Page images
PDF
EPUB

English, ashamed of having rendered their own country so long a scene of discord and bloodshed, were eager to display their valor in some foreign war, and to revive the memory of the victories gained on the continent by their ancestors. Henry's own temper perfectly suited the state of his kingdom, and the disposition of his subjects. Ambitious, active, enterprising, and accomplished in all the martial exercises which in that age formed a chief part in the education of persons of noble birth, and inspired them with an early love of war, he longed to engage in action, and to signalize the beginning of his reign by some remarkable exploit.

[Meeting of Henry VIII. and Francis I.] His interview with that prince was in an open plain between Guisnes and Ardres, where the two kings and their attendants displayed their magnificence with such emulation, and profuse expense, as procured it the name of the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Feats of chivalry, parties of gallantry, together with such exercises and pastimes as were in that age reckoned manly or elegant, rather than serious business, occupied both courts during eighteen days that they continued together.' Whatever impression the engaging manDers of Francis, or the liberal and unsuspicious confidence with which he treated Henry, made on the mind of that monarch, was soon effaced by Wolsey's artifices, or by an interview he had with the Emperor at Gravelines, which was conducted with less pomp than that near Guisnes, but with greater attention to what might be of political utility.

* The French and English historians describe the pomp of this interview, and the various spectacles, with great minuteness. One circumstance mentioned by the Maréschal de Fleuranges, who was present, and which must appear singular in the present age, is commonly omitted. " After the tournament, says he, “the French and English wrestlers made their appearance, and wrestled in presence of the kings and the ladies; and as there were many stout wrestlers there, it afforded excellent pastime ; but as the King of France had neglected to bring any wrestlers out of Bretagne, the English gained the prize. After this, the Kings of France and England retired to a tent, where they drank together, and the King

England, seizing the King of France by the collar, said, "My brother, I must wrestle with you,' and endeavored once or twice to trip up his heels ; but the King of France, who is a dexterous wrestler, twisted him round, and threw him on the earth with prodigious violence. The King of England wanted to renew the combat, but was prevented.”

OLIVER GOLDSMITH.

career.

his

Oliver Goldsmith was born in Ireland in 1728, the son of a clergyman who is supposed to have been the original of the vicar of Wakefield, and of the pastcr depicted in The Deserted Village. The poet was educated at Dublin, and then commenced a wandering

Love of adventure, of play, of dress, the vanity of social distinction, habitual improvidence and unthrift, were enough to have ruined the worldly prospects of any one even if he had had twice Goldsmith's great capacity for literary work. Some episodes in his early life seem like pleasing fictions; for one can hardly imagine a cultivated man making

way half over Europe, starting with only his flute, a guinea, and one shirt. But while his simple melodies and easy manners gained him friends, with food and shelter, among peasants, he studied at seats of learning, and everywhere used those powers of observation of which we have the abundant results in his poems.

He commenced his literary life, in the usual way, as a bookseller's hack, and, with incredible industry and tact, turned every species of writing to account. His talent for acquisition was only exceeded by his fatal facility in expense. The club of which he was a member is one of the most memorable in literary annals. Some glimpses of it appear in the poem Retaliation. Besides the works before alluded to, he wrote iwo highly successful comedies, The Good-Natured Man and She Stoops to Conquer; also, The Traveller, an exquisitelyfinished poem; The Citizen of the World, a series of Letters purporting to have been stitten by a Chinese tourist in England, full of good-humored satire ; a History of England, and an abridgment of Roman History. He had begun, also, to write a History of Animated Nature, which he did not live to complete. All these were exclusive of an infinity of task-work in reviews, much of it no longer recognizable. He died in 1774

Whatever mist of oblivion may obscure the other members of that brilliant club, Goldsmith's name and works are immortal. Fertile invention, a simple and beautiful style, natural sentiments, an instinctive symmetry in plan, and the rejection of every weak line of verse, and of every useless sentence in prose, combine to give his works a perpetual chart.

