BETA

SKETCHES OF VILLAGE CHARACTER.

NO II.

The Village Schoolmaster.

A stripling tyrant of unyielding look1
Unskill’d in manners—learned by the book,2
Just ’ scaped the chastisement he now bestows,3
Armed in the terrors of unceasing blows4
Here stalks the Village “ Master”—in his school,5
Holding o’er murmuring Wights his rigid rule.6
A silken handkerchief around his neck7
Arrests attention, and commands respect8
Adown his breast in flowing grace, it spreads,9
And vast importance o’er his presence sheds ;10
A ruffled shirt—his luxury and pride11
Demands the unbuttoned waistcoat, opened wide12
With broad-round brim, like spreading wing of hat,13
Extends his vast circumference of hat.14
With air important, solemn, and devout,15
The “ Chair of Majesty” is wheeled about ;16
Its nicely balanced back a prop supplies17
To folded arms, and Heaven-directed eyes18
The Prayer,” in whispers, quickly circles round,19
And silence strives to lord it over sound ;20
With half-averted look, and manner sly,21
With scarcely moving lip, and watchful eye,22
Each knowing Urchin, through the crowded school,23
Commits his question—cons his grammar rule,24
Or, wisely provident of future need,25
Explaining lessons”—now essays to read.26
This prelude o’er, a solemn pause ensues,27
As each, with darkened face, his fellow views28
Till dire suspense, to certainty gives way,29
And up the Urchins march, their tasks to say,30
Around the chair, the “ Armed chair” of state,31
With open books, they tremblingly await,32
The circle widened by the master’s wand,33
On one unhappy wight, he lays his hand,34
Who destined to begin—with beating heart,35
And tear—confounded eye, essays his part.36
Well—well—and well, sir ! make a little haste,37
Look, blockhead—read ; the noun is there misplaced ;38
But where’s the verb, and where the adverbnext,39
Was ever loggerhead so much perplexed !40
Now into order put the words at once41
The vocative stands foremost still, you dunce ;42
Nay, this is past endurance, bare your breech,43
And I’ll instruct you in the parts of speech.”44
And now the “ Taws,” sad prelude of mishap,45
Rudely alight in reckless “ Mary’s” lap ;46
A while she eyes the messenger of fate,47
Then, with unfeigned reluctance, leaves her seat ;48
Around her neck, the hated badge she bears,49
And takes her woeful pilgrimage with tears.50
Poor luckless Mary ! thou didst only look,51
One little thoughtless moment off thy book,52
Thy Brother’s breech might warmly plead thy cause;53
That breech which smarted sore beneath the Taws,54
Thy brother’s tears, and anguish-speaking moan,55
That momentary “ glance” might well atone,56
But thou art doomed a Tyrant’s rage to crave ;57
Thy youth, thy sex, thy beauty, cannot save ;58
Then Nature be thy friend, and let him know,59
How many “ fountains spring” at every blow.60