A Hedge Schoolmaster
Poems and Versions
Any niche is my college.
In wayside ditch roofed by a bramble
I light the small rush candle
Of knowledge in numbskulls.
No mouth-open fledglings sit
Around this Socrates on the turf
But Pat's famished son, the lout
And his daughter, scrapings of the pot.
Thankless the task, to create
Fine manners on salt and potatoes,
To hatch out the morrow's priest
From father's old waistcoat;
Spelling out for the shockhaired
The wars of Caesar,
Hannibal in the Alps or
The Emperor Nero on the fiddle;
To construct with a slate pencil the town of Troy,
Thumbnailing; the geography of heroes;
All history from Adam down
To hobble home on bare toes;
With profit and loss and mensuration
Goes towering Agamemnon
And Arius with his heresy
Of Three-in-one and Homousion,
To be lost in little walls and ricks of turf,
Dwindle down at peasant fires,
Huge ghosts in hungry fields
Wandering without memories.
No profit in it, or credit. Boors thrive
But I eat afield with the crows;
No goose gravy for Tom Euclid;
The master feasts on the hedgerows;
Yet, Pallas Athene, your true legionary
In the last earthworks, the lone garrison, still
Arrays himself in the delicate dactyls to
Decline you to the barbarian.