Page images

he is master of it, plunges him, at once, into number, gender, and case, in nouns, the agreement of adjectives with nouns; and into the labyrinth of all the conjugations of the verbs, in each of which are to be learned mode, tense, person, and number; to say nothing of some hundred forms of the pronouns, crowding on the learner at every turn.

The mischiefs of this course may, indeed, be in a measure avoided by a judicious teacher, but, with the books in present use, it must be done under great disadvantages; and, besides, it is too much to expect, or to require, teachers to adopt a course contrary to the whole plan on which the text-books of their profession are made. The evils spoken of will continue, then, with few exceptions, so long as grammars are what they

now are.

It is hardly necessary to say, that the plan proposed above relieves the teacher from the necessity, and almost from the opportunity, of pursuing this unnatural method. The pupil's mind may be first directed to those elements which are necessary in order to understand single words, and the simplest combinations. The memory need not be burdened with a single form, which his lessons in reading do not give him oc

casion to use.

We did not design to occupy the reader's time with the details of instruction; but the occasion seems too favorable to omit indicating, as briefly as possible, the outlines of a course of elementary instruction in the languages.

It is obvious that the names of things should be the first objects of study in acquiring a language. The first observation, in this connexion, is, that only the most obvious relations of things should first be brought to view. Taking our illustration from the Latin, after learning the form of the nominative case, in both numbers, the form of the genitive case should be learned, and no other case should be introduced till considerable practice has made these two perfectly familiar, and has given the pupil ready command of every form of their combination. At this stage of study, the form of adjectives, of the nominative and genitive case, and their agreement with nouns should be learned, and made familiar by practice. The way is then open for the introduction of verbs, of which only the forms of the indicative mode and of the third person should be first learned; delaying any notice of the subjunctive mode, till familiarity with the principal




forms and the construction of the simple sentence shall prepare the way for combining sentences, when the subjunctive mode may be introduced, with its appropriate particles.

After the forms of the indicative mode are made familiar, an object may be connected with the verb, and this is the proper time to introduce the accusative case. Introduced in this way, its relation to the verb is at once seen; the pupil will need no rule to teach him the design and appropriate situation of the accusative case.

After the relation of the accusative case with the verb has been learned, and the application of it made familiar by practice, the ablative case may be learned, expressing the instrument, manner, time, &c.; and then the.dative may be introduced, as expressing the indirect object, or the person, to or for whom a thing is done.

The process, pursued thus far, leaves the pupil at the point where, according to a previous suggestion, the subjunctive mode, with its appropriate connectives may be introduced. This course, it is evident, will obviate much of the difficulty, which beginners feel, in the construction of the particles appropriate to the subjunctive mode.

Prepositions, with the cases which belong to them, may be learned better, perhaps, before the subjunctive mode, than after it. Pronouns may be introduced, by degrees, in connexion with nouns.

We shall enter into no further detail of the method of teaching the elements of language. To those who see the principles embodied in the preceding sketch, further detail would be unnecessary; and for others, the little which our limits would permit us to say would be insufficient.

We are not without hopes that the foregoing remarks will afford some assistance to those classical teachers who are aiming at something higher than a salary merely; and we shall be happy, if the hints we have given shall be the means of expediting, in any degree, the desired improvements in our books of elementary classical instruction.


ART. III. The Spirit of Hebrew Poetry. By J. G. HERDER. Translated from the German by JAMES MARSH. In two volumes. 12mo. 1833. Burlington.

THE poetry of Germany, with the other branches of its elegant literature, has begun to receive in our mother country some degree of the attention, which is due to the products of the genius and culture of a kindred nation. Within a few years past, they have been rescued from the hands of incompetent translators and anonymous critics, who seem to have been impelled to their literary undertakings by no other motive than that of hunger, and made the subject of profound and generous study. The race of such interpreters as Taylor of Norwich appears to be passing away; and there is reason to hope that such monuments of prejudice and narrowmindedness, to say nothing of scanty and superficial information, as his "Historic Survey of Germany Poetry," will not often be imposed on the good nature of unsuspecting readers. * Under the auspices of sound and liberal scholars, like Carlyle, Hayward, and Mrs. Austin, the English public are in a fair way of obtaining access to the literary treasures of their Teutonic neighbours; and even we, who are not within the borders of European cultivation, may hope to receive some share of the spoils.

