Page images

that vicious taste at Rome; and it was so general and predominant in Quintilian's time w, that the orators made it a law among themselves, to close almost every period with some sparkling thought, in order to gain the plaudits and acclamations of the auditors.

Quintilian's reflections upon that subject are very judicious *. He does not condemn such kind of thoughts in themselves, which may make an oration great and noble, and give it at the same time strength, grace, and elevation; he only condemns the abuse and too great affectation of it. y He would have them be looked upon as the eyes of the discourse; and eyes must not be spread over the whole body. · He agrees that this new ornament may be added to the manner of writing among the ancients, as it was allowed to add to the ancient way of living, a certain neatness and elegance, which could not be condemned, and of which even endeavours should be used to make a kind of virtue ; but excess should be avoided. For after all, the ancient fimplicity of speaking would still be more valuable than this new licence.

Indeed, when these thoughts are too numerous, they hurt and suppress one another, like trees planted too near together; and occasion the fame obscurity and confusion in an oration, which too many figures do in a picture.

[ocr errors]

» Nurc illud volunt, ut omnis tra reprehenfionem nitor, quem, locus, omnis fenfus, in fine fer- ficut poffumus, adjiciamus virturimonis feriat aurem. Turpe autem bus. Ibid. a: prope nefas ducunt, respirare a Si neceffe fit, veterem, illum ullo lo o, qui acclamationem non horrorem dicendi malim, quàm petierit. Quintil. 1. 8. c.5.

iftam novam licenciam. y Quod tantum in se":tentia bo- o Denfitas earum obftat invicem, na crimen est ? Non causæprodeft? ut in satis omnibus fructibusque asnon judicem movet? non dicen- borum nihil ad justam magnitutem commendat? Ibid.

dinem adolescere poteft, quod loy Ego hæc lumina orationis co, in quem crescat, caret. Nec velut oculos quosdam eloquentiæ pictura, in qua nihil circumlitum effe credo: fed neque oculos effe eft, eminet: ideoque artifices eciam, toto corpore velim. Ibid.

cùm plura in unam tabulam pera z Patel media quædam via : ficut conculerunt, spatiis diftinguunt, in cultu victuque accellit aliquis ci- ne umbræ in corpora cadant. ibid. 1


Besides, as these thoughts, whofe beauty consists in being short and lively, are distinct from one another, and each forms a complete sense; the oration from thence becomes very disjointed and concise, without any connexion, and, as it were, compofed rather of pieces and fragments, than of the members and parts, which form a whole or perfect body. Now such a composition seems to be entirely opposite to the harmony of an oration, which requires more connexion and extent.

• We may likewise say, that these thining thoughts cannot fo juftly be compared to a luminous Aame, as to those sparks of fire which fly through the smoke.

• In fine, when our only care is to croud them one upon the other, we become very indelicate in diftinguishing and chusing; and among such a number there muft neceffarily be a great many flat, puerile and ridiculous ones.

It is obvious to those who are ever so little acquaints' ed with Seneca, that what I have now faid, is his portrait and the peculiar character of his writings; and Quintilian observes it evidently in another places, where after doing justice to the merit and learning of that great man, and acknowledging that we find in his works a great number of beautiful thoughts and just

• Facit res eadem concisam tiæ, multa enim etiam morum quoque orationem. Sublistit enim gratiâ legenda : fed 'in eloquendo omnis fententia; ideóque poft eam corrupra pleraque, atque eo perni. utrique aliud eft initium. Unde ciofillim, quod abundant dulci. fulura ferè oratio, & è fingulis non bus vitiis. Velles eum suo ingenio membris sed frustis collara, fruc- dixiffe, alieno judicio. Nam ... turâ caret; cùm illa rotunda & fi non omnia fua amaffet, fi rerum undique circumcisa insultere invie pondera minutiffimis fententiis cem nequeant. Ibid.

non fregisset, consensu potius eru. & Luinina illa con flammæ fed ditorum, quam puerorum amore fcintilis inter fumum emicantibus, comprobaretur. .... Multa profamilia dixeris. Ibid.

banda in eo, multa eciam admi. • Hoc quoque accidit, quod folas randa sunt, eligere modo curæ ft: captanti fententias, mulcas neceffe quod utinam ipfe feciffec! Digaa eft d cere leves, frigidas, ineptas. enim fuit illa natura, quæ meliora Non enim poteft efle delectus, ubi vellet, quæ quod voluit effecit. Bumero laboratur. Ibid.

