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But of all kinds of ambition, what from the refinement of the times, from different systems of criticism, and from the divisions of party, that which pursues poetical fame is the wildest.
Poetry makes a principal amusement among unpolished nations; but in a country verging to the extremes of refinement, painting and music come in for a share. As these offer the feeble mind a less laborious entertainment, they at first rival poetry, and at length supplant her: they engross all that favour once shown to her, and, though but younger sisters, seize upon the elder's birthright.
Yet, however this art may be neglected by the powerful, it is still in greater danger from the mistaken efforts of the learned to improve it. What criticisms have we not heard of late in favour of blank verse and Pindaric odes, choruses, anapests and iambics, alliterative care and happy negligence! Every absurdity has now a champion to defend it; and as he is generally much in the wrong, so he has always much to say; for error is ever talkative.
But there is an enemy to this art still more dangerous-I mean party. Party entirely distorts the judgment, and destroys the taste. When the mind is once infected with this disease, it can only find pleasure in what contributes to increase the distemper. Like the tiger, that seldom desists from pursuing man after having once preyed
upon human flesh, the reader, who has once gratified his appetite with calumny, makes, ever after, the most agreeable feast upon murdered reputation. Such readers generally admire some halfwitted thing, who wants to be thought a bold man,1 having lost the character of a wise. ⚫one. Him they dignify with the name of poet: his tawdry lampoons are called satires; his turbulence is said to be force, and his frenzy fire.
What reception a poem may find, which has neither abuse, party, nor blank verse to support it, I cannot tell, nor am I solicitous to know. My aims are right. Without espousing the cause of any party, I have attempted to moderate the rage of all. I have endeavoured to show, that there may be equal happiness in states that are differently governed from our own; that every state has a particular principle of happiness, and that this principle in each may be carried to a mischievous excess. There are few can judge, better than yourself, how far these positions are illustrated in this poem. I am,
Your most affectionate Brother,
1 Churchill, at whom all this is aimed, died 4th November, 1764, while the first edition of "The Traveller was passing through the press.-P. C.
1 REMOTE, unfriended, melancholy, slow,
1 Remote] Solus, inops, exspes, leto pœnæque relictus.'
And compare Petrarch, Son. xxii:
'Solo e pensoso, i più deserti campi
2 Carinthia was visited by Goldsmith in 1755, and still (1853) retains its character for inhospitality.-P. C.
8 and drags] When I am with Florimel, it (my heart) is still your prisoner, it only draws a longer chain after it.' Cibber's Com. Lover, p. 249.
'I should of life's weary load complain, And, drown'd in tears, drag on the encumbering chain.'
Blackmore's Arthur, p. 212.
Eternal blessings crown my earliest friend,
Laugh at the jests or pranks that never fail,
But me, not destin'd such delights to share, My prime of life in wandering spent and care; Impell'd, with steps unceasing, to pursue Some fleeting good, that mocks me with the view; That, like the circle bounding earth and skies, Allures from far, yet, as I follow, flies; My fortune leads to traverse realms alone, And find no spot of all the world my own.
Ev'n now, where Alpine solitudes ascend, I sit me down a pensive hour to spend; And, plac'd on high above the storm's career, Look downward where an hundred realms appear
The farther I travel, I feel the pain of separation with stronger force. Those ties that bind me to my native country and you are still unbroken; by every remove I only drag a greater length of chain.'- Citizen of the World, vol. i. lett. 3.