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the Greek Olympiads saved the chronology of the world. To five verses of a Roman tragedian” we may be indebted for the hemisphere we inhabit—to as many lines of a Roman historian,t we must look for the first notice of the existence of our ancestors. Thither or to kindred sources must be traced all the early annals of those countries, which now fill the world with their names—Germany, Gaul, Spain, and the nations of the east, once the barbarous provinces of that mighty people whose blood runs in the veins of the whole earth, as their language has intermingled its syllables of conquest with the vocabularies of the globe. We do not apprehend for America what has been, perhaps with some justice, a subject of complaint in England, any evil from overstrained attention to the mere mechanical portions of a classical education. The mischief with us is of a contrary character. School-boys have not enough to do with rudiments to facilitate their subsequent progress. They are expected to feel before they are taught to understand. They are forced round the circle of liberal study within too short a period, and during too tender an age. What should be a taste is a mere task. They thumb the AEneid into dog's-ears, when they should be scratching their Priscian, and their reminiscences of the most delicate, original, and philosophical of the Roman poets, lead them only to the “Horace whom they hated so.” Considering the number of students yearly graduated by our fifty colleges, the instances of accurate and comprehensive scholarship, or of learned study performed in after life, are surprisingly few—though the surprise is much qualified when we consider the peculiarity of our institutions, and our defective system of instruction. Books enough are read, if they were properly read, to do all that can be done by boys at a public seminary. We believe that there is not so much difference in the quantity of matter gone over, between the English schools and our own, as is generally supposed.
* —“venient annis
Secula seris, quibus Oceanus
Vincula rerum laxet, et ingens
Pateat tellus, Tiphysque novos
Detegat orbes: nec sit terris ultima Thule.”
, Senec. in Medea, Act. I, Vers. 374. + “Ex his omnibus,” (says Caesar, having mentioned the geographical situation
of the island, and the divisions of its inhabitants,) “longe sunt humanissimi qui Cantium incolunt: quae regio est maritima omnis; neque multum a Gallica differunt consuetudine. Interiores plerique frumenta non serunt, sed lacte et carne vivunt; pellibusque sunt vestiti: Omnes vero se Britanni vitro inficiunt, quod caeruleum ef. ficit colorem. Atque hoc horridiore sunt in pugma adspectu: Capilloque sunt promisso; atque omni parte corporis rasa praeter caput, et labrum superius. Uxores habent deni duodenique inter se communes, et maxime fratres cum fratribus parentesque cum liberis: sed, si qui sunt ex his nati, eorum habentur liberi quo primum virgo quaeque deducta est.” (De bell. Gall. W. 14.) A picture which, (disgusting as it is both in its moral and physical aspect,) conveys no mean lesson to the curious speculator,
A boy in America is generally placed at college at fourteen, ready, as is presumed, to enter upon the reading of the easier Latin and Greek authors—Livy and Homer, for instance. To these he is supposed to devote one-third of the time appropriated by the college rules to study. The remaining two-thirds are occupied, not in kindred pursuits,” but in mathematics, and some third branch, perhaps modern geography. He has no private tutor to direct his studies, but forms one of a class of twenty or thirty, as the case may be, with whom he has no necessary communication, except that they meet for recitation at a stated hour Once a day, in each branch of study. The tutor appears, and if the grammatical construction of the author in hand be correct, “verbum verbo reddens,” he opens not his mouth. He comes to hear, not to teach, and having dragged round the circle of monotonous voices from A to Z, until he himself becomes as insensible of the beauties of his class-book as his pupils, he gives the signal, and his thirty boys rush to the light of day, wise in the words of Homer or Sallust, but quite ignorant of their spirit and characteristics.t We appeal to those whose experience can prompt them, if this is not a fair representation of the routine of college recitations in the classics. Enough is seldom done, (whether the fault lie with the tutor or the rules under which he acts, it matters little), to aid the intellectual or imaginative part of the exercise. As it is folly, so far as the poetry of the author is concerned, to set a young school boy to translate Virgil, so is it folly, having placed Horace in the hands of a collegian, not to teach him what Horace means. Each recitation should be accompanied with something by way of lecture to open the beauties of the author—to explain points of geography, chronology, and mythology, and particularly to trace the exquisite appositeness of classic customs—the connexion of the real with the ideal, which so entirely distinguished the ancient manners, particularly of the Greeks, from those of the moderns–-a branch of learning, by the way, in which all our systems of antiquities are deficient. The pupil stands up with his dry translation, varegated only by his gleanings from the notes, (which themselves sometimes want explanation), “in Usuta Delphini.” Generally he is satisfied with this skeleton mode of complying with the requisitions of his teachers; but if he is a boy of any fancy, he will sometimes warm up in spite of all disadvantages, and feeling something of the soul of his author, give a free, spirited, and
