Page images

suredly perceive and feel, are the Soul, which dwells in no particular part, but which pervades and vivifies the whole Mass.

En. 6.

Spiritus intus alit, totamque infusa per artus Mens agitat molem, et magno se corpore miscet. To judge fairly, we must take the whole piece. The ex pede Herculem '-if ever an admissible rule of criticism in the case to which it is applied, which we much doubt, assuredly furnishes no means of judging of the merits of Demosthenes. An attempt to give the effect of any oration by a selection, or the merit of the whole by splendid passages, would be as hopeless as to produce an adequate idea of the bounding elasticity,--the matchless symmetry and etherial attitude of the entire Apollo, by the production of a finger or an ear.

Some of the smaller Orations of Demosthenes,-and those too, which have contributed not a little to his reputation (the Philippics we mean), might be selected, in which not one ornament (in the ordinary sense of the word) or figure of speech is discoverable. A certain studied temperance and downright homeliness of manner, and a choice of matter illustrating and enforcing his view of the subject,-and never above it, pervade the whole,-mixed up, indeed, with an earnestness, zeal, force and passion, which account for their celebrity.-Even in the Oration for the Crown,-the most perfect, undoubtedly, and comprehending in it the excellencies of the rest, though every species of weapon in the oratorical armoury is employed,-poetical description,-indignant exaggeration,-inflammatory declamation, and bold apostrophe, yet is there not an instance, we will venture to say, (and we appeal to those of our readers the most confidently who have studied him best), in which they appear to be ostentatiously introduced, or in which they are not sustained by the surrounding passages of the Speech. They, indeed, more nearly resemble an occasional and accidental inflammation of the fervid and electric torrent which the orator is pouring on his hearers, than foreign and adventitious lights brought forward for mere purposes of shining and display. The sublime appeal to the manes of the heroes of Marathon and Platea, to which we shall not be suspected of referring, in order to bestow, for the thousandth time, unnecessary commendation, or to compare it, as we have seen Dionysius did, with any effort of human composition, we notice for a different object. It is, perhaps, one of the boldest and most excessive, and, from the constant reference to it, we must suppose, one of the most successful of his Figures. Those, however, who will take up the speech at that part where Demosthenes describes the

jealousy and distrust which rankled between the Athenians and Thebans before the battle of Cheronæa, the removal of which formed one of the most successful feats of his policy and eloquence, and will pursue his lofty appeals to national honour, and the deeds of their ancestors, which called upon the Athenians, if necessary, rather to fall in a struggle for liberty and glory, than to pursue inglorious security in obedience to Philip;—those, we say, who follow up the preceding passages with any thing of an adequate spirit, will feel themselves, from the tone of excitement and elevation which surround it, upon a level with the sublimity of this most celebrated apostrophe. Let this passage, then, have its reputation: We shall not attempt to add to it; but we call upon our readers, when they feel, by actual experiment, how little this part stands out from the rest, to reflect what must be the tone of the surrounding parts to sustain what, if taken by itself, must be deemed such extravagance and ex


In adverting to the apparently natural growth of ornament in the Orations of Demosthenes, and pointing it out as a proof of their excellence, we must not omit to notice how different is the conduct of his antagonists and rivals in this particular.Æschines, whose general good taste is undoubted, in the concluding paragraph of his Oration, after having dwelt upon the laws, the breach of which by Ctesiphon formed the strength of his case (and nothing could be stronger), in the treatment of which subject he had been, of course, plain and simple and didactic, by design, without any previous excitement to justify it, breaks out, all at once, into this exclamation.- I then (I call you to witness-ye Earth, and Sun, and Virtue, and Intellect, and Education, by which we distinguish what is honourable) have spoken and given my help;-if adequately, and in a manner worthy of the violation of the laws,-as I wished;-if imperfectly, then only as I have been able.'—Eyà μév xv, ã Γῆ καὶ Ηλιέ, καὶ Αρετή, καὶ Συνέσις, καὶ Παιδεία, η διαγινώσκομεν τα καλα, &c.Who does not perceive, that this sudden appeal to bodies and qualities, which had nothing to do with his particular subject, and hardly with any other, is a mere oratorical flourish? Accordingly, we find that Demosthenes, in his reply upon him, ridicules this matured and misplaced apostrophe, and charges Æschines with considering the controversy between them as an affair of the lungs, and, under that idea, bawling and mouthing г, &c. &c. like a tragedy hero.-The same observations apply, perhaps with more justice,--certainly more frequently, to Cicero's style, or, rather to passages which, though the admiration of schoolboys, are unquestionably the most faulty, and from

[ocr errors]

