IX[9arg] That the poet Caecilius used frons in the masculine gender, not by poetic license, but properly and by analogy.
CORRECTLY and elegantly did Caecilius write this in his Changeling: 1
The worst of foes are these, of aspect gay (fronte hilaro),I chanced to quote these lines in a company of well educated young men, when we were speaking of a man of that kind. Thereupon one of a throng of grammarians who stood there with us, a man of no little repute, said: “What license and boldness Caecilius showed here in saying, fronte hilaro and not fronte hilara, and in not shrinking from so dreadful a solecism.” “Nay,” said I, “it is rather we who are as bold and free as possible in improperly and ignorantly failing to use frons in the masculine gender, when both the principle of regularity which is called analogy 2 and the authority of earlier writers indicate that we ought to say, not hanc frontem, but hunc frontem. Indeed, Marcus Cato in the first book of his Origins wrote as follows: 3 'On the following day in open combat, with straight front (aequo fronte) we fought with the enemy's legions with foot, horse and wings.' Also Cato again says 4 recto fronte in the same book.” But that half-educated grammarian said: “Away with your authorities, which I think you may perhaps have, but give me a reason, which you do not [p. 85] have.” Then I, somewhat irritated by those words of his, as was natural at my time of life: “Listen,” said I, “my dear sir, to a reason that may be false, but which you cannot prove to be false. All words,” said I, “ending in the three letters in which frons ends are of the masculine gender, if they end in the same syllable in the genitive case also, as mons, fons, pons, frons.” 5 But he replied with a laugh: “Hear, young scholar, several other similar words which are not of the masculine gender.” Then all begged him at once to name just one. But when the man was screwing up his face, could not open his lips, and changed colour, then I broke in, saying: “Go now and take thirty days to hunt one up; when you have found it, meet us again.” And thus we sent off this worthless fellow to hunt up a word with which to break down the rule which I had made.
Gloomy of heart, whom we can neither grasp Nor yet let go.