The Village Schoolmaster Essay



Oliver Goldsmith


Oliver Goldsmith was born in Longfield and was educated at the Trinity College,Dublin. He was awarded the degree of Doctor of Medicine, but he never practiced as aDoctor. His main works are The Traveler(1764), Vicar of Wakefield(1766), TheDeserted Village( 1770) and She Stoops to Conquer(1773).In this poem, which is an extract form ‘The Deserted Village’, he describes the village,Auburn modeled on his own village, Lissoy. He describes the sight of the muted villages,as the villagers have abandoned it and have gone to the cities in search of ‘Wantonwealth’. This extract is focused over the village school and gives a character sketch of the village schoolmaster who taught at that school. It also gives an account on the viewsof the children as well as that of the villagers of Auburn about the school master.


The opening lines of the poem describe the building of the village school which wassurrounded by an irregular hedge, which was fully blossomed. The village school isreferred to as a ‘Noisy mansion’ which is a transferred epithet.“There, in his noisy mansion, skilled to rule”The building is noisy as it holds a number of school children in it.


The poet depicts the undisputed and sovereign power of the village school master. Hewas a strict disciplinarian with a hard and rigid expression on his face, which made everytruant anxious.“A man severe he was and stern to view”The poet also describes that the dangers of that day to be faced by the students could be predicted from the grim expression on his face.


The children were quite afraid of the village school master. The truants, especiallywere quite anxious about him. The children could foresee the dangers that were awaitingthem that day from the grim expression of the school master.“The day’s disaster in his morning face”When the school master expressed his sense of humor by a joke, the children laughed toit with ‘Counterfeited glee’.“Full well they laughed, with counterfeited glee”In these lines, the poet gives a vivid description of an ideal classroom in a village school.


Since education was scarce in villages, the school master was very much respected bythe villagers of Auburn for his abundant knowledge. The school master could measure,write and count, which was of great help for them.“Twas certain he could write and cipher too”He could measure lands, and foretell the terms and tides, which was useful for the peasants for making various payments such as their rents, wages, etc…


The village school master who ran his little school was a severe disciplinarian. The students were afraid of him and were sufficiently clever to assess from his face whether that day would bring any misfortune or not. In spite of his strictness, the school master was jolly. The children laughed at his jokes with pretended joy. If they noticed any sign of anger on his face they would spread the news throughout the classroom. The school master was, in reality, a kind hearted person. His only fault was his excessive love for learning. He could write, work out sums, survey land, forecast the time and tide and measure the content of a vessel. He was a master at argument, too. He used verbose words when he talked and the simple village people would gawk at him. They were amazed that such a small head could hold such an enormous hoard of knowledge.

Source: Click here

Concept Map

Text of the poem

The Village School Master by Oliver Goldsmith.

Click here to access the text of the poem.

Idea of the poem

Core Meaning

The village Goldsmith is writing about is called "Auburn". It is not a real village, but an imaginary ideal one. It is possibly one of the villages he had observed as a child and a young man in Ireland and England. Goldsmith, returns to the village that he knew as vibrant and alive, and finds it deserted and overgrown.

The setting of the particular passage is described in the first three lines. Then Goldsmith discusses the character of the schoolmaster himself. In his appearance, he is very severe and stern. The reader would suppose him humourless, except that he likes to tell jokes. When Goldsmith says "the boding tremblers learn'd to trace/The days disasters in his morning face," the reader comes to understand that the schoolmaster does not mince his words. In the last two lines, he indicates that the schoolmaster was no more. All of his fame has gone and the schoolhouse, once vibrant is no longer in use.

The schoolmaster was a big presence in the village. In an age when literacy and numeracy were powerful the people of the village, looked up to him. He seems a kind of god. The children are fearful of him. They laugh at his jokes, even if they are not funny. “Full well “(9-10)

The adults are equally impressed with the way he can survey fields ("lands he could measure", 17) and work out boundaries or the times of holy-days like Easter. He can even do more complex calculations ("gauge", 18). This is all ironic: the school-teacher appears knowledgeable to the "gazing rustics" (22).

The poem's jokes are gentle. The tone of the poem is balanced and gentleness and humour imply a frame of mind that Goldsmith sees as important, as having a moral value in itself.

Alternative interpretations

Context of the poem

"The Village Schoolmaster" by Goldsmith is a lighthearted reflection of a village schoolmaster, but a more serious comment on a public policy.

"Enclosure" was a policy that allowed the wealthy to fence off their land. This prevented villagers, lower class workers and those who didn't own land, from grazing cattle and letting pigs forage, etc., which led to many small villages becoming deserted. The fence in the poem has been neglected, and the gorse has been allowed to grow wild, instead of being collected for fuel, all because the village is deserted due to enclosure.

