My Latin teacher at school was Mrs Granden, a patient elderly woman with some dignity who wore those ornate old dear glasses with a gold chain (she even let me try them on once) and long skirts. I liked and respected her enormously because she was authoritative, in a kindly manner, and knew her subject with the kind of effortless tenacity that only comes with forty years of teaching experience. In short, I wanted to work hard for her.
The only occasion where she fell foul of me was when the word "paravisti" came up in a text we were translating. We each took turns on a sentence and I had done very well by translating "appropinquaverunt" without recourse to a dictionary or grammar and it was somebody else's turn. James' in fact. James was both the class simpleton and stinker. We were all held up for about ten minutes on this one simple word. This is obviously not verbatim but this is the general gist of it so far as I can remember:
Mrs Granden: "Think back to the perfect tense. Do you remember -i, -isti, -it?"
Mrs Granden: "Right, so do you remember the second person singular?"
Mrs Granden: "Right, so in this sentence what person does the verb take?"
James: "I don't understand."
Mrs Granden: "What don't you understand?"
James: "I don't understand what the person is."
Mrs Granden goes to the blackboard and picks up some white chalk. "Okay, let's go over it again." She conjugates paro in the perfect tense. Pointing with the chalk to two columns, singular and plural, she underlines paravisti in yellow. "What is the second person singular?"
James: "Paravit?" (He pronounced it pa-rawit).
Mrs Granden corrects his pronunciation. "And that's the third person singular. See! one, two and three? I, you, he, she and it. Do you understand?"
James: "But that's five..."
Mrs Granden: "It doesn't matter. He, she and it are all one person." She writes numbers next to the words. "James, what is the second person singular? I promise you, it is not a trick question."
James: "I don't know."
Mrs Granden: "Let's start again, then." She picks up some chalk and writes down the grammatical persons in English adjacent to the Latin column. "Repeat after me, everyone: I, you he, we, you, they. I, you, he, we, you, they." She starts a rhythm going by tapping the table for each person. "Right, James only now; I, you, he, we, you, they."
James repeats this four times.
Mrs Granden: "Look at the board." James looks up."If paravi is the first person, and paravit is the third person, what is paravisti? Remember, I, you, he!"
Bearing in mind that the actual meaning of paro hadn't even been mentioned yet and that this stuff was so basic that we covered it in the first lesson, my patience had run out and I thundered: "Oh, come on! It's perfectly simple!"
At this, Mrs Granden gave me a stern look and asked me to leave the class. Afterwards, I was rebuked for disrupting the class and humiliating someone who was "clearly struggling" (that is verbatim). It was evident that I had made him cry because he left the class shortly after me and rushed towards the library with that dewy face that says complete incomprehension and frustration.
What I found incomprehensible and frustrating was that the answer was there, for all the world to see, and yet his mind couldn't assent to the answer. It still bothers me to-day.