Ezra Pound, Literary Essays
(New York: New Directions, 1954), pp. 239-240:
Beside the fustian tradition, the tradition of cliché phrases, copies
of Greek and Latin clause structure and phrase structure, two causes
have removed the classics from us. On one hand we have ceased to
read Greek with the aid of Latin cribs, and Latin is the only language
into which any great amount of Greek can be in a lively fashion set
over; secondly, there is no discrimination in classical studies. The
student is told that all the classics are excellent and that it is a crime
to think about what he reads. There is no use pretending that these
literatures are read as literature. An apostolic succession of school
teachers has become the medium of distribution.
The critical faculty is discouraged, the poets are made an exercise,
a means of teaching the language. Even in this there is a great deal of
buncome. It is much better that a man should use a crib, and know
the content of his authors than that he should be able to recite all the
rules in Allen and Greenough's Grammar. Even the teaching by
rules is largely a hoax. The Latin had certain case feelings. For the
genitive he felt source, for the dative indirect action upon, for the
accusative direct action upon, for the ablative all other peripheric
sensation, i.e. it is less definitely or directly the source than the genitive, it is contributory circumstance; lump the locative with it, and
one might call it the 'circumstantial'. Where it and the dative have
the same form, we may conclude that there was simply a general
The humanizing influence of the classics depends more on a wide
knowledge, a reading knowledge, than on an ability to write exercises in Latin; it is ridiculous to pretend that a reading knowledge
need imply more than a general intelligence of the minutiae of
grammar. I am not assuming the position of those who objected to
Erasmus's 'tittle-tattles',1 but there is a sane order of importance.
When the classics were a new beauty and ecstasy people cared a
damn sight more about the meaning of the authors, and a damn sight
less about their grammar and philology.
1 Greek accents.
Id., p. 241:
perhaps important that the classics should be humanly, rather than
philologically taught, even in class-rooms. A barbaric age given over
to education agitates for their exclusion and desuetude. Education is
an onanism of the soul. Philology will be ascribed to De la Sade.