Page images

many expressing their praises and admiration of the ornaments of Corinth and Athens, and sneering at the earthen images of the gods placed before the temples of Rome. For my part I prefer these gods, so propitious to our interests, and who, I hope, will continue to be our patrons, as long as we suffer them to retain their stations.' p. 253.

The whole speech deserves attentive study, as containing an artful selection of topics, exhibited in a manner admirably suited to produce popular effect.

The consul, however, was defeated in his opposition. The repeal of the law was carried, and the speech of the tribune Lucius Valerius, in support of the measure, is hardly inferior to that of Cato. As there is no doubt of the genuineness of Cato's speech, there is reason likewise to believe, that the harangue ascribed to the tribune is the one actually pronounced by Valerius, it having been polished and modernized by the historian, as above mentioned. We can cite a single passage only in the introduction. As Cato had spoken so contemptuously of this movement of the women, styling it a mutiny and a secession of their body, it was important, at first, to remove any unfavorable impression made by this consular ridicule. The tribune begins with a compliment to Cato, and goes on to ask,

[ocr errors]

But what novelty is there in the conduct of the matrons, because in a question which so nearly concerus them, they have appeared in public? Have they never come out in a body before? I will refer you, Cato, to your own Antiquities." Learn there, how often they have taken the same course, and always for the public good. And first, in the reign of Romulus, when the Capitol was taken by the Sabines, and a battle raged in the Forum, was not the contest hushed by the rushing in of the women between the two armies? And further, after the expulsion of the kings, and the legions of the Volsci had encamped near the city, did not the matrons avert a storm which threatened the existence of Rome? And when the city was captured by the Gauls, by whom was the ransom paid? Did not the matrons unanimously contribute their gold for the public benefit? The cases may be dissimilar, as you say; but they show that the women have now done nothing new. In exigencies, where the interests of both men and women were at stake, nobody wondered at their conduct. Why, then, should we be surprised at what they have done in a matter which so peculiarly concerns themselves?' pp. 254-255.

The whole of this speech is direct, vehement, and argumentative.

The speeches we have now referred to, as well as all others found in the same historian, and, indeed, in all the historians of antiquity, have throughout that appearance of reality, and that practical and business-like character, which strongly recommend them as patterns for imitation to the youth of our country. They afford examples of a happy union of plainness with elegance, of the utmost clearness and perspicuity, with great closeness and refinement of reasoning, and, what is no slight recommendation, a full and entirely satisfactory exhibition of a subject, with extreme brevity. It is seldom that a passage or a clause can be omitted without obvious injury to the sense, or that anything can be added, which improves the reasoning, or increases the effect which the speaker is aiming to produce. We know not, therefore, where a better foundation can be laid for proficiency in popular eloquence, than in the study of what has descended to us from antiquity, in this department of oratory. For any department of public speaking in modern times, important hints may be derived from the same source. The harangues in other historians have great excellences, particularly those in Thucydides, Sallust, and Tacitus, some of which are perfect in their kind; yet we know of none, which, on the whole, have a stronger claim to attention, than those which are contained in Livy. So manifest are the advantages of making these speeches a study, that we have no hesitation in saying, that whoever enters into their true character, and feels the spirit which pervades every part of them, has made a most important step, in a country like this, towards practical life. He is prepared to read the debates of modern legislative assemblies with additional profit, is better able to separate what is extraneous from what is essential in a discussion, and to unite in the most perfect manner conviction with persuasion, which should be the great object in all public speaking.

Livy has likewise been greatly admired for his descriptions. Whatever he delineates, is painted to the eye; and the effect produced by the works of the greatest artists, either in painting or statuary, must fall far short of that, which follows from the contemplation of one of the pictures of this writer, with no other coloring but that of language. No author ever understood better the selection and arrangement of circumstances, or the power of particular words and phrases, when made to occupy the right place, in affecting the feelings and the imagiVOL. XXX.-No. 66.


nation. We are aware, that it has been often said, that the ancients, in their descriptions of great events, dwell too much upon the surface of things; that what they exhibit is graphic and fitted for the canvass, but fails to awaken the deeper emotions and to excite the stronger passions. We suspect there is some error in this view of the subject. They do not perhaps, so often as the moderns, exhibit an emotion of the mind. separate from the causes which produce it; but joy or sorrow is seen to belong to individuals, and those individuals to be in circumstances appropriate to their state of feeling.

