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may have acquired the Italian tongue. “And soon after, but with wariness and good antidote, it would be wholesome enough to let them taste some choice comedies, Greek, Latin, or Italian; those tragedies also that treat of household matters, as Trachiniae, Alcestis, and the like.” He would next have them instructed in politics, “that they may not, in a dangerous fit of the commonwealth, be such poor, shaken, uncertain reeds, of such a tottering conscience, as many of our great counsellors have lately shown themselves, but steadfast pillars of the State. Then they should study the grounds of law and legal justice in the law of Moses, the remains of the Greek lawgivers, that of the Romans down to Justinian, and so down to the Saxon and Common Law of England and the Statutes.” The Sundays now, and the evenings, may be devoted to the highest matters of theology and Church history, and by this time they may have acquired the Hebrew tongue; “whereto,” he says, “it would be no impossibility to add the Chaldee and the Syrian dialect.”
When all these employments are well conquered, then will the choice historians, heroic poems, and Attic tragedies of stateliest and most regal argument, with all the famous political orations, offer themselves; which if they were not merely read, but some of them got by memory and solemnly pronounced with right accent and grace, as might be taught, would endue them even with the spirit and vigour of Demosthenes or Cicero, Euripides or Sophocles.
The time is now come for teaching them logic and rhetoric, and the art of criticism, as developed in the works of Aristotle and Horace, and by Castelvetro, Tasso, Mazzoni, and others, among the Italians, which “teaches what the laws are of a true epic poem; what of a dramatic, what of a lyric, what decorum is, which is the grand masterpiece to observe . . . and show them what religious, what glorious and magnificent use might be made of poetry, both in Divine and human things.”
From hence, and not till now, will be the right season of forming them to be able writers and composers in every excellent matter, when they shall be thus fraught with a universal insight into things; or whether they be to speak in parliament or council, honour and attention would be waiting on their lips. There would then also appear in pulpits other visages, other gestures, and stuff otherwise wrought than what we now sit under; ofttimes to as great a trial of our patience, as any other that they preach to us. These are the studies wherein our noble and our gentle youth ought to bestow their time in a disciplinary way from twelve to one-and-twenty ; unless they rely more upon their ancestors, dead, than upon themselves, living : in which methodical course, it is so supposed, they must proceed by the steady pace of learning onward; as at convenient times, for memory's sake, to retire back into the middle ward, and sometimes into the rear, of what they have been taught, until they have confirmed and solidly united the whole body of their perfected knowledge, like the embattling of a Roman legion.
They should be allowed an hour and a half before dinner, at noon, for exercise, and due rest after; but the time for this might be enlarged, as they rose earlier or later in the morning, i.e. according to the time of the year.
The exercise which I commend first, is the exact use of their weapon, to guard and to strike safely with edge or point. This will keep them healthy, nimble, strong, and well in health; is also the likeliest means to make them grow large and tall, and to inspire them with a gallant and fearless courage, which, being tempered with seasonable lectures and precepts to them of true fortitude and patience, will turn into a native and heroic valour, and make them hate the cowardice of doing wrong. They must be also practised in all the locks and gripes of wrestling, -wherein Englishmen were wont to excel,-as need may often be in fight to tug, to grapple, and to close. And this perhaps will be enough, wherein to heat and prove their single strength. The interim of unsweating themselves regularly, and convenient rest before meat, may both with profit and delight be taken up in recreating and composing their travailed spirits with the solemn and divine harmonies of music heard or learned ; either whilst the skilful organist plies his grave and fancied descant in lofty fugues,” or the whole symphony, with artful and unimaginable touches, adorn and grace the well-studied chords of some choice composer; sometimes the lute or soft organ-stop waiting on elegant voices, either to religious, martial, or civil ditties, which—if wise men and prophets be not extremely out— have a great power over dispositions and manners, to smooth and make them gentle from rustic harshness and distempered passions. The like, also, would not be inexpedient after meat, to assist and cherish nature in her first concoction, and send their minds back to study in good tune and satisfaction; where, having followed it close under vigilant eyes till about two hours before supper, they are by a sudden alarum or watchword to be called out to their military motions, under sky or covert, according to the season, as was the Roman wont : first on foot, then, as their age permits, on horseback, to all the art of cavalry—that having in sport, but with much exactness and daily muster, served out the rudiments of their soldiership, in all the skill of embattling, marching, encamping, fortifying, besieging, and battering, with all the helps of ancient and modern stratagems, tactics, and warlike maxims, they may, as it were out of a long war, come forth renowned and perfect commanders in the service of their country. They would not then, if they were trusted with fair and hopeful armies, suffer them, for want of just and wise discipline, to shed away from about them like sick feathers, though they be never so oft supplied; they would not suffer their empty and unrecruitable colonels of twenty men in a company to quaff out or convey into secret hoards the wages of a delusive list and a miserable remnant, yet in the meanwhile to be overmastered with a score or two of drunkards, the only soldiery left about them, or else to comply with all rapines and violences. No, certainly, if they
* Descant is what we term variation. “A fugue,” says Hume (on Par. Lost, xi. 563), “is in music the correspondence of parts answering one another in the same notes, either above or below.”
know aught of that knowledge that belongs to good men, or good governors, they would not suffer these things.”
But to return to our own institute. Besides these constant exercises at home, there is another opportunity of gaining experience, to be won from pleasure itself abroad. In those vernal seasons of the year, when the air is calm and pleasant, it were an injury and a sullenness against nature not to go out and see her riches, and partake in her rejoicing with heaven and earth. I should not, therefore, be a persuader to them of studying much then, after two years that they have well laid their grounds,t but to ride out in companies, with prudent and staid guides, to all the quarters of the land, learning and observing all places of strength, all commodities of building and of soil for towns and tillage, harbours and ports for trade; sometimes taking sea as far as to our navy, to learn there also what they can in the practical knowledge of sailing and of sea-fight.
These ways would try all their pecular gifts of nature; and if there were any secret excellence among them would fetch it out, and give it fair opportunities to advance itself by, which could not but mightily redound to the good of this nation, and bring into fashion again those old admired virtues; and excellencies, with far more advantage now in the purity of Christian knowledge. Nor shall we then need the Monsieurs of Paris to take our hopeful youth into their slight and prodigal custodies, and send them over back again transformed into mimics, apes, and kickshaws. But if they desire to see other countries at three or four and twenty years of age, not to learn principles, but to enlarge experience and make wise observations, they will by that time be such as shall deserve the regard and honour of all men where they pass, and the society and friendship of those who are best and most eminent. § And perhaps then other nations will be glad to visit us for their breeding, or else to imitate us in their own country.
We have always regarded this treatise of Milton's as a singular instance of how even the greatest of minds will allow themselves to be beguiled by their imagination. There could not have been found at that time in England, there could not be found even at the present day, when it is so much more populous, even one hundred persons capable of acquiring, between the ages of twelve and twenty-one, anything approaching to the quantity of various knowledge here supposed ; nay, Milton himself never possessed it at any period of his life. Surely his experience in teaching might have shown him that what he proposed was little short of impossibility, in the present condition of human nature, a condition not likely ever to be essentially altered. A limit is set to our acquisitions, and he who seeks to be acquainted with too many things, will find himself in the end having little real knowledge of any. Most fortunate, too, for the world, we may add, was it, that Milton himself was, as he informs us, educated on a different system, and his splendid imagination allowed to attain its full development. There are some things however in this system worthy of attention and of adoption. Thus, as he would not commence even with Latin grammar till after the age of twelve, it is plain that he was no friend to the forcing system, or that of trying to make infant prodigies; but still we think that classical education may with safety begin at a much earlier age, as indeed he did begin it himself in the case of his nephews. We quite approve of his plan of teaching a more correct mode of pronouncing Latin, but of that we shall speak when we come to notice his own Latin writings. We also approve of his deferring the practice of literary composition till the time when the mind would have been well furnished with
* In all this he alludes to the troops of the Parliament, before the New Model.
+ I. e. Foundation.