Monday, June 12, 2006


A Plea for the Classics

Eugene Field, A Plea for the Classics:
A Boston gentleman declares,
  By all the gods above, below,
That our degenerate sons and heirs
  Must let their Greek and Latin go!
Forbid, O Fate, we loud implore,
  A dispensation harsh as that;
What! wipe away the sweets of yore;
  The dear "Amo, amas, amat"?

The sweetest hour the student knows
  Is not when poring over French,
Or twisted in Teutonic throes,
  Upon a hard collegiate bench;
'T is when on roots and kais and gars
  He feeds his soul and feels it glow,
Or when his mind transcends the stars
  With "Zoa mou, sas agapo"!

So give our bright, ambitious boys
   An inkling of these pleasures, too --
A little smattering of the joys
  Their dead and buried fathers knew;
And let them sing -- while glorying that
  Their sires so sang, long years ago --
The songs "Amo, amas, amat,"
  And "Zoa mou, sas agapo"!
  1. Amo, amas, amat = the Latin conjugation "I love, you love, he/she loves"
  2. kai, gar = common Greek words meaning "and" and "for"
  3. Zoa mou, sas agapo = a fragment of Greek meaning "My life, I love thee"

Neil O'Sullivan writes:
Field had some Latin, but it looks like not much Greek. Why else would he have thought that a scrap of Byron's bad modern Greek was actually something ancient?
E.J. Moncada identifies the source of the Greek as Byron's Maid of Athens.

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