Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Education A Tribute to the Memory of my good Schoolmaster— William Sanderson

A Tribute to the Memory of my good Schoolmaster—
William Sanderson.
(Rudby School - Hutton Rudby)

I do not know one holier work on earth
Than that of training up the rising race
In health alike of body and of mind.
It is the safest polity for States;
The truest proof of love parents can give, 5
The noblest outcome of philanthropy;
And without it Religion would become
But Superstition to bind all in chains
To every sort of hateful tyranny.
Some six-score years have now pass’d o’er the world 10
Since a true poet sang in noble strains:—
“Delightful task! to rear the tender thought,
To teach the young idea how to shoot,
To pour the fresh instruction o’er the mind,
To breathe the enlivening spirit, and to fix 15
The generous purpose in the glowing breast!”[1]
A noble thought, utter’d in words of fire
Which Ignorance can ne’er extinguish, though
We yet have feeble intellect which fain
For this would ridicule dear Thomson’s name. 20
The car of Progress has run swiftly on
Since so he sang, and his melodious lyre
Silenced on earth, but its sweet echoes still
Stir human hearts, though we are only now
Just rising to the level of his thoughts: 25
For your true Poet is not one who can
Merely bedeck in decent verse what all
His fellows feel or know: but it is his
To lead the van in bravely marching on
From height to height, despite all earthly foes; 30
And those who ridicule the Teacher’s art,
Or look on it as drudgery, have ne’er,
Whate’er their bookcram, gain’d the mental light
Required of all true Teachers: unto them
’T would be indeed as hard a task as that 35
Which Jupiter enjoin’d on Sisyphus.

I had three Schoolmasters: but the former two ne’er gain’d
The least affection from the boys they sought
To teach in their own harsh mistaken way,
And to us all their deaths had been relief, 40
Instead of causing one to shed a tear.
In looking back upon the years I spent
Under their tyranny, which I forgive,
But never can forget, I cannot yield
Those days with that bright halo that endears 45
Our boyhood to us in declining years.[2]
But I shall treasure, to my dying day,
The love I bore to William Sanderson.
He was my last Schoolmaster, and my best,
Yea worth a thousand of the other two,[3]— 50
For he unlike to them, knew how to teach.
He had all learning at his fingers’ ends;
And best of all, was skill’d in teaching too.
A man may be in scholarship most rife,
Yet quite unfit to teach a tithe he knows. 55
Oh! that I longer could have profited
By my good Mentor! More that fifty years
Of varied trials I have waded through,
Since the necessity of earning bread
Forced me to leave him, when my anxious mind 60
Was just beginning to show healthy growth
Under his culture. But I never ceased
To love him whilst he lived, and since his death
None could have treasured more his memory.
“God rest his soul!” I can devoutly say; 65
For he was fitted whilst on earth for heaven:
Not by a bigot’s creed, or cant too oft
Mistaken for true piety; but a life
Of Christian virtue. Too mild to wrestle
In competition for a living here 70
With brutal men, his purse through life was poor;
But he had riches they can ne’er possess.

Euclid, Algebra, and the languages,
Hebrew, Greek, Latin, like our mother-tongue,
Were truly his. Had I remain’d with him 75
I too would have been a scholar deeply read
In lore which has been seal’d to me for aye.
How he delighted to encourage all
My boyish studies of antiquity
And of the maxims which should govern States 80
To make the peoples happy! Meekest man
I ever knew childlike simplicity
Wedded to wisdom gave the lie in him
To those who fancy knowledge puffeth up
With vile conceit those who have made it theirs. 85
Oh, much I owe to him, to be repaid
Only with gratitude! My evening hours
Were spent in his congenial company
After the studies of the school were done.
If fine, we wander’d forth in frost or sheen 90
Along the pleasant footpaths; if confined
By weather to his parlour, he to me
Read Greek and Latin Classics, Englishing
Each sentence as he read, as easily
As I could converse in my mother-tongue. 95
This was my baptism to communion
With the wise sages both of Greece and Rome,
Homer and Virgil both have seem’d to me
As friends I knew since then; Demosthenes
And Cicero through him spoke just to me 100
As plainly as to those who had of yore
Listen’d unto their marvellous eloquence,
And this most mild of men was stricken down
When he was rising in prosperity;
Robb’d of his bread, and exiled the town 105
Where he was teaching as few other could,
By Whitby Tories, because he quietly
Voted for Moorsholm when that post became
A parliamentary borough. Not the man
To canvass or make speeches, or i’ the press 110
To rouse the people with a Cobbett’s pen,
Or hate those who might not think like himself,

Yet he felt bound to be to conscience true,
And simply gave his vote. It was enough—
The ballot then affording such no shield, 115
But being call’d un-English, cowardly,
And something that must lead to ruin, by
The cravens who all used it in their clubs.
Methinks I see their shuddering souls when they
First met him in that Spirit Land where all 120
Our sins on earth are plainly seen as though
An open book contain’d the register.
’T is this, and such as this, which forms the Hell
Which blundering bigots would persuade mankind
Is sulphurous fire which ever burns 125
To torture with far greater pains than man
Or woman ever felt on earth—pangs which
When millions of years had o’er them pass’d
Would be no nearer to their end than when
They first began—God’s thoughtless erring ones. 130
And there are simple folks still hold this creed,
Most gloomy and blasphemous as it is,
Making our Heavenly Father more unkind
To his poor children than the basest man
Who ever practised horrid cruelties. 135
One master as to mine, teaching true wisdom
Calmly all his years; living its precepts;
Content with simplest necessities when
He could obtain them; but aspiring not
Even when forced to bear ills none should know 140
In any State call’d civilised; does more
For helping on the progress of our race
Than many brawlers; and I thank my God
That I in early life had such a friend
And teacher as good William Sanderson. 145

His life was one of spotless purity:
He had compassion for all living things,
And anger never raged in his calm mind.
In all my march through life, I never met
A man more Christlike, no forms or creeds 150
Held his as a professor before men,
And he never mix’d in their assemblies.
He made his heart the temple of the Lord,
And there he offer’d up incense more sweet
Than from a priestly censor rose. 155
Though in the flesh we never more can meet,
His spirit often seems to visit me
In a divine communion of soul;
And I look forward with a fervent faith
To meeting him again to part no more, 160
Where all our souls are purified like him
From those deep failings which prevent our earth
From being but a counterpart of heaven.

George Markham Tweddell

Blank verse [in M/S], pp. 71-79.
[1] From the Scottish poet, James Thompson (1700-1748), in ‘Spring’ from ‘The
Seasons’ (1726). “Six-score years” this would make the date of GMT’s poem
about 1846. [see:
[2] Alternative to this line:
“Our boyhood to us as death dreweth near”[3] One of these will have been Richard
Baker, mentioned in Pigot’s Yorkshire Directory for 1829.

More background here -

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