The Village Schoolmaster

Oliver Goldsmith’s “The Village Schoolmaster” depicts the memory of an educated headmaster who occupies a place of fear and awe in a rural small town. The verse form was written as portion of a larger work,The Deserted Village,in which Goldsmith describes an fanciful ideal small town called Auburn, a complex of several small towns Goldsmith had himself observed. Returning to the small town after many old ages, now in its diminution, the storyteller remembers the small town as it had one time been, idealised through the lens of clip and memory. Goldsmith’s portrayal of the headmaster is written from a place of nostalgia, and the affectionate and humourous portrayal of the headmaster reflects a well-thought-of figure from an idealized yesteryear. Through a humourous and brooding portrayal of the archetypal small town headmaster every bit good as through a conventionalized poetic signifier, Goldsmith expresses a concern for the unsure hereafter of the state life in a clip of turning commercialism and industry.

Goldsmith’s belief in the high quality of the rural life finds look in poetic manner every bit good as topic. The poem’s construction is in riming pentameter pairs, a signifier featured conspicuously in the 18th century’s heroic verse forms. The epic pair, used by poetic giants from Chaucer to Dryden, evokes a history of an English poetic tradition and contributes to a nostalgia for the yesteryear which Goldsmith expresses in his portrayal of the headmaster. The linguistic communication is simple and far from the exalted linguistic communication expected of the epic pair ; although Goldsmith uses an elevated enunciation, using poetically conventionally words such as “rustics” in topographic point of the more conversational “peasant” or “clodhopper” . Word order is inverted to keep the beat and rhyme strategy in ‘Well had the premonition quakers learn’d the trace’ and ‘Lands he could mensurate, footings and tides presage’ ( 7, 17 ) , efficaciously promoting the poetry from its common topic and in the procedure promoting the image of the headmaster himself from a state instructor to an of import and well-thought-of figure in provincial life.

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The elevated poetic signifier and idealization of the pastoral landscape inThe Deserted Villagereveals a profound nostalgia for a now lost yesteryear for which the poet yearns. “The Village Schoolmaster” is, hence, a portrayal of a figure who is eulogized and becomes representative himself of a lost yesteryear. The verse form begins with a pastoral description of the schoolhouse and its maestro:

Beside yon sidetracking fencing that skirts the manner

With blossom’d gorse profitlessly homosexual,

There, in his sign of the zodiac, skill’d to govern,

The small town maestro taught his small school ( 1-4 )

The portrayal of the small town is one of natural beauty, the blooming flowers unconcerned with the commercialism and industry which define the ulterior age. The headmaster resides inside his ‘mansion’ , and dry mention to the simple edifice of the schoolhouse. This figures the headmaster as Godhead over his sphere of immature students and an baronial figure of rational art in the small town. The figure which Goldsmith chooses for his portrayal, like the curate who besides features inThe Deserted Village, spans coevalss of the community, pass oning the sort of cognition that enriches both his life and those around him. The epic signifier and pastoral imagination suggest a eulogium for a disappearing rural civilization in which functions such as that of the headmaster were critical.

Writing in the late 18th century, when instruction comprised a wide spectrum of topics instead than the specialized instruction of modern times, Goldsmith portrays the headmaster as a well-thought-of figure of acquisition in a rural small town in which basic reading and composing accomplishments were the highest instruction many villagers attained. The figure of the headmaster, hence, is an amazing presence, a adult male deserving of regard and esteem. He is described therefore: ‘A adult male severe he was, and austere to view’ ( 5 ) who commands regard from his students. The kids ‘laugh’d with counterfeited glee’ ( 9 ) at his many gags, whether they were good stories or non. Yet the headmaster is non a awful figure as the storyteller is speedy to indicate out: ‘Yet he was sort ; or if terrible in nothing, / The love he bore to larning was in fault’ ( 13-14 ) . His mistakes, if any, are due to his dedication to instruction and larning instead than as character defects.

The villagers are impressed with his ability to read and compose, step lands, do complex computations, and tag the rhythm of spiritual holy yearss. Adults and kids likewise hold his acquisition in awe ; but this is an dry transition which emphasises the ignorance of the small towns instead than the eruditeness of the headmaster. In statements with the curate, the headmaster does non ever prevail, but uses ‘words of erudite length and thund’ring sound’ to foster the statement, deriving regard from the audience of villagers as good.

While words of erudite length and thund’ring sound

Amazed the gaxing rustics rang’d around

And still they gaz’d and still the admiration grew,

That one little caput could transport all he knew ( 21-24 )

His basic cognition and ability to read do him look knowing to the ‘gazing rustics’ ( 22 ) , but he is non the rational God he is held up to be. His importance is comparative merely to their ain ignorance. However, this is non a satirical portrayal meant to uncover failing or mistake ; the poet’s esteem of the headmaster is clear. He is the beginning of instruction to the small town, at times ruled by the ‘love he bore to learning’ ( 14 ) but making a good title in conveying instruction to the common people and carry throughing a critical function in village life. In eulogising the go throughing the headmaster, Goldsmith is mourning the passing of the community of which the headmaster was cardinal.

Goldsmith’s verse form is more than a pensive nostalgia of his ain childhood experience. His message is an expressed unfavorable judgment of the diminution of rural life in favor of urban Centres. The august figure of the headmaster is lost and forgotten, his value and regard is no more. ‘But yesteryear is all his fame’ the poet plaints, ‘The really topographic point / Where many a clip he triumph’d is forgot’ ( 25-6 ) . Goldsmith stands against the ideals of the modern universe: industrialism, commercialism and philistinism. The portrayal of the headmaster is a testimonial to that portion of the universe, the rural countryside, which is melting off to do room for capitalist endeavor.

Plants Cited

Goldsmith, Oliver, “The Deserted Village” ,The Collected plants of Oliver Goldsmith, erectile dysfunction. Arthur Friedman, Volume IV, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966, pp. 287-304.

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