The Country Schoolmaster

I.

A MASTER of a country school
Jump'd up one day from off his stool,
Inspired with firm resolve to try
To gain the best society;
So to the nearest baths he walk'd,
And into the saloon he stalk'd.
He felt quite. startled at the door,
Ne'er having seen the like before.
To the first stranger made he now
A very low and graceful bow,
But quite forgot to bear in mind
That people also stood behind;
His left-hand neighbor's paunch he struck
A grievous blow, by great ill luck;
Pardon for this he first entreated,
And then in haste his bow repeated.
His right hand neighbor next he hit,
And begg'd him, too, to pardon it;
But on his granting his petition,
Another was in like condition;
These compliments he paid to all,
Behind, before, across the hall;
At length one who could stand no more,
Show'd him impatiently the door.




May many, pond'ring on their crimes,
A moral draw from this betimes!

II.

As he proceeded on his way
He thought, "I was too weak to-day;
To bow I'll ne'er again be seen;
For goats will swallow what is green."
Across the fields he now must speed,
Not over stumps and stones, indeed,
But over meads and cornfields sweet,
Trampling down all with clumsy feet.
A farmer met him by-and-by,
And didn't ask him: how? or why?
But with his fist saluted him.

"I feel new life in every limb!"
Our traveller cried in ecstasy.
"Who art thou who thus gladden'st me?
May Heaven such blessings ever send!
Ne'er may I want a jovial friend!"

by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Comments (8)

best society too heavily subscribed for comfort
In like condition! With the muse of the society. Nice piece.
I suppose the author's point was about society and how people judge others from their position in it. The schoolmaster may have ruled the classroom but he was not the ruler in the salon, more a buffoon. Souren Mondal and Neran Sati said it well in their comments.
This feels to me a poem about power, stature, and societal norm.. While in the 'bath' the schoolmaster himself felt 'inferior' and attempted to perform, as it were, numerous ostentatious acts of courtesy, everyone there, feeling themselves superior to him felt vexed at his 'attempt' to be 'civilised' in an urbane manner.. Whereas, when he entered into the rural setting, the farmer, with the similar feeling of 'inferiority' saluted him.. It's just about how we as human beings have various notions about what is the proper etiquette in different societies, and how those beliefs shape our judgement of others (without perhaps any in depth perception into the person's internal disposition and qualities) . Loved this poem.....
This feels to me a poem about power, stature, and societal norm.. While in the 'bath' the schoolmaster himself felt 'inferior' and attempted to perform, as it were, numerous ostentatious acts of courtesy, everyone there, feeling themselves superior to him felt vexed at his 'attempt' to be 'civilised' in an urbane manner.. Whereas, when he entered into the rural setting, the farmer, with the similar feeling of 'inferiority' saluted him.. It's just about how we as human beings have various notions about what is the proper etiquette in different societies, and how those beliefs shape our judgement of others (without perhaps any in depth perception into the person's internal disposition and qualities) . Loved this poem..
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