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THE HARVARD CLASSICS

The Five-Foot Shelf of Books

THE HARVARD CLASSICS
EDITED BY CHARLES W. ELIOT , L.L.D.

Fifteen Minutes a Day

The Reading Guide


[Introduction] [January] [February] [March] [April] [May] [June] [July] [August] [September] [October] [November] [December]

Also check out:
An older perspective on words in books.
An MIT Museum article on Charles Eliot.


24 FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY

JANUARY

ST. AGNES' Eve! - Ah, bitter chill it was!
The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;
The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass,
And silent was the flock in woolly fold. . .

KEATS (Vol. 41, p. 883)

1 Franklin's Advice for the New Year
"Resolution: Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve"-was one of the rules for success framed by America's first "self-made" man.
Read from FRANKLIN'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY Vol. 1, pp. 79-85

2 School-Day Poems of John Milton
At the age of sixteen, Milton first appeared before the public eye as a promising young poet. These early verses, written while he was a boy in school, indicate his brilliant future.
(First edition of Milton's collected poems published Jan. 2, 1645.)
Read: MILTON'S POEMS Vol. 4, pp. 7-18

3 Cicero on Friendship
"Fire and water are not of more universal use than friendship" - such is the high value put upon this great human relationship by the most famous orator of Rome.
(Cicero born Jan. 3, 106 B. C.)
Read from Cicero ON FRIENDSHIP Vol. 9, pp. 16-26

4 A Flounder Fish Story
A fisherman, so the story goes, once caught a flounder that spoke, begging to be released. This was granted, whereupon the fisher­man's wife demanded that it grant her one miracle after another, until even the flounder was disgusted.
(Jacob Grimm, elder of the famous Grimm brothers, born Jan. 4, 1785.)
Read from GRIMM'S FAIRY TALES Vol. 17, pp. 83-90

5 The Soaring Eagle and Contented Stork
Mazzini labored for the freedom of Italy, but was exiled. Byron and Goethe also battled for liberty. Mazzini wrote an essay in which he compared Byron to a soaring eagle and Goethe to a contented stork.
(Byron arrived in Greece to fight for Greek freedom, Jan. 5, 1824.)
Read: Mazzini's BYRON AND GOETHE Vol. 32, pp. 377-396

FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY 25

JANUARY Reading Guide

6 Warned by Hector's Ghost
In the dead of night Hector's ghost appeared to warn Æneas of the impending doom to come upon the walled city of Troy. Æneas lifted his aged father on his back and, taking his son by the hand, sought safety in flight. Off to Latium!
(H. Schliemann, discoverer of ancient Troy, born Jan. 6, 1822.)
Read from Virgil's ÆNEID Vol. 13, pp. 109-127

7 If He Yawned, She Lost Her Head!
The Sultan had a habit of beheading each dawn his beautiful bride of the night before, until he encountered Scheherazade. Cleverly she saved her life a thousand and one mornings.
Read from THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS Vol. 16, pp. 5-13

8 Trying the Patience of Job
God was pleased with the piety of Job, but Satan accredited the piety to Job's prosperity and happiness. So a trial was made. See how each succeeding affliction visited on Job shook the depths of his nature, and how he survived.
Read from THE BOOK OF JOB Vol. 44, pp. 71-87

9 A Treasure Hunt in Nombre de Dios
With only fifty-two men, Sir Francis Drake conceives the idea of attacking his archenemy, Spain, at her most vulnerable point the treasure at Nombre de Dios.
(Drake died at Nombre de Dios, Jan. 9, 1596.)
Read from Nichol's SIR FRANCIS DRAKE REVIVED Vol. 33, pp. 135-145

10 Where Love Lies Waiting
King Pantheus of Thebes contended against Dionysus, the God, for the adoration of the Theban women. The god was winning by bewitching the women when the king interceded. Euripides tells the story in a masterpiece of Greek drama.
Read from Euripides' THE BACCHÆ Vol. 8, pp. 368-372

