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The Birched School-Boy
OF ABOUT 1500 A.D.
(From the Balliol MS. 354, fl. ij С xxx.)
[As old Symon talks of the rod (p. 400, 11. 90, 62), as Caxton in his Book of Curtesye promises his 'lytyl John' a breechless feast, or as the Oriel MS. reads it, a 'byrchely' one,' & as the Forewords have shown that young people did get floggings in olden time, it may be as well to give here the sketch of a boy, flea-bitten no doubt, with little bobs of hazel twigs, that Richard Hill has preserved for us. Boys of the present generation happily don't know the sensation of unwelcome warmth that a sound flogging produced, and how after it one had to sit on the bottom of one's spine on the edge of the hard form, in the position recommended at College for getting well forward in rowing. But they may rest assured that if their lot had fallen on a birching school, they'd have heartily joined the school-boy of 1500 in wishing his and their masters at the devil, even though they as truant boys had been 'milking ducks, as their mothers bade them.']
hay! hay! by this day!
what avayleth it me thowgh I say nay?
I wold ffayn be a clarke;
the byrchyй twyggis be so sharpe,
¶ On monday in the mornyng whañ I shall rise
1 See Caxton's Book of Curtesye, in the Society's Extra Series, 1868.
Compare the very curious song on the difficulty of learning singing, in Reliquiæ Antiquæ, i. 291, from Arundel MS. 292, leaf 71, back.
See Rhodes, p. 72, 1. 61; and Seager, p. 338, 1. 110.
Learning is strange work;
the birch twigs
are so sharp.
I'd sooner go 20 miles than go to school on Mondays.
My master asks where I've been.
'Milking ducks,' I tell him,
and he gives me pepper for it.
I only wish he was a hare, and my book a wild
and all his books dogs.
Would'nt I blow my horn!
Don't I wish he was dead!
to go to skole without a-vise
I had lever go xxt myle twyse !
My master lokith as he were madde:
My master pepered my ars with well good spede:
hit was worse thañ ffynkll sede ;
he wold not leve till it did blede.
I wold my master were a watt1
& my boke a wyld Catt,
& a brase of grehowndis in his toppe :
I wold be glade for to se that!
what vayleth it me thowgh I say nay?
I wold my master were an hare,
& I my self a Ioly hontere
to blowe my horn I wold not spare!
The Song of the School Boy at Christmas.
[Printed also in Reliquiæ Antiquæ, i. 116, ‘From MS. Sloane, No. 1584, of the beginning of the sixteenth century, or latter part of the fifteenth, fol. 33ro., written in Lincolnshire or Nottinghamshire, perhaps, to judge by the mention of persons and places, in the neighbourhood of Grantham or Newark.' J. O. Halliwell.]
Ante ffinem termini Baculus portamus,
Non minus hic peccat qui sensum condit in agro,