Page images
PDF
EPUB

ideas; and, especially, when the progress of Eloquence is advanced by a combination of proofs.

The difficult and necessary art of oratorial preparation is sure to be decisive of the success of a

sermon.

A sudden stroke is merely a hasty sally ; if it be well prepared, it becomes a sublime move

ment.

May I be permitted to render my idea more familiar by a comparison ?-You walk by yourself, in the fields, on a summer's day. You give scope successively to a variety of thoughts, with which the view of the country, and the silence of nature, inspire you. When your mind is thus wholly engaged with these pleasing reveries, all of a sudden you hear thunder which crashes at a distance. This noise at first alarms you. In the mean time, the sky is serene, the air is calm, all is tranquil about you ; and this first impression of terror is soon erased from your memory. But, when the horizon lowers, and is covered with dark clouds; when the sun disappears; when the hurricane rolls whirlwinds of dust; when the lightning flashes ; when the atmosphere is inflamed; and when the thunder afterwards roars over your head; you will be alarmed; and your mind, prepared by gradual emotions, will then have a more lively sensation of the violence of the shock arising from such continued perturbation. It is the same with Eloquence. Through a multitude of adventitious ideas, the mind must be gradually prepared to participate in all the transports of passion or terror, of joy or grief, of love or indignation, with which you yourself are agitated. The impression too soon wears off, if the heart be not sufficiently mollified to enable it to penetrate without meeting with opposition.

Doth Bossuet intend to give you a high idea of the courage, with which the queen of England struggled against all her misfortunes ? His relations, were they introduced even without art, would astonish you; but, when ushered in by this sublime image, they transport you: Like a

column, whose solid mass appears the firmest support of a ruinous temple, when that lofty edifice which it sustains rests upon it without overthrowing it; thus the queen discovers her

self to be the firm support of the state, when, • after having for a long time borne its weight, she is not even bowed down under its fall." Your mind, struck with this spectacle, which the Orator had the art of representing before you, beholds the queen of England constantly raised above her adversities : and your imagination is continually describing to itself this column, which remains standing in the midst of the ruins with which it is surrounded.

SECTION XL.

OF ORATORIAL PRECAUTIONS.

hearers

BESIDES

those preparations, which tend to set off excellent ideas to advantage, there are also precautions, which Orators ought not to neglect. Precautions of modesty, with a view to conciliate the good-will, or confidence, of their auditory : Precautions of complaisance, in order to apologize for ideas, which would appear too bold if they bluntly thwarted the prejudices intended to be opposed : Precautions of prudence: Appear as if you dared not accuse your of certain excesses, of which they are but too culpable, and which the remorse of their consciences affect still more than the reproaches of your zeal. 'When you make known unpallatable truths,' says Cicero, “it is proper that you seem to do it with reluctance :'* Precautions of decency: Throw a veil over particulars, to which you ought to re-fer, without too minutely investigating them. Bossuet does not chuse to say in direct terms, in his funeral oration for the queen of England, that Charles I. died upon a scaffold ; but, to recall

* Si quid persequare acriùs et inoitus et coactus facere videare. Cic. de Orat. lib. ü. $ 182. p. 62.

that event, he makes an ingenious application ; he contents himself with causing the queen to adopt those words of the prophet Jeremiah, who, alone, he says, is capable of equalling his lamentations to his calamities. "O Lord, behold my . affliction, for the enemy hath magnified himself. The adversary hath spread out his hand upon all my pleasant things : my children are desolate, because the enemy prevailed. The kingdom is polluted, and the princes thereof.

For these things I weep; mine eye runneth down with water, because the comforter that

should relieve my soul is far from me:' * Precautions of judgment: Write agreeably to, and sometimes in a style different from, your peculiar talent. Is it the pathetic that characterizes you? Guard against languor and monotony. Doth energy please you? Avoid obscurity and bombast. Observe the extreme, towards which your mind inclines, and endeavour to shun'it : Precautions in the cadences of sentences ; and particularly, in beginning paragraphs, The auditor forms his opinion of you whenever the conclusion of your periods leaves him a moment's pause ; and his attention relaxes if you neglect to terminate your compositions with luminous ideas, or striking images : in a word, precautions of courage, occasioned by subjects which present difficulties, where you are attended to with an qual mixture of eagerness and severity.

Lam, i. 9, 16 and ü. 2.

[ocr errors]

Throw yourself, at once, into the midst of the danger, that you may the better display the resources of your genius, and make your attack while put upon your defence. This risk, to which the Orator exposes himself imparts to Eloquence a glow of enthusiasm, which raises him superior to his usual exertions. It then happens to him,may I be forgiven this comparison ?-as to the soldier who said, while passing under the citidel of Namur, the day following the assault, · Yes

terday I stormed this rock in the midst of fire, ' and to-day I should not be able to mount it.'

I firmly believe it,' replied one of his comrades, nor can I-there is no more any firing against

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

IT
T is evident, that on such hazardous occasions,

the great business of an Orator consists in omitting no precautions, and in adding energy to

art.

a

It is an excellent method to make choice of proper and ingenious circumlocution to convey the meaning of what cannot be so well expressed. The Hypothesis is a figure well adapted to yield

« PreviousContinue »