Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

66

а

became one of the first seats of learning in Europe; if he were penny clerk,” he built and fully endowed the first great public school, in which were to be freely “ brought up to godliness and to the studies of good learning,” those poor boys who had not a penny to pay the cost. If he could not well read the Scriptures, yet he expended a princely heritage in the re-building of the glorious Cathedral which is for ever dedicated to their Author, and wherein the solemnities of worship were completely provided for. These activities absorbed the old Bishop; he forgot the smiles of Court friends and the taunts of foes, doing well after his manner, and yielding up his soul peacefully in the eightieth year of

his age.

It occurs to me as one of the interesting coincidences of history, that at the very period when our great father poet, Geoffrey Chaucer, was welding together the rude and irregular elements of our NormanSaxon language, shaping the tough terms into harmony, founding, in fact, the English school of poetry and literature, William of Wykeham was founding at the same time the English public school system, which has done so much to weld together all classes-peer, priest, plebeian-in the active public life of our nation, and has aided in making us, more than any other people, a nation of Parliaments. There appears to have been a Grammar School at Winchester during the reign of King Alfred, which had probably continued down to Wykeham's time, but the Bishop conceived the idea of taking this work out of the hands of the more or less educated monks, who chanced to belong to the local monasteries, and of placing it in the hands of competent well-paid teachers, under a powerful Corporation, allied to one of the principal Colleges at Oxford. The work was nine years carried on; the buildings were opened in solemn procession, and as a curious record of old times, the Jesse window in the College Chapel, a copy of the original, contains below the recumbent figure of Jesse, portraits of Simon Membury, clerk of the works, William Wynford, the mason, with the carpenter and glazier. The ancient buildings formed two quadrangles, the inner being the principal offices. Not much of modern comfort in these old schools. The scholars washed at all seasons under an open porch ; in school they sat astride a plank bench, and wrote on the flat lid of the box which held their books; they ate their food off an eight-inch square of oak board, dignified with the name of a trencher; they went to bed lighted from a functior (candlestick), which would amuse our school boys of to-day. Chaucer speaks of the highest ambition of a philosopher to

“ Have at his bed's head

Twenty bookès, clothed in black or red." And it is suggestive to see the small library in the roof of the College Hall; still more to see how strongly the door and lock were made, to guard the enclosed treasures. The Chapel is interesting, the fine old cloisters more so, with the smaller chapel for the juniors in the cloister green. The old School House has been replaced by a finer modern one, but is still used on occasion. It has a fine table of quaint laws, and three suggestive hints in the centre. Beside a mitre and crozier as the ancient rewards of learning, “Aut discé"-EITHER LEARN; beside an ink-horn and a sword, the implements of the commercial and military dunce, Aut discede"-OR DEPART HENCE; lastly, beside a scourge, which

may transform the dullard into a passable scholar, “Manet sors tertia cædi"OR, REMAIN AND BE CHASTISED.

The curious figure of the “ Trusty Servant" need hardly detain us; but it is strange to find as a relic of William of Wykeham in the College Library a copy of Wycliffe's translation of the Testament. Although in Peregrine Pickle we get an ill idea of the College in old times, yet it has produced a long line of illustrious scholars. Beginning with Henry V., who, as he was a soldier, would be one of the dunces, according to the hints given above,-we have nine Archbishops, forty Bishops, six Lord Chancellors, crowds of Statesmen, Scholars, and men of Science, not forgetting a dozen Poets, among them Collins, Dibdin, Otway, Somerville, Whitehead, Young, and last, not least, Dr. Arnold, who perfected at Rugby the school system of Wykeham.

The Wykehamists are famous cricketers, and the old cricket ground is relinquished to the juniors, an immense field situate in the College meadows, now being used by the chief teams. Admission to the College is still free to all by competitive examinations, advertised duly in the Times; and Birmingham fathers should be alive to the advantages of one of the finest school foundations in the land. I should have been glad to hear the parting song, “ Dulce domum,” which has been sung for more than a century as the boys are leaving for holiday. It is said to have been written by a poor student kept at College during vacation. It is beautiful as I heard it on the harp, but it is said to be touching and impressive when sung by the scholars in full chorus.

A mile from Winchester is the charming old foundation of St. Cross, established in 1136 by Henry de Blois, Bishop of Winchester, brother to King Stephen, "for thirteen decayed men past their strength." It is fully described in Henry Dunbar, but I cannot close without a few words respecting it. It is entering an old-world England, this stepping out of the high road beside a line of ancient trees, and suddenly coming to the grey walls of the Beaufort Tower. We enter the gateway with a richly-groined vault, and, coming to the porter's hatchway, knock, and receive the way-farer's dole—the piece of white bread and the horn of beer, one of the last quaint relics of the open-handed charity of our forefathers. We turn to the square, and here is a sweet picture. The large green in front has on two sides the thirteen houses of the “decayed men," all so quaint and olden-the stone walls almost overgrown with ivy, roses, or creepers—with trim gardens in front. On the third side is a curious sheltered gallery or cloister for exercise in wet weather; and right before us is the noble old Norman church, with fine elms beside it, between which you see the undulating country beyond. The houses are comfortable, as the inmates seem to be; and after seeing them, we turn near the gateway by which we entered, up a curious fifteenth-century staircase into the hall, where in the olden days a hundred poor of the city, besides the thirteen brethren, received each “a loaf of bread, three quarts of

consume.

