The Deserted Village "Passing Rich With Forty Pounds A Year"
by Oliver Goldsmith

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"Passing Rich With Forty Pounds A Year"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: The first effects of the Enclosure Act and of the early stages of the Industrial Revolution had been to drive the population of rural England in large numbers into the cities or to America. Goldsmith, who believed that the well-being of the country depended upon a "bold peasantry" permanently settled on the land, gave an idealized picture of rural life in his village of Auburn in earlier days. Among the villagers whom he describes is the clergyman, usually considered to be a portrait of his own father. He is a man quite content to do his duty in his humble surroundings, nor has he any desire for a position with more wealth and power:

A man he was to all the country dear,
And passing rich with forty pounds a year;
Remote from towns he ran his godly race,
Nor e'er had changed, nor wish'd to change his place;
Unpractic'd he to fawn, or seek for power,
By doctrines fashioned to the varying hour;
Far other aims his heart had learned to prize;
More skill'd to raise the wretched than to rise.