Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, OUR SCHOOLMASTER, by ALICE CARY



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OUR SCHOOLMASTER, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: We used to think it was so queer
Last Line: And read love-verses tenderly.
Subject(s): Teaching & Teachers; Educators; Professors


WE used to think it was so queer
To see him, in his thin gray hair,
Sticking our quills behind his ear,
And straight forgetting they were there.

We used to think it was so strange
That he should twist such hair to curls,
And that his wrinkled cheek should change
Its color like a bashful girl's.

Our foolish mirth defied all rule,
As glances, each of each, we stole,
The morning that he wore to school
A rose-bud in his button-hole.

And very sagely we agreed
That such a dunce was never known --
Fifty! and trying still to read
Love-verses with a tender tone!

No joyous smile would ever stir
Our sober looks, we often said,
If we were but a School-master,
And had, withal, his old white head.

One day we cut his knotty staff
Nearly in two, and each and all
Of us declared that we should laugh
To see it break and let him fall.

Upon his old pine desk we drew
His picture -- pitiful to see,
Wrinkled and bald -- half false, half true,
And wrote beneath it, Twenty-three!

Next day came eight o'clock and nine,
But he came not: our pulses quick
With play, we said it would be fine
If the old School-master were sick.

And still the beech-trees bear the scars
Of wounds which we that morning made,
Cutting their silvery bark to stars
Whereon to count the games we played.

At last, as tired as we could be,
Upon a clay-bank, strangely still,
We sat down in a row to see
His worn-out hat come up the hill.

'T was hanging up at home -- a quill
Notched down, and sticking in the band,
And leaned against his arm-chair, still
His staff was waiting for his hand.

Across his feet his threadbare coat
Was lying, stuffed with many a roll
Of "copy-plates," and, sad to note,
A dead rose in the button-hole.

And he no more might take his place
Our lessons and our lives to plan:
Cold Death had kissed the wrinkled face
Of that most gentle gentleman.

Ah me, what bitter tears made blind
Our young eyes, for our thoughtless sin,
As two and two we walked behind
The long black coffin he was in.

And all, sad women now, and men
With wrinkles and gray hairs, can see
How he might wear a rose-bud then,
And read love-verses tenderly.





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