Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Then soon dismiss’d them, gladden'd, each to his appointed post:
Yet ne'ertheless the Monarch sage knew he was justly blamed;
And of his knightly puissance, in cool thought felt ashamed.

Thus the first blood on Bannock's field, by dauntless Bruce was shed;
He slew the mean ungenerous knight-the wily fox struck dead,
That rushed on what he deem'd his prey--but soon he found instead
A lion's paw of mightiest power fall roughly on his head.

ON THE STUDY OF ELOQUENCE. In applying ourselves to the study of any art which may be presumed to put a goodly tax upon our time, it is but reasonable to consider beforehand, whether the study about to be entered upon holds, in the hand extended to us, the promise of a reward remunerative enough for the sacrifice of the time, and the irksomeness of the toil.

First, then, let us define our subject. The derivative meaning of the word “Eloquence," is "speaking out," "speaking aloud;" and we may add, as being implied, in the best manner. Speaking out -speaking aloud !---but the inquiry comes, speaking what outspeaking what aloud ? Either of two things—either the conceptions, thoughts, sentiments, or emotions of others, or our own—and these through the medium of the TONGUE. Now, on reflecting well, and going a little deeper into the nature of the thing indicated than the

а derivation, at first thought, would seem to signify, we will find that the whole science of mind, with the philosophy of morals and human nature, is involved in the true rendering of the art.

Hence Eloquence, Rhetoric, and Oratory, although each has its distinctive shade of derivative meaning, may, without violence, be comprehended in THE ART OF SPEAKING WELL.

The tongue, then, with all its subtle machinery, being the thing that speaks out - speaks aloud - speaks well, if duly trained viewed in this light, becomes the exponent of the soul, through the dictate of the brain (the organ of the soul), and is, therefore, only secondary to that organ of the divine intelligence. If this position be allowed, the importance and dignity of the art, irrespective of all other considerations, is established. Taking for granted that the brain is the chief organ of the mind, and the tongue the chief organ of the brain, we have simply to inquire of ourselves—“What have we done for the education of the powers of the tongue, as the exponent of the mind, through the organism of the brain ?" We have little doubt that the reply of nearly every one will be, if audibly expressed, “Well, I must say that I never looked upon the thing in that light before, although I have had a sort of a notion —and very learned men may confess as much, and not violate their consciences that the tongue, under due regulation, is really a worthy, a noble thing." Ay, very noble, let us impress you, however imperfectly, and capable of rousing the new world, as it did the old, in the cause of liberty and truth; and this more potently than written speech, for the one is at best, however distinctly so, the echo of the other.

We may conclude that, in the first stage of human development, the tongue was the great articulate interpreter of the conceptions, thoughts, etc., of the mind, acted upon through the senses; and that when occasion came, man, feeling the tongue powerless to communicate his thought or wish, endeavoured to convey his thoughts through the medium of symbols calculated to impress, in accordance with the laws of a common intelligence, all that was desired to be expressed by the tonguie. Hence, in the progress of the race, written characters, expressive of the sounds in nature, or the language prompted by the brain to the tongue. Hence PRINTING, that glorious invention, which has stereotyped the full nature and noble achievements of man, bequeathing to millions-instead of, as formerly, in the manuscript form, to tens or hundreds—the speculations, the discoveries, the experiences, the genius of the largely gifted of the human race.

Like the Fine Arts—Poetry, Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture-Eloquence is at first essentially an imitative art;—so much must be acquired before creative genius can give adequate expression to its own perceptions and ideas of the truthful and the grand, the sublime and the beautiful, or body forth visibly and appreciably its own high imaginings. Hence the vast importance of sound instruction—and good, if not great example. The prime effort, however, which leads to a genuine progress lies with the student himself. The master can but give the example, and point out the method of attaining this excellence in discourse. Assuredly, a true educator in the art may do something more; he may fix to a steadier point the student's perhaps roving or fitful application, and persuade him to a deeper love for the study. But, notwithstanding all this, the student must do the main energetic labour for himself-faithfully practising, or producing, through irksomeness and toil, models of the great originals. No art, or science either, that is meritorious or commanding, ought to be denied this labour; and, with this labour, acquisition, and the excellence higher than acquisition, are all but certain. It is by this patient imitation of moving masterpieces in tangible or expressed art that BEAUTY enters, winds herself, as it were, into the soul, and finds there her assimilating counterpart.

