The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
IX. Oliver Goldsmith
Volume X. The Age of Johnson.
§ 21. The Deserted Village
How far Auburn reproduced Lissoy, how far The Deserted Village was English or Irish—are surely matters for the seed-splitters of criticism; and decision either way in no wise affects the enduring beauty of the work. The poem holds us by the humanity of its character pictures, by its delightful rural descriptions, by the tender melancholy of its metrical cadences. Listen to the “Farewell” (and farewell it practically proved) to poetry:Farewell, and O, where’er thy voice be tried,On Torno’s cliffs, or Pambamarca’s side,Whether where equinoctial fervours glow,Or winter wraps the polar world in snow,Still let they voice prevailing over Time,Redress the rigours of th’ inclement clime;Aid slighted Truth, with thy persuasive strainTeach erring man to spurn the rage of gain;Teach him, that states of native strength possest,Though very poor, may still be very blest.Here, Goldsmith ended, if we may rely on Boswell’s attribution to Johnson of the last four lines. They certainly supply a rounded finish, and the internal evidence as to their authorship is not very apparent. But, if they are really Johnson’s, it is an open question whether the more abrupt termination of Goldsmith, resting, in Dantesque fashion, on the word “blest,” is not to be preferred.