"The Deserted Village"
By Oliver Goldsmith

Creation of machine-readable version, conversion to TEI-conformant markup, correction and editorial commentary by Judy Boss and University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center; Students and Staff of the University of Virginia
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London : W. Griffith, 1770Chicago: The Fountain Press, 1965This digital edition was prepared from a version produced for the University of Virginia e-text Center, which consulted a 1965 Fountain Press edition. We have corrected it against a copy of the first edition in Google Books. The eccentric pagination (where what would normally be page 1 appears as page 7) is in that original edition.

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Goldsmith, Oliver. "The Deserted Village", W. Griffith, 1770 . Literature in Context: An Open Anthology. http://anthology.lib.virginia.edu/work/Goldsmith/goldsmith-deserted. Accessed: 2024-04-18T02:05:09.953Z

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By Dr. Goldsmith
Printed for W. Griffin, at Garrick's Head,
in Catharine-street, Strand.

v TO

Dear Sir,

I can have no expectations in an address of this kind, either to add to your reputation, or to establish my own. You can gain nothing from my admiration, as I am ignorant of that art in which you are said to excel; and I may lose much by the severity of your judgment, as few have a juster taste in poetry than yuou. Setting interest therefore aside, to which I never paid much attention, I must be indulged at present in following my affections. The only dedication I ever made was to my brother, because I loved him better than most other men. He is since dead. Permit me to inscribe this Poem to you.

How far you may be pleased with the versification and mere mechanical parts of this attempt, I don't pretend to inquire; but I know you will, object (and indeed several of our best and wisest friends concur with the opinion) that the depopulation it deplores is nowhere to be seen, and the disorder it laments are only to be found in the poet's own imagination. To this I can scarce make any other answer than that I sincerely believe what I have written; but I have taken all vi possible pains, in my country excursions, for these four or five years past, to be certain of what I allege, and that all my views and inquiries have led me to believe those miseries real, which I attempt to display. But this is not the place to enter into an inquiry, whether the country be depopulating, or not; a discussion will take up much room, and I should prove myself, at best, an indifferent politician, to tire the reader, with a long preface, when I want is his unfatigued attention to a long poem.

In regretting the depopulation of the country, I inveigh against the increase of our luxuries; and here also I expect the shout of modern politicians against me. For twenty or thirty years past, it has been the fashion to consider luxury as one of the greatest national advantages; and all the wisdom of antiquity in that particular, as erroneous. Still, however, I must remain a professed ancient on that head, and continue to think those luxuries prejudicial to states, by which so many vices are introduced, and so many kingdoms have been undone. Indeed, so much has been poured out of late on the other side of the question, that, merely for the sake of novelty and variety, one would sometimes wish to be in the right.

