THAT the study of Greek, as at present conducted, does not produce results at all commensurate with the time and labor devoted to it is a fact pretty generally admitted, and one that has caused some of the most influential men about Harvard College to set their faces against it altogether; while even those who favor its continuance do so often as much from a belief in future improvement as on account of any great benefit that they can show to have hitherto accrued from it. Probably no one would assert that the study is altogether barren in valuable result; but the question is, Does the result attained compensate for the outlay made in attaining it ? And this few candid persons will answer in the affirmative.

The amount of time and labor devoted to Greek by different young men is, of course, different, and could at best be estimated but very roughly. In all cases it is very considerable. The result is more easily determined. Even the best students leave college knowing little of Greek beyond the drudgery of learning its etymology and syntax. Of the literature, religion, art, polity, and philosophy of Greece they know very little, and still less of those great historical and philosophical questions which are now demanding a solution from accurate Greek scholars. Ten years after leaving college not one graduate in ten can construe a simple sentence in Greek, or tell about Greece one thing which a person having read a good history of Greece and a classical dictionary could not tell as well.

There is a plea for the study of Greek which often takes this form : After all, one does derive from reading a book of the Iliad or a play of Sophoklńs something that remains with him, and which could not have been obtained in any other way. Although the sustainers of this plea are rarely, if ever, able to define the nature or extent of this something, and although, even if they could, more than a doubt might arise respecting its value and utility, as compared with the time and effort expended in attaining it, still the plea may be provisionally admitted, until we come to speak of the possible advantages of Greek learning, and how far these are at present realized by the course of study pursued.

So strong are the influences of use and wont that, of those persons who study Greek and advocate the continuance of it as a compulsory study, few have ever sought to make distinct to themselves the results obtained or obtainable from it, the majority resting their arguments either on prejudice, conservatism, or dread of moral consequences which might come from studies substituted for it. With prejudice, of course, there is nothing to be done ; with conservatism and unreasoned dread, very little. For minds open to conviction, a statement of the possible aims of Greek study and of the extent to which they have thus far been realized in Harvard College may not be without some value.

The aims of study generally may be classed under three heads : utility, culture, science. In the case of Greek, the first of these falls away, and there remain only the two, culture and science, each of which may be again subdivided. The culture aims may he divided into (1) the disciplinary aim, (2) the æsthetic aim, (3) the cosmopolitan aim; and the scientific into (1) the linguistic aim, (2) the philosophico-historical aim.

Taking these in their order, we come first to the culture aims, and among these to —

(1.) The Disciplinary Aim. Greek may be taken up as a mental discipline, as a means for training the mind to concentration and the holding together of a number of distinct facts, in order to reach a certain definite result. As mathematics imparts to the mind analytic power, so Greek imparts to it synthetic and constructive power. Few exercises are better calculated to call forth the powers of the mind to simultaneous action than the turning of a passage of idiomatic English into idiomatic Greek, or even vice versâ. This may be all readily admitted, and yet it may not follow, either that Greek ought to be made a compulsory study or that, as at present studied, it affords the advantages specified. If Latin were not studied in our colleges, Greek certainly ought to be made compulsory; but so long as Latin occupies the place it does, no cogent reason can be alleged for continuing Greek as a disciplinary study. In every respect in which Greek is valuable as a mental discipline, Latin is far superior to it. Latin is more exact, more logical, more rigid in its structure, more dissimilar to English, and more difficult to translate from or into. Besides these, it has other advantages over Greek. It is often more antique in its forms; it furnishes our language with a much larger number of words, and it gives the key to a much larger number of important living languages. To this must be added the fact that, from the almost entire neglect of Greek composition, and the slovenly way in which Greek authors are usually rendered into English, much of the disciplinary power of Greek, as well as of Latin, study is lost.

