Feeling And Enthusiasm. Part 2
Listen! Emerson said: "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." Carlyle declared that "Every great movement in the annals of history has been the triumph of enthusiasm." It is as contagious as measles. Eloquence is half inspiration. Sweep your audience with you in a pulsation of enthusiasm. Let yourself go. "A man," said Oliver Cromwell, "never rises so high as when he knows not whither he is going."
How Are We To Acquire And Develop Enthusiasm?
It is not to be slipped on like a smoking jacket. A book cannot furnish you with it. It is a growth - an effect. But an effect of what? Let us see.
Emerson wrote: "A painter told me that nobody could draw a tree without in some sort becoming a tree; or draw a child by studying the outlines of his form merely, - but, by watching for a time his motion and plays, the painter enters his nature, and then can draw him at will in every attitude. So Roos 'entered into the inmost nature of his sheep.' I knew a draughtsman employed in a public survey, who found that he could not sketch the rocks until their geological structure was first explained to him."
When Sarah Bernhardt plays a difficult role she frequently will speak to no one from four o'clock in the afternoon until after the performance. From the hour of four she lives her character. Booth, it is reported, would not permit anyone to speak to him between the acts of his Shakesperean riles, for he was Macbeth then - not Booth. Dante, exiled from his beloved Florence, condemned to death, lived in caves, half starved; then Dante wrote out his heart in "The Divine Comedy." Bunyan entered into the spirit of his "Pilgrim's Progress" so thoroughly that he fell down on the floor of Bedford jail and wept for joy. Turner, who lived in a garret, arose before daybreak and walked over the hills nine miles to see the sun rise on the ocean, that he might catch the spirit of its wonderful beauty. Wendell Phillips' sentences were full of "silent lightning" because he bore in his heart the sorrow of five million slaves.
There is only one way to get feeling into your speaking - and whatever else you forget, forget not this: You must actually ENTER INTO the character you impersonate, the cause you advocate, the case you argue - enter into it so deeply that it clothes you, enthralls you, possesses you wholly. Then you are, in the true meaning of the word, in sympathy with your subject, for its feeling is your feeling, you "feel with" it, and therefore your enthusiasm is both genuine and contagious. The Carpenter who spoke as "never man spake" uttered words born out of a passion of love for humanity - he had entered into humanity, and thus became Man.
But we must not look upon the foregoing words as a facile prescription for decocting a feeling which may then be ladled out to a complacent audience in quantities to suit the need of the moment. Genuine feeling in a speech is bone and blood of the speech itself and not something that may be added to it or substracted at will. In the ideal address theme, speaker and audience become one, fused by the emotion and thought of the hour.
The Need Of Sympathy For Humanity
It is impossible to lay too much stress on the necessity for the speaker's having a broad and deep tenderness for human nature. One of Victor Hugo's biographers attributes his power as an orator and writer to his wide sympathies and profound religious feelings. Recently we heard the editor of Collier's Weekly speak on short-story writing, and he so often emphasized the necessity for this broad love for humanity, this truly religious feeling, that he apologized twice for delivering a sermon. Few if any of the immortal speeches were ever delivered for a selfish or a narrow cause - they were born out of a passionate desire to help humanity; instances, Paul's address to the Athenians on Mars Hill, Lincoln's Gettysburg speech, The Sermon on the Mount, Henry's address before the Virginia Convention of Delegates.
The seal and sign of greatness is a desire to serve others. Self-preservation is the first law of life, but self-abnegation is the first law of greatness - and of art. Selfishness is the fundamental cause of all sin, it is the thing that all great religions, all worthy philosophies, have struck at. Out of a heart of real sympathy and love come the speeches that move humanity.
Former United States Senator Albert J. Beveridge in an introduction to one of the volumes of "Modern Eloquence," says: "The profoundest feeling among the masses, the most influential element in their character, is the religious element. It is as instinctive and elemental as the law of self-preservation. It informs the whole intellect and personality of the people. And he who would greatly influence the people by uttering their unformed thoughts must have this great and unanalyzable bond of sympathy with them."
When the men of Ulster armed themselves to oppose the passage of the Home Rule Act, one of the present writers assigned to a hundred men "Home Rule" as the topic for an address to be prepared by each. Among this group were some brilliant speakers, several of them experienced lawyers and political campaigners. Some of their addresses showed a remarkable knowledge and grasp of the subject; others were clothed in the most attractive phrases. But a clerk, without a great deal of education and experience, arose and told how he spent his boyhood days in Ulster, how his mother while holding him on her lap had pictured to him Ulster's deeds of valor. He spoke of a picture in his uncle's home that showed the men of Ulster conquering a tyrant and marching on to victory. His voice quivered, and with a hand pointing upward he declared that if the men of Ulster went to war they would not go alone - a great God would go with them.
The speech thrilled and electrified the audience. It thrills yet as we recall it. The high-sounding phrases, the historical knowledge, the philosophical treatment, of the other speakers largely failed to arouse any deep interest, while the genuine conviction and feeling of the modest clerk, speaking on a subject that lay deep in his heart, not only electrified his audience but won their personal sympathy for the cause he advocated.