THE peroration or conclusion of a discourse is one of those distinct parts, recognised [sic] under every system of rhetoric, Greek or Roman, ancient or modern. But in observing upon its proper character and the objects, which it is intended to embrace, we cannot forbear to remark an important difference, not only between the rhetorical writers of Greece and Rome, but between the general character and political institutions of their respective nations. The Areopagus at Athens was a judicial court, the functions of which were regulated by principles of such refinement and delicacy, that they deserve the highest admiration even of our age; and would be worthy of the most exemplary christian morality, Not only a profound knowledge of the laws, but a heart open to all the tender sympathies of our nature was held an incumbent duty upon the judges. But in the argument of causes before them, no appeal to their passions was ever allowed. A member of their body was once expelled from office, for strangling a bird, that had sought refuge in his bosom. And yet every lawyer, who presumed in speaking before them to attempt an exordium or a peroration, a digression or an amplification, was immediately stopped by a ministerial officer of the court, and reminded, that his discourse must consist only of his proposition and his proof.
How different and how much more imperfect were the principles of the Roman courts of justice! Even Cicero himself, in the early and comparatively virtuous ages of their judicial institutions, represents the highest triumph of oratory, as consisting in the power of subduing the feelings of the judges. And the artifices, which are related by Quinctilian as having been practised [sic] within his own observation for the purpose of moving compassion, can be paralleled in modern times only by those impostures of beggary, which in the streets and on the bridges of populous cities in modern Europe levy contributions upon the credulity and folly of the public.
To judge of the excessive absurdities, into which these theatrical exhibitions of misery necessarily led, let us only consider what an effect some of their pathetic scenes produced, where they were acted. I shall refer you only to those, which Quinctilian mentions as of his personal knowledge. A large estate was claimed in behalf of a young girl, who pretended to be the sister of the man in actual possession. He contested her consanguinity with him; and that fact was the only' point in issue of the cause. Her advocate brought her into court; and at the stage of the cause when he expected to be most profoundly pathetic, he directed her to go over to the benches, where the adverse party were seated, to fall upon the neck of her supposed brother, and, as if overpowered by the impulse of sisterly affection, embrace him in full view of the whole auditory. But the counsel of the other party, one of whom was Quinctilian himself, anticipated what was coming; and, just before the girl came over, gave their client a hint to withdraw. This simple step soˇutterly disconcerted the girl’s lawyer, that, although a man of celebrated eloquence, he was unable to say a word more, and was obliged to carry back his client to her place, overwhelmed with mortification and confusion.
It was sometimes customary, when the scene was very tragical [sic], to have a painting of it suspended immediately over the statue of Jupiter. A very beautiful young woman was accused of beingˇan accomplice to the murder of her husband. Her lawyer had prepared a moving discourse in her defence [sic], and had provided a wax figure, representing the husband himself, with directions to have it brought forward in the height of his peroration. But the men, who had charge of it, not exactly knowing what a peroration was, kept thrusting forward their waxen image every time the lawyer looked towards them. This, as you may well imagine, rather stimulated the ridicule of the audience, than their compassion. And when at last, on having theˇfigure fully displayed before them, they found it was the resemblance of a decrepit old man, the orator’s wise device operated against his client, more than all his eloquence had accomplished in her favor. He had moved the audience to tears, but they were tears of laughter.
This introduction of theatrical action into the courts of justice appeared in all its absurdity, when as it often happened the performers were not perfect in their parts. Thus a child, who had been brought in by his preceptor to stir compassion by his cries, on being asked why he uttered such shrieks, disconcerted the whole preparation by telling the real cause, “because he pinches me.”
