« AnteriorContinuar »
this truth might be sounded again and again, wherever loose views of the subject of education are gaining influence. The grand aim of all education, which is not strictly professional, is to cultivate the powers of the mind, and not to furnish it with the materials of its operation. The primary object in the study of the Greek language, is the elevation of the mind itself — the refining of its taste — the quickening of its perception of beauty — the discipline of its powers of thought. These results are secured in a variety of ways. The study of the language itself furnishes an important discipline. The mind is brought to the investigation of a noble and highly cultivated tongue; to perceive and appreciate a great and symmetrical structure; to feel the nicest discriminations; to trace the subtle changes of signification, and form the bodily ear to the music of a language which made euphony its primary law.'
But we are disposed to regard these and other advantages as subordinate, and to view, as the main object, the perusal of Grecian literature. We have alluded to the riches which are treasured up in the monuments of Grecian mind, and we have no time to descant upon their value. Eulogy has been exhausted upon them, but they can be duly appreciated only in possession. We have now in view the effect which
. such a perusal is to have upon the mind itself; and we say comprehensively — it will cultivate a sense of beauty. This is enough: it is no light and dreamy refinement; it is one of the glories of the human mind — one of the foundations of greatness, and one of the securities of virtue.
We are not of those who can lavish upon the ancient classics unqualified praise. Mind has made achievements in our time, to which, in that age of its history, it was entirely unequal. In taste, in that power of imagination which moulds the objects of nature, and inakes them all speak the language of man,' and in the high perception of harmonies in language, we may safely accord to the ancient Greeks the praise of being unsurpassed. But in the higher range of thought and sentiment, and in the poetry of mind, (if we may use such an expression for that which is nameless,) they were children. The world is certainly advancing: the genius of Homer was wonderful in its time, but it could not anticipate the whole progress of the human mind. The tale of Troy divine,' and the story of the man of many wanderings,' are immortal poems; but our own Milton and Shakspeare, as they lived far on in the world's advancement, could not but do more. Homer had no power to compose the speeches of the fallen angels, or the soliloquies of Hamlet and his king.
We repeat it, then, the Greek classics should be read mainly to cultivate the sense of beauty. And how is this end to be gained ? We answer -- by an easy and rapid perusal. It is not until the painful labor of the school-boy is over — until the irksomeness of the college lesson has ceased to aiflict — until the sense of difficulty and fatigue is no longer associated with every thought of a page of Greek — that the reading of it can become a pleasure. While the page is dark to the
eye, and the question of roots and conjugations, rules and exceptions, perplexes the mind, the student cannot view the study as any thing else than a toil and a drudgery. But let this necessary introduction be past — let the language become so familiar that its
words shall convey their meaning directly to the mind, without the thought of their being foreign — let the student begin to read page after page with something of the ease and clearness of a vernacular tongue- and the fruit of his labors will appear. Let him repeat a book of the Iliad, until all thought of Lexicon, Commentary, obsolete roots, hard places,' etc., is excluded - until all associations of pain are gone and then is he prepared to enjoy the poem itself.
We believe we are far from encouraging any radical notions on the subject of education; but we must believe that our views of the real end which we should aim at in the study of the ancient classics are yet somewhat monkish. We derived the whole system from the monastery, and we have not shaken from it the dust and damps of the cell. The study of the Greek language, in itself, we have already allowed to be productive of important benefits; but we are not to aim at making all our educated men philologists. We are to instruct them in the general system, and teach them to use it. But to make the minute details of mere grammatical lore — such as a Buttman or a Porson have made the business of their lives — an essential part of a general education, is entirely disproportionate; it is to drive the pupil into the utmost ramifications of one department, and leave even ihe grand elements of a thousand others unknown. Philology is a science and a profession; the perusal of the Iliad is a means of general cultivation.
We do not forget that a language must be well understood, before the spirit of its literature can be appreciated. But the distinctive force of words, the signification of their various forms, and the fuil meaning of idiomatic expressions, are to be learned first from the general structure of the language, and then from careful and oft-repeated use. We learn but little of any existence from mere description, and of language (we might almost say) least of all. We have not begun, therefore, to derive the principal benefits from the reading of the Greek, until considerable portions of the best authors are so familiar as to be read with rapidity and pleasure.
