Oliver Goldsmith (1794-1861) can lay rightful claim to a number of "firsts" in Canadian literary history. The Rising Village (1825) was both the first book-length poem published by a native English-Canadian and the first book-length publication in England by a Canadian poet. Goldsmith was also the first Canadian-born poet to be published in both England and Canada.1 And the discovery of his brief autobiography by Wilfrid E. Myatt2 makes Goldsmith the writer of, as Lorne Pierce has noted, the "first autobiography of a native Canadian writer."3 Goldsmith's "firsts" commend The Rising Village to "Canadians interested in the history of the literature of their country."4 (Similarly, his distant familial connection to his namesake, the Anglo-Irish Oliver Goldsmith, author of the well-known eighteenth-century poem The Deserted Village , had initially commended the Canadian Goldsmith to the interest of his contemporaries.) But The Rising Village is more than a literary curiosity highlighted by the circumstances of its bibliographic origins or its author's relation to the famous Anglo-Irish Goldsmith. As Lorne Pierce further observes of the Canadian Goldsmith and his fellow pre-Confederation poet Charles Sangster, The Rising Village, like The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay, is of primary importance because it is the indigenous source of what can be seen as the mainstream of English-Canadian poetry in the nineteenth century:
Without the excuse of Pierce's war-time patriotism, it can yet be asserted that The
Rising Village is for numerous literary, historical, and bibliographical reasons a
Canadian poem worthy of critical attention and scholarly care. Its unique status in
Canadian literary history justifies the presentation in the present edition of the two
versions of the poem: the 1825 version, published in London, England, and the extensively
revised 1834 version, published with other poems in St. John, New Brunswick.
Like many English-Canadian writers of the nineteenth century, Goldsmith was a descendant of United Empire Loyalists. His father was a British officer who refused a bribe of six thousand pounds from his father-in-law to resign his commission and assume a comfortable place in the nascent United States of America.6 Remaining loyal to the British Crown, the Goldsmiths moved to New Brunswick and assumed the life of pioneers, and it was there that Oliver was born. As Myatt writes in his Introduction to The Autobiography: "No one was better prepared than Goldsmith, therefore, to describe the pioneer activities of the struggling Loyalists with their hopes, vexations and endurance."7
Goldsmith led a quiet, if not an entirely uneventful life. After trying his hand at a number of trades, in 1810 he entered the Commissariat of the British Navy at Halifax, in which service he remained for the rest of his life, rising through the ranks to Assistant Commissary General in 1838. In the course of his duties he eventually travelled to various postings throughout the world, encountering some measure of adventure along the way. For example, he was shipwrecked, a calamity that he recounts as follows:
The biblical resonance of this description tells us much about the pious poet for whom Providence was the centre of all his faith and hope. Goldsmith foregoes any detailed narration of his stranding; in fact, he bypasses what is from the contemporary reader's perspective one of the more intriguing events of his life to chronicle further in Leviticus-like detail his orderly life as a civil servant.
In 1844, he was posted to Hong Kong, where in 1848 he suffered a sun-stroke that forced him to leave for a five-year posting at St. John's, Newfoundland. Hoping that his St. John's posting was his last, Goldsmith thought to begin his retirement with a tour of his ancestral homeland, Ireland. His tour was climaxed by a visit to Lissoy, the familial home of the Goldsmiths and the purported "Sweet Auburn" of The Deserted Village. Referring to his father's financial inability to keep the ancestral seat, Goldsmith reflects nostalgically upon his visit:
Elegiac reflections aside, Goldsmith can as readily reveal an unimaginative, somewhat priggish response, as in the following account of his visit to Blarney Castle: "I went over Blarney Castle, saw the Blarney Stone which Irishmen kiss so fondly, but I thought the feat too dangerous for the sake of kissing a bit of cold Stone."10 Much to his discomfort, in 1854 Goldsmith's country called him out of his well-earned retirement on half-pay to serve at Corfu in the Crimean War (1854-1856). Debilitated by the three-and-a-half month voyage to the Greek Island, Goldsmith never recovered his full health and was forced to resign his post in 1855.
