Bevis Hillier, Young Betjeman
(London: John Murray, 1988; rpt. London: Cardinal, 1989), pp. 103-104:
The first Malburnian poem certainly by John appeared in the issue of 26 March 1923. A pastiche of Thomas Moore's 'The Minstrel Boy', it was aimed at the classics as taught by old Mr Emery, the Fifth Form master, two of whose favourite phrases, 'You little owl!' and 'You won't get on!' were mocked.
The Classical boy to his Fifth has gone,
In the chairs at the top you'll find him,
Pondering over his Xenophon,
For which the Lord designed him.
You little owl! quoth the master stern
Who out of the window starest,
When will the difference you discern
Between the present and aorist?
The Scholar gazed with a look of alarm
And he murmured the wrong translation
But a volume of Vergil under his arm
Gave him classical consolation.
'For two long terms have I taught this form
But it brings my proud soul under.
You won't get on,' did the master storm
In a classical clap of thunder.
"Mr Emery" was Cecil Antonio Emery (1873-1931).