which, if he had not redeemed himself by the great body of his Orations, he would never have commanded the extraordinary admiration of more severe judges. In his Oration for Marcellus, in returning thanks to Cæsar for sparing him, and restoring him to his honours, he breaks out,- By heavens, the very walls of this Senate-house are impatient to express their gratitude to you, Caius Cæsar,' &c. Parietes, mediusfidiùs C. Cæsar, ut mihi videtur, hujus Curiæ gratias tibi agere gestiunt,' &c.-In one of his Orations against Verres, we have the following animated, and tolerably sustained, but, nevertheless rhetorical and professional passage- Should I paint the horrors of this scene,-not to Roman citizens,-not to the allies of our State, not to those who have ever heard of the Roman name,→ not even to men, but to Brute-creatures; or, to go further, should I lift up my voice in the most desolate solitude, to the rocks and mountains, yet should I surely see those mute and inanimate parts of nature moved with terror and indignation, at the recital of so enormous an action.' Hume's Transl. Quod si hæc non ad cives Romanos, non ad aliquos amicos nostræ Civitati, non ad eos qui populi Romani nomen audissent; denique si non ad homines, verùm ad bestias; aut etiam, ut longius progrediar, si in aliquâ desertissimâ solitudine ad saxa et ad scopulos hæc conqueri et deplorare vellem, tamen omnia muta atque inanima tantâ et tam indignâ rerum atrocitate commoverentur. ' -We are aware, that there is all that composition can do to carry this off; and there is excitement also-but the artist shows himself too strongly. But who would have expected from the second orator in the world, in the full possession of his powers, in a passage of no irritation,-a mere literary subject,-in praise of the poets, and his client one of the number, the following puerile declamation ? Rocks and deserts answer to their voice; savage monsters are arrested by their song, and stand still;Shall we,-formed as we are by the best instruction, refuse to be moved by the power of song?' Saxa et solitudines voci respondent; bestiæ sæpe immanes cantu flectuntur atque consistunt;-nos, instituti rebus optimis, poetarum voce non mo veamur?'--From these, and innumerable other instances which might be selected, but from which, we repeat, it would be most unjust to form a judgment of Cicero, it is quite manifest, that his art is much more upon the surface; that he is much more ostentatious than Demosthenes; and that, in such instances, sound criticism must often disapprove; as, indeed, we find the immortal orator himself pronouncing sentence, at a more advanced period of his judgment, against some early and fanciful, but highly-wrought passages of his own, from their very excess,

and because too far removed from the business and bosoms of men,―minùs aptæ rebus agendis.

The next question is,-How is the ascendency of Demosthenes to be accounted for?-We are aware of the fearful extent of this inquiry, and must confine ourselves within certain limits. The language, rich as it is, undoubtedly, and copious, and powerful,-expressing the varieties of moods, and tenses, and cases by most artificial and elegant inflexions, without the aid of our useful, but untuneful monosyllables,-will, shall, would, could, should, &c.—with the delicacy of compound words, which frequently assign qualifications and degrees to expressions, which, with us, are general and indefinite (to fear, to love, &c. means. any quantity of the sensation, and is, of itself, indeterminate)— the peculiarity of the middle voice partaking of the active and passive nature;-this language, we doubt not, is an ingredient in the case, but we think overrated, and too much relied upon in considering this subject.

The true solution of this phenomenon is to be looked for, we believe, in the singular state and condition of Greece, and of Athens more particularly.-A Republic of independent nations, differing from each other in their particular habits and institutions, but united for purposes of general safety,-burning with the most anxious and jealous desire of surpassing each other;brought into frequent contact and collision upon set and solemn occasions of Religion-of Games-of Spectacles;-nursed and. pampered into the most unbounded and bigotted nationality by the achievements of their ancestors,-a nationality kept alive by Poetry, by Oratory,-by Monuments and Inscriptions;-impressed with an unshaken belief (not very far removed from the truth), that whatever was great and good and virtuous and splendid, centered in, and was confined to their own territory:Such a people were continually goaded and stimulated to exertion by the most intense rivalry and impatient thirst for glory.The very narrowness of their limits, to which, in their firm persuasion, no accession of importance or of value would have been made, if the rest of the world had been added, by facilitating frequent intercourse, served only to condense the spirit.-The eager controversy for victory at their games,-the anxiety and interest in the spectators, and the infinite applause which was showered down upon the victors, serve to illustrate the course and tendency of our remarks, of which we purposely only give our readers a taste, without pursuing them in all their details. -Why do you not die, Diagoras,' said a spectator at the Olympic Games to the father of two victorious sons,- Why do you not die,-for you cannot become a God? Moriri

In a nation com

Diagora, neque enim in cœlum ascensurus es. posed of such materials, and in such a constant strife for eminence and superiority, the Athenians were, unquestionably, the foremost in the race of fame,-and that too of literary fame. We forbear to notice other particulars, which are only, incidentally, to our present purpose, and come at once to the study of Oratory. Not merely from what they have left us, which would justify an inference of their superiority in the art, but from the direct testimony of Demosthenes himself, given in the most unsuspicious and undesigning manner, it appears that such was the contemporary opinion respecting them.-When he spoke for the Crown, Greece came and listened to him. This ascendency we must, of course, attribute not merely to the peculiar aptitude of this most ingenious and lively people for making a proficiency, but to the vigour and earnestness of the pursuit. Eloquence was the road to honours and distinction; and the competitors for them outstripped each other in proportion to their acquirement and success. Now this we take to be the solution. Honos alit artes,' says Cicero most truly, omnesque incenduntur ad studia gloriâ;' and the quantity of exertion is sure to be in proportion to the ardency of the love of fame. And as in Greece, generally, and particularly at Athens, the intensity of this glorious passion was, for the reasons we have generally alluded to, greater we believe than it ever was in any other country, it would only be reasonable to expect, and accordingly we are informed, that there were greater exertions made in culti vating public speaking, than there can have been anywhere else, -and this accounts for excellence.-Our readers are aware, that Fielding has proved satisfactorily, in his dry and humorous manner, that an author will write something better, for knowing something of his subject; but we are persuaded that our readers will not require us to make out, by regular deduction, that a man who employs his whole life in one pursuit, is likely to excel another who applies only one-tenth part of the time to it.

If our limits would allow us, we should abstain from entering into particulars of the midnight lamp and labours of Demosthenes. Cicero abounds in them, and Plutarch still more. We' will confine ourselves to one slight circumstance. He could not, it seems, pronounce the first letter of his own profession, ther in Rhetor; a letter, by the way, which sticks in the throats of no inconsiderable part of the inhabitants of this Empire. How few, we would ask, amongst us, even in the educated classes, who have once been fairly infected with this impediment, have the courage and resolution to conquer a defect,-un

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »