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When I look around and see our prosperity in everything - agriculture, commerce, art, science, and every department of education, physical and mental, as well as moral advancement, and our colleges — I think, in the face of such an exhibition, if we can, without the loss of power, or any essential right or interest, remain in the Union, it is our duty to ourselves and to posterity to - let us not too readily yield to this temptation - do so. Our first parents, the great progenitors of the human race, were not without a like temptation when in the garden of Eden. They were led to believe that their condition would be bettered, that their eyes would be opened, and that they would become as gods. They, in an evil hour, yielded. Instead of becoming gods, they only saw their nakedness.
- ALEXANDER H. STEPHENS The illustration commences with “Our first parents” and continues to the end. It is more effective in pointing out the danger besetting the South in listening to the temptation to sever the Union than is all the rest of the paragraph. The prophecy as to the effect of listening to the voice of the tempter is forcefully summed up in the sentence: “Instead of becoming gods, they only saw their nakedness.” By means of directing the thought to the dire consequences attending the fall of Adam and Eve through listening to temptation, the orator magnifies the effects that would follow a dissolution of the union of the states. The object in employing word-pictures is to convey an idea by means of suggestion, and, when so used, they become powerful weapons in the hands of a speaker. Here is another excellent illustration:
Books are for the scholar's idle times. When he can
read God directly the hour is too precious to be wasted in other men's transcripts of their readings. But when the intervals of darkness come, as come they must — when the sun is hid and the stars withdraw their shining we repair to the lamps which were kindled by their ray, to guide our steps to the East again, where the dawn is. We hear, that we may speak. The Arabian proverb says, “A fig tree, looking on a fig tree, becomes fruitful.”
RALPH WALDO EMERSON
Pictures are powerful means of conveying thoughts, and often more can be expressed by deftly painting a word-picture than could be imparted by a lengthy narration. Here is a good example:
Let me picture to you the footsore Confederate soldier, as, buttoning up in his faded jacket the parole which was to bear testimony to his children of his fidelity and faith, he turned his face southward from Appomattox, in April, 1865. Think of him as ragged, half-starved, heavy-hearted, enfeebled by want and wounds, having fought to exhaustion; he surrenders his gun, wrings the hands of his comrades in silence, and lifting his tear-stained and pallid face for the last time to the graves that dot the old Virginia hills, pulls his gray cap over his brow and begins the slow and painful journey.
- HENRY W. GRADY This certainly brings the whole scene before us in a moment. We see the hills of Virginia, dotted over with the graves of the dead soldiers; groups of grizzled veterans, the remnant of that wonderful fighting machine that had followed the ill-starred flag of the Confederacy under its beloved leader; the typical southern soldier wringing the hands of his comrades, and sorrowfully,
but manfully, turning his face towards home. The picture, as here presented by Henry W. Grady, is more eloquent than the narration of the story would have been.
Henry Watterson, a lover of oratory, and himself an orator of no mean ability, speaking at the unveiling of Lincoln's statue at Frankfort, Kentucky, on November 8, 1911, spoke thus of the great American:
Reviled as the Man of Galilee, slain even as the Man of Galilee, yet as gentle and unoffending, a man who died for men! Roll the stone from the grave and what shall we see? Just an American. The Declaration of Independence his Confession of Faith. The Constitution of the United States his Ark and Covenant of Liberty. The Union his redoubt, the flag his shibboleth. Here is presented a striking picture by means of the simile. With the charm and skill of the true orator, Colonel Watterson employs the lowly Nazarene to symbolize the portraiture of one who, like Himself, "went about doing good,” and he does it so delicately as in no manner to jar or hurt the religious sensibilities of the most devout follower of the Man of Galilee. All the orator's references are biblical, and eminently fitting. The mention of the Man of Galilee, the manner of His death, the rolling of the stone away, the Ark and the Covenant, and the shibboleth, - all these keep the mind of the reader or the listener on the picture as presented by the orator, and cause the great Emancipator to stand forth clothed in the splendor of his glorious attributes, which are colored and magnified through being likened reverently to the character of Jesus.
Daniel Webster delighted in the use of pictures. Here is one from his address delivered at the laying of the corner-stone of the Bunker Hill Monument, at Charlestown, Mass., June 17, 1825:
We do not read even of the discovery of this continent, without feeling something of a personal interest in the event; without being reminded how much it has affected our own fortunes and our own existence. It is more impossible for us, therefore, than for others, to contemplate with unaffected minds that interesting, I may say that most touching and pathetic scene, when the great discoverer of America stood on the deck of his shattered bark, the shades of night falling on the sea, yet no man sleeping; tossed on the billows of an unknown ocean, yet the stronger billows of alternate hope and despair tossing his own troubled thoughts; extending forward his harassed frame, straining westward his anxious and eager eyes, till Heaven at last granted him a moment of rapture and ecstasy, in blessing his vision with the sight of the unknown world.
Here is another example taken from his speech in what is known as the White Murder Case:
An aged man, without an enemy in the world, in his own house, and in his own bed, is made the victim of a butcherly murder, for mere pay. The deed was executed with a degree of self-possession and steadiness equal to the wickedness with which it was planned. The circumstances, now clearly in evidence, spread out the whole scene before us. Deep sleep had fallen on the destined victim, and on all beneath his roof. A healthful old man, to whom sleep was sweet, the first sound slumbers held him in their soft but strong embrace. The assassin enters through the window, already prepared, into an unoccupied apartment. With
noiseless foot he paces the lonely hall, half-lighted by the moon he winds up the ascent of stairs, and reaches the door of the chamber. Of this he moves the lock, by soft and continued pressure, till it turns on its hinges without noise; and he enters, and beholds his victim before him. This is certainly vividly drawn, and it shows the effectiveness of stating important things by means of pictures. Writers of good prose, as well as poets, use the figure of speech for creating mental images by means of the written word, and the speaker who employs the spoken word for producing like results will surely meet with like success. Emerson, in writing on this subject, produces a striking picture. In his essay on “Poetry and Imagination," he says:
The poet gives us the eminent experiences only - a god stepping from peak to peak, nor planting his foot but on a mountain. Shakespeare creates a marvellous picture thus:
Look here, upon this picture, and on this,
To give the world assurance of a man.*
*Hamlet, Act III, Scene IV.