“Still should I be Emily,
Although I look’d like Geraldine;
I feel within this heart of mine
No change could worked be.”
THE SISTER’S EXPOSTULATION ON THE BROTHER’S LEARNING LATIN
Shut these odious books up, brother—
They have made you quite another
Thing from what you us’d to be—
Once you lik’d to play with me—
Now you leave me all alone,
And are so conceited grown
With your Latin, you’ll scarce look
Upon any English book.
We had us’d on winter eyes
To con over Shakespeare’s leaves,
Or on Milton’s harder sense
Exercise our diligence—
And you would explain with ease
The obscurer passages,
Find me out the prettiest places
The poetic turns, and graces,
Which alas! now you are gone,
I must puzzle out alone,
And oft miss the meaning quite,
Wanting you to set me right.
All this comes since you’ve been under
Your new master. I much wonder
What great charm it is you see
In those words, musa, musae;
Or in what they do excel
Our word, song. It sounds as well
To my fancy as the other.
Now believe me, dearest brother,
I would give my finest frock,
And my cabinet, and stock
Of new playthings, every toy,
I would give them all with joy,
Could I you returning see
Back to English and to me.
THE BROTHER’S REPLY
Sister, fie, for shame, no more,
Give this ignorant babble o’er,
Nor with little female pride
Things above your sense deride.
Why this foolish under-rating
Of my first attempts at Latin?
Know you not each thing we prize
Does from small beginnings rise?
’Twas the same thing with your writing,
Which you now take such delight in.
First you learnt the down-stroke line,
Then the hair-stroke thin and fine,
Then a curve, and then a better,
Till you came to form a letter;
Then a new task was begun,
How to join them two in one;
Till you got (these first steps past)
To your fine text-hand at last.
So though I at first commence
With the humble accidence,
And my study’s course affords
Little else as yet but words,
I shall venture in a while
At construction, grammar, style,
Learn my syntax, and proceed
Classic authors next to read,
Such as wiser, better, make us,
Sallust, Phaedrus, Ovid, Flaccus:
All the poets (with their wit),
All the grave historians writ,
Who the lives and actions show
Of men famous long ago;
Ev’n their very sayings giving
In the tongue they us’d when living.