Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

the most necessary, if not all the common rules of grammar, with an example or two under each of them : and some of the select and most useful periods or sentences in the Latin or Greek author which he reads may be learnt by heart, together with some of the choicer lessons out of their poets; and sometimes whole episodes out of heroic poems, &c. as well as whole odes among the lyrics may deserve this honour.

XI. Let this be always carefully observed, that the learners perfectly understand the sense as well as the language of all those rules, lessons, or paragraphs which they attempt to commit to memory. Let the teacher possess them of their true meaning, and then the labour will bem come easy and pleasant : whereas to impose on a child to get by heart a long scroll of unknown phrases or words, without any ideas under them, is a piece of useless tyranny, a cruel imposition, and a practice fitter for a jack-daw or a parrot, than for any thing that wears the shape of a man.

XII. And here I think I have a fair occasion given me to consider that question which has been often debated in conversation, viz. Whether the teaching of a school full of boys to learn Latin by the Heathen poets, as Ovid in his Epistles, and the silly fables of his Metamorphoses, Horace, Juvenal, and Martial, in their impure odes, satires, and epigrams, &c. is so proper and agreeable a practice in a Christian country?

XIII. (1.) I GRANT the language and style of those men, who wrote in their own native tongue, must be more pure and perfect in some nice elegancies and peculiarities, than modern writers of other nations who have imitated them; and it is owned also, that the beauties of their poesy may much excel : but in either of these things, boys cannot be supposed to be much improved or injured by one or the other.

XIV.(2.) It shall be confessed too, that modern poets, in every living language, have brought into their works so many words, epithets, phrases, and metaphors, from the Heathen fables and stories of their gods and heroes, that, in

order various

be an

order to understand these modern writers, it is necessary to know a little of those ancient follies : but it

may swered, that a good dictionary, or such a book as the Pantheon, or history of those Gentile deities, &c. may give sufficient information of those stories, so far as they are necessary and useful to school-boys.

XV. (3.) I will grant yet further, that lads, who are designed to make great scholars or divines, may, by reading these Heathen poets, be taught better to understand the writings of the ancient fathers against the Heathen religion; and they learn here what ridiculous fooleries the Gentile nations believed as the articles of their faith, what wretched and foul idolatries they indulged and practised as duties of religion, for want of the light of divine revelation. But this perhaps may be learnt as well either by the Pantheon, , or some other collection, at school ; or after they have left the school, they may read what their own inclinations lead them to, and whatsoever of this kind may be really useful for them.

XVI. But the great question is, Whether all these advantages, which have been mentioned, will compensate for the long months and years

that are wasted

among

their incredible and trifling romances, their false and shameful stories of the gods and goddesses, and their amours, and the lewd heroes and vicious poets of the Heathen world? Can these idle and ridiculous tales be of

any

real and solid advantage in human life? Do they not too often defile the mind with vain, mischievous, and impure ideas? Do they uot stick long upon the fancy, and leave an unhappy influence upon youth? Do they not tincture the imagination with folly and vice very early, and pervert it from all that is good and holy?

XVII. Upon the whole survey of things, it is my opinion, that for almost all boys who learn this tongue, it would be much safer to be taught Latin poesy (as soon and as far as they can need it) from those excellent translations of David's Psalms, which are given us by Buchanan in the

various measures of Horace; and the lower classes had better read Dr Johnston's translation of these psalms, another elegant writer of the Scots nation, instead of Ovid's Epistles; for he has turned the same psalms, perhaps with greater elegancy, into elegiac verse, whereof the learned W. Benson, Esq. has lately published a noble edition, and I hear that these psalms are honoured with an increasing use in the schools of Holland and Scotland. A stanza, or a couplet of these writers, would now and then stick upon the minds of youth, and would furnish them infinitely better with pious and moral thoughts, and do something towards making them good men and Christians.

XVIII. A LITTLE book collected from the psalms of both these translators, Buchanan and Johnston, and a few other Christian poets, would be of excellent use for schools to begin their instructions in Latin poesy; and I am well assured this would be richly sufficient for all those in lower rank, who never design a learned profession, and yet custom has foolishly bound them to learn that language.

