Beggars and Scholars

Last evening, I invited the young monk, Michael Sattler, to the Hog’s Snout.  Though I could see that he longed to accept, at first, he was reluctant.
But the University forbids ale houses,” he said.  

“There’s a room in the back kept for students.  If we cause no trouble, we are left to ourselves.  Of course, no liquor or wine will be served to us.”

“What time?”

“We all have to be in our lectures in the morning at six,” I said, “so no one idles about in the night.  Come to the alehouse at five this afternoon.  Hubmaier will be there, perhaps Fabri, and Zell.  My coterie of companions will fit you like a glove.”

“I must be in my room at the Abbot’s by eight on the clock.”

From this I learned that, because his monastery, St. Peter’s of the Black Forest, has no university house, he has been given a room in the back of the Abbot’s townhouse. 

These are grand accommodations.  The rumor is that nineteen craftsman’s cottages were torn down to make room for the abbot’s gardens.  Though Brother Michael says that the monastic guest rooms do not compare to the luxury of the rest of the house, surely he is more comfortable than Zell and I, who share a tiny, dirty room in a boarding house.

The worst thing about our house is that all the other boarders–and there are many–seem to have young, urchin boys to attend them.  In a university town, these homeless boys are as common as the stray dogs from whom they often try to take food. 

The odious practice is that a university student will agree to teach the boy in exchange for his services.  Frequently, the boy is even given away by his family in a desperate hope that he may somehow be educated, for no one is so poor that he does not know that education is a necessity in this modern world.  

Instead, it often happens that the poor unfortunate is driven by his so-called scholar master to beg and steal for the both of them.  He is beaten and abused, forced to sleep in the barn or on the stoop.  These boys are called “shooters”.  My friend, Fabri, was once such a boy, so hungry that he would sweep the taverns just to pick the crumbs from the floorboards.

Which explains what happened at the Hog’s Snout last night. 

 For more on the destitute life of shooters, see The Autobiography of Johannes Butzbach and  The Autobiography of Thomas Platter. 

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