Elizabeth Gaskell’s Cranford: Surveying Mankind from China to Peru

Gaskell Blog © Katherine C.

…and in a year when Miss Jenkyns had learnt some piece of poetry off by heart, and used to say, at all the Cranford parties, howPeter was “surveying mankind from China to Peru,” which everybody had thought very grand, and rather appropriate, because India was between China and Peru, if you took care to turn the globe to the left instead of the right.

Perhaps it is no surprise to learn that this piece of poetry is by Dr. Johnson, entitled The Vanity of Human Wishes, The Tenth Satire of Juvenal Imitated, below is the relevant excerpt, click here if you’d like to read the full piece.

Let observation with extensive view,
Survey mankind, from China to Peru;
Remark each anxious toil, each eager strife,
And watch the busy scenes of crouded life;
Then say how hope and fear, desire and hate,
O’erspread with snares the clouded maze of fate,
Where wavering man, betrayed by venterous pride,
To tread the dreary paths without a guide,
As treacherous phantoms in the mist delude,
Shuns fancied ills, or chases airy good;
How rarely reason guides the stubborn choice,
Rules the bold hand, or prompts the suppliant voice;
How nations sink, by darling schemes oppressed,
When vengeance listens to the fool’s request.
Fate wings with every wish the afflictive dart,
Each gift of nature, and each grace of art,
With fatal heat impetuous courage glows,
With fatal sweetness elocution flows,
Impeachment stops the speaker’s powerful breath,
And restless fire precipitates on death.

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