Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Deserted Village: Oliver Goldsmith

The Deserted Village: Oliver Goldsmith
The Deserted Village is the masterpiece of Oliver Goldsmith(1728-1774). The poem was first published on 26th May 1770. The strong infusion of personal feeling suggests that Auburn may have been the Irish village of Lissoy of Goldsmith’s child hood.

In the poem ‘The Deserted Village’ Oliver Goldsmith portrays the simple rustic life and happiness. He is tormented with the disappearance of this life. Signs of decay are everywhere. The rich usurp the rightful land of the peasant dispossessing him and forcing him to emigrate. All through his life he had cherished the hope of returning to his native village and spending the last few years of his life in rest and peace. He had dreamt of overwhelming the rustic friends of his boyhood with his knowledge, and tales of his experiences. It was his earnest expectation that after life’s vexations were over he would return in this home and die amidst its much-loved surroundings. But those expectations have now been completely destroyed. It would have been happiness for him if he could retire from a life of temptation and spend his days in such a place. For that man alone can be happy for whom his fellowmen do not have to labor with the sweet of their brows and encounter the dangers of the deep mines and the stormy seas. Life in retirement means experience of heavenly bliss; for to such a man death comes with easy grace, and his days are made smooth by resignation to his lot.

Thoughts of retirement revive in the poet’s mind memories of the peace and blessedness of Auburn as it used to be in his boyhood days. He recalls with pleasure the mingled sounds that rose in the village in the dusk of the evening, the song of the milkmaid, the lowing of cows, the cackling of the geese, the merry shouts of school children. The barking of the watch dogs, and above all, the care-free laughter of innocent minds. But the contrast that he now experiences is tragic. There is no sound to be heard on the evening breeze. Only one poor window remains a witness of all that the village had been; she now in her old age is forced to gather water-cress for her food and faggots to keep her warm. She alone can tell the sad story of Auburn in its change from prosperity to desolation.

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