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to the meaning of his figures, nor does it languish over the survey of trivial and unappropriated circumstances. All is alive — all is filled -- yet all is clear.
The proper combination of objects refers to the impression they are calculated to make on the mind ; and requires that they should harmonize, and reciprocally enforce and sustain each other's effect. They should unite in giving one leading tone to the imagination ; and without a sameness of form, they should blend in an uniformity of hue. This, too, has very successfully been attended to by GOLDSMITH, who has not only sketched his single figures with truth and spirit, but has combined them into the most harmonious and impressive groups. Nor has any descriptive poet better understood the great force of contrast, in setting off his scenes, and preventing any approach to wearisomeness by repetition of kindred objects. And, with great skill, he has contrived that both parts of his contrast should conspire in producing one intended moral effect. Of all these excellences, examples will be pointed out as we take a cursory view of the particular pieces.
In addition to the circumstances already noted, the force and clearness of representation depend also on the diction. It has already been observed, that GOLDSMITH's language is remarkable for its general simplicity, and the direct and proper use of words. It has ornaments, but these are not far-fetched. The epithets employed are usually qualities strictly belonging to the subject, and the true coloring of the simple figure They are frequently contrived to express a necessary circumstance in the description, and thus avoid the usual imputation of being expletive. Of this kind are the rattling terrors of the vengeful snake; "indurated heart;' shed intolerable day;' matted woods ;' 'ventrous ploughshare;' equinoctial fervors.'
The examples are not few of that indisputable mark cf true poetic language, where a single word conveys an image; as in these instances : resignation gently slopes the way;' scoops out an empire ;' the vessel, idly waiting, flaps with every gale ;' 'to winnow fragrance;' 'murmurs fluctuate in the gale.' All metaphor, indeed, does this in some degree ; but where the accessory idea is either indistinct or incongruous, as frequently happens when it is introduced as an artifice to force language up to poetry, the effect is only a gaudy obscurity.
The end and purpose to which description is directed is what distinguishes a well-planned piece from a loose effusion; for though a vivid representation of striking objects will ever afford some pleasure, yet if aim and design be wanting, to give it a basis, and stamp it with the dignity of meaning, it will in a long performance prove flat and tiresome. But this is a want which cannot be charged on GOLDSMITH; for both the Traveller and the Deserted Village have a great moral in view, to which the whole of the description is made to tend. I do not now inquire into the legitimacy of the conclusions he has drawn from his premises ; it is enough to justify his plans, that such a purpose is included in them.
The versification of GOLDSMITH is formed on the general model that has been adopted since the refinement of English poetry, and especially since the time of Pope. To manage rhyme couplets so as to produce a pleasing effect on the ear, has since that period been so common an attainment, that it merits no particular admiration. GOLDSMITH may, I think, be said to have come up to the usual standard of proficiency in this respect, without having much surpassed it. A musical ear, and a familiarity with the best examples, have enabled him, without much apparent study, almost always to avcid
defect, and very often to produce excellence. It is no censure of this poet to say that his versification presses less on the attention than his matter. In fact he has none of those peculiarities of versifying, whether improvements or not, that some who aim at distinction in this point have adopted. He generally suspends or closes the sense at the end of the line or of the couplet; and therefore does not often give examples of that greater compass and variety of melody which is obtained by longer clauses, or by breaking the coincidences of the cadence of sound and meaning. He also studiously rejects triplets and alexandrines. But allowing for the want of these sources of variety, he has sufficiently avoided monotony; and in the usual flow of his measure, he has gratified the ear with as much change, as judiciously shifting the line-pause can produce.
Having made these general observations on the nature of GOLDSMITH's poetry, I proceed to a survey of his principal pieces.
The Traveller, or Prospect of Society, was first sketched out by the author during a tour in Europe, great part of which he performed on foot, and in circumstances which afforded him the fullest means of becoming acquainted with the most numerous class in society, peculiarly termed the people. The date of the first edition is 1765. It begins in the gloomy mood natural to genius in distress, when wandering alone,
'Remote, unfriended, melancholy, slow.'
After an affectionate and regretful glance to the peaceful seat of fraternal kindness, and some expressions of self-pity, the Poet sits down amid Alpine solitudes to spend a pensive hour in meditating on the state of mankind. He finds that the natives of every land regard their own with preference; whence he is led to this proposition, that if we impartially compare the advantages belonging to different countries, we shall conclude that an equal portion of good is dealt to all the human race. He farther supposes, that every nation, having in view one peculiar species of happiness, models life to that alone ; whence this favorite kind, pushed to an extreme, becomes a source of peculiar evils. To exemplify this by instances, is the business of the subsequent descriptive part of the piece.
Italy is the first country that comes under review. Its general landscape is painted by a few characteristic strokes, and the felicity of its climate is displayed in appropriate imagery. The revival of arts and commerce in Italy, and their subsequent decline, are next touched upon ; and hence is derived the present disposition of the people — easily pleased with splendid trifles, the wrecks of their former grandeur; and sunk into an enfeebled moral and intellectual character, reducing them to the level of children.
From these he turns with a sort of disdain, to view a no bler race, hardened by a rigorous climate, and by the necessity of unabating toil. These are the Swiss, who find, in the equality of their condition, and their ignorance of other modes of life, a source of content which remedies the natural evils of their lot. There cannot be a more delightful picture than the poet has drawn of the Swiss peasant, going forth to his morning's labor, and returning at night to the bosom of domestic happiness. It sufficiently accounts for that patriot passion for which they have ever been so celebrated, and which is here described in lines that reach the heart, and is illustrate ed by a beautiful simile. But this state of life has also its
disadvantages. The sources of enjoyment being few, a vacant listlessness is apt to creep upon the breast; and if nature urges to throw this off by occasional bursts of pleasure, no stimulus can reach the purpose but gross sensual debauch. Their morals, too, like their enjoyments, are of a coarse tex
Some sterner virtues hold high dominion in their breast, but all the gentler and more refined qualities of the heart, which soften and sweeten life, are exiled to milder cli
To the more genial climate of France the traveller next repairs, and in a very pleasing rural picture he introduces himself in the capacity of musician to a village party of dancers beside the murmuring Loire. The leading feature of this nation he represents as being the love of praise ; which passion, while it inspires sentiments of honor, and a desire of pleasing, also affords a free course to folly, and nourishes vanity and ostentation. The soul, accustomed to depend for its happiness on foreign applause, shifts its principles with the change of fashion, and is a stranger to the value of self-approbation.
The strong contrast to this national character is sought in Holland ; a most graphical description of the scenery presented by that singular country introduces the moral portrait of the people. From the necessity of unceasing labor, induced by their peculiar circumstances, a habit of industry has been formed, of which the natural consequence is a love of gain. The possession of exuberant wealth has given rise to the arts and conveniences of life ; but at the same time has introduced a crafty, cold, and mercenary temper, which sets every. thing, even liberty itself, at a price. How different, exclaimg