In the discharge of his duties (and the word "duty" is always evoked by Goldsmith with humble pride), Goldsmith literally worked himself to exhaustion in what was apparently the best of spirits. The account in The St. John Morning News (May 10, 1844) of his departure for China is a remarkable testimony to the poet who had won the hearts of his neighbours:
The report proceeds in this vein. Whatever the liberties taken by the press of the day, the lengthy tribute conveys a sense of the sincere affection of New Brunswickers for one of their first cultural benefactors and unofficial poet laureate.
The Rising Village should be viewed, in fact, as the most ambitious poem of an occasional poet. Goldsmith had written an opening address for a local amateur theatre group that had been formed by ladies and officers connected with the garrison at Halifax.12 And though his address was not accepted, Goldsmith felt encouraged to try his hand at the more ambitious longer poem. As he recounts the genesis of The Rising Village, with the theatrical 'Address'
Myatt has determined that The Rising Village "was written between March, 1822, after the composition of the 'Address,' and the first months of 1824."14 Goldsmith, in a fit of pique, and pricked perhaps by the anxiety of influence, recounts the critical reception of his first sustained and most serious effort:
But the assiduous researches of Myatt failed to find any adverse criticism of The Rising Village in print (in fact, he finds only favourable reviews), and he assumes that whatever criticism Goldsmith received for The Rising Village must have been verbal.16 Moreover, whatever the nature or virulence of the alleged criticism, it did not prevent Goldsmith from reprinting the poem in the February, 1826 issue of The Canadian Review and Magazine (Montreal), accompanied by a laudatory review of the 1825 London publication. Nor, fortunately, did the alleged unfavourable criticism prevent Goldsmith from extensively revising The Rising Village for publication in New Brunswick in 1834. Unfortunately, though, Goldsmith does not comment in his autobiography on the reception of the two subsequent appearances of his poem.
The central concern of The Rising Village is the control of nature, both physical and human nature, or outer and inner nature. From beginning to end the poem describes cyclical movements wherein control is gained, the pioneer settlers relax, control is lost, regained and tenuously maintained.17 The Rising Village is the work of a poet who suspected encroaching chaos in physical nature and moral turpitude in his neighbours. Read in this stark light, the poem is as successful and interesting in its own terms as is its "predecessor-model,"18 The Deserted Village. The Rising Village also emerges as having more in common with, and as being more intentionally an extension of, The Deserted Village than has hitherto been understood.19
Kenneth J. Hughes has indicated Goldsmith's sophisticated manipulation of the words "prospects" and "culture" in The Rising Village, and demonstrated how both terms are employed in a human and a physical sense, often to suggest both senses simultaneously.20 It should not be surprising, then, to discover that Goldsmith employs the word "nature" in a similar manner. In The Rising Village "nature" carries multiple meanings, fourfold meaning, to be precise: there is (a) physical nature, which can be both beneficent(1) and malevolent(2); and there is (b) human nature, which can be both good(3) and evil(4). For example, the poet speaks of "nature's ruggedness"21 to signify the harsh reality of the wilderness faced by the pioneers, but he employs phrases such as "by nature nourished" (119) to convey his understanding of nature in the abstract, as beneficent mother. Physical nature is for Goldsmith both a terrifying wilderness (inclusive of Indians and beasts) and a beneficent, nourishing nature in the abstract. (The notion of an indifferent nature, a view which arose in the nineteenth century with the popularity of Darwinian evolutionary theory, is one that does not, of course, occur to Goldsmith.) In the human sphere, nature is also two-sided: there is virtuous human nature, civilized man, the product of controlled instinct; and there is instinctual human nature, the human equivalent of the wilderness, a darker entity that must be controlled if civilization is to progress. Goldsmith, the Christian pioneer-poet, is ever alert to the enduring effects of original sin, to the threat that fallen nature and fallible man pose to the rising village in the wilderness. His achievement in The Rising Village is the depiction in general terms of the cyclical pattern of defeat and victory in the pioneers' control over "nature"; his success derives also from his synthesizing in the Albert and Flora tale the fourfold vision of natureas beneficent mother, as wilderness, as civilized (good) man, and as instinctual (evil) human nature.
