Winchester College Publication Winchester College Classic Talks - Page 8

` ), for fate and pity together were rising inside his lion-like roar ( βριµηδον vital organs), he lay on the ground, struck by terrible grief. His limbs had lost their strength, the vigour oozed from them, he grew hot inside as he boiled ’ ` with a violent fever: he bubbled forth ( αναβλυζεσκε ) a warm shower of what he had seen. A flood poured forth from his eyes with a rushing noise ‘ ` ) and he let out a tearful wail in his heartfelt grief. Sweat gurgled ( ροιζηδον ` ( κοχυεσκε ) forth in a copious stream from his forehead, as if from a well; ` ) anguish. You too, swiftly his spirit wasted away in bellowing ( πολυσµαραγω ’ in witnessing it, bubbled up with a shower of howls ( οµβροβλυζεσκες ` ô ) [I think he made that one up]); the storms of words thunder ( βοµβουσιν from the lips in your sore distress, eagerly rolling forward a great incessant surge of eloquence. You poured forth lines of verse, mixed with tears, like a rushing spring – it was not just a light moistening of the throat with drops from the Muses. You yourself drew a sacred stream from the spring of Hades, ` ’ and in agonising thirst you sent Homer to thunder forth ( αναρροιβδησας ), even before the down of a beard cast a shadow on your cheeks; and (Ailmer) you sprinkled the honey of your verses on the bitter substance, adding the charm of softening music to these laments and wailings, and stilled the cry of lamentation with the music of Kinyra (i.e. the lyre). You were once a scion of my Winchester, now you are a fine bastion of fair New College Oxford, a child of Homer like unto the honoured Father: and you are a wise child, as you recognised your own lineage. Jo: Harmarus, Professor of Greek at Oxford unhappy fourteen months at Magdalen, with its fellows ‘steeped in port and prejudice’, was a very eighteenth-century picture. The dawn of the nineteenth century saw the introduction of more rigorous examinations, increasingly written ones as well as oral, and eventually at a university as well as college level; degrees were taken more seriously, and so was the teaching for them. There is correspondingly more to be said about each of the holders of the chair from this point on, but time allows only the briefest of vignettes for each. ’ Marvellous stuff. That Greek is really very good. Still, if we are honest, the scholarly accomplishments of any of the professors until the nineteenth century should not be overstated, and I will pass over them quickly. (It is sad to miss out Thomas Terry, remembered for having a student who died a terrible death in the privy: he overbalanced when sitting on a backless lavatory and toppled into the cesspit below. Not a good way to go.) The elder Harmar had the distinction of writing the first Greek book to be published by Oxford University Press; the younger Harmar wrote a tract on syphilis (so the medical link once again); but that is about it, at least for the Wykehamists. The first twenty-three professors are allowed a grand total of seven lines in over 1,000 pages in Sir John Sandys’ History of Classical Scholarship, and two of those seven are spent distinguishing one of them from a contemporary with the same name. Figure 13 Thomas Gaisford; by Henry William Pickersgill It is no coincidence that it was around 1800 that scholarly distinction at last came to the chair, as that was a time when the university was beginning to take academic life more seriously. Edward Gibbon’s description of his Thomas Gaisford (1811–55: Figure 13), the local boy from Hyde Abbey School. Gaisford was a very serious and precise scholar (an editor of the texts of Greek metricians and lexicographers, for instance), and a magnet for many anecdotes. He is said – possibly apocryphally – to have ended a Christmas Day sermon by ‘commending the study of Greek literature, which not only elevates above the vulgar herd but leads not infrequently to positions of considerable emolument’: he will have meant bishoprics, as the so-called ‘Greek play bishops’ – ones whose main distinction was editing Greek tragedies – became quite a talking point of the nineteenth-century church. Social skills were not his forte. When he received the offer of the chair, his draft reply to the Prime Minister was simply: ‘I have read your letter and accede to its contents’. One of his letters preserved in Christ Church reads: ‘Sir: letters of this sort are a matter of extreme annoyance to your obedient servant, Thomas Gaisford’. 14 15