PATRICK FOWLDS’ LAST LESSON
by Anton Wills-Eve
<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/quote- me/”>Quote Me</a>
another repeat to keep up the numbers.
PATRICK FOWLDS’ LAST LESSON
“Conticuere omnes intentique ora tenebant.
“Johnson! Yes you, boy. Put that mobile phone away and pay attention to the text. This is a Latin class not a computer lesson. These words of Virgil were written two thousand years ago and deserve your full respect. The language may virtually be dead, but I still teach it because of the wonderful stories that have been written in it!”
At this another fifteen year old interrupted, his questioning hand waving loftily above his head.
“Please Sir, how many years have you been teaching Latin, Sir?” Patrick Fowlds could see genuine interest in the eyes of the pupil so answered him honestly.
“Since I was twenty two. That is forty four years ago and I shall be retiring at the end of this year. I only hope my subject does not retire with me. It is full of such super tales.”
The class actually began to feel a little sorry for their teacher, so often the butt of schoolboy humour and even laughed at when his laboured jokes completely misfired. He greatly envied those popular masters who also taught cricket and football and were the heroes of their students. In recent years he also had to compete in the popularity stakes with young female teachers who had even more enticing ways to attract their charges. The staff in general tolerated rather than encouraged Patrick to join in their amusements, but it is probably true to say that hardly anyone would miss him when he left.
How many years had he told Mitchel? Was it really forty four? Well at least he had spent those years in the company he liked more than anything else – his classics books. He cast a glance round the form room before continuing. It was odd, he felt a bit dizzy and his tie was tighter than usual under his collar. He tried to continue the lesson but had to ask,
“Sims! Could you open that window by you please? It’s getting very stuffy here.” The boys watched transfixed as Mr.Fowlds suddenly clapped a hand to his chest and almost shouted out the first line of the second book of The Aeneid again. “Conticuere omnes, intentique ora tenebant!” Then he crumpled in a heap on the floor of the dais in front of the blackboard. All twenty three boys rushed to his aid, one of them dialing for an ambulance on his cell phone. Harper tried to give him some cola which he kept in his desk, then just before another pupil suggested trying to resuscitate him, Mitchel asked the dying man, out of sympathy more than interest,
“Tell us, Sir. That line you’ve just read, what does it mean, Sir?” And with his last breath he told them,
“It says…it means … all gathered round him eagerly waiting to hear the story unfold.”
But the boys never heard the story; not how King Agamemnon sent a fleet of a thousand ships across the Hellespont to bring back his daughter, Helen, who had fled to her lover Paris in Troy. Of how the Greeks entered the city via a Trojan Horse, nor Cassandra’s prophecy, or Achilles dying with an arrow in his heel, and the towers of Illium crashing down and killing king Priam.
They knew nothing of Helen watching as her lover Paris was killed by Hector, or Laocoon and his sons being crushed to death by the sea serpent for foretelling their nation’s doom. And, above all, Aeneas’ flight through secret passages and tunnels to escape and fulfil his great mission, to sail the world, as it was then known, even if it meant deceiving Queen Dido, and finally establishing ‘the city on the seven hills’ that was destined to become the Empire of Rome.
No, Patrick Fowlds took the greatest story ever written in verse to his grave with him. But that evening after school, Mitchel stopped off in the school library and took out an English translation of the book. He felt he owed the old man that much.
I so loved that story which is not usually my thing. I visited a grammar school in London, one of the good ones, but we were divided and it was only the “a” class that could learn Latin. I was not so bothered at the time, I still had my French and later German and the other langages I just did in my own time at evening classes, but it never came to me to learn Latin – dead language, and no-one really spoke it. Today with 69 years, I wish I had. It is never too late, and perhaps I might begin. I know there are many declinations, even of the nouns, but I learnt Russian for 12 years so perhaps a similar thing. Yes, the story was so touching, and the dying teacher took so much knowledge with him.
glad you liked it Pat. The great advantage I had was being at a catholc public school when Latin was part of life. Not so today alas. But as it is the basis of many languages you know it should be easy. But read the great writers, even in translation, the stories are great and you end up a historian like me 🙂 ciao, Anton.
LOOK UP VIVARIUM RARUM IN ROME. Right up your street. As to your interest in Daniil Trifonov and his performance of the Liszt Etudes in Lyon, I’ve got it! Someone in the fb Daniil Trifonov Group sent it to me. I can pass it on to you if you like.
As I find myself 100% in agreement with you as to DT’s genius, I took the liberty of copying and pasting your critique on Amazon onto my own fb page (Lynn Hamilton Caldiero).
In a desperate rush at the moment, but this evening I hope to find time to read your page properly. Thank you for your articulate appraisal of our young genius. of Liszt –
thanks, a very kind comment and offer. I downloaded Lyon from you tube the day I heard it 🙂 I shall look up your suggestion but think I may know what you’re getting at as I lived and worked in Italy for some time. Get back to you again. Ciao. Anton