Page images
PDF
EPUB

to make an impression on it, then certainly we, standing over the graves of our fathers, and on the very ground that drank their blood, shed in the cause of liberty, should not be ashamed to give expression to the emotions these associations cause us to feel. In constructing these three sentences Webster uses a conditional clause and a concluding one, and two positive sentences, the last one consisting of a concluding series. The last sentence is much stronger and better as a series of three members than it would be as a sentence containing but one. It is far better to weld together the three facts that the ground was distinguished by their valor, their constancy, and the shedding of their blood, than it would be to state merely that it was distinguished by their valor.

Here is another of Webster's grand and expressive periods:

On this question of principle, while actual suffering was yet far off, they raised their flag against a power, to which, for purposes of foreign conquest and subjugation, Rome, in the height of her glory, is not to be compared - a power which has dotted over the surface of the whole globe with her possessions and military posts, whose morning drumbeat, following the sun, and keeping company with the hours, circles the earth with one continuous and unbroken strain of the martial airs of England. This is a long sentence but a strong one and it is constructed so as to bring to the mind of the listener the picture which the speaker possessed. Notice that if the parenthetical phrases, which aid so much in picturing the scene, were omitted, the sentence would not be more

than half its present size, but the vividness of the picture would disappear with the curtailing of the sentence. Here is the main idea: “On this question of principle they raised their flag against a power to which Rome is not to be compared - a power which has dotted over the surface of the whole globe with her possessions and military posts, whose morning drumbeat circles the earth with one continuous and unbroken strain of the martial airs of England.” This example is cited to show that what are called loose sentences are necessary to beauty of expression and vivid picturing. Notice how the parenthetical clauses amplify and explain the thought —"while actual suffering was yet far off," " for purposes of foreign conquest and subjugation," "in the height of her glory," " following the sun, and keeping company with the hours.” Without these coloring clauses the sentence would be strong, but it would lose much of its beauty.

Let us examine here an extract from the oratory of the ancients. Demosthenes, in his speech, “ Against the Law of Leptines,” delivered in 355 B. C., uses this language:

If now you condemn the law, as we advise, the deserving will have their rights from you; and if there be any undeserving party, as I grant there may be, such a one, besides being deprived of his honor, will suffer what penalty you think proper according to the amended statute, while the commonwealth will appear faithful, just, true to all men. Should you decide in its favor, which I trust you will not, the good will be wronged on account of the bad, the undeserving will be the cause of misfortune to others, and suffer no punishment themselves, while the commonwealth (con

trary to what I said just now) will be universally esteemed faithless, envious, base. It is not meet, O Athenians, that for so foul a reproach you should reject fair and honorable advantages. Remember, each of you individually will share in the reputation of your common judgment. It is plain to the bystanders and to all men that in the court Leptines is contending with us, but in the mind of each of you jurymen generosity is arrayed against envy, justice against iniquity, all that is virtuous against all that is base.

The above is a literal translation of a portion of a speech that was delivered more than twenty-two centuries ago, and yet, in its construction, it does not differ in any material manner from a well constructed speech of today. Notice the conditional, “If now you condemn the law,” followed by the parenthetical, “as we advise,” and the concluding, “the deserving will have their rights from you," and compare the passage with any modern expression of a like nature. They will be found to correspond in every manner so far as the construction is concerned. Examine the extract in its entirety and you will see that a skilful use is made of negatives, positives, parentheses, conditionals, oppositions, series, and all the many forms of arranging words for an effective conveyance of thought which are possessed by speakers of the present time. In the manner of its construction, this extract from the speech of Demosthenes does not differ from the speeches of Seward, Webster, Emerson, and Lincoln which are here quoted, as they all depend for their effectiveness on the proper use of the rules of apposition, opposition, series, inflection, and emphasis; and

all students of oratory are urged to study closely the chapters of this book which are devoted to these subjects.

Coming down to our own day, we find in the utterances of Roosevelt, Taft, Bryan, Watterson, La Follette, and many others the selfsame means of construction as were employed by Gorgias, Demosthenes, and Cicero. Theodore Roosevelt, in his address delivered at Chicago, April 10, 1899, used this forceful language:

As it is with the individual, so it is with the nation. It is a base untruth to say that happy is the nation that has no history. Thrice happy is the nation that has a glorious history. Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat. Col. Roosevelt first compares the individual with the nation. He then employs an emphatic contradiction, following it with a short positive sentence. Then comes an effective contrast, separated to allow the use of a parenthetical phrase which amplifies the statement, and the end is a picture drawn with a few words —“ because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat."

William H. Taft, speaking at the unveiling of Lincoln's statue at Frankfort, Kentucky, on November 8, 1911, summed up the character of Abraham Lincoln in these well-chosen words:

With his love of truth, the supreme trait of his intellect,

accompanied by a conscience that insisted on the right as he knew it, with a great heart full of tenderness, we have the combination that made Lincoln one of the two greatest Americans. President Taft uses a commencing series and a parenthetical clause for conveying his thought. The series consists of three phrases: “With his love of truth,"

accompanied by a conscience that insisted on the right as he knew it,” and “with a great heart full of tenderness," the sense being completed by “we have the combination that made Lincoln one of the two greatest Americans.” The phrase, “the supreme trait of his intellect,” is parenthetical.

Col. Henry Watterson, on the same occasion, spoke thus:

Called like one of old, within a handful of years he rose at a supreme moment to supreme command, fulfilled the law of his being, and passed from the scene an exhalation of the dawn of freedom. We may still hear his cheery voice bidding us be of good heart, sure that "right makes might," cntreating us to pursue “with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right." Here we have the thought expressed by means of a concluding series of four members, and two positive statements reënforced by two quotations from Lincoln's Cooper Union Speech.

WORD-PICTURES Besides the use of inflection, emphasis, and the arrangement of words, orators use word-pictures for conveying their ideas; as,

« PreviousContinue »