Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 79.djvu/381

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much the same thing for the boy, I freely admit; but the mass of mankind when they read are casual readers, and the casual reader does not use a dictionary.

IX. How the Classics should be taught.

Professor Hill's views on the teaching of the classics, and his strictures on certain proposed innovations, seem to me eminently sound. He has probably not heard of sundry American proposals to "enrich" the study of the classics, though the greatest enrichment would be to restore prose composition to its old place of importance. The indispensable value of the classics is the concentrated effort required in construing and writing them, the piecing-out of the English-classic language puzzle: this, and the finger in the dictionary, constitute the values that a modern language or the native speech will never—I do not say, can never, save in so far as what will not be can not be—replace. Whatever "enrichment" impairs these values is like a drug that would sap the heart while making the hair grow. It is abundantly right to say, with Professor Hill:

For schoolboys Greek and Latin are exercises in grammatical expression, and nothing more. . . . Neither legend, history, philosophy, nor art has influenced the vast majority of the boys who have thriven on a grammar-school training. Stultify the grammar, distract attention from accidence, syntax, prosody, and the value of the gymnastic is reduced to nil.

X. On the Relation of Language to Thought.

If we but knew the most rudimentary principles of the psychology of speech! What form of language is best suited for the expression of thought? What form of language is most favorable to thinking?. . . The test of the elevation of a language, from the evolutionary point of view, is its simplicity, freedom from ambiguity, correspondence in the order in which words are used with the sequence in which ideas successively occupy the focus of consciousness. "Amabo, love, future, I," is as swift an expression of thought as "I shall love"; although it does not place the constituents of the idea in the order in which they pass across the mirror of my mind; my personality, in the case of such a general proposition, takes the lead. "Lucretiam amabo," no doubt, gives the order aright. But neither conglomerate allows of the inversion ' ' shall I love?" Picking up the schoolbook nearest to hand, I have essayed the "sors Virgiliana." This is the sentence which my finger touched: "Relinquit animus Sextium gravibus acceptis vulneribus "[1] It seems to me incredible that this sentence expresses the thought as it formed itself in Cæsar's mind: "Leaves it the soul Sextius by or to grave by or to received by or to wounds." Surelythe idea of the personality of Sextius preceded the idea of some one fainting? What purpose is served by three times explaining that it was by or to (leaving it at the end an open question which) wounds?—"ibus," if it does not impress the mind of the reader as the really important constituent of the phrase, is unduly heavy for a mere inflexion. Cæsar did his best with the language which his unlettered ancestors had bequeathed to him: but he was to be pitied in that his thoughts when they went abroad must walk in irons.

We know little indeed of the psychology of language—which leaves us perhaps in little worse case than when we stand before the psychol-

  1. "De Bello Gallico," vi.