Saturday, February 24, 2018

A conservatism the word would never know

Ill fares the land, famously lamented Oliver Goldsmith (1770), 
to hast'ning ills a prey, where wealth accumulates and men decay. 

An extraordinary convocation of rapture in bigotry and every other scourge of ignorance and fury, is taking place in Washington under the name, Conservative Political Action Conference. Naturally, the American President keynoted the occasion with reminiscences of his worst rhetorical debaucheries, but to many the radiant highlights were two immaculately demented sermons by the National Rifle Association. Goldsmith's Village has been sold. 

One can make too many arguments 
for the company Samuel Johnson 
kept, who included the versa-
tile Oliver Goldsmith; one can 
even wonder, sometimes, how he 
kept any company. We notice, 
however, on Boswell's intimate 
authority, that we can't ignore 
his interest in the recombinant 
and resilient fecundity, de- 
spite a demagogic vulnerability, 
in the English language, of which 
he remains its wittiest guardian.

Where plain cherishing of the lan-
guage's resources comes into play,
however, we have his quiet friend: 

          Even now, methinks, as pondering here I stand, 
          I see the rural virtues leave the land: 
          Down where yon anchoring vessel spreads the sail, 
          That idly waiting flaps with every gale, 
          Downward they move, a melancholy band, 
          Pass from the shore, and darken all the strand. 
          Contented toil, and hospitable care, 
          And kind connubial tenderness, are there; 
          And piety with wishes placed above, 
          And steady loyalty, and faithful love. 

Rex Whistler
Capriccio Self-Portrait
  in a Dining Room Mural
Plas Newydd, Anglesey
undated, 1930s

Oliver Goldsmith

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