AN IRISH SCHOOLHOUSE.

By Arthur M. Forrester. (1889)

An Old Irish Schoolhouse

Upon the rugged ladder rungs— whose

pinnacle is Fame—

How often have ambitious pens deep graven

Harvard’s name; The gates of glory Cambridge men o’er

all the world assail,

And rulers in the realm of thought look back

with pride to Yale.

To no such Alma Mater can my Muse in

triumph raise

Its Irish voice in canticles of gratitude and

praise;

Yet still I hold in shrine of gold, and until death

I will,

The little schoolhouse, thatched with straw,

that lay behind the hill.

When in the balmy morning, racing down the

green boreen

Toward its portal, ivy-framed, our curly heads

were seen,

We felt no shame for ragged coats, nor blushed

for shoeless feet,

But bubbled o’er with laughter dear old

master’s smile to meet;

Yet saw beneath his homespun garb an awe-

inspiring store

Of learning’s fearful mysteries and academic

lore.

No monarch wielded sceptre half so potent as

his quill

In that old schoolhouse, thatched with straw,

that lay behind the hill.

Perhaps— and yet ’tis hard to think— our

boastful modern school

Might feel contempt for master, for his

methods and his rule;

Would scorn his simple ways— and in the rapid

march of mind

His patient face and thin gray locks would lag

far, far behind.

No matter; he was all to us, our guide and

mentor then;

He taught us how to face life’s fight with all the

grit of men;

To honor truth, and love the right, and in the

future fill

Our places in the world as he had done behind

the hill.

He taught us, too, of Ireland’s past; her glories

and her wrongs—

Our lessons being varied with the most

seditious songs:

We were quite a nest of rebels, and with boyish

fervor flung

Our hearts into the chorus of rebellion when

we sung.

In truth, this was the lesson, above all, we

conned so well

That some pursued the study in the English

prison cell,

And others had to cross the seas in curious

haste, but still

All living love to-day, as then, the school

behind the hill.

The wind blows through the thatchless roof in

stormy gusts to-day;

Around its walls young foxes now, in place of

children, play;

The hush of desolation broods o’er all the

country-side;

The pupils and their kith and kin are scattered

far and wide.

But wheresoe’er one scholar on the face of earth

may roam,

When in a gush of tears comes back the

memory of home,

He finds the brightest picture limned by

Fancy’s magic skill,

The little schoolhouse, thatched with straw,

that lay behind the hill.