|Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916.|
Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
|By John Locke (16321704)|
IF these may be any reasons against childrens making Latin themes at school, I have much more to say, and of more weight, against their making verses of any sort: for, if he has no genius to poetry, it is the most unreasonable thing in the world to torment a child, and waste his time about that which can never succeed; and if he have a poetic vein, it is to me the strangest thing in the world, that the father should desire or suffer it to be cherished or improved. Methinks the parents should labour to have it stifled and suppressed as much as may be; and I know not what reason a father can have to wish his son a poet, who does not desire to have him bid defiance to all other callings and business; which is not yet the worst of the case; for if he proves a successful rhymer, and gets once the reputation of a wit, I desire it may be considered, what company and places he is like to spend his time in, nay, and estate too; for it is very seldom seen, that any one discovers mines of gold or silver in Parnassus. It is a pleasant air, but a barren soil; and there are very few instances of those who have added to their patrimony by anything they have reaped from thence. Poetry and gaming, which usually go together, are alike in this too, that they seldom bring any advantage but to those who have nothing else to live on. Men of estates almost constantly go away losers; and it is well if they escape at a cheaper rate than their whole estates, or the greatest part of them. If therefore you would not have your son the fiddle to every jovial company, without whom the sparks could not relish their wine, nor know how to pass an afternoon idly; if you would not have him waste his time and estate to divert others, and contemn the dirty acres left him by his ancestors, I do not think you will much care he should be a poet, or that his schoolmaster should enter him in versifying. But yet, if any one will think poetry a desirable quality in his son, and that the study of it would raise his fancy and parts, he must need yet confess, that, to that end, reading the excellent Greek and Roman poets is of more use than making bad verses of his own, in a language that is not his own. And he whose design it is to excel in English poetry, would not, I guess, think the way to it were to make his first essays in Latin verses.