« НазадПродовжити »
constant habit of assimilating the best thoughts of many writers gives to the teacher a power which he can acquire in no other way.
Our friend and fellow-laborer, Prof. S. H. Carpenter, who has just closed his brilliant record as a teacher, is a fitting illustration of the power thus gained. Possessing a gifted and vigorous mind, he had enriched it with the best treasures of various languages and literatures, Greek, Anglo-Saxon, French and English. His versatile attainments and catholic tastes were widely respected and admired outside of University circles. But before his classes, his scholarship and culture showed to greatest advantage. Here was a man in the place for which nature intended him. No wonder that he used to thank God for the opportunity to teach, for teaching was to him a positive pleasure. His students will not soon forget how his learning took the form of living thought, giving light and suggestion to their perplexed minds, and how the varied experience of his eventful life enabled him to give them needful and wise counsel in their discouragements. He has fallen by a swift and untimely death. Let his example, which yet speaks to us, incite our younger teachers to bring to their work the preparation which comes from accurate study and wide culture.
ANCIENT IRISH LITERATURE.
At last the language and literature of the ancient Celts are receiving that attention which the history of the first Aryan settlers in western and southwestern Europe would seem to deserve. In their deep and thorough researches, the great German scholars and linguists have fully recognized the importance of Celtic in the study of comparative philology, and have labored diligently in discovering the grammatical forms of the language and in exhuming its ancient literature. In Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, where dialects of Celtic are still spoken, great efforts have been made to prevent its decay, and to diffuse a more general interest in its literature. Chairs of Celtic language and archæology have been established in some of the principal Irish and Scottish colleges, and many societies exist for the collection and preservation of the literary remains. But especially in Ireland, have these efforts been made. Prof. Eugene O'Curry (1796-1862), with whom the MSS. and antiquities of Ireland were a life-long study, has left us in his “Lectures on the MS. Materials of Ancient Irish History," a brief account of the results of his long and patient labors,
Archbishop MacHale, one of the best of living Celtic scholars, has translated the Bible into Erse, and done much towards promoting the study of the language; Dr. Todd has translated the “Book of the Brehon Laws; ” O'Donovan has done a like work for the “Annals of the Four Masters;" MacGeoghegan has carefully edited and published the "Annals of Clonmačnois;" and Drs. Petrie, Hennesy, Prichard, Wilde, and many others have done much towards collecting, translating, and publishing the “saltairs," "annals," and fragments of ancient Irish writers. Sir H. Wain has recently made the Brehon Laws the subject of a volume in his collection on Ancient Institutions.
Most of the Celtic MSS. still extant are preserved in the library of the Royal Irish Academy, and in the library of Trinity College, at Dublin. These collections number several hundred volumes, many of the MSS. being written on vellum, and elegantly illuminated. The oldest date from the early part of the twelfth century. In the middle of the seventeenth century, Father Hugh Ward and other Irish scholars, collected at the college of Louvain, Belgium, several hundred MSS. of the Irish monks and writers of the Middle Ages; but in the confusion of the French Revolution, this library was scattered, and its Irish books are now divided between the St. Isidore College library, at Rome, and the Burgundian library, of Brussels. Stray Celtic MSS. are occasionally met with in the great libraries of Paris and other European capitals. The British museum and the Bodleian library, of Oxford, also possess a large number, gathered before the establishment of the energetic Royal Irish Academy.
Of the principal Irish MSS. we may mention: (1) The Book of the Brehon Laws, containing the principal laws of Milesian Ireland, as administered by the Brehons, or judges. This code, transcribed at an early date, was revised by St. Patrick, and carefully purged of its paganisms. (2) The Annals of Tighernach, written before the twelfth century, at the abbey of Clonmacnois. These are the oldest records of Ireland, and are to Irish history what the Saxon chronicles are to that of England. (3) The Chronicum Scotorum, written by Dugald MacFirbis, in 1650, and giving the genealogies of the principal Irish and Norman-Irish families. (4) The Annals of the Four Masters, written between the years 1630 and '32, by Micheal O'Clery, a Franciscan friar. This work is a very important and much quoted authority in Irish history. Fragments of a work called the Saltair of Tara, attributed to the reign of Cormac MacAirt, a king of the second century, still remain, and references are made in old manuscripts to
the Cuilmenn (i. e. the great book written on skins), said to date from 580. From further references, we learn of the loss or destruction of many other works.
The Danes appear to have taken great delight in “drowning” the MSS. of the Irish monks, and the Saxons in burning them. Prof. O’Curry gives a list of nearly thirty books thus lost. It is related that St. Patrick destroyed nearly two hundred tracts of the Druids, some of which were written in the peculiar Ogham character.