We cannot make so favorable a report of the prospects of German Theology. Neither that, nor any of the various schools of philosophy, which have sprung up in Germany, within the last fifty years, has received tolerable justice at the hands of English scholars. We are by no means in possession of the results produced by the intense and powerful action of the masterly intellects, which have been directed to those interesting subjects, since the skepticism of Hume spread a general alarm, and awakened the adherents of a traditional faith to inquiry and examination. It is rather singular, that, in our own country, where a zeal for religion and a love of speculation, form a part of our birthright, we should have given so little attention to the labors of others, who have explored every part of the field on which we are employed ourselves. It is said that the great points, which have been made the subject

* See note at the end of this article.

[ocr errors]


of theological discussion among us, the nature and evidences of revelation, the foundation of religion in the human soul, the character of Christianity, the connexion between Jesus Christ and God, the hope of immortality, have been so thoroughly discussed by the divines and philosophers of Germany, that there is hardly a theory or a doctrine that has not been examined; and it would not be extravagant to believe, that, amid the comparison of so many opinions, by men of learning and sense, some light would be struck out, that would well repay the trouble of giving it an attentive consideration. are by no means so enthusiastic as to suppose, that a knowledge of German theology would settle any controversies now pending; but we think it very possible, that a sober examination of its achievements might present some facts or points of view, which would be of service to us in our inquiries, although they had escaped our notice in the course of our own personal studies. At any rate, the massive learning, which we believe it is universally admitted the German theologians possess, might be of great use to many of us, who are so involved in the practical business of life, as to have little opportunity for original investigation, but who still like to be informed as to what wise men have thought before us.

On this account, we rejoice in any step that is taken towards a deeper insight into the theological literature of Germany. We think it is well not to be quite ignorant of what a nation of thinkers, of the same good old Saxon stock with ourselves, have been doing for half a century, in the most important of human concerns. If any fear evil to our faith or morals from such knowledge, they will perhaps be quieted with the assurance that the "antidote " flows from the same fountain with the "bane,❞—that if startling errors have been maintained by German theologians, it is also by German theologians that these errors have been assailed and put down.

With such impressions of the value of German writers on theology, we certainly welcomed the appearance of the work selected by Professor Marsh for translation. It has been a common fault to translate obsolete or indifferent works of secondrate writers. Our ideas on German theology are often formed from such imperfect specimens. This fault has been avoided by Professor Marsh. The author he has selected, is on many accounts, one of the most interesting he could have tak


Herder is one of the great historical names in Ger

man literature. His theological works are a treasure of learning, refined from the dross and base admixtures of the mine, and wrought up into the most beautiful and winning forms. It is seldom that we meet with a writer, whose soul is so penetrated with the true spirit of antiquity, and who is so capable of bringing up the faded past in vivid reality before the eye. "It seems, in reading him," says Madame de Staël, "as if we were walking in the midst of the old world with an historical poet, who touches the ruins with his wand and erects anew all the fallen edifices." He brings to his subject a freshness, a gushing enthusiasm, which spreads a charm over the driest details, and reminds us more of the eloquent conversation of a friend than of the learned discussions of a critic. Every thing is in motion, every thing has life, he is never languid himself, and he never permits languor in others; and we are led on from page to page of profound learning, of curious research, of wide and scholar-like investigation, with as little feeling of satiety or fatigue, as if we were reading a fascinating novel. He is unrivalled in the power of giving a picturesque beauty to the most barren subjects, so that the wilderness springs up into bloom and luxuriance under his magic touch. His own pure and noble spirit breathes through his productions. They seem to bring us into the presence of the author, where we hear his deep and thrilling voice, gaze upon his serene brow, and receive a revelation of his inmost heart. We cannot read them without knowing and loving the mind, from whose inspiration they proceeded. The great object of his life was the spiritual elevation of humanity; and, in his view, the means of its accomplishment was to infuse the spirit of Christ and his religion into the hearts of men. Such fervent love of man, such deep sympathy with Christ, such filial and noble conceptions of the great Father of all, are rarely united in any character; and these are so distinctly impressed on the whole face of his writings, that, in reading them, we feel that we are enjoying the intimate communion of an exalted and holy mind.

Herder was strongly attached to the poetry of the Old Testament. He delighted to wander in the spicy groves of the East, but the rose of Sharon was more to him than all the trees of the wood. One of his most important and characteristic works, which was the dream of his youth, and the labor of his mature years, though left at last in an unfinished state,

« PreviousContinue »