Billeder på siden
[ocr errors]

[8] What distinguishes the Eloquence of Demosthenes, is the impetuosity of the expression, the “choice of words, and the beauty of the disposition; “ which being supported throughout, and accompa

nied with force and sweetness, keeps the attention “ of the auditors perpetually fixed. Eschines in“ deed is less energetic; but he distinguishes himself

by his diction, which he sometimes adorns with the niost noble and magnificent figures; and sometimes seasons with the most lively and strong touches.

We do not discover any art or labour in them; a "happy facility, which nature only can bestow, runs

through the whole. He is bright and solid; he en"larges and amplifies, but is often close; so that his

style, which at first seems only flowing and sweet, "discovers itself, upon a nearer view, to be vehement "and emphatic, in which Demosthenes only sur

passes him; so that Æschines justly claims the se"cond place among orators.

" [8] I remember, says Cicero, that I preferred "Demosthenes to all other orators. He is adequate " to the idea I had formed to myself of Eloquence; " he attained to that degree of perfection which I “conceive in thought, but find no where, except in " him alone. Never had any orator more greatness "and strength, more art and cunning; nor more pru“dence and moderation in his ornaments.

kind of Eloquence. ... [h] He sesses all the qualifications necessary for forming "the orator. He is perfect. Whatever penetration,

cels in every

He ex


[] Dion. Halicarn, in his book cui nihil admodum desit, Demoscalled των αρχαίων κριτής, C. 5.

thenem facilè dixeris. Nihil acute [8] Recordor me longè omnibus inveniri potuit in eis causis quas unum anteferre Demosthenem, qui scripsit,nihil(ut ita dicam) subdolè, vim accommodarit ad eam quam nihil versutè, quod ille non viderit; sentiam eloquentiam, non ad eam

nihil sabtiliter dici, nihil pressè, niquam in aliquo ipse cognoverim. hil enucleatè, quo fieri possit aliquid Hoc nec gravior extitit quisquam, limatius : nihil contrà grande, nihil nec callidior, nec temperatior. ... incitatum, nihil ornatum vel verbo. Unus eminet inter omnes in omni rum gravitate, vel sententiarum,quo genere dicendi. Orat. n. 23. & 104. quidquam esset elatiuis, &c. Brut.

[4] Planè quidem perfectum, & n. 35,

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

whatever refinement, whatever artifice, as it were, “and cunning, can suggest on any subject, these he “ finds and employs with a justness, a brevity, and “ clearness, which give us a satisfaction, to which no

thing can add. Are elevation, greatness, and vehe“mence, necessary? He surpasses all others in the

sublimity of his thoughts, and the magnificence of “his expressions. He is incontestably the first; none

equals him. Hyperides, Æschines, Lycurgus, Di“narchus, Demades, have no other merit but that of "coming nearest to him.

[i] That harangue (says Cicero in another place, speaking of Ctesiphon's defence) answers soeffectu

ally to the idea I have formed of perfect Eloquence, " that we can wish nothing more finished.”

Before I proceed to the character of Cicero's Eloquence, I think myself obliged to add here some reflexions upon that of Demosthenes.

It would, in my opinion, be renouncing of good sense and sound reason, to call in question the superior merit of the Greek orator, after the incredible success he had in his time, and the noble encomiums which the best judges have been, in a manner, contending to bestow upon him.

He spoke [k] before the most polite people that ever lived, and the most delicate and difficult to be pleased, in point of Eloquence; a people so well acquainted with the beauties and graces of speech, and the purity of diction, that their orators durst not venture to use any doubtful or uncommon expression, or any which might be the least offensive to such nice and refined ears. Besides, he lived in an age when the taste of the beautiful, the true, and the simple, was

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


ܐܰܝܟ݁ܰܢܳܐ ܕ݁ܝܳܐ

[i] Ea profectò oratio in eam for- dire & elegans. Eorum religioni mam, quæ est insita in mentibus cùm serviret orator, nullum verbum nostris, includi sic potest, ut major insolens, nullum odiosum popere eloquentia non quæratur. Orat. audebat. . . Ad Atticorum aurco n. 133.

teretes & religiosas qui se accom. [*] Atheniensium semper fuit modant, ii sunt existimandi Articè prudens sincerumque judicium, ni- dicere, Orat. n. as, & 27. hil ut possent nisi incorruptum au

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

in its utmost perfection. [l] Thrice happy age! which gave birth to a multitude of orators at the same time, every one of whom might have been looked up. onas a complete model, had not Demosthenes eclipsed them all, by the strength of his genius, and the extraordinary superiority of his merit.

All postérity have done him the same justice, which even his own age did not deny him. But Cicero's judgment alone should determine that of every judicious and equitable man. He is not a stupidadınirer, who gives himself up to blind prejudices without examination. But how much soever in Cicero's opinion, Demosthenes excelled in every species of Eloquence, [m] he still owns that he does not satisfy him in every particular, and that he left him something to wish for; so delicate was he upon that point, and so sublime and elevated was his idea of a perfect orator. However, he gives his orations, and especially that for Ctesiphon, which was his master-piece, as the most finished models we can propose to ourselves.

What is there then in his orations that is so admirable, and could seize the universal and unanimous applause of all ages? Is Demosthenes an orator who amuses himself barely with tickling the car, 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 inoment 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

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

[1] Sequitnr oratorum ingens ma- Demosthenes : qui, quanquam unus nus cùm decem simul Athenis ætas eminet inter omnes in oniri genere una tulerit: quorum longè princeps dicendi, tamen non semper impler Demosthenes, ac penè lex orandi aures meas, ita sunt avidze & capa. fuit. Quint. I. 10. c. 1.

ces, & semper aliquid immensum {m} Usque cò difficiles ac morosi infinitumque desiderant. Orat. n. sumus, ut nobis non satisfaciat ipse 104.



[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

the turns and figures; in a word, [n) the wonderfulart of representing the subjects he treats in all their lustre, and displaying them in all their strength; in which, according to Quintilian, that just Eloquence chiefly consists, which is not satisfied with representing things as they really are, but heightens them by lively and animating touches, which only are capable of affectingand moving the passions of the auditors. But that which distinguishes Demosthenes still more, and in which no one has imitated him, is, that he drops himself so entirely; is always so scrupulous in avoiding everything that inight look like a shew or parade of wit and genius; and so careful to make the auditor attend to the cause, and not to the orator, that no expression, turn, or thought ever escape him, such, I mean, as are calculated merely to please or shine. This reservedness, this moderation, 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 encomiums. M. Tourreil's translation, though generally very just, does not always preservo that inimitablecharacter; and we sometimes meet with ornaments in it, which are not found in the original.

The reader will not take it amiss, if I support what I have declared of Demosthenes's style, by the opi. nion of two illustrious moderns, which ought to have as much weight as those of the ancients,

The first is from the archbishop of Cambray's dialogues upon Eloquence, which are very proper to form the taste, by the judicious reflections with which they abound. He thus speaks of Demosthenes, in his comparison between him and Isocrates. “Isocrates " is full of florid and effeminate orations, and with “ periods laboured with infinite pains to please the “ ear; whilst Demosthenes moves, warms, and seizes " the heart. The latter is too much concerned for

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

[n] In hoc eloquentiæ vis est ut Hæc est illa quæ díswois vocatur, judicem non ad id tantùm impel. rebus indignis, asperis, invidiosis jat, in quod ipse à rei naturâ duce- addens vim oratio, qua virtute psa. retur ; sed aut qui non est, aut ma. ter alios plurimùm Demosthenes va. Jorem quàm est, faciat affectum. luit. Quint. 2. 6. C. 2.

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

* his country, to amuse himself, like Isocrates, in

playing upon words : he argues closely, and his “sentiments are those of a soul that conceives no

thing but great ideas: his discourse improves and gathers strength, at every word, from the new arguments he employs. It is a chain of bold and

moving figures. Every reader sees plainly, that “ his whole soul is fixed on his country. Nature “ herself speaks in his transports, and art is so ex

quisite in what he says, that it does not appear. “ Nothing was ever equal to his impetuosity and “ vehemence.” I shall soon quote

I shall soon quote another passage from M. Fenelon, which is still more beautiful, wherein he compares Demosthenes to Cicero.

My second authority is M. de Tourreil, who had studied Demosthenes long enough to discover his character, and the genius of his writings. “ I allow, says

he, that we do not find in Æschines that air of rec

titude, that impetuosity of style, that force of trans“ cendant veracity, which forces the consent by the

weight of conviction; a talent that leaves Demosthenes without an equal, and which he applies in a singular manner. Whether he calms or ele. vates the mind, we do not find ourselves in any disorder, but think we are obeying the dictates of nature. Whether he persuades or dissuades, we do not perceive any thing that offers violence, but we

think we are obeying the commands of reason, for " this orator always speaks like nature and reason, " and has properly no other style but theirs. What

ever he says flows from that spring. He avoids even the shadow of redundancy. He has no farfetched embellishments nor flowers. He loves nothing but fire and light. He will not employ glittering weapons, but such only as will do execution. This, in my opinion, is the foundation of that vic

torious impetuosity which subdued the Athenians, " and places Demosthenes above all the orators $ who ever lived.

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

" A pea

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsæt »