« ZurückWeiter »
cannot be compared absolutely in themselves, but in their capacity and power to represent to the people the peculiar cast of thought that characterises that people. Now, we would maintain that the English language exhibits English thought as beautifully, as vividly, and as vigorously as the Grecian language exhibited Grecian thought, which position we are prepared, we humbly think, fully to prove and illustrate in our next number.
DEMOSTHENES; OR THE TRIUMPII OF PERSEVERANCE. DEMOSTHENES—who has made his name sound on the lips of time for some two thousand years and more as synonymous with ELOQUENCE-is one of the greatest recorded examples of the force of laborious application.
When first we hear of his triumphs, through the voice of history, we involuntarily think of him as of some great birth of nature—the living flesh, blood, and soul-embodiment of Phidias's glorious Apollo, with brow all radiant; or of his Olympian Jupiter, with majestically commanding head. But when we look closer into his person, life, and character, we find him to have been a man seemingly in no way distinguished by nature more than thousands of other Athenians. Was he then favoured by birth or by fortune ? On the contrary, his father was a sword-cutler, of moderate means. But he dying when his son was seven years of age, the boy fell into the hands of selfish and avaricious guardians, who plundered his small estate; hence he was not educated with the care which so excellent a genius deserved. Moreover, the delicacy of his constitution and the excessive fondness of his mother, did not allow his masters to urge him in regard to his studies.
His ambition to become an orator was first aroused in the following manner :--Hearing of a famous cause that was to be pled, and which made a great noise in the city, he importuned his mother very much to carry him to the bar, in order to hear the pleadings. The orator, whose name was Callistratus, was listened to with great attention, and having been very successful, was conducted home with great ceremony, amidst a crowd of illustrious citizens, who expressed their satisfaction in loud plaudits. Demosthenes was greatly affected with the honours which were paid to the orator, and still more with the commanding power which eloquence had over the mind. Sensible of its force, he was unable to resist its charms. From that day he devoted himself entirely to it, laying aside every other study, and indulging no more in mere pleasures.
The school of Isocrates, which formed so many great orators, was at that time the most famous in Athens. But whether the sordid avarice of his tutors hindered him from improving under a master who made his pupils pay very dear for their instruction, or whether the gentle and calm eloquence of Isocrates was not then suitable to his taste, we cannot say; but whatever the reason, he was placed under Isæus, whose eloquence was forcible and vehement. He procured, however, we are told, “ The Precepts of Rhetoric” as taught by Isocrates. But Plato was the master who contributed most to the formning of his mind; and hence we discover the noble and sublime style of the master in the written eloquence of the pupil. His teachers, if they did not try to dissuade him from his purpose,
must at least have smiled at his ambitious assurance.
He stammered in his speech to such a degree, that he could not even pronounce certain letters, and among others, that which began the name of the art he was studying; and could he become an orator? no doubt then, as now, he would be laughed at for his conceit. Whether this defect was a bad habit, or some natural impediment or slight malformation, we are not informed, but this we know, that he neither succumbed to the habit, nor railed—the grand subterfuge--at partial nature; but, resolved to conquer the defect. In the shrewdness of his studious and inventive nature, he selected two pebbles from the sea, and, placing them in his mouth, between the jaw and the cheek, bridled—by making it carry weight, as it werethe stuttering rapidity of his tongue.
Again, his breathing was defective—short, as we call it—and his voice faint; indeed his lungs were naturally weak-did not this dishearten him? No, his indomitable spirit soon found out a means of strengthening, expanding them to the desired power; and what means think you did he take? He tasked himself to run up a hill, repeating passages of speeches or poems, till they acquired the requisite strength and fulness.
Besides, having contracted an awkward and ungainly mode of shrugging up either one or both of his shoulders, he, with characteristic determination and ready art, placed a couple of naked, pointed swords, so as to prick one or both of the offenders if they transgressed the line of propriety.
Again, you may have read or heard how he avoided the temptation of deserting close study for more social pleasures, by shaving, or rather half-shaving his head—the hair being then considered among the Greeks a great ornament—that the shame of appearing among his friends or in public might deter him from moving abroad. Now if they who are resolved to prosecute the study of this noble art, have defects to overcome, and will only try the previously mentioned methods of getting rid of such drawbacks and impediments, we will not press upon them to shave the head like our great orator.
We have dwelt the longer on these recorded triumphs of Demosthenes over his defects, as animating examples towards the study of the art in spite of deficiencies; and above all, as illustrating the doctrine—that self-reliance, thoughtful, determined, unswerving perseverance, generates a virtue in human effort that conquers obstacles -deemed by weaklings and lazy drones insurmountable.
The quality of perseverance rises in this art—as in all other arts -to the importance, the clignity of a virtue. But let us not overlwk the true source of this quality, and honour the effect for the master cause. The idea of the value, real or imagined, of that which we are ambitious to acquire—whatever it be-is the source of this virtue of application. It is the resolute conception in the soul which prompts to this willing labour, this determined self-denial. It was not the mere doggedness of perseverance which enabled Demosthenes to overcome the defects which Nature or habit interposed between him and excellence: no, he must have felt a glory fill his soul at the triumph of others, and yearned to win such triumphs for himself; he must have felt the stirring of a mighty conception of true eloquence, and by the strength of its promptings he made his stammering tongue a rare oracle for revealing the divinity within him.
Let us picture to ourselves Demosthenes making the sea his lessoner-pitching his voice to the piping of the winds and the clamorous surgings of the deep, and contending for the mastery through the power resting in that tiny organ—the tongue. What would a stray Athenian, wandering by the shore and stumbling upon our hero declaiming, say—what would he think, of him thus gesticulating and contending with the roaring sea ? Why, then, as now, he would exclaim, “ The man is mad-he raves !" He is not mad, he does not rave; he is arming his tongue with thunder. The sea is the great people, the storm is the voice of seditious demagogues, or the burst of some great calamity. His voice rises above the clamour; his soul has caught the conception of what is to be done in the emergency; the lightning of his eloquence flashes forth on the thunders of his tongue, and the rage, the wail, or the clamour of this vexed and surging sea of Athenian life is rebuked, and stilled.
Thus, in spite of apparently insuperable defects frowning on his pretensions, he made himself an orator, and the greatest, by universal consent, the world ever saw. Behold him now in the plenitude of his powers. He is to speak in public: it is known throughout Greece that he is to speak, and Greece flocks to hear him. The subject of debate is grave and momentous. Peace or war ?-with whom? Philip, the wily Macedonian, who has been spreading a net to draw the free states of Greece into his tyrannous rule. Now that his designs are discovered, or rather divined by Demosthenes before they are fully ripe for execution, flattery, bribery, and threatenings are liberally used to gain time; for time alone is wanted to consummate the tyrant's purpose. Many distinguished orators speak, speak well, but chiefly on the side of peace, favourably interpreting Philip's conduct. All have spoken and given their counsel but one.
He rises; a buzz-a hum settling down to the deepest hushed attention ensues. The souls of the assembled multitude shine through their eyes; the oracle they devoutly believe in is about to speak, and determine, not for them but through them, for peace or for war The Orator proclaims War, and the shout for war, at his bidding, resounds over Greece. Philip trembles for his kingdom.
One little tongue has done all ! Yes, that tongue has carried more terror to Philip's heart and to his tyrannous designs than ten thousand swords; that little tongue gave its voice for war, and armies sprung up at the call. When Philip heard that Demosthenes was deputed to Sparta to plead for the Lacedemonian alliance against him, he was filled with terror; for he knew that that tongue would subdue them to the Athenian purpose more effectually than the march of his hosts into their territories. It is true the tyrant ultimately prevailed; but with Demosthenes remained the glory of repeatedly rousing a whole people abased to that state when “ tyrants chain and bind them to their rule.” His was the glory of rousing them again and again to arms, by the rebuke or encouragement of his commanding eloquence, to one great struggle more in behalf of liberty — dying with the heroic theme upon his lips.
– From these incidents in the early life of Demosthenes a great lesson is to be drawn. By perseverance this stammering Athenian youth became the prince of orators; by perseverance his mocked at and stuttering tongue became clothed with that thunder which
“Shook the arsenal, and fulmined over Greece,
From Macedon to Artaxerxes' throne."
STATE OF PUBLIC BUSINESS IN THE MATTER OF
NATIONAL EDUCATION. 1. Bill to make better provision for Scotch Parochial Schoolmasters, without materially disturbing the existing system-introduced into House of Lords by Lord Monteagle.