In the initial contrast between the "chaste and splendid . . . scenes that lie / Beneath the circle of Britannia's sky" (27-28) and Acadia's "lone and drear . . . woods and wilds" (43-44), what appeals most to the poet is the orderliness of the old world. In Britain everything and everyone occupies its/his proper place in the social hierarchy:
The word "chaste" suggests Goldsmith's moralism, his association of virtue with social order and economic prosperity. The poet of The Rising Village has not discerned in his great-uncle's poem the message that "the merchant's glory" and "the farmer's pride" are incompatible.22 But the Canadian Goldsmith's misreading is understandable: in a pioneering environment, and in accordance with the mercantilist ethos and Adamic mythology that infuse The Rising Village, commercial and agrarian interests are viewed necessarily as compatible for the sake of the colony's prosperity. The Rising Village is not concerned with the depopulation of a rural class but with the reverse of Sweet Auburn's dilemmasettlement. Goldsmith has, however, coloured his poem in the moralistic tone of The Deserted Village, particularly in that poem's sombre assessment of pleasurable pastimes.
In The Rising Village, the first imposition of order on the wilds of Acadia culminates in the triumph of agriculture:
The initial onslaught against nature-as-wilderness is depicted in images that are suggestive of alchemical transmutation (from the green of the "forest" to the "golden corn") and the martial ("redden all the skies" and "triumphant"). The initial battle is won, control is exerted, order is imposed, the wilderness is transformed. The pioneer then finds time to relaxthe one pastime that Goldsmith portrays throughout the poem as boding ill. For just when "hope presents a solace for his woes, / New ills arise" (78-79). The "wilderness of trees" (60) is not the only danger that nature-as-wilderness holds. As the poet suggests, if trees were the sole challenge to security, there would be no need eternally to maintain vigilance: "How blest, did nature's ruggedness appear / The only source of trouble or of fear" (73-74). Fallen "nature" contains other challenges to rational order. The "solemn silence" (63), which was lamented earlier as "pervading the waste," is solemn because it conceals the "hideous yells" that "announce the murderous band" of Indians (85). The settler is forced to flee, but there is no security within nature-as-wilderness, for there "a host of foes"the beasts of the forest"On every side, his trembling steps oppose" (93-94). Nevertheless, daylight brings repose; and nature-as-wilderness is subdued eventually by "patient firmness," by "industrious toil" (103), and, ultimately, by the sheer number of settlers (105-110). The poem then moves, with the settlers, into the second phase of relaxation.
In this second phase, physical nature is characterized as beneficent. As the settler is "charmed by fair prospects on every side," he is "By nature nourished, by her bounty blest, / He looks to heaven, and lulls his cares to rest" (119 - 120). It is human nature that now emerges from its relaxed, uncontrolled state, threatening new turmoils. Lulling one's cares to rest invites hazardous prospects: recall what happened when the pioneer rested his cares after having put the virgin forest to the axe. For Goldsmith, human nature contains its own equivalent of wild savages and beasts prowling the deceptive stillness. Although nature-as-wilderness has been temporarily subdued, there yet remains the greater struggle with human nature, a struggle to be effected by the "arts of culture" (121); or, to put it differently, the triumph of the axe and agriculture must be followed by the civilization of human nature.
The first evidence of the arts of culture is the tavern with its "useful front" (132), filled with men who "will sigh to learn whatever" a passing stranger "can teach" (146). The church is the second accomplishment of the arts of culture. And as we move through the descriptions of the country store, the doctor, and the schoolhouse, we soon realize that the tavern, the church, and the store are the only institutions that Goldsmith finds of any practical, hence "useful," value. The tavern offers respite from loneliness, the church supplies the settlers' spiritual needs, the store caters to their material needs and wants. These three successes are followed by descriptions of two failures: the doctor and the schoolmaster. Besides conveying a feeling for the immediacy of death in a pioneer community, the passage dealing with the doctor's inability to control what happens to his charges' bodies complements the following description of the schoolmaster and his futile attempts to shape the young minds of the rising village.
