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ENGLISH POETRY INTO LATIN VERSE;
PART OF A NEW METHOD OF INSTRUCTING IN LATIN.
FRANCIS W. NEWMAN,
Emeritus Professor of University College, London; formerly Fellow
TRÜBNER & Co., 60 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON.
300. f. 8.
THE translations which follow were not made for exercise or amusement, but as part of a practical scheme for instruction in Latin, of which the first instalment was, my version of Hiawatha (Trübner, London), in poetical Latin prose. A third part might be a novel (Rebilius Cruso) which I have long had in MS.: but my Hiawatha has scarcely attained any notice. I am nevertheless excited anew to publish, by the certainty that the whole question of Latin teaching must shortly be reconsidered from the foundation.
The doctrine which I hold was defended at full in the Edinburgh Museum, No. IV., January, 1862. The main points may be thus summed up. 1. We ought, in Latin as in modern languages, to learn the language first, and study the literature afterwards. 2. Grammar should follow or accompany
the pupil, not precede him; and should be concrete, not abstract; practical, not ambitious of philosophy; and by collation of examples or lists. of words should rather suggest than express generalization. 3. All subtleties and all avoidable difficulties should be held back; since to postpone difficulties is generally to dispel them. The old recipe to a puzzled boy: "Skip and go on :" is not so bad. 4. The pupil should learn the material of the language abundantly. This requires great repetition and a large surface of reading or talk; which, for most pupils, demands a style far easier than that of the classics. Even Terence abounds with idiom which learners find difficult. 5. The language presented to pupils should be as little involved as possible, so that each clause may be understood by itself. 6. Since our teachers can never talk Latin as natives (inasmuch as, in this century, we cannot possibly get practice enough) we need to write for learners an easy elementary literature, which should also, if possible, elevate the imagination or at least entice the mind. (I hear that selections from Erasmus are now to be employed. If they prove interesting, I make sure they will be of much value.) 7. In every thing the pupil should be made to take one difficulty at
a time. Hence he should not be distracted by strange geography, mythology, law, politics, history, needless idiom, or obscure allusions. All these things may be of interest after he has learned the language; seldom before: and they will always impede learning to the great bulk of a school.
It is sure to be objected by opponents, that modern writers are apt to make errors. Of course we are. I have this instant a disagreeable illustration, having too late detected, in piece 50, line 6, "minor tibi" for, inferior to thee. (See the CORRIGENDA.) It is hard for a translator to read his own work with fresh eyes, and harder still to ask of any competent scholar the favour of revision : hence I dare not be confident that some other mistakes will not be found. But in every case our possible errors are as nothing to those, which, in the days of Cicero, every foreigner in Rome heard from illiterate persons: yet such a foreigner had vast advantage over us. Our errors will not damage the learner, unless they are fixed and consistent, as in a provincial dialect. On the other hand, if he be confined to classics, and time be not lavishly given, the quantity read by nineteen out of twenty will be small, and this evil cannot be compensated by quality.