Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice
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Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
 
The Deserted Village

By Oliver Goldsmith

(English poet and novelist, 1730?–1774)
 
SWEET-SMILING village, loveliest of the lawn!
Thy sports are fled, and all thy charms withdrawn;
Amidst thy bowers the tyrant’s hand is seen,
And desolation saddens all thy green;
One only master grasps the whole domain,        5
And half a tillage stints thy smiling plain;
No more thy glassy brook reflects the day,
But, choked with sedges, works its weedy way;
Along thy glades, a solitary guest,
The hollow-sounding bittern guards its nest;        10
Amidst thy desert walks the lapwing flies,
And tires their echoes with unvaried cries;
Sunk are thy bowers in shapeless ruin all,
And the long grass o’ertops the mouldering wall;
And, trembling, shrinking from the spoiler’s hand;        15
Far, far away thy children leave the land.
 
Ill fares the land, to hastening 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:        20
But a bold peasantry, their country’s pride,
When once destroyed, can never be supplied.
A time there was, ere England’s griefs began,
When every rood of ground maintained its man;
For him light labor spread her wholesome store,        25
Just gave what life required, but gave no more:
His best companions, innocence and health;
And his best riches, ignorance of wealth.
 
But times are altered: trade’s unfeeling train
Usurp the land, and dispossess the swain;        30
Along the lawn, where scattered hamlets rose,
Unwieldy wealth and cumbrous pomp repose;
And every want to luxury allied,
And every pang that folly pays to pride,
Those gentle hours that plenty bade to bloom,        35
Those calm desires that asked but little room,
Those healthful sports that graced the peaceful scene,
Lived in each look, and brightened all the green—
These, far departing, seek a kinder shore,
And rural mirth and manners are no more.…        40
 
Ye friends to truth, ye statesmen, who survey
The rich man’s joys increase, the poor’s decay,
’Tis yours to judge how wide the limits stand
Between a splendid and a happy land.
Proud swells the tide with loads of freighted ore,        45
And shouting Folly hails them from her shore;
Hoards, e’en beyond the miser’s wish, abound,
And rich men flock from all the world around.
Yet count our gains; this wealth is but a name,
That leaves our useful products still the same.        50
Not so the loss: the man of wealth and pride
Takes up a space that many poor supplied;
Space for his lake, his park’s extended bounds,
Space for his horses, equipage, and hounds;
The robe that wraps his limbs in silken sloth,        55
Has robbed the neighboring fields of half their growth;
His seat, where solitary sports are seen,
Indignant spurns the cottage from the green;
Around the world each needful product flies,
For all the luxuries the world supplies;        60
While thus the land, adorned for pleasure all,
In barren splendor, feebly waits the fall.…
 
Where then, ah! where, shall poverty reside,
To ’scape the pressure of contiguous pride?
If, to some common’s fenceless limits strayed,        65
He drives his flock to pick the scanty blade,
Those fenceless fields the sons of wealth divide,
And even the bare-worn common is denied.
If to the city sped, what waits him there?
To see profusion that he must not share;        70
To see ten thousand baneful arts combined
To pamper luxury, and thin mankind;
To see each joy the sons of pleasure know
Extorted from his fellow-creatures’ woe.
Here while the courtier glitters in brocade,        75
There the pale artist plies the sickly trade;
Here while the proud their long-drawn pomps display,
There the black gibbet glooms beside the way.
The dome where Pleasure holds her midnight reign,
Here, richly decked, admits the gorgeous train;        80
Tumultuous grandeur crowds the blazing square—
The rattling chariots clash, the torches glare.
Sure scenes like these no troubles e’er annoy!
Sure these denote one universal joy!
Are these thy serious thoughts? Ah! turn thine eyes        85
Where the poor, houseless, shivering female lies;
She once, perhaps, in village plenty blest,
Has wept at tales of innocence distrest;
Her modest looks the cottage might adorn,
Sweet as the primrose peeps beneath the thorn;        90
Now lost to all—her friends, her virtue fled—
Near her betrayer’s door she lays her head;
And, pinched with cold, and shrinking from the shower,
With heavy heart deplores that luckless hour
When, idly first, ambitious of the town,        95
She left her wheel, and robes of country brown.…
 
O luxury! thou curst by Heaven’s decree,
How ill exchanged are things like these for thee!
How do thy potions, with insidious joy,
Diffuse their pleasures only to destroy!        100
Kingdoms by thee, to sickly greatness grown,
Boast of a florid vigor not their own.
At every draught more large and large they grow,
A bloated mass of rank unwieldy woe;
Till sapped their strength, and every part unsound,        105
Down, down they sink, and spread a ruin round.
 
 
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