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The Country Schoolmaster by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe


"The Country Schoolmaster" is a poem by Goethe about a schoolmaster who decided to head to a saloon. There, he bowed and hit people beside and behind him. He then apologizes and heads out across fields. Someone sees him and salutes him. The salute gives the schoolmaster new energy about his life.

This poem is difficult to analyize due to the original German version being tough to find. However, it is safe to say that it is divided into two sections with roughly the same line length in each stanza. The author's point, however, is more towards society. It's about how people judge others easily from their titles and first appearances. As well, it's about how certain people will never like you, but there are others who appreciate you for who you are.


The Country Schoolmaster


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!


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!"

Written in 1808.

Next: Dance of Death
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Literary Movement
Weimar Classicism, 18th Century

School, Life

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