small beer, and two messes for their dinner.” There was a safe proviso that any of the hundred were allowed to carry away what they did not

The hall is interesting, with its four rich perpendicular windows, the dais for the table of officers, the raised hearth, where the brethren could sit and tell tales on festivals, the leathern jacks, the salt cellars, and oak furniture. But the church is the glory of the place; it marks every style, from Romanesque, Transition-Norman, and early English, to decorated, and of the second it is perhaps the finest example. It is remarkable for its lofty proportions and the rich ornamentation of its arches and mouldings. It has been restored, almost too much, the fresh colouring seeming to grate on one's feelings of tenderness for its age and its memories. I was struck by the suggestive motto on the ancient tiles—“Have mynde; and also interested by the faded fresco of the Descent from the Cross, which seems to have been thoughtfully treated. The triple arch outside is a curiosity, amid many which will well repay an hour's attention. But I like to remember St. Cross as I first saw it: standing in the open cloister, looking out upon the green at night, all silent save for one of the brethren, whose footsteps echoed strangely, the moon casting her pale beams upon the old church, and the grey tower gleaming through the tree branches beside the gallery. There was a poetic solemnity impressed upon the mind which seemed to recall the historic past. How many generations have passed by since this quiet spot was fenced off from the domain of the pitiless spirit of change. dynasties have risen and fallen; how many wars have swept over the world, and yet this peaceful refuge for “thirteen decayed men past their strength" has remained untouched, still serving its pious uses, a little haven retaining amid storm and tempest the very modes and semblance of its earliest days.

Jor. (To be continued.)

How many

TWILIGHT.

It is the hour that poets love the most
In which to shape their fancies into song;
The hour in which the greatest novelists
Do love to dwell upon their noblest themes ;
And mighty warriors, the battle fought and won,
Put off their armour, and upon the field

Stretching their weary limbs, in the vast halls
Of dreamland see their homes once more.
For, as the lingering rays of setting sun
Clothe all the hills with gold, along the breeze
There comes a sweet, low, murmuring music,
Bringing in its train a flood of memory
Of all that has been, is, or might have been ;
Of long-loved faces we shall see no more ;
Of hope, that once had seemed so bright and fair,
But now long vanished; and, perchance, of one
Whose presence was to us more beautiful than other,
But whose face, still unforgotten, proved
As false as it was fair.
But there comes, too,
The loving memory of those who love us still,
A memory which with us shall abide
While life shall last ; of one whose heart,
Close knitted with our own in holiest bonds,
Shall beat in truest unison with ours,
Until the king of terrors with his icy hand
Shall hush them both for ever.
'Tis while these shadowy phantoms pass our minds
That highest thoughts, and aspirations great
O'ercome our souls; virtue shines forth
In her most gorgeous dress, and th' innate good
Which lies deep hidden in the breast of all,
Stands forth triumphantly foul evil's victor.
Thus, when the world seems cold, and dark, and drear,
And when, it may be in our hours of trial,
Our so-called friends desert us in our need,
Seek in the twilight hour some solitude,
Where, in no other presence but eternal God's,
Communing with our inmost hearts,
We may be found,
Thro' Him that loved us, more than conquerors,
And
peace, and joy, and love, be ours for evermore.

NEANDER. FACT VERSUS FICTION.

"No warmth, no breath shall testify thou liv'st ;

The roses in thy lips and cheeks shall fade
To paly ashes; the eyes' windows fall,
Like death when he shuts up the day of life ;
Each part, deprived of supple government,
Shall, stiff, and stark, and cold, appear like death ;
And in this borrowed likeness of shrunk death
Thou shalt remain full two-and-forty hours,
And then awake as from a pleasant sleep."

Romeo and Yuliet, Act 4.

It will be remembered that in the early part of this year, a paragraph copied from The Brisbane Courier, ran the round of the English press, containing an account of an alleged extraordinary discovery said to have been made by one Signor Rotura. We were told that by means of powerful herbs found in some part of South America, this gentleman was able to suspend animation in man or beast for any length of time, and to restore them to consciousness again whensoever it might please him to do so.

The circumstantial and plausible way in which the article was written doubtless deceived a great many readers

, and the wildest speculations were indulged in as to the probable uses and abuses of the discovery. The very minutiæ of the details given, however, and the naive announcement at the end of the story to the effect that Signor Rotura had disappeared, and was supposed to have gone back to South America for a fresh supply of herbs, betrayed to other and less credulous readers, the clever hoax which had evidently been played upon a too-confiding editor.

That the scientific theory which the story was intended to describe was by no means new is evident from the words which Shakespeare has put into the mouth of Friar Lawrence, and which we quote at the head of this article ; but my special object is to call attention to a modern instance of suspended animation which occurred in this town some twenty-five years ago, and will, doubtless, be still in the recollection of many Birmingham men, especially those of the medical profession.

On the 3rd of May, 1854, a young man, who gave his name as Thomas Koope, and was said to be of Portuguese and Spanish parentage, was brought up at the Public Office, in Moor Street, before Mr. Chas. Shaw,

« VorigeDoorgaan »