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Explain, in full detail, the poem "The Village Schoolmaster" by Oliver Goldsmith.

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The poem is an excerpt from a longer poem by Goldsmith called "The Deserted Village" and conveys the speaker's sentiments about a teacher. The word "village" in the title clearly suggests that the poem is set in a rural area, probably where the speaker lived and was taught by the subject of the poem. In the first two lines, the speaker mentions exactly where the school was located. The fence beside which the school building was situated is described as "straggling," which means that it was dilapidated and probably leaning over. The road leading towards and past the school was lined with flowers, which were "unprofitably gay." The phrase suggests that the flowers that were blooming beautifully were not being admired or appreciated.

In the following couplet the speaker refers to the the school building itself, a "noisy mansion" bustling with the activity of teaching and learning. The village teacher, equipped to manage a class, taught his lessons there. The term "master" denotes the respect he enjoyed. The speaker goes on to describe the teacher's character and style of teaching. Each description is rounded off in a rhyming couplet. 

The teacher was very strict and had a stern look about him. The speaker states that he "knew him well," which means that he had an in-depth understanding of his teacher and could probably read into his expressions and gestures. This familiarity could also have been the result of the many personal and individual encounters he had had with his educator. The word "truant" implies that the speaker may have been one of those who deliberately missed classes and who had been confronted by the teacher about his misdemeanors.

Further aspects about the teacher's personality indicate that he had an expressive face and that his pupils could easily read his mood as a result. They would, for example, know that a certain ominous look spelled trouble coming, especially for those who had been disobedient. They would be trembling in anticipation and fear of what was to come. It is clear that the teacher also had a good sense of humor, for "many a joke had he." The students would feign pleasure at his funny stories and laugh at them, probably to avoid being reprimanded.

Word would quickly spread around the classroom about impending trouble whenever the teacher scowled. The speaker provides a contrast to the teacher's strict demeanor not only by stating that he was humorous at times but also by mentioning that he was kind. The speaker states that if one should take it to the extreme, it could be said that the teacher's greatest flaw was that he loved learning too much.

...or if severe in aught,
The love he bore to learning was in fault.

The schoolmaster was not only much admired and respected by his students but was evidently also looked up to by the village residents. Everyone seemed to have praise for his great knowledge. It was a known fact in the village that he could write, do mathematics, and predict weather patterns and tides. It was also assumed that he was an accurate surveyor who could determine borders easily. It is apparent that he could also debate intelligently and be involved in discussions with the village parson, a person who was greatly respected by his parishioners. The teacher seemed to be a fierce opponent in such discourse, for he would continue arguing a point even after he had already lost the dispute. The master would use difficult words and emotive language to sound convincing and impress the poorly educated village folk.

People in this rural community were in awe that the teacher could know so much. They could not understand how his small head could contain so much knowledge. The poem ends, however, on a sad and poignant note. The final couplet tells us that all the teacher's achievements have become a thing of the past. The place where he had enjoyed so much success has ceased to exist and has been forgotten.

The eulogistic nature of the poem conveys the speaker's respect and admiration for his erstwhile educator. The poem also reflects the changes that occurred in rural communities when land was divided and property was abandoned or claimed by private landowners. Many inhabitants then emigrated to find a home elsewhere.

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mstokes | Student

The village Goldsmith is writing about is called "Auburn": it is not  real, but  an imaginary ideal one, possibly one of the villages he had observed as a child and a young man in Ireland and England. Goldsmith, the poet, returns to the village that he knew as vibrant and alive, and finds it deserted and overgrown

The setting of the particular passage is described in the first three lines. Then Goldsmith discusses the character of the schoolmaster himself.  In his appearance, he is very severe and stern.  The reader would suppose him humourless, except that he likes to tell jokes.  When Goldsmith says "the boding tremblers learn'd to trace/The days disasters in his morning face," the reader comes to understand that the schoolmaster does not mince his words. In the last two lines, he indicates that the schoolmaster was no more.  All of his fame has gone and the schoolhouse, nce vibrant is no longer in use.

The schoolmaster was a big presence in the village. In an age when literacy and numeracy were powerful the people of the village, looked up to him. He seems a kind of god. The children are fearful of him. They laugh at his jokes, even if they are not funny. “Full well “(9-10)

The adults are equally impressed with the way he can survey fields ("lands he could measure", 17) and work out boundaries or the times of holy-days like Easter. He can even do more complex calculations ("gauge", 18). This is all ironic: the school-teacher appears knowledgeable to the "gazing rustics" (22).

The poem's jokes are gentle. The tone of the poem is balanced  and gentleness and humour imply a frame of mind that Goldsmith sees as important, as having a moral value in itself.

 

 

 

mstokes | Student

The village Goldsmith is writing about is called "Auburn": it is not  real, but  an imaginary ideal one, possibly one of the villages he had observed as a child and a young man in Ireland and England. Goldsmith, the poet, returns to the village that he knew as vibrant and alive, and finds it deserted and overgrown.

The setting of the particular passage is described in the first three lines. Then Goldsmith discusses the character of the schoolmaster himself.  In his appearance, he is very severe and stern.  The reader would suppose him humourless, except that he likes to tell jokes.  When Goldsmith says "the boding tremblers learn'd to trace/The days disasters in his morning face," the reader comes to understand that the schoolmaster does not mince his words. In the last two lines, he indicates that the schoolmaster was no more.  All of his fame has gone and "the spot/Where many a time he triumph'd is forgot” 

The schoolmaster was a big presence in the village. In an age when literacy and numeracy were powerful the people of the village, looked up to him. He seems a kind of god. The children are fearful of him. They laugh at his jokes, even if they are not funny. “Full well “(9-10)

 The adults are equally impressed with the way he can survey fields ("lands he could measure", 17) and work out boundaries or the times of holy-days like Easter. He can even do more complex calculations ("gauge", 18). This is all ironic: the school-teacher appears knowledgeable to the "gazing rustics" (22).

The poem's jokes are gentle. The tone of the poem is balanced  and gentleness and humour imply a frame of mind that Goldsmith sees as important, as having a moral value in itself.

Goldsmith is quietly mocking the schoolmaster: he is big fish in a small pond. He can impress the villagers with his learning, just because he can read a bit of Latin and knows how to do his sums. The parson, as the religious leader of the village, is of course the most respected man, but the schoolmaster loves a good argument and keeps arguing even when defeated(19-20). On the other hand, this is a loving, endearing portrait. Here's a man who is modest and doing a good job in a quiet and simple place: helping to spread a little literacy and numeracy among the people of the village, helping them in doing calculations about "terms". He is at the centre of a community - and Goldsmith is mourning the passing away of that community, the passing away of the village itself. That is why the lovely yellow flowers on the furze are "unprofitably gay" (2) - there is now no-one about to enjoy their beauty. The schoolmaster is gone long ago, with all the children of his school. A fine community has been lost.

So, this is an affectionate portrait of a community that is no more, and the school-house now deserted. The affectionate portrait of the schoolmaster is a part of this world that has passed away.