« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
language. I consider it one of the happy accidents of my life that I am privileged to earn my bread by teaching Greek. The study of the language I deem indispensible for teachers of language, devotees of literature, and some professional men, and for those who can afford the time and effort to attain the highest culture. But I believe we have made the study of the language too exclusively, or at least, too predominantly, our aim. I want to see every encouragement and inducement offered that promises to attract more students to Greek studies in a broad way and in a spirit of enthusiasm. The language, that is, the ipsissima verba, of the Greeks, will be studied, it may be, and most likely will be, by fewer persons. But everything else that concerns the Greeks, their history, their literature, their religion, their art, their polity, their ideals, ought to be, and I believe will be, studied far more and by far greater numbers.
Aside froin its content of knowledge, from the fact that it is the chief source through which we learn what Greek life and civilization in all its aspects was, has it for us any special value? I believe it has, first, as being so different from our own literature, or, to speak with more precision, from our modern imaginative literature. Speaking generally, I should say the aim of Greek imaginative literature, and it is that part of the literature that we chiefly have in our minds, when we use the words “Greek literature,” the aim, I say, was to please by beauty of form; of our own, the aim seems to be to excite the feelings. Consider how enormous a place love between the sexes occupies, the most exciting of all sentiments, in English imaginative literature, and how small a place it holds in the
literature of Greece. Is not our main test of power in theatrical acting, in a poem, play or novel, its capacity to excite and thrill? The Greeks were an excitable people, but they were too sane to love excitement. Phrynichus moved the Athenians to tears by his famous play, The Capture of Miletos. They acknowledged the genius of the poet, but they fined him a thousand drachmas because he had excited them to weep, and decreed that the play should never again be acted. The highest tribute that I have heard paid to Nance O'Neil is that she makes her audiences sob.
The effect of the great dramatic works of the Greeks on the modern reader is what I believe was intended for themselves. It is not intense interest in the development of character and in an unexpected denouement. It is rather in a pervading fitness, harmony, and proportion. May I be excused for a personal allusion? I happened, two or three years ago, in a summer vacation, to read for forty successive mornings, Homer and certain Greek plays, and they were delightful mornings to remember. I do not think that at any moment my pulse beat faster than usual, or that I momentarily held my breath; and I am sure no tear wet the page. The impression upon my mind and feelings was vivid, deep, and prolonged. For one thing I was conscious of a certain uplift, as if I had been in altogether noble company. Yet I had associated with mean men, as well as noble; with shepherds, slaves, messengers, peasants, cowards, common soldiers, as well as with knights, prophets, kings, and noble virgins. I involuntarily contrasted my feelings then with those of other summer days, when I read such books as Tess of the D'Urbervilles, and the Manxman. (Of course I am not com
paring these books with the masterpieces of Greek literature. I am only relating a bit of personal experience.) They excited me and made me miserable, and left memories of pain; and if I had had the power, I would have imposed on the authors ten times the fine laid by the Athenians on Phrynichus. One lesson, then, of Greek literature is the beauty of sobriety, calmness, measure, proportion, the spirit that marks their sculpture and architecture. It is one of the great original literatures and is the fountain head from which all modern literatures have copiously drawn.
The history of Philosophy has had at times unusual attractions for me, and I have been often struck, as I suppose most readers are, with the little that is absolutely new in the speculations of modern philosophers, from Descartes to Royce. Emerson boldly asserts that "neither Saxon nor Roman has availed to add an idea to Plato's categories.” “Out of Plato,” he says, “come all things that are still written and debated among men.”
I do not forget that for us teachers, guides and instructors of youth, the value of Greek literature is chiefly to be considered as affording ideals of character and action. I lately read with a class of boys that passage in Cicero, familiar to you all, beginning, Quam multas imagines. "How many delineations of the noblest men have been left us by Greek and Roman writers, not merely to be gazed at, but rather to be imitated,” and I paused to recall to the boys, who had read a little Greek and Roman history, four illustrious examples from the roll of famous Greeks. One of personal integrity in high station, in contrast with the opposite vice, which has become so common among
lawmakers in this country as to add a new word to our language, or rather a new application of an old word, "grafting Epaminondas not only spurned the splendid bribe of the Persian king, which any honest man would have done, but would not accept a loan for the use of his army, when it was in great want, from his friend, the Thessalian king, lest the shadow of a suspicion should be cast upon his motives.
The second, an example of obedience to law, in which many see alarming signs of decadence among
Socrates, you know, refused to escape an ignominious death at the hands of the public executioner, rather than disobey the law, though conscious of innocence, and though promised immunity by his friends.
Where in literary annals can be found a nobler example of Christlike forgiveness of ingratitude than in Phocion's last message to his son, as he was about to die at the command of his countrymen whom he had served with single-hearted devotion. “Bid him bear no grudge against the Athenians.”
The self-sacrificing patriotism of Regulus is known to every schoolboy. But surely the spirit of Pelopidas was not less noble, who, in a Thessalian dungeon, taunted his captor, the king, in order to provoke the tyrant to put him to death, and by so doing rouse his fellow Thebans at home to act for their country's good.
From the writings of the most engaging of Greek authors what a gallery of portraits looks down upon us with noble calmness and dignity, for admonition or reproof, for guidance and inspiration! To some it may appear that types of greatness in action and char
acter that are so remote in time and so foreign in setting, have something about them academic and unreal.
But I am sure that to others the very detachment that time and change of conditions have wrought make them stand out with increased vividness and power. Is not Washington more honored and admired by us than by his contemporaries, and do not foreign peoples have his name on their lips ten times as often as they did a century ago? For my own part, I believe that twenty centuries hence the lives of Garrison and Lincoln will have a quickening power to stir the hearts anci imaginations of boys of other lands and alien speech.
HOW PHYSICS AND CHEMISTRY CAN BE
MADE MORE PROFITABLE.
LYMAN C. NEWELL, PH.D. PROFESSOR OF CHEM
ISTRY, BOSTON UNIVERSITY. It is my purpose to indicate some practical lines along which physical science as a factor in the secondary school curriculum can be made to yield a return commensurate with the time,
energy expended in its inculcation. I firmly believe that physical science has rich deposits of educational wealth, but the mine will yield its profit only by sympathetic and judicious co-operation of superintendents, principals, and teachers, and the points presented are intended for the mutual consideration of these three classes of educators.
We need better teachers of physics and chemistry. This desideratum might be urged in all departments,