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A Round of Proverbs.
A ROUND OF PROVERBS.
Well begun is half-ended.
All the actions and enterprises of mankind labour under the reflection of this quaint moral sentence whether they be prudent or imprudent in the undertaking, and good or bad in the accomplishment. It intimates that persons should be very deliberate and advised in the beginning of an undertaking; for that to begin well is the only way to quicken and dispatch the end, let it be what it will. It intimates that there is a great deal of difficulty in beginning well, and that a false step at first start is hardly to be recovered afterwards: That the work does not cost half so much trouble as the design of it; that it is an easy matter to make way when the ice is broke. It reflects upon false foundations and foolish projects, and it holds good from morality and worldly affairs to religion, That a good beginning is a fair step to a good ending.
Money makes the mare to go. This proverb is a good lesson of industry in our calling, and frugality in our expences, intimating its usefulness, in that it clothes the naked, feeds the hungry, and buys a crutch for the cripple, as Horace
Scilicet uxorem cum dote, fidemque et ami
Et genus, et formam, regina pecunia donat. In a word, it carries on all the business upon earth, and there is nothing to be done without it in any affair, either of necessity or convenience; and by its assistance we may almost work miracles.
Need makes the old wife trot. This proverb intimates the great power of necessity, which does not only make the young and lusty go'a trotting to relieve their necessities, but also makes old people, who have one foot in the grave, to bestir their stumps. Necessity makes the weak strong, the decrepid active and nimble, the cripple walk; It gives vigour and life to the most languishing and feeble starveling; makes the laine find his legs; excites the
most obstinate to lead or drive at the will and pleasure of his master.
One good turn deserves another. In this proverb the vice of ingratitude is arraigned; it intimates that mutual offices of love; and alternate helps or assistances, are the fruits and issues of true friendship; that it is both meet and comely, and just and equitable, to requite kindness, and to make them amends who have de served well of us.
'Tis too late to spare when all is spent.
Some persons are so much for enjoyment in the present tense, that they cannot think of being thrifty but in future; and by that means, often, from an opulent fortune, precipitate themselves into a condition of indigence. To such this proverb is a good admonition to frugality and providence, and not by excess and luxury to outrun the constable; and not to forget parsimony while we have something left to tiness of our time, not to be continually spare. It likewise holds good in a thrifprocrastinating and putting off necessary duties, till we have no time left us to perform them in.
Every man thinks his own geese swans.
This proverb intimates that an inbred philauty runs through the whole race of flesh and blood, and that self love is the mother of vanity, pride, and mistake. It turns a man's geese into swans, his dunghill poultry into pheasants, and his lambs venison. It blinds the understanding, perverts the judgment, deprives the reason of the otherwise most modest distinguishers of truth and falsity. It makes a man so fondly conceited of himself, that be prefers his own art for its excellency, his own skill for its perfection, his own compositions for their wit, and his own productions for their beauty. It makes even his vices seem to him virtues, and his deformities, beauties; for so every crow thinks her own bird fairest, though ever so black and ugly.
Suum cuique pulchrum.
Συμβούλευε μὴ τὰ ἥδιστα, ἀλλὰ τὰ ἄριστα.
With mean complaisance ne'er betray your trust,
Nor be so civil as to prove unjust,
Fear not the anger of the wise to raise,
Those best can bear reproof, who merit praise. Essay on Criticism.
It is striking enough, that there should be but little provision for the study of the Greek language, in the country of Ruddiman, of Moor, of Adam, and of Young. We say but little provision; for the time and attention which all our Universities, and most of our public schools devote to the learning of Greek, are just as inadequate to the instruction of youth in the difficulties of that language, as into the mysteries of Indian mythology, or the endless varieties of Chinese ceremony. It is but a little time, since out of the twelve years allotted to an academical education in Glasgow, only twelve months were spent in the study of Greek. And even now the case is not much altered, for though Greek is taught in the highest class of the Grammar School, whenever the young men from that school enter College, they must return to the elements, and go over just what they have learned before.
The error seems to lie in making the junior side of the Greek an elementary class. For if it were necessary, as in the case of
*The term of attendance in the Grammar School, is either four, five or six years, and in the College eight.
On the University of Glasgow-Greek Class.
Latin, that the students should be acquainted with Greek before coming to College, then they would be placed more on a level one with another, and greater justice done to all. According to the present practice, the same tasks are imposed on those who have learned the Grammar, and on those who have not; and one of two evils must ensue. Either so much time is lost to the former, or they have undue advantage over the latter. If those who know a little of Greek, pass over the first class, and join the second, the old evil exists in all its magnitude, for no more time is afforded to the study than before. Besides it must be remembered, that the senior side is intended to commence at the point where the junior ended. So that a young man who has learned more Greek out of College, than is taught in the junior side within College, that is, has been more than six months engaged in the study, loses time even by joining the senior class, which yet would have been far enough advanced for him, if the junior had not been elementary. View then the present system in every possible light, and it will be found to afford only twelve months to the study of Greek.* What are the consequences? Why we venture to say, that there never yet came out of that class, at the termination of the session, a single good scholar who owed all his instruction to it. There may be, and there actually have been, hundreds of good scholars, so far as they have gone, but their going has been of no length. We have indeed known students of Greek, profess themselves able to read every book in the language, and ready to submit their pretensions to the test of examination; and we particularly remember of one youth of this description, who though examined for a long time, with all the ingenuity of the present most acute professor, made not a single slip. But not one of these "rari nantes in gurgite vasto," were originally of University teaching. Numbers there are, excellent scholars, who yet have only attended College classes, but then their excellency is all attributable to after study, without which their attendance in College would have been of little avail. Of this number, we supthe celebrated Dr. Nelson of Belfast to be one. We know
*It is true that a student may attend the Greek class for a third session if he chooses, but from the very constitution of that class, it is impossible that he can be much benefited by such protracted attendance. The authors which are read, or the prelections which are delivered during the third session, must either be the same, or not more difficult, than those of the second, for although he is of three sessions' standing, the class is only of two.
On the University of Glasgow-Greek Class.
not indeed, whether he received any instruction in Greek, before coming to Glasgow, but we have been told, that though a diligent and respectable scholar, he did not at that time, give more than ordinary token of eminence.*
It must be evident on very slight consideration, that a University is the last place in which we have reason to suppose, that the elements of Greek will be successfully taught. The class consists say of a hundred youths, most of them boys, and the Professor meets with them only two hours a day. Is it possible that one man, however eager, however able, can afford to such a class, in so short a time, that degree of attention and of individual examination, which is necessary for boys in so critical a stage of their progress? The elements of language, and especially of Greek, are only to be mastered by patience and perseve rance, encouraged by examinations much more frequent, than the time or the numbers of a University class will permit, or compelled by severities which the dignity of a Professor's chair, will not allow him to inflict. If a boy cannot repeat his rule, the time of ninety-nine others must not be consumed either in teaching or flogging him- he may be fined, but what is sixpence to an hour's confinement, or a sound drubbing. Besides the infrequency of examination, produces an infrequency of finingwhereas in school, where the numbers are fewer, and the time much longer, the idler is frequently examined, and frequently flogged.
We humbly conceive too, that it is not in any case the business of a Professor to teach the elements of a language, unless he is also able to accompany his students through its greatest difficulties, within the term prescribed for the study, as in the case of Hebrew; because much of the Professor's time is occupied in doing, what a person of very inferior ability could do equally well, and at a much cheaper rate. We are to suppose that he holds his high situation in virtue of superior learning, but of what use is that superiority to his students, if he must be constantly employed in the humbler walks of his profession? Strong meat is not for babes, neither are profound disquisitions on the pre
* Perhaps we assert this fact on insufficient authority. If so we shall be glad to be informed of our mistake. At any rate we are very sure, that if he was not taught Greek before he came to College, or if he did not study severely after leaving it, that the bare instructions of twelve months, would never have given him the knowledge of that language, which he possesses.
On the University of Glasgow-Greek Class.
positions, or the middle voice, for youths who have only been twelve months in a Greek class.
The truth of these observations is fully manifested by a reference to facts known to every one. It will not be denied, that the English and Irish are better Greek scholars than the Scotch, and that the Scotch are better Latin than Greek scholars. The reason is plain. In England and Ireland, Greek is a most material part of school education, and that too for years.
a youth is admitted into either University of the south, he must undergo an examination, touching his skill in the dead languages, and if he is found unqualified, by the laws of the place, at least, admission is impossible. And this examination is not such another, as we are accustomed to hear in the north. "No child's play here," said the head master of Baliol, to a Scottish exhibitioner, who lately offered himself for trial. And if the appearance at the examination is just such as to warrant admission and no more, the severest tasks, and the most rigorous execution of them are afterwards imposed. This may not be the case at all the colleges, but it is so at Baliol. We know a certain youth, not many miles distant from the spot where we now write, whose circumstances were those we have described, and whose health suffered considerably in consequence.
In Dr. Nelson's school, the practice was so soon as the scholars had proceeded a certain length in Latin, to begin Greek, and continue the study of both, till they were qualified for the University. This plan has its opposers on the ground, that the study of the one interferes prejudicially with that of the other but we can say from our own experience, that the effect is quite the contrary. There are so many points of similarity that the learning of the one is really the learning of the other—and even in their dissimilarities, they are the best illustrations of each other.
In Dublin, in Cork, and we believe in the greater part of Ireland, the same method is followed, and with the same success. Hence the young men from that country, who afterwards study at Glasgow, uniformly bear the charac ter of superior Grecians, and the Greek profession prize is either won by them, or their rivals from the southern side of the Tweed. At times, a Scotsman will unexpectedly dis
* The Doctor is now removed to the Belfast Institution.