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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 35.djvu/802

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

first difficulties, he was given older texts to copy. These texts were moral treatises, older poems, fairy tales, religious and mythical writings, and letters. It is to this fact that we owe the preservation of the greater part of the literary remains of ancient Egypt. When one of these school-boys died, the copies he had written, that could be of no earthly use to any one else, were buried with him. From these old books that he copied he learned to form his own style; he learned the grammar and syntax of his beautiful language; he became acquainted with its vast stock of moral precepts, religious and mythical traditions, and with the unnumbered poems and tales that undoubtedly abounded, and of which the merest fragments have come down to us. Two classes of writings were preferred for this purpose, moral precepts and letters. It was considered absolutely indispensable to inculcate on the minds of the pupils vast numbers of moral precepts. Letter-writing was considered a high and difficult art, and the pupils needed very special preparation in it. Often these copies took the form of correspondence between master and pupil, the letters being sometimes copied from older ones, sometimes invented for the purpose by the teacher. The pupil wrote three pages a day, and the teacher examined his copy with great care, often writing for him the correct form of the letters on the margin, and sometimes expressing his approbation by writing under the copy the word "nófer"—good. The boys wrote only on one side of the papyrus, often using the other side for rough notes, for first draughts of letters, for practicing more difficult forms of writing; or they drew all sorts of pictures on it, as their fancy dictated.

School was out at noon, but the boy was not then free. He had to assist in the department work all the afternoon, thus learning his duties practically, and being of real use to the government while still a school-boy. The teachers were older officials of the same department, under whose care and instruction the boys were placed, and the same teacher conducted the entire education of a young man, teaching him the first rudiments of writing, initiating him into the practical work of the department, and, even after the young man had become an official himself, remaining his counselor and friend.

Discipline was very strictly maintained. The pupils, who seem to have been entirely under the care of the department, were not allowed to sleep long. Corporal punishment stood in great renown, and the fundamental principle of Egyptian pedagogics was, "The boy has a back; if you beat him on this he will hear." But whipping was not the severest punishment. Specially refractory pupils were bound to the block, and we hear of a youth who suffered this punishment for three months until he was subdued. This strictness is based on a rather curious theory. The argu-