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Introduced by Vona Groarke with illustrations by Blaise Drummond, The Deserted Village is an unusual classic of Irish literature: it is both admired and loved. Oliver Goldsmith (1728-1774) fleshes out in resounding couplets his ‘loveliest village’, the humble happiness and repeated pleasures of its ‘labouring swains’. His portraits of the matron, ‘sad historian of the pensive plain’, of the village preacher, a pious man ‘more skilled to raise the wretched than to rise’ and –– above all –– of the schoolmaster are parts of people’s lives, people who, literally, took them to heart. But Goldsmith’s thoughtful lines are also a chronicle of change –– ‘these charms are fled’, ‘the tyrant’s hand is seen’. They comprise a study of fall and loss, the erosion of self-dependence and of the value of continuity in rural life. They record the extortions of the rich and emigrations of the poor. The poem’s enduring virtues and particular modern relevance are amply demonstrated in the responses of two of Ireland’s most vital younger artists.

More than two hundred and thirty years after its appearance The Deserted Village continues to delight and to instruct, its prophecies to ring true.

Publication date: December 2002
Details: 48pp
ISBN PBK: 978 1 85235 335 x

Cover: Blaise Drummond

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