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The Deserted Village, A Poem Analysis

Author: Poetry of Oliver Goldsmith Type: Poetry Views: 1856

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1Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain,

2Where health and plenty cheer'd the labouring swain,

3Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid,

4And parting summer's lingering blooms delay'd:

5Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease,

6Seats of my youth, when every sport could please,

7How often have I loiter'd o'er thy green,

8Where humble happiness endear'd each scene!

9How often have I paus'd 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 whisp'ring lovers made!

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 survey'd;

21And many a gambol frolick'd o'er the ground,

22And sleights of art and feats of strength went round;

23And still, as each repeated pleasure tir'd,

24Succeeding sports the mirthful band inspir'd;

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 titter'd round the place;

29The bashful virgin's sidelong 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 e'en 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36Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn;

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, chok'd 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 mould'ring 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 maintain'd its man;

59For him light labour spread her wholesome store,

60Just gave what life requir'd, but gave no more:

61His best companions, innocence and health;

62And his best riches, ignorance of wealth.

63But times are alter'd; trade's unfeeling train

64Usurp the land and dispossess the swain;

65Along the lawn, where scatter'd hamlets rose,

66Unwieldy wealth and cumbrous pomp repose,

67And every want to opulence allied,

68And every pang that folly pays to pride.

69Those gentle hours that plenty bade to bloom,

70Those calm desires that ask'd but little room,

71Those healthful sports that grac'd the peaceful scene,

72Liv'd 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 ruin'd grounds,

79And, many a year elaps'd, return to view

80Where once the cottage stood, the hawthorn grew,

81Remembrance wakes with all her busy train,

82Swells at my breast, and turns the past to pain.

83In all my wand'rings round this world of care,

84In all my griefs--and God has giv'n my share--

85I still had hopes, my latest hours to crown,

86Amidst these humble bowers to lay me down;

87To husband out life's taper at the close,

88And keep the flame from wasting by repose:

89I still had hopes, for pride attends us still,

90Amidst the swains to show my booklearn'd skill,

91Around my fire an evening group to draw,

92And tell of all I felt and all I saw;

93And as a hare whom hounds and horns pursue,

94Pants to the place from whence at first she flew,

95I still had hopes, my long vexations past,

96Here to return, and die at home at last.

97O blest retirement, friend to life's decline,

98Retreats from care, that never must be mine!

99How happy 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 dang'rous 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 Bends to the grave with unperceiv'd decay,

110 While resignation gently slopes the way;

111 And, all his prospects bright'ning to the last,

112 His heav'n commences ere the world be past!

113Sweet was the sound, when oft at evening's close

114 Up yonder hill the village murmur rose.

115 There, as I past with careless steps and slow,

116 The mingling 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 gabbled o'er the pool,

120 The playful children just let loose from school,

121 The watch-dog's voice that bay'd the whisp'ring 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 foot-way tread,

128 For 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, forc'd 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.

137Near yonder copse, where once the garden smil'd,

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 Unpractis'd 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 skill'd to raise the wretched than to rise.

149 His house was known to all the vagrant train;

150 He chid their wand'rings but reliev'd 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 bade 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 Pleas'd 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.

163Thus to relieve the wretched was his pride,

164 And e'en 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-fledg'd offspring to the skies,

169 He tried each art, reprov'd each dull delay,

170 Allur'd to brighter worlds, and led the way.

171Beside the bed where parting life was laid,

172 And sorrow, guilt, and pain, by turns dismay'd

173 The rev'rend 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 falt'ring accents whisper'd praise.

177At 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 exprest:

186 Their welfare pleas'd him, and their cares distrest:

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.

193Beside 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 declar'd how much he knew;

208 'Twas certain he could write, and cypher too:

209 Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage,

210 And ev'n the story ran that he could gauge.

211 In arguing, too, the parson own'd his skill,

212 For, ev'n though vanquish'd, he could argue still;

213 While words of learned length and thundering sound

214 Amazed the gazing rustics rang'd around;

215 And still they gaz'd, and still the wonder grew,

216 That one small head could carry all he knew.

217But 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 Low lies that house where nut-brown draughts inspir'd,

222 Where grey-beard mirth and smiling toil retir'd,

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 white-wash'd wall, the nicely-sanded floor,

228 The varnish'd clock that click'd behind the door;

229 The chest contriv'd a double debt to pay,

230 A bed by night, a chest of drawers by day;

231 The pictures plac'd 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 Rang'd o'er the chimney, glisten'd in a row.

237Vain 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 pond'rous 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.

251Yes! 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 firstborn sway;

257 Lightly they frolic o'er the vacant mind,

258 Unenvied, unmolested, unconfin'd.

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, e'en while fashion's brightest arts decoy,

264 The heart distrusting asks if this be joy.

265Ye 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 e'en 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 neighb'ring 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.

287As 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, scourg'd 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.

303Where 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 ev'n the bare-worn common is denied.

309If to the city sped--what waits him there?

310 To see profusion that he must not share;

311 To see ten thousand baneful arts combin'd

312 To pamper luxury, and thin mankind;

313 To see those joys 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 pomps 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 shiv'ring female lies.

327 She once, perhaps, in village plenty blest,

328 Has wept at tales of innocence distrest;

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.

337Do thine, sweet Auburn, thine, the loveliest train,--

338 Do thy fair tribes participate her pain?

339 Ev'n now, perhaps, by cold and hunger led,

340 At proud men's doors they ask a little bread!

341Ah, 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 pois'nous 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 murd'rous still than they;

357 While oft in whirls the mad tornado flies,

358 Mingling the ravag'd 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.

363Good 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 look'd their last,

367 And took a long farewell, and wish'd in vain

368 For seats like these beyond the western main,

369 And shudd'ring still to face the distant deep,

370 Return'd and wept, and still return'd to weep!

371 The good old sire the first prepar'd 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.

385O luxury! thou curst by Heaven's decree,

386 How ill exchang'd 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.

395Ev'n now the devastation is begun,

396 And half the business of destruction done;

397 Ev'n now, methinks, as pond'ring 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.


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