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Oliver Goldsmith (1730?-1774)

Retaliation: A Poem


              1      Of old, when Scarron his companions invited,
              2Each guest brought his dish, and the feast was united;
              3If our landlord supplies us with beef, and with fish,
              4Let each guest bring himself, and he brings the best dish:
              5Our Dean shall be venison, just fresh from the plains;
              6Our Burke shall be tongue, with a garnish of brains;
              7Our Will shall be wild fowl, of excellent flavour,
              8Our Cumberland's sweet-bread its place shall obtain,
              9And Douglas is pudding, substantial and plain:
            10Our Garrick's a salad, for in him we see
            11Oil, vinegar, sugar, and saltness agree:
            12To make out the dinner, full certain I am,
            13That Ridge is an anchovy, and Reynolds is lamb;
            14That Hickey's a capon, and by the same rule,
            15Magnanimous Goldsmith, a gooseberry fool:
            16At a dinner so various, at such a repast,
            17Who'd not be a glutton, and stick to the last:
            18Here, waiter, more wine, let me sit while I'm able,
            19'Till all my companions sink under the table;
            20Then with chaos and blunders encircling my head,
            21Let me ponder, and tell what I think of the dead.

            22      Here lies the good Dean, re-united with earth,
            23Who mixt reason with pleasure, and wisdom with mirth:
            24If he had any faults, he has left us in doubt,
            25At least, in six weeks, I could not find 'em out;
            26Yet some have declar'd, and it can't be denied 'em,
            27That sly-boots was cursedly cunning to hide 'em.

            28      Here lies our good Edmund, whose genius was such,
            29We scarcely can praise it, or blame it too much;
            30Who, born for the Universe, narrow'd his mind,
            31And to party gave up, what was meant for mankind.
            32Tho' fraught with all learning, yet straining his throat,
            33To persuade Tommy Townsend to lend him a vote;
            34Who, too deep for his hearers, still went on refining,
            35And thought of convincing, while they thought of dining;
            36Tho' equal to all things, for all things unfit,
            37Too nice for a statesman, too proud for a wit:
            38For a patriot too cool; for a drudge, disobedient,
            39And too fond of the right to pursue the expedient.
            40In short, 'twas his fate, unemploy'd, or in place, sir,
            41To eat mutton cold, and cut blocks with a razor.

            42      Here lies honest William, whose heart was a mint,
            43While the owner ne'er knew half the good that was in't;
            44The pupil of impulse, it forc'd him along,
            45His conduct still right, with his argument wrong;
            46Still aiming at honour, yet fearing to roam,
            47The coachman was tipsy, the chariot drove home;
            48Would you ask for his merits, alas! he had none,
            49What was good was spontaneous, his faults were his own.

            50      Here lies honest Richard, whose fate I must sigh at,
            51Alas, that such frolic should now be so quiet!
            52What spirits were his, what wit and what whim,
            53Now breaking a jest, and now breaking a limb;
            54Now wrangling and grumbling to keep up the ball,
            55Now teazing and vexing, yet laughing at all?
            56In short so provoking a devil was Dick,
            57That we wish'd him full ten times a day at Old Nick.
            58But missing his mirth and agreeable vein,
            59As often we wish'd to have Dick back again.

            60      Here Cumberland lies having acted his parts,
            61The Terence of England, the mender of hearts;
            62A flattering painter, who made it his care
            63To draw men as they ought to be, not as they are.
            64His gallants were all faultless, his women divine,
            65And comedy wonders at being so fine;
            66Like a tragedy queen he has dizen'd her out,
            67Or rather like tragedy giving a rout.
            68His fools have their follies so lost in a crowd
            69Of virtues and feelings, that folly grows proud
            70And coxcombs alike in their failings alone,
            71Adopting his portraits are pleas'd with their own.
            72Say, where has our poet this malady caught,
            73Or wherefore his characters thus without fault?
            74Say was it that vainly directing his view,
            75To find out men's virtues and finding them few,
            76Quite sick of pursuing each troublesome elf,
            77He grew lazy at last and drew from himself?

            78      Here Douglas retires from his toils to relax,
            79The scourge of impostors, the terror of quacks:
            80Come all ye quack bards, and ye quacking divines,
            81Come and dance on the spot where your tyrant reclines,
            82When Satire and Censure encircl'd his throne,
            83I fear'd for your safety, I fear'd for my own;
            84But now he is gone, and we want a detector,
            85Our Dodds shall be pious, our Kenricks shall lecture;
            86Macpherson write bombast, and call it a style,
            87Our Townshend make speeches, and I shall compile;
            88New Lauders and Bowers the Tweed shall cross over,
            89No countryman living their tricks to discover;
            90Detection her taper shall quench to a spark,
            91And Scotchman meet Scotchman and cheat in the dark.

            92      Here lies David Garrick, describe me who can,
            93An abridgment of all that was pleasant in man;
            94As an actor, confest without rival to shine,
            95As a wit, if not first, in the very first line,
            96Yet with talents like these, and an excellent heart,
            97The man had his failings, a dupe to his art;
            98Like an ill-judging beauty, his colours he spread,
            99And beplaister'd, with rouge, his own natural red.
          100On the stage he was natural, simple, affecting,
          101'Twas only that, when he was off, he was acting:
          102With no reason on earth to go out of his way,
          103He turn'd and he varied full ten times a-day;
          104Tho' secure of our hearts, yet confoundedly sick,
          105If they were not his own by finessing and trick;
          106He cast off his friends, as a huntsman his pack,
          107For he knew when he pleas'd he could whistle them back.
          108Of praise a mere glutton, he swallow'd what came,
          109And the puff of a dunce, he mistook it for fame;
          110'Till his relish grown callous, almost to disease,
          111Who pepper'd the highest, was surest to please.
          112But let us be candid, and speak out our mind,
          113If dunces applauded, he paid them in kind.
          114Ye Kenricks, ye Kellys, and Woodfalls so grave,
          115What a commerce was yours, while you got and you gave?
          116How did Grub-street re-echo the shouts that you rais'd,
          117While he was beroscius'd, and you were beprais'd?
          118But peace to his spirit, wherever it flies,
          119To act as an angel, and mix it with skies:
          120Those poets, who owe their best fame to his skill,
          121Shall still be his flatterers, go where he will.
          122Old Shakespeare, receive him, with praise and with love,
          123And Beaumonts and Bens be his Kellys above.

          124      Here Hickey reclines, a most blunt, pleasant creature,
          125And slander itself must allow him good-nature:
          126He cherish'd his friend, and he relish'd a bumper;
          127Yet one fault he had, and that one was a thumper:
          128Perhaps you may ask if the man was a miser?
          129I answer, no, no, for he always was wiser;
          130Too courteous, perhaps, or obligingly flat;
          131His very worst foe can't accuse him of that.
          132Perhaps he confided in men as they go,
          133And so was too foolishly honest; ah no!
          134Then what was his failing? come tell it, and burn ye,
          135He was, could he help it? a special attorney.

          136      Here Reynolds is laid, and, to tell you my mind,
          137He has not left a wiser or better behind;
          138His pencil was striking, resistless and grand,
          139His manners were gentle, complying and bland;
          140Still born to improve us in every part,
          141His pencil our faces, his manners our heart:
          142To coxcombs averse, yet most civilly steering,
          143When they judg'd without skill he was still hard of hearing:
          144When they talk'd of their Raphaels, Corregios and stuff,
          145He shifted his trumpet, and only took snuff.


Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Oliver Goldsmith, Retaliation; a poem (London: G. Kearsley, 1774). pam f Fisher Rare Book Library (Toronto).
First publication date: 1774
RPO poem editor: N. J. Endicott
RP edition: 2RP 1.740.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/14

Form: couplets


Other poems by Oliver Goldsmith