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Ir is now, I believe, very generally admitted that indiscriminate and compulsory Verse writing, at an early stage of a boy's Classical education, is not desirable. It was the custom in many Schools to put young boys through a course of Exercises, where the English words were placed as nearly as possible in the Latin order, and where the English was so excessively literal as often to be barely intelligible at first sight. Without any further preliminary training, boys were then expected to take a passage of English Poetry, and turn it into Latin verse. As a natural consequence, many were disheartened and sickened at the very name of Verses: and the question arose, whether it was worth while to teach Verses at all, when so much time was spent in acquiring the art of writing them with such very small and unsatisfactory results?
The answer to this question it is not my purpose to discuss. So long as Prizes are to be gained at
the Universities for Verse Composition, Verses must be taught at our Classical Schools; and it is to supply the want of a book which shall from the first familiarize the pupil with the differences of idiom, the turns of expression, and the cultivation of taste, necessary to Verse writing, that I have compiled these Exercises.
The book is intended, then,-not for very young boys, but for those who, having been already well grounded in Grammar, and having read some Ovid or Virgil, may be presumed to know the ordinary rules of Prosody, and to be able to scan a Verse correctly. It will soon be easy to sift the poets from the unpoetical herd: and, if a boy has no taste for Verses, he cannot give them up too soon.
The Introduction is divided into three parts. In the Cautions it has been my aim to show boys what they are not to do, rather than to multiply rules, which are too often forgotten as soon as read. A certain amount of Mechanical Aid is necessary: and this I have endeavoured to give in the Poetic Ornaments and Licences, and in the Aids to Versification. It must be distinctly borne in mind, however, that this is a book for beginners, and must be supplemented by personal reading and observation.
It is hoped that the Appendix will be found useful. Tutors will impress upon their pupils the importance of using judgment, and of taking time, place, and circumstances into consideration in the use of Tables I. II. III.
Table I. contains Names of Women.
Table II. contains Names of Birds.
Table III. contains Names of Trees, Plants, and
Table IV. has been added that the Tutor, at his discretion, may point out the Technical names of Figures illustrated in the Introduction and the Exercises. Such technicalities have been purposely omitted in the Introduction, as only tending to overload and confuse the memory.
As the book consists of Exercises in the Elegiac Metre only, the choice of suitable passages was necessarily limited: still I trust that there is sufficient variety in the selection to make the whole not altogether uninteresting.
The notes on the Paraphrases are intended to be suggestive. The great object is to make boys observe and think for themselves: and the Tutor is the best judge of the amount of illustration and explanation necessary. The Paraphrases themselves are as idiomatic as circumstances would permit: nor have I thought it necessary always to indicate where pronouns, personal or possessive, are to be expressed or omitted.
In Part II. I have commenced with difficult passages, the notes to which will be found, I hope, sufficiently copious. From these passages I have gone on to easier ones; and from them again, with
gradually diminishing help, to harder pieces. By the time the LXIst Exercise is reached, a boy ought to be able to shift for himself.
It remains for me to acknowledge with many thanks the kindness of those friends who have favoured me with translations of various Exercises, or assisted me with their experience and advice: and to add, that I shall at any time most gladly receive suggestions for the improvement of the work.
TONBRIDGE, February, 1871.
C. G. GEPP.
PREFACE TO THE FIFTH EDITION.
THE First Edition of this little work appeared at a time when public opinion was decidedly unfavourable to Verse Composition. Step by step, however, the book has won its way, and still holds its ground. The reception with which it has met hitherto encourages the Author in the hope that his object has been, to some extent, realized. Much will always depend, of course, upon the method adopted by the teacher; but if the Author has helped to make the process of versification less distasteful and less wearisome to boys than it sometimes used to be, a great point will have been gained. In sending forth this new Edition, he would fain hope that some of those who have used his book now share his wish
nostras extrema per oras Cedentes terris faciant vestigia Musae.
KING EDWARD VI. GRAMMAR SCHOOL,
C. G. GEPP.