William Bell Scott

(1811-1890 / Scotland)

The School-Children - Poem by William Bell Scott

The children in their best at last
Were gathered on the lawn,
By sex divided, or by ages classed;
Had nuts or oranges, then lists were drawn
For leaping, running, and the rest;
Some did right well, but Willie best.
At first the taller girls were shy
Against the boys their powers to try,
But whispering long, together cling,
Till their little scheme is planned,
When down they sit in one wide ring,
While one by lot selected stood,
In her hand her neat white hood.
Then out and in, the circle round
Stepping, she began to sing:
‘I writ a letter to my love,
‘And on the way I dropt it,
‘I carried it within my glove,
‘But still and still I dropt it,
‘I dropt, I dropt—’

Then suddenly she stopt,
Amidst the bright clear faces crowned
With expectation shining round,
And all the little ready feet.
Ready to jump up to meet
The hood when it was thrown!
The game was then to run so fast,
To o'ertake her the hood had cast,
But who already far had flown,
In and about, and round and round
All the bright faces on the ground.

Another of these innocent games
Perplexed us, although much we tried
To understand the joyous claims
Its rhymes denied.
‘Rise, sister Sally, now, rise if you can,
‘Rise, sister Sally, and choose a young man;
‘Choose to the east and choose to the west,
‘And choose out the very one you can love best.’
After this song we scarce could tell
How many changes there befell,
With dancing left and dancing right,
And singing thus with all their might:

‘Now you are married, ay, married in joy,
‘First for a girl and next for a boy;
‘Seven years long enough, seven years, oh ho,
‘Now the play's played out, kiss, kiss, and go, go.’
With milk and cake, as well as game,
They had enough when evening came,
And sunset gilt each dainty head,
Showing time to go to bed.
So with another wild huzzay,
Their banners waved them all away.

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Poem Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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