To what extent it is possible to appreciate beauties hidden under the veil of a foreign, and perhaps a dead language, would form an interesting subject of inquiry. We cannot now enter upon it: suffice it to say, that it will always be impossible to decide precisely where the language of metaphor begins. In the following language of Othello, which we quote for want of time to find an instance more appropriate, how difficult would it be for a foreigner to feel the exact measure of the metaphoric use:
Had it pleased Heaven
A drop of patience.' But we hasten to consider the second of the topics above mentioned, namely - the best mode of acquiring the ancient Greek. To examine this point, is the leading object of the present inquiry. In reply to the question, How is the ancient Greek to be so acquired as to be read with ease and pleasure as a familiar tongue ?' We answer
acquisition of the MODERN GREEK. To this position, which may surprise some, and meet the opposition of many, we beg leave to call attention.
The Greek has long been termed a dead language. If it be so, then the English of Henry the Eighth is a dead language also. But we would not insist upon a word; let it be pronounced dead- - its descendant lives, bearing the features of the sire; so long as we find modern Greek what it is, we shall not be injured, even if it be declared to be no Greek. So far from regarding these as separate languages, we consider the modern tongue as presenting a wonderful instance of the preservation of a language through the shocks of revolution and national downfall. It is astonishing to observe the resemblance between the language in which the wild mountain songs of Grecian patriotism are now chanted, and that in which Homer tuned his lyre three thousand years ago. The Englishman reads the Faëry Queen' with pleasure, and the Greek of our day the Iliad. We need not dwell upon this resemblance, either for proof or illustration; so far as the written form of the language is concerned, it is matter, not of conjecture but of fact. The question of pronunciation furnishes room for opinion. But we are almost willing to rest this point upon a single inquiry: can any good reason be assigned for supposing that the pronunciation has changed more than the language itself? If not, we certainly are contented to learn that pronunciation from those whom nature has taught, rather than from the inventions of Erasmus. This topic, although not essential to our present subject, is full of interest. If among the voices of living men we may hear those very accents which once formed the magic of the lyre, roused the heroism of the battle-field, and commanded the applause of listening senates,' we may well be enthusiastic. Without entering, however, apon the discussion of this fruitful theme, we refer the reader to Mr. Pickering's able exhibition of it, and to a comparison of the corresponding words in the Latin, and even in the English
Whether the present pronunciation is that of ancient Greek or not, it is a real pronunciation, and this alone gives it interest and value. The intelligent scholar can never feel any satisfaction in reading Greek under a fictitious pronunciation. To us it is painful and mortifying. But give us a living one — taught by Nature, and heard in the mother tongue of the fellow being from whom we are to learn it and there is a satisfaction in the reality of our standard which fully repays the difficulty of its acquisition. We venture to say that the mere adoption of the modern pronunciation, if well taught, would throw a charm over the study of the Greek in our schools, of which we do not now dream.
But — what is more than all — the language of modern Greece may be learned as a spoken tongue. This is the great secret of the whole - a secret gradually working its way to the light, although clouded and repressed by the power of inveterate prejudice — that lan
guage, the child of Nature, is to be learned in the way which she bas • pointed out. Our notions on this point will undoubtedly be anticipated even on this suggestion, and denounced as Hamiltonian and empirical. For ourselves, we learned w.hat we know of Greek, in the old way; but we believe that the time is not distant when the man will undertake to vie with the infant in the rapid acquisition of language, and try the
order of Nature, instead of the order of Logic. The day, we believe, is nearly over, when the pupil must be sent to his grammar to learn a language as a philosopher, to march up throngh the grades of an artificial system before he begins to venture upon the reserved means of practice and familiar use; in short, to learn all the characteristics of the object, before he is allowed to have a sight of the object itself
. We shall find that the nearer we can approach in our method of learning any language to that in which we learned our mother tongue, the more speedy, as well as sure, will be our success. Whatever theory may dictate, the fact is, that the human mind is so formed as to acquire language in this way, and in this only, with success; the logical mode may seem most expeditious; but in the end it is not so. Modern languages are beginning to be studied more and more in this way; the living native teacher is employed, and the pupil is to acquire the language by hearing, speaking, and writing it
. The philosophy of a language is beginning to be studied after the language itself. But this method has not yet found favor, to any considerable extent, in the acquisition of Latin and Greek. From the want of the living teacher, we are obliged to make an approximation to the natural method, but even this has rarely been attempted. When it shall be discovered how rapid may be the advance of the learner, even in the ancient languages, who is compelled to use them in writing and speaking, even with a very slight knowledge of general laws; how such a pupil will outstrip the grammatical construer, and become at home in the language, while the latter is yet unfamiliarized and mechanical; the opposite course of instruction will be classed among the absurdities of those old philosophers, who, in philosophic conclave, enacted laws for Nature, and expected her to obey them.