We all feel within us a something, prompting, impelling us to aspire :-higher, higher, higher, is still the profound whisper, more impressive than thunder, uttered by the still, small voice within. But how many answer this, the voice of their nobler nature, with such self-imposing phrases as—

_“I have no time”-“I am too hard wrought otherwise"_“I would an' if I could ”_“Had I the leisure, I would”—“Had I the opportunities of such a one, I would”“ Had I the natural gifts of such another, decidedly I would.”—“I am not in circumstances,” says one. “I have not the ability” (very modestly, but very rarely), says a second. “I am not particularly caring” (a very common, ay, very common, and very large class this), says a third Away with such lukewarmness in the cultivation of a sacred gift, second only to the faculty of reason itself! He who

[ocr errors]

would move on to the achievement of anything good, or great, or noble in the sphere of art, must “dare do all that may become a man,” and shake himself free of that clinging curse of indolence or apathy, and toil on with all the fervour of the sacred wrestler, until he wins the blessing. Most fervently do we believe that the truth in Eloquence, rightly sought after, is a light eminently calculated to refine strengthen, and add lustre to the human soul. To our own aspirations after the rendering of this thrilling intelligence of the spirit of truth, through the tongue, however imperfectly, we ascribe any little share of literary merit which may be accorded us. Nor, can we express the infinite delight, buoyed on the wing of our strongest feelings, with which, when the light of this new power somewhat fully dawned on us, we entered on the study of Shakspere, and Bacon, and Milton—and of that most holy and glorious book which claims God for its author, the Bible.

It is not the merely stately looking figure, the imposingly harmonious tones of the voice, that make the truly impressive and really good speaker. No; we may allow that such a one speaks with great neatness and precision; nay, even with elegancethat his pronunciation of the language has in it a rare purity—that his enunciation is singularly clear and distinct; nay, even that his voice is full and melodious ;-we may grant, too, that his manner is good, yea, faultlessly correct, according to the customary approved standards - and yet we may feel justified in withholding from such a one the title of being eloquent. Indeed! after allowing so much, to approve so little! Even so, if we feel and can say truly—the great power of a vivid and vigorous conception dwells not in that mind—the blood-royal of an o'erswaying emotion beats not in that heart. Thus, then, we are led to apprehend the true source of Eloquence as springing from an inward might and fervour of the soul; or, we may say,—The heart and soul within are the divine instruments whose inexplicable machinery and chords vibrate forth all the music which the tongue utters. True Eloquence, then, is born of the spirit in man; and hence many of our greatest thinkers, from a want, perhaps, of that physical and mental concord or unison, which must be the inheritance of the truly great oratorhave been eloquent only through the medium of the pen— the winged pen, the recorder of the heartfelt emotions, the chronicler of the wondrous cogitations which have thrilled through fervid minds!

To pass over the lamentable poverty in example of the present times, and the meagre teaching, in our early years, of the principles which regulate this FINE ART, let us ask, Why is it that so few of our otherwise talented public men, generally speaking, make so poor an appearance on those occasions when some little dash of manliness in delivery is so reasonably expected of them? If our belief in the capability being in every man who can think, and whose organs of utterance are possessed of the averge freedom and power, be a true one—then, we say, that they who persist in this drivelling and

а

ungraceful style of discharging their duties as speakers in public are blameworthy for that awkwardness which training in the art, after a thoughtful and steady perseverance, would undoubtedly remove. But, it may be said, Where are the teachers to further their efforts in thus accomplishing themselves? To which it may be answered —the people of Glasgow have had the greatest elocutionist of his time—the celebrated HAMILTON ; and erratic as his prelections were, still he sowed the great seed of a manly and noble style of delivery. Again, KNOWLES and HARTLEY, though but feeble in comparison with this GREAT ORIGINAL, did their best to maintain that standard of Eloquence which Hamilton so triumphantly unfurled. Now the public taste has cooled, and the croakers so far prevail as to beggar all professors of the art, and throw into the shade that gift, wanting which our city is--and very justly so—sneered at as only a commercial emporium.

