The Deserted Village

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The Deserted Village  (1770) 
by Oliver Goldsmith
Published in 1770

1: Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain,
2: Where health and plenty cheer'd the labouring swain,
3: Where smiling Spring its earliest visit paid,
4: And parting Summer's lingering blooms delay'd;
5: Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease,
6: Seats of my youth, when every sport could please:
7: How often have I loiter'd o'er thy green,
8: Where humble happiness endear'd each scene!
9: How often have I paused on every charm,
10: The shelter'd cot, the cultivated farm,
11: The never-failing brook, the busy mill,
12: The decent church that topp'd the neighbouring hill;
13: The hawthorn bush, with seats beneath the shade,
14: For talking age and whispering lovers made!
15: How often have I bless'd the coming day,
16: When toil, remitting, lent its turn to play,
17: And all the village train, from labour free,
18: Led up their sports beneath the spreading tree!
19: While many a pastime circled in the shade,
20: The young contending as the old survey'd;
21: And many a gambol frolick'd o'er the ground,
22: And sleights of art and feats of strength went round;
23: And still, as each repeated pleasure tired,
24: Succeeding sports the mirthful band inspired-
25: The dancing pair that simply sought renown,


26: By holding out to tire each other down;
27: The swain mistrustless of his smutted face,
28: While secret laughter titter'd round the place;
29: The bashful virgin's side-long looks of love;
30: The matron's glance, that would those looks reprove.
31: These were thy charms, sweet village! sports like these,
32: With sweet succession, taught e'en toil to please;
33: These round thy bowers their cheerful influence shed;
34: These were thy charms-but all these charms are fled.

35: Sweet smiling village, loveliest of the lawn,
36: Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn;
37: Amidst thy bowers the tyrant's hand is seen,
38: And Desolation saddens all thy green:
39: One only master grasps the whole domain,
40: And half a tillage stints thy smiling plain.
41: No more thy glassy brook reflects the day,
42: But, choked with sedges, works its weedy way;
43: Along thy glades, a solitary guest,
44: The hollow-sounding bittern guards its nest;
45: Amidst thy desert walks the lapwing flies,
46: And tires their echoes with unvaried cries:
47: Sunk are thy bowers in shapeless ruin all,
48: And the long grass o'ertops the mouldering wall
49: And, trembling, shrinking from the spoiler's hand,
50: Far, far away thy children leave the land.

51: Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey,
52: Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.
53: Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade;
54: A breath can make them, as a breath has made:
55: But a bold peasantry, their country's pride,
56: When once destroy'd, can never be supplied.

57: A time there was, ere England's griefs began,
58: When every rood of ground maintain'd its man;
59: For him light Labour spread her wholesome store,
60: just gave what life required, but gave no more:
61: His best companions, Innocence and Health;


62: And his best riches, ignorance of wealth.

63: But times are alter'd; Trade's unfeeling train
64: Usurp the land, and dispossess the swain;
65: Along the lawn, where scatter'd hamlets rose,
66: Unwieldy wealth and cumbrous pomp repose;
67: And every want to luxury allied,
68: And every pang that folly pays to pride.
69: Those gentle hours that plenty bade to bloom,
70: Those calm desires that ask'd but little room,
71: Those healthful sports that graced the peaceful scene,
72: Lived in each look, and brighten'd all the green-
73: These, far departing, seek a kinder shore,
74: And rural mirth and manners are no more.

75: Sweet Auburn! parent of the blissful hour,
76: Thy glades forlorn confess the tyrant's power,
77: Here, as I take my solitary rounds,
78: Amidst thy tangling walks and ruin'd grounds,
79: And, many a year elapsed, return to view
80: Where once the cottage stood, the hawthorn grew-
81: Remembrance wakes with all her busy train,
82: Swells at my breast, and turns the past to pain.