I am, dear Sir,

Your sincere friend,and ardent admirer,


7 Te DESERTED VILLAGE [Audio File]AudioAudio
Librivox recording of "The Deserted Village
1Sweet AUBURN, loveliest village of the plain, 2Where health and plenty cheered the labouring swain, 3Where smiling Spring its earliest visit paid, 4And parting summer's lingering blooms delayed; 5Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease, 6Seats of my youth, when every sport could please, 7How often have I loitered o'er thy green, 8Where humble happiness endeared each scene; 9How often have I paused on every charm, 10The shelter'd cot, the cultivated farm, 11The never-failing brook, the busy mill, 12The decent church that topt the neighbouring hill; 13The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade, 14For talking age and whispering lovers made. 8 15How often have I blest the coming day, 16When toil remitting lent its turn to play, 17And all the village train from labour free, 18Led up their sports beneath the spreading tree; 19While many a pastime circled in the shade, 20The young contending as the old surveyed; 21And many a gambol frolicked o'er the ground, 22And flights of art and feats of strength went round: 23And still as each repeated pleasure tired, 24Succeeding sports the mirthful band inspired; 25The dancing pair that simply sought renown, 26By holding out to tire each other down, 27The swain mistrustless of his smutted face, 28While secret laughter tittered round the place, 29The bashful virgin's side-long looks of love, 30The matron's glance, that would those looks reprove. 31These were thy charms, sweet village; sports like these, 32With sweet succession, taught even toil to please; 33These round thy bowers their cheerful influence shed, 34These were thy charms--But all these charms are fled. 35Sweet smiling village, loveliest of the lawn, 36Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn: 9 37Amidst thy bowers the tyrant's hand is seen, 38And desolation saddens all thy green: 39One only master grasps the whole domain, 40And half a tillage stints thy smiling plain: 41No more thy glassy brook reflects the day, 42But choaked with sedges, works its weedy way; 43Along thy glades, a solitary guest, 44The hollow-sounding bittern guards its nest; 45Amidst thy desert walks the lapwing flies, 46And tires their echoes with unvaried cries: 47Sunk are thy bowers in shapeless ruin all, 48And the long grass o'ertops the mouldering wall; 49And, trembling, shrinking from the spoiler's hand, 50Far, far away thy children leave the land. 51Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey, 52Where wealth accumulates, and men decay; 53Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade; 54A breath can make them, as a breath has made: 55But a bold peasantry, their country's pride, 56When once destroy'd, can never be supplied. 57A time there was, ere England's griefs began, 58When every rood of ground maintained its man; 59For him light labour spread her wholesome store, 60Just gave what life required, but gave no more: 61His best companions, innocence and health; 62And his best riches, ignorance of wealth. 10 63But times are altered; trade's unfeeling train 64Usurp the land and disposses the swain; 65Along the lawn, where scattered hamlets rose, 66Unwieldy wealth and cumbrous pomp repose; 67And every want to luxury allied, 68And every pang that folly pays to pride. 69Those gentle hours that plenty bade to bloom, 70Those calm desires that asked but little room, 71Those healthful sports that graced the peaceful scene, 72Lived in each look, and brighten'd all the green; 73These, far departing, seek a kinder shore, 74And rural mirth and manners are no more. 75Sweet AUBURN! parent of the blissful hour, 76Thy glades forlorn confess the tyrant's power, 77Here, as I take my solitary rounds, 78Amidst thy tangling walks, and ruined grounds, 79And, many a year elapsed, return to view 80Where once the cottage stood, the hawthorn grew- 81Here, as with doubtful, pensive steps I range, 82Trace every scene, and wonder at the change, 83Remembrance wakes with all her busy train, 84Swells at my breast, and turns the past to pain. 85In all my wanderings through this world of care, 86In all my griefs-and God has given my share- 11 87I still had hopes, my latest hours to crown, 88Amidst these humble bowers to lay me down; 89My anxious day to husband near the close, 90And keep life's flame from wasting by repose: 91I still had hopes, for pride attends us still, 92Amidst the swains to show my book-learned skill, 93Around my fire an evening group to draw, 94And tell of all I felt, and all I saw: 95And, as a hare, whom hounds and horns pursue, 96Pants to the place from whence at first she flew, 97I still had hopes, my long vexations past, 98Here to return--and die at home at last. 99O blest retirement! friend to life's decline, 100Retreats from care that never must be mine, 101How blest is he who crowns in shades like these, 102A youth of labour with an age of ease; 103Who quits a world where strong temptations try, 104And, since 'tis hard to combat, learns to fly. 105For him no wretches, born to work and weep, 106Explore the mine, or tempt the dangerous deep; 107No surly porter stands in guilty state, 108To spurn imploring famine from the gate: 109But on he moves to meet his latter end, 110Angels around befriending virtue's friend; 111Sinks to the grave with unperceived decay, 112While resignation gently slopes the way; 12 113And all his prospects brightening to the last, 114His Heaven commences ere the world be past! 115Sweet was the sound, when oft, at evening's close, 116Up yonder hill the village murmur rose;. 