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Greek authors, and they would thus “bring the whole language quickly into their power.” This he considered 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.”
The things to be studied first and for long are sensible things and not abstractions. We learn from Phillips, who was a pupil of Milton's at Aldersgate Street, the names of the books which Milton made use of in teaching with a view to give instruction at once in language through things, and things through language :
The work of Cato Major, De Re Rustica—the only work of Cato's which has come down to us.
Columella's 12 books on the same subject.
Palladius, also an agricultural writer very popular in the Middle Ages. His treatise is in 14 books, mostly in the form of a farmer's calendar.
Celsus on Medicine.
Manilius, a writer of a poem on Astrology and Astronomy. (Astronomica, 5 books.)
In Greek :
Aratus, who wrote two astronomical poems very popular among the ancients.
Dionysius, commonly called Periegetes, who wrote a description of the earth in hexameters.
Oppian, who wrote on fishing and hunting.
Apollonius Rhodius, whose Argonautica gives a description of the adventures of the Argonauts.
Quintus Calaber, author of a Greek epic poem on the Trojan war.
Plutarch-apparently some of the Moral writings ?).
The substantial correctness of the record made by Phillips is guaranteed by the list of books which Milton himself recommends in his treatise, though he omits some of the above books, and adds others. Among those named by Milton and omitted by Phillips are the rural parts of Virgil, Hesiod, Theocritus: also Seneca's Quaestiones Naturales. Milton also names for ethical, philosophical, and political teaching, the moral works of Plato, Xenophon, Aristotle, Cicero and the Greek poets.
Now, if we attempt to arrange the course of study, following such slight indications as are given by Milton, we find that after the initiatory year's work already adverted to (substantially grammatical), the books first to be studied are the writers on agriculture, Cato, Columella, and Varro. These will give the pupils command of all ordinary prose. After reading these books they should study in some modern author “the use of the globes and all the maps.” Concurrently with this, Greek would be begun after the same fashion as Latin, and the pupil be introduced to Aristotle's physical works and the history of plants by Theophrastus. To help in these studies in so far as they were of a practical kind, all sorts of mechanical teachers might be employed—such as hunters, fowlers, fishermen, architects, engineers, etc.—in a subordinate capacity, either giving their services gratuitously or for a salary. This course of study
. would bring the pupil to the age of about 17 I should say.
The pupils would now proceed to Latin and Greek authors on Astronomy and Geometry, and proceed to the study of Trigonometry, Engineering, Fortification, Navigation. A compendium of Physics would be here introduced, and Natural History, and even Anatomy and Medicine (within certain limits) studied. Milton's scheme of secondary education (in so far as it has reference to the intellect) is thus at once realistic, encyclopaedic and technical.
University Stage. The above studies could not possibly be completed until the pupils were at least 18 years of age—the university age, as we may call it. It is at this age that the purely literary, political, theological, and philosophical course would, according to Milton's scheme, begin. The literary, by the reading of the moral parts of Plato, Cicero, Xenophon, some Greek, Latin or Italian comedies, and those tragedies which "treat of household matters, as the Trachiniae, Alcestis and the like.” Then would come the study of Politics, “that they might know the beginning, end and reasons of Political Societies; that they may not in a dangerous fit of the Commonwealth be such poor, shaken, uncertain Reeds, of such a tottering Conscience as many of our great Counsellors have lately shown themselves, but stedfast pillars of the State.” Next they would study Law in its grounds and practice, including Roman Law, and the Common and Statutory Law of England, and concurrently with this, on Sundays and in the evening of each day, the high matters of theology and Church History, ancient and modern, ༦ ། “the Hebrew tongue having been already acquired at a set hour" so that the Scriptures might be read “in their own original.”
It is only after these "employments are well conquered," and consequently not sooner than the 20th year (I presume), that the youth is admitted to a purely literary course. This is to consist of choice histories, heroic poems, Attic tragedies and all the famous political orations, “which, if they were not only read but some of them got by memory and solemnly pronounc't with right accent and grace (as might be taught), would
endue them ever with the spirit and vigour of Demosthenes or Cicero, Euripides or Sophocles.”
Last of all—that is to say in the 21st year—might be studied the "organic Arts," viz. Logic; Rhetoric, Poetry, as these are to be found treated by Aristotle, Plato and others. “This,” he says, “would make them soon perceive what despicable creatures our common Rimers and play-writers be; and show them what religious, what glorious and magnificent use might be made of poetry, both in divine and humane things.”
This large curriculum would be concluded by literary compositions “in every excellent matter.” “When fraught with an universal insight into things” will be the right season, Milton says, to form them into able writers. “Then,” he goes on,
“whether they be to speak in Parliament or counsel, honour and attention would be waiting on their lips. There would then also appear in pulpits other visages, other gestures and stuff otherwise wrought, than what we now sit under, ofttimes to as great a trial of our patience as any other that they preach to us.” “These,” he cries out, “be the studies in which our noble and our gentle youth ought to bestow their time in a disciplinary way from twelve to one and twenty unless they rely more on their ancestors dead than on themselves living."
Milton's University curriculum is, be it noted, a curriculum of Literature, Rhetoric, History, ethical Philosophy, and Law; Science is omitted. The curriculum is Humanistic, but it, the real-Humanistic, that is to say, has regard to the substance of what is studied rather than to the formal and linguistic.
“I call a complete and generous education," he says, “that
, which fits a man to perform justly, skilfully and magnanimously all the offices both private and public, of peace and war." The course of discipline which he has as yet sketched out, however, would prepare only for the offices of peace; and he accordingly now proceeds to deal with gymnastic—“the exercises and recreations” that best agree and become these studies. The day should be divided into three parts devoted respectively to studies, exercise and diet.
An hour and a half before they eat at noon is to be allowed the youths for exercise and due rest afterwards; the time for this being extended according as they rise early. Their exercises should be fencing and wrestling “to keep them healthy, nimble and strong and well in breath.” “It is also the likeliest means to make them grow large and tall and to inspire them with a gallant and fearless courage”; which he adds "being tempered with seasonable lectures and precepts to them of true Fortitude and Patience will turn into a native and heroick valour and make them hate the cowardise of doing wrong."
With gymnastic should be combined military exercises. “About two hours before supper, they are by a sudden alarum or watch word, to be call’d out to their military motions, under skie or covert, according to the season, as was the Roman wont: first on foot, then as their age permits, on Horseback, to all the Art of Cavalry; That having in sport, but with much exactness, and daily muster, serv'd out the rudiments of their Souldiership in all the skill of Embattelling, Marching, Encamping, Fortifying, Besieging and Battering, with all the helps of ancient and modern stratagems, Tacticks and warlike maxims, they may as it were out of a long War come forth renowned and perfect Commanders in the service of their Country.”