83: In all my wanderings through this world of care,
84: In all my griefs-and God has given my share-
85: I still had hopes, my latest hours to crown,
86: Amidst these humble bowers to lay me down;
87: To husband out life's taper at the close,
88: And keep the flame from wasting, by repose:
89: I still had hopes, for pride attends us still,
90: Amidst the swains to show my book-learn'd skill,
91: Around my fire an evening group to draw,
92: And tell of all I felt, and all I saw;
93: And, as a hare, whom hounds and horns pursue,
94: Pants to the place f rom whence at first she flew,
95: I still had hopes, my long vexations past,
96: Here to return-and die at home at last.

97: 0 blest retirement, friend to life's decline,


98: Retreats from care, that never must be mine,
99: How blest is he who crowns, in shades like these,
100: A youth of labour with an age of ease;
101: Who quits a world where strong temptations try,
102: And, since 'tis hard to combat, learns to fly!
103: For him no wretches, born to work and weep,
104: Explore the mine, or tempt the dangerous deep;
105: No surly porter stands, in guilty state,
106: To spurn imploring famine from the gate;
107: But on he moves to meet his latter end,
108: Angels around befriending virtue's friend;
109: Sinks to the grave with unperceived decay,
110: While resignation gently slopes the way;
111: And, all his prospects brightening to the last,
112: His heaven commences ere the world be past!

113: Sweet was the sound, when oft, at evening's close,
114: Up yonder hill the village murmur rose.
115: There, as I pass'd with careless steps and slow,
116: The mingled notes came soften'd from below;
117: The swain responsive as the milk-maid sung,
118: The sober herd that low'd to meet their young,
119: The noisy geese that gobbled o'er the pool,
120: The playful children just let loose from school;
121: The watch dog's voice that bay'd the whispering wind,
122: And the loud laugh that spoke the vacant mind;-
123: These all in sweet confusion sought the shade,
124: And fill'd each pause the nightingale had made.
125: But now the sounds of population fail,
126: No cheerful murmurs fluctuate in the gale,
127: No busy steps the grass-grown footway tread
128: But all the bloomy flush of life is fled-
129: All but yon widow'd, solitary thing,
130: That feebly bends beside the plashy spring;
131: She, wretched matron,-forced, in age, for bread,
132: To strip the brook with mantling cresses spread,
133: To pick her wintry faggot from the thorn,


134: To seek her nightly shed, and weep till morn,-
135: She only left of all the harmless train,
136: The sad historian of the pensive plain.

137: Near yonder copse, where once the garden smiled,
138: And still where many a garden-flower grows wild,
139: There, where a few torn shrubs the place disclose,
140: The village preacher's modest mansion rose.
141: A man he was to all the country dear,
142: And passing rich with forty pounds a year.
143: Remote from towns he ran his godly race,
144: Nor e'er had changed, nor wish'd to change, his place;
145: Unskilful he to fawn, or seek for power
146: By doctrines fashion'd to the varying hour;
147: Far other aims his heart had learn'd to Prize,
148: More bent to raise the wretched than to rise.
149: His house was known to all the vagrant train;
150: He chid their wanderings, but relieved their pain;
151: The long-remember'd beggar was his guest,
152: Whose beard descending swept his aged breast;
153: The ruin'd spendthrift, now no longer proud,
154: Claim'd kindred there, and had his claims allow'd;
155: The broken soldier, kindly bid to stay,
156: Sat by his fire, and talk'd the night away;-
157: Wept o'er his wounds, or, tales of sorrow done,
158: Shoulder'd his crutch, and show'd how fields were won.
159: Pleased with his guests, the good man learn'd to glow,
160: And quite forgot their vices in their woe;
161: Careless their merits or their faults to scan,
162: His pity gave ere charity began,

163: Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,
164: And even his failings lean'd to virtue's side;
165: But in his duty prompt at every call,
166: He watch'd and wept, he pray'd and felt for all:
167: And, as a bird each fond endearment tries,
168: To tempt its new-fledged offspring to the skies,
169: He tried each art, reproved each dull delay,


170: Allured to brighter worlds, and led the way.

