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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Village Schoolmaster
By Willem Bilderdijk (1756–1831)
 
From ‘Country Life’

Translation through the German, in the metre of the original, of Edward Irenæus Prime-Stevenson

THERE 1 he sits: his figure and his rigid bearing
Let us know most clearly what is his ideal:—
Confidence in self, in his lofty standing;
Thereto add conceit in his own great value.
Certain, he can read—yes, and write and cipher;        5
In the almanac no star-group’s a stranger.
In the church he, faithful, leads the pious chorus;
Drums the catechism into young ones’ noddles.
Disputation to him’s half the joy of living;
Even though he’s beaten, he will not give over.        10
Watch him, when he talks, in how learned fashion!
Drags on every word, spares no play of muscle.
Ah, what pains he takes to forget no syllable—
Consonants and vowels rightly weighed and measured.
Often is he, too, of this and that a poet!        15
Every case declines with precisest conscience;
Knows the history of Church and State, together—
Every Churchly light,—of pedant-deeds the record.
All the village world speechless stands before him.
Asking “How can one brain be so ruled by Wisdom?”        20
Sharply, too, he looks down on one’s transgressions.
’Gainst his judgment stern, tears and prayers avail not.
He appears—one glance (from a god that glance comes!)
At a flash decides what the youngster’s fate is.
At his will a crowd runs, at his beck it parteth.        25
Doth he smile? all frolic; doth he frown—all cower.
By a tone he threatens, gives rewards, metes justice.
Absent though he be, every pupil dreads him,
For he sees, hears, knows, everything that’s doing.
On the urchin’s forehead he can see it written.        30
He divines who laughs, idles, yawns, or chatters,
Who plays tricks on others, or in prayer-time’s lazy.
With its shoots, the birch-rod lying there beside him
Knows how all misdeeds in a trice are settled.
Surely by these traits you’ve our dorf-Dionysius!        35
 
Note 1. Compare Goldsmith’s famous portrait in ‘The Deserted Village.’ [back]
 
 
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