himself no longer shall be found
Careful to see the mantling bliss go round;
Nor the coy maid, half-willing to be pressed,
Shall kiss the cup to pass it to the rest.

154

LOGAN.

JOHN LOGAN was the son of a farmer in Mid-Lothian. He became a clergyman in the Scottish Kirk, and subsequently delivered lectures on history in Edinburgh. His "Ode to the Cuckoo" excited the admiration of Edmund Burke; and for pathos and appreciation of nature had, indeed, few competitors amid the productions of the age. Logan was born A.D. 1748, and died A.D. 1788.

ODE TO THE CUCKOO0.

Hail, beauteous stranger of the grove!
Thou messenger of Spring!

Now Heaven repairs thy rural seat,
And woods thy welcome sing.

What time the daisy decks the green,
Thy certain voice we hear;
Hast thou a star to guide thy path,
Or mark the rolling year?

Delightful visitant! with thee
I hail the time of flowers,
And hear the sound of music sweet
From birds among the bowers.

The schoolboy, wandering through the wood

To pull the primrose gay,

Starts, thy curious voice to hear,*

And imitates thy lay.

What time the pea puts on the bloom,

Thou fliest thy vocal vale,

An annual guest in other lands,

Another Spring to hail.

Sweet bird! thy bower is ever green,

Thy sky is ever clear;

Thou hast no sorrow in thy song,

No winter in thy year!

*This line was probably altered by Logan as defective in quantity. "Curious may be a Scotticism, but it is felicitous. It marks the unusual resemblance of the note of the cuckoo, to the human voice the cause of the start and imitation which follow. Whereas the 'new voice of spring' is not true; for many voices in spring precede that of the cuckoo, and it is not peculiar or striking, nor does it connect either with the start or imitation."-Note by Lord Mackenzie.

[blocks in formation]

Behold, sad emblem of thy state,
The flowers that paint the field;
Or trees that crown the mountain's brow,
And boughs and blossoms yield.

[blocks in formation]

Nipt by the year the forest fades ;
And shaking to the wind,

The leaves toss to and fro, and streak
The wilderness behind.

The Winter past, reviving flowers
Anew shall deck the plain,

The woods shall hear the voice of Spring,

And flourish green again.

But man departs this earthly scene,

Ah, never to return!

No second Spring shall e'er revive

*

The ashes of the urn.

[blocks in formation]

The mighty flood that rolls along

In torrents to the main,

Its waters lost can ne'er recall
From that abyss again.

The days, the years, the ages, dark
Descending down to night,

Can never, never be redeemed
Back to the gates of light.

So man departs the living scene,
To night's perpetual gloom;

The voice of morning ne'er shall break
The slumbers of the tomb.

Where are our fathers? Whither gone
The mighty men of old?

"The patriarchs, prophets, princes, kings,
In sacred books enrolled?

Gone to the resting-place of man,
The everlasting home,
Where ages past have gone before,
Where future ages come."

THOMSON.

JAMES THOMSON, one of the greatest among the Scotch poets, was born at Ednam, in Roxburghshire, A.D. 1700. Through the care of his father, the Presbyterian minister of Ednam, and several of his clerical friends, the education of the youth was well attended to. He was sent to the University of Edinburgh. His poem of "Winter" was published A.D. 1726, and gained for him almost immediately the applause of his fellow-countrymen. In company with the Honourable Mr. Charles Talbot, whom he attended as tutor, Thomson visited most of the European countries; but the death of his pupil, and of Lord Talbot, reduced the poet again to a state of dependence, in which he passed the rest of his life, except the last two years of it, when, through the friendship of Lord Lyttelton, he was appointed surveyor-general of the Leeward Islands. His writings brought him some profit, and he enjoyed a pension from the Prince of Wales. He died of a fever A.D. 1748. No works contributed more than those of Thomson to withdraw the public taste from the artificial, and bring it back to the true model of all genuine art,-nature. The pictures of nature in Thomson's "Seasons" are admirably truthful, and possess a glowing richness. It may be said, however, on the other hand, that they are sensuous, and, like the landscapes of Rubens, present us rather with "the fat of the land" than with that representation of nature, at once true and ideal, which belongs to the highest order of poetry. His "Castle of Indolence" is a work of a larger imagination and more masterly handling than his "Seasons," and makes us lament the time which he wasted on dramas that presented no true field for his genius. In it we trace the influence of Spenser. The harmony of its versification is such as would in itself have proved that the poet was

« AnteriorContinuar »