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C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Contrasted National Types

By Oliver Goldsmith (1730?–1774)

From ‘The Traveller’

MY soul, turn from them; turn we to survey

Where rougher climes a nobler race display;

Where the bleak Swiss their stormy mansion tread,

And force a churlish soil for scanty bread.

No product here the barren hills afford,

But man and steel, the soldier and his sword;

No vernal blooms their torpid rocks array,

But winter lingering chills the lap of May;

No zephyr fondly sues the mountain’s breast,

But meteors glare, and stormy glooms invest.

Yet still, even here, content can spread a charm,

Redress the clime, and all its rage disarm.

Though poor the peasant’s hut, his feasts though small

He sees his little lot the lot of all;

Sees no contiguous palace rear its head

To shame the meanness of his humble shed;

No costly lord the sumptuous banquet deal

To make him loathe his vegetable meal;

But calm, and bred in ignorance and toil,

Each wish contracting fits him to the soil.

Cheerful at morn he wakes from short repose,

Breasts the keen air, and carols as he goes;

With patient angle trolls the finny deep,

Or drives his venturous plowshare to the steep;

Or seeks the den where snow-tracks mark the way,

And drags the struggling savage into day.

At night returning, every labor sped,

He sits him down, the monarch of a shed;

Smiles by his cheerful fire, and round surveys

His children’s looks, that brighten at the blaze;

While his loved partner, boastful of her hoard,

Displays her cleanly platter on the board;

And haply too some pilgrim, thither led,

With many a tale repays the nightly bed.

Thus every good his native wilds impart,

Imprints the patriot passion on his heart;

And even those ills that round his mansion rise,

Enhance the bliss his scanty fund supplies.

Dear is that shed to which his soul conforms,

And dear that hill which lifts him to the storms;

And as a child, when scaring sounds molest,

Clings close and closer to the mother’s breast,

So the loud torrent, and the whirlwind’s roar,

But bind him to his native mountains more.

Such are the charms to barren states assigned;

Their wants but few, their wishes all confined.

Yet let them only share the praises due,—

If few their wants, their pleasures are but few;

For every want that stimulates the breast

Becomes a source of pleasure when redrest.

Whence from such lands each pleasing science flies

That first excites desire, and then supplies;

Unknown to them, when sensual pleasures cloy,

To fill the languid pause with finer joy;

Unknown those powers that raise the soul to flame,

Catch every nerve, and vibrate through the frame.

Their level life is but a smoldering fire,

Unquenched by want, unfanned by strong desire;

Unfit for raptures, or if raptures cheer

On some high festival of once a year,

In wild excess the vulgar breast takes fire,

Till, buried in debauch, the bliss expire.

But not their joys alone thus coarsely flow:

Their morals, like their pleasures, are but low;

For as refinement stops, from sire to son

Unaltered, unimproved, the manners run;

And love’s and friendship’s finely pointed dart

Falls blunted from each indurated heart.

Some sterner virtues o’er the mountain’s breast

May sit, like falcons cowering on the nest;

But all the gentler morals, such as play

Through life’s more cultured walks, and charm the way,

These, far dispersed, on timorous pinions fly,

To sport and flutter in a kinder sky.

To kinder skies, where gentler manners reign,

I turn; and France displays her bright domain.

Gay, sprightly land of mirth and social ease,

Pleased with thyself, whom all the world can please,

How often have I led thy sportive choir,

With tuneless pipe, beside the murmuring Loire!

Where shading elms along the margin grew,

And freshened from the wave the zephyr flew;

And haply, though my harsh touch, faltering still,

But mocked all tune, and marred the dancer’s skill,

Yet would the village praise my wondrous power,

And dance, forgetful of the noontide hour.

Alike all ages: dames of ancient days

Have led their children through the mirthful maze;

And the gay grandsire, skilled in gestic lore,

Has frisked beneath the burthen of threescore.

So blest a life these thoughtless realms display,

Thus idly busy rolls their world away:

Theirs are those arts that mind to mind endear,

For honor forms the social temper here.

Honor, that praise which real merit gains,

Or even imaginary worth obtains,

Here passes current; paid from hand to hand,

It shifts in splendid traffic round the land;

From courts to camps, to cottages it strays,

And all are taught an avarice of praise:

They please, are pleased, they give to get esteem,

Till, seeming blest, they grow to what they seem.

But while this softer art their bliss supplies,

It gives their follies also room to rise:

For praise too dearly loved, or warmly sought,

Enfeebles all internal strength of thought;

And the weak soul, within itself unblest,

Leans for all pleasure on another’s breast.

Hence ostentation here, with tawdry art,

Pants for the vulgar praise which fools impart;

Here vanity assumes her pert grimace,

And trims her robes of frieze with copper lace;

Here beggar pride defrauds her daily cheer,

To boast one splendid banquet once a year:

The mind still turns where shifting fashion draws,

Nor weighs the solid worth of self-applause.