Gateway to the Classics: Stories from Plato and Other Classic Writers by Mary E. Burt
Stories from Plato and Other Classic Writers by  Mary E. Burt

Front Matter

[Front Cover]

[Title Page]

[Copyright Page]



"T HERE is one mind common to all individual men. Every man is an inlet to the same, and to all of the same. He that is once admitted to the right of reason is made a freeman of the whole estate. What Plato has thought, he may think; what a saint has felt, he may feel; what at any time has befallen any man, he can understand."

When a thought of Plato becomes a thought to me,—when a truth that fired the soul of Pindar fires mine, time is no more.

While it is good to walk among the living, it is good also to live with the wise, great, good dead. It keeps out of life the dreadful feeling of extemporaneousness with its conceit and its despair. It makes us always know that God made other men before He made us. It furnishes a constant background for our living. It provides us with perpetual humility and inspiration.

Shakespeare has no biography; and, much as we would like to know what happened to him in his life, I think we all feel doubtful whether we should get much of increased and deepened richness in our thought of him if what he did and said had been recorded. The poet's life is in his poems. The more profoundly and spiritually he is a poet, the more thoroughly this is true, the more impossible a biography of him becomes.

Let men like these talk to you and tell you of themselves. Being dead, they yet can speak. How good it is sometimes to leave the crowded world, which is so hot about its trifles, and go into the company of these great souls which are so calm about the most momentous things!


Two years ago I was asked by the Kindergarten Association of Chicago to read several papers at their Institutes on the adaptation of stories from classic sources to kindergartens. Leaders among kindergarteners had long before agreed that literature manufactured merely for commercial speculation had not vitality enough to meet the needs of the child. They had themselves resorted to Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, as a relief from the wearisomeness of the reading-matter of reading-books. I took the ground that teachers would derive more pleasure in their work if they were allowed a sweeping use of literature in their schools, each teacher detaching from classic or standard writings such hints and suggestions as she could use to the best advantage. I read about fifty stories which I had gleaned from Plato, Homer, Hesiod, Aristophanes, Pliny, Ovid, and other classic sources as illustrations of the material which teachers might select from the original writings.

These stories I had found useful in previous schoolwork, because they contained fine moral points, or else because they were poetic statements of natural phenomena which might enhance the study of natural science.

I was urged by many of my audience to publish the stories for kindergarten use. Since then it has come in my way to use the stories with children of ages varying from six to twelve years, and I am satisfied that the collection is suitable as a primary reader; and I linger with grateful thought over the remembrance of the teachers and children, who, amid the allurements of life, could "leave the crowded world which is so hot about its trifles, and go into the company of those great souls which are so calm about the most momentous things."

Many thanks are due to the intelligent assistance of the Librarian and Attendants of the Chicago Public Library, and to the Editors of the Inter-Ocean for the "I Will" etching—symbol of the life which renews itself as well from ancient as from modern fire.
M. E. B.
NEW YORK, Dec., 1893.

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