Adventures in Greek & Latin Composition

Alston Hurd Chase, 

Time Remembered, Part I: Veritas

“I had Jackson in two courses that year, the History of Greek Literature and Advanced Greek Prose Composition. His lectures in the former were written out carefully and read to the class. They were packed with erudition, showing an Herculean task of preparation. Perhaps this accounted for his breakdown which necessitated his absence for most of the winter. His place in Greek 12 was filled rather perfunctorily by Professor Harmon of Yale, who journeyed to Cambridge twice a week to lecture to us. Greek Composition was overtaken by Professor E.E. Sykes of St. John’s College, Cambridge, a beaming, snowy-haired little man, who must have found our Greek prose a sad decline from the English standard. Intrigued by what I had read of verse composition in England and spurred on by an assignment to write some Latin hexameters, a task which greatly increased my respect for the Latin poets, I tried my hand at some Greek verse. Bad as the result was it astonished Professor Sykes, who said that I had disabused him of a lifelong belief that Americans never essayed verse composition in Greek or Latin.

During my work with Professor Jackson in that composition course he taught me another of many valuable lessons. On one examination, unable to decide which of two Greek versions of a phrase was correct I put down both. Jackson called me up after he had returned the papers and pointed out that this practice amounted to offering two versions and asking him to choose the correct one and credit me with having done so. The justice of this comment struck me at once and I have never forgotten it; I could wish that many of our politicians had had Professor Jackson.”

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