Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

render them always unmindful of the glory which follows great success. A blind desire to shine and to please is often at the expence of that substantial honour which might be obtained, were they to give themselves up to the pure emotions of piety which so well agree with the sensibility necessary to Eloquence.

It is unquestionably to be wished that he who devotes himself to the arduous labours which preaching requires, should be wholly ambitious to render himself useful to the cause of religion. To such, reputation can never be a sufficient recompence. But if motives so pure have not sufficient sway in your breast, calculate, at least, the advantages of self-love, and you may perceive how inseparably connected these are with the success of your ministry.

Is it on your own account that you preach ? Is it for you that religion assembles her votaries in 'a temple ? You ought not to indulge so presumptuous a thought. However, I only consider you as an Orator. Tell me then; what is this you call Eloquence? Is it the wretched trade of imitating that criminal, mentioned by a poet in his satires, who balanced his crimes before his judges with antithesis*.” Is it the puerile secret

-Crimina rasis
Librat in antithesis. Pers, Sat. 1. 7. 85, 86.

of forming jejune quibbles? of rounding periods? of tormenting one's self by tedious studies in order to reduce sacred instruction into a vain amusement? Is this, then, the idea which you have conceived of that divine art which disdains frivolous ornaments, which sways the most numerous assemblies, and which bestows on a single man the most personal and majestic of all sovereignties? Are you in quest of glory?--You fly from it.

Wit alone is never sublime ; and it is only by the vehemence of the passions that you can become Eloquent*.

* Mr. HUME judiciously observes that “productions which are merely surprising, without being natural, can never • give any lasting entertainment to the mind. Too much • ornament is a fault in every kind of production. Uncom! mon expressions, strong flashes of wit, pointed similies, ' and epigrammatic turns, especially when they recur too • frequently, are a disfigurement rather than any embellish• ment of discourse. As the eye, in surveying a Gothic • building, is distracted by the multiplicity of ornaments, r and loses the whole by its minute attention to the parts ; « so the mind in perusing a work overstocked with wit, is • fatigued and disgusted with the constant endeavour to • shine and surprize. This is the case where a writer over• abounds in wit, even though that wit, in itself, should be • just and agreeable. But it commonly happens to such« writers, that they seek for their favourite ornaments, even " where the subject affords them not; and by that means • have twenty insipid conceits for one thought which is really beautiful.”—Hume's Essays, Ess. xix. p. 240, 241. • I like none of those witty turns which have nothing in them that is either solid, natural or effecting, and which i tend neither to convince, nor paint, nor persuade. All

Reckon up all the illustrious Orators. Will you find among them conceited, or subtle, or epigrammatic writers ? No; these immortal men

6

• such tinsel wit (as that of Isocrates) must appear still

more ridiculous when it is applied to grave and serious matters. You ask, will you then allow of no antithesis? Yes, when the things we speak of are naturally opposite one to another, it may be proper enough to shew their op. position. Such antithesis are just, and have a solid beau" ty, and a right application of them is often the most easy • and concise manner' of explaining things ; but it is ex

tremely childish to use artificial terms and windings to • make words clash and play one against another. At first

this may happen to dazzle those who have no taste ; but they soon grew weary of such a silly affectation. It looks

very strange and aukward in a preacher to set up for wit 6 and delicacy of invention, when he ought to speak with the • utmost seriousness and gravity out of regard to the au

thority of the Holy Spirit whose words he borrows.'-FenELON's Dialogues concerning Eloquence, dial. i. p. 26, and dial. iii. p. 146.

" To form a just notion of Tully's eloquence, we must observe the harangues he made in his more advanced age. • Then, the experience he had in the weightiest affairs, - the love of liberty and the fear of those calamities that · hung over his head, made him display the utmost efforts of • his eloquence. When he endeavoured to support and revive expiring liberty, and to animate the commonwealth against Anthony his enemy, you do not see him use points of • wit and quaint antithesis: he is then truly eloquent. Every 'thing seems artless, as it ought to be when one is vehe' ment; with a negligent air he delivers the most natural and . affecting sentiments, and says every thing that can move * and animate the passions.-Ibid. dial. ii. p. 54.

confined their attempts to affect and persuade ; and their having been always simple is that which always render them great.--How is this? you wish to proceed in their footsteps, and you stoop to the degrading pretensions of a Rhetorician! and you appear in the form of a mendicant soliciting commendations before those very men who ought to tremble at your feet ! Recover from this ignominy. Be eloquent by zeal, instead of being a mere declaimer through vanity. And be assured that the most certain method of preaching well for yourself, is to proach usefully to others.

Pope justly observes

“ True wit is nature to advantage drest, 56. What oft was thought, but ne'er so well exprest ; "si Something, whose truth convinc'd at sight we find, “ That gives us back the image of our mind. “ As shades more sweetly recommend the light, “ So modest plainness sets off sprightly wit. “ For works may have more wit than does them good, “ As bodies perish through excess of blood.”

Essay on Criticism, 1. 300.

[ocr errors]

The judicious Fenelon also remarks, from St. Austin, that “ in the apostle Paul, wisdom did not seek after the

beauty of language, but that the beauties of language of * fered themselves and attended his wisdom.'-- Dialogues concerning Eloquence, dial. iii. p. 106.

SECTION X.

OF THE EXORDIUM.

WT

IT pleases in an epigram or'a song, but it

never produces great effects in a numerous assembly. True Eloquence proscribes all those thoughts which are too refined or far-fetched to strike the people ; for indeed, what else is it than a brilliant stroke affecting and enlivening a multitude, which, at first view, merely presents to the Orator an extended and motionless heap, and which so far from participating the sensations of him who speaks, scarcely grants him a cold and strict attention ?

The beginning of a discourse ought to be sim. ple and modest, in order to conciliate to the preacher the good will of his auditory. The Exordium, nevertheless, deserves to be studied with the greatest care. It is proper to confine one's self in this part to the unfolding of a single idea which may include the whole extent of the subject. It is here where indications of the plan should be quickly made known; where the leading aim of the discourse should be pointed out without filling up too much room ; where lucid principles should discover the deep reflection of

E

« AnteriorContinuar »