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Read Journeys Through Bookland Volume V Part 6

Journeys Through Bookland is a web novel completed by Charles Herbert Sylvester.
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Which in his height of pride, King Henry to deride, His ransom to provide To the king sending; Which he neglects the while, As from a nation vile, Yet, with an angry smile, Their fall portending.

And turning to his men, Quoth our brave Henry then: “Though they to one be ten, Be not amazed; Yet have we well begun,– Battles so bravely won Have ever to the sun By fame been raised.

“And for myself,” quoth he, “This my full rest shall be; England ne’er mourn for me, Nor more esteem me.

Victor I will remain, Or on this earth lie slain; Never shall she sustain Loss to redeem me.

“Poitiers[5] and Cressy[6] tell, When most their pride did swell, Under our swords they fell; No less our skill is Than when our grandsire[7] great, Claiming the regal seat, By many a warlike feat Lopped the French lilies.” [8]

[Footnote 5: The Battle of Poitiers was fought in 1356. The English under the Black Prince, son of Edward III of England, defeated the French under King John, though the French outnumbered them more than five to one.]

[Footnote 6: In the Battle of Cressy, which was fought in 1346, 35,000 English under King Edward III defeated 75,000 French under Philip VI.

About 30,000 of the French army were slain.]

[Footnote 7: The great-grandfather of Henry V was Edward III, the hero of the early part of the Hundred Years’ War.]

[Footnote 8: The lily, or fleur-de-lis, is the national flower of France. _Lopped the French lilies_ is a poetical way of saying _defeated the French._]

[Ill.u.s.tration: “VICTOR I WILL REMAIN”]

The Duke of York so dread The eager vaward[9] led; With the main Henry sped, Amongst his henchmen.

Excester had the rear,– A braver man not there: O Lord! how hot they were On the false Frenchmen!

[Footnote 9: _Vaward_ is an old word for _vanward_, or _advance-guard._]

They now to fight are gone; Armor on armor shone; Drum now to drum did groan,– To hear was wonder; That with the cries they make The very earth did shake; Trumpet to trumpet spake, Thunder to thunder.

Well it thine age became, O n.o.ble Erpingham!

Which did the signal aim To our hid forces; When, from a meadow by, Like a storm suddenly, The English archery Struck the French horses,

With Spanish yew so strong, Arrows a cloth-yard long, That like to serpents stung, Piercing the weather; None from his fellow starts, But playing manly parts, And like true English hearts Stuck close together.

When down their bows they threw, And forth their bilboes[10] drew, And on the French they flew, Not one was tardy; Arms were from shoulders sent; Scalps to the teeth were rent; Down the French peasants went; Our men were hardy.

[Footnote 10: _Bilboes_ is a poetical word for _swords_.]

This while our n.o.ble king, His broadsword brandishing, Down the French host did ding,[11]

As to o’erwhelm it; And many a deep wound lent, His arms with blood besprent, And many a cruel dent Bruised his helmet.

[Footnote 11: To _ding_ is to _strike_.]

Glo’ster, that duke so good, Next of the royal blood, For famous England stood, With his brave brother,– Clarence, in steel so bright, Though but a maiden knight, Yet in that furious fight Scarce such another.

Warwick in blood did wade; Oxford the foe invade, And cruel slaughter made, Still as they ran up.

Suffolk his axe did ply; Beaumont and Willoughby Bare them right doughtily, Ferrers and Fanhope.

Upon Saint Crispin’s[12] day Fought was this n.o.ble fray, Which fame did not delay To England to carry; O, when shall Englishmen With such acts fill a pen, Or England breed again Such a King Harry!

[Footnote 12: Crispin was a Christian saint who suffered martyrdom in the third century. The 25th of October was made sacred to him.

It was on Saint Crispin’s day, 1415, that the Battle of Agincourt was fought.]



Probably somewhere about your home, put away so far from sight that you never think of them any more, are some of the ABC books and the alphabet blocks and the brightly colored story books about horses, dogs and other familiar animals that used to amuse you when you were just learning to say the alphabet and to spell a few three-letter words. Perhaps you can remember how much you liked to have the stories read to you and how much fun there was in repeating your A B C’s when you could point out the big, colored letters in your book or on your blocks. But have you ever thought that you were any more fortunate than other children of other ages in having these interesting things to help you? Have you ever wondered whether, far back in history before our country was discovered and settled by white men, boys and girls had the same kinds of picture books and drawing-slates, alphabet games and other playthings that used to delight you in the days when you were going to kindergarten or learning your first simple lessons from your mother?

If you have never thought enough about this matter to ask some older person about it, you will find the lesson books and story books used by children of even a hundred years ago very curious. Suppose we go farther back, to 1620, the year of the Mayflower, let us say. You could never imagine what a child then living in England was given to learn his letters from. As soon as he was able to remember the first little things that children are taught, his mother would fasten to his belt a string from which was suspended what she would call his _hornbook_. This was not at all what we think of to-day as a book, for it was made of a piece of cardboard covered on one side with a thin sheet of horn, and surrounded by a frame with a handle. Through the covering of horn the little boy could see the alphabet written on the cardboard in both large and small letters. After these would come rows of syllables to help him in learning to p.r.o.nounce simple combinations of sounds. Probably last on the sheet there would be the Lord’s Prayer, which he must be taught to say without a mistake. As he went about he could easily take up his hornbook once in a while and say over to himself the letters and the rows of syllables. Sometimes–especially if he had been obedient and had studied well–he was given a hornbook made of gingerbread; and then, of course, he would find that the tiresome lines of letters had all at once become very attractive.

