Reference > Anthologies > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library > Verse

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
From ‘The Schoolmistress’
By William Shenstone (1714–1763)
  A RUSSET stole was o’er her shoulders thrown,
    A russet kirtle fenced the nipping air;
  ’Twas simple russet, but it was her own:
    ’Twas her own country bred the flock so fair;
    ’Twas her own labor did the fleece prepare:        5
  And sooth to say, her pupils, ranged around,
    Through pious awe did term it passing rare;
  For they in gaping wonderment abound,
And think, no doubt, she been the greatest wight on ground!
  Albeit ne flattery did corrupt her truth,        10
    Ne pompous title did debauch her ear;
  Goody, good-woman, gossip, n’aunt, forsooth,
    Or dame, the sole additions she did hear:
    Yet these she challenged, these she held right dear;
  Ne would esteem him act as mought behove,        15
    Who should not honored eld with these revere:
  For never title yet so mean could prove,
But there was eke a mind which did that title love.
  One ancient hen she took delight to feed,
    The plodding pattern of the busy dame;        20
  Which ever and anon, impelled by need,
    Into her school, begirt with chickens, came!
    Such favor did her past deportment claim:
  And if Neglect had lavished on the ground
    Fragment of bread, she would collect the same;        25
  For well she knew, and quaintly could expound,
What sin it were to waste the smallest crumb she found.
  Herbs too she knew, and well of each could speak,
    That in her garden sipped the silvery dew,
  Where no vain flower disclosed a gaudy streak;        30
    But herbs for use and physic not a few,
    Of gray renown, within these borders grew,—
  The tufted basil, pun-provoking thyme,
    Fresh balm, and marygold of cheerful hue,
  The lowly gill that never dares to climb:        35
And more I fain would sing, disdaining here to rhyme.
  Yet euphrasy may not be left unsung,
    That gives dim eyes to wander leagues around;
  And pungent radish, biting infant’s tongue;
    And plantain ribbed, that heals the reaper’s wound;        40
    And marjoram sweet, in shepherd’s posie found;
  And lavender, whose spikes of azure bloom
    Shall be erewhile in arid bundles bound,
  To lurk amid the labors of her loom,
And crown her kerchiefs clean with mickle rare perfume.        45
  And here trim rosemarine, that whilom crowned
    The daintiest garden of the proudest peer,
  Ere, driven from its envied site, it found
    A sacred shelter for its branches here,
    Where edged with gold its glittering skirts appear.        50
  O wassel days! O customs meet and well!
    Ere this was banished from its lofty sphere!
  Simplicity then sought this humble cell,
Nor ever would she more with thane and lordling dwell.

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