The schoolmaster was beloved, but he should not be misinterpreted as scholarly or brilliant. Students laugh at his jokes so that they don't get in trouble, and he impresses the uneducated villagers with big words, etc. He also continues to argue even after he has lost. In other words, he was stubborn.

Yet, he was well-liked and is remembered. But the village which liked him is no longer inhabited.

About the author

Oliver Goldsmith (10 November 1730 – 4 April 1774) was an Irish novelist, playwright and poet, who is best known for his novel The Vicar of Wakefield (1766). He is also known for his pastoral poem The Deserted Village (1770), and his plays The Good-Natur'd Man (1768) and She Stoops to Conquer (1771, first performed in 1773). He also wrote An History of the Earth and Animated Nature. He is thought to have written the classic children's tale The History of Little Goody Two-Shoes, the source of the phrase "goody two-shoes"

Transacting the text

Audio recital of the poem

To listen to the audio recital of the poem, Click here

Language appreciation

This poem is a simple vignette of a village school master. The school was in a small village at Lissoy, an Irish village where the poet himself had studied. Mr. Thomas Paddy Byrne was the village school master. As the poet himself was a pupil of this school master, he is able to create an authentic aura to the poem. The school master’s fluctuating moods, the situation in the class room and reactions of learner are described in this poem. Goldsmith looked upon the teacher with the mixed feelings of fear, respect and humour.

The poet gives an amusing sketch of the teacher’s character. He analyses the nature and capability of the school master. The teacher was a taskmaster who took his students to task if they played truant. The poet, as a student, was very aware of this facet of the school master. But he valued his stand and came to love and respect him. The harsh steps taken by the teacher had a soft and virtuous purpose behind them as he wished to see his pupils turn in to learned people.

The school master’s is recognized as a great scholarly person by the entire village and even the parson recognizes his skill in debate. The poem ends on a note of humour. The teacher is not to be taken as a sheer sardonic sketch. He was kind and compassionate . He creates a larger than life figure of himself before them. He has a view on every subject and loves to engage in debate.

Source: Click here

Meaning making


New words in a poem can be introduced through interactive educational tools. Tools such as Kanagram allow you to create vocabulary lists which can be introduced to the students. Students can also assist teachers in building these vocabularies. To learn how to use Kanagram and Khangman (UBUNTU Educational tools) please visit the following link:

Sample word list:

Skirts: Go round or pass the edge of

Blossom'd: mature or develop in a promising or healthy way

Truant: a pupil who stays away from school without leave or explanation

Counterfeited: imitate fraudulently

Cipher: put (a message) into secret writing; encode

Vanquish'd: defeat thoroughly

For more information on vocabulary visit:

Figures of speech

A figure of speech is the use of a word or words diverging from its usual meaning. It can also be a special repetition, arrangement or omission of words with literal meaning, or a phrase with a specialized meaning not based on the literal meaning of the words in it, as in idiom, metaphor, simile, hyperbole, or personification. Figures of speech often provide emphasis, freshness of expression, or clarity. However, clarity may also suffer from their use, as any figure of speech introduces an ambiguity between literal and figurative interpretation. A figure of speech is sometimes called a rhetorical figure or a locution. To know more click

The ones which have been used in this poem are:

Alliteration: "terms and tides"; "rustics rang'd"

Anaphora: "Full well they laugh'd"; "Full well the busy"

Analogy: it's a part to whole. The schoolmaster (part) is compared to the village (whole)

Imagery: 3 types

setting-based imagery: "straggling fence"; "noisy mansion"; "little school" intellectual/educational imagery: "Lands"; "terms and tides"; "small head" rhetorical/linguistic imagery: "words"; "jokes"; "story" Rhyming couplets: pairs of rhyming lines ("spot" / "forgot")

End-stopped lines (punctuation "." or "," or ";" at the end of a line)

Caesura: punctation in the middle of a line ("Yet he was kind; or if severe in aught,")

Speaker/Tone: loves the school master; poem is a dedication to him

Additional resources

Videos can be used in the classroom to demonstrate effective reading strategies. A poem can be read out with emotions, voice modulation and dramatic effects by the teacher. Some poem recitations are available over the Internet too. A few links to the same are:


Ask the learners to write a short paragraph using the hints given below.


  • What is the poem about?
  • Which is the most striking image and why.?
  • What are the similarities and differences between the present school masters and the one described in the poem?
Categories: 1

0 Replies to “The Village Schoolmaster Essay”

Leave a comment

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *