Rhymes of Teaching and Teachers

Duty of the Student

It is the duty of the student
Without exception to be prudent.
If smarter than the teacher, tact
Demands that he conceal the fact.

       Edward Anthony
            The Golden Treasury of Poetry
            ed. Louis Untermeyer
            Golden Press, New York, 1959.

History of Education

The decent docent doesn't doze:
He teaches standing on his toes.
His student dassn't doze—and does,
And that's what teaching is and was.

       David McCord
            And What's More
            Coward-McCann, New York, 1941.

The Glory that was Greece

When eras die, their legacies
Are left to strange police.
Professors in New England guard
The glory that was Greece.

       Clarence Day
            Thoughts Without Words
            Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1928.

Epitaph on a Syndic

No teacher I of boys or smaller fry,
No teacher I of teachers, no, not I.
Mine was the distant aim, the longer reach,
To teach men how to teach men how to teach.

       A. B. Ramsey
            More Comic and Curious Verse
            ed. J. M. Cohen
            Penguin Books, Hammondsworth, 1956.

The Masque of Balliol (excerpt)

First come I. My name is Jowett.
There's no knowledge but I know it.
I am the Master of this college,
What I don't know isn't knowledge.

       Henry Charles Beeching
            A Century of Humorous Verse
            ed. Roger Lancelyn Green
            Dent, London, 1959.

Don's Holiday

Professor Robinson each Summer beats
The fishing record of the world -- such feats
As one would hardly credit from a lesser
Person than a history professor.

       George Rostrevor Hamilton
            The Faber Book of Comic Verse
            ed. Michael Roberts
            Faber and Faber, London, 1942.

Academic Roll Call: Pedant

On campuses remote and shaded
You find the pedant,
Dry and faded,
Who, once mistaking books
For bread,
By incunabula is fed.
His mind is recondite
But tidy,
Arranged for Monday's class through Friday
With data
Learnéd and congealed
On the minutiae of his field.
An academic look has he.
Dear God,
Preserve the faculty!

       Helen Bevington
            Dr. Johnson's Waterfall and Other Poems
            Houghton Mifflin Comany, Boston, 1946.

The image which may have led you to these teaching rhymes is from The Treasury of Humorous Poetry, ed. Frederic Lawrence Knowles, Dana Estes & Company, Boston, 1902. It illustrates The Irish Schoolmaster, by James A. Sidey, an dialect poem not untypical of some of the humorous verse of the nineteenth century. Here is the second stanza (of ten, all very much in the same regrettable vein):
“You're right, my boy; hould up your head,
    And look like a jintlemàn, Sir;
Sir Isaac Newton—who was he?
    Now tell me if you can, Sir.”
“Sir Isaac Newton was the boy
    That climbed the apple tree, Sir;
He then fell down and broke his crown,
    And lost his gravity, Sir.”

The teacher below is Sir Macklin, and he and his drowsy pupils are from W. S. Gilbert's Bab Ballads (John Camden Hotten, London, 1869; reprinted many times by Routledge and MacMillan in England and by various U. S. publishers). Here is the full text.

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Last updated 08/01/2018.