On Education

Elizabeth Bentley

On Education

When infant Reason first exerts her sway,

And new-formed thoughts their earliest charms display;

Then let the growing race employ your care

Then guard their opening minds from Folly’s snare;

Correct the rising passions of their youth,

Teach them each serious, each important truth;

Plant heavenly virtue in the tender breast,

Destroy each vice that might its growth molest;

Point out betimes the course they should pursue;

Then with redoubled pleasure shall you view

Their reason strengthen as their years increase,

Their virtue ripen and their follies cease;

Like corn sown early in the fertile soil,

The richest harvest shall repay your toil.

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About Elizabeth Bentley

Born in England, Bentley was taught to read and write by her dad, and later became a school teacher. Two years into her career, she started writing and publishing poems. Her first series of poems was published in 1791, and the funds it made were used to run a school house. Most of her poems were about the abolition of slavery and animal welfare, but some of her poems are about education as well. She received the Royal Literary Fund in 1799 and 1829.


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Interpretation of "On Education"

The video linked in the QR code above represents the type of education there was in the 1800s, and gives a reference to what Bentley is talking about in her poem. Throughout the whole poem she seems to be talking about how education should be more of a privilege than a burden, and that students should be encouraged to learn, rather than scolded for wanting to continue schooling past primary education.
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"Folly's snare" is an allusion to (1 Corinthians 3:19) in the Bible. Folly is essentially foolishness and its snare is what pulls people to be foolish.

betimes: before the usual or expected times


A common theme in this poem is that students should be encouraged to continue schooling and how education should be a privilege rather than a burden.