The hornbook must have done its work well, or at least no better way of teaching the alphabet had been found when the Puritans came to America, for it was not many years before little folks in the New World were being taught from the famous _New England Primer_, which joined to what had been in the hornbook a catechism and various moral teachings. With its rude ill.u.s.trations and its dry contents, this little book would probably be laughed at by school-children of to-day, if they did not stop to think how very many of the writers, statesmen and soldiers who have made our country great learned their first lessons from its pages.

Somewhere between 1687 and 1690 it was first published, and for a hundred years from that time it was the schoolbook found in almost every New England home and cla.s.sroom.


Can you imagine what kind of reading lessons were in this primer? If you think they were like the lively little stories and the pleasing verses printed in your readers, you will he a good deal surprised to find that they are stern and gloomy tales that were meant to frighten children into being good, rather than to entertain them.

First of all in the little book came the alphabet and the lists of syllables, as in the hornbook. There was this difference, however. At the beginning of the first line of letters in the hornbooks was placed a cross, as the symbol of Christianity, and from this fact the first line was called the _Christ-cross_, or _criss-cross row_. But the Puritans strictly kept the cross out of the _Primer_, for to them it stood in a disagreeable way for the older churches from which they had separated themselves.

Then came a series of sentences from the Bible teaching moral lessons and ill.u.s.trating the use of the letters of the alphabet, one being made prominent in each verse. The Lord’s Prayer and the Apostle’s Creed might appear next, followed by twenty-four alphabet rhymes with accompanying pictures. Most of these verses were upon Bible subjects, as in the case of the letter _R_, for example, ill.u.s.trated by the lines:

“Young pious Ruth Left all for Truth.”

One of the best-loved rhymes was one put into the series after the Revolution to stir the pride of every young American by reminding him that

“Great Washington brave His country did save.”

In the pages that followed were to be found an ill.u.s.trated poem telling of the awful fate of John Rogers, burned at the stake while his wife and their ten children looked on, and a dialogue between Christ, a youth and the devil, in which the youth was finally overcome by Satan’s temptations.

This story of the terrifying fate of the youth was placed after the shorter Westminster catechism, possibly as a warning to all children who would not obey their religious teachings. The one hundred seven questions of the catechism must be answered correctly, even though the five-syllable words were even harder to understand than to p.r.o.nounce.

Religious songs and pictures and descriptions of good and of bad children were also scattered through the book, and in some copies is to be found the little prayer beginning: “Now I lay me down to sleep,”

which was probably published for the first time in the _Primer_.

As the years went on, pictures and verses and little articles about the objects of nature and the everyday things that children are interested in began to take the place of the Bible verses and subjects; and at length when people saw how well children liked this new way of teaching, better books than the _Primer_ took its place.

While the young folks in New England families were thus being warned in story and verse against the awful temptations that lay all around them, the children in old England were being entertained by popular penny-books that treated of all kinds of subjects, from the _History of Joseph and his Brother_ to _The Old Egyptian Fortune Teller’s Last Legacy_. These books were of a size scarcely larger than that of the letter-paper made for little folks, and they contained usually from sixteen to twenty-four pages. Ill.u.s.trations that looked a good deal like the pictures made by a small boy in his schoolbooks adorned the rough little volumes.

In every city and town and even in the villages peddlers went along the streets selling these chapbooks, as they were called. Imagine how the children, and the grown people too, must have flocked around the peddler as he began taking out one after another of his queer little books, for he had something to please every one. The boys might choose stories like _The Mad Pranks of Tom Tram_, _A Wonderful and Strange Relation of a Sailor_ or _The True Tale of Robin Hood_, and we can see them almost getting into a brawl over the possession of _The Merry Life and Mad Exploits of Captain James Hind, the Great Robber of England_. Probably the girls would choose _Patient Grissel_, _The History of Mother Bunch_ or _Cinderella_. For the small children there were, for example, the _History of Two Children in the Wood_, _The Pleasant History of Jack Horner_ and _Tom Thumb_. Most likely it was only the pennies of much-tried mothers and fathers that were spent for _A Timely Warning to Rash and Disobedient Children_.

The chapman or peddler we may well believe did not stand silently looking on as he disposed of his stock. He had at the tip of his tongue such a fair-sounding advertis.e.m.e.nt for every book that everybody, young and old, came under the spell of his words and bought of his wares.

After he had departed with his traveling library, we can picture the children taking themselves off to quiet places with their new chapbooks.

Perhaps you are wondering why it was that they were so eager to read them. If so, you may like to look into a few of these rare old story books. As you read, notice how quaint the wording seems when compared with that of the stories of to-day.


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