In "An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog", by Oliver Goldsmith, what does he mean when he writes "the naked every day he clad, when he put on his clothes"?

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In "An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog", Oliver Goldsmith means that the narrator of the poem covers the naked, poor, and destitute of the town with his caring concern, when he writes that "the naked every day he clad, when he put on his clothes".

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In "An Elegy on the Death of a Mad Dog", Oliver Goldsmith means that the narrator of the poem covers the naked, poor, and destitute of the town with his caring concern, when he writes that "the naked every day he clad, when he put on his clothes".

 

Oliver Goldsmith highlights that the man from Islington is a godly, praying, good man. This man has a ‘kind and gentle heart.” This is the essence of this man -  what he is. Therefore, with this personality imbued with these inner spiritual qualities, this man is a comfort to his friends and enemies alike. That’s why he is able to clothe the naked that he meets.

 

A reader can see a duality in the lines "the naked every day he clad, when he put on his clothes". This man may actually provide the physical clothing that the poor need to survive in a harsh and sometimes unforgiving world. So the reader can take this line literally.

 

However, there is a deeper and secondary meaning to these lines. The community where the man lives sees him as a caring and compassionate individual. That’s why they believe the dog “lost his wits” when he bit the man. The citizenry wonders how anything living - man, woman, or beast -  could want to harm this sincere, caring, kind person. So, the townsfolk have a high regard for this man.

 

Fundamentally, this man clothes the people he meets with love. His outgoing concern for others is a blessing to people he meets, no matter their standing and station in society. He is like a protective covering, so-to-speak, to these people, who must feel that life can be a bit easier after they have an encounter with this man. It is obvious that he’s an inspiration to people and helps lighten the burdens of life that people carry on a daily basis.

 

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