THE SCHOOLBOY ABROAD
IN his fourteenth year young Martin left the narrow scenes of childhood and went forth into a wider world of experience. Probably at Easter, 1496 1 he set out from the valley of Mansfeld to carry on his schooling at Magdeburg, thirty miles to the north. The largest city of the region, Magdeburg lay strategically in the valley of the Elbe and dominated the country round about as the center of a lively trade and the seat of a bishop, as well as through the prestige of its churches and schools. The departure from home must have been a great adventure for the lad, but it was quite in accord with the spirit of the times. The wandering schoolboy, an heir of the vagrant scholars of the Middle Ages, was not an unusual sight on the highways of Saxony in a day when a great wave of school reform was spreading over Central Europe. Thomas Platter's autobiography pictures the troops of youths swarming along the German roads, many of them hundreds of miles from home, seeking food from charity and lodging wherever they could. Wandering was in the blood of the later Middle Ages. Schoolboys adapted themselves to it and fitted together into a social organization like that which had grown up among another class of wanderers, the artisans of the cities. The schools too had their apprentices, their journeymen, and their master-workmen. An older boy, the bacchante, was attended by a group of satellite fags, or Schützen, who begged and stole to keep their elders in food, receiving in return protection from other boys and perhaps a crust of bread or a bit of fish from such store as they collected. As the "New Learning" brought especial fame to certain schools, large numbers of scholars were often attracted from distant parts of Middle Europe and made serious trouble for school authorities and city fathers.
A system like this involved a cruel waste of life. Martin, however, escaped____________________