The Deserted Village "The Bashful Virgin's Side-long Looks Of Love"

Oliver Goldsmith

"The Bashful Virgin's Side-long Looks Of Love"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: In a preface to the poem addressed to Sir Joshua Reynolds, Goldsmith explains that his purpose is to deplore the depopulation of the rural countryside in England. The depopulation is occurring, he says, because of the movement of people to urban areas where more luxuries and greater material wealth are available. He regrets that "For twenty or thirty years past, it has been the fashion to consider luxury as one of the greatest national advantages; and all the wisdom of antiquity in that particular, as erroneous." The poet achieves his purpose through a series of contrasting views of a village named Auburn, first describing it in its earlier, happier state. After picturing the village itself, the poet moves to the people at play after their day's work:

The dancing pair that simply sought renown,
By holding out to tire each other down;
The swain mistrustless of his smutted face,
While secret laughter titter'd round the place;
The bashful virgin's side-long looks of love,
The matron's glance that would those looks reprove:
These were thy charms, sweet village; sports like these,
With sweet succession, taught e'en toil to please;
These round thy bowers their cheerful influence shed,
These were thy charms–but all these charms are fled.