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Hobart herald. (Geneva, N.Y.) 1879-1942, March 01, 1893, Image 12

Image and text provided by Hobart and William Smith Colleges

Persistent link: http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/np00050002/1893-03-01/ed-1/seq-12/


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176 'THE HOBART HRRALlX can read Xenophon or Plato or the New Testament very easily, will be, if I may express myself like an Irishman, entirely a t sea when he lands at the Peirceus; he will not understand a word that is spoken to him, and he will be as helpless as an infant in dealing with the boatmen and cabmen who are so eager to offer him their services. Nor will he be a whit better off, if he encounters an educated Greek gentleman who is perfectly' familiar with the ancient Janguageand literature. The sole reason of this helplessness is, that we are all taught to pronounce Greek in a fashion which was never heard 011 land or sea, I venture to say, since the Pelasgians first made their appearance in Europe. We use a p u re-' ly conventional and artificial .system, the invention chiefly' o f Erasmus, which imposes its yoke not only on ourselves, but on the learned Europeans of the Continent. It is perhaps some comfort to reflect that a German or an Italian would be as unintelligible and as non-plussecl in trying to talk with an A the - nian as we are; it is perhaps a greater comfort to know that an English Don is worse off than any' of us. All our systems are conventional, but the English is a little farther removed from any possibility of fadt than any of the others. I had a capital illustration of this which was really' astonishing when you think o f it. I had the pleasure, while iu Athens, of making the acquaintance of the Master of a College, iu Cambridge, and of his fair young wife, herself a Senior Classic, while they were 011 a sort of bridal tour through Greece. It was a household, \'ou see, which really had more than its fair share of classic lore, on both sides ; and the infant son whom they had left at home, might certainly' expect, 011 all accounts, to reach a “ double-first,\ as his birthright, without the slightest exertion. I found them both delight­ ful company, imbued with all the knowledge and reading which could make their travels at once charming and instructive. The Master was now, in fact, revisiting with his learned bride, the scenes that he had carefully e x ­ plored for the space o f six months, thirty-five years before. Now it is a sur­ prising fact that after traveling every'where in Greece and spending nearly a y'ear in the country, neither of these most classic beings had ever spoken a word to any' living Greek in his own language, nor ever understood a word of what was buzzing about our ears in the dining-room of our hotel. They’ had simply' ignored the living tongue and preferred to float themselves upon the life-preserver of old Thrassyboulos hanger’s broken English. You must not hasten to infer from this, that there is any difficulty'in the modern tongue.

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