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English Boys Play Ball "To the Grave Peril of Their Souls"

Salience Noteworthy

A letter written by Robert Braybroke laid out the palpable risks of ball-playing: "Certain [boys], also, good for nothing in their insolence and idleness, instigated by evil minds and busying themselves rather in doing harm than good, throw and shoot stones, arrows, and different kinds of missiles at the rooks, pigeons, and other birds nesting in the walls and porches of the church and perching [there]. Also they play ball inside and outside the church and engage in other destructive games there, breaking and greatly damaging the glass windows and the stone images of the church . . . .This they do not without great offense to God and our church and to the prejudice and injury of us as well as to the grave peril of their souls." And the sanction for such play? "We . . . proclaim solemnly that any malefactors whatever of this kind [including churchyard merchants as well as young ballplayers] whom it is possible to catch in the aforesaid actions after this our warning have been and are excommunicated . . . ."

Crow, Martin M., and Clair C. Olson, eds., "Chaucer's World" [Columbia University Press, New York, 1948], pp. 48-49. Submitted by John Thorn, 10/12/2004.

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