Imágenes de páginas

With gentle, trembling haste, she held the liquid to his lip; He smiled to thank her as he took each little tiny sip“Tell father, when he comes home from work, I said Good

night to him ; · And, mother, now I'll go to sleep.” Alas! poor “Little

Jim !”

It would be easy to multiply examples ; but these, we think, will be sufficient to illustrate, to any thoughtful reader, the importance of doing everything possible to realise the author's meaning, so as to be able to deliver the words with due effect. For, as Quintilian observes, “A proof of the importance of delivery may be drawn from the additional force which actors give to what is written by the best poets, so that what we hear pronounced by them gives infinitely more pleasure than when we only read it.” Or, as Archbishop Whately remarks, “Pompous spouting, and many other descriptions of unnatural tone and measured cadence, are frequently admired by many as excellent reading, which admiration is itself a proof that it is not deserved ; for when the delivery is really good, the hearers (except anyone who may deliberately set himself to observe and criticise) never think about it, but are exclusively occupied with the sense it conveys, and the feelings it excites." Let it be your aim, therefore, to convey the sense of the author's words, and excite the proper feelings in those who hear you.


ORATORY AND ORATORS. No one can possibly estimate the power and influence which the real orator has exercised over the world. Indeed, the French philosopher D'Alembert says “that the prodigies which it often works in the hands of a single man upon an entire nation are perhaps the most shining testimony of the superiority of one man over another.” Nor need we feel surprised at this when we reflect that there is hardly anyone, either educated or ignorant, who is so destitute of sensibility that he is not charmed by the power of an eloquent speech, or carried away with an im. passioned oration; or, as another well says, “ The history of

every country and of every age teems with the miracles wrought by this necromantic power. Eloquence as every school-boy knows, was the master-spirit of both the great nations of antiquity,Greece and Rome. It was not the fleets of Attica, though mighty, nor the valour of her troops, though unconquerable, that directed her destinies, but the words and gestures of the men who had the genius and the skill to move, to concentrate, and to direct the energies and passions of a whole people, as though they were but one person."

Sheridan also eloquently describes the magical effect produced by oratory in the following remarks. “Imagine to yourselves a Demosthenes, addressing the most illustrious assembly in the world upon a point whereon the fate of the most illustrious of nations depended. How awful such a meeting ! How vast the subject! Is man possessed of talents adequate to the great occasion ?-Adequate! Yes, superior. By the power of his eloquence, the augustness of the assembly is lost in the dignity of the orator; and the importance of the subject for a while, superseded by the admiration of his talents. With what strength of argument, with what power of fancy, with what emotions of heart, does he assault and subjugate the whole man, and at once captivate his reason, his imagination, and his passions ! To effect this must be the utmost effort of the most improved state of human nature. Not a faculty that he possesses is here unemployed ; not a faculty he possesses but is here exerted to its highest pitch. All his internal powers are at work; all his external powers testify their energies. Within, the memory, the fancy, the judgment, the passions are all busy ; without, every muscle, every nerve is exerted ; not a feature, not a limb, but speaks. The organs of the body, attuned to the exertions of the mind, through the kindred organs of the hearers, instantaneously vibrate these energies from soul to soul. Notwithstanding the diversity of minds in such a multitude, by the lightning of eloquence they are melted into one mass—the whole assembly, actuated in one and the same way, becomes, as it were, but one man, and have but one voice. The universal cry is, LET I's MARCH AGAINST PHILIP, LET US FIGHT FOR OUR LIBERTIES, LET US CONQUER OR DIE.”

It will thus be seen that it is impossible to over-estimate the power of good oratory. In all ages it has awakened the ardour

of the patriot, aroused the courage of the hero, fired the enthusiasm of the deliverer of the oppressed, nerved for the conflict the defender of the innocent, and in a thousand ways aided the march of progress. No wonder then that Quintilian remarks. “ Utility ought to be the governing motive of every exertion and design of our lives ; can we possibly be employed to better advantage than in the exercise of an art which enables a man upon all occasions to support the interests of his friend, to prco tect the rights of the stranger, or to defend the cause of the oppressed – that not only renders him the terror of his open and secret adversaries, but secures him, as it were, by the strongest and most impenetrable armour ?

Yes “it was a father's cries for vengeance, as he rushed from the dead body of Virginia, appealing to his countrymen, that roused the legions of the Tusculan camp to seize upon the sacred mount, and achieve another freedom. And, when the Roman Empire was the world, and trophies from every people hung in her Capitol, the orator, whether in the senate or in the comitia, shook oracles of the fate of nations from the folds of his mantle." And have we not all heard of the “monk who shook the world". by his eloquence-and delivered half Europe from the dominion of popery-while the names of John Knox, Whitfield, Charles Fox, Grattan, Chatham, Burke, Canning, and a host of others are as familiar as household words, because of the effects they produced by their oratory.

