The beauties of English poesy: Selected by Oliver Goldsmith. In two volumes. ... [pt.1]
Goldsmith, Oliver, 1730?-1774.
Page  255


This is reckoned the best parody of Milton in our language: it has been an hundred times imitated, without success. The truth is, the first thing in this way must preclude all future attempts; for nothing is so easy as to burlesque any man's man|ner, when we are once shewed the way.

HAPPY the man, who, void of cares and strife,
In silken, or in leathern, purse, retains
A Splendid Shilling: he nor hears with pain
New oysters cry'd, nor sighs for chearful ale;
But, with his friends, when nightly mists arise,
To Juniper's Magpye, or Town-Hall * repairs:
Where, mindful of the nymph whose wanton eye
Transfix'd his soul, and kindled amorous flames,
Cloe, or Philips; he each circling glass
Wisheth her health, and joy, and equal love.
Mean while, he smokes, and laughs at merry tale,
Or Pun ambiguous, or Conundrum quaint.
But I, whom griping penury surrounds,
Page  256And hunger, sure attendant upon want,
With scanty offals, and small acid tiff,
(Wretched repast!) my meagre corps sustain:
Then solitary walk, or doze at home
In garret vile, and with a warming puff
Regale chill'd fingers; or from tube as black
As winter chimney, or well-polish'd jet,
Exhale Mundungus, ill-perfuming scent:
Not blacker tube, nor of a shorter size
Smokes Cambro-Briton (vers'd in pedigree,
Sprung from Cadwalador and Arthur, kings
Full famous in romantic tale) when he
O'er many a craggy hill and barren cliff,
Upon a cargo of fam'd Cestrian cheese,
High over-shadowing rides, with a design
To vend his wares, or at th' Arvonian mart,
Or Maridunum, or the antient town
Yclip'd Brechinia; or where Vaga's stream
Encircles Ariconium, fruitful soil!
Whence flow nectareous wines, that well may vie
With Massic, Setin, or renown'd Falern.
Thus, while my joyless minutes tedious flow,
With looks demure, and silent pace, a Dun,
Horrible monster! hated by gods and men,
To my aërial citadel ascends,
With vocal heel thrice thundering at my gate,
With hideous accent thrice he calls; I know
The voice ill-boding, and the solemn sound.
What should I do? or whither turn? amaz'd,
Confounded, to the dark recess I fly
Page  257Of woodhole; strait my bristling hairs erect
Thro' sudden fear; a chilly sweat bedews
My shudd'ring limbs, and (wonderful to tell!)
My tongue forgets her faculty of speech;
So horrible he seems! his faded brow
Entrench'd with many a frown, and conic beard,
And spreading band, admir'd by modern saints,
Disastrous acts forebode; in his right hand
Long scrolls of paper solemnly he waves,
With characters and figures dire inscrib'd,
Grievous to mortal eyes; (ye gods, avert
Such plagues from righteous men) behind him stalks
Another monster not unlike himself,
Sullen of aspect, by the vulgar call'd
A Catchpole; whose polluted hands the Gods
With force incredible, and magic charms,
First have endu'd, if he his ample palm
Should, haply, on ill-fated shoulder lay
Of debtor, strait his body, to the touch
Obsequious, (as whilom knights were wont)
To some inchanted castle is convey'd,
Where gates impregnable, and coercive chains
In durance strict detain him, till, in form
Of money, Pallas sets the captive free.
Beware, ye debtors, when ye walk, beware,
Be circumspect; oft, with insiduous ken,
This caitiff eyes your steps aloof, and oft
Lies perdue in a nook or gloomy cave,
Prompt to inchant some inadvertent wretch
With his unhallow'd touch. So (poets sing)
Page  258Grimalkin, to domestic vermin sworn
An everlasting foe, with watchful eye
Lies nightly brooding o'er a chinky gap,
Protending her fell claws, to thoughtless mice
Sure ruin. So, her disembowell'd web,
Arachne, in a hall, or kitchen, spreads,
Obvious to vagrant flies: she secret stands
Within her woven cell; the humming prey,
Regardless of their fate, rush on the toils
Inextricable, nor will aught avail
Their arts, or arms, or shapes of lovely hue;
The wasp insiduous, and the buzzing drone,
And butterfly, proud of expanded wings
Distinct with gold, entangled in her snares,
Useless resistance make: with eager strides,
She tow'ring flies to her expected spoils;
Then, with envenom'd jaws, the vital blood
Drinks of reluctant foes, and to her cave
Their bulky carcases triumphant drags.
So pass my days. But when nocturnal shades
This world invelop, and th' inclement air
Persuades men to repel benumbing frosts
With pleasant wines, and crackling blaze of wood;
Me, lonely sitting, nor the glimmering light
Of makeweight candle, nor the joyous talk
Of loving friend delights; distress'd, forlorn,
Amidst the horrors of the tedious night,
Darkling I sigh, and feed with dismal thoughts
My anxious mind, or, sometimes, mournful verse
Indite, and sing of groves and myrtle shades,
Page  259Or desp'rate lady near a purling stream,
Or lover pendent on a willow-tree.
Mean while I labour with eternal drought,
And, restless, wish, and rave, my parched throat
Finds no relief, nor heavy eyes repose:
But if a slumber haply does invade
My weary limbs, my fancy's still awake,
Thoughtful of drink, and eager, in a dream,
Tipples imaginary pots of ale,
In vain; awake I find the settled thirst
Still gnawing, and the pleasant fantom curse.
Thus do I live, from pleasure quite debarr'd.
Nor taste the fruits that the sun's genial rays
Mature, John-Apple, nor the downy Peach,
Nor Walnut in rough-furrow'd coat secure;
Nor Medlar fruit, delicious in decay:
Afflictions great! yet greater still remain:
My Galligaskins, that have long withstood
The winter's fury, and encroaching frosts,
By Time subdu'd (what will not Time subdue!)
An horrid chasm disclos'd with orifice
Wide, discontinuous; at which the winds
Eurus and Auster, and the dreadful force
Of Boreas, that congeals the Cronean waves,
Tumultuous enter with dire chilling blasts,
Portending agues. Thus, a well fraught ship
Long sail'd secure, or thro' th' Aegean deep,
Or th' Ionean, till cruising near
The Lilybean shore, with hideous crush,
On Scylla, or Charybdis (dang'rous rocks!)
Page  260She strikes rebounding, whence the shatter'd oak,
So fierce a shock unable to withstand,
Admits the sea; in at the gaping side
The crowding waves gush with impetuous rage,
Resistless, overwhelming; horrors seize
The mariners, death in their eyes appear,
They stare, they lave, they pump, they swear, they pray:
(Vain efforts!) Still the batt'ring waves rush in,
Implacable, till, delug'd by the foam,
The ship sinks found'ring in the vast abyss.