« ForrigeFortsæt »
grammar of the Latin language is more regular than that of any other, and it is therefore ad. mirably calculated to initiate young persons in that necessary science.
II. A similar advantage, which flows from a classical education, is a general knowledge of the structure of language. The Greek, so copious, so curiously compounded, so admirably adapted to supply every want of the mind with respect to expression, affords the bappiest instance of art and human invention in the construction of language; it is impossible to study it without perceiving our ideas enlarged and improved on this curious subject. Such an acquaintance with the antient forms of language, enables us to improve our own, to extend and diversify our modes of expression, to add new and proper words, if necessary; and gives us confidence in occasionally introducing new expressions, and deviating from the common and colloquial forms.
III. A third use, which is not less obvious, results from an accurate acquaintance with the etymology of words. To the phrases of commòn life, custom has sufficiently familiarized us, and these indeed are most of them derived from our northern ancestors. But the language of science, the language of books indeed, in-general, is of classical origin ; and it is imposa sible to know the full force, the correct application of words, without, in some degree, being acquainted with their source.
Every man who has composed for the public, must be sensible of this observation; and allowing every thing to genius and industry, still it cannot be denied that accuracy in writing, at least, is almost exclusively the characteristic of those who can boast some acquaintance with the languages of antiquity.
IV. It is some commendation of almost any pursuit, to say, that it-affords us an elegant and an innocent amusement. That it engages occasionally the mind; which, perhaps, would otherwise be the prey of spleen; that it fills up agreeably those hours which, if:left,vacant, might perhaps be contaminated with vice :
HOR. Lib. I. Ep. 2,
* Unless yod light your early lamp to find
It is true there are a number of excellent authors in our own language, but still the perusal of the classics, in their original dress, varies and extends this species of entertainment.
V. It is pleasant to observe the manner of an original author, and instructive to remark the peculiar style in which men of exalted genius have, at such distanţ periods, expressed them. selves. I may add, that from the perusal of. an original author, we seem to form a more perfect picture of the manners and characters of the age which he describes, thạn can be ac«. quired from a translation ?
VI. Whoever expects to find in the antients. the perfection of science, will be disappointed ; but this will not warrant us in a total rejection of all the assistance which may be derived from this source. Of natural, knowledge, in particular, there is certainly but little to be col. lected from their writings. Aristotle, in his history of animals, is a laborious and tolerably,
correct reporter of facts; but how small a branch of natural science is this, and how much better detailed by modern writers? Pliny, except where he has copied Aristotle, is a wretched fabulist, and no reasoner at all.
The metaphysics of Plato are subtile, visionary, and useless; those of Aristotle are mere scholastic definitions. In the republic of the latter, as well as in some of the writings of Xenophon' and Cicero, are some good political observations ; but the experience of the moderns has enabled them greatly to improve this important science.
But if the ancients were deficient on these topics, they were not so in what may be considered as the basis of useful knowledge, in morals, and an acquaintance with the human heart. Though I confess I do not find much of ethical science in Plato, which is deserving of attention ; yet in the Agondaryis of Socrates, and some other of the dialogues, there occur some beautiful reflections. The morals of Aristotle are a dull common-place book, chiefly consisting, like the rest of his philosophy, in definitions. In the writings of the stoics, however, some admirable precepts are to be found; indeed we may go further, we may venture to say there is something of principle in the doctrines of these philosophers ; they mould ethics into a kind of science, and distinguish with accuracy the different stages of human perfection.
Απαιδευλο εργον, το αλλοις εγκαλειν, εφ' οις
EpicT. ENCHIRID. C. 10.
“ It is the act of an uneducated and ignorant person to blame others for the evils he has brought on himself; of one beginning to be wise to blame himself; of the really wise to blame neither the one nor the other."
Ιδιωθω γασις και χαρακλης υδεποτε εξ εαυθω προσδοκαν ωφελειαν και βλαβην, αλλ' απο των εξω. φιλοσοφι γασις και χαρακλης" πασαν ωφελειαν και βλαβην, εξ εαυθα προσδοκν.
IB. c. 71.
“It is the state and character of a vulgar mind, never to look for profit or injury from himself, but from some external cause. It is the character of a philosopher to look on himself for whatever may be profitable or injurious."