If, however, I was to return no other answer to the latter, but that I was unwilling to deny any thing to the request of Brutus, the apology must be unexceptionable; because I am only aiming at the satisfaction of an intimate friend, and a worthy man, who desires nothing of me but what is just and honourable.
But was I even to profess (what I wish I was capable of) that I mean to give the necessary precepts, and point out the road to Eloquence to those who are desirous to qualify themselves for the Forum, what man of sense could blame me for it? For who ever doubted that in the decision of political matters, and in time of peace, Eloquence has always borne the sway in the Roman state, while Jurisprudence has possessed only the second post of honour? For whereas the former is a constant source of authority and reputation, and enables us to defend ourselves and our friends in the most effectual manner;—the other only furnishes us with formal rules for indictments, pleas, protests, &c. in conducting which she is frequently obliged to sue for the assistance of Eloquence;—but if the latter condescends to oppose her, she is scarcely able to maintain her ground, and defend her own territories. If therefore to teach the Civil Law has always been reckoned a very honourable employment, and the houses of the most eminent men of that profession, have been crowded with disciples; who can be reasonably censured for exciting our youth to the study of Eloquence, and furnishing them with all the assistance in his power? If it is a fault to speak gracefully, let Eloquence be for ever banished from the state. But if, on the contrary, it reflects an honour, not only upon the man who possesses it, but upon the country which gave him birth, how can it be a disgrace to learn, what it is so glorious to know? Or why should it not be a credit to teach what it is the highest honour to have learned?
But, in one case, they will tell me, the practice has been sanctified by custom, and in the other it has not. This I grant: but We may easily account for both. As to the gentlemen of the law, it was sufficient to hear them, when they decided upon such cases as were laid before them in the course of business;—so that when they taught, they did not set apart any particular time for that purpose, but the same answers satisfied their clients and their pupils. On the other hand, as our Speakers of eminence spent their time, while at home, in examining and digesting their causes, and while in the Forum in pleading them, and the remainder of it in a seasonable relaxation, what opportunity had they for teaching and instructing others? I might venture to add that most of our Orators have been more distinguishied by their genius, than by their learning; and for that reason were much better qualified to be Speakers than Teachers; which it is possible may be the reverse of my case.—"True," say they; "but teaching is an employment which is far from being recommended by its dignity." And so indeed it is, if we teach like mere pedagogues. But if we only direct, encourage, examine, and inform our pupils; and sometimes accompany them in reading or hearing the performances of the most eminent Speakers;—if by these means we are able to contribute to their improvement, what should hinder us from communicating a few instructions, as opportunity offers? Shall we deem it an honourable employment, as indeed with us it is, to teach the form of a legal process, or an excommunication from the rites and privileges of our religion; and shall it not be equally honourable to teach the methods by which those privileges may be defended and secured?—"Perhaps it may," they will reply; "but even those who know scarcely any thing of the law are ambitious to be thought masters of it; whereas those who are well furnished with the powers of Eloquence pretend to be wholly unacquainted with them; because they are sensible that useful knowledge is a valuable recommendation, whereas an artful tongue is suspected by every one." But is it possible, then, to exert the powers of Eloquence without discovering them? Or is an Orator really thought to be no Orator, because he disclaims the title? Or is it likely that, in a great and noble art, the world will judge it a scandal to teach what it is the greatest honour to learn? Others, indeed, may have been more reserved; but, for my part, I have always owned my profession. For how could I do otherwise, when, in my youth, I left my native land, and crossed the sea, with no other view but to improve myself in this kind of knowledge; and, when afterwards my house was crowded with the ablest professors, and my very style betrayed some traces of a liberal education? Nay, when my own writings were in every body's hands, with what face could I pretend that I had not studied? Or what excuse could I have for submitting my abilities to the judgment of the public, if I had been apprehensive that they would think I had studied to no purpose? [Footnote: This sentence in the original runs thus;—Quid erat cur probarem (i.e. scripta nostra), nisi quod parum fortasse profeceram?—"Wherefore did I approve of them," (that is, of my writings, so far as to make them public) "but because I had," (in my own opinion) "made a progress, though perhaps a small one, in useful literature?" This, at least, is the only meaning I am able to affix to it; and I flatter myself, that the translation I have given of it, will be found to correspond with the general sense of my author.] But the points we have already discussed are susceptible of greater dignity and elevation, than those which remain to be considered. For we are next to treat of the arrangement of our words; and, indeed, I might have said, of the art of numbering and measuring our very syllables; which, though it may, in reality, be a matter of as much consequence as I judge it to be, cannot however be supposed to have such a striking appearance in precept as in practice. This, indeed, might be said of every other branch of useful knowledge; but it is more remarkably true with respect to this. For the actual growth and improving height of all the sublimer arts, like that of trees, affords a pleasing prospect; whereas the roots and stems are scarcely beheld with indifference: and yet the former cannot subsist without the latter. But whether I am restrained from dissembling the pleasure I take in the subject, by the honest advice of the Poet, who says,
"Blush not to own the art you love to practise."
or whether this treatise has been extorted from me by the importunity of my friend, it was proper to obviate the censures to which it will probably expose me. And yet, even supposing that I am mistaken in my sentiments, who would shew himself so much of a savage, as to refuse me his indulgence (now all my forensic employments and public business are at an end) for not resigning myself to that stupid inactivity which is contrary to my nature, or to that unavailing sorrow which I do my best to overcome, rather than devote myself to my favourite studies? These first conducted me into the Forum and the Senate-House, and they are now the chief comforts of my retirement. I have, however, applied myself not only to such speculations as form the subject of the present Essay, but to others more sublime and interesting; and if I am able to discuss them in a proper manner, my private studies will be no disparagement to my forensic employments.
But it is time to return to our subject.—Our words, then, should be so disposed that every following one may be aptly connected with the preceding, so as to make an agreeable sound;—or that the mere form and concinnity of our language may give our sentences their proper measure and dimensions;—or, lastly, that our periods may have a numerous and measured cadence.
The first thing, then, to be attended to, is the structure of our language, or the agreeable connection of one word with another; which, though it certainly requires care, ought not to be practised with a laborious nicety. For this would be an endless and puerile attempt, and is justly ridiculed by Lucilius, when he introduces Scaevola thus reflecting upon Albucius:
"As in the checquer'd pavement ev'ry square Is nicely fitted by the mason's care: So all thy words are plac'd with curious art, And ev'ry syllable performs its part."
But though we are not to be minutely exact in the structure of our language, a moderate share of practice will habituate us to every thing of this nature which is necessary. For as the eye in reading, so the mind in speaking, will readily discern what ought to follow,—that, in connecting our words, there may neither be a chasm, nor a disagreeable harshness. The most lively and interesting sentiments, if they are harshly expressed, will offend the ear, that delicate and fastidious judge of rhetorical harmony. This circumstance, therefore, is so carefully attended to in the Roman language, that there is scarcely a rustic among us who is not averse to a collision of vowels,—a defect which, in the opinion of some, was too scrupulously avoided by Theopompus, though his master Isocrates was equally cautious. But Thucydides was not so exact; nor was Plato, (though a much better writer)—not only in his Dialogues, in which it was necessary to maintain an easy negligence, to resemble the style of conversation, but in the famous Panegyric, in which (according to the custom of the Athenians) he celebrated the praises of those who fell in battle, and which was so greatly esteemed, that it is publicly repeated every year. In that Oration a collision of vowels occurs very frequently; though Demosthenes generally avoids it as a fault.
But let the Greeks determine for themselves: we Romans are not allowed to interrupt the connection of our words. Even the rude and unpolished Orations of Cato are a proof of this; as are likewise all our poets, except in particular instances, in which they were obliged to admit a few breaks, to preserve their metre. Thus we find in Naevius,
"Vos QUI ACCOLITIS histrum FLUVIUM ATQUE ALGIDUM."
And in another place,
"Quam nunquam vobis GRAII ATQUE Barbari."
But Ennius admits it only once, when he says,
and likewise I myself in
"Hoc motu radiantis ETESIAE IN Vada Ponti."
This, however, would seldom be suffered among us, though the Greeks often commend it as a beauty.
But why do I speak of a collision of vowels? for, omitting this, we have frequently contracted our words for the sake of brevity; as in multi' modis, vas' argenteis, palm' et crinibus, tecti' fractis, &c. We have sometimes also contracted our proper names, to give them a smoother sound: for as we have changed Duellum into Bellum, and duis into bis, so Duellius, who defeated the Carthagenians at sea, was called Bellius, though all his ancestors were named Duellii. We likewise abbreviate our words, not only for convenience, but to please and gratify the ear. For how otherwise came axilla to be changed into ala, but by the omission of an unweildy consonant, which the elegant pronunciation of our language has likewise banished from the words maxillae, taxillae, vexillum, and paxillum?
Upon the same principle, two or more words have been contracted into one, as sodes for si audes, sis for si vis, capsis for cape si vis, ain' for aisne, nequire for non quire, malle for magis velle, and nolle for non velle; and we often say dein' and exin' for deinde and exinde. It is equally evident why we never say cum nobis, but nobiscum; though we do not scruple to say cum illis;—viz. because, in the former case, the union of the consonants m and n would produce a jarring sound: and we also say mecum and tecum, and not cum me and cum te, to correspond with nobiscum and vobiscum. But some, who would correct antiquity rather too late, object to these contractions: for, instead of prob DEUM atque hominum fidem, they say Deorum. They are not aware, I suppose, that custom has sanctified the licence. The same Poet, therefore, who, almost without a precedent, has said patris mei MEUM FACTUM pudet, instead of meorum factorum,—and textitur exitium examen rapit for exitiorum, does not choose to say liberum, as we generally do in the expressions cupidos liberum, and in liberum loco, but, as the literary virtuosos above-mentioned would have it,
neque tuum unquam in gremium extollas LIBERORUM ex te genus,
namque Aesculapi LIBERORUM.
But the author before quoted says in his Chryses, not only
Cives, antiqui amici majorum MEUM,
which was common enough—, but more harshly still,
CONSILIUM, AUGURIUM, atque EXTUM interpretes;
and in another place,
Postquam PRODIGIUM HORRIFERUM PORTENTUM pavos.
a licence which is not customary in all neuters indifferently: for I should not be so willing to say armum judicium, as armorum; though in the same writer we meet with nihilne ad te de judicio armum accidit? And yet (as we find it in the public registers) I would venture to say fabrum, and procum, and not fabrorum and procorum. But I would never say duorum virorum judicium, or trium virorum capitalium, or decem virorum litibus judicandis. In Accius, however, we meet with
Video sepulchra duo duorum corporum;
though in another place he says,
Mulier una duum virum.
I know, indeed, which is most conformable to the rules of grammar: but yet I sometimes express myself as the freedom of our language allows me, as when I say at pleasure, either prob deum, or prob deorum;—and, at other times, as I am obliged by custom, as when I say trium virum for virorum, or sestertium nummum for nummorum: because in the latter case the mode of expression is invariable.
But what shall we say when these humourists forbid us to say nosse and judicasse for novisse and judicavisse; as if we did not know, as well as themselves, that, in these instances, the verb at full length is most agreeable to the laws of grammar, though custom has given the preference to the contracted verb? Terence, therefore, has made use of both, as when he says, eho tu cognatum tuum non noras? and afterwards,
Stilphonem, inquam, noveras?
Thus also, fiet is a perfect verb, and fit a contracted one; and accordingly we find in the same Comedian,
Quam cara SINTQUE post carendo intelligunt,
Quamque attinendi magni dominatus SIENT.
In the same manner I have no objection to scripsere alii rem, though I am sensible that scripserunt is more grammatical; because I submit with pleasure to the indulgent laws of custom which delights to gratify the ear. Idem campus habet, says Ennius; and in another place, in templis isdem; eisdem, indeed, would have been more grammatical, but not sufficiently harmonious; and iisdem would have sounded still worse.
But we are allowed by custom even to dispense with the rules of etymology to improve the sweetness of our language; and I would therefore rather say, pomeridianas Quadrigas, than postmeridianas; and mehercule, than mehercules. For the same reason non scire would now be deemed a barbarism, becaule nescire has a smoother sound; and we have likewise substituted meridiem for medidiem, because the latter was offensive to the ear. Even the preposition ab, which so frequently occurs in our compound verbs is preserved entire only in the formality of a Journal, and, indeed, not always there: in every other sort of language it is frequently altered. Thus we say amovit, abegit, and abstulit; so that you can scarcely determine whether the primitive preposition should be ab or abs. We have likewise rejected even abfugit, and abfer, and introduced aufugit and aufer in their stead;—thus forming a new preposition, which is to be found in no other verb but these. Noti, navi, and nari, have all been words in common use: but when they were afterwards to be compounded with the preposition in, it was thought more harmonious to say ignoti, ignavi, and ignari, than to adhere strictly to the rules of etymology. We likewise say ex usu, and e Republica; because, in the former case, the preposition is followed by a vowel, and, in the latter, it would have sounded harshly without omitting the consonant; as may also be observed in exegit, edixit, refecit, retulit, and reddidit.
Sometimes the preposition alters or otherwise affects the first letter of the verb with which it happens to be compounded; as in _subegit, summutavit_, and _sustutit_. At other times it changes one of the subsequent letters; as when we say _insipientem_ for _insapientem_, _iniquum_ for inaequum_, _tricipitem_ for _tricapitem_, and _concisum_ for _concaesum_: and from hence some have ventured to say _pertisum_ for _pertaesum_, which custom has never warranted.
But what can be more delicate than our changing even the natural quantity of our syllables to humour the ear? Thus in the adjectives inclytus, and inhumanus, the first syllable after the preposition is short, whereas insanus and infelix have it long; and, in general, those words whose first letters are the same as in sapiens and felix, have their first syllable long in composition, but all others have the same syllable short, as composuit, consuevit, concrepuit, confecit. Examine these liberties by the strict rules of etymology, and they must certainly be condemned; but refer them to the decision of the ear, and they will be instantly approved.—What is the reason? Your ear will inform you they have an easier sound; and every language must submit to gratify the ear. I myself, because our ancestors never admitted the aspirate, unless where a syllable began with a vowel, used to say pulcros, Cetegos, triumpos, and Cartaginem: but some time afterwards, though not very soon, when this grammatical accuracy was wrested from me by the censure of the ear, I resigned the mode of language to the vulgar, and reserved the theory to myself. But we still say, without any hesitation, Orcivios, Matones, Otones, coepiones, sepulcra, coronas, and lacrymas, because the ear allows it. Ennius always uses Burrum, and never Pyrrhum; and the ancient copies of the same author have
Vi patefecerunt BRUGES,
not Phryges; because the Greek vowel had not then been adopted, though we now admit both that and the aspirate:—and, in fact, when we had afterwards occasion to say Phrygum and Phrygibus, it was rather absurd to adopt the Greek letter without adopting their cases, [Footnote: This passage, as it stands in the original, appears to me unintelligible: I have therefore taken the liberty to give it a slight alteration.] or at least not to confine it to the nominative; and yet (in the accusative) we say Phryges, and Pyrrhum, to please the ear. Formerly it was esteemed an elegancy, though it would now be considered as a rusticism, to omit the s in all words which terminate in us, except when they were followed by a vowel; and the same elision which is so carefully avoided by the modern Poets, was very far from being reckoned a fault among the ancient: for they made no scruple to say,
Qui est OMNIBU' princeps,
not, as we do, OMNIBUS princeps; and,
Vita illa DIGNU' locoque,
But if untaught custom has been so ingenious in the formation of agreeable sounds, what may we not expect from the improvements of art and erudition? I have, however, been much shorter upon this subject, than I should have been if I had written upon it professedly: for a comparison of the natural and customary laws of language would have opened a wide field for speculation: but I have already enlarged upon it sufficiently, and more, perhaps, than the nature of my design required.
To proceed then;—as the choice of proper matter, and of suitable words to express it, depends upon the judgment of the Speaker, but that of agreeable sounds, and harmonious numbers, upon the decision of the ear; and because the former is intended for information, and the latter for pleasure; it is evident that reason must determine the rules of art in one case, and mere sensation in the other. For we must either neglect the gratification of those by whom we wish to be approved, or apply ourselves to invent the most likely methods to promote it.
There are two things which contribute to gratify the ear,—agreeable sounds, and harmonious numbers. We shall treat of numbers in the sequel, and at present confine ourselves to sound.—Those words, then, as we have already observed, are to have the preference which sound agreeably;—not such as are exquisitely melodious, like those of the Poets, but such as can be found to our purpose in common language.—Qua Pontus Helles is rather beyond the mark:—but in
Auratos aries Colchorum,
the verse glitters with a moderate harmony of expression; whereas the next, as ending with a letter which is remarkably flat, is unmusical,
Frugifera et ferta arva Alfiae tenet,
Let us, therefore, rather content ourselves with the agreeable mediocrity of our own language, than emulate the splendor of the Greeks; unless we are so bigotted to the latter as to hesitate to say with the poet,
Qua tempestate Paris Helenam, &c.
we might even imitate what follows, and avoid, as far as possible, the smallest asperity of sound,
habeo istam ego PERTERRICREPAM;
or say, with the same author, in another passage,
But our words must have a proper compass, as well as be connected together in an agreeable manner; for this, we have observed, is another circumstance which falls under the notice of the ear. They are confined to a proper compass, either by certain rules of composition, as by a kind of natural pause, or by the use of particular forms of expression, which have a peculiar concinnity in their very texture; such as a succession of several words which have the same termination, or the comparing similar, and contrasting opposite circumstances, which will always terminate in a measured cadence, though no immediate pains should be taken for that purpose. Gorgias, it is said, was the first Orator who practised this species of concinnity. The following passage in my Defence of Milo is an example.
"Est enim, Judices, haec non scripta, fed nata Lex; quam non didicimus, accepimus, legimus, verum ex Natura ipsa arripuimus, hausimus, expressimus; ad quam non docti, sed facti; non instituti, sed imbuti simus."
"For this, my Lords, is a law not written upon tables, but impressed upon our hearts;—a law which we have not learned, or heard, or read, but eagerly caught and imbibed from the hand of Nature;—a law to which we have not been train'd, but originally form'd; and with the principles of which we have not been furnished by education, but tinctured and impregnated from the moment of our birth."
In these forms of expression every circumstance is so aptly referred to some other circumstance, that the regular turn of them does not appear to have been studied, but to result entirely from the sense. The same effect is produced by contrasting opposite circumstances; as in the following lines, where it not only forms a measured sentence, but a verse:
Eam, quam nihil accusas, damnas,
Her, whom you ne'er accus'd, you now condemn;
(in prose we should say condemnas) and again,
Bene quam meritam esse autumas, dicis male mereri,
Her merit, once confess'd, you now deny; and,
Id quod scis, prodest nihil; id quod nescis, obest,
From what you've learnt no real good accrues, But ev'ry ill your ignorance pursues.
Here you see the mere opposition of the terms produces a verse; but in prosaic composition, the proper form of the last line would be, quod scis nihil prodest; quod nescis multum obest. This contrasting of opposite circumstances, which the Greeks call an Antithesis, will necessarily produce what is styled rhetorical metre, even without our intending it. The ancient Orators, a considerable time before it was practised and recommended by Isocrates, were fond of using it; and particularly Gorgias, whose measured cadences are generally owing to the mere concinnity of his language. I have frequently practised it myself; as, for instance, in the following passage of my fourth Invective against Verres:
"Conferte hanc Pacem cum illo Bello;—hujus Praetoris Adventum, cum illius Imperatoris Victoria;—hujas Cohortem impuram, cum illius Exercitu invicto;—hujus Libidines, cum illius Continentia;—ab illo qui cepit conditas; ab hoc, qui constitutas accepit, captas dicetis Syracusas."
"Compare this detestable peace with that glorious war,—the arrival of this governor with the victory of that commander,—his ruffian guards, with the invincible forces of the other;—the brutal luxury of the former, with the modest temperance of the latter;—and you will say, that Syracuse was really founded by him who stormed it, and stormed by him who received it already founded to his hands."—So much, then, for that kind of measure which results from particular forms of expression, and which ought to be known by every Orator.
We must now proceed to the third thing proposed,—that numerous and well-adjusted style; of the beauty of which, if any are so insensible as not to feel it, I cannot imagine what kind of ears they have, or what resemblance of a human Being! For my part, my ears are always fond of a complete and full-measured flow of words, and perceive in an instant what is either defective or redundant. But wherefore do I say mine? I have frequently seen a whole assembly burst into raptures of applause at a happy period: for the ear naturally expects that our sentences should be properly tuned and measured. This, however, is an accomplishment which is not to be met with among the ancients. But to compensate the want of it, they had almost every other perfection: for they had a happy choice of words, and abounded in pithy and agreeable sentiments, though they had not the art of harmonizing and completing their periods. This, say some, is the very thing we admire. But what if they should take it into their heads to prefer the ancient peinture, with all its poverty of colouring, to the rich and finished style of the moderns? The former, I suppose, must be again adopted, to compliment their delicacy, and the latter rejected. But these pretended connoisseurs regard nothing but the mere name of antiquity. It must, indeed, be owned that antiquity has an equal claim to authority in matters of imitation, as grey hairs in the precedence of age. I myself have as great a veneration for it as any man: nor do I so much upbraid antiquity with her defects, as admire the beauties she was mistress of:—especially as I judge the latter to be of far greater consequence than the former. For there is certainly more real merit in a masterly choice of words and sentiments, in which the ancients are allowed to excell, than in those measured periods with which they were totally unacquainted. This species of composition was not known among the Romans till lately: but the ancients, I believe, would readily have adopted it, if it had then been discovered: and we accordingly find, that it is now made use of by all Orators of reputation. "But when number, or (as the Greeks call it) prosaic metre, is professedly introduced into judicial and forensic discourses, the very name, say they, has a suspicious sound: for people will conclude that there is too much artifice employed to sooth and captivate their ears, when the Speaker is so over-exact as to attend to the harmony of his periods." Relying upon the force of this objection, these pretenders are perpetually grating our ears with their broken and mutilated sentences; and censure those, without mercy, who have the presumption to utter an agreeable and a well-turned period. If, indeed, it was our design to spread a varnish over empty words and trifling sentiments, the censure would be just: but when the matter is good, and the words are proper and expressive, what reason can be assigned why we should prefer a limping and imperfect period to one which terminates and keeps pace with the sense? For this invidious and persecuted metre aims at nothing more than to adapt the compass of our words to that of our thoughts; which is sometimes done even by the ancients,—though generally, I believe, by mere accident, and often by the natural delicacy of the ear; and the very passages which are now most admired in them, commonly derive their merit from the agreeable and measured flow of the language.
This is an art which was in common use among the Greek Orators, about four hundred years ago, though it has been but lately introduced among the Romans. Ennius, therefore, when he ridicules the inharmonious numbers of his predecessors, might be allowed to say,
"Such verses as the rustic Bards and Satyrs sung:"
But I must not take the same liberty; especially as I cannot say with him,
Before this bold adventurer, &c.
(meaning himself:) nor, as he afterwards exults to the same purpose,
I first have dar'd t'unfold, &c.
for I have both read and heard several who were almost complete masters of the numerous and measured style I am speaking of: But many, who are still absolute strangers to it, are not content to be exempted from the ridicule they deserve, but claim a right to our warmest applause. I must own, indeed, that I admire the venerable patterns, of which those persons pretend to be the faithful imitators, notwithstanding the defects I observe in them: but I can by no means commend the folly of those who copy nothing but their blemishes, and have no pretensions even to the most distant resemblance in what is truly excellent.
But if their own ears are so indelicate and devoid of taste, will they pay no deference to the judgment of others, who are universally celebrated for their learning? I will not mention Isocrates, and his two scholars, Ephorus and Naucrates; though they may claim the honour of giving the richest precepts of composition, and were themselves very eminent Orators. But who was possessed of a more ample fund of erudition?—who more subtle and acute?—or who furnished with quicker powers of invention, and a greater strength of understanding, than Aristotle? I may add, who made a warmer opposition to the rising fame of Isocrates? And yet he, though he forbids us to versify in prose, recommends the use of numbers. His hearer Theodectes (whom he often mentions as a polished writer, and an excellent artist) both approves and advises the same thing: and Theophrastus is still more copious and explicit. Who, then, can have patience with those dull and conceited humourists, who dare to oppose themselves to such venerable names as these? The only excuse that can be made for them is, that they have never perused their writings, and are therefore ignorant that they actually recommend the prosaic metre we are speaking of. If this is the case with them (and I cannot think otherwise) will they reject the evidence of their own sensations? Is there nothing which their ears will inform them is defective?—nothing which is harsh and unpolished?—nothing imperfect?—nothing lame and mutilated?—nothing redundant? In dramatic performances, a whole theatre will exclaim against a verse which has only a syllable either too short or too long: and yet the bulk of an audience are unacquainted with feet and numbers, and are totally ignorant what the fault is, and where it lies: but Nature herself has taught the ear to measure the quantity of sound, and determine the propriety of its various accents, whether grave, or acute.
Do you desire, then, my Brutus, that we should discuss the subject more fully than those writers who have already elucidated this, and the other parts of rhetoric? Or shall we content ourselves with the instructions which they have provided for us? But wherefore do I offer such a question, when your elegant letters have informed me, that this is the chief object of your request? We shall proceed, therefore, to give an account of the commencement, the origin, and the nature and use of prosaic numbers.
The admirers of Isocrates place the first invention of numbers among those other improvements which do honour to his memory. For observing, say they, that the Orators were heard with a kind of sullen attention, while the Poets were listened to with pleasure, he applied himself to introduce a species of metre into prose, which might have a pleasing effect upon the ear, and prevent that satiety which will always arise from a continued uniformity of sound. This, however, is partly true, and partly otherwise; for though it must be owned that no person was better skilled in the subject than Isocrates; yet the first honour of the invention belongs to Thrasymachus, whose style (in all his writings which are extant) is numerous even to a fault. But Gorgias, as I have already remarked, was the original inventor of those measured forms of expression which have a kind of spontaneous harmony,—such as a regular succession of words with the same termination, and the comparing similar, or contracting opposite circumstances: though it is also notoriously true that he used them to excess. This, however, is one of the three branches of composition above- mentioned. But each of these authors was prior to Isocrates: so that the preference can be due to him only for his moderate use, and not for the invention of the art: for as he is certainly much easier in the turn of his metaphors, and the choice of his words, so his numbers are more composed and sedate. But Gorgias, he observed, was too eager, and indulged himself in this measured play of words to a ridiculous excess. He, therefore, endeavoured to moderate and correct it; but not till he had first studied in his youth under the same Gorgias, who was then in Thessaly, and in the last decline of life. Nay, as he advanced in years (for he lived almost a hundred) he corrected himself, and gradually relaxed the over-strict regularity of his numbers; as he particularly informs us in the treatise which he dedicated to Philip of Macedon, in the latter part of his life; for he there says, that he had thrown off that servile attention to his numbers, to which he was before accustomed:—so that he discovered and corrected his own faults, as well as those of his predecessors.
Having thus specified the several authors and inventors, and the first commencement of prosaic harmony, we must next enquire what was the natural source and origin of it. But this lies so open to observation, that I am astonished the ancients did not notice it: especially as they often, by mere accident, threw out harmonious and measured sentences, which, when they had struck the ears and the passions with so much force, as to make it obvious that there was something particularly agreeable in what chance alone had uttered, one would imagine that such a singular species of ornament would have been immediately attended to, and that they would have taken the pains to imitate what they found so pleasing in themselves. For the ear, or at least the mind by the intervention of the ear, has a natural capacity to measure the harmony of language: and we accordingly feel that it instantly determines what is either too short or too long, and always expects to be gratified with that which is complete and well- proportioned. Some expressions it perceives to be imperfect, and mutilated; and at these it is immediately offended, as if it was defrauded of it's natural due. In others it discovers an immoderate length, and a tedious superfluity of words; and with these it is still more disgusted than with the former; for in this, as in most other cases, an excess is always more offensive than a proportional defect. As versification, therefore, and poetic competition was invented by the regulation of the ear, and the successive observations of men of taste and judgment; so in prose (though indeed long afterwards, but still, however, by the guidance of nature) it was discovered that the career and compass of our language should be adjusted and circumscribed within proper limits.
So much for the source, or natural origin of prosaic harmony. We must next proceed (for that was the third thing proposed) to enquire into the nature of it, and determine it's essential principles;—a subject which exceeds the limits of the present essay, and would be more properly discussed in a professed and accurate system of the art. For we might here inquire what is meant by prosaic number, wherein it consists, and from whence it arises; as likewise whether it is simple and uniform, or admits of any variety, and in what manner it is formed, for what purpose, and when and where it should be employed, and how it contributes to gratify the ear. But as in other subjects, so in this, there are two methods of disquisition;—the one more copious and diffusive, and the other more concise, and, I might also add, more easy and comprehensible. In the former, the first question which would occur is, whether there is any such thing as prosaic number: some are of opinion there is not; because no fixed and certain rules have been yet assigned for it, as there long have been for poetic numbers; and because the very persons, who contend for it's existence, have hitherto been unable to determine it. Granting, however, that prose is susceptible of numbers, it will next be enquired of what kind they are;—whether they are to be selected from those of the poets, or from a different species;—and, if from the former, which of them may claim the preference; for some authors admit only one or two, and some more, while others object to none. We might then proceed to enquire (be the number of them to be admitted, more or less) whether they are equally common to every kind of style; for the narrative, the persuasive, and the didactic have each a manner peculiar to itself; or whether the different species of Oratory should be accommodated with their different numbers. If the same numbers are equally common to all subjects, we must next enquire what those numbers are; and if they are to be differently applied, we must examine wherein they differ, and for what reason they are not to be used so openly in prose as in verse. It might likewise be a matter of enquiry, whether a numerous style is formed entirely by the use of numbers, or not also in some measure by the harmonious juncture of our words, and the application of certain figurative forms of expression; —and, in the next place, whether each of these has not its peculiar province, so that number may regard the time or quantity, composition the sound, and figurative expression the form and polish of our language,—and yet, in fact, composition be the source and fountain of all the rest, and give rise both to the varieties of number, and to those figurative and luminous dashes of expression, which by the Greeks, as I have before observed, are called ([Greek: schaemaia],) attitudes or figures. But to me there appears to be a real distinction between what is agreeable in sound, exact in measure, and ornamental in the mode of expression; though the latter, it must be owned, is very closely connected with number, as being for the most part sufficiently numerous without any labour to make it so: but composition is apparently different from both, as attending entirely either to the majestic or agreeable sound of our words. Such then are the enquiries which relate to the nature of prosaic harmony.
From what has been said it is easy to infer that prose is susceptible of number. Our sensations tell us so: and it would be excessively unfair to reject their evidence, because we cannot account for the fact. Even poetic metre was not discovered by any effort of reason, but by mere natural taste and sensation, which reason afterwards correcting, improved and methodized what had been noticed by accident; and thus an attention to nature, and an accurate observation of her various feelings and sensations gave birth to art. But in verse the use of number is more obvious; though some particular species of it, without the assistance of music, have the air of harmonious prose, and especially the lyric poetry, and that even the best of the kind, which, if divested of the aid of music, would be almost as plain and naked as common language. We have several specimens of this nature in our own poets [Footnote: It must here be remarked, that the Romans had no lyric poet before Horace, who did not flourish till after the times of Cicero.]; such as the following line in the tragedy of Thyestes,
"Quemnam te esse dicam? qui in tarda senectute;
"Whom shall I call thee? who in tardy age," &c.;
which, unless when accompanied by the lyre, might easily be mistaken for prose. But the iambic verses of the comic poets, to maintain a resemblance to the style of conversation, are often so low and simple that you can scarcely discover in them either number or metre; from whence it is evident that it is more difficult to adapt numbers to prose than to verse.
There are two things, however, which give a relish to our language,—well- chosen words, and harmonious numbers. Words may be considered as the materials of language, and it is the business of number to smooth and polish them. But as in other cases, what was invented to serve our necessities was always prior to that which was invented for pleasure; so, in the present, a rude and simple style which was merely adapted to express our thoughts, was discovered many centuries before the invention of numbers, which are designed to please the ear. Accordingly Herodotus, and both his and the preceding age had not the least idea of prosaic number, nor produced any thing of the kind, unless at random, and by mere accident:—and even the ancient masters of rhetoric (I mean those of the earliest date) have not so much as mentioned it, though they have left us a multitude of precepts upon the conduct and management of our style. For what is easiest, and most necessary to be known, is, for that reason, always first discovered. Metaphors, therefore, and new-made and compounded words, were easily invented, because they were borrowed from custom and conversation: but number was not selected from our domestic treasures, nor had the least intimacy or connection with common language; and, of consequence, not being noticed and understood till every other improvement had been made, it gave the finishing grace, and the last touches to the style of Eloquence.
As it may be remarked that one sort of language is interrupted by frequent breaks and intermissions, while another is flowing and diffusive; it is evident that the difference cannot result from the natural sounds of different letters, but from the various combinations of long and short syllables, with which our language, being differently blended and intermingled, will be either dull and motionless, or lively and fluent; so that every circumstance of this nature must be regulated by number. For by the assistance of numbers, the period, which I have so often mentioned before, pursues it's course with greater strength and freedom till it comes to a natural pause. It is therefore plain that the style of an Orator should be measured and harmonized by numbers, though entirely free from verse; but whether these numbers should be the same as those of the poets, or of a different species, is the next thing to be considered. In my opinion there can be no sort of numbers but those of the poets; because they have already specified all their different kinds with the utmost precision; for every number may be comprized in the three following varieties:—viz. a foot (which is the measure we apply to numbers) must be so divided, that one part of it will be either equal to the other, or twice as long, or equal to three halves of it. Thus, in a dactyl (breve-macron-macron) (long-short-short) the first syllable, which is the former part of the foot, is equal to the two others, in the iambic (macron-breve)(short-long) the last is double the first, and in the paeon (macron-macron-macron-breve, or breve-macron-macron-macron)(short- short-short-long, or long-short-short-short) one of its parts, which is the long syllable, is equal to two-thirds of the other. These are feet which are unavoidably incident to language; and a proper arrangement of them will produce a numerous style.
But it will here be enquired, What numbers should have the preference? To which I answer, They must all occur promiscuously; as is evident from our sometimes speaking verse without knowing it, which in prose is reckoned a capital fault; but in the hurry of discourse we cannot always watch and criticise ourselves. As to senarian and hipponactic [Footnote: Verses chiefly composed of iambics] verses, it is scarcely possible to avoid them; for a considerable part, even of our common language, is composed of iambics. To these, however, the hearer is easily reconciled; because custom has made them familiar to his ear. But through inattention we are often betrayed into verses which are not so familiar;—a fault which may easily be avoided by a course of habitual circumspection. Hieronymus, an eminent Peripatetic, has collected out of the numerous writings of Isocrates about thirty verses, most of them senarian, and some of them anapest, which in prose have a more disagreeable effect than any others. But he quotes them with a malicious partiality: for he cuts off the first syllable of the first word in a sentence, and annexes to the last word the first syllable of the following sentence; and thus he forms what is called an Aristophanean anapest, which it is neither possible nor necessary to avoid entirely. But, this redoubtable critic, as I discovered upon a closer inspection, has himself been betrayed into a senarian or iambic verse in the very paragraph in which he censures the composition of Isocrates.
Upon the whole, it is sufficiently plain that prose is susceptible of numbers, and that the numbers of an Orator must be the same as those of a Poet. The next thing to be considered is, what are the numbers which are most suitable to his character, and, for that reason, should occur more frequently than the rest? Some prefer the Iambic (macron-breve)(short- long) as approaching the nearest to common language; for which reason, they say, it is generally made use of in fables and comedies, on account of it's resemblance to conversation; and because the dactyl, which is the favourite number of hexameters, is more adapted to a pompous style. Ephorus, on the other hand, declares for the paeon and the dactyl; and rejects the spondee and the trochee (long short). For as the paeon has three short syllables, and the dactyl two, he thinks their shortness and celerity give a brisk and lively flow to our language; and that a different effect would be produced by the trochee and the spondee, the one consisting of short syllables, and the other of long ones;—so that by using the former, the current of our words would become too rapid, and too heavy by employing the latter, losing, in either case, that easy moderation which best satisfies the ear. But both parties seem to be equally mistaken: for those who exclude the paeon, are not aware that they reject the sweetest and fullest number we have. Aristotle was far from thinking as they do: he was of opinion that heroic numbers are too sonorous for prose; and that, on the other hand, the iambic has too much the resemblance of vulgar talk:—and, accordingly, he recommends the style which is neither too low and common, nor too lofty and extravagant, but retains such a just proportion of dignity, as to win the attention, and excite the admiration of the hearer. He, therefore, calls the trochee (which has precisely the same quantity as the choree) the rhetorical jigg [Footnote: Cordacem appellat. The cordax was a lascivious dance very full of agitation.]; because the shortness and rapidity of it's syllables are incompatible with the majesty of Eloquence. For this reason he recommends the paeon, and says that every person makes use of it, even without being sensible when he does so. He likewise observes that it is a proper medium between the different feet above-mentioned:—the proportion between the long and short syllables, in every foot, being either sesquiplicate, duple, or equal.
The authors, therefore, whom I mentioned before attended merely to the easy flow of our language, without any regard to it's dignity. For the iambic and the dactyl are chiefly used in poetry; so that to avoid versifying in prose, we must shun, as much as possible, a continued repetition of either; because the language of prose is of a different cast, and absolutely incompatible with verse. As the paeon, therefore, is of all other feet the most improper for poetry, it may, for that reason be more readily admitted into prose. But as to Ephorus, he did not reflect that even the spondee, which he rejects, is equal in time to his favourite dactyl; because he supposed that feet were to be measured not by the quantity, but the number of their syllables;—a mistake of which he is equally guilty when he excludes the trochee, which, in time and quantity, is precisely equal to the iambic; though it is undoubtedly faulty at the end of a period, which always terminates more agreeably in a long syllable than a short one. As to what Aristotle has said of the paeon, the same has likewise been said by Theophrastus and Theodectes.
But, for my part, I am rather of opinion that our language should be intermingled and diversified with all the varieties of number; for should we confine ourselves to any particular feet, it would be impossible to escape the censure of the hearer; because our style should neither be so exactly measured as that of the poets, nor entirely destitute of number, like that of the common people. The former, as being too regular and uniform, betrays an appearance of art; and the other, which is as much too loose and undetermined, has the air of ordinary talk; so that we receive no pleasure from the one, and are absolutely disgusted with the other. Our style, therefore, as I have just observed, should be so blended and diversified with different numbers, as to be neither too vague and unrestrained, nor too openly numerous, but abound most in the paeon (so much recommended by the excellent author above-mentioned) though still in conjunction with many other feet which he entirely omits.
But we must now consider what number like so many dashes of purple, should tincture and enrich the rest, and to what species of style they are each of them best adapted. The iambic, then, should be the leading number in those subjects which require a plain and simple style;—the paeon in such as require more compass and elevation; and the dactyl is equally applicable to both. So that in a discourse of any length and variety, it will be occasionally necessary to blend and intermingle them all. By this means, our endeavours to modulate our periods, and captivate the ear, will be most effectually concealed; especially, if we maintain a suitable dignity both of language and sentiment. For the hearer will naturally attend to these (I mean our words and sentiments) and to them alone attribute the pleasure he receives; so that while he listens to these with admiration, the harmony of our numbers will escape his notice: though it must indeed be acknowledged that the former would have their charms without the assistance of the latter. But the flow of our numbers is not to be so exact (I mean in prose, for in poetry the case is different) as that nothing may exceed the bounds of regularity; for this would be to compose a poem. On the contrary, if our language neither limps nor fluctuates, but keeps an even and a steady pace, it is sufficiently numerous; and it accordingly derives the title, not from its consisting entirely of numbers, but from its near approach to a numerous form. This is the reason why it is more difficult to make elegant prose, than to make verses; because there are fixed and invariable rules for the latter; whereas nothing is determined in the former, but that the current of our language should be neither immoderate nor defective, nor loose and unconfined. It cannot be supposed, therefore, to admit of regular beats and divisions, like a piece of music; but it is only necessary that the general compass and arrangement of our words should be properly restrained and limited,—a circumstance which must be left entirely to the decision of the ear.
Another question which occurs before us, is—whether an attention to our numbers should be extended to every part of a sentence, or only to the beginning and the end. Most authors are of opinion that it is only necessary that our periods should end well, and have a numerous cadence. It is true, indeed, that this ought to be principally attended to, but not solely: for the whole compass of our periods ought likewise to be regulated, and not totally neglected. As the ear, therefore, always directs it's view to the close of a sentence, and there fixes it's attention, it is by no means proper that this should be destitute of number: but it must also be observed that a period, from it's first commencement, should run freely on, so as to correspond to the conclusion; and the whole advance from the beginning with such an easy flow, as to make a natural, and a kind of voluntary pause. To those who have been we'll practised in the art, and who have both written much; and often attempted to discourse extempore with the same accuracy which they observe in their writings, this will be far less difficult than is imagined. For every sentence is previously formed and circumscribed in the mind of the Speaker, and is then immediately attended by the proper words to express it, which the same mental faculty (than which there is nothing more lively and expeditious) instantly dismisses, and sends off each to its proper post: but, in different sentences, their particular order and arrangement will be differently terminated; though, in every sentence, the words both in the beginning and the middle of it, should have a constant reference to the end. Our language, for instance, must sometimes advance with rapidity, and at other times it's pace must be moderate and easy; so that it will be necessary at the very beginning of a sentence, to resolve upon the manner in which you would have it terminate; but we must avoid the least appearance of poetry, both in our numbers, and in the other ornaments of language; though it is true, indeed, that the labours of the Orator must be conducted on the same principles as those of the Poet. For in each we have the same materials to work upon, and a similar art of managing them; the materials being words, and the art of managing them relating, in both cases, to the manner in which they ought to be disposed. The words also in each may be divided into three classes,—the metaphorical,—the new-coined,—and the antique;—for at present we have no concern with words proper:—and three parts may also be distinguished in the art of disposing them; which, I have already observed, are juncture, concinnity, and number. The poets make use both of one and the other more frequently, and with greater liberty than we do; for they employ the tropes not only much oftener, but more boldly and openly; and they introduce antique words with a higher taste, and new ones with less reserve. The same may be said in their numbers, in the use of which they are subjected to invariable rules, which they are scarcely ever allowed to transgress. The two arts, therefore, are to be considered neither as wholly distinct, nor perfectly conjoined. This is the reason why our numbers are not to be so conspicuous in prose as in verse; and that in prose, what is called a numerous style, does not always become so by the use of numbers, but sometimes either by the concinnity of our language, or the smooth juncture of our words.
To conclude this head; If it should be enquired, "What are the numbers to be used in prose?" I answer, "All; though some are certainly better, and more adapted to it's character than others."—If "Where is their proper seat?"—"In the different quantity of our syllables:"—If "From whence their origin?"—"From the sole pleasure of the ear:"—If "What the method of blending and intermingling them?"—"This shall be explained in the sequel, because it properly relates to the manner of using them, which was the fourth and last article in my division of the subject." If it be farther enquired, "For what purpose they are employed?" I answer,—"To gratify the ear:"—If "When?" I reply, "At all times:"—If "In what part of a sentence?" "Through the whole length of it:"—and if "What is the circumstance which gives them a pleasing effect?" "The same as in poetical compositions, whose metre is regulated by art, though the ear alone, without the assistance of art, can determine it's limits by the natural powers of sensation." Enough, therefore, has been said concerning the nature and properties of number. The next article to be considered is the manner in which our numbers should be employed,—a circumstance which requires to be accurately discussed.