The several extracts in this volume may be considered what by artists are denominated studies; and all of them deserve to be perused not once, or cursorily, but often, and with close and assiduous attention. Let them be read till the language, the thoughts, and coloring are familiar, and no exhortation will be needed to induce the scholar to look after what else remains of the works of this historian. He will read all which time has spared us; nor will he pause without reluctance, till he has become intimately acquainted with all the great masters of ancient learning, whether of history, philosophy, eloquence, or poetry.

ART. X.-A Poem delivered before the Porter Rhetorical Society, in the Theological Seminary, Andover; September 22, 1829. By RICHARD H. DANA. Boston. Perkins & Marvin. Svo. pp. 15.

BOTH the poetry and the prose of Mr Dana stand conspicuous for their beauty, amidst the various and growing, though still youthful, and rather crude literature of our country. He has gained the respect of that class of readers which he himself would most wish to attract, and he has risen above the censures of those who once altogether condemned him on account of his occasional peculiarities and waywardness of taste and style; so that he is now sure of a favorable and very general attention, whenever he sees fit to request it, which is not so often as we could desire.

If we should say that we were pleased with the poem now before us, we should express but weakly and unworthily the

feelings with which some of its passages inspired us; if we should say that we were satisfied with it, we should say too much consistently with the exceptions we have taken to what we have considered its faults. Its subject is, Thoughts on the Soul'; and these thoughts are principally limited to the consideration and illustration of the fact, that the soul transfers its features, and lends its complexion, to all external things. The subject is thus announced in the commencement of the


It is the Soul's prerogative, its fate,

To change all outward things to its own state;
If right itself, then, all without is well;
If wrong, it makes of all around a hell.
So multiplies the Soul its joy or pain,
Gives out itself, itself takes back again.

Transformed by thee, the world hath but one face.--
Look there, my Soul! there thine own features trace!
And all through time, and down eternity,

Where'er thou goest, that face shall look on thee.' p. 3. This idea, so poetical and so true, is explained and enforced with great power and beauty as the poem proceeds. There is an abruptness, however, in the manner of introducing some of the thoughts and illustrations, which is of serious injury to the connexion of the whole piece, causing partial obscurity, which it requires a second reading to remove. We seem to be presented with several detached fragments, having a general relation to each other, rather than with a succession of regular steps which lead us on from a beginning to an end. The pearls do not appear to be strung. Doubtless there is a connexion, but our complaint is, that it is not sufficiently distinct and manifest.


We could not help thinking, too, as we perused the poem, that some of its most delightful passages were hurt by feeble or colloquial turns of expression, which seemed to our taste to be quite foreign and adverse to the style and spirit and pose of the position which they occupy. After saying this, we are bound to produce examples of what we mean. Near the commencement of the poem, the speaker asserts that it is in vain to think of discovering and counting all the emotions of the soul, when we find it impossible to master the knowledge of the external world. This position he thus proceeds to illus


'Ocean and land, the living clouds that run Above, or stand before the setting sun, Taking and giving glory in his light, Live in a change too subtile for thy sight. The lot of human kind's more varied still By ceaseless acts of sense, and mind, and will. Yet could'st thou count up all material things, All outward difference each condition brings, Perhaps thou'd'st say, "Good Sir, lo, here, the whole!" -The whole ?-One thing thou hast forgot-THE SOUL!' p. 5. Without presuming to make our own taste a standard for others, it strikes us that the two last lines are a blot on the rest of the paragraph. The little dialogue which is carried on, and the Good Sir,' which commences it so politely, sound to our ears very much out of tune with the grave and somewhat majestic music of the preceding lines. Another instance of the same kind of defect, as it appears to us to be, occurs in the next paragraph but one. In illustration of the main position, that the world without is a reflection of the world within us, the following comparison is introduced.

'Yes, man reduplicates himself. You see,
In yonder lake, reflected rock and tree.
Each leaf at rest, or quivering in the air,
Now rests, now stirs as if a breeze were there
Sweeping the crystal depths. How perfect all!
And see those slender top-boughs rise and fall;
The double strips of silvery sand unite
Above, below, each grain distinct and bright.
-Thou bird, that seek'st thy food upon that bough,
Peck not alone; that bird below, as thou,

Is busy after food, and happy, too.

-They're gone! Both, pleased, away together flew.'

pp. 5, 6. In our view, the beauty of the above comparison is marred, if not destroyed, by the abrupt change which is made from the style of description to that of address. The call upon the bird not to peck alone, sounds unnatural, forced, and ill timed. It also interrupts the continuity of the comparison, and leads our attention away from the subject which it was intended to illustrate. Our thoughts are diverted from the soul, and fixed upon that bird and its image in the water; and after we have been finally informed, in the narrative manner, to which the

« PreviousContinue »