Wednesday, 4 January 2017

ASSIMILate & "The Frogs" (No Pun Intended)

My kind papa has sent me the Assimil Ancient Greek (or, rather, grec ancien) program via, so I shall be listening to that as I prepare my charges for their Greek GCSEs (i.e. exams called the O-Levels before 1988).

It joins my growing collection of Greek textbooks, which includes my twenty-year-plus-old old Reading Greek textbooks. The important thing about Assimil is that it provides four CDs. Ancient Greek is not spoken anywhere except among Classics professors and hobbyists, but I am convinced by the arguments of the "Restructured"school that pronunciation is more important than the GCSE handbook would have me believe.

Indeed, when I search my memory for the remnants of my Classics courses, what comes to my tongue most readily is part of The Frogs. I studied Classics at the University of Toronto at the same time as the celebrated (and polyglot) Greg Robic, and eventually he turned the department's annual play for "Visiting High School Students Day" into off-Broadway musicals.

I cannot remember if I have Greg to thank for this, but I have at least a verse of "Βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ" (Brek-kek-kek-kek koax koax) jammed into my brain. This was not thanks to my Greek classes but to a performance of The Frogs.  I played the unhelpful corpse but sang along with the frogs. I suspect Greg was already at least a co-author as well as an actor, for the insult lobbed at my character was "frigid b*tch"-- a very Robician joke.

Looking at the text of The Frogs now (for the first time in over 20 years, if we were even given the proper text then, as we learned it by rote), I see that these are the sections I still remember:

βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ.
210βρεκεκεκὲξ κοὰξ κοάξ
λιμναῖα κρηνῶν τέκνα
ξύναυλον ὕμνων βοὰν 
φθεγξώμεθ᾽εὔγηρυν ἐμὰν ἀοιδάν
κοὰξ κοά

εἰκότως γ᾽  πολλὰ πράττων
ἐμὲ γὰρ ἔστερξαν εὔλυροί τε Μοῦσαι 
230καὶ κεροβάτας Πὰν...  
235βρεκεκεκὲξ κοάξ κοάξ.

I conclude that I owe it to my students to drill them in their lessons until they know them so well they will be able to repeat them well into middle age and beyond.

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