The schoolhouse section sounds the first clearly ominous note in The Rising Village:
The poet associates the students' minds with natural (it is tempting to say edenic23) imagery. They are (to mix the poet's metaphors) "opening blossoms" being guided incapably through "fields of science"that is, knowledge. The children are, like nature-as-wilderness, raw material to be shaped and controlled. The schoolhouse section concludes with a description of these students who surround the schoolmaster:
We are confronted here with a picture of lawlessness (243), of "proud," "fearless," "rugged urchins" who "spurn at all control" (245). This passage not only functions as an ironical treatment of the same subject in The Deserted Village (193-216), but also serves as a turning point for The Rising Village and its unique, idiosyncratic concern: the control of nature. The poet recognizes that the subjugation of the wilderness, the control of physical nature does not present as great a challenge ultimately to the rising village as does the control of human nature, the shaping of young minds. He suggests, in fact, that the former is contingent upon the latter. (And it is worth entertaining the possibility that Goldsmith, the near-descendant of United Empire Loyalists, may have had in mind the consequences that were effected by the "free-born soul[s]"recall the boastful rhetoric of Thomas Chandler Haliburton's Sam Slickof revolutionary America.) From this point, the poem moves into the third phase of relaxation. But we must remember that, the respite gained here, unlike the rest that followed the control of nature-as-wilderness, takes place following what is a failure to control nature in its human form. (Again, it is worth observing parenthetically that the one thing Goldsmith regrets most in his Autobiography is the failure of his quest to find a good school and a learned teacher to instruct him in Latin and Greek. He writes of the time he spent in the Halifax Grammar School: "Boys generally remember school days with pleasure, but I must confess nothing agreeable is connected with my stay at this Seminary."24 He speaks dispairingly of the "worthless Instruction" he received and complains that at one point he "felt most bitterly how deficient had been [his] education".25)
In the shadow of the failure of education, the village continues to prosper. These phases of untroubled prosperity occur within the ever-increasing boundaries of the community, a growth which is conveyed in the continued use of such words as "successive," "prospects," "extends," and "sphere" in such lines as "thus the village each successive year / Presents new prospects, and extends its sphere" (249-250). But these phases of lax prosperity do not sit well with Goldsmith. He describes the settlers, presumably the older ones, as those "who felt each hardship nature could endure" (255). The old, who fought the initial battle with nature-as-wilderness, deserve their rest. Nevertheless, we cannot help sensing the poet's unease when he describes those same pioneers as "forgetful of their former care" (259). Recall again, as the poet would have his settlers do, what occurred when the woodsman relaxed his "former care," or what a failure was made of the school when guards were let down following the earliest increase in settlement, the increase that banished Indians and beasts. Goldsmith is at all times a moralist, a poet who anticipates in human nature what he fears in physical naturethe savage in the silence. Appropriately, his final wish and warning preceding the Albert and Flora tale is directed to youththose undisciplined students who have known no hardship and spurned at all control: "Dear humble sports, Oh! long may you impart / A guileless pleasure to the youthful heart" (281-282). It is in the "youthful heart"the youth of the village and, thus, the future Acadiathat Goldsmith anticipates guile.
The final challenge to the rising village's prosperity is expressed in the tale of two village youths, Albert and Flora. Goldsmith introduces this interpolated tale of romantic betrayal with a passage concerning vice and its breeding ground:
"Sportive pleasures" (257), "humble sports" (281), "guileless pleasure" (282), and "simple pleasures" (285) here give way to "thoughtless pleasure's train" (285), and this last manifestation of leisure provides the ground in which vice takes root. Unseen, vice "spreads her miseries" (290), and in so doing provides a perverse spiritual parallel to the village's ever-increasing physical boundaries. And why does this obstruction suddenly obscure the glories of the rising village? These village youths are "repressed by no control" (293); they are "by no laws confined" (297)which is to suggest that they are meant to recall in their licentiousness the "proud," "fearless" students of the schoolhouse passage who "spurn at all control" (245) and "despise" their teacher's "lawful sway" (243). "Heedless passions" (297), like nature-as-wilderness, must be controlled with unremitting vigilance.
