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[“ The Traveller" was published in December 1764, and was the earliest production to which Goldsmith prefixed his name. As Dr. Johnson was the first to introduce it to the good opinion of the public, in a manner which could not fail to draw attention, it will not be uninteresting to look back at what he then said, and observe how perfectly all judges of poetry have concurred in his opinion :
“ The author has, in an elegant dedication to his brother, a country clergyman, given the design of his poem. Without espousing the cause of any party, I have attempted to moderate the rage of all. I have endeavored to show that there may be equal happiness in other states, though differently governed from our own ; that each state has a peculiar principle of happiness, and that this principle in each state, and in our own in particular, may be carried to a mischievous excess. That he may illustrate and enforce this important position, the author places himself on a summit of the Alps, and turning his eyes around in all directions, upon the different regions that lie before him, compares not merely their situation and policy, but those social and domestic manners which, after a very few deductions, make the sum total of human life.
• Evn now where Alpine solitudes ascend,
Exults in all the good of all mankind.'
• Nature, a mother kind alike to all,
Conforms and models life to that alone.' “ This is the position which he conducts through Italy, Switzerland, France, Holland, and England ; and which he endeavors to confirm by remarking the manners of every country. Having censured the degeneracy of the modern Italians, he proceeds thus :
• My soul, turn from them ; turn we to survey
But meteors glare, and stormy glooms invest.' “But having found that the rural life of a Swiss has its evils as well as comforts, he turns to France:
• To kinder skies, where gentler manners reign,
From courts to camps, to cottages it strays,
Till, seeming blest, they grow to what they seem. « Yet France has its evils
• For praise, too dearly lov’d, or warmly sought,
Enfeebles all internal strength of thought ;
Nor weighs the solid worth of self-applause.'
• Stern o'er each bosom Reason holds her state,
By forms unfashion'd fresh from Nature's hand.' “ With the inconveniences that harass the sons of freedom, this extract shall be concluded
· That independence Britons prize too high,
Where noble stems transmit the patriot flame,
And scholars, soldiers, kings, unhonor'd die.' “ Such is the poem on which we now congratulate the public, as on a production to which, since the death of Pope, it will not be easy to find any thing equal.”—Critical Review, Dec. 1764.
“ Goldsmith's poetry,” says Mr. Campbell, “ enjoys a calm and steady popularity. It inspires us, indeed, with no admiration of daring design or of fertile invention ; but it presents, within its narrow limits, a distinct and unbroken view of poetical delightfulness. His descriptions and sentiments have the pure zest of nature. He is refined without false delicacy, and correct without insipidity. Perhaps there is an intellectual composure in his manner, which may, in some passages, be said to approach to the reserved and prosaic; but he unbends from this graver strain of reflection to tenderness, and even to playfulness, with an ease and grace almost exclusively his own; and connects extensive views of the happiness and interests of society, with pictures of life that touch the heart by their familiarity. His language is certainly simple, though it is not cast in a rugged or careless mould. He is no disciple of the gaunt and famished school of simplicity. Deliberately as he wrote, he cannot be accused of wanting natural and idiomatic expression. He uses the ornaments which must always distinguish true poetry from prose ; and when he adopts colloquial plainness, it is with the utmost care and skill, to avoid a vulgar humility. There is more of this sustained simplicity, of this chaste economy and choice of words, in Goldsmith, than in any modern poet, or perhaps than would be attainable or desirable as a standard for every writer of rhyme. Bnt let us not imagine that the serene graces of this poet were not admirably adapted to his subjects. His poetry is not that of impetuous, but of contemplative sensibility; of a spirit breathing its regrets and recollections, in a tone that has no dissonance with the calm of philosophical reflection. He betrays so little effort to make us visionary by the usual and palpable fictions of his art; he keeps apparently so close to realities, and draws certain conclusions, respecting the radical interests of man, so boldly and decidedly, that we pay him a compliment, not always extended to the tuneful tribe,-that of judging his sentiments by their strict and logical interpretation. In thus judging him by the test of his philosophical spirit, I am not prepared to say that he is a purely impartial theorist. He advances general positions, respecting the happiness of society, founded on limited views of truth, and under the bias of local feelings. He contemplates only one side of the question. It must be always thus in poetry. Let the mind be ever so tranquilly disposed to reflection, yet if it retains poetical sensation, it will embrace only those speculative opinions that fall in with the tone of the imagination.”—Specimens of British Poets, vol. vi. p. 261.)