Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > England
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV.  1876–79.
 
Hales Owen
The Schoolmistress
William Shenstone (1714–1763)
 
IN every village marked with little spire,
Embowered in trees, and hardly known to fame,
There dwells, in lowly shed and mean attire,
A matron old, whom we schoolmistress name,
Who boasts unruly brats with birch to tame;        5
They grieven sore, in piteous durance pent,
Awed by the power of this relentless dame,
And ofttimes, on vagaries idly bent,
For unkempt hair, or task unconned, are sorely shent.
 
And all in sight doth rise a birchen tree,        10
Which Learning near her little dome did stow,
Whilom a twig of small regard to see,
Though now so wide its waving branches flow,
And work the simple vassals mickle woe;
For not a wind might curl the leaves that blew,        15
But their limbs shuddered, and their pulse beat low,
And as they looked they found their horror grew,
And shaped it into rods, and tingled at the view.
 
So have I seen (who has not, may conceive)
A lifeless phantom near a garden placed,        20
So doth it wanton birds of peace bereave,
Of sport, of song, of pleasure, of repast;
They start, they stare, they wheel, they look aghast;
Sad servitude! such comfortless annoy
May no bold Briton’s riper age e’er taste!        25
Ne superstition clog his dance of joy,
Ne vision empty, vain, his native bliss destroy.
 
Near to this dome is found a patch so green
On which the tribe their gambols do display.
And at the door imprisoning board is seen,        30
Lest weakly wights of smaller size should stray,
Eager, perdie, to bask in sunny day!
The noises intermixed, which thence resound,
Do Learning’s little tenement betray;
Where sits the dame disguised in look profound,        35
And eyes her fairy throng, and turns her wheel around.
 
Her cap, far whiter than the driven snow,
Emblem right meet of decency does yield;
Her apron, dyed in grain, as blue, I trow,
As is the harebell that adorns the field;        40
And in her hand, for sceptre, she does wield
Tway birchen sprays; with anxious fear entwined,
With dark distrust, and sad repentance filled,
And steadfast hate, and sharp affliction joined,
And fury uncontrolled, and chastisement unkind.        45
 
 
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