Wednesday, June 06, 2018


Homer in Twenty-One Days

Excerpt from Joseph Scaliger (1540-1609), Epistola de Vetustate et Splendore Gentis Scaligerae = A Letter on the Antiquity and Nobility of the Della Scala Family, tr. G.W. Robinson, in Anthony Grafton, "Close Encounters of the Learned Kind: Joseph Scaliger's Table Talk," The American Scholar 57.4 (Autumn, 1988) 581-588 (at 581):
In my nineteenth year, after my father's death, I betook myself to Paris from love of Greek, believing that they who know not Greek, know nothing. After attending the learned lectures of Adrian Turnebus for two months, I found I was throwing all my work away, because I had no foundation. I secluded myself, therefore, in my study, and, shut in that grinding-mill, sought to learn, self-taught, what I had not been able to acquire from others. Beginning with a mere smattering of the Greek conjugations, I procured Homer, with a translation, and learned him all in twenty-one days. I learned grammar exclusively from observation of the relation of Homer's words to each other; indeed, I made my own grammar of the poetic dialect as I went along. I devoured all the other Greek poets within four months. I did not touch any of the orators or historians until I had mastered all the poets.
The Latin, from p. 56 of the Epistola (Leiden: Plantin, 1594):
Anno aetatis meae decimonono Lutetiam post obitum patris petii literarum Graecarum amore, quas qui nescirent, omnia nescire putabam. Postquam menses duos operam Adriano Turnebo dedissem, quia destitutus aliis praesidiis operam omnem in eius doctissimo auditorio ludebam, in musaeum me abdidi, & in illo pistrino inclusus, quod ex aliis non potueram, me magistro discere experiebar. Igitur vix delibatis coniugationibus Graecis, Homerum cum interpretatione arreptum vno & viginti diebus totum didici: poeticae vero dialecti vestigiis insistens Grammaticam mihi ipse formavi: neque vllam aliam didici, quam quae mihi ex analogia verborum Homericorum obseruata fuit. Reliquos vero poetas Graecos omnes intra quatuor menses deuoraui. Neque vllum oratorem, aut historicum prius attigi, quam poetas omnes tenerem.

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