Monday, November 10, 2014


Teacher as Tree

As a present to Edward Byles Cowell on his seventieth birthday, his friends gave him a portrait painted by Charles Edmund Brock:

In a letter (January 23, 1896) of thanks to his friends Cowell wrote:
The teacher's motto may well be—
Serit arbores quae alteri saeculo prosint,
and I trust that the sapling which I have tried to plant in Cambridge will become a vigorous tree that shall long continue to bear fruit.
Gurur viçiṣyaḥ saralo yathā girau
    Asevitaḥ pānthajanena tiṣthati |
Varaṃ sa jīryen navaçiṣyasaṃçrito
    Vṛtaḥ svatamtrair viṭapair vaṭo yathā. ||

High on his rock the lonely scholar stands,—
A mountain pine that spreads no sheltering shade;
Rather grow old amid fresh student bands,—
A banyan with its native colonnade.
My wife and I gratefully accept this portrait as a sign that our names will remain in kindly remembrance when we are gone; and we also feel it is an especial further kindness that you have allowed us to hang it in the Hall of Corpus Christi College.
George Cowell, Life & Letters of Edward Byles Cowell (London: Macmillan and Co., Limited, 1904), pp. 352-353:
Cowell had this reply, which he had prepared beforehand, printed, and presented a copy to each of his friends who were present, and subsequently forwarded a copy also to all friends at home and abroad to whom he wrote an account of the presentation.

Amongst those who had attended the presentation were Mr. C.W. Moule and Professor Skeat, and both these scholars set to work on their return home to turn Cowell's Çloka, the one into Latin and the other into Anglo-Saxon. I am permitted to give both these tributes of affection for Cowell, as I think they are a fitting completion of the record of a deeply interesting occasion.
              LATIN TRANSLATION.

Rupe super sola sapiens stat, ut ardua pinus,
    Unde patent nulli tegmina montivago.
Discipulos inter iuvenesque senescere malim,
    Ut ficus virgis Indica fulta suis.


Hēah on hliðe āhæfen āna
stīð-mōd on stāne stent se lārēow,
swā pīn-treow hlīfað on hēan beorge,
gescyldend þurh scūwan fēawe scealca.
Bet wære yldan ealdor mid geongrum,
leorning-cnihta lēofra on midle,
fæst swā fīc-bēam fæð mē beclypped
þāra sīdra telga þe hē self cende.


High on the-slope heaved up alone
Strong-minded on the-rock stands the teacher,
As a-pine-tree stands-up on a-high mountain
Shielding by its-shade a few men.
Better were-it to-grow-old (as) an-elder together-with younger-ones,
Of-disciples dear in the middle;
Fast as a-fig-tree by-the-embrace clasped
Of the long shoots which he himself produced.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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