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Oliver Goldsmith (1730?-1774)

The Traveller; or, A Prospect of Society

(excerpt)


...

            63      But where to find that happiest spot below
            64Who can direct, when all pretend to know?
            65The shudd'ring tenant of the frigid zone
            66Boldly proclaims that happiest spot his own;
            67Extols the treasures of his stormy seas,
            68And his long nights of revelry and ease:
            69The naked negro, panting at the line,
            70Boasts of his golden sands and palmy wine,
            71Basks in the glare, or stems the tepid wave,
            72And thanks his gods for all the good they gave.
            73Such is the patriot's boast where'er we roam,
            74His first, best country ever is at home.
            75And yet, perhaps, if countries we compare,
            76And estimate the blessings which they share,
            77Tho' patriots flatter, still shall wisdom find
            78An equal portion dealt to all mankind;
            79As different good, by Art or Nature given,
            80To different nations makes their blessings even.

            81      Nature, a mother kind alike to all,
            82Still grants her bliss at Labour's earnest call:
            83With food as well the peasant is supplied
            84On Idra's cliffs as Arno's shelvy side;
            85And though the rocky-crested summits frown,
            86These rocks by custom turn to beds of down.
            87From Art more various are the blessings sent,--
            88Wealth, commerce, honour, liberty, content.
            89Yet these each other's power so strong contest,
            90That either seems destructive of the rest.
            91Where wealth and freedom reign, contentment fails,
            92And honour sinks where commerce long prevails.
            93Hence every state, to one lov'd blessing prone,
            94Conforms and models life to that alone.
            95Each to the favourite happiness attends,
            96And spurns the plan that aims at other ends:
            97Till carried to excess in each domain,
            98This favourite good begets peculiar pain.

            99      But let us try these truths with closer eyes,
          100And trace them through the prospect as it lies:
          101Here for a while my proper cares resign'd;
          102Here let me sit in sorrow for mankind;
          103Like yon neglected shrub at random cast,
          104That shades the steep, and sighs at every blast.

          105      Far to the right, where Apennine ascends,
          106Bright as the summer, Italy extends:
          107Its uplands sloping deck the mountain's side,
          108Woods over woods in gay theatric pride;
          109While oft some temple's mould'ring tops between
          110With venerable grandeur mark the scene.

          111      Could Nature's bounty satisfy the breast,
          112The sons of Italy were surely blest.
          113Whatever fruits in different climes are found,
          114That proudly rise or humbly court the ground;
          115Whatever blooms in torrid tracts appear,
          116Whose bright succession descks the varied year;
          117Whatever sweets salute the northern sky
          118With vernal lives, that blossom but to die;
          119These, here disporting, own the kindred soil,
          120Nor ask luxuriance from the planter's toil;
          121While sea-born gales their gelid wings expand
          122To winnow fragance round the smiling land.

          123      But small the bliss that sense alone bestows,
          124And sensual bliss is all the nation knows.
          125In florid beauty groves and fields appear;
          126Man seems the only growth that dwindles here.
          127Contrasted faults through all his manners reign:
          128Though poor, luxurious; though submissive, vain;
          129Though grave, yet trifling; zealous, yet untrue;
          130And e'en in penance planning sins anew.
          131All evils here contaminate the mind
          132That opulence departed leaves behind;
          133For wealth was theirs; not far removed the date,
          134When commerce proudly flourish'd through the state;
          135At her command the palace learnt to rise,
          136Again the long-fall'n column sought the skies,
          137The canvas glow'd, beyond e'en nature warm,
          138The pregnant quarry teem'd with human form;
          139Till, more unsteady than the southern gale,
          140Commerce on other shores display'd her sail;
          141While nought remain'd of all that riches gave,
          142But towns unmann'd, and lords without a slave:
          143And late the nation found with fruitless skill
          144Its former strength was but plethoric ill.

          145      Yet still the loss of wealth is here supplied
          146By arts, the splendid wrecks of former pride;
          147For these the feeble heart and long-fall'n mind
          148An easy compensation seem to find.
          149Here may be seen, in bloodless pomp array'd,
          150The pasteboard triumph and the cavalcade,
          151Processions form'd for piety and love,
          152A mistress or a saint in every grove.
          153By sports like these are all their cares beguil'd;
          154The sports of children satisfy the child.
          155Each nobler aim, repress'd by long control,
          156Now sinks at last, or feebly mans the soul;
          157While low delights, succeeding fast behind,
          158In happier meanness occupy the mind:
          159As in those domes where Caesars once bore sway,
          160Defac'd by time and tott'ring in decay,
          161There in the ruin, heedless of the dead,
          162The shelter-seeking peasant builds his shed;
          163And, wond'ring man could want the larger pile,
          164Exults, and owns his cottage with a smile.

...


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, The Traveller (1765). Facs. edn. Menston: Scolar Press, 1970. PR 3489 T7 1765A ROBA.
First publication date: 1765
RPO poem editor: N. J. Endicott
RP edition: 2RP 1.727.
Recent editing: 2:2002/2/14

Form: couplets


Other poems by Oliver Goldsmith