Page:My Life and Loves.djvu/48

This page has been validated.
24
MY LIFE AND LOVES.

in the Grammar School. Nevertheless, thanks to the punishment of having to learn Vergil and Livy by heart, I was easily the best of my age in Latin too, before the second year was over.

I had an extraordinary verbal memory. The Doctor, I remember, once mouthed out some lines of the "Paradise Lost" and told us in his pompous way that Lord Macaulay knew the "Paradise Lost" by heart from beginning to end. I asked: "Is that hard, Sir!" "When you've learned half of it", he replied, „you'll understand how hard! Lord Macaulay was a genius", and he emphasized the Lord again.

A week later when the Doctor again took the school in literature, I said at the end of the hour: "Please, Sir, I know the 'Paradise Lost' by heart"; he tested me and I remember how he looked at me afterwards from head to foot as if asking himself where I had put all the learning. This "piece of impudence", as the older boys called it, brought me several cuffs and kicks from boys in the Sixth, and much ill-will from many of the others.

All English school life was summed up for me in the "fagging". There was "fagging" in the Royal School in Armagh, but it was kindly. If you wanted to get out of it for a long walk with a chum, you had only to ask one of the Sixth and you got permission to skip it.

But in England the rule was Rhadamanthine; the fags' names on duty were put up on a blackboard, and if you were not on time, ay, and servile to boot, you'd get a dozen from an ash plant on your behind and not laid on perfunctorily and with distaste, as the Doctor did it, but with vim so that I had painful weals on my backside and couldn't sit down for days without a smart.