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Produc'd the beast, and lo! 'twas white.
Both stared; the man look'd wondrous wise.
"My children," the chameleon cries,
(Then, first, the creature found a tongue,)
" You all are right, and all are wrong;
When next you talk of what you view,
Think others see as well as you :
find that none
Prefers your eyesight to his own.”
GOLDSMITH.—Born, 1726; Died, 1774.
Oliver Goldsmith was the son of an Irish clergyman. Vain, impulsive, and improvident, he was as wise in his writings as he was the reverse in his life. No one ever had a kinder heart, and it colours all he wrote. His Vicar of Wakefield was the finest novel of his day; his Deserted Village the finest poem; and his comedies are still among the most delightful in the language. His Essays, in different forms, are perfect.
FROM "THE DESERTED VILLAGE.”
SWEET AUBURN ! loveliest village of the plain,
Where health and plenty cheered the labouring swain,
Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid,
And parting summer's lingering blooms delayed:
Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease,
Seats of my youth, when every sport could please,
How often have I loitered o'er thy green,
Where humble happiness endeared each scene!
The fanciful name of an English village,
How often have I paused on every charm,
The sheltered cot, the cultivated farm,
The never-failing brook, the busy mill,
The decent church that topt the neighbouring hill,
The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade,
For talking age and whispering lovers made !
How often have I blessed the coming day,
When toil, remitting,: lent its turn to play,
And all the village train,* from labour free,
Led up their sports beneath the spreading tree,
While many a pastime circled in the shade,
The young contending as the old surveyed;
And many a gambol frolicked o’er the ground,
And sleights of art and feats of strength went round:
And still, as each repeated pleasure tired,
Succeeding sports the mirthful band inspired;
The dancing pair that simply sought renown
By holding out to tire each other down;
The swain mistrustless of his smutted face,
While secret laughter tittered round the place;
The bashful virgin's sidelong looks of love,
The matron's glance that would those looks reprove.
These were thy charms, sweet village! sports like these,
With sweet succession, taught e’en toil to please;
These, round thy bowers their cheerful influence shed;
These were thy charms—but all these charms are fled.
Near yonder copse, where once the garden smiled,
And, still, where many a garden flower grows wild ;
There, where a few torn shrubs the place disclose,
The village preacher's modest mansion rose.
4 the village train, the strag40
A man he was to all the country dear,
And passing rich with forty pounds a year;
Remote from towns he ran his godly race,
Nor e'er had changed, nor wished to change, his place;
Unpractised he to fawn, or seek for power,
By doctrines fashioned to the varying hour,
Far other aims his heart had learned to prize,
More skilled to raise the wretched than to rise.
His house was known to all the vagrant train,
He chid their wanderings, but relieved their pain;
The long-remembered beggar was his guest,
Whose beard, descending, swept his aged breast; 50
The ruined spendthrift, now no longer proud,
Claimed kindred there, and had his claims allowed ;
The broken soldier, kindly bade to stay,
Sat by his fire, and talked the night away,
Wept o'er his wounds, or, tales of sorrow done,
55 Shouldered his crutch and showed how fields were won. Pleased with his guests, the good man learned to glow, And quite forgot their vices in their woe; Careless their merits or their faults to scan, His pity gave ere charity began.
60 Thus, to relieve the wretched was his pride, And e'en his failings leaned to virtue's side; But in his duty, prompt at every call, He watched and wept, he prayed and felt for all; And, as a bird each fond endearment tries,
65 To tempt its new-fledged offspring to the skies, He tried each art, reproved each dull delay, Allured to brighter worlds, and led the
way. Beside the bed where parting life was laid, And sorrow, guilt, and pain, by turns dismayed, 70
The reverend champion stood. At his control
Despair and anguish fled the struggling soul;
Comfort? came down the trembling wretch to raise,
And his last faltering accents whispered praise.
At church, with meek and unaffected grace,
His looks adorned the venerable place;
Truth, from his lips, prevailed with double sway, S
And fools, who came to scoff, remained to pray.
The service past, around the pious man,
With ready zeal, each honest rustic ran ;
E'en children followed, with endearing wile, 9
And plucked his gown, to share the good man's smile :
His ready smile a parent's warmth expressed,
Their welfare pleased him, and their cares distressed;
To them his heart, his love, his griefs were given,
But all his serious thoughts had rest in heaven.
As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm,
Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
Eternal sunshine settles on its head.
Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way
With blossomed furze unprofitably gay_10
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 bodingli tremblers learned to trace
The day's disasters in his morning 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 e’en though vanquished, he could argue still ;
While words of learned length and thund'ring sound
Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around;
And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew,
That one small head should carry all he knew.
But past is all his fame. The very spot,
Where many a time he triumphed, is forgot.
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 gray-beard mirth and smiling toil retired, 120 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 white-washed wall, the nicely-sanded floor, 125 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;