The application of these remarks to the subject in hand will be obvious. In acquiring the modern Greek, we may employ the living teacher we may practice conversation and writing to any extent we may refer continually to use the norma loquendi; in a word, we may make it a familiar tongue, almost like our own, When this is done, (and it is not a fearful task, compared with the labor of working out the process reversed,) with what preparation do we approach the ancient Greek! The student is now prepared to understand the philosophy of the language; he can notice and classify the changes which have been wrought, and the very study of these changes is interesting. He reverts to the Attic writers and even to the Iliad, as the reader of English literature reverts to Spenser and Chaucer. We believe we do not exaggerate when we say, that the modern Greek peruses the Iliad with less difficulty than we do the poetry of Chaucer. And who is ready to allow that the Frenchman or the German can compete with the Englishman in interpreting the language of that poet, or that the foreigner can arrive at the understanding of it himself, in any way so surely as to learn first the English of the present day?
There is a charm to most men in a living and spoken language, which does not belong to the ancient. The study of the modern language is becoming more and more fashionable and popular. Native teachers are becoming more abundant, and, above all, we are taught in the way which call it lazy or superficial, if we will,) is the only way in which languages will long be learned. So pleasing is this way to the learner, and so unsuccessful is its opposite, even when years have been consumed, in securing any thing like a comfortable and gratifying readiness, that unless it can be applied to the Latin and Greek, these languages will cease to be read, except under the compulsion of the master, and the field of their literature will be in effect forsaken.
Greece is attracting to itself more and more the attention of civilized nations. Its language will become an object of interest, and the knowledge of it a means of usefulness. As it rises to importance and influence, its literature will become valuable, and those who study the modern Greek, will have at once an avenue to this interesting field, and a key to the treasures of antiquity. The emigration of native Greeks will, ere long, furnish teachers; and their presence, as it will afford unlimited means of improvement, will give a powerful stimulus to the prosecution of their language. When our fellow citizens shall converse in the modern Greek as readily and as frequently as they now do in French, may we not expect the writers of ancient Greece to be read as well as praised, and to assist in forming the taste of our age?
If this be visionary, we have only to say that the reading of the classics in this noble language, to such an extent as to forin the taste of our educated men, will be unknown. Our enterprising community will never engage with the Germans in the cloistered study of monkish lore, or repay those who may do it. We have no motive to do so. In those countries where the avenues to distinction and wealth are closed against the common aspirant, men will torture almost any study for fame. But here it is not so; and the pursuit which does not meet the wants and disposition of the age, will be abandoned.
We might allude to the power which the cultivation of the modern Greek would undoubtedly give in the critical interpretation of the ancient writers. It cannot be that the long labors, even of a Heyne or Wolf, will rival in all respects the quick perception of a native in his own tongue. We should certainly expect an ordinary reader to be a safer interpreter of Spenser, than the acutest Frenchman who should comment upon it in his closet, with his English Dictionary and Grammar.
The modern Greek, as spoken by the natives, is a mellifluous tongue. But how would an old Athenian wonder to hear our scholars utter the language of Euripides or Demosthenes! He probably would not recognise the language as his own. The charms of a musical and anthorized pronunciation would add so much to our interest in the Greek, that we cannot but feel that the adoption of the present pronunciation of that language would amply reward the additional labor of acquiring it. Aside from our desire to converse in French, who would feel content to read the French literature in an English pronunciation ?
But although we believe that the ancient Greek is to be learned through the medium of the modern, if it is to be extensively understood, and that this will yet be seen to be the speediest and surest, and even the only truly successful course, the time has not arrived in which it is to be generally adopted. We would therefore conclude our remarks upon this subject, by suggesting a few thoughts respecting such improvements in the teaching of the ancient Greek, as may admit of immediate application. As we have already intimated, a considerable