The poem draws on Goldsmith's memories of the Irish village in which he grew up. Goldsmith was the son of the Protestant rector there.
This village, like others in Ireland, is now empty and in ruins. A new landlord, wishing to change to different methods of farming, has ended the tenancies held by the Irish peasants and forced them to leave.
Goldsmith, a successful writer, now lives in London. The Deserted Village is received with much enthusiasm by the reading public.