B. E. Lewis


Some years ago, when asked for comr. . .!nts on the new core syllabus for Senior Certificate
Latin, I suggested that scansion be eliminated. My reasons were twofold: for one thing I felt
that the mark allocation simply did not justify the amount of time needed to master the skill.
(One is acutely conscious of "cost-effectiveness" these days.) Secondly, in 25 years of
lecturing I have never found a first-year student - and I must include myself- who proved, by
the ability to read Latin verse as verse, that scansion was anything more than an artificial
exercise devised for its own sake. (The utilitarian argument again.) I am not now justifying
the retention of a difficult hurdle for pupils to surmount, invoking the witty adage that
invention is the mother of necessity. There is a practical reason to recommend scansion:
clearly the sound of language was of major importance to the Romans, as readers used to read
aloud to themselves, and the recitatio was a common event in the life of litterateurs especially
under the early Empire. Since the current format of examination papers shows how far pupils'
literary critical originality and frank opinion are encouraged, I now hope to give some
practical help to teachers to prepare their charges a puero for an enjoyable and rewarding
encounter with scansion.

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