But lest it should be thought hard to cast Horace and Virgil, Ovid and Juvenal, entirely out of the schools, I add, if here and there a few lyric odes, or pieces of satires, or some episodes of heroic verse, with here and there an epigram of Martial, all which shall be clear and pure from the stains of vice and impiety, and which may inspire the mind with noble sentiments, fire the fancy with bright and warm ideas, or teach lessons of morality and prudence, were chosen out of those ancient Roman writers for the use of the schools, and were collected and printed in one moderate volume, or two at the most, it would be abundantly sufficient provision out of the Roman poets for the instruction of boys in all that is necessary in that age of life.

Surely Juvenal himself would not have the face to vindicate the masters who teach boys his 6th satire, and many paragraphs of several others, when he himself has charged us,

Nil dictu fædum visuque, hæc limina tangat
Intra que puer est.

[blocks in formation]

Suffer no lewdness, nor indecent speech,
Thapartment of the tender youth to reach.

DRYDEN.

Thus far in answer to the foregoing question.

But I retire ; for Mr Clark of Hull, in his treatise of education, and Mr Philips, preceptor to the duke of Cumberland, has given more excellent directions for learning Latin.

XIX. WHEN a language is learnt, if it be of any use at all, it is pity it should be forgotten again. It is proper, therefore, to take all just opportunities to read something frequently in that language, when other necessary and important studies will give you leave. As in learning any tongue, dictionaries, which contain words and phrases, should be always at hand, so they should be ever kept within reach by persons who would remember a tongue which they have learnt. Nor should we at any time content ourselves with a doubtful guess at the sense or meaning of any words which occur, but consult the dictionary which may give us certain information, and thus secure us from mistake. It is mere sloth which makes us content ourselves with uncertain guesses ; and indeed this is neither safe nor useful for persons who would learn any language or science, or have a desire to retain what they have acquired.

XX. WHEN you have learnt one or many languages evet so perfectly, take heed of priding yourself in these acquisitions : they are but mere treasures of words, or instruments of true and solid knowledge, and whose chief design is to lead us into an acquaintance with things, or to enable us the more easily to convey those ideas or that knowledge to others. An acquaintance with the various tongues is no thing else but a relief against the mischief which the building of Babel introduced : and were I master of as many languages as were spoken at Babel, I should make but a poor pretence to true learning or knowledge, if I had not clear and distinct ideas, and useful notions in my head under the words which my tongue could pronounce. Yet so unhappy

a

a thing is human nature, that this sort of knowledge of sounds and syllables is ready to puff up the mind with vanity, more than the most valuable and solid improvements of it. The pride of a grammarian or a critic generally ex, ceeds that of a philosopher.

[merged small][ocr errors]

ܪ

Of inquiring into the Sense and Meaning of any Writer or

Speaker, and especially the sense of the Sacred Writings. It is a great unhappiness that there is such an ambiguity in words and forms of speech, that the same sentence may be drawn into different significations; whereby it comes to pass that it is difficult sometimes for the reader exactly to hit upon the ideas which the writer or speaker had in his mind. Some of the best rules to direct us herein are such as these.

I. Be well acquainted with the tongue itşelf, or language wherein the author's mind is expressed. Learn not only the true meaning of each word, but the sense which those words obtain when placed in such a particular situation and order. Acquaint yourself with the peculiar power and emphasis of the several modes of speech, and the various idioms of the tongue. The secondary ideas, which custom has superadded to many words, should also be known, as well as the particular and primary meaning of them, if we would understand any writer. See Logic, Part I. Chap. 4. § 3.

II. CONSIDER the signification of those words and phrases, more especially in the same nation, or near the same age in which that writer lived, and in what sense they are used by authors of the same nation, opinion, sect, party, &c.

Upon this account, we may learn to interpret several phrases of the New Testament out of that version of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which is called the Septuagint; for though that version be very imperfect and defective in

many

F

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »