Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

beholders afar off. Further, such is the contest of the waves rushing together among themselves, as that you may see some as though, turning on their backs, they sank into the deep, and others rising high, as if they were victors. Here you listen to the roaring of the boiling sea; elsewhere to its groaning as if sinking into the abyss. Then they add the neighbourhood of the Æolian Islands, and Mount Ætna, with their perpetual fires, as though the burning were fed by the very waves. For otherwise, within such narrow limits, such a fire could not have continued during so many ages, unless thus fed by the nutriments of moisture. Hence also have fables brought forth Scylla and Charybdis; hence have barkings been heard, and the forms of a monster believed; while the navigators, terrified by the vast whirlings of the sinking ocean, fancy that the waves bark, when the violent agitation of the water dashes them together. The same course, also, makes the fires of Mount Ætna perpetual. For that concourse of the waters draws the air borne along with it into the lowest depth, and holds it there so long choked up, that, being diffused through the passages of the earth, it enkindles the nourishment of the fire. Then, the vicinity of Italy and Sicily, also the very similar altitude of each promontory, as much of terror occasioned to the ancients, as of admiration now: for they believed that the promontories coming together, and again receding from each other, intercepted whole ships, and destroyed them. And this was not composed by the ancients for the pleasantness of the fable, but for the fear and wonder of the passers by. For the nature of the place is such, that to those who view it from a distance, it would appear as a closed arm of the sea, having no passage; while those who came near would judge the promontories to be disjoined, and to recede from each other, which before seemed to be so closely connected.” *

* From one point of view the capes would seem to overlap each other, and form the line enclosing a large bay; while from another, they would open, and the separation of the land be visible. To those going from one to the other point, the land would seem to be opening, or closing, as the case might be; and they might poetically speak of the apparent motion of the promontory, as though it had been a real one.

274

DEMOSTHENES AND CICERO. (Translated from Le Père Rapin,” [1725,] for The

Youths Instructer.”) [Demosthenes flourished at Athens, about B.c. 340 ; and Cicero,

at Rome, about B.c. 70.] [In instituting this comparison between the two celebrated orators,—the most celebrated of antiquity-Rapin adopts the principle previously laid down by Aristotle. The design of eloquence is the persuasion of the hearers : he, therefore, who can best persuade, is the most eloquent. But the power of persuasion is secured by the confidence with which the speaker is enabled to inspire his auditors; and the grounds of this confidence are three, which are therefore the natural sources of persuasion. 1. The merit of the speaker. 2. The disposition of those to whom he speaks. And, 3, the manner in which he speaks. The author then says, “As all the plans and arts of rhetoric may be reduced to these three heads, it will not be impossible for us to derive from them an orderly method for judging of our two orators.”]

We commence with their personal merit. Let us endeavour to examine their heart and their mind; for all personal merit which consists in morals and talent, issues from these sources. And because nothing contributes so much to persuasion as the idea given by the persuader of his probity and his capacity, let us see what these qualities were in Demosthenes and Cicero, and what impression they were likely to produce. We first refer to capacity.

Demosthenes, having lost his father while very young, fell into the hands of interested guardians, who, from negligence or parsimony,'took not the care of his education which they ought to have done, so that he learned few of the things to which youth generally attend at the commencement of their studies. To all this his mother yielded from her great tenderness, and her fear that his delicate health would be injured by too much application. Likewise, when he had attained the age of sixteen, at which time the young Greeks usually began to learn rhetoric, instead of sending him to the school of Isocrates, who had then the greatest reputation, the Rhetor Isæus was made his master, because his inferior reputation made the expense proportionately less; and it was in this school that he acquired the bad habits from which, at a subsequent period, he freed himself with so great difficulty.

Cicero had the advantage of an infinitely superior education. His parents, perceiving his natural aptitude for study, were exceedingly attentive to him. At a period when few children are capable of such close application, he manifested such ardent love of learning, that his father believed it right rather to restrain than urge him forward. He himself manifested much impatience at this; but his father was firm, and rightly so, knowing that these precocious studies, in ripening the mind too early, enfeeble nature, and never conduct it to its proper perfection. In fact, I find that these celebrated men, who subsequently arrived at the capacity which all acknowledge, commenced their real studies at a period sufficiently late.

