Three different towns (in Alabama, Maine, and Washington)–all named for a town mentioned in Oliver Goldsmith’s poem The Deserted Village (1770).   The relevant quote from the poem is “Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain.”

The poem itself is a critical social commentary.  “Aristocrats sought to extend their large estates by purchasing land previously run by small private farmers. Unwilling to work for the landowners, the residents leave the village for miserable urban life in England or America (EB).”  The poem is a commentary on rural depopulation, urban estrangement, and excessive wealth.

“[R]eaders and critics ignored the political content of the poem, focussing instead on Goldsmith’s idyllic descriptions of Auburn.  This second type of reading was the most common (Wikipedia).”

I thought it was interesting that so many towns were named in honor of this particular poem.  Why was this particular poem so popular in America?  And how literate exactly were the early Americans?  I also thought it was interesting that the founders of these towns seemed to miss (or ignore) the essential meaning of the poem, which goes far beyond the simple description of an idyllic town in the first few stanzas.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s