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The Village Schoolmaster -- Oliver Goldsmith

Guest poem sent in by Srinivasan, Deepak
(Poem #1220) The Village Schoolmaster
 Beside yon straggling fence that skirts the way
 With blossom'd furze unprofitably gay,
 There, in his mansion, skill'd to rule,
 The village master taught his little school;
 A man severe he was, and stern to view,
 I knew him well, and every truant knew;
 Well had the boding tremblers learn'd to trace
 The days disasters in his morning face;
 Full well they laugh'd with counterfeited glee,
 At all his jokes, for many a joke had he:
 Full well the busy whisper, circling round,
 Convey'd the dismal tidings when he frown'd:
 Yet he was kind; or if severe in aught,
 The love he bore to learning was in fault.
 The village all declar'd how much he knew;
 'Twas certain he could write, and cipher too:
 Lands he could measure, terms and tides presage,
 And e'en the story ran that he could gauge.
 In arguing too, the person own'd his skill,
 For e'en though vanquish'd he could argue still;
 While words of learned length and thund'ring sound
 Amazed the gazing rustics rang'd around;
 And still they gaz'd and still the wonder grew,
 That one small head could carry all he knew.
 But past is all his fame. The very spot
 Where many a time he triumph'd is forgot.
-- Oliver Goldsmith
I am surprised that minstrels does not carry this poem. This is one of the
poems that i remember from my early school days and was skilfully unearthed for
me by my teacher.

It is surprising, how even now in these days of internet information sources,
online education, advanced school curricula, etc. a very good teacher can
literally change a person's life by pointing her down a path
of passion for a subject. Before I wax lyrical on the qualities of the
"schoolmaster", Goldsmith has so wonderfully given me a poem to remember him

    "And still they gaz'd and still the wonder grew,
    That one small head could carry all he knew. "


[Martin adds]

Another excellent tribute to that most underappreciated of professions is
Kipling's "A School Song", from "Stalky and Co.":

46 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Edmund Burton said...

"In arguing too, the person own'd his skill,"

I believe it should be "parson"

foshea said...

Poor old Goldsmith was a walking disaster. He was permanently in debt, a
situation which in his day would have landed him in one of their
unpleasant jails. He was kept uncertainly afloat by friends (here I am
flying without access to reference books) by people like Sheridan(?) and
Pepys or was it Johnson? The deserted village is supposed to be his old
hamlet in Longford in the middle of Ireland, but is more likely an
amalgam of many of the small towns in England which were being gradually
depopulated by the flight to the cities. Anyway, the poem is a
delightful one and will send me looking for something from my shelves on
schools and schoolteachers.

Thanks, Srinivasan.


Supriya Nair said...

The History Teacher
Trying to protect his students' innocence
he told them the Ice Age was really just
the Chilly Age, a period of a million years
when everyone had to wear sweaters.

And the Stone Age became the Gravel Age,
named after the long driveways of the time.

The Spanish Inquisition was nothing more
than an outbreak of questions such as
"How far is it from here to Madrid?"
"What do you call the matador's hat?"

The War of the Roses took place in a garden,
and the Enola Gay dropped one tiny atom on Japan.

The children would leave his classroom
for the playground to torment the weak
and the smart,
mussing up their hair and breaking their glasses,

while he gathered up his notes and walked home
past flower beds and white picket fences,
wondering if they would believe that soldiers
in the Boer War told long, rambling stories
designed to make the enemy nod off.

- Billy Collins

And the new guru, straight out of Hollywood, but with more brains. :)

Frank O'Shea said...

This is lovel, Supriya. Why not put it up on the site itself. It gets lost
down here.


Doux Systems said...


This was one of my favourites in school and the rustic humour still holds its appeal. This is also one poem that I spent considerable time looking for. I hope students today get to read and enjoy works such as this. Getting to read this poem after all these years certainly made my day!!

Thank you Mr. Srinivasan

Meenakshi Naidu

RAJG said...

Thanks Deepak for reviving old memories. This was one of our favourite poems
in school and it reminds me how we quoted its verse to express our awe and
reverence for our English teacher. Today too, it brings a smile and
nostalgic recollections of the good old school days.

javieth said...

I usually go with my family to a some village specially because we like to know the people and the places. I believe the people are more helpful and kind than people of the city.
I love to go with my couple, he usually buy viagra and we enjoy too much our privacy.

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happy singh said...

can i get the whole summary of the poem - village schoolmaster ??? please i really neec it .!!!!!!

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Anonymous said...

Please add to the blog. I found it really helpful as I am a Secondary School English teacher and I am currently doing "The Village Schoolmaster" and "Mrs Tilscher's Class" as an essay on similarities and differences. I have loved the poem since I was a little girl and my grandmother read it to me at night before I went to bed. It holds such good memories and I would love it if you could add some more so my pupils can use it.
Thank You,
Miss Vultantley

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