But perhaps we may illustrate this by citing one of the most remarkable displays which took place during the trial of Warren Hastings in Westminster Hall. It is said that when Edmund Burke, with an imagination almost as oriental as the scenes hc depicted, described, in burning words, the cruelties inflicted upon the natives of India by Debi Sing, one of Hastings's agents, a convulsive shudder ran through the whole assembly. Indignation and rage filled the breasts of his hearers; some of the ladies “swooned away ;” and Hastings himself, though he had protested his innocence, was utterly overwhelmed. “For half an hour,” he said afterwards, in describing the scene, “I looked up at the orator in a reverie of wonder, and actually felt myself to be the most culpable man on earth.” When Canning, in 1826, closed his famous speech on the King's Message respecting Portugal, with the memorable passage : "I look

Spain in the Indies; I called a new world into existence to redress the balance of the old,” the effect, we are told, was terrific. The whole House was moved as if an electric shock had passed through them; they all rose for a moment to look at him.

Another remarkable illustration is also furnished of the same power by a speech of Lord Stanley (afterwards the Earl of Derby) on the Irish Coercion Bill, brought into the House of Commons in 1833. O'Connell had made a powerful speech in opposition, and seemed, says Lord Russell who gives an account of the scene, about to achieve a triumph in favour of sedition and anarchy. Lord Derby, in his reply, recalled to the recollection of the House of Commons that, at a recent public meeting, O'Connell had spoken of the House of Commons as 658 scoundrels. “In a tempest of scorn and indignation, he excited the anger of the men thus designated against the author of the caluinny. The House, which for two hours before seemed about to yield to the great agitator, was now almost ready to tear him to pieces. In the midst of the storm which his eloquence had raised, Lord Stanley sat down, having achieved one of the greatest triumphs of eloquence ever won in a popular assembly by the power of oratory."

The celebrated Edmund Burke has also given us, in his biographical notice of Howard, the well-known prison philanthropist, a fine example of the power of words, which may with advantage be studied. He says : He has incited all Europenot to survey the sumptuousness of palaces, or the stateliness of temples ; not to make accurate measurement of the remains of ancient grandeur ; not to form a scale of the curiosities of modern art; not to collect medals, or collate manuscript-but to dive into the depth of dungeons; to plunge into the infection of hospitals; to survey the mansions of sorrow and pain ; to take the gauge and dimensions of misery, depression, and contempt; to remember the forgotten, to attend to the neglected, to visit the forsaken, and to compare and collate the distresses of all men in all countries. His plan is original ; it is as full of genius as it is of humanity. It was a voyage of discovery, a circumnavigation of charity."

Nor are other countries destitute of illustrations of the same wonderful power. Wherever tyranny has attempted to rule

with an iron hand over the people, sooner or later has the pent-up feelings of the injured burst forth in streams of eloquence, as one after another of her citizens has appealed to the sympathies and hearts of the oppressed. From the days of Paul, Peter and John the Baptist, down through the days of Luther, Daniel Webster, Knox, Massillon, and others, we have illustrations of the wonderful effect which has been produced by the stirring appeals to conscience, the fervid utterances to the patriotism, and the inspired utterances of truth—all alike testifying to the matchless power of the human voice, to touch the deepest chords of the heart, and to awaken the loftiest desires of the human mind. Yes, to stand up before a great audience, consisting of men and women of the most varied views, passions, and prejudices, and to so influence them as to lead them to move as the heart of one man, is a wonderful gift. To play upon their feelings as a musician plays upon a piano, and to thrill men's feeling to such an extent as to lift them for the time being out of themselves. To see every face lifted up, and every eye fastened on the speaker, and every ear intent upon catching every sound ; to see listlessness give place to attention ; indifference to earnestness ; yea, even aversion to admiration. To watch the glowing enthusiasm kindle, and to hear the thunders of applause when a sentiment has struck deep into the hearts of the people, is certainly a work which all who wish to aspire to greatness may be well desirous to know how it can be done, and resolve to use every possible effort to attain at least some of its power.

Whoever could imagine a thunderstorm amid the snow-capped mountains of the Alps, and not feel how important it is to have such a scene depicted in proper language ? and when Byron's description is given in the following terms, we feel every emotion instinctively stirred to its very depths as he portrays its roar :

"Far along,
From peak to peak, the rattling crags among,
Leaps the living thunder !--not from one lone cloud,
But every mountain now hath found a tongue;

And Jura answers through her misty shroud,
Back to the joyous Alps who call to her aloud."

Of the qualifications needful to attain to the fullest powers of

« AnteriorContinuar »