A short review of Oliver Goldsmith`s melancholy description of “The Deserted Village”

suyam By suyam, 5th Dec 2010 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/1bi.0tp3/
Posted in Wikinut>Reviews>Books>Poetry, Drama & Criticism

In his famous poem "The Deserted Village", Oliver Goldsmith gives a complete and realistic picture of Sweet Auburn,the village where the happiest days of his youth were spent.The very though of his village brings back to his memory the various lovely details associated with it.

The Deserted Village

“The Deserted Village”-Oliver Goldsmith’s melancholy description of his village “Auburn”
Macaulay’s comments on Oliver Goldsmith include among others, that he has produced a Village, something which never was and never will be seen in any part of the world. This is true to those who happen to read his famous poem “The Deserted Village”.
In dedicating the poem to Sir. Joshua Reynolds, one of his close friends, Goldsmith admitted that most of his friends objected to the views he expressed in this poem on the ground that the depopulation deplored was nowhere to be found that the disorders lamented existed only in the poet`s own imagination.
In his poem, Goldsmith gives us a fascinating account of his sweet village Auburn. It is a matter of controversy whether such a village really exists. It is believed that Goldsmith might have remembered Lissoy, a pretty Irish village, where he had spent his youthful years and idealized it in his imagination. The poet presents us with two interesting contrasted pictures; a description of Auburn, the loveliest village of the plain and then how the village lost its glory on account of inroad of luxury and wealth.
The village once teemed with life, now, presents a melancholy and deserted appearance
It was the days when spring came early to the village and blessed it with flowers. Summer lingered long with its many fragrant bloosoms.The cottage nestling among trees, the well cultivated farm, the stream that never ran dry, the busy mill and the beautiful church crowning the hill were among the familiar and lovely sights of the village.
There were seats provided under the hawthorn bush, where generous old people used to sit and chatter away and lovers reposed, whispering sweet nothings. On holidays, the entire village would indulge in merry making. Sweet sound would fill the air. The pauses in the nightingale’s song would be filled with the watch dog’s bark, the shouts of merry children, the laughter of peasants, and the cackle of geese, the lowing of cattle, the milkmaid’s song and the swain’s loving response. Luxury and wealth were unknown to them. They were simple, happy and contented.

Vice was unknown to the people of the village. Their best companions were innocence and health and their best riches, ignorance of wealth. The only luxury that they ever permitted was gathering at the inn to drink ale, and discuss news older than the wine. The whole atmosphere permeates with unbounded gaiety. Seated at the inn and sipping his glass of ale, each villager felt as proud as a king.

The village School master used to school in a small house in the village. The school was a noisy place; indeed, the master knew how to control the boys. Students know how the behaviour the school master would be on the particular day, judging from the look on his face. He had a stock of seasoned jokes with which he used to regale the boys. The boys would laugh uproariously with counterfeited glee, when he repeated his jokes. If the school master is too severe, the fault had to be ascribed to his inordinate love of learning.

In contrast to this picture, the poet presents the state of desolation and melancholy, when he revisits his village after a long absence. The entire village is deserted. All the familiar figures have vanished from there. Even the foot paths are overgrown with grass. There is no one to tell the story of its desolation except the poor old lady, who makes a precarious living by gathering water cresses. The entire village is in the grip of one master, who does not care even to cultivate it properly. The people, who once made the village so beautiful and pleasant, have gone away to distant colonies to face untold adventures and earn a living, in spite of the greatest odds.

Thus we could see the Poet as an extraordinarily lovable character. We see him here in all the pathos of his life. His sufferings have lent a sweetness and grandeur to his personality. His infinite love for humanity enshrines him in the hearts of all readers. No one can read through the poem, without knowing the author and loving him.

Goldsmith concludes his poem with the following lines

]To me more dear, congenial to my heart
One native charm, than all the gloss of art

The poet laments at length the passing away of the simple joys of nature. Rich people may be inclined to treat with contempt these simple joys of poor. No doubt, the poor man’s pleasures have something crude and unsophisticated about them. The poet feels that any day the simple and natural joys of the poor are more wholesome and agreeable than all artificial polish of the pleasures enjoyed in high life. His mind and heart are in tune with only simple, unsophisticated joys of the poor.

Abstract of Oliver Goldsmith’s poem “The Deserted Village”

By S.Suyampirakasam


Luxury, Peasants, School Master, Village, Village Preacher

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author avatar suyam
Retired executive of Canara Bank,with 31 years experience-Good exposure in Finance,Banking,Foreign Exchange,Credit Management and Risk Management-Interested in English Literature,writing articles.

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author avatar ppruel
9th Dec 2010 (#)

how really powerful was his imagination.

a poet can create a world and anythign he wishes.

good review.

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author avatar suyam
11th Dec 2010 (#)

Yes.You are correct..There is, however, essential verisimilitude to the rural life, which Goldsmith idealized and whose decay he deplored. Whether, Auburn really exists or not, it stands for the fundamental virtues of village life. Goldsmith`s criticism is directed against an urban and imperialistic civilization, which neglects the villages and encourages the migration of population to cities and colonies. In this light, The Deserted Village is true to life.

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author avatar PSRemeshChandra
8th May 2011 (#)

It is good of you to write about The Deserted Village. Though a masterpiece, it is fading from the field of literary studies. How sad! It is really a very fine elegy on the demise of an entire village, the only one of its kind in English literature.

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author avatar Malik ikram
8th Jun 2012 (#)

this poem is is a good example of ecocriticism where nature and poetry are fused

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author avatar Britt johnston
7th Jul 2013 (#)

Thanks - the poem triggers at least 3 musical links for me - an extract, a different village demise, and a similar poetic ramble.
Schillers Lay of the Bell, set by Max Bruch

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