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noticed, are the very reverse of the truth; to those who are not, we shall offer a few general remarks on his real merit. · The most prominent feature in his orations, as has been justly remarked, is argument. He never declaims, till he has first reasoned; he seems to disdain to inflame our passions, till he has overpowered our understanding. Few authors can bear a comparison with him in the originality and ingenuity of his argunents, in their close connexion with the point proposed and with each other; in the succinctness, perspicuity, and energy with which they are stated; in the sagacity and generalship, if the term may be allowed, with which he directs his force to those points where his adversary is most vulnerable, and himself most powerful ; in all those qualities, in short, which constitute a powerful and accomplished logician. But though an acute and close, he is by no means a dry and cold reasoner; he bears no resemblance to those, who state their sentiments with the calmness, as well as the precision of mathematical demonstration. His argument seems to flow from his heart, as well as his intellect, and is equally impassioned with the declamation of other orators. · His declamation, on the other hand, has much of the closeness and terseness, which we find displayed in the ablest arguments. We perceive in it nothing vague or extravagant, nothing florid or redundant, nothing strained or ostentatious; it always seems to enforce and illustrate, as well as to ornament, the arguments to which it refers, and appears to be introduced not only naturally but necessarily. It is scarcely possible, however, to divide the speeches of Demosthenes, like those of most other orators, into argumentative and declamatory passages.
Logic and rhetoric are blended together, from the beginning to the end ; the speaker, while always clear and profound, is always rapid and impassioned. The vivid feeling, displayed at intervals by other orators, bursts forth in Demosthenes with every sentence. We
e are forcibly reminded of the description of lightning in
By turns one flash succeeds, as one expires,
And Heaven flames thick with momentary fires.? Were we called upon to state, what more than anything else distinguished Demosthenes from all other orators, we should answer, his constant and complete forgetfulness of himself in his subject. . His object, in his most celebrated orations, (with the exception of that on the Crown,) was to thwart and overthrow the ambitious projects of Philip of Macedon, to rouse bis countrymen to a course of conduct worthy of themselves and their illustrious ancestry. That Philip was aiming at the sovereignty of Greece, that he feared and hated the Athenians, as the irreconcilable opponents to his schemes of aggrandiseinent, that he was hostile to the city of Athens, to everything which it contained, to the very ground on which it stood, but to nothing so much as its free government, these were the ideas, which seemed to penetrate and absorb the very soul of Demosthenes, and which he put forth all his strength in impressing on the minds of his hearers. His exordium, though highly finished, is generally brief; he throws himself into the midst of his subject, and seems to have neither time nor thought for anything besides. To gain the assent, and not the applause of the audience, is his single object ; his aim seems to be to direct the councils of Athens, utterly regardless of the credit which success may reflect on himself, and he appears to think as little of the skill which he shall display as an orator, as he, who is fighting for his life, thinks of the grace which he shall exhibit in the management of his weapons.
When we consider, that it is the well known property of this enthusiastic sincerity to communicate itself from the speaker to his audience, that connected even with moderate abilities it seldom fails to compand a respectful attention, that it is of itself often sufficient to give a temporary interest to the most airy extravagance, it requires little reflection to perceive what effects it must produce, when united with the talents of Demosthenes.. By no author is he excelled in the power of engaging and riveting our attention. We feel ourselves in the grasp of a giant, and are hurried along in the course of his argument with unceasing and breathless interest. While, however, we dwell thus forcibly on the entire devotion of Demosthenes to his great purpose, we would not be understood to imply, that his orations are devoid of all remarks of general application. He looks intensely on his subject, but it is with the eye of a consummate statesman; his remarks centre in a single point, but they are drawn from a wide circumference. Almost every one of his speeches abounds in maxims of the most profound kind, and the most universal
interest, not formally ushered forth in the garb of philosophy, but, like everything which he utters, springing naturally from his subject, and bearing strongly upon it. That the mind soon loses its dignity is given up to low and grovelling pursuits; that it is the leading duty of a true patriot never to fear responsibility ; that no community can ever be great, if it suffer its conduct to be entirely determined by external circumstances ; that it is for him who has received benefits to cherish them in his memory, while the giver should be the first to forget them; these, and numerous other political and moral truths of equal moment, are all enforced with the greatest clearness and vigor by Demosthenes. We consider bim, in short, as the most striking illustration of the rule subsequently laid down by Horace, in the trite passage, ars est celare artem.' His eloquence always strikes us, as the true eloquence of nature, the language of a strong inind under high excitement.
