Trivium Pursuit

Pieces That Have Won Prizes – Pieces for Oral Interpretation

My Ain Fireside

O, I hae seen great anes and sat in great ha's,
'Mang lords and 'mang ladies a' cover'd wi' brawn;
But a sight sae delightful I trow I ne'er spied
As the bonnie blythe blink o' my ain fireside,
My ain fireside, my ain fireside,
O, sweet is the blink o' my ain fireside.

Ance mair, heaven be praised! round my ain heartsome ingle,
Wi' the frien's o' my youth I cordially mingle;
Nae forms to compel me to seem wae or glad,
I may laugh when I'm merry and sigh when I'm sad.
My ain fireside, my ain fireside,
O, sweet is the blink o' my ain fireside.

Nae falsehood to dread, nae malice to fear,
But truth to delight me, and friendship to cheer
O' a' roads to happiness ever were tried.
There's nane half so sure as ane's ain fireside,
My ain fireside, my ain fireside,
O, sweet is the blink o' my ain fireside.

The Cultured Daughter of a Plain Grocer

In September last the daughter of a Towsontown man, who had grown comfortably well-off in the grocery business, was sent away to a female college, and last week arrived home for a vacation as her health was not good at school. The father was in attendance at the depot when the train arrived, with the old horse in a delivery wagon, to convey his daughter and her trunks to the house. When the train had stopped, a bewitching array of dry goods and a wide-brimmed hat dashed from the car and flung itself into the elderly party's arms.

"Why, you superlative pa!" she exclaimed, "I'm so utterly glad to see you."

The old gentleman was somewhat unnerved by the greeting, but he recognized the sealskin cloak in his grip as the identical piece of property he had paid for with the bay mare, and he sort of embraced it in his arms and planted a kiss where it would do most good, with a report that sounded above the noise of the depot. In a brief space of time the trunk and its accompanying baggage were loaded in the wagon, which was soon bumping over the road toward home.

"Pa, dear," said the young miss, surveying the team with a critical eye, "do you consider this quite excessively beyond?"

"Hey?" returned the old man, with a puzzled air; "quite excessively beyond what?—beyond Waverly? I consider it somewhat about a mile beyond Waverly countin' from the toll-gate, if that's what you mean?"

"Oh! no, pa; you don't understand me," the daughter explained; "I mean this horse and wagon. Do you think they are soulful? do you think they could be studied apart in the light of a symphony, or even a simple poem, and appear as intensely utter to one on returning home as one could wish?"

The father twisted uneasily in his seat, and muttered something about he believed it used to be used for an express wagon before he bought it to deliver pork in but the conversation appeared to be traveling in such a lonesome direction that he fetched the horse a resounding crack on the rotunda, and the severe jolting over the ground prevented further remarks.

"Oh! there is that lovely and consummated ma!" screamed the returning collegiatess, as they drove up at the door, and presently she was lost in the embrace of a motherly woman in spectacles.

"Well, Maria," said the old man at the supper-table, as he nipped a piece of butter off the lump with his own knife, "and howd'ye like your school?"

"Well, there, pa, now you're shou—I mean, I consider it far too beyond," replied the daughter. "It is unquenchably ineffable. The girls are so sumptuously stunning—I mean grand—so exquisite—so intense. And then the parties, the balls, the rides—oh! the past weeks have been one sublime harmony."

"I s'pose so—I s'pose so," nervously assented the old gentleman, as he reached for his third cup, "half full—but how about your books?—readin', writin', grammar, rule o' three—how about them?"

"Pa, don't," exclaimed the daughter, reproachfully; "the rule of three! grammar! it is French, and music, and painting, and the divine in art, that have made my school life the boss—I mean rendered it one unbroken flow of rhythmatic bliss—incomparably and exquisitely all but."

The groceryman and his wife looked helplessly at each other across the table. After a lonesome pause the old lady said:

"How do you like the biscuits, Mary?"

"They are too utter for anything," gushed the young lady, "and this plum preserve is simply a poem in itself."

The old gentleman abruptly arose from the table and went out of the room, rubbing his head in a dazed manner, and the mass convention was dissolved. That night he and his wife sat alone by the stove until a late hour, and at the breakfast table next morning he rapped smartly on his plate with the handle of his knife, and remarked:

"Maria, me an' your mother have been talkin' the thing over, an' we've come to the conclusion that this boardin'-school business is too utterly all but too much nonsense. Me an' her considered that we haven't lived forty odd consummate years for the purpose of raisin' a curiosity, an' there's goin' to be a stop put to this unquenchable foolishness. Now, after you have finished eatin' that poem of fried sausage, and that symphony of twisted doughnut, you take an' dust upstairs in less'n two seconds, an' peel that fancy gown an' put on a calliker, an' then come down and help your mother wash dishes. I want it distinctly understood that there aint goin' to be no more rhythmic foolishness in this house so long's your superlative pa an' your lovely an' consummate ma's runnin' the ranch. You hear me, Maria?'