117There, as I pass'd with careless steps and slow, 118The mingled notes came softened from below; 119The swain responsive as the milk-maid sung, 120The sober herd that lowed to meet their young, 121The noisy geese that gobbled o'er the pool, 122The playful children just let loose from school; 123The watch dog's voice that bay'd the whispering wind, 124And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind: 125These all in sweet confusion sought the shade, 126And filled each pause the nightingale had made. 127But now the sounds of population fail, 128No cheerful murmurs fluctuate in the gale; 129No busy steps the grass-grown foot-way tread, 130But all the bloomy flush of life is fled; 131All but yon widowed, solitary thing, 132That feebly bends beside the plashy spring; 133She, wretched matron, forced, in age, for bread, 134To strip the brook with mantling cresses spread, 135To pick her wintry faggot from the thorn, 136To seek her nightly shed, and weep till morn; 13 137She only left of all the harmless train, 138The sad historian of the pensive plain. 139Near yonder copse, where once the garden smil'd, 140And still where many a garden flower grows wild, 141There, where a few torn shrubs the place disclose, 142The village preacher's modest mansion rose. 143A man he was to all the country dear, 144And passing rich with forty pounds a-year. 145Remote from towns he ran his godly race, 146Nor e'er had changed, nor wish'd to change, his place; 147Unskilful he to fawn, or seek for power 148By doctrines fashioned to the varying hour; 149Far other aims his heart had learned to prize, 150More bent to raise the wretched than to rise. 151His house was known to all the vagrant train, 152He chid their wanderings, but relieved their pain: 153The long-remembered beggar was his guest, 154Whose beard descending swept his aged breast; 155The ruin'd spendthrift, now no longer proud, 156Claim'd kindred there, and had his claims allowed; 157The broken soldier, kindly bade to stay, 158Sate by his fire, and talked the night away;- 159Wept o'er his wounds, or tales of sorrow done, 160Shouldered his crutch, and show'd how fields were won. 14 161Pleased with his guests, the good man learn'd to glow, 162And quite forgot their vices in their woe; 163Careless their merits or their faults to scan, 164His pity gave ere charity began, 165Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride, 166And even his failings leaned to Virtue's side; 167But in his duty prompt at every call, 168He watch'd and wept, he prayed and felt, for all: 169And, as a bird each fond endearment tries, 170To tempt its new-fledged offspring to the skies, 171He tried each art, reproved each dull delay, 172Allured to brighter worlds, and led the way. 173Beside the bed where parting life was laid, 174And sorrow, guilt, and pain, by turns dismayed, 175The reverend champion stood. At his controul, 176Despair and anguish fled the struggling soul; 177Comfort came down the trembling wretch to raise, 178And his last faultering accents whispered praise. 179At church, with meek and unaffected grace, 180His looks adorned the venerable place; 181Truth from his lips prevailed with double sway, 182And fools, who came to scoff, remained to pray. 15 183The service past, around the pious man 184With steady zeal, each honest rustic ran; 185Even children followed with endearing wile, 186And plucked his gown, to share the good man's smile; 187His ready smile a parentss warmth exprest; 188Their welfare pleased him, and their cares distrest; 189To them his heart, his love, his griefs were given, 190But all his serious thoughts had rest in Heaven. 191As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form, 192Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm, 193Tho' round its breast the rolling clouds are spread, 194Eternal sunshine settles on its head. 195Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way, 196With blossomed furze unprofitably gay, 197There, in his noisy mansion, skill'd to rule, 198The village master taught his little school. 199A man severe he was, and stern to view, 200I knew him well, and every truant knew; 201Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace 202The day's disasters in his morning face; 203Full well they laugh'd with counterfeited glee 204At all his jokes, for many a joke had he; 205Full well the busy whisper circling round, 206Convey'd the dismal tidings when he frowned: 207Yet he was kind, or if severe in aught, 208The love he bore to learning was in fault. 16 209The village all declared how much he knew; 210'Twas certain he could write, and cipher too: 211Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage, 212And even the story ran that he could gauge. 