« AnteriorContinuar »
Goons of ound then
ing of many studious and contemplative years, altogether spent in the search of religious and civil knowledge, and such as pleased you so well in the relating, I here give you them to dispose of.
4. The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith, makes up the highest perfection. But because our understanding cannot in this body found itself but on sensible things, nor arrive so clearly to the knowledge of God and things invisible, as by orderly conning over the visible and inferior creature, the same method is necessarily to be followed in all discreet teaching. And seeing every nation affords not experience and tradition enough for all kinds of learning, therefore we are chiefly taught the languages of those people who have at any time been most industrious after wisdom; so that language is but the instrument conveying to us things useful to be known. And though a linguist should pride himself to have all the tongues that Babel cleft the world into, (3) yet if he have not studied the solid things in them, as well as the words and lexicons, he were nothing so much to be esteemed a learned man, as any yeoman or
(3) Though he himself understood many languages, and appears to have possessed a peculiar aptitude for this kind of learning, no one could be further than he from pedantry. In his view, language was merely the instrument of knowledge.
tradesman competently wise in his mother dialect only.
5. Hence appear the many mistakes which have made learning generally so unpleasing and so unsuccessful ; first, we do amiss to spend seven or eight years merely in scraping together so much miserable Latin and Greek, as might be learned otherwise easily and delightfully in one year.(4) And that which casts our proficiency therein so much behind, is our time lost partly in too oft idle vacancies given both to schools and universities; partly in a preposterous exaction, forcing the empty wits of children to compose themes, verses, and orations, which are the acts of ripest judgment, and the final work of a head filled by long reading and observing, with elegant maxims and copious invention. These are not matters to be wrung from poor striplings, like blood out of the nose, or the plucking of untimely fruit. Besides the ill habit which they get of wretched barbarizing against the Latin and Greek idiom, with their untutored Anglicisms, odious to be read, yet not to be avoided without a well-continued and judicious conversing among pure authors digested, which they scarce taste. (6) Whereas, if after some
() On this subject, see Locke's Treatise on Education, s. 162—177.-Works, folio edition, vol. iii. p. 72. sqq.
() Philips, a pupil of Milton, furnishes us with a list of the books which he himself made use of in teaching: these were, in Latin, the agricultural works of Cato, Columella, Varro, and Palladius, Celsus on Medicine, Pliny's Natural History, Vitruvius's Architecture, Frontinus's Stratagems, and the Philosophical Poems of Lucretius and Manilius : in Greek, Hesiod, Aratus,
preparatory grounds of speech by their certain forms got into memory, they were led to the praxis thereof in some chosen short book lessoned thoroughly to them, they might then forth with proceed to learn the substance of good things, and arts in due order, which would bring the whole language quickly into their power. This I take to be the most rational and most profitable way of learning languages, and whereby we may best hope to give account to God of our youth spent herein.
6. And for the usual method of teaching arts, I deem it to be an old error of universities, not yet well recovered from the scholastic grossness of barbarous ages, that instead of beginning with arts most easy, (and those be such as are most obvious to the sense,) they present their young unmatriculated novices, at first coming, with the most intellective abstractions of logic and metaphysics; so that they having but newly left those grammatic flats and shallows, where they stuck unreasonably to learn a few words with lamentable construction, and now on the sudden transported under another climate, to be tossed and turmoiled with their unballasted wits in fathomless and unquiet deeps of controversy, do for the most part grow into hatred and contempt of learning, mocked and deluded all this while with ragged
Dionysius Periegesis, Oppian's Cynegetica and Halieutics, Apollonius Rhodius, Quintus Calaber, certain of Plutarch's Philosophical works, Geminus's Astronomy, Xenophon's Cyropædia and Anabasis, Polyænus's Stratagems, and Elian's Tactics.
notions and babblements, while they expected worthy and delightful knowledge ; till poverty or youthful years call them importunately their several ways, and hasten them, with the sway of friends, either to an ambitious and mercenary, or ignorantly zealous divinity; some allured to the trade of law, grounding their purposes not on the prudent and heavenly contemplation of justice and equity, which was never taught them, but on the promising and pleasing thoughts of litigious terms, fat contentions, and flowing fees; others betake them to state affairs, withi souls so unprincipled in virtue and true generous breeding, that flattery and court-shifts and tyrannous aphorisms (6) appear to them the highest points of wisdom; instilling their barren hearts with a conscientious slavery; if, as I rather think, it be not feigned. Others, lastly, of a more delicious and airy spirit, retire themselves (knowing no better) to the enjoyments of ease and luxury, living out their days in feast and jollity; which indeed is the wisest and safest course of all these, unless they were with more integrity undertaken. And these are the errors, and these are the fruits of misspending our prime youth at the schools and universities as we do, either in learning mere words or such things chiefly as were better unlearned.
(6) His hatred and contempt of tyranny everywhere break forth. Bacon, himself a lawyer, likewise notices the too com. mon effect of a laborious study of the law, which appears to have a natural tendency to narrow and enfeeble the mind. Our history, however, furnishes some brilliant exceptions.
7. I shall detain you now no longer in the demonstration of what we should not do, but straight conduct you to a hill-side, where I will point you out the right path of a virtuous and noble education; laborious indeed at the first ascent, but else so smooth, so green, so full of goodly prospect, and melodious sounds on every side, that the harp of Orpheus was not more charming (0) I doubt not but ye shall have more ado to drive our dullest and laziest youth, our stocks and stubs, from the infinite desire of such a happy nurture, than we have now to bale and drag our choicest and hopefullest wits to that asinine feast of sowthistles and brambles, which is commonly set before them as all the food and entertainment of their tenderest and most docible age. I call therefore a complete and generous education, that which fits a man to perform justly, skilfully, and magnanimously all the offices, both private and public, of peace and war. And how all this may be done between twelve and one and twenty, less time than is now bestowed in pure trifling at grammar and sophistry, is to be thus ordered.
8. First, to find out a spacious house and ground about it fit for an academy, and big enough to lodge a hundred and fifty persons, (®) whereof
() He had already, in Comus, described the delight derivable from the study of philosophy :
“How charming is divine philosophy!
Where no crude surfeit reigns." (6) Nowhere has the material frame-work of Milton's system