The Deserted Village is a long poem, its 430 lines distributed among twenty-five verse paragraphs of varying length. All the lines are given in heroic couplets. It is clear that Oliver Goldsmith as poet is the persona of the poem. The first-person narration is used to express a lamentation, as it were, for the passing of a way of life.
The meaning of the title is readily evident; it not only lists the poem’s subject, but suggests its theme as well. Roughly, the poem can be divided into three main sections: a description of the village as it used to be at the time of the poet’s youth; a description of the village “today,” in the poet’s maturity; and the concluding section that somewhat details life in America, where the occupants of Auburn have gone.
“Sweet Auburn” has been identified as Lissoy, Ireland, the poet’s hometown. In the first paragraphs of the poem, Auburn is, strangely enough, described as if it were an English town—a fact that makes for what often has been called the only genuine weakness of the work. The details and images of life in this rustic village are consistently English: Indeed, the poet directly refers to England at the beginning of the fourth paragraph. He creates a picture of rustic life in England when times were simpler; land was owned and used commonly by farmers; the people were good and united by common purpose, integrity, and society; and all lived in accord with nature.
(The entire section is 527 words.)