213In arguing, too, the parson owned his skill, 214For even tho' vanquished, he could argue still; 215While words of learned length, and thundering sound, 216Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around; 217And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew, 218That one small head could carry all he knew. 219But past is all his fame. The very spot 220Where many a time he triumphed, is forgot. 221Near yonder thorn, that lifts its head on high, 222Where once the sign-post caught the passing eye, 223Low lies that house where nut-brown draughts inspired, 224Where grey-beard mirth and smiling toil retired, 225Where village statesmen talked with looks profound, 226And news much older than their ale went round. 227Imagination fondly stoops to trace 228The parlour splendours of that festive place; 229The white-washed wall, the nicely sanded floor, 230The varnished clock that click'd behind the door, 231The chest contrived a double debt to pay, 232A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day, 17 233The pictures placed for ornament and use, 234The twelve good rules, the royal game of goose; 235The hearth, except when winter chill'd the day, 236With aspen boughs, and flowers, and fennel, gay; 237While broken tea-cups, wisely kept for shew, 238Ranged o'er the chimney, glistened in a row. 239Vain transitory splendours! Could not all 240Reprieve the tottering mansion from its fall! 241Obscure it sinks, nor shall it more impart 242An hour's importance to the poor man's heart; 243Thither no more the peasant shall repair, 244To sweet oblivion of his daily care; 245No more the farmer's news, the barber's tale, 246No more the woodman's ballad shall prevail; 247No more the smith his dusky brow shall clear, 248Relax his ponderous strength, and lean to hear; 249The host himself no longer shall be found 250Careful to see the mantling bliss go round; 251Nor the coy maid, half willing to be prest, 252Shall kiss the cup to pass it to the rest. 253Yes! let the rich deride, the proud disdain, 254These simple blessings of the lowly train; 255To me more dear, congenial to my heart, 256One native charm, than all the gloss of art: 257Spontaneous joys, where Nature has its play, 258The soul adopts, and owns their first-born sway; 18 259Lightly they frolic o'er the vacant mind, 260Unenvied, unmolested, unconfined. 261But the long pomp, the midnight masquerade, 262With all the freaks of wanton wealth arrayed, 263In these, ere triflers half their wish obtain, 264The toiling pleasure sickens into pain; 265And, even while fashion's brightest arts decoy, 266The heart distrusting asks, if this be joy. 267Ye friends to truth, ye statesmen who survey 268The rich man's joys increase, the poor's decay, 269'Tis yours to judge, how wide the limits stand 270Between a splendid and an happy land. 271Proud swells the tide with loads of freighted ore, 272And shouting folly hails them from her shore; 273Hoards, even beyond the miser's wish, abound, 274And rich men flock from all the world around. 275Yet count our gains. This wealth is but a name 276That leaves our useful products still the same. 277Not so the loss. The man of wealth and pride 278Takes up a space that many poor supplied: 279Space for his lake, his park's extended bounds; 280Space for his horses, equipage, and hounds: 281The robe that wraps his limbs in silken sloth, 282Has robb'd the neighbouring fields of half their growth; 283His seat, where solitary sports are seen, 284Indignant spurns the cottage from the green; 19 285Around the world each needful product flies, 286For all the luxuries the world supplies. 287While thus the land adorned for pleasure all, 288In barren splendour feebly waits the fall. 289As some fair female, unadorned and plain, 290Secure to please while youth confirms her reign, 291Slights every borrowed charm that dress supplies, 292Nor shares with art the triumph of her eyes: 293But when those charms are past, for charms are frail, 294When time advances, and when lovers fail, 295She then shines forth, solicitous to bless, 296In all the glaring impotence of dress. 297Thus fares the land. by luxury betrayed; 298In nature's simplest charms at first arrayed; 299But verging to decline, its splendours rise, 300Its vistas strike, its palaces surprize; 301While scourged by famine from the smiling land, 302The mournful peasant leads his humble band; 303And while he sinks, without one arm to save, 304The country blooms--a garden and a grave. 305Where, then, ah, where shall poverty reside, 306To 'scape the pressure of contiguous pride? 307If to some common's fenceless limits strayed, 308He drives his flock to pick the scanty blade, 309Those fenceless fields the sons of wealth divide, 310And even the bare-worn common is denied. 20 311If to the city sped--What waits him there? 312To see profusion that he must not share; 313To see ten thousand baneful arts combined 314To pamper luxury, and thin mankind; 315To see each joy the sons of pleasure know, 316Extorted from his fellow-creature's wo. 317Here while the courtier glitters in brocade, 318There the pale artist plies the sickly trade; 319Here while the proud their long drawn pomp display, 320There the black gibbet glooms beside the way: 321The dome where pleasure holds her midnight reign, 322Here richly deckt admits the gorgeous train; 323Tumultuous grandeur crowds the blazing square, 324The rattling chariots clash, the torches glare: 325Sure scenes like these no troubles e'er annoy! 326Sure these denote one universal joy! 327Are these thy serious thoughts?--Ah, turn thine eyes 328Where the poor houseless shivering female lies: 329She once, perhaps, in village plenty blest 330Has wept at tales of innocence distrest; 331Her modest looks the cottage might adorn, 332Sweet as the primrose peeps beneath the thorn: 333Now lost to all, her friends, her virtue fled, 334Near her betrayer's door she lays her head; 335And, pinch'd with cold, and, shrinking from the shower, 336With heavy heart deplores that luckless hour, 21 337When idly first, ambitious of the town, 338She left her wheel, and robes of country brown. 339Do thine, sweet AUBURN, thine, the loveliest train, 340Do thy fair tribes participate her pain? 341Even now, perhaps, by cold and hunger led, 342At proud men's doors they ask a little bread! 343Ah, no. To distant climes, a dreary scene, 344Where half the convex world intrudes between, 345Through torrid tracts with fainting steps they go, 346Where wild Altama murmurs to their wo. 347Far different there from all that charmed before, 348The various terrors of that horrid shore; 349Those blazing suns that dart a downward ray, 350And fiercely shed intolerable day; 351Those matted woods where birds forget to sing, 352But silent bats in drowsy clusters cling; 353Those poisonous fields, with rank luxuriance crowned, 354Where the dark scorpion gathers death around; 355Where at each step the stranger fears to wake 356The rattling terrors of the vengeful snake; 357Where crouching tygers wait their hapless prey, 358And savage men more murdrous still than they; 359While oft in whirls the mad tornado flies, 360Mingling the ravaged landscape with the skies. 22 361Far different these from every former scene, 362The cooling brook, the grassy-vested green, 363The breezy covert of the warbling grove, 364That only shelter'd thefts of harmless love. 365Good Heaven! what sorrows gloomed that parting day, 366That call'd them from their native walks away; 367When the poor exiles, every pleasure past, 368Hung round their bowers, and fondly looked their last, 369And took a long farewel, and wish'd in vain 370For seats like these beyond the western main; 371And shuddering still to face the distant deep, 372Returned and wept, and still returned to weep. 373The good old sire, the first prepared to go 374To new-found worlds, and wept for others wo: 375But for himself, in conscious virtue brave, 376He only wished for worlds beyond the grave. 377His lovely daughter, lovelier in her tears, 378The fond companion of his helpless years, 379Silent went next, neglectful of her charms, 380And left a lover's for a father's arms. 381With louder plaints the mother spoke her woes, 382And blest the cot where every pleasure rose; 383And kist her thoughtless babes with many a tear, 384And clast them close, in sorrow doubly dear; 23 385Whilst her fond husband strove to lend relief 386In all the silent manliness of grief. 387O luxury! thou curst by Heaven's decree, 388How ill exchanged are things like these for thee! 389How do thy potions with insidious joy, 390Diffuse their pleasures only to destroy! 391Kingdoms by thee, to sickly greatness grown, 392Boast of a florid vigour not their own. 393At every draught more large and large they grow, 394A bloated mass of rank unwieldy wo; 395Till sapped their strength, and every part unsound, 396Down, down they sink, and spread a ruin round. 397Even now the devastation is begun, 398And half the business of destruction done; 399Even now, methinks, as pondering here I stand, 400I see the rural virtues leave the land. 401Down where yon anchoring vessel spreads the sail 402That idly waiting flaps with every gale, 403Downward they move a melancholy band, 404Pass from the shore, and darken all the strand. 405Contented toil, and hospitable dare, 406And kind connubial tenderness are there; 407And Piety with wishes placed above, 408And steady Loyalty, and faithful Love. 409And thou, sweet Poetry, thou loveliest maid 410Still first to fly where sensual joys invade; 24 411Unfit, in these degenerate times of shame, 412To catch the heart, or strike for honest fame; 413Dear charming nymph, neglected and decried, 414My shame in crowds, my solitary pride; 415Thou source of all my bliss and all my woe, 416That found'st me poor at first, and keep'st me so; 417Thou guide by which the nobler arts excel, 418Thou nurse of every virtue, fare thee well" 419Farewel, and O where'er thy voice be tried, 420On Torno's cliffs, or Pambamarca's side: 421Whether where equinoctial fervours glow, 422Or winter wraps the polar world in snow, 423Still let thy voice, prevailing over time, 424Redress the rigours of the inclement clime; 425Aid slighted truth with thy persuasive strain; 426Teach erring man to spurn the rage of gain; 427Teach him that states of native strength possest, 428Tho' very poor, may still be very blest; 429That trade's proud empire hastes to swift decay, 430As ocean sweeps the laboured mole away; 431While self-dependent power can time defy 432As rocks resist the billows and the sky.