But it is not our intention to attempt a complete, still less a technical description of his various merits, and we shall merely present our readers with a few specimens of his orations, as they appear in an English dress, intermingled with such remarks as naturally suggest themselves. from Leland's translation. It is, however, necessary, to make one or two previous observations, lest our readers should think that our assertions are but seebly warranted by our extracts. The first circumstance to be noticed, is the well known fact, that Demosthenes is one of the last authors, to whom justice can be done by quotations. His orations are the very reverse of those works, which are marked by striking inequalities and forcible contrasts, by brilliant passages which can be easily distinguished, and conveniently detached from everything around them, by occasional beauties which shine out from what is dull or faulty. On the contrary, he everywhere seems animated with a similar, not to say an equal fervor ; even in his highest flights he rises gradually, and every part of his speeches is so connected with what precedes and follows, that it cannot be extracted without material injury. The next circumstance, to which we shall advert, is the manifest disadvantage of quoting from a translation. · The difficulty of transfusing the spirit of an ancient author into our language is notorious. With Demosthenes this difficulty is
We quote greatly increased, by the nature of his style. This is concise, in many places to a fault, and finished with the most exquisite nicety. Every word is apt and significant, and occupies the very place of all others which best belongs to it, and of course nothing can well be altered, transposed, or omitted. To imagine that such an author can be rendered into our language, without the loss of many beauties of phraseology, to say the least, would be to suppose such a similarity of structure between the Greek and English tongues, as exists between no two languages whatever. · Leland's translation is, as before observed, executed on the whole with great ability, and should be in the bands of all, who are debarred from consulting the original. In the important circumstances of a thorough perception of his author's meaning, and an accurate knowledge of the events to which he refers, he has seldom been surpassed. He is also distinguished by great, and when we consider the natural attachment of translators to their authors, we may add, singular and laudable impartiality. He seems to have formed the most just and discriminating opinions of the merits of Demosthenes, and to have imbibed no inconsiderable portion of the spirit of his eloquence. In one respect, however, his translation falls greatly below the Greek, in elegance of phraseology. It contains many expressions, which are now obsolete or trivial; the words are by no means selected and varied with sufficient care, and the style, on the whole, is much more distinguished by strength than by polish. In judging, therefore, of our extracts, we hope our readers will direct their attention to the sentiments, rather than the phraseology. The first passage, which we shall select, is the comparison in the second Olynthiac between the Athenians of the time of Demosthenes, and their illustrious ancestors.
“These our ancestors, therefore, whom the orators never courted, never treated with that indulgence with which you are flattered, held the sovereignty of Greece, with general consent, five and forty years ; deposited above ten thousand talents in our public treasury; kept the king of this country in that subjection, which a barbarian owes to Greeks ; erected monuments of many and illustrious actions, which they themselves achieved, by land and sea; in a word, are the only persons who have transmitted to posterity such glory as is superior to envy. Thus great do they appear in the affairs of Greece. Let us now view then within the city, both in
their public and private conduct. And, first, the edifices which their administrations have given us, their decorations of our temples, and the offerings deposited by them, are so numerous and so magnificent, that all the efforts of posterity cannot exceed them, Then, in private life, so exemplary was their moderation, their adherence to the ancient manners so scrupulously exact, that if any of you ever discovered the house of Aristides, or Miltiades, or any of the illustrious men of those times, he must know that it was not distinguished by the least extraordinary splendor. For they did not so conduct the public business as to aggrandise themselves; their sole great object was to exalt the state. And thus by their faithful attachment to Greece, by their piety to the gods, and by that equality which they maintained among themselves, they were raised (and no wonder) to the summit of prosperity.'
This is in many respects a highly characteristic passage. It affords, in the first place, a singular instance of the indifference to mere oratorical display, which we have already mentioned as a striking quality of Demosthenes. What tempting opportunities are here disregarded. How might he have displayed those powerful talents of narration and description, which he has proved so fully in his oration on the Crown. With what force and effect might he have dwelt on those victories, which have furnished themes for the efforts of so many orators and poets, from the time when they were won to the present age. With what graphic touches might he have described those glorious monuments of Grecian art, which are even now the wonder and the study of the civilised world. Far different was his course. The whole history of Athens, from the days of Miltiades to those of Pericles, of her power, her conquests, her trophies, her wealth, her architecture, is comprised in a few brief sentences. It was his design not to raise his own fame as an orator, but to waken his countrymen from their fatal lethargy, to shame them into a more dignified and efficient course of conduct, by reminding them, in simple and affecting terms, of the height, whence they had degenerated. He chose, therefore, merely to elevate and fire their minds, by a few masterly touches, and then to deliver them over to their own reflections.
The next remarkable feature of this extract, which we shall notice, is the exemplary boldness with which the author reproves the follies of his countrymen. It is pleasing to reflect that the ascendency, which Demosthenes acquired and main