« AnteriorContinuar »
the Orator who is capable of obtaining at once, a commanding influence over all his hearers*.
Such is the art of Bossuet, when, that he might strike the mind forcibly, he says, at the beginning of his funeral Oration for Henrietta of England, that he will “ in one single wo deplore all the ca“ lamities, and in one single death shew the death " and the emptiness of all human grandeur.”
Whatever doth not lead towards the principal points of a sermon is useless in an Exordium.Let us therefore, in this part of the discourse, avoid subtle reflections, quotations, essays, common places, and even tropes and metaphors.
* " The first quality of an exordium is brevity. This, • however, has a proper measure, for as it ought not to be excessively long, so neither should it be too short, the * middle way is best. If the exordium were too short, it • would oblige the hearer to enter too soon into the matter • without preparation enough ; and excessive length would weary him;
for it is with an auditor, as with a man who visits a palace, he does not like to stay too long in the court, or first avenues, he would only view them transiently without stopping, and proceed as soon as possible to
gratify his principal curiosity.” ROBINSON'S CLAUDE, vol. ii. p. 469.
M. CLAUDE further observes that an Exordium should be clear, cool and grave; engaging and agreeable : connected with the text or subject to be discussed; simple and unadorned ; not common, and sometimes figurative ; his illustration of these points well deserves perusal. Ibid. p.
“We must not then," says the Roman Orator, “ depart from the familiar sense of words, “ least our discourse appear prepared with too "much labour*.” Let us proceed to our design by the shortest course. Every thing here ought to be adapted to the subject, since according to the expression of Cicero, “The Exordium is only its porcht.” Let us not imitate those prolix rhetoricians, who, instead of entering at once on their subject, turn and turn again on all sides, leaving their hearers uncertain of the matter which they are going to handle.
The Exordium doth not properly begin till the object and design of the discourse are discovered.
SECTION XI. OF THE EXPLICATION OF THE SUBJECT.. Osooner is the subject stated, than we
must hasten to define it. This precaution is to be regarded especially in treating on metaphysical subjects, such as Providence, Truth, Conscience, &c. He is sure to wander in vague speculations who nelects to be guided, at first, by
* In exordiendâ causâ servandum est ut usitata sit verborum consuetudo, ut non apparata oratio esse videatur. Ad. Herrennium, lib. i. 7.
+ Aditus ad causam. Brutus.
clear ideas. It is certainly hazardous to rise too much in those preparatory parts ; and experience every day teaches us to be distrustful of eloquent introductions.
It is, nevertheless, necessary strongly to fix the attention of a wandering congregation ; and I do not see that we violate the rules of art in surprising the hearer by an unexpected stroke which may draw him off from his own thoughts, provided this sudden emotion do not beguile his expectation, and that the Orator always proceeds in the enlargement of his subject.
“ I want discourses," says Montaigne, “which “ make an immediate attack upon
the $ of doubt; I desire good and solid arguments " at first sight." Montaigne is right. Nothing is more important and difficult than to become masters of our Auditory, and to enter upon our subject with a movement that may affect them.
Seneca opens the first scene of his tragedy of Troy with a sublime soliloquy; and three verses suffice for his immediately interesting every heart. We behold, at a distance, the city of Troy consumed by the flames; and Hecuba, in chains, alone upon the theatre, pronounces, with a sigh, these eloquent expressions, “ Ye princes “ who confide in your power, ye who rule over
a numerous court, ye who dread not the inconstant favour of the gods, and ye who indulge
yourselves in the soothing repose of prosperity, “ behold Hecuba, behold Troy*!” Who does not then retire within himself, and seriously reflect upon the dangers of his fate? It is thus that a great Orator should engage the heart. It is thus he should enrich the beginning of his discourse, provided that the sequel deserve also to be heard after the Auditors have been elevated to such a pitch.
OF THE PRODUCTION OF IDEAS. IT T is this continual propagation of great ideas,
by which they are mutually enlivened; it is this art of incessantly advancing in composition that gives strength to Eloquence, rapidity to discourse, and the whole interest of dialogue to an
* Quicumque regno fidit, et magnâ potens,
Me videat et te Troja!
Sanguine fædantem, quos ipse sacraverat, ignes.
Æneid. lib. ii. 1. 501,
L. 515, &c.
uninterrupted succession of ideas, which, were they disjointed, would produce no effect, but languish and die.
The progression which imparts increasing strength to each period is the natural representation of those transports of soul which should enliven throughout the compositions of the Orator. Hence it follows, that an eloquent writer can only be formed by a fertility and vastness of thought.
Detached phrases, superfluous passages, witty comparisons, unprofitable definitions, the affectation of shining or surprising at every word, the extravagance of genius, these do not enrich but rather impoverish a writer as often as they interrupt his progress.*
* The thoughts with which good authors embellish " their discourses are plain, natural, and intelligible; they * are neither affected nor far fetched, and, as it were, forced
in, in order to make a parade of wit, but always rise out of - the subject to be treated of, from which they seem so in.
separable, that we cannot think the things could have • been otherwise expressed, at the same time that every one
imagines he would express them the same way.'-Rol. LIN's Belles Lettres, vol. ii. chap. iii. 5 2. Art i. p. 106. See also what Rollin says of Shining Thoughts. vol. ii.p. 126.
So FENELON tells us that there is much gained by losing all 'superfluous ornaments, and confining ourselves to • such beauties as are simple, easy, clear, and seemingly * negligent.' Letter to the French Academy, p. 1 196.
See also Knox's judicious remarks, Essays, No. 15.