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To Dr. Goldsmith the world is mainly indebted for the scanty materials which constitute the history of his life—"some dates and some few facts, scarcely more interesting than those that make the ornaments of a country tomb-stone."
“He wanted that evenness of disposition which bears disappointment with phlegm, and joy with indifference. He was ever very much elated or depressed ; and his whole life was spent in agony or rapture"- yet he resolved that his spleen should not annoy his friends, and "when the fit was on him," it was his custom to retire from their society and sojourn among the gloomier parts of Ireland, where he made out a
tisfaction in giving hideous descriptions of the solitude to which he retired," His neighbours, some of whom" thought themselves wits,” took umbrage at his " reproachful" characters of the bogs and mountains that surrounded his Irish home; and he was therefore "without honour in his own country." Consequently, he more eagerly sought the agreeable but fatal relaxation in which he was permitted to indulge in England; and thus lived a life of alternate excitement and despondency
Far in a wild, unknown to public view,
From youth to age a reverend hermit grew;
The moss his będ, the cave his humble cell,
His food the fruits, his drink the crystal well :
Remote from man, with God he pass’d his days,
Prayer, all his business, all his pleasure praise.
A life so sacred, such serene repose,
Seem'd heaven itself, till one suggestion rose
That vice should triumph, virtue vice obey;
This sprung some doubt of Providence's sway:
His hopes no more a certain prospect boast,
So when a smooth expanse receives imprest
Calm Nature's image on its watery breast,
Down bend the banks, the trees depending grow,
And skies beneath with answering colours glow:
But if a stone the gentle sea divide,
Swift ruffling circles curl on every side,
And glimmering fragments of a broken sun,
Banks, trees, and skies, in thick disorder run.
To clear this doubt, to know the world by sight,
To find if books, or swains, report it right,
(For yet by swains alone the world he knew,
Whose feet came wandering o'er the nightly dew)
He quits his cell; the pilgrim-staff he bore,
And fix'd the scallop in his hat before;
Then with the sun a rising journey went,
Sedate to think, and watching each event.
The morn was wasted in the pathless grass, And long and lonesome was the wild to pass ; But when the southern sun had warm’d the day, A youth came posting o'er a crossing way; His raiment decent, his complexion fair, And soft in graceful ringlets wav'd his hair. Then near approaching, “ Father, hajl!” he cried; “ And hail, my son!” the reverend sire replied ; Words follow'd words, from question answer flow'd, And talk of various kind deceiv'd the road; Till each with other pleas'd, and loth to part, While in their age they differ, join in heart. Thus stands an aged elm in ivy bound, Thus youthful ivy clasps an elm around.
Now sunk the sun; the closing hour of day Came onward, mantled o'er with sober grey; Nature in silence bid the world repose; When near the road a stately palace rose: There by the moon through ranks of trees they pass, Whose verdure crown'd their sloping sides of grass. It chanc'd the noble master of the dome Still made his house the wandering stranger's home: Yet still the kindness, from a thirst of praise, Proy'd the vain flourish of expensive ease. The pair arrive: the livery'd servants wait; Their lord receives them at the pompous gate.
The table groans with costly piles of food,
Then, led to rest, the day's long toil they drown,
Deep sunk in sleep, and silk, and heaps of down.
At length 'tis morn, and at the dawn of day,
Along the wide canals the zephyrs play:
Fresh o'er the gay parterres the breezes creep,
And shake the neighbouring wood to banish sleep.
Up rise the guests, obedient to the call;
An early banquet deck'd the splendid hall;
Rich luscious wine a golden goblet grac'd,
Which the kind master forc'd the guests to taste.
Then pleas'd and thankful, from the porch they go;
And, but the landlord, none had cause of woe:
His cup was vanish’d; for in secret guise
The younger guest purloin'd the glittering prize.
As one who spies a serpent in his way, Glistening and basking in the summer ray, Disorder'd stops to shun the danger near, Then walks with faintness on, and looks with fear; So seem'd the sire, when far upon the road, The shining spoil his wily partner show'd. He stopp'd with silence, walk'd with trembling heart, And much he wish'd, but durst not ask to part: Murmuring he lifts his eyes, and thinks it hard That generous actions meet a base reward.
While thus they pass, the sun his glory shrouds,
The changing skies hang out their sable clouds ;
A sound in air presag'd approaching rain,
And beasts to covert scud across the plain.
Warn'd by the signs, the wandering pair retreat,
To seek for shelter at a neighbouring seat.
'Twas built with turrets on a rising ground,
· And strong, and large, and unimprov'd around;
Its owner's temper, tim'rous and severe,
Unkind and griping, caus'd a desert there.
As near the miser's heavy doors they drew,
Fierce rising gusts with sudden fury blew;
The nimble lightning mix'd with showers began,
And o'er their heads loud rolling thunders ran.
Here long they knook, but knock or call in vain,
Driv'n by the wind, and batter'd by the rain.
At length some pity warm’d the master's breast,
('Twas then his threshold first receiv?d a guest);
Slow creeking turns the door with jealous care,
One frugal fagot lights the naked walls,
And nature's fervour through their limbs recalls :
Bread of the coarsest sort, with meagre wine,
(Each hardly granted) servd them both to dine;
And when the tempest first appear'd to cease,
A ready warning bid them part in peace.
With still remark the pondering hermit view'd,
In one so rich, a life so poor and rude;
“ And why should such," within himself he cried,
“ Lock the lost wealth a thousand want beside ? '
But what new marks of wonder soon take place,
In every settling feature of his face,
When from his vest the young companion bore
That cup, the generous landlord own'd before,
And paid profusely with the precious bowl
The stinted kindness of this churlish soul !
But now the clouds in airy tumult fly;
The sun emerging opes an azure sky;
A fresher green the smelling leaves display,
And, glittering as they tremble, cheer the day :
· The weather courts them from the poor retreat,
And the glad master bolts the wary gate.
While hence they walk, the pilgrim's bosom wrought
With all the travel of uncertain thought;:
His partner's acts without their cause appear,
'Twas there a vice, and seem'd a madness here:
Detesting that, and pitying this, he goes,
Lost and confounded with the various shows.
Now night's dim shades again involve the sky,
Again the wanderers want a place to lie ;
Again they search, and find a lodging nigh,
The soil improv'd around, the mansion neat,
And neither poorly low, nor idly great: .
It seem'd to speak its master's turn of mind,
Content, and not to praise, but virtue kind.
Hither the walkers turn with weary feet,
Then bless the mansion, and the master greet:
Their greeting fair, bestow'd with modest guise,
The courteous master hears, and thus replies :
“ Without a vain, without a grudging heart,
To him who gives us all. I yield a part;
From him you come, for him accept it here, .