The Irish manuscripts are written in Greek and Roman characters, with which, even before the spread of Christianity, it is supposed that the Irish Druids were acquainted. Cæsar mentions that tables were found in the camps of the Helvetians inscribed in Greek characters, and the constant intercourse existing between Gaul and the British islands, and especially their common druidical religion, leads us to think that their druids being learned men, were well acquainted with both Greek and Roman writing. Like the Assyrians and Egyptians, the Celts also appear to have developed an alphabet and a system of writing, peculiar to themselves. For, on many of the stones and monuments collected by the Royal Irish Academy, are seen a peculiar arrangement of lines and dots branching along a stem-line, and evidently containing a
tale record ” of years and years ago. But while we have at last learned to decipher the cuneiform or wedge-shaped characters with which the Assyrians and Babylonians “storied" their bricks, and to penetrate the secrets of the hieroglyphics with which the Egyptians covered their pyramids, the fewness of specimens, and the primitive character of the Ogham inscriptions present an insurmountable obstacle to our ever getting at their meaning.
Like the Saxon literature of England, the Erse of Ireland consists mainly of dry chronicles and records. But fragments remain of tales: and poems commemorating the warlike deeds of chieftains and the chivalrous actions of heroes, which compare favorably with the Trouveres and the Troubadours of Provence and Normandy. also historical events graphically related, such as the “ Decision of Cormac MacAirt," by which a rightful heir regained his throne, and in the Tain Bo Chuailgne, the romantic history of Queen Mab. The Tochmara, or history of courtships, describes the innumerable means and phases of such events among the Celtic Irish, and the Fenian poems, attributed to Oisin and Fergus, the sons of the giant Fingal MacCool, relate deeds of daring in the days of giants. ems, Macpherson, a Scottish schoolmaster of the eighteenth century,
On these po
founded his famous forgeries, the tragedies of Douglas, Fingal, and Temora, which he asserted to be translations of ancient Celtic MSS.
For a time these works attained an immense popularity, both in England and on the continent; partaking, as they did, of the wild beauties and lofty diction of Homer, and the solemnity and grandeur of Milton, their fame rapidly spread in all civilized nations; they were translated into Russian, and acted upon the stages of Germany, where they are still much admired and read; and, it is said, that Napoleon thought them equal to anything in modern literature. But Johnson, and other English critics, disputed their authenticity, and called for the original MSS; they argued against such refinement among the ancient Celts, and accused Macpherson of a universal plagiarism from the whole range of literature. Macpherson was of course unable to produce MSS., and failed to substantiate the antiquity of his works.
It is not improbable that there exist sufficient materials among these MSS. out of which to weave a genuine Celtic epic. Within the last few years, the world has been impressed with the Indian Mahabharata, and the Finns have had their great epic, the Kalevala, exhumed and given to the world. Let us hope that the renewed study and research of Celtic literature, will soon give us an epic worthy of the race, and deserving of a place beside the Iliad, the Niebelungen Lied, and the other great national epics of the world. State University.
H. J. DESMOND.
SKETCHES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN.- V.
DR. J. W. STERLING.
The election by the board of regents, on the seventh day of October, 1848, of John H. Lathrop, LL. D, as chancellor of the University, and John W. Sterling, A. M., as professor of mathematics, was the first action looking towards the organization of a faculty for the institution. Ever since that day, Prof. Sterling has filled the same chair. He was born in Wyoming county, Pennsylvania, on the 17th of July, 1816. His earlier education was such as could be obtained in common schools; but his aspirations for more liberal instruction, determined him to attend an Academy at Hamilton, New York. At
this institution, and at a similar one in Homer, in the same state, he received the necessary preparation for entering college. However, he now turned his attention to the law - reading in the office of Judge Woodward, of Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania, where, after two years study, he passed the required examination and was admitted to the bar; but he never entered upon active duties in the line of that profession.
In the fall of 1837 — then twenty-one years of age - his desire for broader culture induced him to enter the sophomore class at the college of New Jersey. He completed the regular course in that institution, graduating with honor in the class of 1840. Before this, he had been elected principal of Wilkesbarre academy, and he now engaged as instructor therein. He continued in that office very successfully for one year, when he resigned to enter upon another course of study; this time, in the theological seminary at Princeton, New Jersey This occupied three years. He completed the course in the spring of 1844. During the most of this period he officiated as tutor in the New Jersey college. He now spent a year or more in missionary labors in Pennsylvania.
Prof. Sterling came to Wisconsin in July, 1846. Soon after his arrival, he was elected professor of mathematics in Carroll college, Waukesha. He occupied the chair but a short time, when he resigned his office “the sinews of war" were wanting. He then engaged in teaching a private school in that place until called to the University of Wisconsin.
As an instructor he is conscientious, prompt, painstaking, accurate. Other teachers may carry their pupils further in a given time, but few will instruct them better. His methods and manner, however much they may differ from others, have this important characteristic: they produce satisfactory results. Of his ability in the class-room, hundreds of students who have had the benefit of his teaching, are witnesses.
But not alone as teacher has the career of Prof. Sterling for so many years,
been a marked one. We come now to speak of him as acting head of the University. The connection of Chancellor Barnard with the institution was little else than in name, particularly as regards the actual administration of its affairs; the onus was upon the shoulders of Prof. Sterling, who was, during the whole time, virtually its chief officer. From the resignation of Dr. Barnard to the installation of President Cladbourne, a period of over six years, he was acting-chan