171: Beside the bed where parting life was laid,
172: And sorrow, guilt, and pain, by turns dismay'd,
173: The reverend champion stood. At his control,
174: Despair and anguish fled the struggling soul;
175: Comfort came down the trembling wretch to raise,
176: And his last faltering accents whisper'd praise.

177: At church, with meek and unaffected grace,
178: His looks adorn'd the venerable place;
179: Truth from his lips prevail'd with double sway,
180: And fools, who came to scoff, remain'd to pray.
181: The service past, around the pious man
182: With steady zeal, each honest rustic ran;
183: E'en children follow'd, with endearing wile,
184: And pluck'd his gown, to share the good man's smile;
185: His ready smile a parent's warmth express'd;
186: Their welfare pleased him, and their cares distress'd;
187: To them his heart, his love, his griefs were given
188: But all his serious thoughts had rest in heaven.
189: As some tall cliff that lifts its awful form,
190: Swells from the vale, and midway leaves the storm,
191: Though round its breast the rolling clouds are spread,
192: Eternal sunshine settles on its head.

193: Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way,
194: With blossom'd furze unprofitably gay,
195: There, in his noisy mansion, skill'd to rule,
196: The village master taught his little school.
197: A man severe he was, and stern to view;
198: I knew him well, and every truant knew:
199: Well had the boding tremblers learn'd to trace
200: The day's disasters in his morning face;
201: Full well they laugh'd with counterfeited glee
202: At all his jokes, for many a joke had he;
203: Full well the busy whisper, circling round,
204: Convey'd the dismal tidings when he frown'd.
205: Yet he was kind, or if severe in aught,


206: The love he bore to learning was in fault.
207: The village all declared how much he knew;
208: 'Twas certain he could write, and cipher too;
209: Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage,
210: And even the story ran that he could gauge.
211: In arguing, too, the parson own'd his skill,
212: For even though vanquish'd, he could argue still;
213: While words of learned length and thundering sound
214: Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around;
215: And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew,
216: That one small head could carry all he knew.
217: But past is all his fame;-the very spot
218: Where many a time he triumph'd, is forgot.

219: Near yonder thorn, that lifts its head on high,
220: Where once the sign-post caught the passing eye,
221: Now lies that house where nut-brown draughts inspired,
222: Where grey-beard mirth and smiling toil retired,
223: Where village statesmen talk'd with looks profound,
224: And news much older than their ale went round.
225: Imagination fondly stoops to trace
226: The parlour splendours of that festive place;
227: The whitewash'd wall, the nicely sanded floor,
228: The varnish'd clock that click'd behind the door,
229: The chest, contrived a double debt to pay,
230: A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day,
231: The pictures placed for ornament and use,
232: The twelve good rules, the royal game of goose,
233: The hearth, except when winter chill'd the day,
234: With aspen boughs, and flowers, and fennel gay;-
235: While broken tea-cups, wisely kept for show,
236: Ranged o'er the chimney, glisten'd in a row.

237: Vain transitory splendours! Could not all
238: Reprieve the tottering mansion from its fall?
239: Obscure it sinks, nor shall it more impart
240: An hour's importance to the poor man's heart.
241: Thither no more the peasant shall repair,


242: To sweet oblivion of his daily care;
243: No more the farmer's news, the barber's tale,
244: No more the woodman's ballad shall prevail;
245: No more the smith his dusky brow shall clear,
246: Relax his ponderous strength, and lean to hear;
247: The host himself no longer shall be found
248: Careful to see the mantling bliss go round;
249: Nor the coy maid, half willing to be prest,
250: Shall kiss the cup to pass it to the rest.

251: Yes! let the rich deride, the proud disdain,
252: These simple blessings of the lowly train;
253: To me more dear, congenial to my heart,
254: One native charm, than all the gloss of art.
255: Spontaneous joys, where nature has its play,
256: The soul adopts, and owns their first-born sway;
257: Lightly they frolic o'er the vacant mind,
258: Unenvied, unmolested, unconfined:
259: But the long pomp, the midnight masquerade,
260: With all the freaks of wanton wealth array'd,
261: In these, ere triflers half their wish obtain,
262: The toiling pleasure sickens into pain;
263: And, even while Fashion's brightest arts decoy,
264: The heart distrusting asks, if this be joy?

