Tuesday, July 02, 2019


A Shocking Lot of Dullards

Eva Matthews Sanford (1894-1954), "De Disciplina Scholarium: A Mediaeval Handbook on the Care and Training of Scholars," Classical Journal 28.2 (November, 1932) 82-95 (at 82):
Now is he Master dubbed, of Arts,
Who cannot put their several parts
    On any sure foundation.
To have the name alone he yearns,
The thing he neither loves nor learns,
    Save for examination.

Now gain the baccalaureate
At merely their tuition's rate,
    A shocking lot of dullards.
Dumb beasts we now promoted see
In Arts and in Philosophy,
    To take the place of scholards.1
This is no twentieth-century diatribe against the inefficiency of our universities, against the "degree-mill" and the reckoning of scholarly attainments in terms of examinations and fees. Were it such, the Ph.D. would inevitably have its verse before the bachelors and masters came in for their humble share of accusation.

1 A twelfth century satire on bachelors and masters of arts, published by Du Meril, Poésies populaires: Paris, Didot (1827), p. 153. To avert the skepticism of the incredulous, I append the Latin text:
Jam fit magister artium
Qui nescit quotas partium
    De vero fundamento.
Habere nomen appetit,
Rem vero nec curat nec scit,
    Examine contento.

Jam fiunt baccalaurei,
Pro munere denarii,
    Quamplures idiotae.
In artibus an aliis
Egregiis scientiis,
    Sunt bestiae promotae.
The date of Du Meril's Poésies populaires is incorrect. It should be 1847, not 1827. Also, Du Meril prints ab, not an, in the third line from the end.

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