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cautious speakers in force, sublimity, animation, polish, and structure of periods ? Does he not elevate his style by moral observations ? Does he not delight in figures? Does he not give splendor to his language by metaphors ? Does he not attribute, by figurative representations, speech to inanimate objects ? Does not his oath by the defenders of his country, slain at Marathon and Salamis, plainly show that Plato was his master? And shall we call Plato an Asiatic, a man comparable in so many respects to the bards of old, fired with divine inspiration? What shall we say of Pericles? Shall we pronounce him similar to the unadorned Lysias, him whose energy the comic writers, even while they ridicule him, compare to thunder and lightning from heaven?
What is the reason, then, that they imagine the Attic taste to be apparent in those only who flow, as it were, like a slender stream of water making its way through pebbles ? What is the reason that they say the odor of thyme arises only from among them? I suppose that if they find in the neighborhood of those orators any piece of ground more fertile, or any crop more luxuriant than ordinary, they will deny that the soil is Attic, because it reproduced more than it has received, when Menander jestingly says that exact fidelity is the characteristic of Attic ground. So, if any one shall add to the excellences which that great orator Demosthenes had, those which appear, either naturally or by the law of his country, to have been wanting to him, and shall display in himself the power of strongly exciting the feelings, shall I hear some critic say, Demosthenes never did so? Or if any periods shall be produced more harmonious than this, perhaps none can be, but still if any should, will it be said that they are not Attic ? Let these censors judge more favorably of this distinction, and be convinced that to speak in the Attic style is to speak in the best style. And yet I would sooner bear with Greeks than Latins persisting in this opinion.
The Latin eloquence, though it appears to me on a level with the Greek in invention, arrangement, judgment, and other qualities of that kind, and seems to be, indeed, in all respects its pupil, yet in regard to elocution, it scarcely has the power even of imitation; for, first of all, it has more of harshness in the sound of its words; as we are quite destitute of two of the most euphonious letters of the Greeks, one a vowel, the other a consonant, than which, indeed, none even of theirs sound more sweetly, and which we are in the habit of borrowing whenever we adopt any of their words.
ON THE ELOQUENCE OF HOMER, VIRGIL, AND OTHER POETS
To go through authors one by one would be an endless task. For when Cicero,
in his “Brutus, employs so many thousands of lines in speaking of the Ro
man orators only, and yet observes silence concerning all of his own age, among whom he lived, except Cæsar and Marcellus, what limit would there be to my task, if I should undertake to review not only all those, but those who succeeded them, and all the Greek philosophers and poets ? That brevity, therefore, would be safest for me to observe, which is adopted by Livy in a letter addressed to his son, that Demosthenes and Cicero should first be read, and afterwards every writer according as he most resembles Demosthenes and Cicero. Yet the conclusions to which my judgment has led me must not be withheld. I think that among all the authors who have stood the test of time, few, or, indeed, scarcely a single one, can be found, who would not contribute some profit to such as read them with judgment; for Cicero himself acknowledges that he was greatly benefited by even the most ancient writers, who had plenty of ability, though they were destitute of art. Nor do I entertain a very different opinion with regard to the Moderns; for how few can be found so utterly devoid of sense, as not to hope, from some small confidence, in at least some part of their work, to secure a hold on the memory of posterity? If there be any such writer, he will be detected in his very first lines, and will release us too soon for the trial of his work to cost us any great waste of time. But it is not everything in an author that relates to any department of knowledge whatever, that is adapted to produce the copiousness of diction of which we are speaking.