Quintil. I, 10. C. I. Multæ in eo claræque fenten




máxims for forming our manners, he adds, that with regard to eloquence, a vicious and depraved talte runs through almost every part of them; and that they are more dangerous, because they abound with agreeable faults, which we cannot but approve. For that reafon, he says, it were to be wished that so fine a genius, capable of every thing great in eloquence, of fo rich and fruitful an invention, had had a more correct taste, and a more exact discernment; that he had been less enamoured of his own productions, that he had known how to make a proper choice of them ; and, above all, that he had not weakened the important matters he treated, by a crowd of trifling thoughts, ' which may deceive at first from the appearance and glitter of wit, but which are found frigid and puerile, when examined with some attention.

I shall extract Tome paffages from this author, that youth may compare his file with Cicero's and Livy's, and examine whether Quintilian's judgment of it be well founded, or whether it be the effect of prejudice

to Seneca.

I. Conference between Demaratus and Xerxes. Cum i bellum Græciæ indiceret Xerxes, animum tumentem, oblitumque quam caducis confideret, nemo non im

* Plerique minimis etiam in- quering Greece, bur of intirely devezrámculis gaudent, quæ excuffæ kroying it; and that

there was norifum habent, inyentæ facie

inge. thing to fear, but that upon his arı ni blandiuntur. Quint. I. 8. c. 5. rival he should find the cities abanSenec, de benefic. 1.6.c. 31. doned and the country a perfect

At the time that Xerxes, puffed desert, by the precipitate Aight of up with pride, and blinded with a the people; and consequently that vain opinion of his strength, me- his great armies would have no eneditated a war againf Greece; all the mies to engage. On the other side, courtiers who were about him en- they gave him to understand, that deavoured to vie with each other, nature itself was scarce capacious ein pulhing him, by their extrava? nough for bim; that the seas were gadt Hatteries, down the precipice too narrow for his fleets; that no to which his ambition led him; onc

camp was large enough for his ina Saying, that the bare news of the fantry, nor any plain for his cavalWat would bll the Greeks with con- sy; and that there would hardly be fufon; and that they would Ay ac space

enough in the air for the darts the frist report of his march. Ano- which would be thrown from such ther said, that having so great an ar

an infinite number of hands.

pulit. my, be was not only fure of con


[ocr errors]


pulit. Alius aiebat, non laturos nuncium belli, & ad primam adventus famam terga versuros. Alius, nibil elle dubii quin illa mole non vinci fo!um Græcia, fed obrui polset: magis verendum ne vacuas defertasque urbes invenirent, & profugis hostibus vaftæ solitudines relinquerentur, non ** habituris ubi tantas vires exercere possent. Alius, illi vix rerum naturam suficere : angufia else claffibus maria, militi castra, explicandis equeftribus copiis campeftria: vix patere coelum fatis ad emittenda omni manu tela.

Cum in bunc modum multa undique jaEtarentur, que hominem nimia æftimatione fui furentem concitarent ; De po maratus Lacedæmonius solus dixit, ipfam illam qua fibi placeret multitudinem, indigestam & gravem, metuendam elle ducenti ; non enim vires, sed pondus habere : immodica nunquam regi pole; nec diu durare, quicqaid regi non potest.

In primo, inquit, ftatim monte Lacones obje&ti dabunt tibi fui experimentum. Tot ifta gentium millia trecenti morabuntur : hærebunt, & corporibus obftruent. Tota illos Afia non movebit loco. Tantas minas belli, & pene totius humani generis ruinam, pauciffimi fuftinebunt. Cum te mutatis legibus suis natura transmiserit, in femita hid. rebis, & æstimabis futura damna cum putaveris quanti

Among all these compliments you drag after you; they will Hand which are fo likely to turn the brain immoveable in the pass wbich will of a Prince who was already intoxi- be committed to their care, and Cated with the idea of his greatness, they will defend it to the last breath, Demaracus a Spartan was the only and will make a barrier and rampare its man who durft tell him, that the of their bodies; all the power of Aba: foundation of his confidence was will,not make them retreat one ftep; the very thing he ought most to ap- they alone will stand the dreadful prehend; that fo vast a body of for.' onset of almost the whole world uces, so enormous and monstrous, a nited again them. After you have throng, tad weight but no strengih; forced nature to change all her laws, that it is inapoisible to governur ma- in order to open a passage for you, nage what has neither bounds cor you will be stopp'd in a narrow measure, and that what cannot be paffage. You may judge of the loss governed, cannot fubalt for any you will afterwards sustain, by that

which the passage of Thermopyla A handful of people whom you will occafion, when at the same will meet on the first mountain you time you find they can stop you, come to, will convince you of the you will also find they can put courage of the Spartans; three hunto you to fighe. dred of these will stop the millions


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]



[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Thermopylarum angufta conftiterint. Scies te fugari pofJe, cum scieris polse retineri.

im Cedent quidem tibi pluribus locis, velut torrentis modo ablati, cujus cum magno terrore prima vis defluit: deinde binc atque illinc coorientur, & tuis te viribus prement.

Verum eft quod dicitur, majorem belli apparatum effe, quam qui recipi ab his regionibus poffit, quas oppugnare .conftituis. Sed hæc res contra nos eft. Ob hoc ipsum, te Græcia vincet, quia non capit. Uti toto te non potes.

Præterea quæ una rebus falus eft, occurrere ad primos rerum impetus & inclinatis opem ferre non poteris, nec fulcire ac firmare labantia. Multo ante vinceris, quam vietum else te sentias.

P.Cæterum, non eft quod exercitum tuum ob hoc fuftineri putes non pofle, quia numerus ejus duci quoque ignotus eft. Nihil tam magnum eft, quod perire non pofit, cui nafcitur in perniciem, ut alia quiefcant, ex ipsa magnitudine sua caufa.

19 Acciderunt quæ Demaratus predixerat. Divina atque humana impellentem, & mutantem quicquid obftiterat,

m Your armies which, like an you will be overcome long before impetuous flood, whose first efforts you can be near enough to be sensinothing can refift, may at first car- .ble of it, ry every thing before them ; but PTo conclude, Do not flatter jour enemies will rally immediate-s yourself, that nothing will be able ly, and attacking you on different to relift your forces, because their Gdes, will destroy you by your own numbers are not known even to Arength.

their general; there is nothing so ? What is reported is very true, great but may perish ; when, though viz, tbat the country you are go- there is no other obstacle, its own ing to attack is not sufficient to con- greatness is one cause for its ruin. tain such immense preparations of 9 Every thing happened accorwar, but this makes directly against ding to Demaratus's prediction. us. Greece will conquer you, be- Xerxes, who had made a resolution cause it cannot contain you; you to furmount all the obstacles which will be able to employ only a part Gods and men should oppose to his of yourself.

enterprizes; and who had overBesides, that which forms the thrown every thing that opposed security and refuge of an army, be- his paffage, was stopped by three comes absolutely impracticable to hundred men; and seeing very you. You will neither be able to give foon the remains of his formida· proper orders, nor to come up cime ble armies dispersed and defeated

enough to the first shocks your ar- throughout all Greece, he found the my will receive, nor to fupport difference between mulţitudes and those who give way, nor encourage an army. those who begin to retire ; so that



[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »