“The March of Intellect”


"Let schoolmasters bother their brain In their dry and their musty vocation; But what can the rest of us gain By meddling with such botheration?" Examples of people that work very well without esoteric knowledge: must the tailor know Conic Sections?


O Lochlainn's attribution to Oliver Goldsmith is difficult to assess. I'm fairly sure that the song he refers to is Tony Lumpkin's song from Act I of _She Stoops to Conquer_, beginning

Let schoolmasters puzzle their brain

With grammar, and nonsense, and learning;

Good liquor, I stoutly maintain,

Gives _genus_ a better discerning....

But the song simply calls for drink and roast fowl -- no conic sections mentioned. Did the song go into oral tradition and get modified? If so, why are there no other mentions? Or was it written somewhere along the way, perhaps by the printer Hicks?

If Oliver Goldsmith did write this, it may have been a sarcastic comment on his own experience; Barnhart and Halsey's _The New Century Handbook of English Literature_ (revised edition, 1967) comments of him that his career was "a record of almost unbroken failure in everything that he tried to reach by study or effort: he tried law, medicine, the church, and teaching, and failed in all of them; the only thing he succeeded in was literature, which he did not study and for which he had no technical preparation."

The _Handbook_ adds that "Facts meant little to him." - RBW


  1. OLochlainn-More 52, "The March of Intellect" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. BI, OLcM052


Author: Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774) ? (attribution by O Lochlainn in OLochlainn-More)
Earliest date: 1802 (printed by Hicks, according to OLochlainn-More)
Found in: Ireland