Anyone who wants to teach the Bible to children can learn from Robert Browning. In “Development,” a little-known poem with a very modern-sounding title, the poet demonstrates the elements of sound learning and teaching through the relationship of a growing and alert son with his perceptive and exemplary father.

The poem begins:

My father was a scholar and knew Greek.

When I was five years old, I asked him once

“What do you read about?”

“The siege of Troy.”

“What is a siege, and what is Troy?”

Father, the story goes, piled up chairs and tables for a town and put his son on top to represent Priam. The cat became Helen, who had been stolen away by cowardly Paris, and her brothers Agamemnon and Menelaus, who were trying to get Helen back again, were represented by the two family dogs. The pony in the stable served for Achilles sulking in his tent, and their page boy became Hector. As Browning puts it, “a huge delight it proved.”

Light From The Languages

Several years later, the father found his son and playmates “playing at Troy’s Siege.” The boy ought to know more about this poem, suggested the father. Why not read the translation by Pope?

So I ran through Pope,

Enjoyed the tale—what history so true?

But, remember, “father was a scholar and knew Greek.” Soon the son had his own Greek primer.

Time passed, I ripened somewhat: one fine day,

“Quite ready for the Iliad, nothing less?

Don’t skip a word, thumb well the Lexicon!”

And so after reading Homer’s Iliad in the original Greek, the son fancied himself an authority on both author and poem. But then, introduced by his father to reading the critics on Homer, he was amazed to learn that certain German investigators, especially Wolf, now had “proved” that there never had been a Troy, nor a Homer, ...

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