Imatges de pàgina
PDF
EPUB

HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF CLASSICAL STUDIES. THE Greek and Latin tongues, with the literature to which these tongues are the keys, obtained their foothold in the schools of Christian natione, not because the study of a dead language was the best mental discipline for young students, or the only means of their acquiring a masterly freedom in the use of their own tongue, but because at the time they were introduced into schools, as branches of study, they were the languages of educated men, and were employed for public business, literature, pliilosophy, science and religion. Once introduced, they have retained their position partly for the same reasons, and partly by the influence of endowments and the force of habit.

Greek Language. It arose from the relations in which the Greek and Latin languages have stood, in the past, to the whole higher life, intellectual and moral, literary and scientific, civil and religious, of Western Europe. Greeks and Romans, as well as Jews, are our spiritual ancestors. They left treasures of recorded thought, word, and deed, by the timely and judicious use of which their heirs have become the leaders of mankind. But they left them in custody of their native tongues.

After Alexander, the Greek tongue spread widely through the East, and became the means of blending Oriental with Western modes of thought. Commerce prepared the way for liberal intercourse. Ideas were exchanged freely with reciprocal advantage. But the Greek, offering new philosophy for old religion, obtained for Europe the more precious gift

Χρύσεα χαλκείων, εκατόμβοι έννεηβοίων. No faith attracted more attention than that of the Jews. Their sacred books were carefully translated into the Greek language, and afterwards, by fanciful adaptation, and by real insigbt, expressed in terms of Greek thought. Greek philosophy, meanwhile, embracing with reverence the long-sought wisdom of the East, went beyond the measure of Pythagoras, Socrates, or Plato, and often beyond the guidance of sober reason, in ascetic abstraction from the things of sense, and ardent longing after spiritual truth.

Christianity itself had Greek for its mother-tongue. St. Paul, a Roman citizen, writes in Greek to the Christians of Rome. The Epistle to the Hebrews is Greek, and so is that of St. James " to the twelve tribes scattered abroad."

For great part of three centuries, the churches of the West were mostly "Greek religious colonies.”+ Their language, their organization, their liturgy, their Scriptures, were Greek. The Apostolic Fathers, the apologists and historians of the early church, the great theologians, orthodox and heretic, wrote and spoke Greek. The proceedings of the first seven Councils were carried on, and the speculative form of the Christian faith defined, in that language. It

• This article is mainly from an “ Essay on the History of Classical Education," in McMillan"s Essays on Liberal Studies. 1867, by Charles Stuart Parker. The author refers to Von Raumer, and Schmidt, for his material. t Milman's Latin Christianity, i. 27.

It is significant that the word liturgy is Greek, as are hymn, psalm, homily, and catechism, baptism and eucharist, priest, bishop, and pope.

was hardly possible to handle the profounder questions in any other. Augustine is at a loss for words to speak of them in Latin. Seven centuries later Anselm undertakes the task with diffidence; nor is it clear whether in his own judgment he succeeds or fails.

Thus, when Christianity became the State religion, and the emperor, in such broken language as he could command, took a modest part in the discussions of Nicæa, it was a last and signal spiritual triumph of captive Greece over Rome.

The ancient Church encouraged the study of heathen literature, but with a paramount regard to morality and Christian truth. Plato, Cicero, and Quintilian had pointed out the danger of using the poets indiscriminately as schoolbooks; and the Father who slept with Aristophanes under his pillow would not have placed him in the hands of boys. But even Tertullian allowed Christian boys to attend the public schools under pagan masters.

Origen made the study of heathen poets and moralists preparatory to that of higher Christian truth. His master, Clement, taught that philosophy was the testament or dispensation given to the Greeks, the schoolmaster to bring them, as the Mosaic law brought the Jews, to Christ. And his teaching was generally accepted. To this day " along the porticoes of Eastern churches, both in Greece and Russia, are to be seen portrayed on the walls the figures of Homer, Thucydides, Pythagoras, and Plato, as pioneers preparing the way for Christianity." When Julian forbade the Christians to institute public schools of rhetoric and literature, in which pagan authors might be read, the bishops protested.

During this first Christian age, Greek was the common language of literature, while Latin, after Tacitus and Pliny, rapidly declined. The “Meditations” of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius are composed in the vernacular of the freedman Epictetus. No Latin names can be placed beside those of Lucian and Plutarch, Arrian and Dion Cassius, Ptolemy and Galen. At Athens and Alexandria, the great conservative and liberal universities, studies in grammar and criticism were conducted side by side with philosophy and science. In both alike the Greek tongue was employed. Of all the considerable intellectual production which went on throughout the Roman world, jurisprudence alono was Latin.

