Tuesday 10 December 2019

Poetry: Surely 'Noll' deserves to keep his prime place on College Green?

Oliver Goldsmith 1728-1774
Oliver Goldsmith 1728-1774

Ulick O'Connor

I see that another plan to shift Noll (Oliver) Goldsmith's statue from the front of Trinity College has been rejected. The first attempt was made almost two decades ago. One must ask, what has poor Noll done to deserve this?

Goldsmith's plays and novels are translated into almost every European language. Some have even placed him as a ­dramatist next to Shakespeare. Goethe, the great German writer, thought his plays "redeemed men from all the elements of life".

When Oliver Goldsmith, a Westmeath boy, left ­Ireland after taking his degree in Trinity ­College, he felt equipped to take on the whole of Europe. His travels gave him a ­broadness of ­outlook which none of his ­contemporaries could equal.

This is perhaps why he is better known in countries like Germany, France and Italy.

His most famous poem is his long 'The Deserted Village' (430 lines) about Lissoy in Westmeath where Oliver went to the local school.

It is written in a deceptively simple ­fashion which disguises the ­underlying seriousness of the poem.

I took a gander at Oliver's statue from the top deck of the bus when I passed the other day.

I was at eye level with it and I think I got a look. A twinkle in his eye as if he was saying

"Listen lads, lay off, I'm here for the duration."

from The Deserted Village

Sweet was the sound, when oft, at evening's close,

Up yonder hill the village murmur rose;

There, as I passed with careless steps and slow,

The mingling notes came softened from below:

The swain responsive as the milk-maid sung,

The sober herd that lowed to meet their young:

The noisy geese that gabbled o'er the pool,

The playful children just let loose from school;

The watchdog's voice that bayed the whispering wind,

And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind.

Oliver Goldsmith 1728-1774

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