Just as a carpenter is a man who works in wood, a smith is a man who works in metals. A goldsmith works in gold, a silversmith in silver, and a copper-smith in copper. But when we want to speak of a man who works in iron, we do not say an iron-smith but a blacksmith. Why an iron-smith is called “black” I do not know, unless it is because iron is a dark coloured metal; for a tin-smith is sometimes called a “whitesmith”, because tin is a shining white metal.
The commonest surname in England is smith. There are thousands of men called Mr. Smith there. The reason for this is that in the old days, when knights were clad in armour, there were a large number of black-smiths employed in making iron armour and weapons. Each one was a “smith”, and their children, and children’s children, were called “Smiths” too.
In England, every village has its “smithy”, as the blacksmith’s shop is called. The chief work of the blacksmith is to make horseshoes and to shoe horses, and one will generally see a few horses waiting at the shop to be shed. The blacksmith’s tools are a big fire (called the “forge”), blown by a large pair of bellows, in which he makes the iron red hot; a heavy hammer; a pair of tongs or pincers for holding the hot iron; and an anvil, which is a heavy block of iron on which he beats the red-hot iron into shape with his hammer.
The Indian blacksmith uses the same kinds of tools, but he does many other jobs besides shoeing horses.
Longfellow, the American poet, wrote a poem all about a village blacksmith. Here is a little of it:
“Under a spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands: The smith, a mighty man is he, with large and sinewy hands, And the muscles of his brawny arms Are strong as iron bands.
And children coming home from school, Look in at the open door; They love to see the flaming forge, And hear the bellows roar, And catch the burning sparks that fly Like chaff from a threshing-floor.”