Here it is usual to enquire, whether it is necessary to attend to our numbers through the whole compass of a period, [Footnote: Our author here informs us, that what the Greeks called [Greek: periodos], a period, was distinguished among the Romans by the words ambitus, circuitus, comprehensio, continuatio, and circumscriptio. As I thought this remark would appear much better in the form of a note, than in the body of the work, I have introduced it accordingly.] or only at the beginning or end of it, or equally in both. In the next place, as exact number seems to be one thing, and that which is merely numerous another, it might be enquired wherein lies the difference. We might likewise consider whether the members of a sentence should all indifferently be of the same length, whatever be the numbers they are composed of;—or whether, on this account, they should not be sometimes longer, and sometimes shorter;—and when, and for what reasons, they should be made so, and of what numbers they should be composed;—whether of several sorts, or only of one; and whether of equal or unequal numbers;—and upon what occasions either the one or the other of these are to be used;-and what numbers accord best together, and in what order; or whether, in this respect, there is no difference between them;—and (which has still a more immediate reference to our subject) by what means our style may be rendered numerous. It will likewise be necessary to specify the rise and origin of a periodical form of language, and what degree of compass should be allowed to it. After this, we may consider the members or divisions of a period, and enquire of how many kinds, and of what different lengths they are; and, if they vary in these respects, where and when each particular sort is to be employed: and, in the last place, the use and application of the whole is to be fully explained;—a very extensive subject, and which is capable of being accommodated not only to one, but to many different occasions. But without adverting to particulars, we may discuss the subject at large in such a manner as to furnish a satisfactory answer in all subordinate cases.
Omitting, therefore, every other species of composition, we shall attend to that which is peculiar to forensic causes. For in those performances which are of a different kind, such as history, panegyric, and all discourses which are merely ornamental, every sentence should be constructed after the exact manner of Isocrates and Theopompus; and with that regular compass, and measured flow of language, that our words may constantly run within the limits prescribed by art, and pursue a uniform course, till the period is completed. We may, therefore, observe that after the invention of this, periodical form, no writer of any account has made a discourse which was intended as a mere display of ornament, and not for the service of the Forum, without squaring his language, (if I may so express myself) and confining every sentence of it to the strictest laws of number. For as, in this case, the hearer has no motive to alarm his suspicions against the artifice of the speaker, he will rather think himself obliged to him than otherwise, for the pains he takes to amuse and gratify his ear. But, in forensic causes, this accurate species of composition is neither to be wholly adopted, nor entirely rejected. For if we pursue it too closely, it will create a satiety, and our attention to it will be discovered by the most illiterate observer. We may add, it will check the pathos and force of action, restrain the sensibility of the Speaker, and destroy all appearance of truth and open dealing. But as it will sometimes be necessary to adopt it, we must consider when, and how long, this ought to be done, and how many ways it may be changed and varied.
A numerous style, then, may be properly employed, either when any thing is to be commended in a free and ornamental manner, (as in my second Invective against Verres, where I spoke in praise of Sicily, and in my Speech before the Senate, in which I vindicated the honour of my consulship;)—or; in the next place, when a narrative is to be delivered which requires more dignity than pathos, (as in my fourth Invective, where I described the Ceres of the Ennensians, the Diana of the Segestani, and the situation of Syracuse.) It is likewise often allowable to speak in a numerous and flowing style, when a material circumstance is to be amplified. If I myself have not succeeded in this so well as might be wished, I have at least attempted it very frequently; and it is still visible in many of my Perorations, that I have exerted all the talents I was master of for that purpose. But this will always have most efficacy, when the Speaker has previously possessed himself of the hearer's attention, and got the better of his judgment. For then he is no longer apprehensive of any artifice to mislead him; but hears every thing with a favourable ear, wishes the Orator to proceed, and, admiring the force of his Eloquence, has no inclination to censure it.
But this measured and numerous flow of language is never to be continued too long, I will not say in the peroration, (of which the hearer himself will always be a capable judge) but in any other part of a discourse: for, except in the cases above-mentioned, in which I have shewn it is allowable, our style must be wholly confined to those clauses or divisions which we erroneously call incisa and membra; but the Greeks, with more propriety, the comma and colon [Footnote: The ancients apply these terms to the sense, and not to any points of distinction. A very short member, whether simple or compound, with them is a comma; and a longer, a colon; for they have no such term as a semicolon. Besides, they call a very short sentence, whether simple or compound, a comma; and one of somewhat a greater length, a colon. And therefore, if a person expressed himself either of these ways, in any considerable number of sentences together, he was said to speak by commas, or colons. But a sentence containing more words than will consist with either of these terms, they call a simple period; the least compound period with them requiring the length of two colons.
Ward's Rhetoric, volume 1st, page 344.]. For it is impossible that the names of things should be rightly applied, when the things themselves are not sufficiently understood: and as we often make use of metaphorical terms, either for the sake of ornament, or to supply the place of proper ones, so in other arts, when we have occasion to mention any thing which (through our unacquaintance with it) has not yet received a name, we are obliged either to invent a new one, or to borrow it from something similar. We shall soon consider what it is to speak in commas and colons, and the proper method of doing it: but we must first attend to the various numbers by which the cadence of our periods should be diversified.
Our numbers will advance more rapidly by the use of short feet, and more coolly and sedately by the use of long ones. The former are best adapted to a warm and spirited style, and the latter to sober narratives and explanations. But there are several numbers for concluding a period, one of which (called the _dichoree_, or double _choree_, and consisting of a long and a short syllable repeated alternately) is much in vogue with the Asiatics; though among different people the same feet are distinguished by different names. The _dichoree_, indeed, is not essentially bad for the close of a sentence: but in prosaic numbers nothing can be more faulty than a continued or frequent repetition of the same cadence: as the _dichoree_, therefore, is a very sonorous number, we should be the more sparing in the use of it, to prevent a satiety. _C. Carbo_, the son of _Caius_, and a Tribune of the people, once said in a public trial in which I was personally engaged,—"_O Marce Druse, Patrem appello_;" where you may observe two _commas_, each consisting of two feet. He then made use of the two following _colons_, each consisting of three feet,—"_Tu dicere solebas, sacram esse Rempublicam:"—and afterwards of the period,— "_Quicunque eam violavissent, ab omnibus esse ei poenas persolutas_" which ends with a _dichoree_; for it is immaterial whether the last syllable is long or short. He added, "_Patris dictum sapiens, temeritas filii comprobavit_" concluding here also with a _dichoree_; which was received with such a general burst of applause, as perfectly astonished me. But was not this the effect of _number_?—Only change the order of the words, and say,—"_Comprobavit filii temeritas_" and the spirit of them will be lost, though the word _temeritas_ consists of three short syllables and a long one, which is the favourite number of Aristotle, from whom, however, I here beg leave to dissent. The words and sentiments are indeed the fame in both cases; and yet, in the latter, though the understanding is satisfied, the ear is not. But these harmonious cadences are not to be repeated too often: for, in the first place, our _numbers_ will be soon discovered,—in the next, they will excite the hearer's disgust,—and, at last, be heartily despised on account of the apparent facility with which they are formed.
But there are several other cadences which will have a numerous and pleasing effect: for even the cretic, which consists of a long, a short, and a long syllable, and it's companion the paeon, which is equal to it in quantity, though it exceeds it in the number of syllables, is reckoned a proper and a very useful ingredient in harmonious prose: especially as the latter admits of two varieties, as consisting either of one long and three short syllables, which will be lively enough at the beginning of a sentence, but extremely flat at the end;—or of three short syllables and a long one, which was highly approved of by the ancients at the close of a sentence, and which I would not wholly reject, though I give the preference to others. Even the sober spondee is not to be entirely discarded; for though it consists of two long syllables, and for that reason may seem rather dull and heavy, it has yet a firm and steady step, which gives it an air of dignity, and especially in the comma and the colon; so that it sufficiently compensates for the slowness of it's motion, by it's peculiar weight and solemnity. When I speak of feet at the close of a period, I do not mean precisely the last. I would be understood, at least, to include the foot which immediately precedes it; and, in many cases, even the foot before that. The iambic, therefore, which consists of a long syllable and a short one, and is equal in time, though not in the number of it's syllables, to a choree, which has three short ones; or even the dactyl, which consists of one long and two short syllables, will unite agreeably enough with the last foot of a sentence, when that foot is either a choree or a spondee; for it is immaterial which of them is employed. But the three feet I am mentioning, are neither of them very proper for closing a period, (that is, to form the last foot of it) unless when a dactyl is substituted for a cretic, for you may use either of them at pleasure; because, even in verse, it is of no consequence whether the last syllable is long or short. He, therefore, who recommended the paeon, as having the long syllable last, was certainly guilty of an oversight; because the quantity of the last syllable is never regarded. The paeon, however, as consisting of four syllables, is reckoned by some to be only a number, and not a foot. But call it which you please, it is in general, what all the ancients have represented it, (such as Aristotle, Theophrastus, Theodectes, and Euphorus) the fittest of all others both for the beginning and the middle of a period. They are likewise of opinion, that it is equally proper at the end; where, in my opinion, the cretic deserves the preference. The dochimus, which consists of five syllables, (i.e. a short and two long ones, and a short, and a long one, as in amicos tenes) may be used indifferently in any part of a sentence, provided it occurs but once: for if it is continued or repeated, our attention to our numbers will be discovered, and alarm the suspicion of the hearer. On the other hand, if we properly blend and intermingle the several varieties above-mentioned, our design will not be so readily noticed; and we shall also prevent that satiety which would arise from an elaborate uniformity of cadence.
But the harmony of language does not result entirely from the use of numbers, but from the juncture and composition of our words; and from that neatness and concinnity of expression which I have already mentioned. By composition, I here mean when our words are so judiciously connected as to produce an agreeable sound (independent of numbers) which rather appears to be the effect of nature than of art; as in the following passage from Crassus, Nam ubi lubido dominatur, innocentiae leve praesidium est [Footnote: In the sentence which is here quoted from Crassus, every word which ends with a consonant is immediately succeeded by another which begins with a vowel; and, vice versa, if the preceding word ends with a vowel, the next begins with a consonant.]: for here the mere order in which the words are connected, produces a harmony of sound, without any visible attention of the Speaker. When the ancients, therefore, (I mean Herodotus, and Thucydides, and all who flourished in the same age) composed a numerous and a musical period, it must rather be attributed to the casual order of their words, than to the labour and artifice of the writer.
But there are likewise certain forms of expression, which have such a natural concinnity, as will necessarily have a similar effect to that of regular numbers. For when parallel circumstances are compared, or opposite ones contrasted, or words of the same termination are placed in a regular succesion, they seldom fail to produce a numerous cadence. But I have already treated of these, and subjoined a few examples; so that we are hereby furnished with an additional and a copious variety of means to avoid the uniformity of cadence above-mentioned; especially as these measured forms of expression may be occasionally relaxed and dilated. There is, however, a material difference between a style which is merely numerous, (or, in other words, which has a moderate resemblance to metre) and that which is entirely composed of numbers: the latter is an insufferable fault; but our language, without the former, would be absolutely vague, unpolished, and dissipated.
But as a numerous style (strictly so called) is not frequently, and indeed but seldom admissible in forensic causes,—it seems necessary to enquire, in the next place, what are those commas and colons before-mentioned, and which, in real causes, should occupy the major part of an Oration. The period, or complete sentence, is usually composed of four divisions, which are called members, (or colons) that it may properly fill the ear, and be neither longer nor shorter than is requisite for that purpose. But it sometimes, or rather frequently happens, that a sentence either falls short of, or exceeds the limits of a regular period, to prevent it from fatiguing the ear on the one hand, or disappointing it on the other. What I mean is to recommend an agreeable mediocrity: for we are not treating of verse, but of rhetorical prose, which is confessedly more free and unconfined. A full period, then, is generally composed of four parts, which may be compared to as many hexameter verses, each of which have their proper points, or particles of continuation, by which they are connected so as to form a perfect period. But when we speak by colons, we interupt their union, and, as often as occasion requires (which indeed will frequently be the case) break off with ease from this laboured and suspicious flow of language; but yet nothing should be so numerous in reality as that which appears to be least so, and yet has a forcible effect. Such is the following passage in Crassus:—"Missos faciant patronos; ipsi prodeant." "Let them dismiss their patrons: let them answer for themselves." Unless "ipsi prodeant" was pronounced after a pause, the hearer must have discovered a complete iambic verse. It would have had a better cadence in prose if he had said "prodeant ipsi." But I am only to consider the species, and not the cadence of the sentence. He goes on, "Cur clandestinis consiliis nos oppugnant? cur de perfugis nostris copias comparant contra nos?" "Why do they attack us by clandestine measures? why do they collect forces against us from our own deserters?" In the former passage there are two commas: in the latter he first makes use of the colon, and afterwards of the period: but the period is not a long one, as only consisting of two colons, and the whole terminates in spondees. In this manner Crassus generally expressed himself; and I much approve his method. But when we speak either in commas, or colons, we should be very attentive to the harmony of their cadence: as in the following instance.—"Domus tibi deerat? at habebas. Pecunia superabat? at egebas." "Was you without a habitation? You had a house of your own. Was your pocket well provided? You was not master of a farthing." These are four commas; but the two following members are both colons;—"Incurristi omens in columnas, in alienos insanus insanisti."
"You rushed like a madman upon your best supporters; you vented your fury on your enemies withput mercy." The whole is afterwards supported by a full period, as by a solid basis;—"Depressam, caecam, jacentem domum, pluris quam te, et fortunas tuas aestimasti." "You have shewn more regard to an unprosperous, an obscure, and a fallen family, than to your own safety and reputation." This sentence ends with a dichoree, but the preceeding one in a double spondee. For in those sentences which are to be used like daggers for close-fighting, their very shortness makes our numbers less exceptionable. They frequently consist of a single number;— generally of two, with the addition perhaps of half a foot to each: and very seldom of more than three. To speak in commas or colons has a very good effect in real causes; and especially in those parts of an Oration where it is your business either to prove or refute: as in my second defence of Cornelius, where I exclaimed, "O callidos homines! O rem excogitatam! O ingenia metuenda!" "What admirable schemers! what a curious contrivance! what formidable talents!" Thus far I spoke in colons; and afterwards by commas; and then returned to the colon, in "Testes dare volumus," "We are willing to produce our witnesses." This was succeeded by the following period, consisting of two colons, which is the shortest that can be formed,—"Quem, quaeso, nostrum sesellit ita vos esse facturos?" "Which of us, think you, had not the sense to foresee that you would proceed in this manner?"
There is no method of expressing ourselves which, if properly timed, is more agreeable or forcible, than these rapid turns, which are completed in two or three words, and sometimes in a single one; especially, when they are properly diversified, and intermingled here and there with a numerous period; which Egesias avoids with such a ridiculous nicety, that while he affects to imitate Lysias (who was almost a second Demosthenes) he seems to be continually cutting capers, and clipping sentence after sentence. He is as frivolous in his sentiments as in his language: so that no person who is acquainted with his writings, need to seek any farther for a coxcomb. But I have selected several examples from Crassus, and a few of my own, that any person, who is so inclined, may have an opportunity of judging with his own ears, what is really numerous, as well in the shortest as in any other kind of sentences.
Having, therefore, treated of a numerous style more copiously than any author before me, I shall now proceed to say something of it's utility. For to speak handsomely, and like an Orator (as no one, my Brutus, knows better than yourself) is nothing more than to express the choicest sentiments in the finest language. The noblest thoughts will be of little service to an orator, unless he is able to communicate them in a correct and agreeable style: nor will the splendor of our expressions appear to a proper advantage, unless they are carefully and judiciously ranged. Permit me to add, that the beauty of both will be considerably heightened by the harmony of our numbers:—such numbers (for I cannot repeat it too often) as are not only not cemented together, like those of the poets, but which avoid all appearance of metre, and have as little resemblance to it as possible; though it is certainly true that the numbers themselves are the same, not only of the Poets and Orators, but of all in general who exercise the faculty of speech, and, indeed, of every instrument which produces a sound whose time can be measured by the ear. It is owing entirely to the different arrangement of our feet that a sentence assumes either the easy air of prose, or the uniformity of verse. Call it, therefore, by what name you please (Composition, Perfection, or Number) it is a necessary restraint upon our language; not only (as Aristotle and Theophrastus have observed) to prevent our sentences (which should be limited neither by the breath of the speaker, nor the pointing of a transcriber, but by the sole restraint of number) from running on without intermission like a babbling current of water; but chiefly, because our language, when properly measured, has a much greater effect than when it is loose and unconfined. For as Wrestlers and Gladiators, whether they parry or make an assault, have a certain grace in their motions, so that every effort which contributes to the defence or the victory of the combatants, presents an agreeable attitude to the eye: so the powers of language can neither give nor evade an important blow, unless they are gracefully exerted. That style, therefore, which is not regulated by numbers, is to me as unbecoming as the motions of a Gladiator who has not been properly trained and exercised: and so far is our language from being enervated by a skilful arrangement of our words (as is pretended by those who, for want either of proper instructors, capacity, or diligence, have not been able to attain it) that, on the contrary, without this, it is impossible it should have any force or efficacy.
But it requires a long and attentive course of practice to avoid the blemishes of those who were unacquainted with this numerous species of composition, so as not to transpose our words too openly to assist the cadence and harmony of our periods; which L. Caelius Antipater, in the Introduction to his Punic War, declares he would never attempt, unless when compelled by necessity. "O virum simplicem," (says he, speaking of himself) "qui nos nihil celat; sapientem, qui serviendum necessitati putet." "O simple man, who has not the skill his art to conceal; and yet to the rigid laws of necessity he has the wisdom to submit." But he was totally unskilled in composition. By us, however, both in writing and speaking, necessity is never admitted as a valid plea; for, in fact, there is no such thing as an absolute constraint upon the order and arrangement of our words; and, if there was, it is certainly unnecessary to own it. But Antipater, though he requests the indulgence of Laelius, to whom he dedicates his work, and attempts to excuse himself, frequently transposes his words without contributing in the least either to the harmony, or agreeable cadence of his periods.
