That Old Greek and Latin Grammar Fetish

Noah Porter, The American Colleges and the American Public:

“The student of Corneille and Goethe is also mainly conversant with modern ideas and modern civilization. However exquisite the diction or masterly the genius of his writer, the sentiments and passions are all modern. But the student of Virgil and of Homer cannot painfully translate a few books of the Aeneid or the Odyssey, without entering into the thoughts, sympathizing with the feelings, and living somewhat of the life, of human beings greatly unlike those whom he has ever known or imagined, whose thoughts and feelings do not repel him by their strangeness, so much as they attract him by their dignity and truth, and open to him a new world of sentiment and emotion.

The people, into whose life he very imperfectly learns to enter, though in many respects so unlike the men of present times, are yet closely connected with them by the civilization, the arts, the literature, the institutions, the manners, and the laws which the ancients perfected and transmitted. We do not say that to receive such impressions as an imperfect scholarship may impart, is worth all the painstaking which the study of Greek and Latin involves, but we do assert that if these impressions can be superadded to the advantages which come from the discipline which the grammatical study of two languages requires, then this is a sufficient reason why Greek and Latin should be preferred to French and German.”

Noah Porter, Memories of Yale life and men, 1854-1899 (1903) (14766521311).jpg

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