Greek and Latin, Those Learned Tongues

Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster:

“Yet neuerthelesse, the rudenes of common and mother tonges, is no bar for wise speaking. For in the rudest contrie, and most barbarous mother language, many be found can speake verie wiselie: but in the Greeke and latin tong, the two onelie learned tonges, which be kept, not in common taulke, but in priuate bookes, we finde alwayes, wisdome and eloquence, good matter and good vtterance, neuer or seldom a sonder. For all soch Authors, as be fullest of good matter and right iudgement in doctrine, be likewise alwayes, most proper in wordes, most apte in sentence, most plaine and pure in vttering the same.

And contrariwise, in those two tonges, all writers, either in Religion, or any sect of Philosophie, who so euer be founde fonde in iudgement of matter, be commonlie found as rude in vttering their mynde. For Stoickes, Anabaptistes, and Friers: with Epicures, Libertines and Monkes, being most like in learning and life, are no fonder and pernicious in their opinions, than they be rude and barbarous in their writinges. They be not wise, therefore that say, what care I for a mans wordes and vtterance, if his matter and reasons be good. Soch men, say so, not so moch of ignorance, as eyther of some singular pride in themselues, or some speciall malice or other, or for some priuate & perciall matter, either in Religion or other kinde of learning. For good and choice meates, be no more requisite for helthie bodies, than proper and apte wordes be for good matters, and also plaine and sensible vtterance for the best and depest reasons: in which two pointes standeth perfite eloquence, one of the fairest and rarest giftes that God doth geue to man.

Ye know not, what hurt ye do to learning, that care not for wordes, but for matter, and so make a deuorse betwixt the tong and the hart. For marke all aiges: looke vpon the whole course of both the Greeke and Latin tonge, and ye shall surelie finde, that, whan apte and good wordes began to be neglected, and properties of those two tonges to be confounded, than also began, ill deedes to spring: strange maners to oppresse good orders, newe and fond opinions to striue with olde and trewe doctrine, first in Philosophie: and after in Religion: right iudgement of all thinges to be peruerted, and so vertue with learning is contemned, and studie left of: of ill thoughtes cummeth peruerse iudgement: of ill deedes springeth lewde taulke. Which fower misorders, as they mar mans life, so destroy they good learning withall.”

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