The earliest online source I found was The Port folio, dated 1810, which cites its source as Blackwood's Magazine.
In More Irish Street Ballads (1965), O'Lochlainn claims this as his greatest literary 'find.' O'Lochlainn says he found the song "in one of a number of crudely printed song books issued in Dublin in the first decade of the last century." O'Lochlainn attributes the song to Goldsmith because the language and humor parallel that of Goldsmith in other works.
But no, O'Lochlainn did not find a copy of these lyrics signed by Goldsmith.
See also the thread titled The March of Intellect in the Butchering Line, a completely different song.
The tune (from O Lochlainn) is also used for "The Night Before Larry Was Stretched."
Click to play
Here's the Traditional Ballad Index entry on this song. I'm glad to see that the Ballad Index also has reservations about O Lochlainn's attribution of the song to Goldsmith:
March of Intellect, TheDESCRIPTION: "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?
AUTHOR: Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774) ? (attribution by O Lochlainn in OLochlainn-More)
EARLIEST DATE: 1802 (printed by Hicks, according to OLochlainn-More)
KEYWORDS: commerce humorous nonballad
FOUND IN: Ireland
REFERENCES (1 citation):
OLochlainn-More 52, "The March of Intellect" (1 text, 1 tune)
Notes: 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
The Ballad Index Copyright 2009 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.