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THE TRAVELLER: OR, A PRO-
SPECT OF SOCIETY.
FIRST PRINTED IN 1765.
TO THE REV. HENRY GOLDSMITH.
I AM sensible that the friendship between us
can acquire no new force from the ceremonies
of a dedication; and perhaps it demands an
excuse thus to prefix your name to my attempts,
which you decline giving with your own.
as a part of this poem was formerly written to
you from Switzerland, the whole can now, with
propriety, be only inscribed to you. It will also
throw a light upon many parts of it, when the
reader understands that it is addressed to a man,
who, despising fame and fortune, has retired
early to happiness and obscurity, with an income
of forty pounds a year.
I now perceive, my dear brother, the wisdom of your humble choice. You have entered upon a sacred office; where the harvest is great, and the labourers are but few; while you have left the field of ambition, where the labourers are many, and the harvest not worth carrying away. 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 muAs these offer the feesic come in for a share. ble mind a less laborious entertainment, they at first rival poetry, and at length supplant her, they engross all that favour once shewn to her, and, though but younger sisters, seize upon the elder's birth-right.
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, chorusses, 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 errour is ever talkative.
But there is an enemy to this art still more When dangerous, I mean party. Party entirely distorts the judgment, and destroys the taste. 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, Such readers generally makes ever after the most agreeable feast upon murdered reputation. admire some half-witted thing, who wants to be thought a bold man, 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 phrenzy 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
There are few can judge
better than yourself how far these positions are
illustrated in this poem.
your most affectionate brother,
REMOTE, unfriended, melancholy, slow,
Or by the lazy Scheld, or wandering Po;
Or onward, where the rude Carinthian boor
Against the houseless stranger shuts the door;
Or where Campania's plain forsaken lies,
A weary waste expanding to the skies;
Where'er I roam, whatever realms to see,
My heart, untravell'd, fondly turns to thee:
Still to my brother turns with ceaseless pain,
And drags at each remove a length'ning chain.
Eternal blessings crown my earliest friend,
And round his dwelling guardian saints attend ;
Blest be that spot, where cheerful guests retire
To pause from toil, and trim their ev'ning fire;
Blest that abode, where want and pain repair,
And ev'ry stranger finds a ready chair;
Blest be those feasts with simple plenty crown'd,
Where all the ruddy family around
Laugh at the jests or pranks that never fail,
Or sigh with pity at some mournful tale;
Or press the bashful stranger to his food,
And learn the luxury of doing good.
But me, not destin'd such delights to share,
My prime of life in wand'ring spent and care;
Impell'd with steps unceasing to pursue [view;
Some fleeting good, that mocks me with the
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 ap-
Lakes, forests, cities, plains extending wide,
The pomp of kings, the shepherd's humbler pride.
When thus creation's charms around combine,
Amidst the store should thankless pride repine?
Say, should the philosophic mind disdain [vain?
That good which makes each humbler bosom
Let school-taught pride dissemble all it can,
These little things are great to little man;
And wiser he, whose sympathetic mind
Exults in all the good of all mankind.
Ye glitt'ring towns, with wealth and splendour
Ye fields, where summer spreads profusion
Ye lakes, whose vessels catch the busy gale,
Ye bending swains, that dress the flow'ry vale,
For me your tributary stores combine;
Creation's heir, the world, the world is mine.
Extols the treasures of his stormy seas,
And his long nights of revelry and ease:
The naked Negro, panting at the line,
Boasts of his golden sands, and palmy wine,
Basks in the glare or stems the tepid wave,
And thanks his gods for all the good they gave.
Such is the patriot's boast, where'er we roam,
His first, best country, ever is at home.
And yet, perhaps, if countries we compare,
And estimate the blessings which they share,
Though patriots flatter, still shall wisdom find
An equal portion dealt to all mankind:
As diff'rent good, by art or Nature giv'n
To diff'rent nations, makes their blessings ev'n.
Nature, a mother kind alike to all,
Still grants her bliss at labour's earnest call;
With food as well the peasant is supply'd
On Idra's cliff as Arno's shelvy side;
And though the rocky-crested summits frown,
These rocks, by custom, turn to beds of down.
From art more various are the blessings sent;
Wealth, commerce, honour, liberty, content:
Yet these each other's pow'r so strong contest,
That either seems destructive of the rest.
Where wealth and freedom reign, contentment
And honour sinks where commerce long pre-
Hence ev'ry state, to one lov'd blessing prone,
Conforms and models life to that alone:
Each to the fav'rite happiness attends,
And spurns the plan that aims at other ends;
Till, carried to excess in each domain,
This fav'rite good begets peculiar pain.
But let us try these truths with closer eyes,
And trace them through the prospect as it lies:
Here for a while, my proper cares resign'd,
Here let me sit in sorrow for mankind;
Like yon neglected shrub, at random cast,
That shades the steep, and sighs at ev'ry blast.
Far to the right, where Appennine ascends,
Bright as the summer, Italy extends:
Its uplands sloping deck the mountain's side,
Woods over woods in gay theatric pride;
While oft some temple's mould'ring tops be-
With memorable grandeur mark the scene.
Could Nature's bounty satisfy the breast,
The sons of Italy were surely blest.
Whatever fruits in diff'rent climes are found,
That proudly rise or humbly court the ground;
Whatever blooms in torrid tracts appear,
Whose bright succession decks the varied year;
Whatever sweets salute the northern sky
With vernal lives, that blossom but to die;
These here disporting own the kindred soil,
Nor ask luxuriance from the planter's toil;
While sea-born gales their gelid wings expand
To winnow fragrance round the smiling land.
As some lone miser, visiting his store,
Bends at his treasure, counts, recounts it o'er,
Hoards after hoards his rising raptures fill,
Yet still he sighs, for hoards are wanting still;
Thus to my breast alternate passions rise,[plies:
Pleas'd with each good that Heav'n to man sup-
Yet oft a sigh prevails, and sorrows fall,
To see the hoard of human bliss so small;
And oft I wish, amidst the scene to find
Some spot to real happiness consign'd,
But small the bliss that sense alone bestows,
And sensual bliss is all the nation knows.
In florid beauty groves and fields appear,
Man seems the only growth that dwindles here.
Contrasted faults through all his manners reign;
Though poor,luxurious; though submissive, rain;
Where my worn soul, each wand'ring hope at rest, Though grave, yet trifling; zealous, yet untrue;
May gather bliss, to see my fellows blest.
But where to find that happiest spot below, Who can direct, when all pretend to know? The shudd'ring tenant of the frigid zone Boldly proclaims that happiest spot his own;
And ev'nin penance planning sins anew.
All evils here contaminate the mind,
That opulence departed leaves behind;
For wealth was theirs; not far remov'd the date,
When commerce proudly flourish'd thro'the state;
At her command the palace learnt to rise,
Again the long-fall'n column sought the skies;
The canvass glow'd, beyond e'en Nature warm,
The pregnant quarry teem'd with human form:
Till, more unsteady than the southern gale,
Commerce on other shores display'd her sail;
While nought remain'd of all that riches gave,
But towns unmann'd, and lords without a slave:
And late the nation found, with fruitless skill,
Its former strength was but plethoric ill.
Yet still the loss of wealth is here supply'd
By arts, the splendid wrecks of former pride;
From these the feeble heart and long-fall'n
An easy compensation seem to find.
Here may be seen, in bloodless pomp array'd,
The pasteboard triumph and the cavalcade:
Processions form'd for piety and love,
A mistress or a saint in ev'ry grove.
Thus ev'ry good his native wilds impart
Imprints the patriot passion on his heart;
And e'eu those hills, 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 as-
Their wants but few, their wishes all confin'd:
Yet let them only share the praises due,
If few their wants, their pleasures are but few;
For ev'ry want that stimulates the breast
Becomes a source of pleasure when redrest:
Whence from such lands each pleasing science
By sports like these are all their cares beguil'd,
The sports of children satisfy the child :
Each nobler aim, represt by long control,
Now sinks at last, or feebly mans the soul;
While low delights, succeeding fast behind,
In happier meanness occupy the mind:
As in those domes, where Cæsars once bore
Defac'd by time, and tott'ring in decay,
There in the ruin, heedless of the dead,
The shelter-seeking peasant builds his shed;
And, wond'ring man could want the larger pile,
Exults, and owns his cottage with a smile.
My soul, turn from them, turn we to survey
Where rougher climes a nobler race display,
Where the bleak Swiss their stormy mansions
That first excites desire and then supplies;
Unknown to them, when sensual pleasures cloy,
To fill the languid pause with finer joy;
Unknown those pow'rs that raise the soul to
Catch ev'ry nerve, and vibrate through the
Their level life is but a mould'ring fire,
Unquench'd by want, unfann'd 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
Unalter'd, unimprov'd, the manners run;
And love's and friendship's finely pointed dart
Fall blunted from each indurated heart.
Some sterner virtues o'er the mountain's breast
May sit, like falcons cow'ring on the nest :
But all the gentler morals, such as play
Thro' life's more cultur'd walks, and charm the
These, far dispers'd, on tim'rous 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,
Pleas'd with thyself, whom all the world can
How often have I led thy sportive choir,
With tuneless pipe, beside the murm'ring Loire!
Where shading elms along the margin grew,
And freshen'd from the wave the zephyr flew :
And haply, though my harsh touch, falt'ring still,
But mock'd all tune, and marr'd the dancer's
Yet would the village praise my wond'rous pow'r,
And dance, forgetful of the noontide hour.
Alike all ages. Dames of ancient days
Have led their children thro' the mirthful inaze;
And the gay grandsire, skill'd in gestic lore,
Has frisk'd 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 honour forms the social temper here:
Honour, that praise which real merit gains,
Or e'en imaginary worth obtains,
Here passes current; paid from hand to hand,
It shifts, in splendid traffic, round the land:
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 ling'ring chills the lap of May;
No zephyr fondly sues the mountain's breast,
But meteors glare, and stormy glooms invest.
Yet still, e'en here, content can spread a
Redress the clime, and all its rage disarm.
Though poor the peasant's hut, his feasts tho'
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,
Breathes the keen air, and carols as he goes ;
With patient angle trolls the finny deep,
Or drives his vent'rous ploughshare to the steep;
Or seeks the den where snow-tracks mark the
And drags the struggling savage into day.
At night returning, ev'ry labour 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 lov'd 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.
From courts, to camps, to cottages it strays,
And all are taught an avarice of praise; [teem,
They please, are pleased, they give to get es-
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 lov'd, or warmly sought,
Enfeebles all internal strength of thought;
And the weak soul, within itself unblest,
Leans for all pleasure ou 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.
To men of other minds my fancy flies,
Embosom'd in the deep where Holland lies.
Methinks her patient sons before me stand,
Where the broad ocean leans against the land,
And, sedulous to stop the coming tide,
Lift the tall rampire's artificial pride.
Onward, methinks, and diligently slow,
The firm connected bulwark seems to grow;
Spreads its long arms amidst the wat❜ry roar,
Scoops out an empire, and usurps the shore:
While the pent ocean, rising o'er the pile,
Sees an amphibious world beneath him smile:
The slow canal, the yellow-blossom'd vale,
The willow-tufted bank, the gliding sail,
The crowded mart, the cultivated plain,
A new creation rescu'd from his reign.
Heav'ns! how unlike their Belgic sires of old! Rough, poor, content, ungovernably bold; War in each breast, and freedom on each brow; How much unlike the sons of Britain now!
Fir'd at the sound, my genius spreads her wing, And flies where Britain courts the western spring; Where lawns extend that scorn Arcadian pride, And brighter streams than fam'd Hydaspis glide; There all around the gentlest breezes stray, There gentle music melts on every spray; Creation's mildest charms are there combin'd, Extremes are only in the master's mind; Stern o'er each bosom reason holds her state, With daring aims irregularly great: Pride in their port, defiance in their eye, I see the lords of human kind pass by; Intent on high designs, a thoughtful band, By forms unfashion'd, fresh from Nature's hand,
Fierce in their native hardiness of soul,
True to imagin'd right, above control,
While e'en the peasant boasts these rights to scan,
And learns to venerate himself as man.
Thine, Freedom, thine the blessings pictur'd
Thine are those charms that dazzle and endear;
Too blest indeed were such without alloy;
But foster'd e'en by freedom, ills annoy;
That independence Britons prize too high,
Keeps man from man, and breaks the social tie;
The self-dependent lordlings stand alone,
All claims that bind and sweeten life unknown;
Here, by the bonds of nature feebly held,
Minds combat minds, repelling and repell'd;
Ferments arise, imprison'd factions roar,
Represt ambition struggles round her shore;
Till over-wrought, the general system feels
Its motions stop, or phrenzy fire the wheels.
Nor this the worst. As nature's ties decay,
As duty, love, and honour, fail to sway,
Fictitious bonds, the bonds of wealth and law,
Still gather strength, and force unwilling awe.
Hence all obedience bows to these alone,
And talent sinks, and merit weeps unknown;
Till time may come, when, stript of all her
The land of scholars, and the nurse of arms, Where noble stems transmit the patriot flame, Where kings have toil'd, and poets wrote, for One sink of level avarice shall lie, fame, And scholars, soldiers, kings, unhonour'd die.
Yet think not, thus when freedom's ills I state, I mean to flatter kings, or court the great: Ye pow'rs of truth, that bid my soul aspire, Far from my bosom drive the low desire! And thou, fair Freedom, taught alike to feel The rabble's rage, and tyrant's angry steel; Thou transitory flow'r, alike undone By proud contempt, or favour's fost❜ring sun; Still may thy blooms the changeful clime endure! I only would repress them to secure ; For just experience tells, in ev'ry soil, That those who think must govern those that toil; And all that freedom's highest aims can reach Is but to lay proportion'd loads on each. Hence, should one order disproportion'd grow, Its double weight must ruin all below.
Oh then how blind to all that truth requires, Who think it freedom when a part aspires! Calm is my soul, nor apt to rise in arms, Except when fast approaching danger warms: But when contending chiefs blockade the throne, Contracting regal pow'r to stretch their own; When I behold a factious band agree To call it freedom when themselves are free; Each wanton judge new penal statutes draw, Laws grind the poor, and rich men rule the law; The wealth of climes, where savage nations
Pillag'd from slaves to purchase slaves at home;
Fear, pity, justice, indignation, start,
Tear off reserve, and bare my swelling heart;
Till half a patriot, half a coward grown,
I fly from petty tyrants to the throne.
Yes, brother, curse with me that baleful hour, When first ambition struck at regal pow'r; And thus, polluting honour in its source, Gave wealth to sway the mind with double force,