Cuore (Chapter 24)
Edmondo De Acimis
Your comrade Stardi never complains of his teacher; I am sure of that. “The master was in a bad temper, was impatient,”—you say it in a tone of resentment. Think an instant how often you give way to acts of impatience, and towards whom? towards your father and your mother, towards whom your impatience is a crime. Your master has very good cause to be impatient at times! Reflect that he has been laboring for boys these many years, and that if he has found many affectionate and noble individuals among them, he has also found many ungrateful ones, who have abused his kindness and ignored his toils; and that, between you all, you cause him far more bitterness than satisfaction. Reflect, that the most holy man on earth, if placed in his position, would allow himself to be conquered by wrath now and then. And then, if you only knew how often the teacher goes to give a lesson to a sick boy, all alone, because he is not ill enough to be excused from school and is impatient on account of his suffering, and is pained to see that the rest of you do not notice it, or abuse it! Respect, love, your master, my son. Love him, also, because your father loves and respects him; because he consecrates his life to the welfare of so many boys who will forget him; love him because he opens and enlightens your intelligence and educates your mind; because one of these days, when you have become a man, and when neither I nor he shall be in the world, his image will often present itself to your mind, side by side with mine, and then you will see certain expressions of sorrow and fatigue in his honest countenance to which you now pay no heed: you will recall them, and they will pain you, even after the lapse of thirty years; and you will feel ashamed, you will feel sad at not having loved him, at having behaved badly to him. Love your master; for he belongs to that vast family of fifty thousand elementary instructors, scattered throughout all Italy, who are the intellectual fathers of the millions of boys who are growing up with you; the laborers, hardly recognized and poorly recompensed, who are preparing in our country a people superior to those of the present. I am not content with the affection which you have for me, if you have it not also for all those who are doing you good, and among these, your master stands first, after your parents. Love him as you would love a brother of mine; love him when he caresses and when he reproves you; when he is just, and when he appears to you to be unjust; love him when he is amiable and gracious; and love him even more when you see him sad. Love him always. And always pronounce with reverence that name of “teacher,” which, after that of your father, is the noblest, the sweetest name which one man can apply to another man.