Before I proceed, however, to speak of authors individually, a few general remarks must be premised in regard to the diversity of opinions concerning them. Some think that the Ancients only deserve to be read, and imagine that in no others is to be found natural eloquence and manly force. On the contrary, the floridness and affectation of the Moderns, and all the blandishments intended to charm the ear of the ignorant multitude, delight others. Even of those, again, who would adopt a right sort of style, some think that no language but such as is concise and simple, and departs as little as possible from common conversation, is sound and truly Attic; while more sublime efforts of genius, more animated, more full of lofty conceptions, attract others; and there are also not a few lovers of a quiet, neat, and subdued style. Concerning such differences in taste I shall speak more at large, when I come to consider the species of style most proper for the orator. In the meantime, I shall briefly touch on the advantages which those may derive from reading who wish to increase their facility in speaking, and show by what kind of reading they may be most benefited; for I intend to select for notice a few of the authors who are most distinguished; and it will be easy for the studious to judge who are most similar to them. This I mention, lest any one should complain that writers, whom he himself highly approves, have been omitted; for I admit that more ought to be read than those whom I shall here specify.
But I shall now merely go through the various sorts of reading which I consider peculiarly suitable for those who aim at becoming orators.
As Aratus thinks that we ought to begin with Jupiter, so I think that I shall very properly commence with Homer; for as he says that the might of rivers and the courses of springs take their rise from the ocean, so has he himself given a model and an origin for every species of eloquence. No man has excelled him in sublimity on great subjects, no man in propriety on small ones. He is at once copious and concise, pleasing and forcible; admirable at one time for exuberance, and at another for brevity; eminent not only for poetic, but for oratorical excellence. To say nothing of his laudatory, exhortatory, and consolatory speeches, does not the ninth book of the “Iliad,” in which the deputation sent to Achilles is comprised, or the contention between the chiefs in the first book, or the opinions delivered in the second, display all the arts of legal pleadings and of councils ? As to the feelings, as well the gentle as the more impetuous, there is no one so unlearned as not to acknowledge that he had them wholly under his control. Has he not, at the commencement of both his works, I will not say observed, but established, the laws of oratorical exordia ? For he renders his reader well-affected towards him by an invocation of the goddesses who have been supposed to preside over poets; he makes him attentive by setting forth the grandeur of his subjects, and desirous of information by giving a brief and comprehensive view of them. Who can state facts more concisely than he who relates the death of Patroclus or more forcibly than he who describes the combat of the Curetes and Ætolians ? As to similes, amplifications, illustrations, digressions, indications, and proofs of things, and all other modes of establishment and refutation, examples of them are so numerous in him that even most of those who have written on the rules of rhetoric produce from him illustrations of their pręcepts. What peroration of a speech will ever be thought equal to the entreaties of Priam beseeching Achilles for the body of his son ? Does he not, indeed, in words, thoughts, figures, and the arrangement of his whole work, exceed the ordinary bounds of human genius? So much, indeed, that it requires a great man even to follow his excellences, not with rivalry (for rivalry is impossible), but with a just conception of them. But he has doubtless left all authors, in every kind of eloquence, far behind him, but the epic poets most remarkably, as, in similar subjects, the comparison is most striking.
As for Hesiod, he rarely rises above the general level, and a great part of his poetry is occupied with mere names, yet his sententious manner is useful in delivering precepts, and the easy flow of his words and style merits approbation; and in that middle kind of writing the palm is allowed to be his....
of the philosophers, from whom Cicero acknowledges that he derived a large portion of his eloquence, who can doubt that Plato is the chief, as well in acuteness of reasoning as in a certain divine and Homer-like power of language ? For he rises far above ordinary prose, and what the Greeks call oratio pedestris, so that he appears to me to be animated, not with mere human genius, but with the inspiration, as it were, of the Delphic oracle. Why need I dwell on the sweetness of Xenophon, sweetness which is unaffected, but which no affectation could attain ? so that even the Graces themselves are said to have formed his style, and the testimony of the «Old Comedy) concerning Pericles may justly be applied to him, that the goddess of persuasion was seated on his lips. Why need I expatiate on the elegance of the rest of the Socratic school? Why need I speak of the merits of Aristotle, of whom I am in doubt whether I should deem him more admirable for his knowledge of things, for the multitude of his writings, for the agreeableness of his language, the penetration shown in his discoveries, or the variety exhibited in his works? As to Theophrastus, there is such a divine beauty in his language, that he may be said even to have derived his name from it. The old Stoics indulged but little in eloquence, but they recommended what was virtuous, and had great power in reasoning, and in enforcing what they taught. They were rather, however, acute in discussing their subjects than lofty in their style, an excellence at which they certainly did not aim.
As Homer, accordingly, among the Greeks, so Virgil among our own countrymen presents the most auspicious commencement,-an author who of all poets of that class, Greek or Roman, approaches, doubtless, nearest to Homer. I will here repeat the very words which, when I was a young man, I heard from Domitius Afer, who, when I asked him what poet he thought came nearest to Homer, replied, Virgil is second to him, but nearer the first than the third. Indeed, though we must give place to the divine and immortal genius of Homer, yet in Virgil there is more care and exactness, for the very reason that he was obliged to take more pains; and for what we lose in the higher qualities we perhaps compensate in equability of excellence.
All our other poets will follow at a great distance. Macer and Lucretius should be read indeed, but not in order to form such a style as constitutes the fabric of eloquence; each is an elegant writer on his own subject, but the one is tame, and the other difficult. Varro Atacinus, in those writings in which he has gained a name as the interpreter of another man's work, is not, indeed, to be despised, but is not rich enough in diction to increase the power of the orator. Ennius we may venerate, as we venerate groves sacred from their antiquity; groves in which gigantic and aged oaks affect us not so much by their beauty as by the religious awe with which they inspire us.
ORATORY AND LITERATURE
I ET us review and reconsider the subject of our reading, and as we consign our
food to our stomach only when it is masticated and almost dissolved, in order
that it may be easier of digestion, so let what we read be committed to the memory and reserved for imitation, not when it is in a crude state, but after being softened, and, as it were, triturated, by frequent repetition,
For a long time, too, none but the best authors must be read, and such as are least likely to mislead him who trusts them; but they must be read with attention, and, indeed, with almost as much care as if we were transcribing them; and every portion must be examined, not merely partially, but a whole book, when read through, must be taken up afresh, and especially any excellent oration, of which the merits are often designedly concealed; for the speaker frequently prepares his audience for what is to follow, dissembles with them, and places ambuscades; and states in the first part of his pleading what is to have its full effect at the conclusion. Hence what is advanced in its proper place often pleases us less than it ought, since we are not aware why it is advanced; and all such passages, accordingly, ought to be perused again after we have read the whole. But one of the most useful exercises is to learn the history of those causes of which we have taken the pleadings in hand for perusal, and, whenever opportunity shall offer, to read speeches delivered on both sides of the same question; as those of Demosthenes and Æschines in opposition to each other; those of Servius Sulpicius and Messala, of whom one spoke for Aufidia, and the other against her; those of Pollio and Cassius when Asprenas was accused; and many others. Even if the pleaders seem unequally matched, yet some of the speeches may be reasonably consulted in order to ascertain the question for decision, as the orations of Tubero against Ligarius, and of Hortensius on behalf of Verres, in opposition to those of Cicero. It will also be of advantage to know how different orators pleaded the same causes; for Calidius delivered a speech concerning the house of Cicero, and Brutus wrote an oration in defense of Milo, merely as an exercise. Cornelius Celsus, indeed, thinks that Brutus spoke it, but he is mistaken. Pollio and Messala, too, defended the same persons; and, when I was a boy, there were in circulation celebrated speeches of Domitius Afer, Crispus Passienus, and Decimus Lælius, in defense of Volusenus Catulus.
Nor must he who reads feel immediately convinced that everything that great authors have said is necessarily perfect; for they sometimes make a false step, or sink under their burden, or give way to the inclination of their genius; nor do they always equally apply their minds, but sometimes grow weary; as Demosthenes seems to Cicero sometimes to nod, and Homer himself appears to Horace to do so. They are great men, indeed, but men nevertheless; and it often happens to those who think that whatever is found in such authors is a law for eloquence, that they imitate what is inferior in them (for it is easier to copy their faults than their excellences), and fancy that they fully resemble great men when they have adopted great men's defects.
Yet students must pronounce with diffidence and circumspection on the merits of such illustrious characters, lest, as is the case with many, they condemn what they do not understand. If they must err on one side or the other, I should prefer that every part of them should please youthful readers rather than that many parts should displease them.
Theophrastus says that the reading of the poets is of the greatest use to the orator. Many others adopt his opinion, and not without reason, for from them is derived animation in relating facts, sublimity in expression, the greatest power
in exciting the feelings, and gracefulness in personifying character; and, what is of the utmost service, the faculties of the orator, worn out, as it were, by daily pleading in the forum, are best recruited by the charms of the works of such authors. Accordingly, Cicero thinks that relaxation should be sought in that sort of reading. But we must remember that poets are not to be imitated by the orator in every respect: not, for instance, in freedom of language, or unrestrained use of figures; that the style of poets is adapted for display, and, besides, that it aims merely at giving pleasure, and pursues its object by inventing not only what is false, but even sometimes what is incredible; that it enjoys certain privileges, inasmuch as, being confined to the regular requirements of feet, it cannot always use proper terms, but, being driven from the straight road, must necessarily have recourse to certain bypaths of eloquence, and is obliged not only to change words, but to lengthen, shorten, transpose, and divide them; but that we orators stand in arms in a field of battle, contend for concerns of the highest moment, and must struggle only for victory.
Yet I would not wish that the arms of the orator should be squalid from foulness and rust, but that there should be a brightness on them like that of steel, which may dismay opponents, and by which the mind and the eye may at once be dazzled, and not like that of gold or silver, which is unwarlike, and dangerous rather to the wearer than to the enemy.
History also may nourish oratory with a kind of fertilizing and grateful aliment. But it must be read with the conviction that most of its very excellences are to be avoided by the orator; for it borders closely on poetry, and may be said indeed, to be a poem unfettered by the restraints of metre; it is written to relate, not to prove; and its whole nature is suited, not to the pleading of causes, or to instant debate, but to the transmission of events to posterity, and to gain the reputation of ability for its author; and for this reason it relieves the tediousness of narrative by words more remote from common usage, and by a more bold employment of figures. Accordingly, as I observed, neither is the brevity of Sallust, than which nothing can be more perfectly pleasing to the unoccupied and learned, ear, to be studied by us in addressing a judge, who is engaged with vari. ous thoughts, and often destitute of literature; nor will the milky exuberance of Livy satisfactorily instruct a hearer who looks not for beauty of statement, but for proof of fact. Besides, Cicero thinks that not even Thucydides and Xenophon are of any use to the orator, though he allows that the one sounds the trumpet of war, and that the Muses spoke by the mouth of the other. In digressions, however, we may at times adopt the polished elegance of history, provided we remember that in the parts of our speech on which the question depends, there is need, not of the showy muscles of the athlete, but of the nervous arms of the soldier; and that the variegated robe which Demetrius Phalereus is said to have worn is pot adapted to the dust of the forum. There is also, indeed, another advantage to be gained from history, and an advantage of the greatest value, though of no concern with the present part of my subject; I mean that which is to be derived from the knowledge of facts and precedents, with which the orator ought to be extremely well acquainted, that he may not have to seek all his arguments from the parties going to law, but may avail himself of many drawn from an accurrate knowledge of antiquity; arguments the more weighty, as they alone are exempt from the charges of prejudice and partiality.
That we have to derive much from the study of the philosophers has been occasioned by another fault in orators, who have given up to them the better part of their duty; for the philosophers speak copiously of what is just, and honorable, and useful, of what is of a contrary nature, and of divine subjects, and reason