Traveller "I See The Lords Of Human Kind Pass By"

Richard Adams

"I See The Lords Of Human Kind Pass By"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Goldsmith's traveler, sitting on a crag high in the Alps, has been thinking of the merits and defects of some of the nations through which he has traveled. (It was one of Goldsmith's basic beliefs that every nation has some single outstanding virtue, as well as some major contrasting defect. This belief appears on a number of occasions in his prose work, The Citizen of the World, a series of letters from a Chinese traveler who reports on customs and manners as he perceives them among various nations.) In the poem, Goldsmith has evaluated the virtues and defects of Italy, France, and Holland, and now turns toward England, where independence and freedom rule mankind. Independence is a virtue, Goldsmith proclaims, but it can be carried too far. Then it "Keeps man from man, and breaks the social tie. . . ." Speaking of the love of freedom in his countrymen, the poet writes:

Stern o'er each bosom Reason holds her state
With daring aims irregularly great;
Pride in their port, defiance in their eye,
I see the lords of human kind pass by;
Intent on high designs, a thoughtful band,
By forms unfashion'd, fresh from Nature's hand,
Fierce in their native hardiness of soul,
True to imagin'd right, above control,
While e'en the peasant boasts these rights to scan,
And learns to venerate himself as man.