2. Bill to provide for the Education of the People in Scotland in Parishes and Burghs in which the existing means are insufficient-introduced into House of Lords by Lord Kinnaird.
3. Bill to extend the existing means of Education in England and Wales introduced into House of Lords by Lord Granville.
4. Resolutions proposed by Lord John Russell. (Withdrawn.)
5. Notice of motion for å Committee to consider the present state of Public Education in England and Wales-by Lord John Russell.
6. Notice of intention to ask for leave to bring in a Bill to regulate the Parochial Schools in Scotland ; and
7. To bring in a Bill to promote Education in the Burghs of Scotland --given by Lord Advocate.
The fate of the long list of motions given above is still involved in uncertainty; but this much is apparent, that whatever it be, there is but little prospect of a settlement of the grand question of National Education during the present session of Parliament. We are not admitted into the secrecy of the Lord Advocate's laboratory, and cannot therefore speak with perfect positiveness with regard to the quality and scope of the measures promised by him; but it is no very rash inference, from the fact of his having two to propose, to assume that the Parish School Bill will prove a bribe to the Establishment, and that the Burgh School Bill will be as unsatisfactory, because as devoid of principle as the measures which have already been rejected. The Bill proposed by Lord Monteagle contains much that is calculated to improve the character of the Scottish Parochial
Schools. Its provisions for the remuneration of the teachers, when actively engaged and honourably relieved, and the system of appeals it embodies, are not unworthy of consideration. By steering clear of the element of public rating, and laying the burthens of school maintenance on the heritors, who, it will be remembered, were quite agreeable to the provisions of a similar nature in Mr Stirling's Bill of last year, it very dexterously avoids the difficulty of dealing with the rights of rate-payers, and the inexpediency of introducing any alterations into the constitution of the parish schools. If, therefore, the only parties who would suffer in consequence of the passing of the Act offer no opposition, and if, as it would seem, the country be not yet ripe for a general measure, it would perhaps be the least offensive manner of weathering another year or two to pass Lord Monteagle's Bill, not on account of its justice, but because no-substitute having yet been found for the parish schools as constituted at present, it is necessary to retain, and expedient to improve them. That sooner or later the constitution of these schools must be revised and brought into conformity with the altered circumstances of the nation can hardly be doubted; but even now a simple agitation for their being thrown open to dissenters might be successful, but so long as they exist, the more efficiently they do so the better; and Lord Monteagle, who must be supposed to approve of the position they occupy, deserves commendation for his efforts to enhance their usefulness. The qualified approval bestowed upon Lord Monteagle's efforts, to which he has apparently been prompted by Lord Kinnaird, will, of course, be equally applicable to the originator as to the advocate of the scheme. It will be observed, however, that the latter nobleman has given the weight of his name to another measure which professes to be supplemental to Lord Monteagle's Bill while apparently fundamentally at variance with it. Let it not be considered paradoxical if we declare that we hail this circumstance as a hopeful feature. It must not be inferred that we agree with Lord Kinnaird in his particular treatment of this element of distinction. We are opposed to his parochial schools, and equally so to his supplementary schools. What we rejoice at is that the lawfulness of establishing different classes of schools, provided only that such establishment be not contrary to sound principles, has at length been recognised. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that there are no objections to the continued maintenance of parish schools, excepting their insufliciency, and the necessity of revising the teachers' salaries and providing for their retirement from office, and the better management of the schools, it does seem quite fair and reasonable so to adjust the existing materials as to meet the necessity adverted to; and if those materials do not furnish the means of removing the other drawback, to acknowledge their inadequacy, and recommend à recourse to other elements. Waving again the right of objecting to the denominational character of the class of schools to be established under Bill No. 2, we would frankly own that in ordinary circumstances the principle of entrusting the management of institutions to those by whom they are maintained is sound, and that, therefore, if a system of local rating be founded, it is not contrary to this principle to invest the ratepayers with this function. The two Bills under consideration are quite justifiably framed on these different foundations, and although we consider these foundations rotten, we take pleasure in reconciling apparent inconsistencies in Lord Kinnaird, not only because we love fair play, but because his measures contain an example of how different sorts of schools may be established, and yet be worthy of support. Lord Kinnaird's Bilí has its good points, and compares advantageously with that last proposed by the Lord Advocate. "It fixes a maximum and