Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/376

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Mr. S. Baring-Gould's "Strange Survivals" will furnish better ones. Nor can we put his essay by without having been brought to think of how Carlyle was fain to ring the changes on the cunning of the king.

In the study of Greek and Latin we are confronted with language puzzles of the very best. Their solutions are in the reaching difficult, but when reached inevitable and convincing; and I do not hesitate to say that the means for reaching them are the best adapted to the end of any means now in existence. This means much. The natural boy likes a puzzle. He is rarely unwilling to work it out to a convincing solution. He does not shirk difficulties, but he wants to be sure of his conclusion. With a limited supply of books at his command, he can be more sure of his conclusions for the classics than for any other language puzzle whatever. To take the case of Latin, it is probable, in view of the narrow range of school authors, that a boy's Latin grammar more nearly accounts for his every possible difficulty, whether of form or construction, than does the grammar of any modern language. Such complete codification of usage as he commands in his Latin lexicon can never be anticipated, so far as I can see, for any modern language. Certainly no dictionary of equal convenience in the using can compare as an instrument of precision with the lexicon of Lewis and Short. Let me confess that the first fact that gave me the temper of the student was the discovery that I could find in Andrews's "Latin Dictionary," the inferior predecessor of the one mentioned, nearly every puzzling passage explained; and for some reason the condensed explanation of the lexicon by citation of parallel passages convinced and interested me more than any possible translation by an indulgent annotater. I suppose, to use one of Professor Hill's own figures, I more enjoyed my own piecing-up of the mosaic. A note seemed "telling" and I did not like to be told.

I keep within the bounds of truth and soberness, I think, speaking not as an enthusiast for the classics, when I assert that the modern-language puzzle can never be as difficult as the Greek, and more particularly the Latin puzzle. The reason for this, granting its truth, is not altogether apparent to me. The secret of the difficulty does not lie, I am persuaded, in the synthetic character of Latin. It does not rest primarily in the greater difficulty of Latin forms and syntax. Greek was always easier for me than Latin, and this experience is general, though not universal. I admit the greater difficulty of Greek forms. I agree that its vocabulary is more extensive, while English does not so easily help us to arrive at it. I believe the Greek syntax to be the more complex, and to involve rather more than fewer rules and principles. Yet with considerably more preparation in Latin, Demosthenes in the "De Corona" was easier to me than Cicero in the "Second Philippic." Easy and hard are relative terms, I know, but it might be possible to secure and tabulate a large number of opinions of students as to their