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GUIDE TO THE FIRST B.A. EXAMINATION
UNIVERSITY OF LONDON.
THERE are two papers set in this subject-one with passages of Latin Prose, the other with passages of Latin Verse—taken, in both cases, from authors selected two years previously and announced in the Regulations. It is left to the examiners to take these papers in what order they please, and to distribute in them, as they find most convenient for their purpose, the questions in Grammar, History, and Geography, the passages of English for translation into Latin prose, and the passages of Latin from authors not previously announced. For many years it was the custom to take Latin Verse in the morning, with questions in Grammar mainly based on the given author, and short sentences for composition in Latin; but of late years two moderately long passages of Latin Prose have been set in the morning, together with the other usual characteristics of the morning paper, whilst with the Latin Verse in the afternoon there has been a number of brief questions on the given extracts, followed by about half-a-dozen questions in Roman History and Geography,
TRANSLATION INTO ENGLISH, WITH REMARKS ON THE USE OF KEYS.
“Prepared translation has the same place in a classical education that book-work bas in a mathematical, while composition and unprepared translation in classics train the student's mind as problems do in mathematics."J. S. REID, LL.M.
We believe only in the very limited and occasional use of keys. “Word-for-word" translations, and all mere crams,” are a snare. They give present relief at the price of future entanglement. Free and idiomatic translations may be of great service to the private student who has no other means of ascertaining the true meaning of his author and comparing his own work with it. But even then they should be very sparingly employed, and only for the purpose of correction, and as a guide to his taste in the selection of words and the general polish of his style. Those who can read with a tutor and have their exercises continuously corrected will gain much by eschewing them altogether. Even though in this book we give the names and prices of certain ready-made translations—for we wish to render our book serviceable to all classes of candidatesyet it is in the hope that, for his own sake and chance of success, the reader will make only the moderate and self-restraining use of them commended in these pages. We would advise the student never to touch a translation until he has first done his best to make out the meaning of his author, sentence by sentence, with the aid of Dictionary and Grammar, wbich should always be by his side for constant reference to difficult words and constructions, the explanations of which should be briefly noted in his manuscript. In this first perusal he may underline with his pencil all the more obscure allusions and knotty phrases, leaving them for future investigation, instead of confusing himself by reference to too many books at a time; but by no means let him turn to his key until he has either gone through the text or some definite part of it; and then he may compare his results with the key, to see how far he may have caught the meaning. He will thus test his own ability and cultivate self-reliance—no mean qualification in one who has to trust entirely to himself at the time of examination. It is this patient plodding of one's own way from sentence to sentence, and the habit thus gradually acquired of deftly discovering the drift of a classic author for oneself, which alone can give the student readiness and skill in translating passages not previously read, and make him feel quite confident with regard to the passages he has already read and laid aside. Besides, the extent of work in every examination-paper is so great that there is no time for hesitation and laborious effort of the memory in the examination-room. Quickness of thought, ready recollection, facility of expression as well as rapidity of writing, are necessary ; otherwise the candidate will leave half his paper unfinished, and may fail. These gifts can only be acquired by long-continued practice and patient toil. We can most quickly and completely remember the meaning when we have determined it ourselves.
We lay stress upon this method of study because we feel sure it will save time and pay best in the end. For if a student has only accustomed himself to perceive the signification of a Greek or Latin sentence after it has been suggested by a translation, he will occasionally, however frequently he may have revised his author, be at an utter loss, and perhaps also in a state of nervous bewilderment, when left unaided amid the hurry and excitement of the examination-hour. He will, moreover, find a stumbling-block in the testy passages for translation which are now set from authors not previously announced, and which are wisely designed by the Senate to discourage mere cramming, and to try the personal skill and perceptive power of the candidate himself. We are persuaded, however, that the student who has first read the given authors unhelped by a translation, and possessed of a moderate acquaintance with the principles of Latin Syntax, need never fear his ability to translate such short passages as are usually set. They are usually simple in construction, and yet they require care and insight, often depending for their interpretation upon some rule of syntax or structural peculiarity of the language. Reid's Translation at Sight (28. 6d., Daldy and Co.) contains an excellent selection of Latin prose and verse; and though designed for “regular schoolwork in classics," under the guidance of a teacher it may be used with advantage by the private student who wishes thoroughly to test his own powers. It is without notes; there is no key to it, and no reference to the authors quoted from; and therefore the student must trust to himself or read with a tutor.
We commend to the reader's attention the following extracts. The first is abridged from the preface to Mayor's Guide to the Choice of Classical Books (28., Bell and Sons); the second is from the Examinational Directory (3s. 6d., Ballantyne and Co.) :
1.“ With regard to the use of translations I should like to say words, as I think there is still in some minds a lurking idea of dishonesty attaching to it, which it is very important to clear up. No doubt it is dishonest and morally injurious for any one to use a translation where he is bound by an understanding with some other person not to use it, but where there is no such understanding, either implied or expressed, the question has to be decided simply by its expediency, and certain cases may be specified in which the use of a translation is not only expedient but almost indispensable as a part of classical training. The first such case is where the meaning of a passage being already known, the translation is referred to as a model of English style. Both as a practical exercise for improving one's own power of translation and as giving an insight into the relations between the modes of expression in different languages, I can conceive few things more useful than a careful comparison of such a book as Conington's Horace with the original, continued until the student is alle to read back with ease from one language into the other.
