For me this is one of the best poems on the subject of not eating meat.
It is far better, in my opinion, than Shelley’s poems on vegetarianism.
At any rate here it is, see what you think.
THE HERMIT by Oliver Goldsmith
‘Turn, gentle hermit of the dale,
And guide my lonely way,
To where yon taper cheers the vale,
With hospitable ray.
‘For here forlorn and lost I tread,
With fainting steps and slow;
Where wilds immeasurably spread,
Seem lengthening as I go.’
‘Forbear, my son,’ the hermit cries,
‘To tempt the dangerous gloom;
For yonder faithless phantom flies
To lure thee to thy doom.
‘Here to the houseless child of want,
My door is open still;
And tho’ my portion is but scant,
I give it with good will.
‘Then turn to-night, and freely share
Whate’er my cell bestows;
My rushy couch, and frugal fare,
My blessing and repose.
‘No flocks that range the valley free,
To slaughter I condemn:
Taught by that power that pities me,
I learn to pity them.
‘But from the mountain’s grassy side,
A guiltless feast I bring;
A scrip with herbs and fruits supply’d,
And water from the spring.
‘Then, pilgrim, turn, thy cares forego;
All earth-born cares are wrong:
Man wants but little here below,
Nor wants that little long.’
Soft as the dew from heav’n descends,
His gentle accents fell:
The modest stranger lowly bends,
And follows to the cell.
Far in a wilderness obscure
The lonely mansion lay;
A refuge to the neighbouring poor,
And strangers led astray.
No stores beneath its humble thatch
Requir’d a master’s care;
The wicket opening with a latch,
Receiv’d the harmless pair.
And now when busy crowds retire
To take their evening rest,
The hermit trimm’d his little fire,
And cheer’d his pensive guest:
And spread his vegetable store,
And gayly prest, and smil’d;
And skill’d in legendary lore,
The lingering hours beguil’d.
Around in sympathetic mirth
Its tricks the kitten tries,
The cricket chirrups in the hearth;
The crackling faggot flies…
The poem continues on the related theme of love and tails out a bit, but the above selection is, for me, a very poetic appreciation of guiltless meals (viz, Vegan) and is therefore, a beautiful homage to the author and, his love of Mother Nature’s fruits.
Extract from The Vicar of Wakefield, by Oliver Goldsmith, published 1766