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Winchester College

Old School Customs

The old traditions and customs associated with our public schools form a curios and by no means uninteresting chapter in our social history. Many of these date back to past centuries; and, although in certain cases now discontinued, they nevertheless help us to illustrate the domestic life of our forefathers. Thus, at Winchester, when the captain of the school petitions the head master for a holiday—and obtains it—he receives from him a ring, as a token of the favour granted, which he wears during the holiday, returning it to the head mater at its conclusion. The inscription upon the ring was formerly, "Potentiam fero, geroque," but it is now "Commendat rarior usus," from Juvenal (Sat. xi. 208). This custom has an additional interest, it being a relic of a practice which prevailed in bygone time for every Monarch to have a ring, the temporary possession of which invested the holder with the same authority as the owner. Thus in "Henry VIII." (act v. sc. 1) we have the King's ring given to Cranmer, and preserved by him as a security against the machinations of Gardiner and others of the Council, who were plotting to destroy him. The King says:—

If entreaties
Will render you no remedy, this ring
Deliver them, and your appeal to us
Then make before them.

This custom, too, was not confined to Royalty, for in "Richard II." (act ii. sc. 2), the Duke of York tells his servant:—

Sirrah, get thee to Plashy, to my sister Glo'ster;
Bid her send me presently a thousand pound:
Hold, take my ring.

Whilst speaking of Winchester, we pray mention the celebrated "Dulce Domum," sung on the evening preceding the Whitsun holidays. According to tradition, it was composed by a boy of St. Mary's College, Winchester, who was confined for misconduct during the Whitsun holidays, "as report says, tied to a pillar." The master, scholars, and choristers of the college walk in procession round the "pillar" chanting the six stanzas of the song, of which we subjoin the chorus:—

Domum, domum, dulce domum:
Domum, domum, dulce domum:
Dulce, dulce, dulce domum;
Dulee donnan, resonemus!

Source: The Illustrated London News, No.2256—Vol. LXXXI, Saturday, July 29, 1882, p.122