11 Hamilton - Father of Wall Street
Hamilton organized the Treasury Department. He penned most of the Federalist papers, which were greatly influential in bringing New York into the Union - the first step toward its eminent position in national and world finance.
(Alexander Hamilton born Jan. 11, 1757.)
Read: THE FEDERALIST Vol. 43, pp. 199-207

26 FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY

JANUARY Reading Guide

12 What Is Good Taste?
A Turkish sultan, relates Burke, when shown a picture of the beheaded John the Baptist, praised many things, but pointed out one gruesome defect. Did this observation show the sultan to be an inferior judge of art?
(Edmund Burke born Jan. 12, 1729.)
Read: Burke ON TASTE Vol. 24, pp. 11-26

13 Rousseau Seeks Sanctuary in England
Rousseau taught that men were not created free and equal. To substantiate his daring beliefs he traced man's history back to his primitive beginnings. For his teachings, Rousseau was forced to seek refuge in England.
(Jean Jacques Rousseau arrived in England, Jan. 13, 1766.)
Read from Rousseau's INQUIRY ON INEQUALITY Vol. 34, pp. 215-228

14 The First Step Toward Independence
(Fundamental Orders of Connecticut adopted Jan. 14, 1639.)
The Fundamental Orders of Connecticut is "the first written constitution as a permanent limitation on governmental power, known in history." It is the work of the Connecticut Yankee.
Read: THE FUNDAMENTAL ORDERS OF CONNECTICUT Vol. 43, pp. 60-65

15 "The Moving Finger Writes"
("Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" first published Jan. 15, 1859.)
Omar Khayyam laughed and enjoyed the good things of life. His "Rubaiyat," the most popular philosophic poem, is the best of all books to dip into for an alluring thought.
Read from THE RUBAIYAT OF OMAR KHAYYAM Vol. 41, pp. 943-953

16 The Old Woman and the Wine Jar
An old woman once found a wine jar, but it was empty. She sniffed at the mouth of the jar and said: "What memories cling 'round the instruments of our pleasure."
Read from ÆSOP'S FABLES Vol. 17, pp. 43-44; also pp. 31-43

17 Franklin's Family Tree
(Benjamin Franklin born Jan. 17, 1706.)
Good middle-class people, Franklin boasts, were his ancestors. Some have attributed his genius to his being the youngest son of the youngest son for five generations. In his famous auto­biography, he reveals quaint family history.
Read from FRANKLIN'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY Vol. 1, pp. 5-15

FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY 27

JANUARY Reading Guide

18 Origin of Yale "Brekekekex-Ko-ax")
"Shall I crack any of those old jokes, master, at which the audience never fails to laugh?" Like an up-to-date vaudeville team, Xanthias and Dionysus start off a dialogue that mingles wit and poetry with humor and keen satire.
Read from Aristophanes' THE FROGS Vol. 8, pp. 439-449

19 Poe on Poetry
Regarded in Europe as one of America's greatest writers, Poe originated the detective story, perfected the mystery short story, and produced America.s first great poems. Here he unravels the fabric of which all poetry is woven.
(Edgar Allan Poe born Jan. 19, 1809.)
Read from Poe's THE POETIC PRINCIPLE Vol. 28, pp. 371-380 (Poe Biographical Note)

20 "Ah! It Is St. Agnes. Eve-"
(St. Agnes' Eve, Jan. 20.)
At midnight on the eve of St. Agnes there were certain solemn ceremonies which all virgins must perform to have "visions of delight and soft adorings from their loves." Porphyro took ad­vantage of this custom to win his bride.
Read: Keats' EVE OF ST. AGNES Vol. 41, pp. 883-893

21 The Nightingale's Healing Melody
The Emperor of China lies on his deathbed grieving for the song of his favorite bird. Hark, the song! It charms, coaxes, and bribes Death to depart. It brings new life to the master.
Read from ANDERSEN'S TALES Vol. 17, pp. 301-310

22 A King's Pleasure Now Yours
The classic plays of French literature are produced to-day precisely as when they were given for the resplendent kings they were written to please. We are fortunate to have in English, excellent translations of these noble plays.
(Corneille elected to French Academy. Jan. 22, 1647.)
Read from Corneille's POLYEUCTE Vol. 26, pp. 77-87

23 Pascal Knew Men and Triangles
(Pascal publishes "Provincial Letters," Jan. 23, 1656.)
Pascal, the keen-minded philosopher and mathematician, fathomed the human traits of man's nature with the same accurate measurements which made him famous in the realm of geometry. Read his searching analysis of man's conceit.
Read: Pascal's THE ART OF PERSUASION Vol. 48, pp. 400-411

28 FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY

JANUARY Reading Guide

24 Odysseus Silenced the Sirens
When his ship approached the siren's rock, Odysseus stuffed the ears of his crew with wax and had himself bound to the mast that he might hear the alluring voice of the siren and yet not wreck his ship on the enchanted rock.
Read from Homer's ODYSSEY Vol. 22, pp. 165-173

25 A Field Mouse Made Famous
A humble Scotchman, plowing his fields, turns over the nest of a frightened mouse. He apologizes with the deepest sincerity and explains how "the best-laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley."
(Robert Burns born Jan. 25, 1759.)
Read: TO A MOUSE and Burns' other poems Vol. 6, pp. 119-120, 388-394

26 In the Cradle of Civilization
A king who entombed his daughter in a golden cow - the worship of the bull and the cat - scandal of the court and the gossip of the temples is given by Herodotus in his delightful story of old Egypt.
Read from Herodotus' AN ACCOUNT OF EGYPT Vol. 33. pp. 65-75

27 Dante and Beatrice in Paradise
Dante fell madly in love with Beatrice at first sight; but it is doubted if he ever spoke to her in this world. He tells of his happy meeting with Beatrice in Paradise.
(Dante victim of political persecution in Florence, Jan. 27, 1302.)
Read from Dante's DIVINE COMEDY Vol. 20, pp. 267-279

28 Man's Wings
A pure heart, says Thomas à Kempis, comprehends the very depths of Heaven and Hell. And it is by the wings of simplicity and purity that man is lifted above all earthly things.
Read from Thomas à Kempis Vol. 7, pp. 242-249

29 Visits the Land of Fire
South of Patagonia is Tierra del Fuego - "The Land of Fire." The natives of that primitive country are today almost extinct. Darwin made a careful and vitally interesting study of that land and its ill-fated inhabitants.
(Darwin married Emma Wedgewood, Jan. 29, 1839.)
Read from Darwin's VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE Vol. 29, 209-221

FIFTEEN MINUTES A DAY 29

JANUARY Reading Guide

30 First Problem Play Popular
Antigone, an orphan princess, defies a king's mandate and risks her life to do her duty to her brother. What is this duty which her brother calls her to perform and the king forbids?
(Sophocles died at Athens, Jan. 30. 405 B. C.)
Read from Sophocles' ANTIGONE Vol. 8, pp. 255-266

31 What "Don Quixote" Really Slew
Slayer of windmills, rescuer of fair damsels in distress, eccentric Don Quixote, scores of years behind his time, set out on a mad quest of knight-errantry. Worlds of fun and killing satire are in this absorbing story of Cervantes.
Read from DON QUIXOTE Vol. 14, pp. 60-67

Don Quixote
Don Quixote, the ambitious amateur knight, was well ridiculed for his pains. (See Reading Assignment for January 31st.)

A FEW BOOKS ARE BETTER THAN MANY, AND A LITTLE
TIME GIVEN TO A FAITHFUL STUDY OF THE FEW WILL
BE ENOUGH TO QUICKEN THOUGHT AND ENRICH THE
MIND. - CHANNING.


[Introduction] [January] [February] [March] [April] [May] [June] [July] [August] [September] [October] [November] [December]

Also check out:
An older perspective on words in books.
An MIT Museum article on Charles Eliot.


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