I was a scholar at a grammar school
founded by Henry VIII after he had
dissolved the monasteries, stolen their land,
destroyed their hospitals, tortured the odd
abbot or two and trousered their cash and plate.
The school, a Victorian extension
of the original, was ‘in the shadow
of the cathedral’, as the head would say –
an Anglican canon, MA Oxon.
There was, in the Canon’s dismal study,
a portrait of the priapic monarch.
The reverend would order those he caned –
for smoking, chewing gum -‘Face the founder’.
When I was in the fourth form, we learned about
the Kings of Israel, ‘The Merchant of Venice,’
the Armada and quadratic equations.
The Virgin Queen, Portia and Jezebel
would glide through the algebra. Our form room
overlooked the cathedral’s coke store
and was level with steps visitors would take
to the monks’ dormitories now Sunday School.
Americans predominated, mostly
elderly or so it seemed. Sometimes
a pretty girl would stop and turn and she
and I would briefly see eye to eye
before our lives diverged forever.
Note: On September 16th 2016 the school celebrated the 475th anniversary of its founding.