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GOLDSMITH, Oliver



The Deserted Village


Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way,

With blossomed furze unprofitably gay,

There, in his noisy mansion, skilled to rule,

The village master taught his little school;

A man severe he was, and stern to view;

I knew him well, and every truant knew;

Well had the boding tremblers learned to trace

The day's disasters in his morning face;

Full well they laughed, with counterfeited glee,

At all his jokes, for many a joke had he;

Full well the busy whisper, circling round,

Conveyed the dismal tidings when he frowned;

Yet he was kind; or if severe in aught,

The love he bore to learning was in fault.

The village all declared how much he knew;

'Twas certain he could write, and cipher too;

Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage,

And even the story ran that he could gauge.

In arguing too, the parson owned his skill,

For e'en though vanquished, he could argue still;

While words of learned length and thundering sound

Amazed the gazing rustics ranged around,

And still they gazed, and still the wonder grew

That one small head could carry all he knew.

But past is all his fame. The very spot

Where many a time he triumphed is forgot.

Near yonder thorn, that lifts its head on high,

Where once the signpost caught the passing eye,

Low lies that house where nut-brown draughts inspired,

Where grey-beard mirth and smiling toil retired,

Where village statesmen talked with looks profound,

And news much older than their ale went round.

Imagination fondly stoops to trace

The parlour splendours of that festive place:

The white-washed wall, the nicely sanded floor,

The varnished clock that clicked behind the door;

The chest contrived a double debt to pay, –

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

The pictures placed for ornament and use,

The twelve good rules, the royal game of goose;

The hearth, except when winter chilled the day,

With aspen boughs, and flowers, and fennel gay;

While broken teacups, wisely kept for show,

Ranged o'er the chimney, glistened in a row.

Vain transitory splendours! Could not all

Reprieve the tottering mansion from its fall!