It was always intended, that the action of the suppliant should suit the words of the orator; but sometimes an accident would happen to disarrange their coincidence, and the speaker would be saying, “see how he stretches forth toward you his supplicating hands!” “Behold him clinging for the last time to the fond embraces of his miserable children;” when the client would be not even in court. As it was almost always the interest or the policy of the adverse party to turn these dramatic distresses into ridicule, they were often degraded into the lowest degree of buffoonery. At one time a lawyer would say, “give that boy a piece of bread, the poor child is hungry.” At another he would roll a handful of marbles upon the table, and make a scramble, instead of a lamentation. They often carried children round in arms before the judges. A lawyer, whose client was a large, heavy man, to counteract the effect of this artifice, turned to the client himself; “what can I do for you? 1 cannot take you in my arms, and carry you round in the face of this honorable court.” Another affected to be frightened at the sight of a sword, produced by his adverse party, ran out of court with every appearance of terror, and then came creeping back, to inquire whether the sword was gone. Such was the grotesque mixture of tragedy and farce, exhibited in the Roman tribunals; and in perusing these and many other occurrences of a similar character, which are related by Quinctilian, the Roman courts seem, in comparison with the admirable purity of the Athenian Areopagus, to have been a burlesque upon the administration of justice. That extraordinary purity however was even in Grecian states confined to Athens; and in Athens to that particular court. Other states and other courts allowed the same practices for working on the passions of the judges, as were customary at Rome; and Aristophanes in one of his plays ridicules them by introducing the mock trial of a dog, for stealing a cheese. He brings in a litter of puppies, whose yelping is urged by the counsel, as the wailing of helpless orphans over the fate, which is to befal [sic] their parent.
This important difference in the principles, upon which judicial processes were conducted, affects the theory of rhetoric most materially in that part, which we now have under consideration, the conclusion of the discourse. A conclusion may be proper, even when every address tot he feelings is exploded. But in that case it consists only of a summary, to remind the hearer of the principle points in the discourse. Some of the Greek rhetoricians accordingly termed it the recapitulation. The observations of Aristotle on this subject are marked with all the acuteness and correctness of his mind. “Crimination,” says he, “and compassion, and anger, and the like perturbations of the soul, are topics not of the subject, but to the judge. On these, if the principles of all judicial tribunals were such, as are established in some of the best constituted republics, there would be nothing to say. In some cases it is so expressly prescribed by law, and in others, as for instance the Areopagus, it is forbidden by the rules of the court to digress from the subject. For they justly consider, that to pervert a judge by stimulating his anger, his compassion, or his mercy, is like warping the very rule, by which you would measure. It is manifest, that the sole object of a suitor at law is to prove, that a thing is or is not; has or has not happened. But whether great or small, just or unjust, when the legislator has not discriminated, it is the duty of the judge himself to ascertain, and not to learn from the litigants.”
In treating however of the epilogue or conclusion, in a subsequent part of his work, Aristotle himself states its object to be fourfold. First to conciliate the audience in favor of the speaker, and to excite them against his adversary; secondly to amplify and diminish; thirdly to rouse the passions; and fourthly to recapitulate.
The first of these purposes you will remember was heretofore stated to be the principal aim of the exordium; and the means for accomplishing this end were opened to you somewhat largely, when that part of discourse was under our examination. We return here to the same theme, and may recommend the employment of the same means. Here however they may be employed with stronger effect. Here it is that you are to reap the harvest of seed, sown in the introduction. The weeds of prejudice against you have been rooted out from the soil. The streams of argument have watered; the sunshine of sentiment and expression has ripened the grain; and the hand of industry is now called again to gather the fruits.
The object of amplification, as its name imports, is to magnify, as that of diminution is to lessen the appearance of things. It is the moral and intellectual lens, which, without altering the nature of things themselves, swells and contracts their dimensions by the medium, through which it presents them to the eye.
Amplification is one of those ornaments, which rhetoric borrows from poetry. It consists sometimes of a single word; in the word chosen to designate the thing; it then delights in metaphorical expression, and is often identified with the hyperbole.
Thus, when Shakspeare [sic] intends to give an idea of extraordinary chastity in one of his female characters, Valeria, he makes Coriolanus call her the “moon of Rome;” and thus Pope, endeavouring [sic] to prove that heroes are always disordered in their senses, designates Alexander by the denomination of “Macedonia’s madman.”
To this enlargement of the object, effected by the choice of its name, a further addition is made when the lighter shade is contrasted by immediate connexion [sic] with the darker; as in the following passage of Cicero’s charge against Verres. “We have brought before you for judgment, not a thief, but a robber; not an adulterer, but a ravisher; not an infidel, but a blasphemer of all religion; not an assassin, but an [sic] universal butcher of your allies and your citizens.”