There are others, and particularly the Asiatics, who are such slaves to number, as to insert words which have no use nor meaning to fill up the vacuities in a sentence. There are likewise some who, in imitation of Hegesias (a notorious trifler as well in this as in every other respect) curtail and mince their numbers, and are thus betrayed into the low and paltry style of the Sicilians. Another fault in composition is that which occurs in the speeches of Hierocles and Menecles, two brothers, who may be considered as the princes of Asiatic Eloquence, and, in my opinion, are by no means contemptible: for though they deviate from the style of nature, and the strict laws of Atticism, yet they abundantly compensate the defect by the richness and fertility of their language. But they have no variety of cadence, and their sentences are almost always terminated in the same manner. He therefore, who carefully avoids these blemishes, and who neither transposes his words too openly,—nor inserts any thing superfluous or unmeaning to fill up the chasms of a period,—nor curtails and clips his language, so as to interrupt and enervate the force of it,— nor confines himself to a dull uniformity of cadence,—he may justly be said to avoid the principal and most striking defects of prosaic harmony. As to its positive graces, these we have already specified; and from thence the particular blemishes which are opposite to each, will readily occur to the attentive reader.
Of what consequence it is to regulate the structure of our language, may be easily tried by selecting a well-wrought period from some Orator of reputation, and changing the arrangement of the words; [Footnote: Professor _Ward_ has commented upon an example of this kind from the preface to the Vth volume of the Spectator:—"_You have acted in so much consistency with yourself, and promoted the interests of your country in so uniform a manner; that even those, who would misrepresent your generous designs for the public good, cannot but approve the steadiness and intredipity, with which you pursue them_." I think, says the Doctor, this may be justly esteemed an handsome period. It begins with ease, rises gradually till the voice is inflected, then sinks again, and ends with a just cadency, And perhaps there is not a word in it, whole situation would be altered to an advantage. Let us now but shift the place of one word in the last member, and we shall spoil the beauty of the whole sentence. For if, instead of saying, as it now stands, _cannot but approve the steadiness and intrepidity, with which you pursue them_; we put it thus, _cannot but approve the steadiness and intrepidity which you pursue them with_; the cadency will be flat and languid, and the harmony of the period entirely lost. Let us try it again by altering the place of the two last members, which at present stand in this order, _that even those who would misrepresent your generous designs for the public good, cannot but approve the steadiness and intrepidity, with which you pursue them_. Now if the former member be thrown last, they will run thus, _that even those cannot but approve the steadiness and intrepidity, with which you pursue them, who would misrepresent your generous designs for the public good_. Here the sense is much obscured by the inversion of the relative _them_, which ought to refer to something that went before, and not to the words _generous designs_, which in this situation of the members are placed after it. WARD'S Rhetoric. Vol. 1, p. 338, 339.] the beauty of it would then be mangled and destroyed. Suppose, for instance, we take the following passage from my Defence of _Cornelius,—"Neque me divitae movent, quibus omnes Africanos et Laelios, multi venalitii mercatoresque superarunt._" "Nor am I dazzled by the splendor of wealth, in which many retailers, and private tradesmen have outvied all the _Africani_ and the _Lelii_" Only invert the order a little, and say,—"_Multi superarunt mercatores, venatitiique_," and the harmony of the period will be loft. Try the experiment on the next sentence;—"_Neque vestes, aut celatum aurum, & argentum, quo nostros veteres Marcellos, Maximosque multi eunuchi e Syria Egyptoque vicerunt_:" Nor do. I pay the least regard to costly habits, or magnificent services of plate, in which many eunuchs, imported from Syria and Egypt, have far surpassed the illustrious _Marcelli_, and the _Maximi_. Alter the disposition of the words into, "_vicerunt eunuchi e Syria, Egyptoque,_" and the whole beauty of the sentence will be destroyed. Take a third passage from the same paragraph;—"_Neque vero ornamenta ista villarum, quibus Paulum & L. Mummium, qui rebus his urbem, Italiamque omnem reserserunt, ab aliquo video perfacile Deliaco aut Syro potuisse superari:"—"Nor the splendid ornaments of a rural villa, in which I daily behold every paltry Delian and Syrian outvying the dignity of Paulus and Lucius Mummius, who, by their victories, supplied the whole city, and indeed every part of Italy, with a super- fluity of these glittering trifles!" Only change the latter part of the sentence into,— "_potuisse superari ab aliquo Syro aut Deliaco,_" and you will see, though the meaning and the words are still the same, that, by making this slight alteration in the order, and breaking the form of the period, the whole force and spirit of it will be lost.
On the other hand, take one of the broken sentences of a writer unskilled in composition, and make the smallest alteration in the arrangement of the words,—and that which before was loose and disordered, will assume a just and a regular form. Let us, for instance, take the following passage from the speech of Gracchus to the Censors;—"Abesse non potest, quin ejusdem hominis fit, probos improbare, qui improbos probet;" "There is no possibility of doubting that the same person who is an enemy to virtue, must be a friend to vice." How much better would the period have terminated if he had said,—"quin ejusdem hominis fit, qui improbos probet, probos improbare!"—"that the same person who is a friend to vice, must be an enemy to virtue!" There is no one who would object to the last:—nay, it is impossible that any one who was able to speak thus, should have been willing to express himself otherwise. But those who have pretended to speak in a different manner, had not skill enough to speak as they ought; and for that reason, truly, we must applaud them for their Attic taste;—as if the great DEMOSTHENES could speak like an Asiatic [Footnote: Quasi vero Trallianus fuerit Demosthenes.] Trallianus signifies an inhabitant of Tralles, a city in the lesser Asia, between Caria and Lydia. The Asiatics, in the estimation of Cicero, were not distinguished by the delicacy of their taste.,—that Demosthenes, whose thunder would have lost half it's force, if it's flight had not been accelerated by the rapidity of his numbers.
But if any are better pleased with a broken and dissipated style, let them follow their humour, provided they condescend to counterbalance it by the weight, and dignity of their sentiments: in the same manner, as if a person should dash to pieces the celebrated shield of Phidias, though he would destroy the symmetry of the whole, the fragments would still retain their separate beauty;—or, as in the history of Thucydides, though we discover no harmony in the structure of his periods, there are yet many beauties which excite our admiration. But these triflers, when they present us with one of their rugged and broken sentences, in which there is neither a thought, nor word, but what is low and puerile, appear to me (if I may venture on a comparison which is not indeed very elevated, but is strictly applicable to the case in hand) to have untied a besom, that we may contemplate the scattered twigs. If, however, they wish to convince us that they really despise the species of composition which I have now recommended, let them favour us with a few lines in the taste of Isocrates, or such as we find in the orations of Aeschines and Demosthenes. I will then believe they decline the use of it, not from a consciousness of their inability to put it in practice, but from a real conviction of it's futility; or, at least, I will engage to find a person, who, on the same condition, will undertake either to speak or write, in any language they may please to fix upon, in the very manner they propose. For it is much easier to disorder a good period, than to harmonize a bad one.
But, to speak my whole meaning at once, to be scrupulously attentive to the measure and harmony of our periods, without a proper regard to our sentiments, is absolute madness:—and, on the other hand, to speak sensibly and judiciously, without attending to the arrangement of our words, and the regularity of our periods, is (at the best) to speak very awkwardly; but it is such a kind of awkwardness that those who are guilty of it, may not only escape the title of blockheads, but pass for men of good-sense and understanding;—a character which those speakers who are contented with it, are heartily welcome to enjoy! But an Orator who is expected not only to merit the approbation, but to excite the wonder, the acclamations, and the plaudits of those who hear him, must excel in every part of Eloquence, and be so thoroughly accomplished, that it would be a disgrace to him that any thing should be either seen or heard with greater pleasure than himself.
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Thus, my Brutus, I have given you my opinion of a complete Orator; which you are at liberty either to adopt or reject, as your better judgment shall incline you. If you see reason to think differently, I shall have no objection to it; nor so far indulge my vanity as to presume that my sentiments, which I have so freely communicated in the present Essay, are more just and accurate than yours. For it is very possible not only that you and I may have different notions, but that what appears true even to myself at one time, may appear otherwise at another. Nor only in the present case, which be determined by the taste of the multitude, and the capricious pleasure of the ear (which are, perhaps, the most uncertain judges we can fix upon)—but in the most important branches of science, have I yet been able to discover a surer rule to direct my judgment, than to embrace that which has the greatest appearance of probability: for Truth is covered with too thick a veil to be distinguished to a certainty. I request, therefore, if what I have advanced should not have the happiness to merit your approbation, that you will be so much my friend as to conclude, either that the talk I have attempted is impracticable, or that my unwillingness to disoblige you has betrayed me into the rash presumption of undertaking a subject to which my abilities are unequal.