Pleasant Initiation in Greek

John Ruskin, Praeterita:

“I might be eleven or going on twelve by that time. Miss Andrews, the eldest sister of the ‘Angel in the House,’ was an extremely beautiful girl of seventeen; she sang ‘Tambourgi, Tambourgi’ with great spirit and a rich voice, went at blackberry time on rambles with us at the Norwood Spa, and made me feel generally that there was something in girls that I did not understand, and that was curiously agreeable. And at last, because I was so fond of the Doctor, and he had the reputation (in Walworth) of being a good scholar, my father thought he might pleasantly initiate me in Greek, such initiation having been already too long deferred. The Doctor, it afterwards turned out, knew little more of Greek than the letters, and declensions of nouns; but he wrote the letters prettily, and had an accurate and sensitive ear for rhythm. He began me with the odes of Anacreon, and made me scan both them and my Virgil thoroughly, sometimes, by way of interlude, reciting bits of Shakespeare to me with force and propriety. The Anacreontic metre entirely pleased me, nor less the Anacreontic sentiment. I learned half the odes by heart merely to please myself, and learned with certainty, what in later study of Greek art it has proved extremely advantageous to me to know, that the Greeks liked doves, swallows, and roses just as well as I did.”

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