Latin Language. If Greek was the chosen language which carried literature, science, and wisdom, Christian, as well as heathen, to the highest pitch in the ancient world, Latin also was an appointed means of transferring them to Western Europe.

The imperial art of Rome laid the solid foundations on which, when the flood of barbarism began to subside, much of the old fabric was laboriously reconstructed, before the thoughts of man took a wider range. In Spain and Gaul Latin became the mother tongue. But in uneducated mouths it resumed that process of decay and regeneration, the natural life of a language spoken and not written, which only literature can arrest. Hence in time, Italians, as well as Spaniards and French, bad to learn book-Latin as a foreign language. It was to them what the writings of our forefathers would be to us, if “ Englisc" literature excelled English as Roman did “Romance." But other than literary interests maintained the old Latin as a common language beside the provincial dialects of the new.

The laws of the Western Empire, the last and greatest product of the ancient Roman mind, were adopted by the Gothic, Lombard, and Carlovingian dynasties, and in the twelfth century the first great European school at Bologna was thronged by students of Roman law. At one time there were twenty thousand, from different countries, dividing their attention between civil and canon law, the Pandects and the Decretals. Both were studied with a view to advancement in life, but especially to Church preferment.

Indeed it may be said, with as much truth as is required in metaphor, that the ark which carried through the darkest age, together with its own sacred treasures, the living use of ancient Latin, and some tradition of ancient learn. ing, was the Christian Church.

What at first had been everywhere a Greek became in Western Europe a Latin religion. The discipline of Rome maintained the body of doctrine which the thought of Greece had defined. A new Latin version, superseding alike tbe venerable Greek translation of the Old Testament and the original words of Evangelists and Apostles, became the received text of Holy Scripture. The Latin Fathers acquired an authority scarcely less binding. The ritual, les sons, and hymns of the Church were Latin. Ecclesiastics transacted the business of civil departments requiring education. Libraries were armories of the Church: grammar was part of her drill. The humblest scholar was enlisted in her service: she recruited her ranks by founding Latin schools." Education in the rudiments of Latin," says Hallam, "was imparted to a greater number of individuals than at present;" and, as they had more use for it than at pres ent, it was longer retained. If a boy of humble birth had a taste for letters, or if a boy of high birth bad a distaste for arms, the first step was to learn Latin. His foot was then on the ladder. He might rise by the good offices of his family to a bishopric, or to the papacy itself by merit and the grace of God. Latin enabled a Greek from Tarsus (Theodore) to become the founder of learning in the English church; and a Yorkshireman (Alcuin) to organize the schools of Charlemagne. Without Latin, our English Winfrid (St. Boniface) could not have been apostle of Germany and reformer of the Frankish Church; or the German Albert, master at Paris of Thomas Aquinas; or Nicholas Breakspeare, Pope of Rome. With it, Western Christendom was one vast field of labor: calls for self-sacrifice, or offers of promotion, might come from north or south, from east or west.

Thus in the Middle Ages Latin was made the groundwork of education; not for the beauty of its classical literature, nor because the study of a dead language was the best mental gymnastic, or the only means of acquiring a masterly freedom in the use of living tongues, but because it was the language of educated men throughout Western Europe, employed for public business, literature, philosophy, and science; above all, in God's providence, essential to the unity, and therefore enforced by the authority, of the Western Church.

But the Latin of the Middle Ages was not classical, and in the West Greek became an unknown tongue. Cicero did less to form style than Jerome; Plato was forgotten in favor of Augustine ; Aristotle alone, translated out of Greek into Syriac, out of Syriac into Arabic, out of Arabic into Latin, and in Latin purged of every thing offensive to the mediæval mind, had become in the folios of Thomas Aquinas a buttress, if not a pillar, of the Christian Church.

GREEK LITERATURE IN ENGLAND. In England, Greek literature had neither died out so soon, nor was so slow to revive, as in other countries. The question between Latin and the mother. tongue was coinplicated for a time by the rival claims of Norman and Saxon, Latin being construed in grammar schools into French till about 1350. The Norman conquest also tended to mark strongly the contrast between the gen. tleman and the scholar. Hallam supposes that in 1400, or a generation later, an English gentleman of the first class would usually have "a slight tincture of Latin.” But about the earlier date Piers Plowman bitterly complains that "every cobbler's son and beggar's brat gets book-learning, and such wretches become bishops, and lords' sons and knights crouch to them.” He thinks that lords should make bishops of their own brothers' children.' Probably nowhere did the Christian religion do more than in England to exalt them of low degree; and nowhere were gentlemen less disposed to humble themselves to be scholars, that they might be exalted to be bishops. The universities were much frequented by the sons of yeoman; and in the monastery and cathedral schools, and large parish-schools, any peasant boy of good capacity might learn Latin free of expense.

In the reign of Richard II., indeed, a petition was presented to Parliament by certain lords, praying that children of serfs and the lower sort might not be sent to school, and particularly to the schools of monasteries, wherein many were trained as ecclesiastics, and thence rose to dignities in the state. But the clergy were strong enough to defend the cause of the poor. One of the most disgraceful acts for making agricultural labor compulsory, ends with the proviso that "every man and woman of what estate or condition that he be, sball be free to set their son or daughter to take learning at any manner school that pleaseth them within the realm.”

Gentlemen took care that their sons should learn "courtesy," to ride, sing, play upon the lute and virginals, perform feats of arms, dance, carve, and wait at table, where they might hear the conversation (sometimes French or Latin), and study the manners of great men. In some of the great houses there were masters of grammar to teach Latin to the "young gentlemen of the household.” Also many gentlemen studied at the inns of court, and some at foreign universities.

A letter from Pace to Colet, about the year 1500, shows the tone of another class of gentlemen. One is represented as breaking out at table into abuse of letters. "I swear,” he says, “rather than my son should be bred a scholar, he should hang. To blow a neat blast on the horn, to understand hunting, to carry a hawk handsomely, and train it, that is what becomes the son of a gentleman : but as for book-learning, he should leave that to louts."

It is stated by a recent historian, that, as late as the reign of Edward VI. there were peers of Parliament unable to read. Well might Roger Ascham exclaim, “The fault is in yourselves, ye noblemen's sons, and therefore ye de. serve the greater blame, that commonly the meaner men's children come to be the wisest councilors, and greatest doers, in the weighty affairs of this realm."

The two great schools founded before the revival, Winchester (1386), and Eton (1440), were on one model, being intended to lay a grammatical foundation for the studies of New College, and of King's. No record of the course of training in those days has been preserved. In Wolsey's Statutes (drafted before 1447) for the Ipswich Grammar School, which was to prepare students for his college at Oxford, there is no mention of verses or of Greek.

An account of Eton in 1560 shows what the school had become a quarter of a century after the appointment of Udall as head-master. The sixth form alone learn Greek grammar. The younger boys read Terence, Cicero (Sturm's selection), Vives, and Lucian in Latin. Among the books of the upper forms, besides the Ovid, Virgil, Horace, Catullus, and Martial of modern days, are Cæsar, Lucan, and the epigrams of More.

Verses are written on subjects such as might still be set in the lower forms. There is some attempt to go to nature for poetic inspiration. Before writing on “the flowery pleasantness of spring," the boys are sent out at break of day to gather branches of maythorn, taking care not to wet their feet. In "fruitbearing autumn" the plentiful crops must be imagined and described before nutting is allowed. The verse was Latin, with an exception in favor of the gaiety of spring, which was allowed to vent itself in simple English, as still, when his heart is most full, an Eton boy may bid his school farewell in the unpracticed accents of his mother-tongue. The other exercises were declamations, themes, versions, and variations. Excerption of flowers and phrases was also taught in school.

Epigrammatic contests were encouraged, and the writer describes with glee how at Montem new fellows were salted with salt, with Latin gibes, and with their own tears. On the long winter nights the boys acted Latin or English plays written by Udall, “the father of English comedy." In July a competitive examination was held, that the fittest might be elected to the college.

If the preambles of Acts were history, it would appear that at all the cathedrals founded or reformed by Henry VIII. good stipends were provided for “readers of Greek, Hebrew, and Latin." When an endeavor was made at Canterbury to exclude the children of the poor from profiting by these endow. ments, Cranmer made a spirited protest, concluding as follows: "The poor man will for the most part be learned when the gentleman's son will not take the pains to get it. ... Wherefore, if the gentleman's son be apt to learning, let him be admitted; if not apt let the poor man's child that is apt enter in his room." But before long cathedral trust-moneys took another direction.

During the last thirty years before the Reformation there were more grammar schools erected and endowed in England than had been established in three hundred years preceding. These were results of the recovery from the Wars of the Roses, and of the classical revival, which had nowhere more influence than at court. The king himself was learned in the tongues, and took care that his family should be so. Erasmus praises the learning of Queen Catharine and the Latin letters of Mary. Ascham read Aristotle's Ethics in Greek with Edward, and made him translate from Cicero into Greek. Of Elizabeth's Greek he writes to Sturm in the highest terms. Lady Jane Grey, Lady Cecil, Lady Russell, and More's daughter Margaret, are examples of the classical scholarship attained, so far as hawking and hunting permitted, in families connected with the court.

The Reformation greatly diminished the amount of education by the destruction of religious schools. It became necessary "to take diverse orders for the maintenance and continuance of scholars, priests, and curates," which led to

« AnteriorContinua »