Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
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Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
 
Ancient Oxford
By Anthony Wood (1632–1695)
 
From History of City and Suburbs

SUCH, it seems, is the envy of time and vicissitude of things who have long since worn out their memories and committed their ruins to the grave. To tell you of all the varieties of arts and sciences that have anciently been presented and delivered to us by the learnedest of all ages will perhaps now, by reason of the longinguity of time, seem incredible. To tell you also of the injunctions of our old statutes, concerning the continual reading here of the three philosophical, and seven liberal arts and sciences, from the north part of St. Mary’s Church even to the north wall of the city, will also, to those that converse with the actions but of yesterday, seem riddles and chimæras; but verily they are all so full of truth and obvious to every man’s capacity, that if he doth but peep in our old statutes, or in the least give glance upon our ancient scripts, he cannot but conclude this place to be like the Areopagus at Athens, and style it by no other name than Vicus Minervalis. Here, had we lived in those old days, we might have beheld with what great emulation our old philosophers would open their packs of literature (as I may say) to their hungry auditors. Here also, each order in our University at their first coming and plantation, would with great pride endeavour to blazon their parts, and give the world approbation of their profound knowledge and philosophy. Every corner porch, entry, hall, and school, in this street, was so wholly dedicated and sacred for the use only of the gown, that it was a great piaculum for an apron to approach its borders. What shall I say? all things in relation towards the soul and accomplishment of man was here (only with the price of patience and endeavour) to be obtained. And so far was it different from the street at Paris, where the philosophical professors taught, in the time of Dante the poet, and which, because of the continual noise of the disputants there was by Petrarcha termed Vicus Fragosus, that every cell, cavern, or cubicle of this place had a pleasant consort and concenter of parts therein. In the grammar schools that were here (besides those in other places) you had the masters and regents in that faculty still inculcating to you the propriety of words; in the rhetoric, the several tropes and figures contained therein; in the logic, the deduction of consequences and the unravelling the mysteries therein, that thou mightest hereafter artificially open the several places of the scripture; in the mathematic and geometry those abstruse and sublime recondita, to increase thy reason and fortify thy judgment; and in the theological those continual expositions and readings on the sacred writ to munite 1 thee against heresies and upstart notions that continually present themselves unto thee; and the like. Of all which, with several other exercises performed, as also of the schools here I have more at large laid down in my discourse of the schools.
  1
 
Note 1. munite = guard (from munire). [back]
 
 
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