Forget Grammar – Look at the Latin

Roger Ascham, The Scholemaster

“And for spedy atteyning, I durst venture a good wager, if a scholer, in whom is aptnes, loue, diligence, & constancie, would but translate, after this sorte, one litle booke in Tullie, as de senectute, with two Epistles, the first ad Q. fra: the other ad lentulum, the last saue one, in the first booke, that scholer, I say, should cum to a better knowledge in the Latin tong, than the most part do, that spend foure or fiue yeares, in tossing all the rules of Grammer in common scholes. In deede this one booke with these two Epistles, is not sufficient to affourde all Latin wordes (which is not necessarie for a yong scholer to know) but it is able to furnishe him fully, for all pointes of Grammer, with the right placing ordering, & vse of wordes in all kinde of matter. And why not? for it is read, that Dion. Prussæus, that wise Philosopher, & excellent orator of all his tyme, did cum to the great learning & vtterance that was in him, by reading and folowing onelie two bookes, Phædon Platonis, and Demosthenes most notable oration peri parapresbeias. And a better, and nerer example herein, may be, our most noble Queene Elizabeth, who neuer toke yet, Greeke nor Latin Grammer in her hand, after the first declining of a nowne and a verbe, but onely by this double translating of Demosthenes and Isocrates dailie without missing euerie forenone, and likewise som part of Tullie euery afternone, for the space of a yeare or two, hath atteyned to soch a perfite vnderstanding in both the tonges, and to soch a readie vtterance of the latin, and that wyth soch a iudgement, as they be fewe in nomber in both the vniuersities, or els where in England, that be, in both tonges, comparable with her Maiestie. And to conclude in a short rowme, the commodities of double translation, surelie the mynde by dailie marking, first, the cause and matter: than, the wordes and phrases: next, the order and composition: after the reason and argumentes: than the formes and figures of both the tonges: lastelie, the measure and compas of euerie sentence, must nedes, by litle and litle drawe vnto it the like shape of eloquence, as the author doth vse, which is red.”

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