The third use of translations is that which Mr. Munro pleads in excuse of his own translation of Lucretius, to supplement the explanatory notes on difficult authors for the benefit of students who can make out the general meaning for themselves but require occasional help. The fourth allowable use is, under special circumstances, to help beginners over difficulties which they cannot surmount for themselves by means of grammar and dictionary.
Some may ask what special virtue there is in learning the meaning of a word from a dictionary rather than from a translation. To this it has been answered that the trouble of looking it out fixes it in the memory, as the parish bounds were fixed in the minds of boys of a former generation by the associated beating. I do not take this view myself, and if there were nothing more to be known of a word than its use in one particular passage, I should make no objection to this being learnt from a note or translation. But every word has a history of its own, both as regards its etymology and its meaning. To know this history is not merely interesting in itself, but a great help to remembering any particular use; and it is only from the dictionary that the history can be learnt.
A solitary student will usually require a translation, both to prevent his wasting time over difficulties which to him may be insoluble, and also to test the result he obtains by his own unassisted labour.
Besides these four legitimate uses of translations there is a fifth, which is entirely to be condemned—that which makes it a substitute for any mental effort on the part of the user. The practice of translating from one language into another is valuable on two grounds-first, because it gives us a greater command of our own and of another language ; but, secondly, and far more, because it supplies an admirable exercise in thought to discover the relation between word and word, clause and clause, sentence and sentence, and finally between paragraph and paragraph. To suppose that one can gain these advantages from the mere use of a translation is to suppose that to hear the answer to a riddle is the same thing as to find it out by one's own ingenuity, to copy another's solution of a problem the same thing as to solve the problem for oneself. To read classics in this way is the worst waste of time at the moment, and its evil effects may be traced in after years in the shifty and slovenly habit of mind, the incapacity alike for intellectual effort and intellectual enjoyment, which too often remains as the net result of so many hundred hours of miscalled study."
2. “The outline of the plan we would recommend is something of this kind : Let the student procure the best text of his author, and the best translation which is at his command; the study of the original should be effected sentence by sentence, the reader doing his best to make out the translation; and, whether he succeed or not, he should compare his result with that contained in the key before him, to solve any doubt, and to be assured of his correctness. At the same time any words, phrases, or idiomatical expressions, whose inflections, meanings, or syntax, are new to him, should be carefully noted and copied in manuscript. (Of course the student is supposed to commit this manuscript to memory, at least so far as to be able to stand any examination upon it.). Although this proceeding may at first sight seem tedious, yet, in the end, both time and labour are saved ; the student has in his manuscript his author in short, as it were, he can quickly commit it to memory, or can at any moment refresh his knowledge and go over the whole subject in an hour or two."
QUESTIONS ON THE GIVEN AUTHORS. In reading the given authors the candidate should also note in his manuscript the chief allusions to Roman History, Geography, national customs, laws, institutions, and religious observances. Information on most of these points he may find either in the annotated textbooks, of which we give a copious list (pp. 32–7), or in such books as Dr. Smith's Smaller Classical Dictionary of Mythology, Biography, and Geography (7s. 6d., Murray) ; Dr. Smith's Smaller Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (78. 6d., Murray); Prof. Ramsay's Manual of Roman Antiquities (8s. 6d.) and Elementary Manual (48., Griffin and Co.); Rich's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (7s. 6d., Longmans). All these works comprise the results of modern scholarship, and are safe guides. These, however, with the exception of Professor Ramsay's work, which is a continuous narrative, and therefore better adapted for consecutive reading, can only be used for occasional reference. We would strongly urge the thorough student to make himself master of Prof. Wilkins's Primer of Roman Antiquities (1s., Macmillan), which is a wonderfully clear and graphic account of the Roman character, dwellings, daily life, family life, public life, and religious worship. It is a brief and interesting outline which can be filled in and enlarged by subsequent study. The examiners occasionally set brief extracts from the specified authors of the year, and ask the candidate to translate and explain them. The explanations usually depend upon some allusion to Roman History and Antiquities, and hence the necessity of acquaintance with one or more of the above works. The special questions on the longer extracts are almost invariably based on the verse authors, Virgil or Horace, and generally relate to laws, customs, idioms, expressive words and phrases, synonyms, grammatical peculiarities, and obscure allusions; and therefore, in reading Virgil or Horace, the student should more critically investigate points relating to these matters, not overlooking also the etymology of rare or striking words, irregularities of metre, Greek constructions and idioms,