(2.) The Æsthetic Aim. There is much to be said for the study of Greek in this respect. Greek literature does unquestionably stand alone in the history of literary art as a production of unapproached excellence. It has neither the depth, variety, nor large humanity of several modern literatures; but it has an artistic perfection aud evinces a purity of taste equaled by none. Undoubtedly, therefore, if students could be brought to appreciate these characteristics, the gain would be great. But this, it is to be feared, is impossible under existing circumstances. At present, not one student in a hundred leaves Harvard College with any comprehensive knowledge of Greek literature as a whole, of its principles, spirit, and development, or any appreciation of its artistic perfection. Indeed, with the present standard of admission, no such result can be attained. So long as it remains true that if the ability to decline a noun of the first declension were to be made the test for admission to college, a much larger number of the candidates that any year present themselves would be conditioned than the faculty would allow to be conditioned in any one subject, there is not much hope that during their college course any large number of students, however well taught, will learn to appreciate the artistic excellences of Greek literature. What can be done for students, of whom, after a year and a half’s instruction in college, under highly competent teachers, not one in every ten can parse a moderately difficult part of a common Greek verb ? The truth is, that, as things are at present, the professors are obliged to perform the drudgery that ought to have been done in preparatory schools, and the students, even the best of them, find themselves, at the end of their college course, hardly at the point at which they ought to have been at its beginning. They discontinue the study before they are in a condition to derive from it any benefit in the way of æsthetic culture. As to the mysterious “ something ” of æsthetic nature alluded to above, it will be found in almost every case to consist of a somewhat vivid impression of the difficulties of the epic dialect, the swing of the epic hexameter, and a few anecdotes, such as the unpleasant domestic scene between Jupiter and his spouse in the first book of the Iliad; or else of the appearance presented on a printed page by the capricious lines of a chorus, of technical terms like hypercatalectic and anacrousis, and some untranslatable interjections like ѽ μoι, μoί ; øєῡ, øєῡ. Whether it be worth while to continue the study of Greek for any such result as this, is a question that requires no answer.

(3.) The Cosmopolitan Aim. This rather vague expression may be defined in this way. In the study of Greek, the mind of the student is transported out of the modern world, with its inherited prejudices and ideals, its narrow aims and utilitarian creeds, into a world where men felt, believed, thought, and acted in ways largely or altogether different from ours, and is thus widened, humanized, and rendered cosmopolitan. This aim, if attainable, would certainly be one deserving of all effort ; but it is one which at present is not in any degree realized. To reach it would require that the thought, the religion, the art, the polity, in a word, the entire life of the Greeks, inner as well as outer, should be made familiar to the mind and imagination of the student, and this could not be done by the direct study of Greek literature in ten or even in twenty years. That it is not in any degree accomplished by the present Greek course in Harvard College need not be added.

From the culture aims we pass to the scientific aims, and —

(1.) The Linguistic Aim. Since the rise of the important science of comparative grammar, Greek, no less than other languages, has assumed a position which it never before occupied. To the comparative grammarian an intimate knowledge of the vocabulary, phonology, morphology, syntax, and prosody of the Greek language, in all its stages and dialects, is absolutely essential. However, as comparative grammar is hardly studied at Harvard College at all, it is plain that Greek is not studied as a portion of that science. It is even true that it is not studied from the comparative point of view, or in such a way as to initiate students into the methods and principles of comparative grammar.

(2.) The Philosophico-Historical Aim. Besides the sciences called natural, which deal with all objects, including man, in so far as they are subject to what may be termed a law of necessity, there are what may be called the philological or culture sciences, — sciences which deal with mind and its institutions, in so far as they manifest reason and free volition. These sciences are æsthetics, science of religion, politics including social science, and philosophy or pure thought. The essential importance of Greek for the thorough student of these sciences none will deny or question. In all those institutions with which the culture sciences deal, as well as in these sciences themselves, the Greeks took a step such as no other people has ever taken, a step which effectually determined the direction of all succeeding ones. The history of all the institutions of free spirit is indissolubly bound up with the history of the Greeks, and no one can become a fruitful investigator in the domain of the culture sciences without a thorough knowledge of the language and literature of that people. It need hardly he added that the philosophico-historical aim is not realized in Harvard College. It is true, indeed, that some efforts have recently been made to give students an opportunity of becoming acquainted with the productions and principles of Greek art ; but what has thus been accomplished stands in no way connected with the Greek curriculum. Philosophy, religion, and polity are almost entirely neglected. Not a single Harvard graduate goes out into the world prepared to be an original investigator in these fields.

It is perhaps sufficiently evident from this brief summary that the study of Greek, as pursued in Harvard College, conduces to none of the ends which it may be supposed capable of subserving, whether those of culture or those of science. And yet we can hardly doubt that Harvard College proposes to herself both these aims. The college, it is true, was founded at a time when the question of distinct aims had far less relevancy than it has now, when no line needed to be drawn between culture and scientific attainment. Still, if we may judge from her position with respect to other institutions and the efforts at improvement which she makes, we must conclude that she aims at imparting both culture and scientific knowledge. Her error in regard to the culture studies is that she does not draw a sufficiently clear line of demarkation between these two aims, the result of which is that, in many cases, she attains neither. This, as we have seen, is especially true in the case of Greek.

In searching for a remedy for the present condition of things, we must begin by setting before ourselves these two aims as distinct, and asking ourselves the question, How can the study of Greek be best made to yield that culture which its literature is admittedly calculated to impart, and at the same time provision be made for those young men who desire and are fitted to be special students in the culture sciences, so that they may be prepared to become original investigators ? The answer may be thus briefly stated : By making Greek language an optional study, and establishing in college two distinct courses in Greek, a compulsory culture course and an elective scientific course.

While it is true that the highest æsthetic culture and the broadest cosmopolitanism, which the study of Greek is capable of imparting, cannot be attained without a knowledge, and even a critical one, of the Greek language, it Is also true that, without any acquaintance whatever with the language, a better knowledge of Greek literature, its principles and genius, and of Greek life in all its departments, might be arrived at than is now attained by the slow, laborious process of spelling out with notes, grammar, and lexicon a few works, nearly all belonging to one period and not all of average excellence. A series of lectures, with illustrative extracts in English by a man like Professor Lowell or Professor Child, that is, by a man as deeply imbued with the spirit of Greek literature and life as these men are with that of the literatures which they respectively profess, would be incomparably more valuable, in the way both of culture and of fruitful knowledge, than all the Greek that any student of Harvard College now ever learns. It may be affirmed, without fear of contradiction, that no graduate of Harvard College ever left it with a knowledge of Greek sufficient to enable him to read at sight any important literary, historical, or philosophical work in that language, and that no one, at any stage of his course, ever derived from a Greek book any valuable knowledge that he might not have derived more easily, and in a more comprehensive form, from an English one or, better still, from a lecture. And who but the most accomplished Greek scholar, that has read Greek until every word and turn is familiar to him and comes laden with its burden of associations, knows anything of the beauty that refuses to be transfused into another tongue ? It is foolish to talk of enjoying the peculiar, untranslatable beauties of any language until we can think and feel in it. Supposing now that, instead of there being six professors of Greek, all occupying the same field, each teaching indiscriminately poetry, history, ethics, oratory, etc., there were six professors dividing the field of Greek philology among them, — a professor of Greek language and hermeneutics, a professor of Greek archæology, a professor of Greek philosophy, etc., each a master in his particular domain —and supposing that each delivered three lectures a week on his special branch, more would be done to acquaint young men with what is really permanently valuable in Greek philology than does all the Greek they now so toilsomely learn and so soon forget. If, in addition, these young men were held responsible for a great deal of collateral reading bearing on the subjects of these lectures, the result would be so far superior to anything at present realized that the wonder would be how such a system as the one now prevailing could have been tolerated for a single year.

Such provision being made for the general student, the question of how to provide for the special student becomes much more easy to answer. Greek language being made an optional study, the standard for admission to the special scientific courses in Greek philology might at once be made such as to demand an amount of knowledge at least equal to that which the best students now have when they leave college, a standard which, even then, would be very much below that applied in the Abiturienten-Examen of a German gymnasium. Those passing this examination would be able to take courses in any branch of Greek philology — art, religion, polity, philosophy ; and such courses professors making specialties of different branches would be well fitted to give.

That such a change as the one here proposed could not be initiated without much difficulty may be taken for granted. At the very threshold of the matter we are met with the question, How, when, and where shall young men find opportunities to prepare themselves for a scientific course in Greek philology, if such a high standard for admission to it is to be applied?

If we remember that candidates for admission to Harvard College are examined on no fewer than sixteen distinct subjects, and that many young men pass the entire examination a year before their parents deem it advisable for them to enter, we shall perhaps find an answer to this question suggested. It would be tedious to enter into a minute discussion of the list of requisitions, but it is liable to at least three very strong objections : first, it contains subjects that ought not to be there at all, for example, geography and arithmetic, with which a university has nothing whatsoever to do directly ; second, it divides subjects which ought to be held together, and thus offers a premium for disjointed, unorganized, dead knowledge, or cram; third, its subjects are chosen apparently without any question as to whether they form a test of symmetrical mental development and ability, being rather a test of memory.

It Would seem to be the plainest axiom that an examination for admission to college should be a test, not of what a student has done, but of what he is prepared to do. And yet the list of requisitions for admission to Harvard College is in very many points at variance with this axiom. This is especially true in the case of Greek and Latin. Each counts as four distinct subjects. Grammar, composition, and translation arc separated, and the amount expected to be read is definitely stated. There is indeed a short exercise in reading at sight, but it counts for very little. It would be extremely difficult to find a programme more surely fatal to the attainment of scholarship than this. It is vague where it ought to be definite, and definite where it ought to be vague. What can be more vague than “Greek grammar,” “Latin grammar” ? and what is the result of this vagueness ? Simply that Greek and Latin grammar are studied in a perfunctory way, and in Greek, at least, a very large number of candidates for admission are unable to pass an examination on the first declension. Greek grammar is supposed to include prosody, and vet candidates are not required to have read a line of Greek poetry when they are examined in grammar. Still they must work through, and burden their memories with, the facts of prosody contained in an appendix to their grammar, and when they come to be examined, they are asked such a profound question as : Name the dissyllabic feet. Could anything be more absurd and wasteful of time than this ?

The truth is, there ought to be no direct examination in Greek or Latin grammar at all. That part of a young man’s acquaintance with grammar which does not show itself in his composition and translation, he had at that stage better be without. Again, nothing is gained, but much lost, by assigning just what Greek and Latin is to be read. An examination is surely not intended to show how familiar the candidate is with just the works assigned, but to show what he knows of the living structure of Greek and Latin generally, and how well prepared he is for the new work which he will have to enter upon in college. There is no hope of bringing about anything like living scholarship in Greek and Latin until colleges cease to assign definitely the work in which they expect candidates for admission to prepare themselves, and until the entrance examination becomes a pure test of ability to deal with new work. Then, and only then, will an effectual step be put to the now prevailing system of cramming, which is so fatal to all true knowledge and all mental development.

When the requisites for admission are properly selected and classed, so as to test ability and symmetrical mental development, time enough will be left for every young man of fair parts to prepare himself for a special course, such as every young man ought to take up when he enters college, be it Greek, or Latin, or something equally valuable. And this is the only way to produce Scholars or men accurate in any respect. “ One thing well done is the type of all things that are well done.”

The examination for admission ought to test these four things : (1.) Possession of, and power to use, implements. (2.) Power of observation. (3.) Analytic power. (4.) Synthetic power.

The most essential of intellectual implements are those living languages in which the results of human inquiry are for the most part recorded : namely, English, German, and Erench. Power of observation is best tested by an examination in one of the physical sciences ; analytic power by pure mathematics or applied logic ; and synthetic power by an examination in Latin translation and composition.

The list of subjects for examination might therefore take a form something like this, —

1. Tests of possession of, and power to use, implements : (a.) English composition with some knowledge of English literature. (b.) French reading, (c.) German reading.

2. Test of power of observation : one physical science, including the method of the physical sciences.

3. Test of analytic power : Mathematics, including (a.) algebra, (b.) geometry.

4. Test of synthetic power : Latin, including translation at sight both with and without the use of a lexicon, and composition.

It is not pretended that this programme represents less work than the one now in use, but it does represent work better classified, and demands an examination which shall be a test of ability and shall thus prevent that enormous waste of time which takes place in the effort to cram the memory. If adopted, it would leave the average student ample time to prepare himself for a thorough scientific course in some one subject, whether one of those in the programme, or Greek, or history, or whatever else.

Against thus making Greek an optional and merely special study two objections present themselves : first, it is said that if Greek language were made optional, all the preparatory schools would cease to teach it, on account of its difficulty, and it would soon sink to the position which Hebrew now occupies ; second, we are told that there is not at present in New England a supply of teachers capable of giving instruction sufficiently advanced to enable young men to undertake a scientific course in Greek in college. If either of these objections be valid, it would be hard to find a severer commentary upon the character of the Greek instruction in Harvard College hitherto. If New England has not been taught sufficient appreciation of, and respect for, Greek antiquity to maintain the study of it without artificial stimulus, then the sooner we abandon the study, the better. If Harvard College does not send forth men sufficiently versed in Greek, and numerous enough, to meet all the demands of the preparatory schools, some radical change such as here suggested is surely demanded.

To recapitulate. The study of Greek in Harvard College, notwithstanding the time and labor spent upon it, leads to neither of the aims for which it is undertaken. It produces neither men deeply imbued with the spirit of Greek literature nor scholars fitted to become original investigators. The main cause of this is that students are admitted to college with a preparation in Greek altogether inadequate to enable them to reap benefit from anything deserving the name of a course in Greek philology. The ground, again, of this lack of preparation is in great measure the unsatisfactory character of the requisites for admission, the list of which is open to the objections specified, causing an enormous waste of time, being fatal to depth and accuracy of scholarship, and offering a premium for cramming. In order to remedy this, the list ought to be altered, amended, and classified, so that the examinations shall be tests of ability to deal with new work, and not of memory of work already done. Greek language ought to be made an optional study, and two distinct courses in Greek offered in college. The test of proficiency ought to be, not an examination in work done, but power to treat, in the form of an essay or dissertation, a new subject, for which the student should have to collect information from original sources and to draw conclusions from uncertain or conflicting tradition.

Were a system introduced Something like the one here proposed, the study of Greek, instead of being that waste of time which it now for the most part is, would result in giving us, on the one hand, a large number of young men acquainted with the main principles of Greek literary, philosophic, and artistic effort, men fitted to raise the standard of literary taste and criticism; and, on the other, scholars able and ready to make independent investigations in all the divisions of Greek philology, and to aid in solving those religious, philosophical, and historical questions which, vital though they be, are almost entirely neglected by us. Thus a great step would be taken toward restoring to their proper position of eminence the sciences of mind, which are now almost lost sight of amid the servile anarchies of rebellious materialism.