Monday, June 24, 2013


What on Earth Was the Sense of Them?

Henry Newbolt, My World As In My Time: Memoirs of Sir Henry Newbolt 1862-1932 (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1932), p. 27:
I longed of course to read Latin and Greek, and I was excited when I heard that the governess who was coming to teach my brother and sister would also give me Latin lessons. She was a lady of unusual ability, sent to us by the Nevilles of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and in the end I owed her much. But the first lesson was a bewildering disappointment. Miss Green had not been an hour in the house before she set me to learn by heart—not the Latin poems in which I had hoped to find the originals of Macaulay's Lays, but—the names of the Grammatical Cases—just the words Nominative, Vocative, Accusative and the rest. I had the power of memorising, and I quickly mastered the six words: but what on earth was the sense of them? What did the Romans use them for? Couldn't I leave them aside and learn at once what Lars Porsena really said about the Nine Gods?
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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