Goldsmith's fear that mindless, unearned relaxation ("thoughtless pleasures") leads inevitably to vice may have been a result of his reading of The Deserted Village. Rather than the political-economic reading that the Anglo-Irish poet intended, Goldsmith seems to have read his great-uncle's poem simply (or selectively) for its moral message. The Deserted Village can be read solely as a condemnation of luxury, for on one level the poem deals graphically and melodramatically with the depopulation of the countryside as a sacrifice to the luxuries of the few, as the following lines from The Deserted Village show:
The author of The Rising Village is determined to nip this problem in the bud; and he illustrates his moral concern by showing Flora blasted in the bloom of youth. As will be seen, though, Goldsmith deploys the interpolated tale for other reasons as well.
In the apostrophe to Virtue that follows the passage on Vice, Goldsmith again reveals his moralistic bias, suggesting that virtue is obedience, and that he would not have to tell the "hapless story" (307) of Albert and Flora had the youths of the village been properly schooled in the virtue of obedience:
In the Albert and Flora tale, Goldsmith shows that virtue is not in itself enough; natural virtue aloneand it is doubtful that the conservative Goldsmith believed in natural virtuewill not effect obedience. In parallel with the rising village, there is "Each rising impulse of the erring mind" (300). Obedience must be drilled into those youths of the village who have not learned the lessons of hardship, who have not fought the battle to control nature-as-wilderness and thereby had their wilder energies displaced or simply dispersed. The Albert and Flora tale illustrates that lesson. The story of romantic-connubial betrayal serves also to announce Goldsmith's concern for the future of Acadia itself, his fear that the hardships of controlling outer, physical nature will prove too arduous for the indolent, unschooled future generations of the rising village. Viewed in this way, the Albert and Flora tale becomes a complex fusion of the poem's central concern with controlling nature in both its physical and human forms.
One of the first things we learn about Albert is that "the hand of nature had profusely shed / Her choicest blessings on his youthful head" (311-312). Albert possesses promise; he is potentially one of nature's gentlemen. The question becomes, What will be made of these choicest blessings? (Readers might well anticipate the tragic outcome of the Albert and Flora romance, given the improbability of the conservative Goldsmith's believing in the possibility of Nature's producing Rousseauistic gentlemen.) Flora is then introduced: "Flora was fair, and blooming as that flower / Which spreads its blossom to the April shower" (315-316). Her name should cue the reader to a broader, allegorical reading of her function in the poem, especially so after Goldsmith points out in a note that the flower of his metaphor is "indigenous to the wilds of Acadia, and is in bloom from the middle of April to the end of May."26 Moreover, the flower metaphor should recall to the reader the "opening blossoms" (232) of the schoolhouse section, those flowers / youths that were not being guided capably through fields of science. Albert and Flora meet supposedly in spring, "on the green" (322), when Flora is in "youthful bloom" (323). But Albert is impulsive, passionately so: "Nor long he sighed, by love and rapture fired, / He soon declared the passion she inspired" (325-326). Nor is Flora innocent of impulsiveness: "And, as his soft and tender suit he pressed, / The maid, at length, a mutual flame confessed" (329-330). Although at this point the poem presents a romance of promise, the reader is soon informed that Albert and Flora, unlike the pioneer settlers, have not learned "to know / Life's care or trouble, or to feel its woe" (335-336).
While winter is not the usual time of the year for a wedding, the scene of Flora's betrayal by Albert is set with a hauntingly particularized picture of an Acadian winter, a scene replete with images of infertility and death:
Albert breaks "his vows of love and constancy" (328), and in abandoning Flora he also deserts his "native plain" (363). The association of Flora with Acadia is thus touched again. As will be seen, it is central to Goldsmith's concerns that this dual abandonment takes place in winter.
Why does Albert abandon Flora? In his letter, he refers to his betrayal as a "change of heart" (366), a result of "his weakness" (372). Albert's weakness, "now involved in shame" (372), is inconstancy, fickleness, the triumph of the instinct to flightall of which can be viewed as the natural outgrowth of the impulsiveness that he had demonstrated in his impetuous courtship of Flora (225-226). His weakness is primarily a result of vice, the vice that resulted from the uncontrolled lawlessness of the village youths, among whom "Albert was foremost" (310). On one level, Albert's failure is the failure to control instinctive human nature: he has not had fickleness schooled out of him. On another level where Flora is viewed as Acadia Albert's abandonment of Flora is the failure of the second-generation settlers' vigilance in controlling nature- as-wilderness.
(It is credible also to view the story of Albert and Flora in other general terms. Ultimately, The Rising Village remains a poem that treats of the wilderness civilized. Albert's decision not to settle down with Flora can, in the broadest sense, be interpreted as a failure of civilizationin this instance, a failure to suppress the nomadic masculine instinct to resist domestication. The Albert and Flora tale is literally the story of the man leaving the woman at the altar: "The day was fixed, the bridal dress was made" .27 What interests Goldsmith are the repercussions for the progress of civilization of such an unsuppressed, uncontrolled instinct.)
Albert's betrayal of Flora, his unruly instinct to flight, causes her to go mad: "her reason fled!" (380); "madness" fired her breast (386). But Flora serves a dual function in this moral tale. When she goes on a mad dash through the winter night in search of Albert, "Exhausted nature could no further go, / And, senseless, down she sank amid the snow" (397-398). Although "nature" is employed here to mean human nature, the connotation of physical nature is also present. This latter suggestion is made more forcibly when Flora's revival is described in images of a thaw: "The loitering current now begins to flow" (409); and again when the poet decries that nothing can be done "to remove the pain, / That floats and revels o'er her maddened brain" (421-422). Flora, as the receptive and promising Acadian flower with which we began, has now come to symbolize the abandoned frozen land and its hoped-for revival. Albert's abandonment of herespecially in winterbrings about a return of what this poet visualizes as chaos to the recently controlled, potentially promising wilderness. Civilization's march of progress is temporarily frozen in its tracks.28
A moral exemplum; an encoded warning to the Motherland about the dangers of Yankee-style free-thinking; a reminder about the unending vigilance required to maintain human order in a cold wilderness; instinct versus culture; even a solar myth with a tragic ending; or a regeneration myth gone wrongthe interpolated tale of Albert and Flora is all of these.
Following the tale of Albert and Flora, Goldsmith is quick to point out that such is not the norm in the rising village: "Yet, think not oft such tales of real woe / Degrade the land, and round the village flow" (427-428). Again there is the water imagery to link Flora's fate with maritime Acadia's. It is to be expected that Goldsmith views such "tales of real woe" as ones that "degrade the land." A land abandoned, a land betrayed to wilderness, is a land degraded. And the phrase "not oft" is significant: these tales of uncontrolled instinct, of the breakdown of civilized order, of the land abandoned, may not be the general case, but they do occur. Goldsmith concludes the Albert and Flora tale with a generalized picture of young couples pursuing lives of marital bliss:
The key phrase is of course "with minds prepared," for it was lack of preparation that left Albert ficklethe failure of the schoolhouse. And here yet again is the water imagery"life's current" flowing gently onward; the youths "sink in peace"the metaphor that Goldsmith has employed throughout the Albert and Flora tale to provide his exemplum with a more general significance.
As the above passage suggests, the threat personified in Albert and his betrayal of Flora is the last that the rising village must face, though, judging from the universal significance of the tale and the cyclical movement of the poem, we may surmise that Goldsmith envisioned that threat as one which the village must face continually. It should also be clear from the above lines that the poem has now entered its final phase of relaxation and peace. The tensions of vigilant control are relaxed for a time. Appropriately, Goldsmith's final picture presents a tableau of man and nature in a cohesive relationship, in which nature has been domesticated to serve man's needs:
"Here," "there," everywhere nature has been controlled for man's benefit and profit (the "golden riches"). Notice also how the "Here/There" convention of picturesque description mimics the order in the landscape and directs attention to the elevated point of viewthe controlling, ordering eye of man.29
In the above picture, the saw-mill is portrayed as functioning reciprocally with the "winding stream." It is worth observing that in the 1834 version of the poem Goldsmith revised this description of the saw-mill to make it fit less incongruously into the picture of cohesion. In the 1825 text of the poem, lines 461-462 read, "The saw-mill rude, whose clacking all day long / The wilds re-echo, and the hills prolong" (1825; 465-466). Goldsmith's revision of the couplet not only changes "the saw-mill rude" to "the busy mill" but pictures the busy mill as a more natural extension of the "winding stream." Thus the mill becomes one with the grain, the "smiling orchards," "gardens," "fence of green," and the cottage "bosomed 'mong the trees."
The opportunity to study such seemingly insignificant revisionsof which lines 461-462 are but one among manyis what justifies the present parallel-text edition of The Rising Village. For example, this particular revision can now be seen to indicate further a change in Goldsmith's attitude towards the timber trade.
In his The History of the Atlantic Provinces: The Emergence of Colonial Society, 1712-1857, W.S. MacNutt records that the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812 were a boon to the timber trade of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Farms were left uncultivated while the settlers seized the opportunity for ready cash in the abundant forests. MacNutt makes two points that are pertinent to an understanding of Goldsmith's revision of lines 461-462: "The rise of the timber trade, destined to produce immense repercussions on the social scene, was rather terrifying to the more morally minded"; and, "Conventionally minded people spoke and wrote of the lawless, libertine spirit that seemed to sweep over the land as the timber trade boomed."30 (As the Albert and Flora tale shows, Goldsmith is, with regard to such institutions as family, home, and country, nothing if not "morally minded.") When relations between the United States and Britain were normalized, the Atlantic provinces lost their position as entrepreneurs. A period of economic depression ensued. Britain no longer had pressing need for naval masts and building timber from her colonies. Consequently, in 1834, Goldsmith's purported concern that the land would be abandoned for the timber trade was no longer tenable, and in his revision of the poem he thus incorporated the "busy mill" into his cohesive picture of man and nature, what might be called his mercantilist utopia. Students of the poem can see, however, in the implications of this revision of the 1825 text, the extent to which Goldsmith desired, like the Thomas McCulloch of The Stepsure Letters (serialized 1821-1823) and the Thomas Chandler Haliburton of The Clockmaker (1836), to keep his maritime settlers industrious on the land.31 When the booming timber trade's threat to agrarian pursuits was removed, Goldsmith easily assimilated the mill to his vision of man and nature, easily because that threat was transient when compared to the enduring threat posed by the failure to control human nature and to withstand the rigors of external nature in the form of winter.
Besides illustrating his apprehension of creeping vice, which results from unschooled human nature, the Albert and Flora tale suggested further that Goldsmith's greatest concern for the future of the rising village derived from his fear that the settlers might abandon the land, might relinquish the task of controlling naturegive up the struggle because of the harshness of the Acadian winter. His final panegyric on Acadia poetically makes this point in an apostrophe:
The winters may be harsh but the soil is fertile. Although it may not seem so at times, "Summer comes," "Autumn's gifts repay the labourer's toil." So do not despair. Do not abandon the land in winter as shameful Albert betrayed Flora. With its radical contrasting of winter and summer, its necessary, if incongruous, reminder of the seasonal cycle, and its emphasis on fertility ("fertile soil") and life ("suns"), this passage functions as a diametrical contrast to the earlier winter scene of a bereaved Flora seeking vainly her absent Albert (341-344). (We should note too the mercantilist slant to the diction: "repay," "richest products," "store," and "supply.") And as the poet points out in his concluding praise: see what has been accomplished in only "fifty Summers" (499). Goldsmith may have read literally and taken to heart his great-uncle's concluding command to Sweet Auburn's departing poet: "Still let thy voice, prevailing over time, / Redress the rigors of the inclement clime" (Deserted Village, 421-422).
Two final questions must be answered before I conclude this Introduction and overview. Why, if Goldsmith was so concerned with education and agriculture, did he excise form the 1834 edition of The Rising Village (1825; 521-540) twenty lines praising the Earl of Dalhousie for improving the agriculture of the colonies? And why did he delete from the 1834 edition his notes to lines 176 and 232 (1825), notes that convey his gratitude to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel for its educational projects in the colonies? The answers to these questions lie, I believe, in such developments as Daihousie's political fortunes and improvements in the educational system between the 1825 and 1834 versions of the poem,32 and in reading the poem more as a generalized treatment of the wilderness civilized and less as a failed attempt to give a particularized account of the settlement of Acadia.
