« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
It was soon after reported that a teacher was coming from Einsiedlin, that he had formerly been at Lucerne, was a very learned man and a faithful master, but odd in the extreme. Ther I took a seat in the corner near the teacher's chair, and thought to myself, 'here in the corner will I study or die.' When, now, the new teacher arrived and entered the school-house, he said, "This is a neat-looking place,'—it had recently been built anew-but it seems to me the boys are an ungainly set; let them only show a diligent spirit, though, and all will be right. For my part, if my life had been at stake, I could not have declined a noun of the first declension, and yet had learned Donatus by heart. For when I was at Schlettstadt, Sapidus had with him a Baccalaureate, named George Andlow, a very learned scholar, who tormented the Bacchants so incessantly with Donatus that I thought if this is such an important book I will master it thoroughly, and so I did. And this stood me in good stead with Father Myconius. For when he came he read Terence to us, and we were obliged to decline and conjugate every word of whole comedies, he was often so severe with me that my shirt was wet with perspiration, and my sight failed me; and yet he did not give me a blow, not even with his little finger. He read, likewise in the Holy Scriptures, and at such hours many of the laity would come in to hear, for the light of the Holy Gospel was then only beginning to dawn, and men were yet burdened with interminable masses, and had idols in all the churches. But whenever he had been angry with me, he took me home with him, and gave me to eat, and after I had eaten, he would listen in delight as I told of all that had befallen me in my long and many wanderings in Germany."
Platter was afterward tutor to the two sons of Henry Werdmiller. "There they gave me every day regular meals to eat. One of the boys was named Otho; he afterward became Master of Arts at Wittenberg, and subsequently entered the service of the church at Zurich; but the other died at Kappell. I had no more hardships to endure; only it might have been that I applied myself too severely to study; I undertook Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, gave myself for whole nights together but little sleep, but fought resolutely against sleep, when I began to feel drowsiness, putting raw turnips, sand, or cold water into my mouth, or grinding my teeth together, etc. My good Father Myconius would caution me against such close study, nor did he rebuke me when, at times, sleep came upon me unawares. And although I had never been where I could hear lectures upon either Latin, Greek, or Hebrew grammar, yet I practiced reading by myself; for Myconius had before drilled us with frequent exercises in
the Latin grammar; but Greek he did not pursue to any extent, for the Greek language was yet foreign, and but little used. I, however, read by myself in Lucian and Homer, as far as the vernacular version would carry me. It happened, moreover, when Father Myconius took me to live with him in his house, that he had some at his table, the now deceased Dr. Gessner was one of them, with whom I was obliged to practice Donatus and the declensions; and this proved of great service to me. At that time, too, Myconius had for an assistant, the finished scholar Theodore Bibliander, who was thoroughly versed in the languages, the Hebrew especially, and had written a Hebrew grammar; he likewise took his meals with Myconius. I begged him to teach me the Hebrew; he did so, and I learned to read it both printed and written. Then I rose early in the mornings, made a fire in Myconius' room, sat by the stove, and copied off the grammar, while he slept; nor did he ever know what I had done."
Immediately after this period Platter taught Hebrew to others, but himself learned—the ropemaker's trade. "There came,” he continues, a well-bred and learned young man from Lucerne, on his way to attend the festivities at Constance, and Zwingle and Myconius persuaded him to stop and learn the ropemaker's art with his money. After he had learned to weave and become a master workman, I begged him to teach me the trade too. He said he had no hemp. I had a small pittance left me by my deceased mother, and with that I bought the master an hundred of hemp and learned with it, as far as it went, and yet all the while took great delight in study. When my master thought me asleep, I rose up stealthily, struck a light, stepped softly, and procured his Homer, glossed my own by it, and this I kept by me while I plied my trade. He afterward learned what I had been doing, and he said to me, 'Platerus, he whose mind is on many things can do nothing well; either study or else work at your trade!' Once, as we sat together by the water pitcher, he said, 'Platerus, what says Pindar?' As I replied ‘ἄριστον μὲν τὸ ὕδωρ he said, laughing; then we will follow Pindar, and have no wine, but only water!'
When I had worked up the hundred of hemp, my lesson was ended, and I determined to go to Basle, which I did at Christmas."
At Basle he went to a second master of the craft, Hans Staehlin. "It was said of him, he was the crustiest master who could be found in all the Rhine valley, hence no journeyman would willingly stay with him, and there was the more room for me." When Platter worked till "the sweat ran down, then my master laughed and said; 'had I studied as much as thou, and loved it as much, I would toss
ropemaking to the devil! For he saw very well, that I had a special fondness for books.
The printer Cratander had presented me with an unbound copy of Plautus printed by himself in 8vo. I took one leaf at a time, fixed it upon a fork, stuck the fork underneath in the lower division of the hemp, so that as I twisted I could read alternately each side of the leaf; but when I saw the master coming, I would throw the loose hemp over it. Once he came up before I was aware, and when he saw what I was about, he flew into a passion and cursed me roundly: 'A pox light on you for your villainy, hypocritical priest that you are! Wilt study? Then go elsewhere. But if you remain with me you must work. Is it not enough that you have evenings and Fridays to yourself, but must you read the rest of the time too?' On Fridays, after breakfast was over, I would take my book, go out into the fields, and read the whole day until nightfall. By degrees I made the acquaintance of a few scholars, chiefly those who attended the instruction of Beatus Rhenanus. These and others came often to the shop, and urged me to leave off ropemaking."
At the request of Dr. Oporinus, Platter engaged to teach him Hebrew. "Oporinus nailed up on the churches a notice that there was a certain one who would read the elements of the Hebrew tongue on Monday, from 4 to 5, at St. Lienhart; there it was that Oporinus taught school. I went at the appointed hour, thinking to find Oporinus alone, for I had not seen the cards on the church doors; when lo! there were eighteen of his friends assembled, all well-bred, studious young men. When I saw them, I drew back; but Dr. Oporinus reassured me, saying they were good friends of his. I was ashamed of my shop clothes, but nevertheless yielded to his importunity, and began by reading from the grammar of Dr. Munster,—its fame had not then reached Basle;-I read to them also from the prophet Jonah as well as I was able."
Platter subsequently taught in his native town, and elsewhere, plying his trade at the same time; he was also employed as proof-reader at Basle, and sometimes, too, as a printer. He was repeatedly urged to give up printing, by Rudolph Frey among the rest, who said to him; "my friend, become a school teacher; you will thus please our rulers, and serve God and the world." He then spoke to the council, and the council delegated the town recorder, Dr. Grynaeus, to confer with me. Dr. Grynaeus said to me; 'become a school teacher; there is no more godlike office; for myself there is no station I would sooner fill.' So much was said to me that I finally consented. This was in the year 1541, on Good Friday.
The council then sent for me to meet them at the town house, and then they made an agreement with me. I stipulated, in case they should intrust the school to me to organize and direct it, for three assistants and a salary upon which I could subsist; otherwise I told them I could not conduct the school with profit and honor. This was all granted; the salary, however, with some reluctance. I desired 200 florins; 100 for myself, and 100 for my assistants. They agreed to this with the proviso, however, that I should not mention it to any one, for they had never given so much before, and they would scarcely give the like to any one who should come after me. Now everything was concluded, and the university not consulted at all in the matter, whereat they were not a little nettled; for they had desired to strike another bargain with me, and would have pledged themselves above all, in case I had subjected myself to their authority, organizing my school after the pattern they should furnish, and reading such authors alone as they should prescribe,-that they would confer a Master's Degree upon me, with other marks of their favor from time to time.
Then I went to Strasburg, intending to look into the system in operation there, and to confer with my brother Lithonius, who was teacher of the third class there; and then to re-arrange my school so far as the case would admit. I returned, divided my four classes; for, before, the pupils were in the lower rooms, and it had been the custom to warm no other rooms than the lower; for there had been but very few pupils. When I now began to keep school, I was obliged to lay before the university in writing, my class system, and whatever I read every hour during the whole week. This did not entirely please them; they thought I read higher authors than they in my instruction, and as for dialectics they would not suffer me to teach it at all; and they chid me so often that at last the masters began to wonder what this dialectics could be, about which there was so much strife and contention. When I explained to Herr Joder Brand, the worshipful burgomaster, at his own request, what dialectics was, he was astonished at their refusal to let me teach it. For at their convocation at Easter, they had unanimously resolved that I should not teach it any longer. But for all their interdict, I did not vary my course a hair, so long as I had pupils who wished to study the art. However, the Faculties generally were not much opposed to it, only the Faculty of arts, and they said it would revolutionize the existing systems of instruction. But the boys, nevertheless, would not give it up; for their minds were wholly set upon it. This strife lasted for some six years,
until finally a pestilence came, and my school, in consequence, was so reduced that I had no pupils who desired to learn dialectics."
The university soon after signified to him their pleasure that he should hold examinations before their delegates. "At the next Lent," he adds, "I conducted my class down to be examined in due form. But some of them so managed the matter, that they soon fell out with each other, and not being able to harmonize, they bade me undertake the examination. I said they must do it, for I had it to do every day in the school; however, I yielded, and since then have conducted these examinations myself. My opinion was, the examinations were instituted that it might be seen whether the boys made improvement or no; but those, who should hear, sat there, the most of them, and prated. The examinations are worthless; scarce a line can any one explain, and people truly say, they are only continued that the world. may exclaim, "what care is given to these things!"
In the close Platter turns to his son Felix, for whom he wrote this biography, glances back upon the hardships and the poverty of his own youth time, and down through later years, when competence and fame had been allotted to him. "What shall I then say of you, Felix, of your prosperity, and the respect which is paid to you? What, but that it is God our Lord who has granted you the happiness of living so long under the fostering care of your dear mother, and the fortune of making the acquaintance of many princes and lords, noblemen and commoners. Looking at all these things, my dear son Felix, ascribe nothing of it all to your own merits, but give God alone the praise and the glory your whole life long; so shall you win the life that is everlasting. Amen."
It was in 1541, in his 42d year, that Platter took up the office of teacher; and he administered it with faithfulness and vigor for thirtyseven years, until 1578. He died, his son Felix tells us, on the 26th of January, 1582, in the full possession of his faculties, at the age of eighty-three.
BACCHANTS, and ABC-shooters. In the period from 1300 to 1600, when the Latin town schools first began to flourish independently of the church, many grown-up students, with more or less of university education, were accustomed to wander over all Germany, like the journeymen of the present day; stopping at one place and another to teach, and leading with them a number of boys, nominally their scholars. These students were called Bacchants, from their bacchanalian lives; and their scholars, ABC-shooters, from the rudimentary character of their studies and their chief occupation, which was, not only to study, but to steal (Baccantice to shoot) fowls. &c., and to beg, for the maintenance of their masters. A future article will treat somewhat more fully of these extraordinary peripatetic educators and their lives.