A similar example may be found in the first letter of Junius. “It is not the disorder, but the physician; it is not a casual concurrence of calamitous circumstances, it is the pernicious hand of government, which alone can make a whole people desperate.” But the ordinary meansˇof amplification are reduced by Quinctilian to four kinds, which are climax, comparison, inference, and accumulation.
Climax is the universal key to all oratorical composition. It applies to the discourse as a whole; it applies to every sentence as a part. The ideas of the audience should be kept in a continually ascending state; though it is not always necessary that the ascent should be made by regular and artificial steps. Climax is never more impressive, than when carried professedly beyond the powers of expression; as in that far-famed passage in which Cicero aggravates the horror of putting to death a Roman citizen by crucifixion [sic]. Such too is the following passage in Burke’s speech upon AMerican taxation. “If this be the case, ask yourselves this question; will they be content in such a state of slavery? If not, look to the consequences. Reflect how you are to govern a people, who think they ought to be free, and think they are not. Your scheme yields no revenue; it yields nothing but discontent, disorder, disobedience; and such is the state of America, that, after wading up to your eyes in blood, you could only end just where you begun; that is, to tax where no revenue is to be found, to—my voice fails me; my inclination indeed carries me no further; all is confusion beyond it.”
The powers of language in all tongues, with which we are acquainted, recognize only three degrees of comparison; a positive, a comparative, and a superlative. But climax is ever seeking for a fourth; and one of the images, in which it most indulges, is that of finding such fourth degree of comparison. Of this grandeur of imagination, which stretches beyond the bounds of ordinary possibility, the most frequent examples are to be found in the daring and sublime genius of Milton. Thus in the character of Moloch;
Moloch, scepter’d king,
Stood up, the strongest and the fiercest spirit,
That fought in heaven, now fiercer by despair;
His trust was with th’Eternal to be deem’d"
Equal in strength; and, rather than be less,
Car’d not to be at all; with that care lost
Went all his fear; of God, or hell, or worse
He reck’d not.
The strongest and the fiercest spirit that fought in heaven; now fiercer by despair; a spirit who recks [sic] not God nor hell! Can any thing be uttered stronger than this? No, language cannot express it. But imagination can conceive in the indistinctness of generalities something worse; and the poet has supposed it, to complete the character of Moloch.
So too after that tremendous personification of death, which the critics have censured as episodical [sic], but which in point of sublimity nothing short of inspiration ever surpassed; when satan first meets him at the gates of hell, he sees him with surprize [sic], but not with fear.
Th’ undaunted fiend what this may be admir’d;
Admir’d, not fear ’d; God and his Son except,
Created thing nought valued he nor shunn’d.
What an idea does it convey of the Godhead, to find it excepted as an object of fear to a spirit, unappalled [sic] at such a sight as Milton’s death; and what an idea of Moloch, that even this omnipotence was no object of fear to him! Amplification by comparison proceeds upon a different principle. It resembles reasoning from the less to the greater. It begins by raising to importance an object of inferior dignity, as a point of comparison to display the superiority of that, which is intended to be amplified. So in one of Pope’s imitations of Horace, to magnify his own merit as a satirist, he says
Could pensioned Boileau lash in honest strain
Flatterers and bigots even in Louis’ reign?
Could laureate Dryden pimp and friar engage,
Yet neither Charles nor James be in a rage?
And I not strip the gilding off a knave,
Unplac’d, unpension’d, no man’s heir or slave?
I will, or perishin the generous casue;
Hear this and tremble! you, who ’scape the laws.
Yes, while I live, no rich or noble knave
Shall walk the world in credit to his grave.
Amplification by inference is the enlargement of some object entirely different from that, intended to be magnified; but which produces its effect by a process in the mind of the hearer or reader. As examples of this species of amplification, Quinctilian quotes with high applause those passages of Virgil, where, to show the immense bulk of the cyclop [sic] Polypheme, he is said to have used the trunk of a pine tree for a staff; and where, to manifest the prodigious strength of Demoleos, he is said to have pursued the flying Trojans under a coat of mail, which two men could scarcely have lifted upon their shoulders. But into what pigmies the heroes of Virgil, and even his giant Polypheme shrink, when compared with Milton’s satan.
His ponderous shield,
Ethereal temper, massy, large, and round,
Behind him cast; the broad circumference
Hung on his shoulders like the moon, whose orb
Through optic glass the Tuscan artist views,
At evening from the top of Fesolé,
Or in Valdarno, to descry new lands,
Rivers, or mountains, on her spotty globe.
His spear, to equal which the tallest pine,
Hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast
Of some great admiral, were but a wand
He walk’d with.
Observe now that the object, first so circumstantially magnified, is the moon. The object, intended to be amplified, by the poet is the person of satan. When we are told, that his shield hung upon his shoulders like the moon, the image presented to our fancy is already great. The moon, as apparent to the naked eye, is of itself a magnificent object. But it is not large enough for Milton. It is the moon, as magnified by observation through a telescope; it is the moon, on whose globe lands, rivers, mountains, are discernible, that forms the orb, to which the shield of satan bears a resemblance. The inference must be made by the reader. What an idea is conveyed to us of a personage in human shape, who slings behind him a shield of such dimensions, as a soldier would his knapsack! The description of the spear is in just proportion with that of the shield. The object magnified is a pine tree. It is the tallest pine, hewn on Norwegian hills, to be the mast of some great admiral; and this object, thus extended to the utmost bounds of nature, is instantly contracted to nothing; a mere wand, in comparison with satan’s spear.
The last of the forms of amplification is that of accumulating a number of incidents to produce the same effect. They exalt the object not by a scale of steady, graduated ascent, but by a collection of particles singly trifling, and gathered into a mighty mass. But I shall give you an example of this in diminution, for it has already been remarked, that the steps are the same precisely for going down, as for going up; and the same glass is used for reducing, as for enlarging the dimension of the object.
The most striking instance of this diminution in the thing, by accumulation of the images attending it, that I ever met with is in Shakspeare's [sic] description of queen Mab.
In shape no bigger that an agate stone
On the forefinger of an alderman;
Drawn with a team of little atomies
Athwart men’s noses, as they lie asleep;
Her waggon-spokes made of long spinners’ legs;
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers;
The traces, of the smallest spider’s web;
The collars, of the moon-shine’s watery beams;
Her whip of cricket’s bones; the lash of film;
Her waggoner, a small grey-coated gnat,
Not half so big as a round little worm,
Prick’d from the lazy finger of a maid.
Her chariot is an empty hazelnut,
Made by the joiner squirrel, or old grub,
Time out of mind the fairies coachmakers.
When, in the study of natural and experimental philosophy, we are entertained and instructed with her demonstrations of the infinite divisibility of matter, the minuteness of its particles evades our powers of conception. Yet if it were possible to form a distinct idea of that very boundary, which parts infinitely small from nothing, I ask you whether the idea of littleness would be half so clear, so deep, so full, upon the imagination, as it is stamped by this accumulation of ideas representing objects, each of which, individually though small, is far from being among the minims of nature?
And thus much for amplification, upon which it were easy to amplify much further. Its principal employment is in the conclusion of a discourse; but it is not confined exclusively to that part.
The same remark will apply to the excitement of the passions; upon which the less in necessary to be said here, as they have heretofore formed the subject of an entire lecture. In some modern systems of rhetoric, the very divisions of discourse are founded upon a supposed arrangement of matter, adapted successively to the understanding and to the feeling of the hearer. By this disposition the argumentative and the pathetic parts of on [sic] oration are separated from each other, as if they formed distinct divisions of the subject. I may perhaps have repeated it too often, but you cannot have it too deeply impressed upon your minds, that classifications are merely instruments for methodising [sic] science; but are no part of the science itself. What necessity there ever was of departing from the distinct and simple divisions of Aristotle, which composed a discourse of the introduction, proposition, proof, and conclusion, I am unable to see. The line of separation between these parts is discernible to the dullest eye. They cannot be blended together without producing confusion. But sit down to write an oration with the determination to put your argument into one apartment, and your pathetic into another; and depend upon it, in the execution you will come halting off with both. Take your divisions from your subject; and you will have a torch to illumine your way. Now, as Aristotle most acutely remarks, argument is of the subject; but pathos is to the judge. They are made to be blended, and not to be separated; let feeling sharpen argument, and argument temper feeling. Their strength is in union, not in division. They are made for marriage, not for divorce.
It is not every subject, that requires or admits in its treatment the use of the the pathetic. But, when proper at all, nothing can be more obvious, than that the conclusion of the discourse is the place, where it should be applied with the most pointed energy. In judicial trials the passions, which we are directed principally here to stimulate, are indignation and compassion; the former against our adversary, the latter in favor of our party. There is in Cicero’s books upon invention a long catalogue of the various sources, from which topics may be derived to touch these two springs of action in the heart of man. They may be studied to good effect; but my limits here, will allow only a general reference to them.
But whether pathos be or be not admissible into the conclusion of a discourse, recapitulation can never be there out of its place. The use of this is, at the moment of parting from your hearer, to furnish him with an index or table of contents to your whole argument; to revive the colors, which you are most anxious to imprint upon his vision, but which in the process of a long speech may have faded upon his sight; and to give him a map of the regions, over which you have traveled together. Recapitulation should therefore always be short; and may be varied in its forms, by all the changes of conjecture and hypothesis. Examples of recapitulation may be found in almost all the best orations of ancient and modem times.
And here, gentlemen, we shall close our disquisitions upon the second great division of the rhetorical science; that which teaches the disposition, in which the various parts of an oration may be most conveniently arranged. To each of those regular parts, as they are enumerated by Cicero, the introduction, narration, proposition, confirmation, confutation, and conclusion, we have allotted at least one lecture; we have given one supernumerary hour to the peculiar importance of the confirmation, and one digressive excursion to the accidents of digression and transition. At this stage of our inquiries, a portion of our fellow laborers is about to leave us. While I am treating of the conclusion of a discourse, one half of the audience, to whose instruction my services are devoted, is brought to a conclusion of their academical [sic] career. Accept my thanks, gentlemen, for the attention, with which you have uniformly favored me, and for the punctuality, with which you have performed the duties, of which the superintendence has been allotted to me. As you pass from this to a theatre of higher elevation for the pursuits of science, I cannot but feel a sentiment of regret at your departure, though mingled with that of cordial felicitation upon your advancement. Henceforth you are to unite the study of living man with that of ages expired; the observation of the present with the meditation upon the past. And so rapid is the succession of years, that you will soon find the balance of your feelings and of your duties pointing with an irresistible magnet to futurity, and the growing burthen [sic] of your hopes and wishes concentrated in the welfare of your successors upon this earthly stage; of yourselves upon that, which must succeed. Go forth then with the blessing of this your affectionate intellectual parent. Go forth, according to the common condition of your nature, to act and to suffer; and may he, in whose hands are the hearts, as well as the destinies of men, be your staff for the one, and your guide for the other. May he inspire you at every needed hour with that fortitude, which smiles at calamity; may he at every fortunate occasion fire you with that active energy, which makes opportunity success, and that purity of principle, which makes success a public or private blessing.
As for those students, who still remain to pursue with me this extensive circumnavigation, upon which we have embarked, how can I conclude in terms more proper, than in those lines of antiquated expression, but of cheering imagery, from the faery [sic] queene [sic]?
Now strike your sailes, yee jolly mariners;
For wee be come into a quiet rode,
Where we must land some of our passengers,
And light this weary vessell of her lode.
Here she a while may make her safe abode,
Till she repaired have her tackles spent,
And want supplide; and then again abroad
On the long voiage wereto she is bent;
Well may she speede, and fairely finish her intent.
⇒THE above lecture was first delivered July 31, 1807. The concluding address has reference to the senior class, whose attendance on collegiate exercises terminated at that time. On the repetition of the same lecture, July 28, 1809, when another class had arrived to a similar standing, the professor’s connexion [sic] also with the university was soon to be dissolved, he being then on the point of departure for Russia. In accommodation to this interesting coincidence, his concluding address was varied. From indications in the manuscript copy it may be inferred, that it was the author’s intention to have omitted the original conclusion of the lecture in this publication; but his friends, to whom the care of the work was committed, in his absence, have ventured to deviate from those indications, and have chosen to publish the lecture in its original form. The concluding address, as last delivered, will be found at the end of this volume.