The father of Cicero, and his best friends, having judged that the Greek language would more usefully than anything else, occupy the first place in the mind of a young man, caused him to commence with this. He had the most able instructers that could be procured. And by these, in connexion with the language itself, he was introduced to the subjects for which the Grecians were most famous, and which made their tongue the repository of the wisdorn and eloquence of the world : so that during his eighteenth and nineteenth years he went through, with almost incredible rapidity, the immense extent of those sciences which it was believed would be useful to him to prepare him for the oratory for which his passion was unbounded. When he well understood Greek, he devoted himself to poetry, one of his earliest and strongest inclinations. He composed some pieces, and translated some others. Some time after, he translated the Timæus and Protagoras of Plato. Plutarch says that he displayed in his youth a natural inclination to all the sciences; such a one as Plato requires in a philosopher, who ought to be, he says, a lover of universal knowledge. And thus it was that Cicero passed his time till he was twenty-six years of age, when he began to speak in public.

But if he, on his side, so happily availed himself of his own natural abilities, and of the care of his parents, who spared nothing that he might be well instructed; Demosthenes, on the contrary, found great oppositions to the ardour which his ambition for glory inspired. For, besides the covetousness and caprice of his guardians, who were not at all sorry to see him lose his time, in order that he might remain in the obscurity which is the ordinary effect of ignorance, and which would be less likely to annoy them after he had attained his majority; he found, alsó, formidable obstacles to the design he entertained to become an eloquent speaker, both in his intellectual qualities and in his physical conformation. But what natural talent accomplished in Cicero in reference to this object, was accomplished in Demosthenes by the strength of desire, and the energy of purpose and will. It was thus ambition alone that formed him; it was this which, at an age which often only breathes after pleasure, conquered all evil inclinations, and that in a city whose inhabitants, mostly abandoned to luxury and even debauch, would have only too strongly encouraged him in their indulgence. This love of glory led him to prefer to all diversions the company and conversation of Theophrastus and Xenocrates, and to the house of the accomplished but dangerously seductive Phryne, the school of Plato. He even determined to impose on himself the necessity of a temporary retreat from all public life. He caused one half of his head to be shaved, that the fear of ridicule might compel him to live for some months in privacy. He almost buried himself alive, and willed only to live for the study to which all his thoughts were rio" devoted. He was then about sixteen years of age. The immediate cause of this revolution was, the extraordinary 'applause which had been given to an oration delivered by Callistratus. Demosthenes was so impressed that he gave up all other studies, and applied himself exclusively to eloquence. Every difficulty in his way he determined to overcome. To prepare himself for addressing public assemblies, with all their passions and noisy opposition, he declaimed on the sea-shore, while the waves were rolling in, and dashing themselves on the beach. He accustomed himself to speak strongly and with vehemence in mounting up steep places, that he might strengthen his voice. From the formation of his tongue, there were some letters he pronounced with great difficulty : to correct this, he accustomed himself to declaim with pebbles in his mouth. He exercised before a large mirror, that his manner might be natural and easy, and free from gestures that might have drawn on him the ridicule and even the opposition of the light and fastidious people whom he would have to address : he had also recourse to a celebrated comedian, to teach him a good pronunciation, and a proper mode of exterior action. It was by this indomitable perseverance in labour, that at length he succeeded in triumphing over all those defects which at ore time had threatened to close to him for ever the pathway to eloquence.

It thus is not surprising that Cicero, having to contend with no such difficulties, had acquired a capacity much larger than that of Demosthenes. For as the disposition of the latter was ardent and ambitious, and as he saw that eloquence was for him the only way to greatness, to the attainment of this all his efforts were directed; and at the age of eighteen he began by pleading against his guardians, to compel them to render an account of his estate. While the former, proposing to himself a much wider career in the universal pursuit of the sciences, went over them with indefatigable application, seeking to replenish his mind with all the knowledge which could embellish it. On one occasion, having offended Sylla, and dreading the results, he left Rome for a time; but he had the address to cause the report to be spread that he was acting by the advice of his physicians. He remained some time at Athens, where he studied the opinions of the divers sects of philosophy. In fact, finding hinself more at liberty, and disembarrassed from all other care, he made his journey and exile the occasion of more regular application than would have been possible at Rome. He studied astronomy, geometry, ancient and modern philosophy,

« НазадПродовжити »