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THE GOLDSMITHS AND THEIR VILLAGES DESMOND PACEY IN 1825 a young Halifax official by the name of Oliver Goldsmith publisbed a poem entitled The Rising Village. Goldsmith was a grandnephew of the Anglo-Irish poet of the same name, and in the preface to his poem and in the introductory lines of it he frankly expressed his desire to emulate his ancestor and to produce a sequel to his Deserted Village. Contemporary reviewers and subsequent critics of The Rising Village have all referred to this relationship between the men and their poems, but without exception they have confined themselves to vague and general comparisons. Remarks such as these are typical: "The author is indeed worthy of the relationship he bears to that great genius"'; the poem "is an imitation of Goldsmith's Deserted Village and is eighteenth century in manner and feeling.'" The purpose of this article is to undertake a close comparative analysis of the two poems. To what extent is the Canadian poem an imitation of its model? The superiority of the English poem is universally admitted, but in what does its superiority consist? Was it possible for a nineteenth-century Canadian to write a poem which is "eighteenth-century in manner and feeling"? If not, how did the place and time of the Canadian poet affect his attitudes? It may be conceded at once that the two poems are roughly parallel in structure. Each may be broken down into three broad divisions: (a) a contrast between things as they were and as they arc; (b) a series of portraits of representative village persons and places; (c) a return to the contrast between past and present, with some thoughts of the future. Within these broad divisions, however, there are important differences of detail. The Canadian poem is (by my count- the lines are unnumbered ) 132 lines longer than the Englisb, and this difference is almost wholly accounted for by an interpolated sentimental narrative of a disastrous love affair between two young Canadian villagers, Albert and Flora. In the first and third divisions of his poem, the Canadian poet substitutes tributes to Britain for the elder Goldsmith's diatribes against luxury and materialism. And in the middle section, the younger Goldsmith adds the doctor and the merchant to the English trio of parson, teacher, and tavern-keeper-significant additions these, if we remember that lCanadian Review and Magazine (Montreal ), Feb., 1826, 305. 2T. G. Marquis, English-Canadian Literature (Toronto, 1915), 566-7. 27 Vol. XXI, no. 1, Oct., 1951 28 THE UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY the English Goldsmith was himself a doctor of sorts and that, as we shall see below, he hated merchants as a class. The metre of the two poems is very similar also. Both poems are written in heroic couplets, and a superficial examination would reveal little difference in their rhythm and style. The Canadian Goldsmith had clearly mastered the mechanics of the heroic couplet, and his poem is, superficially at least, as smooth and melodious as that of his model. Why is it, then, that we feel in the English poem a tension, a nervous vigour, beside which the Canadian one seems relatively diffuse and listless? No mere mechanical examination of the prosody of the two poems will carry us very far. In those matters by which the flexibility and deftness of the heroic couplet are most often judged, the advantage is, if anywhere, on the side of the Canadian poet. The latter makes more use of run-on lines than his English model (75 as against 24) ; and he also makes more use of the run-on couplet (65 as against 31). The Canadian also makes a slightly more extensive use of the off-rhyme and the reversed beat in an effort to avoid the monotony to which heroic verse is prone. There is only one metrical trick in which the English poet seems to me to surpass the Canadian, and that is in the use of occasional anapaests among the prevailing iambs.' Even in the more subtle matters of poetic technique, such as assonance, alliteration, and onomatopeia, there is little to choose between the two. If the Canadian poet was, in comparison...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 27-38
Launched on MUSE
2015-07-01
Open Access
No
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