The Deserted Village "Where Wealth Accumulates, And Men Decay"
by Oliver Goldsmith

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"Where Wealth Accumulates, And Men Decay"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Goldsmith wrote this poem as a protest against the conditions in rural England brought about by the Enclosure Act and the early effects of the Industrial Revolution. The village of Auburn is an idealized picture of rustic life before these two causes had driven the country people into the cities or to America. Like Burns in the later "Cotter's Saturday Night" (1786), Goldsmith saw the peasantry as the mainstay of the nation and deplored the destruction of the simple village life of an earlier time. He moralizes thus on the situation:

Ill fares the land, to hast'ning ills a prey,
Where wealth accumulates, and men decay:
Princes and lords may flourish, or may fade;
A breath can make them, as a breath has made;
But a bold peasantry, their country's pride,
When once destroy'd, can never be supplied.