Concerning the twenty excised lines dealing with Dalhousie, Michael Gnarowski explains that Dalhousie "had become a somewhat unpopular personage in British North America, and, since 1828 had ceased to figure personally in the affairs of the country."33 In the 1825 dedicatory letter to his brother Henry, Goldsmith states that "the remarks which [he has] made on the schools are, however, more strictly applicable to a former period, than to the present one."34 Goldsmith deleted this qualification from the 1834 text, and Gnarowski explains this deletion and the further excision of the two notes:
This explanation does not, however, consider the extent to which the excisions of the topical paragraphs from the dedicatory letter, the twenty lines on Dalhousie, and the two notes made the poem less particular. Goldsmith seems to have understood that his poem possessed historical relevance, that its greatest value resided in its depiction of the wilderness civilized. Thus the poem regrets the lack of information concerning Britain's "infant age":
The poet assumes that even his beloved Britannia has evolved as a social-political organism, that it has undergone growing pains not unlike those that he has recorded for Acadia. He then employs the metaphor of a chain to illustrate a recent threat to civilization that Britain has overcome, with the specific reference being to Napoleon:
The recurrence of the chain metaphor provides a fitting conclusion to The Rising Village. Earlier the chain was winter's "icy chain" (487) binding Acadia, employed by Goldsmith to reinforce the notion that the settlers must withstand the temptation to relinquish the control that they have achieved over physical nature; to do so would be to submit to winter's bondage. In the lines quoted above, the chain figures as a threat to civilization from human nature. At their various stages of civilization, both Britain and Acadia have their different battles to win, Britain against evil human nature, Acadia against malevolent physical nature. But as the schoolhouse section and the triumph of instinct over culture in the Albert and Flora tale show, Acadia's battle also involves the control of human nature within its own domain, a control that Britain achieved in the past, the record of which is lost in the dark pages of her "infant age." Unlike the early epics of British literature (Beowulf, say), The Rising Village records, with the skills of the eighteenth-century versifier, the first steps taken by civilization and culture in a new land. A pioneering poem certainlya first.
The first edition of The Rising Village was published as a forty-eight page quarto volume, by John Sharpe Company, Duke Street, Piccadilly, in London, England, in 1825.36 It has original wrappers of drab greyish paper, the paper label reading: THE RISING VILLAGE. / A POEM. t / BY / OLIVER GOLDSMITH. / [rule] / PRICE 2s. 6d. [encircled by a single rule]. The rare first edition is free from typographical errors. Only two copies of this extremely rare edition are known to exist in Canada: one in the Gagnon Collection (v. 2, 888) in the Bibliothèque de la Ville de Montréal in Montreal, Quebec, and the other in the Dalhousie University Library at Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Myatt accounts for the genesis and publication of the first Canadian
edition of The Rising Village as follows: "A second edition of The Rising
Village to which were added a number of fugitive poems was announced in the Novascotian
on March 20, 1834. Late in 1834, the new work, The Rising Village with Other Poems,
was published by John McMillan of Saint John, N. B. It was a small pocket volume in a
neat silk binding, containing about 150 pages and sold for 5s. a copy.37 Specifically the first Canadian edition has a
plain cover of brown silk moiré, with a spine-title in gold stamping reading simply: The
Rising Village. The first Canadian edition contains one hundred and forty-four pages. Many
copies of the first Canadian edition exist in the rare books rooms and special collections
of Canadian libraries.
The present texts of The Rising Village, the 1825 and 1834 editions, are based on the first publications of the poems in book form in London, England (1825) and St. John, New Brunswick (1834). The present texts are based on the copy of the 1825 edition held in the Gagnon Collection in the Bibliothèque de la Ville de Montréal in Montreal, Quebec, and the copy of the first Canadian edition in the National Library of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario, though other copies of both editions have been examined and found to be without significant variation. See notes 36 and 37 to the Introduction for a complete description of these editions. The present texts follow the first edition and the first Canadian edition in nearly all respects. In order to facilitate comparison of the two versions of the poem, Goldsmith's notes (which appear at the end of the book in the original editions) have been placed at the foot of the page in the present text. The few errors in punctuation that appear in the original editions of The Rising Village have been corrected in the present editions, and are recorded in the list of Editorial Emendations that follows the texts (p. 43).