Imagens das páginas

developed. Scarcely any one, however, is gifted with so tenacious a memory as to retain the exact order of the words and ideas, without having previously arranged and taken note of them; nor, on the other hand, is any one so dull as to derive no benefit from the cultivation of this practice. Simonides, or whoever else was the inventor of this art, had the sagacity to see that those things cling most tenaciously to the memory which are commended and impressed upon it by the senses, and that of all the senses the most active and powerful is that of sight. Those ideas, therefore, which have been either received or originated by the mind, are much more easily retained if further recommended by ocular evidence; so that a vague outline or image will bring so completely within the range of sense ideas dark and impalpable, and not at all amenable to the judgment of the sight, that, though eluding the grasp of the mind, they can be seized upon, and retained by the power of vision. But for these forms or figures, as for everything within the compass of sight, there must be some seat or locality, for a substance without a local habitation is beyond our comprehension. Wherefore, not to make a parade of superfluous learning on a subject so well and so generally known, I will merely observe that the mind must be partitioned into several luminous and distinct compartments, and these must be furnished with striking, well-defined, and significant images, which will occur at once, and act upon it with the greatest rapidity. This power will be acquired by practice, the parent of habit, or by employing the signs of similar words, altered in their cases, or by symbols making the species represent the genus, or by the image of a single word suggesting an entire sentence, much after the systematic method of the consummate artist, distinguishing the several compartments by the variety of the figures.

But a verbal memory, which is not so necessary for us, must be distinguished by a greater variety of symbols: there are many words connecting, like joints, the different members of language which cannot be represented by any corresponding images; for these certain arbitrary symbols must be invented to be always used in their stead. But the memory of things is properly the memory of the orator, and this we may attain by the creation of distinct and aptly arranged images, so that the signs shall suggest the sentences, and the compartments their regular succession. Nor is there any foundation for the objection of the indolent, that the memory is likely to be oppressed with the load of images, and that ideas easily retained by the natural memory are only rendered the more obscure by this artificial process; for I remember having seen two remarkable men with memories of almost superhuman tenacity, viz., Charmadas at' Athens, and Scepsius Metrodorus in Asia, the latter of whom is said to be still living, by each of whom I was assured that he could inscribe in the different compartments of his mind whatever he wished to remember as easily as he could trace the letters in wax. Though memory, therefore, cannot be wrought out of the mind unless implanted there by nature, if latent it certainly may be elicited. I have now at length brought to a conclusion the somewhat prolix dissertation of a man I fain would hope not inordinately arrogant, certainly not overburdened with modesty, in presuming to dwell at such length on the subject of oratory, with not only you, Catulus, but Crassus also among his audience; for I am not altogether without excuse in the youth and inexperience of the rest of the company; but I am sure you will pardon me in consideration of the motive which has seduced me into such unwonted loquacity.


ACTION, or delivery, I maintain to be the dominant element in eloquence; with

out this the most consummate orator in other respects can lay no claim

to that title, and armed with this mediocrity will often wrest the palm from excellence. To this it was that Demosthenes, when asked what was the chief requisite of the orator, awarded the first place, to this the second, and the third to this. But a still nobler tribute to the power of elocution has always appeared to me the remarkable saying of Æschines at the time when, in consequence of the disgrace incurred by his trial, he had withdrawn from Athens, and settled at Rhodes. Having read, at the request of the Rhodians, his celebrated oration against Ctesiphon, the client of Demosthenes, he was asked the following day to read the defense of the same by Demosthenes; and when, to the admiration of the whole audience, he had given this with all the energy and pathos his voice could impart to it, «What,” he exclaimed, would you have said had you heard him deliver it ?» — a signal tribute to the transmuting power of that art, which he believed could make the same speech appear a different thing when given by a different person. To what a marvelous extent was this power developed in Gracchus, whom you, Catulus, must remember better than myself, and who was so celebrated in my boyhood for the expression he threw into the words: «Whither shall I turn ? to what place shall I betake myself ? Shall I go to the capitol ? alas! it is overflowed with my brother's blood; or shall I retire to my house ? yet there I behold my mother plunged in misery, weeping, and despairing » - which, we are told, was given with such an appealing expression of action, voice, and countenance, that his bitterest enemies could pot refrain from tears. I have dwelt the longer on this subject, because the whole of this department has been abandoned by the orators, the legitimate exponents of truth, and seized upon by the actors, who are only its imitators.

In everything, no doubt, reality has greatly the advantage of mere appearance, and if the reality of any feeling could of itself suffice to insure the expression of it, we should not be obliged to call in the aid of art; but as those emotions which most require the demonstrative power of action are often in such a state of perturbation that their external indications are obscured, and almost obliterated, it will be for us to remove those obstructions, retaining only the most prominent and conspicuous indications of the feeling. For every movement of the mind derives from nature its own peculiar look and tone and gesture, and the whole external man, bis every feature and all the tones of his voice, vibrate responsive to the impulse of the mind; the tones of the voice, like the chords of some musical instrument, sharp or filat, quick or slow, soft or loud, are attuned to every touch of feeling; each having, at the same time, an intermediate note of its own. And from these also are derived many other varieties of the voice — the smooth and harsh, the contracted and expanded, the continuous, the intermittent, the broken, the attenuated, the flexible, and the full. Nor is there any of these, or of those resembling them, which may not, by judicious management, be brought under the control of art. These serve the actor, like the colors on bis palette the painter, to give splendor and variety to his performance.

For anger requires one tone — sharp, hurried, repercussive –

( Wretch that I am! urged by my impious brother,
With my own teeth to rend and tear my children!»

and the lines which you yourself, Antonius, cited some time ago

( Have you then dared to drive him from your presence ?
Does no one see this ? bind him instantly! »

and almost the entire tragedy of Atreus teems with similar instances. Grief and commiseration require another tone- flexible, full, intermittent, and plaintive

“Whither shall I bend my steps, or which way turn ?
Home to my father's house ? or shall I fly
To Pelias' daughters ? »

“O father, 0 country, O foredoomed house

Of Priam! » and the following

“I saw devouring flames encircling all,

And Priam, done to death, a breathless corpse.

Fear is desponding, hesitating, abject

( Hemmed round I am with every form of evil,
Want, sickness, exile. Terror from my breast
Expels all thought and judgment. This one threatens
Death with terrific tortures — no man lives
So strong in nerve, of soul so firm and fearless,
But backward to his heart the blood recoils,
And his cheek pales with terror.”

Energy demands another tone - intense, vehement, and overwhelming

«Again Thyestes comes to seize on Atreus;
Again assails me, and disturbs my quiet;
Some greater evil, some more potent spell,
Must blend their powers, to overwhelm and crush
His cruel heart.”

Pleasure is Aowing, smooth, and delicate, cheerful and placid in expression

« Bearing to me the nuptial crown, to you
She offered it, pretending it was meant
To adorn another; then upon your head,
With playful grace, she delicately dropt it.")

Dejection is downcast, but uncomplaining, languidly drawn out in one continuous monotone

('Twas at the time when lawless nuptials joined
Paris to Helen, and when I was pregnant,
My term of heavy labor nigh completed,
Just at that time did Hecuba bring forth
Her last child, Polydore."

All these various emotions must be accompanied with strictly corresponding gesture - not dramatic gesture, minutely painting the individual word, but emphatically enforcing the general import — that manly, vigorous, and flexible swaying of the body, derived, not from the theatre, but from the martial drill, and even the

palestra; the action of the hand not restlessly redundant, the fingers clinching the word, not indicating it; the arm thrown forward to the full extent, as if brandishing the bolt of eloquence, and the foot brought forcibly to the ground at the beginning or end of any impassioned burst of energy. But the face is the great focus of expression, and there presides and dominates the eye. It is not without reason, therefore, that our oldest and most experienced judges could scarcely tolerate even Roscius himself with his features buried in a mask: for all expression is from the mind, and the image of the mind is the countenance — its indices the eyes. This is the only part of the body which can supply expression for all the complex and subtle evolutions of the mind; motionless and riveted to one object, it can express no variety of feeling. We are told by Theophrastus that a certain Tauriscus used to say of an actor, who was in the habit of declaiming without moving his eyes, that he spoke with his back to the audience. The discipline of the eye, then, is most important; for any violent change of the features is apt to partake of distortion and grimace. It is the eye which, by its diversified expression, intent or languid, now drooping in despondency, now lighted up with animation, reflects an accurate image of every varying shade of thought and feeling to which we are giving utterance; for action is the language of the body, and all the more incumbent, therefore, is it on us to keep it in harmony with the movements of the mind. To man nature has given the eye for the great vehicle of expression, as the mane, the tail, and the ears to the horse and lion. In all human expression, accordingly, the countenance, as an exponent of thought, is secondary only to the voice; and the dominant power of the countenance is the eye. Action has an inherent force derived from nature, and exerting, therefore, a resistless influence over the most illiterate and uncultivated, and even the most barbarous of mankind. Language affects those only who speak the particular dialect in which they are addressed – the most forcible terms do not invariably arrest the attention of the more obtuse; but action which carries with it its own interpretation is the universal language of humanity, by it all are equally affected, by it we at once express our own feelings and recognize the feelings of others.