265: Ye friends to truth, ye statesmen, who survey
266: The rich man's joys increase, the poor's decay,
267: 'Tis yours to judge how wide the limits stand
268: Between a splendid and a happy land.
269: Proud swells the tide with loads of freighted ore,
270: And shouting Folly hails them from her shore;
271: Hoards, even beyond the miser's wish, abound,
272: And rich men flock from all the world around.
273: Yet count our gains. This wealth is but a name
274: That leaves our useful products still the same.
275: Not so the loss. The man of wealth and pride
276: Takes up a space that many poor supplied;
277: Space for his lake, his park's extended bounds,


278: Space for his horses, equipage, and hounds;
279: The robe that wraps his limbs in silken sloth
280: Has robb'd the neighbouring fields of half their growth;
281: His seat, where solitary sports are seen,
282: Indignant spurns the cottage from the green;
283: Around the world each needful product flies,
284: For all the luxuries the world supplies;
285: While thus the land, adorn'd for pleasure all,
286: In barren splendour feebly waits the fall.

287: As some fair female, unadorn'd and plain,
288: Secure to please while youth confirms her reign,
289: Slights every borrow'd charm that dress supplies,
290: Nor shares with art the triumph of her eyes;
291: But when those charms are past, for charms are frail,
292: When time advances, and when lovers fail,
293: She then shines forth, solicitous to bless,
294: In all the glaring impotence of dress;
295: Thus fares the land by luxury betray'd;
296: In nature's simplest charms at first array'd;-
297: But verging to decline, its splendours rise,
298: Its vistas strike, its palaces surprise;
299: While, scourged by famine, from the smiling land
300: The mournful peasant leads his humble band;
301: And while he sinks, without one arm to save,
302: The country blooms-a garden and a grave!

303: Where, then, ah! where shall poverty reside,
304: To 'scape the pressure of contiguous pride?
305: If to some common's fenceless limits stray'd,
306: He drives his flock to pick the scanty blade,
307: Those fenceless fields the sons of wealth divide,
308: And even the bare-worn common is denied.

309: If to the city sped-what waits him there?
310: To see profusion that he must not share;
311: To see ten thousand baneful arts combined
312: To pamper luxury and thin mankind;
313: To see each joy the sons of pleasure know


314: Extorted from his fellow-creature's woe:
315: Here while the courtier glitters in brocade,
316: There the pale artist plies the sickly trade;
317: Here while the proud their long-drawn pomp display,
318: There the black gibbet glooms beside the way:
319: The dome where Pleasure holds her midnight reign,
320: Here, richly deck'd, admits the gorgeous train;
321: Tumultuous grandeur crowds the blazing square,
322: The rattling chariots clash, the torches glare.
323: Sure scenes like these no troubles e'er annoy!
324: Sure these denote one universal joy!-
325: Are these thy serious thoughts?-Ah, turn thine eyes
326: Where the poor houseless shivering female lies:
327: She once, perhaps, in village plenty bless'd,
328: Has wept at tales of innocence distress'd;
329: Her modest looks the cottage might adorn,
330: Sweet as the primrose peeps beneath the thorn:
331: Now lost to all, her friends, her virtue, fled,
332: Near her betrayer's door she lays her head,
333: And, pinch'd with cold, and, shrinking from the shower,
334: With heavy heart deplores that luckless hour,
335: When idly first, ambitious of the town,
336: She left her wheel, and robes of country brown.

337: Do thine, sweet Auburn, thine, the loveliest train,
338: Do thy fair tribes participate her pain?
339: E'en now, perhaps, by cold and hunger led,
340: At proud men's doors they ask a little bread!

341: Ah, no. To distant climes, a dreary scene,
342: Where half the convex world intrudes between,
343: Through torrid tracts with fainting steps they go,
344: Where wild Altama murmurs to their woe.
345: Far different there from all that charm'd before,
346: The various terrors of that horrid shore;
347: Those blazing suns that dart a downward ray,
348: And fiercely shed intolerable day;
349: Those matted woods where birds forget to sing,


350: But silent bats in drowsy clusters cling;
351: Those poisonous fields, with rank luxuriance crown'd,
352: Where the dark scorpion gathers death around;
353: Where at each step the stranger fears to wake
354: The rattling terrors of the vengeful snake;
355: Where crouching tigers wait their hapless prey,
356: And savage men more murderous still than they:
357: While oft in whirls the mad tornado flies,
358: Mingling the ravaged landscape with the skies.
359: Far different these from every former scene,
360: The cooling brook, the grassy-vested green,
361: The breezy covert of the warbling grove,
362: That only shelter'd thefts of harmless love.

363: Good Heaven! what sorrows gloom'd that parting day,
364: That call'd them from their native walks away;
365: When the poor exiles, every pleasure past,
366: Hung round their bowers, and fondly looked their last,
367: And took a long farewell, and wish'd in vain,
368: For seats like these beyond the western main;
369: And shuddering still to face the distant deep,
370: Return'd and wept, and still return'd to weep!
371: The good old sire the first prepared to go
372: To new-found worlds, and wept for others' woe;
373: But for himself, in conscious virtue brave,
374: He only wish'd for worlds beyond the grave.
375: His lovely daughter, lovelier in her tears,
376: The fond companion of his helpless years,
377: Silent went next, neglectful of her charms,
378: And left a lover's for a father's arms.
379: With louder plaints the mother spoke her woes,
380: And bless'd the cot where every pleasure rose,
381: And kiss'd her thoughtless babes with many a tear,
382: And clasp'd them close, in sorrow doubly dear;
383: Whilst her fond husband strove to lend relief
384: In all the silent manliness of grief.

385: 0 Luxury, thou cursed by Heaven's decree,


386: How ill exchanged are things like these for thee!
387: How do thy potions, with insidious joy,
388: Diffuse their pleasures only to destroy!
389: Kingdoms by thee to sickly greatness grown,
390: Boast of a florid vigour not their own;
391: At every draught more large and large they grow,
392: A bloated mass of rank unwieldy woe;
393: Till sapp'd their strength, and every part unsound,
394: Down, down they sink, and spread a ruin round.

395: E'en now the devastation is begun,
396: And half the business of destruction done;
397: E'en now, methinks, as pondering here I stand,
398: I see the rural Virtues leave the land.
399: Down where yon anchoring vessel spreads the sail
400: That idly waiting flaps with every gale,
401: Downward they move, a melancholy band,
402: Pass from the shore, and darken all the strand;
403: Contented Toil, and hospitable Care,
404: And kind connubial tenderness are there;
405: And Piety with wishes placed above,
406: And steady Loyalty, and faithful Love.

407: And thou, sweet Poetry, thou loveliest maid
408: Still first to fly where sensual joys invade!
409: Unfit, in these degenerate times of shame,
410: To catch the heart, or strike for honest fame;
411: Dear charming nymph, neglected and decried,
412: My shame in crowds, my solitary pride;
413: Thou source of all my bliss and all my woe,
414: That found'st me poor at first, and keep'st me so;
415: Thou guide by which the nobler arts excel,
416: Thou nurse of every virtue, fare thee well!
417: Farewell! and oh! where'er thy voice be tried,
418: On Torno's cliffs, or Pambamarca's side,
419: Whether where equinoctial fervours glow,
420: Or winter wraps the polar world in snow,
421: Still let thy voice, prevailing over time,


422: Redress the rigours of th' inclement clime;
423: Aid slighted Truth with thy persuasive strain;
424: Teach erring man to spurn the rage of gain;
425: Teach him that states of native strength possest,
426: Though very poor, may still be very blest;
427: That Trade's proud empire hastes to swift decay,
428: As ocean sweeps the labour'd mole away;
429: While self-dependent power can time defy
430: As rocks resist the billows and the sky.

This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.