« AnteriorContinuar »
one of his reasons why Greek should be generally studied in our col. leges the fact that Greek art is distinguished by symmetry.
He alluded to the London Strand as a street illustrating the absence of such symmetry, and the sense of his remarks, if not his very words, implied that a more general study of Greek would bring about greater symmetry in buildings.
We would not undervalue the force of the argument, but we must insist that the argument should be used with all the qualifying conditions that Mr. Arnold adds to it. For Mr. Arnold, Greek thought, art, and civilization should be thoroughly understood,—vocabularies and grammars can at best serve only as means, and not the most important ones, to arrive at the substance of Greek culture.
Now, it seems to us an indisputable fact that, while a knowledge of the Greek language does not necessarily disqualify a person for the appreciation of the beauty of Greek art, and Greek architecture in particular, such appreciation must mainly come from a contemplation and the study of the works of art themselves. At least, if the same argument were applied to a modern art, like music, it would not be denied that a very thorough knowledge of German would be, so far as the appreciation of the best German music is concerned; of very little consequence compared with the knowledge and study of the works of the great composers. A student might read Hegel or Kant with ease, and yet be utterly obtuse as regards the beauties of Beethoven and Mozart.
Mr. Arnold also emphasizes the great value of Plato's ideas, but a close inspection of the meaning of Mr. Arnold's words has led us to no other results than these, that Plato favors the culture of the soul, and of the intellect, in spite of some radical and essential mistakes that make his system, taken as a whole, more objectionable than that of Rousseau. All honor to Plato and his ideas! We have no intention to deprive this eloquent thinker of any of the laurels to which he is entitled; but, really, if we wish to inculcate the love of truth, of high culture, moral and ästhetic, in the hearts and minds of our young, we can use other authors with at least as much success as we can Plato. We have authors who know all that Plato knew, and — a great deal more. We have moralists who favor truth and righteousness, and who make no discriminations as to heroes who shall have as many mistresses as they please; as to imperfect children, who must be put away to perish in decent privacy; as to slaves and common people, who must not be looked on as amounting to much more than the tools they use. We have authors just as eloquent as Plato, who are more catholic than he, who do not ex
clude poetry from their republic, and who behold beauty and harmony in regions where no Greek ever deigned to look.
It is too little understood that, no matter what the formal value of a language may be, its merely intellectual value is really that which gives it a permanent claim on mankind; and this intellectual value is found in a good translation. On this subject the testimony of Goethe, who had all a poet's fondness for the classic tongues, should be decisive. Goethe believed that all that is essential in a foreign author's thought will reappear in a good translation. Even of the Iliad he thought that a prose translation in good German would give young students a good idea of the essential in the poet's thought and style.
As simply a matter of fact, translations will always be the principal medium through which one people will learn to know the thought, science, and literature of another. Shakespeare in German is as great a source of enjoyment to the German as he is to us in English. Schiller is perfectly appreciated among us, and Goethe at least in so far as he has been adequately translated. In fact, if the French and German languages were dead languages, like the Latin and Greek, nothing could be said in favor of their study that might not also be urged in favor of the study of the others, except that they represent a later, higher, and richer civilization. If we plead for a proper place for the modern languages in our colleges, it is not because we undervalue good translations, but because we believe that the ability to read these languages is one of the most powerful aids in the work of thought and of culture, for the simple reason that they are the actual vehicles of the thought of two important living nations.
The “Strand" in London is certainly a very unsymmetrical street, but Greek is studied in the schools of England with greater zeal than it is anywhere else outside of Germany. France, with her small modicum of Greek, succeeds far better in putting up symmetrical buildings and streets than England. In fact, we have an idea,-Mr. Arnold may call it a superstition,—that a good architect would not for a moment believe that the study of Greek has anything to do with the irregularity of the public streets and buildings of England. The spirit of Greek art is one thing,—the study of Greek in our colleges is another. We cannot place high enough our estimate of the excellence of the former, but we have serious doubts as to the abso. lute necessity of the latter; and here we wish to be particular in asking not to be misunderstood. We do not mean to say that Greek must give way to German or French, if Greek is the study likely to
benefit a given student more than any other study would. We believe that experiments have proven the value of literary and linguistic training, and we make due allowance for the high opinion placed on Greek and Latin studies by men like Gladstone and Mr. M. Arnold, Undoubtedly, if it were possible in our age for a young man to acquire a thorough knowledge of two ancient and at the same time of two modern languages, without neglecting other essential studies, there would be no need for any one to differ with those who now manage our colleges. But it is not possible. Presidents of colleges, like Dr. Barnard of Columbia, confess that our graduates have not mastered even the two ancient languages to which the principal share of their attention was devoted.
A high German authority, the late Mr. Lasker, of the German Reichstag, known in Germany as an enthusiastic and competent student of Latin and Greek, and believed not to be inferior to Mr. Gladstone in scholarship, is of the opinion that the German classical schools, the Gymnasia, will be compelled to give up one of the ancient languages in order that at least one may be properly acquired. He advises that Greek be dropped, except where required for a future specialty This is magnificent, in view of the recent test of the Berlin University as to the relative merits of the training of graduates of the classical and of the so-called “real” schools. For while this test undoubtedly proves the superiority of a training that is principally literary, it also proves that, according to Mr. Lasker and others, the students who proved superior had not obtained a perfect mastery of the languages studied.
It is commonly supposed that the Berlin test affects the modern languages, 'condemning them as means of preparatory study for the University. A glance at the relative position of the ancient and modern languages will, however, show that the question was not decided against the modern languages, but rather against the less amount of language, with a corresponding greater amount of mathe, matics and science, which distinguishes the “real ” school from the Gymnasium. The latter requires, counting the rate per week for six years, a total of 126 hours for languages, mostly Latin and Greek ; the former only 84 hours, of which 42 are devoted to Latin. The meager allowance of 42 hours for two modern languages, the French and English, proves both the low estimate even the Realschule places on these languages, and the irrelevancy of the “test” in so far as it is supposed to affect them.
It has nowhere been proven that an equal amount of time and attention given to two modern languages would not be as successful as a preparation for University studies in the German sense, as the preparation in Greek and Latin has been found to be.
We would not do anything to banish the spirit of Hellenic art from our higher institutions. Far from it. We would like to see Greek art, as well as Greek language and literature, taught by the most competent teachers, the best approved methods, and with the best apparatus attainable. But we claim that the necessity of the times compel by far the greater portion of those who seek higher culture to forego the pleasure of Greek language studies. Such may still be largely benefited by model translations, of which we have an abundance ; but the principal share of their time should not, in reason, be claimed for studies which, no matter how pleasant and important for the specialist in a certain direction, cannot compare in importance with other studies for the specialist in other directions. And let it not be said, in spite of the facts before us, that colleges should not prepare for specialties, for the preparation hitherto given by them has been special, and it is precisely for this reason that, in its best form, it has proved so successful. To be sure, it would be very wrong to use the time of the collegiate student for the acquisition of a special branch of professional or other business. That is not the object of college study. But precisely as it has been claimed that Latin and Greek prove of great benefit to the future lawyer, and hence are preparing for a speciality, so it may be claimed for French and German studies that they prepare for the calling of the future statesman, naturalist, architect, or, — and why not? – the merchant, banker, engineer, and, at any rate, the teacher who may be called on to teach these languages, or branches that, without them, — 6.g., modern history,—can never be fully understood and mastered.
Too much importance has been attached to the influence of classical studies on the formation of a good literary style. We grant, of course, that a close study of foreign masterpieces of style, both ancient and modern, cannot but influence the student's standard of taste; but the same results must certainly be obtained by a careful study of the best models in one's own language, and of translations. We grant, also, the exceptional value of Latin as furnishing a valu. able help to a more intimate knowledge of many English words and their peculiar force and significance, though we are aware that on its grammatical side the English is essentially a Teutonic language, and that therefore the study of German, as Professor Whitney thinks, is equivalent to a historic and critical study of English itself. On the other hand, we need only remember that poets of the highest rank, prose-writers of the very best literary taste, orators of the greatest excellence, have lived and achieved fame without having been trained in the Greek tongue, or even, in many cases, having received any appreciable benefit from the Latin. What greater names could any one mention than Shakespeare and Dante in the first rank,—of Burns and Schiller in the second? What philosophic writer excels our own Benjamin Franklin in his specialty? What scientific thinker writes more keenly and incisively than Herbert Spencer? The prose of Professor Tyndall is classic in the best sense, and so is the or atory of Bright. The same praise may be given to the writings of Marshall Moltke, who, like the first Napoleon, excelled not only in generalship of the highest order, but in other intellectual gifts. President Eliot believes that graduates of the polytechnic schools compare favorably in the matter of culture with graduates of the universities, and no competent judge, we believe, has ever questioned this jugdment. But Greek and Latin is foreign to the polytechnic schools, which, nevertheless, might furnish the architects that, if given free scope, would soon change the unesthetic "Strand" into a thing of beauty.
The most original architecture of modern times, the Gothic, is as distinguished for symmetry as the Greek. He who doubts this need only look at the cathedral of Cologne and study its details. Yet all this noble architecture arose and grew to its perfection before Greek studies were thought of in the countries where it flourished. It would appear, then, that high excellence can be, and has been, achieved on a different foundation from the time-honored one of Greek and Latin. If so, why not recognize the fact in our college curriculums? Would higher culture suffer if Mr. Adams's sugges. tions were acted upon ? That would depend on the manner the new studies would be taught. So much is certain, that a smattering of German or French cannot be an equivalent of a thorough course in Latin or Greek. Thorough study, or none at all, should be the motto.
French is an easy language to read, but we question whether a person who cannot express his thoughts in French with accuracy, and with some degree of ease, can be said to know French. To know and to know are such different things. That Englishman who was surprised that French children four years old talked French better than he could, might have known infinitely more French than those children, but his appreciation of the children's range of language was certainly inferior to theirs. To learn French so as to appreciate it, is a very much more serious undertaking than to learn enough to get along with an easy novel; and all this is even more true of the German. It is no small accomplishment to appreciate thoroughly a fine period by Goethe, for the German construction of