The Life of Goldsmith has been written by John Forster, of London, and by Washington Irving. The student will find also a very admirable summary in Mr. Epes Sargent's edition of Goldsmith's poems.

THE DESERTED VILLAGE.

Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain,
Where health and plenty cheered the laboring 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 !
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 topped the neighboring hill,
The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade,
For talking age and whispering lovers made !

Sweet-smiling village, loveliest of the lawn, Thy sports are fed, and all thy charms withdrawn ! Amidst thy bowers the tyrant's hand is seen, And desolation saddens all thy green. One only master grasps the whole domain, And half a tillage stints thy smiling plain. No more thy glassy brook reflects the day, But, choked with sedges, works its weedy way; Along thy glades, a solitary guest, The hollow-sounding bittern guards its nest; Amidst thy desert-walks the lapwing flies, And tires their echoes with unvaried cries. Sunk are thy bowers in shapeless ruin all, And the long grass o'ertops the mouldering wall,

trembling, shrinking from the spoiler's hand, Far, far away thy children leave the land.

Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.
Princes and lords may flourish or may fade ;
A breath can make them, as a breath has made ;
But a bold peasantry, their country's pride,
When once destroyed, can never be supplied.

A time there was, ere England's griefs began,
When every rood of ground maintained its man.
For him light labor spread her wholesome store,
Just gave what life required, but gave no more ;
His best companions, innocence and health,
And his best riches, ignorance of wealth.

But times are altered. Trade's unfeeling train
Usurp the land, and dispossess the swain.
Along the lawn where scattered hamlets rose,
Unwieldy wealth and cumbrous pomp repose,
And every want to luxury allied,
And every pang that folly pays to pride.
Those gentle hours that plenty bade to bloom,
Those calm desires that asked but little room,
Those healthful sports that graced the peaceful scene,
Lived in each look, and brightened all the green, -
These, far departing, seek a kinder shore,
And rural mirth and manners are no more.

Sweet Auburn, parent of the blissful hour,
Thy glades forlorn confess the tyrant's power.
Here, as I take my solitary rounds
Amidst thy tangling walks and ruined grounds,
And, many a year elapsed, return to view
Where once the cottage stood, the hawthorn grew,
Remembrance wakes, with all her busy train,
Swells at my breast, and turns the past to pain.

In all my wanderings round this world of care,
In all my griefs, — and God has given my share,
I still had hopes my latest hours to crown,
Amidst these humble bowers to lay me down;
To husband out life's taper at the close,
And keep the flame from wasting by repose ;
I still had hopes for pride attends us still
Amidst the swains to show my book-learned skill,
Around my fire an evening group to draw,
And tell of all I felt, and all I saw ;
And as a hare, whom hounds and horns pursue,
Pants to the place from whence at first she few,
I still had hopes, my long vexations passed,
Here to return, and die at home at last.

Sweet was the sound, when oft, at evening's close, Up yonder hill the village murmur rose. There, as I passed with careless steps and slow, The mingling notes came softened from below; The swain responsive as the milk-maid sung, The sober herd that lowed to meet their young, The noisy geese that gabbled o'er the pool, The playful children just let loose from school, The watch-dog's voice that bayed the whispering wind, And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind, – These all in sweet confusion sought the shade, And filled each pause the nightingale had made. But now the sounds of population fail, No cheerful murmurs fluctuate in the gale, No busy steps the grass-grown footway tread, For all the blooming flush of life is filed All but yon widowed, solitary thing, That feebly bends beside the plashy spring.

She, wretched matron, forced in age, for bread,
To strip the brook with mantling cresses spread,
To pick her wintry fagot from the thorn,
To seek her nightly shed, and weep till morn, -
She only left of all the harmless train,
The sad historian of the pensive plain.

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.
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;
The ruined spendthrift, now no longer proud,
Claimed kindred there, and had his claim 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,
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.

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
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,

« PreviousContinue »