« PreviousContinue »
we might be able to find sufficient claims to justify his fame, were all his other productions of Oratory unknown.
It is enough to repeat here one single passage,
The enemies of Demosthenes, (certain writers without talents, Æschines excepted, who presumed to consider themselves as his rivals because they set themselves up for Orators in Athens) accused him of seeking, in his discourses, rather his own reputation, than the public good. This great man, abused for a long while without complaining, deigned at length to confute their clamours in the presence of all the Athenian people. He thus addresses them in his Oration of Cher
'I am so far from regarding all those contempt“ible Orators as citizens deserving of their coun
try, that should any one say to me this moment, * And thou, Demosthenes, what services hast 'thou rendered to the Republic ? I would neither, O Athenians, speak of the expences I
have incurred on behalf of my fellow-citizens * in the discharge of my employments, nor of the captives whom I have redeemed, nor of the gifts which I have presented to the city,
nor of all the monuments which will one day "testify my zeal for my country; but this is
the answer I should make: My conduct hath always been the reverse of the maxims of these Orators. I could, doubtless, have
followed their example, and like them, have * flattered you. But I have always sacrificed my personal advantage, my ambition, and even the desire of pleasing you. I have addressed you so as to rank myself below other citizens, and to exalt you above the other peo‘ple of Greece. O Athenians ! permit me now • to bear this witness of myself. No: I never indulged the expectation of attaining the first place among you; were ! avea tū make you the lowest of mankind.”
It is to those enemies, and to the sad necessity of crushing them with all the weight of his genius and virtue, that Demosthenes is indebted for this sublime passage, one of the finest strokes of his Eloquence.
It would be very easy to multiply similar quotations, when speaking of this Orator. But it is not my design to prevent public speakers from reading him. I invite them, on the contrary, to learn him by heart; and to transfuse his energy, his vigour, and his colouring, into their own Eloquence. *
* The Abp. of Cambray gives us his sentiments of Demosthenes, in the following terms: 'Demosthenes mores,
T the very name of Demosthenes, my admiration reflects on the most eloquent man
warms, and captivates the heart. He was too sensibly touched with the interest of his country, to mind the little
glittering fancies of Isocrates. Every Oration of Demos. * thenes is a close chain of reasoning, that represents the generous notions of a soul who disdains any thought that
is not great. His discourses gradually increase in force . by greater light and new reasons, which are always illus*trated by bold figures and lively images. One cannot but * see that he has the good of the republic entirely at heart, • and that nature itself speaks in all his transports ; for his artful address is so masterly that it never appears. No
thing ever equalled the force and vehemence of his dis. *courses.'-Dialogues concerning Eloquence, Dial. i. p. 20.
M. Rollin paints the character of this Orator by the following extract of the sentiments of Quintilian and Dion. Halicarnassus: 'Demosthenes, among Orators, is the standard, which every one must necessarily follow who • aspires to true Eloquence. His style is so strong, so close,
and nervous, it is every where so just, so exactly concise, that there is nothing too much or too little. What distin. • guishes the Eloquence of Demosthenes, is, the impetuo. • sily of the expression, the choice of words, and the beauty * of the disposition; which being supported throughout, 6 and accompanied with force and sweetness, keeps the at• tention of the judges perpetually fixed. Æschines, indeed, is bright and solid; he enlarges and amplifies, but is of. • ten close; so that his style, which first seems only .ing and sweet, discovers itself upon a nearer view to be
of my nation, who bears the greatest resemblance to him of all his competitors. Such, whom we
• vehement and emphatic, in which Demosthenes surpasses him."
M. Rollin then refers us to Cicero's celebrated judgment of Demosthenes, (Orat. n. 23 et 104, et ep. ad Brut. n. 35.) and to the sentiments of M. de Toureil, after which he gives us his own, as follow:
• What is there, then, in his Orations that is so admirable, and has forced away the universal and unanimous * applause of all ages ? Is Demosthenes an Orator who * amuses himself barely with tickling the ear, by the sound « and harmony of periods; or does he impose upon the mind by a florid style and shining thoughts ? Such Eloquence may, indeed, dazzle and charm, the moment we • hear it ; but the impression it makes is of a short duration. • What we admire in Demosthenes, is the plan, the series,
and the order and disposition of the Oration ; it is the strength of the proofs, the solidity of the arguments, the grandeur and nobleness of the sentiments, and of the style ; the vivacity of the turns and figures ; in a word, the wonderful art of representing the subjects he
treats, in all their lustre, and displaying them in all their • strength. But that which distinguishes Demosthenes still
more, and in which no one has imitated him, is, that he forgets himself so entirely; is always so scrupulous in * avoiding every thing that might look like a shew or pa
rade of wit and genius ; and so careful to make the Au- ditor attend to the cause, and not to the Orator, that no
expression, turn or thought ever escape him, which are calculated merely. to shine. This reservedness, this mo
deration, in so fine a genius as Demosthenes, and in topics • so susceptible of graces and elegance, raises his merit to . its highest pitch, and is superior to all encomiumas.". ROLLIN, v. ii. c. iii. S. iii. p. 251, 252.
Dr. BLAIR makes the following remarks on the style of Demosthenes. His Orations are strongly animated; and
may consider as one of these Orators, whom Cicero styles “ vehement, and, in some measure,
full of the impetuosity and fire of public spirit. They pro'ceed in a continued strain of inductions, consequences, * and demonstrations, founded on sound reason. The figures ' which he uses are never sought after ; but always rise from 'the subject. He employs them sparingly indeed; for splen
dor are not the distinctions of this Orator's composition. * It is an energy of thought peculiar to himself, which forms his character, and sets him above all others. He attends ' much more to things than to words. We forget the Ora*tor, and think of the business. He warms the mind, and 'impels to action. He has no parade and ostentation; no 'methods of insinuation ; no laboured introductions ; but is • like a man full of his subject, who, after preparing bis audience by a sentence or two for hearing plain truths, enters
directly on business. The style of Demosthenes is strong • and concise, though sometimes, it must not be dissembled, • harsh and abrupt. His words are very expressive ; his • arrangement firm and manly; and far from being unmu"sical. Negligent of lesser graces, he seems rather to have * aimed at that sublime which lies in sentiment. His action
and pronunciation are recorded to have been uncommonly ‘vehement and ardent; which, from the manner of his 'composition, we are naturally led to believe. The character ' which one forms of him, from reading his works, is of the • austere, rather than the gentle kind. He is, on every oc. *casion, grave, serious, passionate ; takes every thing 'on a high tone ; never lets himself down, nor attempts any *thing like pleasantry. If any fault can be found to his ad
mirable Eloquence, it is, that he sometimes borders on the • hard and dry. He may also be thought to want smooth
ness and grace. But these defects are far more than com'pensated, by that admirable and masterly force of mascu• line Eloquence, which, as it overpowered all who heard it,
cannot, at this day, be read without emotion."--BLAIR'S Lectures, vol. ii. p. 21, 22, 23.