19 February 2009

Sweet Auburn!

Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain,
Where health and plenty cheer'd the labouring swain,
Where smiling Spring its earliest visit paid,
And parting Summer's lingering blooms delay'd:
Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease,
Seats of my youth, when every sport could please,
How often have I loiter'd o'er thy green,
Where humble happiness endear'd each scene!

In his poem The Deserted Village (1770), Anglo-Irish poet Oliver Goldsmith recalled "Auburn," a village associated with his fond memories of childhood. He described the effects of the depopulation of the countryside, the emigration of the peasants, and the influx of a class of wealth and luxury. Goldsmith sought to provide a sense of the countryside during the period of modernization; he bemoaned a society where "wealth accumulates and men decay."

About the poem, Goldsmith wrote to a friend, "I know you will object... that the depopulation it deplores is no where to be seen, and the disorders 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; that I have taken all 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 enquiries have led me to believe those miseries real, which I here attempt to display." Goldsmith's attachment to the people of the countryside was made clear, and he demonstrated a commitment to portraying their lives truthfully.