Maria was listening.

Steady Nerves in a Crisis

In moments of crisis my nerves act in the most extraordinary way. When utter disaster seems imminent my whole being is instantaneously braced to avoid it: I size up the situation in a flash, set my teeth, contract my muscles, take a firm grip of myself, and, without a tremor, always do the wrong thing...

I learned to drive in 1908 on a car that had its accelerator pedal between the clutch and the brake. That arrangement became automatic for me; and when I changed to cars with the accelerator to the right of the brake I became a deadly dangerous driver in an emergency when I had not my trusty chauffeur next me to turn off the spark when I mistook the pedals. He was unfortunately not with me in South Africa. Well, we were on our way to Port Elizabeth from a pleasant seaside place called Wilderness. I was at the wheel and had done a long drive over mountain passes, negotiating tracks and gorges in a masterly manner, when we came upon what looked like a half mile of straight safe smooth road; and I let the car rip. Suddenly she twisted violently to the left over a bump and made for the edge of the road. I was more than equal to the occasion: not for an instant did I lose my head: my body was rigid; my nerves were of steel. I turned the car's head the other way, and pressed down the wrong pedal as far as it would go. The car responded nobly; she dashed across the road, charged and cleared a bank, taking a barbed wire fence with her, and started off across the veldt. On we went, gathering speed, my foot hard on the accelerator, jerking and crashing over the uneven ground, plunging down a ravine and up the other side, and I should have been bumping over the veldt to this day if Commander Newton, who was in charge of me, hadn't said sternly, "Will you take your foot off the accelerator and put it on the brake." Well, I am always open to reason. I did as he suggested and brought the car to a standstill, the last strand of barbed wire still holding, though drawn out for miles. I was unhurt, but my wife had been rolled about with the luggage in the back seat and was seriously wounded.

Father William

"You are old, Father William," the young man said,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly stand on your head—
Do you think, at your age, it is right?"

"In my youth," Father William replied to his son,
"I feared it might injure the brain;
But, now that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it again and again."

"You are old," said the youth, "as I mentioned before,
And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you turned a back-somersault in at the door—
Pray, what is the reason of that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he shook his grey locks,
"I kept all my limbs very supple
By the use of this ointment—one shilling the box—
Allow me to sell you a couple?"

"You are old," said the youth, "and your jaws are too weak
For anything tougher that suet;
Yet you finished the goose, with the bones and the beak—
Pray, how did you manage to do it?"

"In my youth," said his father, "I took to the law,
And argued each case with my wife;
And the muscular strength which it gave to my jaw
Has lasted the rest of my life."

"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced an eel on the end of your nose—
What made you so awfully clever?"

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said his father. "Don't give yourself airs!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or I'll kick you down-stairs!"

The Dane-Geld A.D. 980-1016

It is always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say:—
"We invaded you last night—we are quite prepared to fight,
Unless you pay us cash to go away."
And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you've only to pay 'em the Dane-geld
And then you'll get rid of the Dane!
It is always a temptation to a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say:—
"Though we know we should defeat you, we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away."
And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we've proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
You never get rid of the Dane.
It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say:—
"We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
Nor matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!"

Norman and Saxon A.D. 1100

"My son," said the Norman Baron,
"I am dying, and you will be heir
To all the broad acres in England
that William gave me for my share
When we conquered the Saxon at Hastings,
and a nice little handful it is.
But before you go over to rule it
I want you to understand this:—
"The Saxon is not like us Normans.
His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious
till he talks about justice and right.
When he stands like an ox in the furrow
with his sullen set eyes on your own,
And grumbles, 'This isn't fair dealing,'
my son, leave the Saxon alone.
"You can horsewhip your Gascony archers,
or torture your Picardy spears;
But don't try that game on the Saxon;
you'll have the whole brood round your ears.
From the richest old Thane in the country
to the poorest chained serf in the field,
They'll be at you and on you like hornets,
and, if you are wise, you will yield.
"But first you must master their language,
their dialect, proverbs and songs.
Don't trust any clerk to interpret
when they come with the tale of their wrongs.
Let them know that you know what they're saying;
let them feel that you know what to say.
Yes, even when you want to go hunting,
hear 'em out if it takes you all day.
"They'll drink every hour of the daylight
and poach every hour of the dark.
It's the sport, not the rabbits, they're after
(we've plenty of game in the park).
Don't hang them or cut off their fingers.
That's wasteful as well as unkind,
For a hard-bitten, South-country poacher
makes the best man-at-arms you can find.
"Appear with your wife and the children
at their weddings and funerals and feasts.
Be polite but not friendly to Bishops;
be good to all poor parish priests.
Say 'we', 'us' and 'ours' when you're talking,
instead of 'you fellows' and 'I.'
Don’t ride over seeds; keep your temper;
and never you tell 'em a lie.