Sunday, May 23, 2004


Thoreau on the Study of the Classics

Henry D. Thoreau, Translations, ed. K.P. Van Anglen (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), pp. 55-56:
We know of no studies so composing as those of the classical scholar. When we have sat down to them, life seems as still and serene as if it were very far off, and we believe it is not habitually seen from any common platform so truly and unexaggerated as in the light of literature. In serene hours we contemplate the tour of the Greek and Latin authors with more pleasure than the traveller does the fairest scenery of Greece or Italy. Where shall we find a more refined society? That highway down from Homer and Hesiod to Horace and Juvenal is more attractive than the Appian. Reading the classics, or conversing with those old Greeks and Latins in their surviving works, is like walking amid the stars and constellations, a high and by-way serene to travel. Indeed, the true scholar will be not a little of an astronomer in his habits. Distracting cares will not be allowed to obstruct the field of his vision, for the higher regions of literature, like astronomy, are above storm and darkness.

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