poetic version of a beautiful passage, which is immediately and charitably considered as “cribbed” from a translation, and the offender marked accordingly. We speak with the experience gained from our own Alma Mater, not the least distinguished in America, when we say that few even of the most accurate readers—those who bear off the college honours—get beyond the surface of the classics, or seem at all aware of the mighty ashes over which they so recklessly tread. Nor is it possible that they should be; for aside from the heavy and torpid system of recitation, upon which we have already animadverted, their time is so subdivided by a variety of pursuits, that they can but touch upon any thing. How is it possible for a boy properly to investigate a long exercise in a difficult classic, when his attention has been wearied by an abstruse demonstration, or dazzled by a brilliant experiment, and that too at a period of life when the faculties are immature, and the constitution unformed. Out of a professor’s chair there is scarcely a scholar, properly so called, in America; and we very much question, if in that elevated situation there are many persons who have so cultivated the essence and spirit of Greece and Rome, that they could, on any emergency, furnish a copy of Latin verses equal to one of the Oxford prize poems, or the elegant trifles of some of the British magazines, to say nothing of the higher flights of Fracastoro or Johannes Secundus. We know well the demands of parents, and how too many of them judge of education as gluttons do of feasts, not by the capacity to imbibe and digest, but by the number and quantity of dishes to stimulate rather than satisfy the appetite. It would be vastly better for their sons, and certainly less unjust towards their teachers, that they should be taught the elements of their mother tongue and the arts of practical life at home, than thus to run after the shadow of liberal learning. The bowls of the muses (Apuleius said it before Pope) should be drained, or had better not be tasted.
It may be easier to suggest these evils than to remedy them,
but we do anew submit, with all proper freedom, that boys should be classified otherwise than chronologically—that some effort should be made to discover latent propensities and peculiar aptitudes, and that when found they should be fostered and encouraged by an appropriate course of instruction and reading. It is the experience of every day, and the testimony of almost every individual, that predispositions and disgusts do exist, and constantly colour and bias the pursuits of life. Without vouching Ovid and Correggio, lest the extreme temperament of a poet and a painter may be held an unfair example, look at Bayle. The most accomplished critic of his time could never demonstrate a proposition of Euclid. He says it himself. Gibbon, whose name is his eulogy as a most comprehensive linguist, absolutely hated
the exact sciences, and gave them over in despair. So did Fu-
*The predilection of D'Alembert, on the other hand, for the exact sciences, was so great, that it overcame all the efforts of his early teachers, and impelled him, on after he commenced the study of a profession, to beg back one by one the ma" omial books which he had intrusted to a friend, for the very purpose of placing himselfbeyond the temptation to use them.
the servour of an ardent mind excited by a lofty subject.” It would be easy to follow this subject sarther, but we are only suggesting a topic, not writing a treatise. It is a knowledge of classical literature, founded on an acquaintance with its incalculable importance, and a perception of its genial beauties, which we would inculcate—a love of that Egerian spirit which meets the scholar in his silent chamber, and like the nymph of Numa, not only glads him with her presence, but inspires him with those counsels which ennoble and enrich him. Mr. Grimké has spoken of translations, as being fully adequate to convey to the student all the necessary knowledge to be found in the works of the ancients. Considered as a substitute for the originals, they certainly communicate a knowledge of facts; and if facts were all we wanted, they might be deemed sufficient. But unless our previous argument has been lamentably deficient, a simple barren knowledge of events furnishes but a small portion of the inducements to the study of the classics. Even were it a mere question of time, if the ancients are worth reading at all they will repay their acquisition in the original. Euclid may perhaps be read in English as well as in his own language, but we do not now remember another author of either Greece or Rome of whom we can say the same, not even excepting Vitruvius or Columella. The truth is, that translation is principally valued by judicious critics, not as supplying the place of originals, but as enriching the language of the translator with new combinations, and its poetry with a vast accession of images. Our principal and popular version of Homer is a remarkable ilJustration of this position in both its branches, which, by the way, is more and more applicable the farther we get from the simplest style of narration. An English Herodotus may be tolerable, but an English Euripides is impossible. “A very pretty poem, yours, Mr. Pope,” said Bentley, “but you must not call it Homer;” and Dennis varied the sarcasm, though he equally adhered to the truth, when he said that it was “well called Pope’s Homer, for it was nothing like Homer’s Homer.” Yet while it is hardly a translation, it is the best translated poem in the universe, though we know not whether it has done more good by attracting readers to the original, or more harm by sending them away from it, disappointed with its stern majesty when compared with the exuberant efflorescence of the copy. The words of an author are the embodied substance, not the mere echo of his thoughts. They are as much a part of his composition as the ideas they represent. The best authors are therefore
*So far is it from being deemed necessary, at some of our institutions, that the student should go out of his text book, that the doors of the college library are actually barred against him for two years after he is matriculated.