The Court and the King, we have said, were fond of being entertained in the college halls. James went from libraries to academic disputations, thence to dinner, and from dinner to look on at comedies played by the students. The Cambridge men did not care to see so much royal favour bestowed on Oxford. When James visited the University in 1641, a Cambridge wit produced a remarkable epigram. For some mysterious reason the playful fancies of the sister University have never been greatly admired at Oxford, where the brisk air, men flatter themselves, breeds nimbler humours. Here is part of the Cantab's epigram:
"To Oxenford the King has gone, With all his mighty peers, That hath in peace maintained us, These five or six long years."
The poem maunders on for half a dozen lines, and "loses itself in the sands," like the River Rhine, without coming to any particular point or conclusion. How much more lively is the Oxford couplet on the King, who, being bored by some amateur theatricals, twice or thrice made as if he would leave the hall, where men failed dismally to entertain him.
"The King himself did offer,"--"What, I pray?" "He offered twice or thrice--to go away!"
As a result of the example of the Court, the students began to wear love-locks. In Elizabeth's time, when men wore their hair "no longer than their ears," long locks had been a mark, says Wood, of "swaggerers." Drinking and gambling were now very fashionable, undergraduates were whipped for wearing boots, while "Puritans were many and troublesome," and Laud publicly declared (1614) that "Presbyterians were as bad as Papists." Did Laud, after all, think Papists so very bad? In 1617 he was President of his college, St. John's, on which he set his mark. It is to Laud and to Inigo Jones that Oxford owes the beautiful garden-front, perhaps the most lovely thing in Oxford. From the gardens--where for so many summers the beauty of England has rested in the shadow of the chestnut-trees, amid the music of the chimes, and in air heavy with the scent of the acacia flowers--from the gardens, Laud's building looks rather like a country-house than a college.
If St. John's men have lived in the University too much as if it were a large country-house, if they have imitated rather the Toryism than the learning of their great Archbishop, the blame is partly Laud's. How much harm to study he and Waynflete have unwittingly done, and how much they have added to the romance of Oxford! It is easy to understand that men find it a weary task to read in sight of the beauty of the groves of Magdalen and of St. John's. When Kubla Khan "a stately pleasure-dome decreed," he did not mean to settle students there, and to ask them for metaphysical essays, and for Greek and Latin prose compositions. Kubla Khan would have found a palace to his desire in the gardens of Laud, or where Cherwell, "meandering with a mazy motion," stirs the green weeds, and flashes from the mill-wheel, and flows to the Isis through meadows white and purple with fritillaries.
"And here are gardens bright with sinuous rills, Where blossoms many an incense-bearing tree";
but here is scarcely the proper training-ground of first-class men!
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