Alphabet Rhymes

: Popular Rhymes And Nursery Tales

Amongst the various devices to establish a royal road to infantine

learning, none are more ancient or useful than the rhymes which serve to

impress the letters of the alphabet upon the attention and memory of

children. As early as the fifteenth century, "Mayster Benet," who was

rector of Sandon, in Essex, in 1440, and afterwards a prebend of St.

Paul's, composed or translated an alphabet-rhyme, which not only

to recall the memory of the letters, but at a time when the

benefit of clergy was in vogue, held out the inducement of providing

means for avoiding the punishment of death. The following copy is taken

from two versions in MS. Harl. 541, compared with each other:

"Who so wyll be wyse and worshyp to wynne, leern he on lettur and loke

upon another of the A. B. C. of Arystotle. Noon argument agaynst that,

ffor it is counselle for clerkes and knightes a thowsand; and also it

myght amend a meane man fulle oft the lernyng of a lettur, and his lyf

save. It shal not greve a good man, though gylt be amend. Rede on this

ragment, and rule the theraftur, and whoso be grevid yn his goost

governe the bettur. Herkyn and here every man and child how that I


A. to Amerous, to Aventurous, ne Angre the not to moche.

B. to Bold, to Besy, and Bourde not to large.

C. to Curtes, to Cruel, and Care not to sore.

D. to Dulle, to Dredefulle, and Drynk not to oft.

E. to Ellynge, to Excellent, ne to Ernstfulle neyther.

F. to Ferse, ne to Familier, but Frendely of chere.

G. to Glad, to Gloryous, and Gelowsy thow hate.

H. to Hasty, to Hardy, ne to Hevy yn thyne herte.

J. to Jettyng, to Janglyng, and Jape not to oft.

K. to Keping, to Kynd, and ware Knaves tatches among.

L. to Lothe, to Lovyng, to Lyberalle of goodes.

M. to Medlus, to Mery, but as Maner asketh.

N. to Noyous, to Nyce, nor yet to Newefangle.

O. to Orpyd, to Ovyrthwarte, and Othes thou hate.

P. to Preysyng, to Privy, with Prynces ne with dukes.

Q. to Queynt, to Querelous, to Quesytife of questions.

R. to Ryetous, to Revelyng, ne Rage not to meche.

S. to Straunge, ne to Steryng, nor Stare not to brode.

T. to Taylous, to Talewyse, for Temperaunce ys best.

V. to Venemous, to Vengeable, and Wast not to myche.

W. to Wyld, to Wrothfulle, and Wade not to depe,

A mesurabulle meane Way is best for us alle."