A Distracted Poet

Yet again in Joseph Pennel’s fine history of “Dosset”, he gives us a personal recollection, this time, of his schooldays, when he was taught by the well known poet, William Barnes:

“He came to Dorchester from Mere… It was here, at a tender age, that I had my first experience of school life. My recollection of the poet and philologist is that of the gentlest and most kindly of men. His appearance was peculiar. He had white hair and a long white beard, and always wore knee breeches and shoes with large buckles. Out of doors he donned a curious cap and a still more curious cape, while I never saw him without a bag over his shoulder and a stout staff.

During school hours he was in the habit of pacing the room in a reverie, happily oblivious of his dull surroundings. I remember once that some forbidden fruit of which I was possessed rolled across the schoolroom floor, and that I crawled after it in the wake of the dreaming master. He turned suddenly in his walk and stumbled over me, to my intense alarm. When he had regained his balance he apologised very earnestly and resumed his walk, unconscious that the object he had fallen over was a scholar. I have often wondered to which of his charming poems I owed my escape from punishment.

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