Thursday, October 22, 2015


The Screaming Fathers

Andrew Lang, The Life and Letters of John Gibson Lockhart, Vol. I (London: John C. Nimmo, 1897), p. 25:
There are two prizes, medals, at Glasgow, called The Greek and Latin Blackstones. A student "professes," or takes up, so many Greek or Latin authors, and is closely examined in them viva voce. The professor is examiner, and decides the prize. The competitors take their seats in turn, in a curious antique chair, with an hour-glass in the back, and with a seat of stone. This stone was probably, Mr. Gleig thinks, originally a "symbol of infeftment," accompanying an old charter conveying lands to the College.1

1 The author may be excused for mentioning two incidents of this examination in his own day. In the Latin Blackstone, a student, (not the winner) translated a phrase in Juvenal, "the screaming fathers." "What is the Latin for screaming, Mr. ——?" asked Professor Ramsay. "Squalentes, sir, squalentes patres, the squalling fathers." In the Greek Blackstone Professor Lushington handed his own Aeschylus to a spectator, and examined without book, calling the competitors' attention to such grammatical expressions and turns of phrase as he thought desirable, a singular proof of his great memory.
Cf. Juvenal 8.17: squalentis traducit avos (tr. Susanna Morton Braund: he disgraces his unkempt ancestors).

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