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The days were all alike to her,
The evenings just the same,
And neither brought a change to us
Till Saturday forepoon came.
And then we had a “spelling match,"
And learned the sounds of A
The months and weeks that made the year,
The bours that made the day.
And on that day we saw her smile
No other time smiled she
Twas then she told us learnedly
When next “ leap-year” would be.
Alas, kind soul, though leap-year came
And went full many a time,
In “single-blessedness” she toiled
ill far beyond her prime.
But now indeed her toils are o'er,
Her lessons all are said,
Her rules well learned, her words well spelled
She's gone up to the head. We now return to our English authorities for the character and social standing of the schoolmistress of former days.
HENRY KIRKE White thus commemorates the “ village matron," of Nottingham, Mrs. Garrington, wbo introduced him into the mysteries of alphabetic lore:
In yonder cot, along whose mouldering walls,
In many a fold the mantling woodbine falls,
The village matron kept her little school
Gentle of heart, yet knowing well to rule.
Staid was the dame, and modest was the mien,
Her garb was coarse, yet whole and nicely clean ;
Her neatly border'd cup, as lily fair,
Beneath her chin was pinn'd with decent care ;
And pendant ruffles of the whitest lawn,
of ancient make her elbows did adorn.
Faint with old age, and dim were grown her eyes ;
A pair of spectacles their want supplies.
These does she guard secure in leather case,
From thoughtless wights in some unweeted place.
Here first I entered, though with toil and pain,
The low vestibule of learning's fane-
Entered with pain, yet soon I found the way,
Though sometimes toilsome, many a sweet display.
Much did I grieve on that ill-fated morn
When I was first to school reluctant borne ;
Severe I thought the dame, though oft she tried
To soothe my swelling spirits when I sighed,
And oft, when harshly she reproved, I wept-
To my lone corner broken-hearted crept-
And thought of tender home, where anger never kept ;
But, soon inured to alphabetic toils,
Alert I inet the dame with jocund smiles-
First at the form, my task for ever true,
A little favorite rapidly I grew ;
And oft she strok'd my head, with fond delight
Held'me a pattern to the dunce's sight;
And, as she gave my diligence its praise,
Talked of the honors of my future days. Rat GEORGE CRABBE, the poet of homely life, in his description of the Borough, in speaking of the "Poor and their Dwellings,” pays a passing tribute of respect and gratitude to his first teacher:
At her old house, her dress, her air the same,
I see mine ancient letter-loving dame :
“Learning, my child," said she, “ shall fame command;
Learning is better worth than house or land-
For houses perish, lands are gone and spent;
In learning then excel, for that's most excellent."
“And what her learning ?”—'Tis with awe to look
In every verse throughout one sacred book
From this her joy, her hope, her peace is sought ;
This she has learned, and she is nobly taught.
If aught of mine have gained the public ear;
If Rutland deigns these humble Tales to hear ,
If critics pardon, what my friends approved ;
Can I mine ancient Widow pass unmoved ?
Shall I not think what pains the matron took,
When first I trembled o'er the gilded book ?
How she, all patient, both at eve and morn,
Her needle pointed at the guarding horn;
And how she soothed me, when with study sad,
I labored on to reach the final zad!
Shall I not grateful still the dame survey,
And ask the Muse the poet's debt to pay ?
Nor I alone, who hold a trifler's pen,
But half our bench of wealthy, weighty men,
Who rule our Borough, who enforce our laws;
They own the matron as the leading cause,
And feel the pleasing debt, and pay the just applause,
To her own house is borne the week's supply ;
There she in credit lives, there hopes in peace to die. Again, in his Parish Register he gives us a pleasing picture of the Good Schoose mistress, out of school hours :
-With due respect and joy,
I trace the matron at her loved employ;
What time the striplings wearied down with play,
Part at the closing of the summers' day,
And each by different path returned the well-known way.
Then I behold her at the cottage door,
Frugal of light ;-her Bible laid before,
When on her double duty she proceeds,
Of time as frugal; knitting as she reads
Her idle neighbors, who approach to tell
Of news or nothing, she by looks compels
To hear reluctant, while the lads who pass
In pure respect walk silent on the grass :
Then sinks the day, but not to rest she goes,
Till solemn prayers the daily duties close.
(2.) “And all in sight doth rise a birchen tree." THE BIRCH has attained a place in English life and literature hardly surpassed by any other tree. It figures in name and in fact-in prose and verse—in matters sacred and profane. Our readers, many of whom, must have a traditional reverence for this emblem of magisterial authority in the school-room, may be pleased with a few of the many references to its manifold uses and virtues as described by the classic authors of our language, as well as with specimens of the wit and poetry which it has inspired.
It bad place in the popular festivities of May-day, and of Mid-Summer's Eve, and Christmas. Owen, in his Welsh Dictionary defines Bedwen, a birch tree, by “a May-pole, because it is always made of birch.” Stowe, in bis “Survey of London," tells us " that on the vigil of St. John Baptist, every man's door being shadowed with green birch, long fennel, &c., garnished with garlands of beautiful flowers, had also lamps of glass with oil burning in them all night.” Coles, in his “ Adam in Eden," says—“I remember once as I rid through liue Brickhill in Buckinghamshire, every sign-post in the towne almost, was bedecked with green birch," on Mid-Summer Eve. Coles quaintly observes among the civil uses of the birch tree, "the punishment of children, both at home and at school ; for it bath an admirable influence on them when they are out of order, and therefore some call it make peace.” In some sections, on Christmas Eve, a nicely bound bundle of birchen twigs with one end immersed in cake or frosted sugar, was placed in the stockings of naughty boys.
In “Whimsies," or a New Cast of Characters, (1631,) mention is made of the birchpole, as having been set up before ale-honses for a sign,--as a bush of some kind was formerly hung over the door of wine-shops, -whence came the proverb, "good wine needs no bush." Pope introduces one of his heroes with
“ His beaver'd brow a birchen garland bears." Roger Ascham, in his “Toxophilus : or Schole of Shootinge," enumerates it among "the kinde of wood, whereof the shaft is made"_" being both strong enough to stand in a bowe, and light enough to fly far." or its use in archery, Spencer, in the " Faerie Queene," speaks of “the bircb for shafts" in the equipment of one of his characters. Shakspeare has not forgot its disciplinary use, (in Measure for Measure, Ac I., Sen. 2d.)
“Now as fond fathers,
Having bound up the threatening twigs of birch,
Only to stick it in their childrens' sight
For terror, not for use : in time the rod
Becomes more mocked than used.” The scholastic uses of the birch have been celebrated not only in occasional stanzas, but constitute the inspiration and burden of poems devoted exclusively to its praise.
Rev. Henry Layng, Fellow of New College, Oxford, published in 1754, Oxford, a poem entitled “ The Rod, a poem in three cantos, 4to, 46 pages.” It has an advertise. ment of three pages, deprecating the imputation of any personal allusions or designs to encourage school rebellions. It has also a frontispiece, representing two youths, one standing, the other sitting on a form, and before them the figure of an ass, erect on his hind legs, clothed in a pallium (the dress of a Doctor at Oxford.) A birch, doctorial hat, and books, lettered Priscian and Lycophron, form the base ; and on the ribbon above is the legend, "An ass in the Greek pallium teaching."
The following is a specimen of the spirit and humor of the poem, being a description of the birch tree.
“A tree there is, such was Apollo's will,
That grows uncultured on the Muses' Hill,
Its type in Heav'n the blest Immortals know,
There called the tree of Science, Birch below.
These characters observ'd thy guide shall be,
Unerring guide to the mysterious tree.
Smooth like its kindred Poplar, to the skies
The trunk ascends and quivering branches rise ;
By teeming seeds it propagates its kind,
And with the year renewd it casts the rind;
Pierc'd by the matron's hand, her bowl it fills,
Scarce yielding to the vine's nectareous rills.
Of this select full in the Moon's eclipse,
Of equal size thrice three coeval slips,
Around the Osier's flexile band entwine,
And all their force in strictest union join.
Each Muse shall o'er her favorite twig preside,
Sacred to Phæbus, let their band be tied;
With this when sloth and negligence provoke,
Thrice let thy vengeful arm impress the stroke,
Then shalt thou hear loud clamors rend the breast,
Attentive hear, and let the sound be blest;
So when the priestess at the Delphic shrine,
Roar'd loud, the listening votary hail'd the sign." We find in the London Notes and Queries—from which the above notice and extract 19 taken, the following lines.
Written by a Youth of thirteen,
Though the Oak be the prince and the pride of the grove,
The emb.em of power and the fav’rite of Jove;
Though Phæbus his temples with Laurel has bound,
And with chaplets of Poplar Alcides is crown'd;
Though Pallas the Olive has graced with her choice,
And old mother Cybel in Pines may rejoice,
Yet the Muses declare, after diligent search,
That no tree can be found to compare with the Birch.
The Birch, they affirm, is the true tree of knowledge,
Revered at each school and remember'd at college.
Though Virgil's famed tree might produce, as its fruit,
A crop of vain dreams, and strange whims on each shoot,
Yet the Birch on each bough, on the top of each switch,
Bears the essence of grammar and eight parts of speech.
'Mongst the leaves are conceald more than mem'ry can mention,
All cases, all genders, all forms of declension.
Nine branches, when cropp'd by the hands of the Nine,
And duly arranged in a parallel line,
Tied up in nine folds of a mystical string
And soak'd for nine days in cold Helicon spring,
Form a sceptre composed for a pedagogue's hand,
Like the Fasces of Rome, a true badge of command.
The sceptre thus finish’d, like Moses's rod,
From flints could draw tears, and give life to a clod.
Should darkness Egyptian, or ignorance, spread
Their clouds o'er the mind, or envelop the head,
The rod, thrice applied, puts the darkness to flight,
Disperses the clouds, and restores us to light.
Like the Virga Divina, 't will find out the vein
Where lurks the rich metal, the ore of the brain,
Should Genius a captive in sloth be confined,
Or the witchcraft of Pleasure prevail o'er the mind,
This magical wand but apply–with a stroke,
The spell is dissolved, the enchantment is broke.
Like Hermes' caduceus, these switches inspire
Rhetorical thunder, poetical fire :
And if Morpheus our temple in Lethe should steep,
Their touch will untie all the fetters of sleep.
Here dwells strong conviction-of Logic the glory,
When applied with precision a posteriori.
I've known a short lecture most strangely prevail,
When duly convey'd to the head through the tail ;
Like an electrical shock, in an instant 'ris spread,
And flies with a jerk from the tail to the head;
Promotes circulation, and thrills through each vein
'The faculties quickens, and purges the brain.
By sympathy thus, and consent of the parts,
We are taught, fundamentally classics and arts.
The Birch, a priori, applied to the palm,
Can settle disputes and a passion becalm.
Whatever disorders prevail in the blood,
The birch can correct them, like guaiacum wood:
It sweetens the juices, corrects our ill humors,
Bad habits removes, and disperses foul tumors.
When applied to the hand it can cure with a switch,
Like the salve of old Molyneux, used in the itch
As the famed rod of Circe to brutes could turn men,
So the twigs of the Birch can vnbrute them again.
Like the wand of the Sybil, that branch of pure gold,
These sprays can the gates of Elysium unfold-
The Elysium of learning, where pleasures abound,
Those sweets that still flourish on classical ground.
Prometheus's rod, which, mythologists say,
Fetch'd fire from the sun to give life to his clay,
Was a rod well applied his men to inspire
With a taste for the arts, and their genius to fire.
This bundle of rods may suggest one reflection,
That the arts with each other maintain a connection.
Another good moral this bundle of switches
Points out to our notice and silently teaches ;
Of peace and good fellowship these are a token,
For the twigs, well united, can scarcely be broken.
Then, if such are its virtues, we'll bow to the tree,
And The BIRCH, like the Muses, immortal shall be." This poem was written by Rev. Thomas Wilson, B. D., Head-master of Clitheroe Grammar School, Lancashire, in 1784, and first published in Adam's Weekly Courant, July 25, 1786. See Notes and Queries, Vol. x. p. 432.
Hood, in his whimsical and comic stanzas indulges in frequent allusions to the school where he “was birched," and contrives to extract some sweet out of the bitter discipline of his school days:
“Ay, though the very birch's smart
Should mark those hours again ;
I'd kiss the rod, and be resigned
Beneath the stroke, and even find
Some sugar in the cane."