To excel upon the violin, enthusiasts and really good players tell us, and believe in it themselves—nay, they endeavour to act up to the injunction with a laudable perseverance—that it takes from ten to twenty years' fervent practice, some eight or ten hours per day, to make a thorough violinist : and even that calculation supposes the individual so applying himself gifted with a genius for music. The tongue is a nobler instrument; and should we begrudge a tithe of that time to make it obedient, fully to express the tender and sublime thoughts of which our minds are capable? To make a good singer-a vocalist-takes years on years; and yet neither time por money is spared—these are the conditions: time and money;—and are not the powers of human speech worthy of at least as much zealous and expensive culture ?

And so we come to the conclusion that that System or Course of Education which discards the power of Eloquence, and professes, without its aid, fully to equip the mind, weakens its wing by withholding so strong a pinion -- neglects the highest grace and beauty of which it is capable, by not furnishing it with so perfect a symmetry, so fine, so glorious a plumage, as this power, on the rightly and fervently initiated, undoubtedly bestows. It may almost be received as an axiom in morals, that every great good achievable by the right direction of any power of the human mind, has its corresponding great evil, when low gratification or base ambition prompts the course of action. How many enter the portals of St Stephen's by stooping low as the slime of bribery and corruption ! How many hold up their insignificant and conceited heads beneath that grand archway-unprofaned only when great worth, high merit, and transcendent genius pass beneath it to the hall which should only roof in the foremost intellect, and honesty, and wisdom of the land, to preserve the nation's liberties, or legislate after the spirit of the British Constitution and the spirit of the British people—how many, we say, hold up their unabashed and brazen fronts, and prate as though they did represent aught else but their own conceit and incapacity--as though they could legislate for the wellbeing of a great nation—with souls narrow as the principles of thrift, which brought them vast gains-well-merited gains, perhaps, in all other respects but this—that these should ever have gained for them a seat in the British Assembly? Can such feeble and rotten reeds contribute to support or maintain the rights, the liberties, the honour, or the dignity of the British people? O that the Genius of our loved Britannia could weed out the tares from the wheat—with a withering look or solemn whisper, drive away from this high marriage of heart and soul, to the good and glory of their country-drive away all who have not on the holy and the pure garment! Would that she could whip out these mere Money Changers from her temple; and on the high altar of British Freedom sacrifice to the God of Truth, and Wisdom, and Justice, and Mercy, and Goodness, to the joy and advancement of her own people, and the peoples of all nations over the universal earth!

Gold, honestly-got gold, the representative either of our forefathers' industry, merit, or skill, or of our own, so be as we put it to worthy uses, is a great good-it feeds the hungry, relieves the needy, clothes the indigent, and builds on virtuous foundations humane and meritorious institutions—thus conferring on such a possessor and user of it, the highest, purest of all earthly pleasures—the pleasure of doing good. Take we the opposite view of its influence, so amply borne out in the history of all times the present not exempt—and in the hands of unprincipled designing men, what has it not done? What is it not still a-doing ?-slaving, bribing, corrupting, poisoning, ruining! That which, rightly used, had been a most bounteous blessing, being used for evil ends, sinks its possessor to the lowest deep of degradation, the rebuking voice of conscience and humanity ever ringing in his ears! Take we another illustration : That Britain possesses such a Navy as she has, is assuredly a great good to every citizen within its sea-girt shores. It is a POWER, the growth and renown of which is the history of ever-memorable struggles in the cause of freedom and humanitya power which, with few exceptions, the rulers and defenders of this country have ever wielded righteously. In the just exercise of so great a power, there lies a moral grandeur which sustains to high issues the mighty heart of this our nation. We glory, and then only justly, when its terrible thunders are directed against oppression or slavery, tyrants or aggressors !

Hence we infer that it is in the right use of any power, physical, moral, or mental, that the quality of true excellence or goodness lies.

And so it is with Eloquence, a power wieldable either to great good or great evil: But this allowed, are we to take fright at the latter tendency, and neglect its cultivation ? What is this but to give up, cowardly, its armoury and sharp edge to be used against the sacred cause of truth and ourselves? While, however, we assert the vast importance attachable to this Branch of Education, properly acquired and rightly followed out, we must not disguise the extreme liability-seemingly so natural to the youthful mind in its first acquisi

a

« ZurückWeiter »