To all that is most useful and admirable in expression the voice undoubtedly brings the largest contingent. The natural gift of a fine voice is most desirable for the speaker, but no voice, whatever may be its quality, can dispense with cultivation; the precise nature of that cultivation it does not come within our province to treat of now; in my opinion, however, it cannot be too intense and unremitting. But it may not be out of place to repeat here what I mentioned a little while ago, that in most things there is a mysterious connection between the useful and agreeable; nothing, for instance, conduces more to the improvement of the voice than variety of modulation, as nothing, on the other hand, is more injurious to it than prolonged and vehement vociferation; and what more agreeable to the ear or more conducive to harmony than alternation, variety, and change! Accordingly it was the custom of Caius Gracchus (as you may learn from your literary client, and his former amanuensis, Licinius) to have concealed behind him, when speaking, a skillful person with an ivory pitch pipe to sound the correct note the moment his voice became too sharp or too flat in tone. I have heard, indeed, of the practice, said Catulus, and have always admired the industry as well as the knowledge and learning of that man. And I also, added Crassus, and deeply does it grieve me that two such men should have lapsed into that deadly treason against the republic; although such is the strange contexture of society at present, and such the kind of life, both encouraged now, and held out as an example to posterity, that we now glory in the very men who were held in utter detestation by our forefathers. Dismiss this subject, I beg of you, said Julius, and let us revert to Gracchus and his pitch pipe, of which I do not yet clearly understand the use.

Every voice, then, continued Crassus, has a certain middle key, peculiar to itself, from which it is both useful and agreeable to ascend in a graduated scale; for not only is there something rude in a vociferous commencement, but the opposite practice is salutary in strengthening the voice. There is also an extremely high key, though not reaching to a discordant scream, and it is the office of the pipe, not only to prevent the voice from breaking into this shrill dissonance of tone, but also from straining too long on the notes approaching to it; and lastly, there is the lowest or bass note, to which we descend by a regular scale of sound. This variety, and this practice of running the voice through all its compass, will tend both to give it strength and to preserve its sweetness. But you may leave the piper at home, and carry with you to the forum the valuable lesson suggested by the practice.

I have now said all that I can on this subject, not so fully, indeed, as I could have wished, but as much as the time to which I am restricted would allow; for it is good policy to lay the blame on the time when you have nothing more to add. Inasmuch as I am able to judge, said Catulus, your survey has been so admirably comprehensive, that, so far from regarding you as a mere pupil of the Greek rhetoricians, I consider you fully qualified to be their master. I am delighted to have had the privilege of being present at this discussion, and only regret that the same advantage has not been enjoyed by my son-in-law and your companion Hortensius, in whom I confidently expect to see realized that picture of the perfect orator which you have portrayed. You expect to see realized ! exclaimed Crassus; in my opinion it is so already; such, indeed, was my impression when I heard him plead, in my consulship, the cause of Africa, and which has since been fully confirmed by his splendid oration for the Bithynian king. Your judgment, therefore, Catulus, is perfectly correct; for I see nothing wanting in this young man which either nature or discipline could impart. And, therefore, doubly is it incumbent on you, Cotta, and also on you, Sulpicius, to look well to your laurels, and to exert every energy; for this is no secondary orator feebly struggling up under the shade of your maturer years, but an aspirant of most searching genius, of ardent enthusiasm, consummate learning, and singularly tenacious memory; and, although I am partial to him, and desirous to see him surpass those of his own age, it concerns your honor not to be distanced in the race by one so much your junior. But let us now rise, said he, to partake of some refreshment, and relieve our minds at length from the severe strain which has been imposed upon them by this discussion.

All the foregoing extracts from Cicero's « De Oratore »

were translated by F. B. Calvert, M. A.

« AnteriorContinuar »