Influencing By Narration. Part 2
In two anecdotes, told also in "The New South," Mr. Grady illustrated another way of enforcing the applica-
1 How to Attract and Hold an Audience, J. Berg Esenwein tion: in both instances he split the idea he wished to drive home, bringing in part before and part after the recital of the story. The fact that the speaker misquoted the words of Genesis in which the Ark is described did not seem to detract from the burlesque humor of the story.
I bespeak the utmost stretch of your courtesy tonight. I am not troubled about those from whom I come. You remember the man whose wife sent him to a neighbor with a pitcher of milk, who, tripping on the top step, fell, with such casual interruptions as the landings afforded, into the basement, and, while picking himself up, had the pleasure of hearing his wife call out:
"John, did you break the pitcher?
"No, I didn't," said John, "but I be dinged if I don't."
So, while those who call to me from behind may inspire me with energy, if not with courage, I ask an indulgent hearing from you. I beg that you will bring your full faith in American fairness and frankness to judgment upon what I shall say. There was an old preacher once who told some boys of the Bible lesson he was going to read in the morning. The boys, finding the place, glued together the connecting pages. The next morning he read on the bottom of one page: "When Noah was one hundred and twenty years old he took unto himself a wife, who was" - then turning the page - "one hundred and forty cubits long, forty cubits wide, built of gopher wood, and covered with pitch inside and out." He was naturally puzzled at this. He read it again, verified it, and then said, " My friends, this is the first time I ever met this in the Bible, but I accept it as an evidence of the assertion that we are fearfully and wonderfully made." If I could get you to hold such faith to-night, I could proceed cheerfully to the task I otherwise approach with a sense of consecration.
Now and then a speaker will plunge without introduction into an anecdote, leaving the application to follow. The following illustrates this method:
A large, slew-footed darky was leaning against the corner of the railroad station in a Texas town when the noon whistle in the canning factory blew and the hands hurried out, bearing their grub buckets. The darky listened, with his head on one side, until the rocketing echo had quite died away. Then he heaved a deep sigh and remarked to himself:
"Dar she go. Dinner time for some folks - but jes' 12 o'clock fur me!"
That is the situation in thousands of American factories, large and small, today. And why? etc., etc.
Doubtless the most frequent platform use of the anecdote is in the pulpit. The sermon "illustration," however, is not always strictly narrative in form, but tends to extended comparison, as the following from Dr. Alexander Maclaren:
Men will stand as Indian fakirs do, with their arms above their heads until they stiffen there. They will perch themselves upon pillars like Simeon Stylites, for years, till the birds build their nests in their hair. They will measure all the distance from Cape Comorin to Juggernaut's temple with their bodies along the dusty road. They will wear hair shirts and scourge themselves. They will fast and deny themselves. They will build cathedrals and endow churches. They will do as many of you do, labor by fits and starts all thru your lives at the endless task of making yourselves ready for heaven, and winning it by obedience and by righteousness. They will do all these things and do them gladly, rather than listen to the humbling message that says, "You do not need to do anything - wash." Is it your washing, or the water, that will clean you? Wash and be clean! Naaman's cleaning was only a test of his obedience, and a token that it was God who cleansed him. There was no power in Jordan's waters to takeaway the taint of leprosy. Our cleansing is in that blood of Jesus Christ that has the power to take away all sin, and to make the foulest amongst us pure and clean.
One final word must be said about the introduction to the anecdote. A clumsy, inappropriate introduction is fatal, whereas a single apt or witty sentence will kindle interest and prepare a favorable hearing. The following extreme illustration, by the English humorist. Captain Harry Graham, well satirizes the stumbling manner:
The best story that I ever heard was one that I was told once in the fall of 1905 (or it may have been 1906), when I was visiting Boston - at least, I think it was Boston; it may have been Washington (my memory is so bad).
I happened to run across a most amusing man whose name I forget - Williams or Wilson or Wilkins; some name like that - and he told me this story while we were waiting for a trolley car.
I can still remember how heartily I laughed at the time; and again, that evening, after I had gone to bed, how I laughed myself to sleep recalling the humor of this incredibly humorous story. It was really quite extraordinarily funny. In fact, I can truthfully affirm that it is quite the most amusing story I have ever had the privilege of hearing. Unfortunately, I've forgotten it.
Public speaking has much to do with personalities; naturally, therefore, the narration of a series of biographical details, including anecdotes among the recital of interesting facts, plays a large part in the eulogy, the memorial address, the political speech, the sermon, the lecture, and other platform deliverances. Whole addresses may be made up of such biographical details, such as a sermon on "Moses," or a lecture on "Lee."
The following example is in itself an expanded anecdote, forming a link in a chain:
Marius In Prison
The peculiar sublimity of the Roman mind does not express itself, nor is it at all to be sought, in their poetry. Poetry, according to the Roman ideal of it, was not an adequate organ for the grander movements of the national mind. Roman sublimity must be looked for in Roman acts, and in Roman sayings. Where, again, will you find a more adequate expression of the Roman majesty, than in the saying of Trajan - Imperatorem oportere stantem mori - that Caesar ought to die standing; a speech of imperatorial grandeur! Implying that he, who was "the foremost man of all this world," - and, in regard to all other nations, the representative of his own, - should express its characteristic virtue in his farewell act - should die in procinctu - and should meet the last enemy as the first, with a Roman countenance and in a soldier's attitude. If this had an imperatorial - what follows had a consular majesty, and is almost the grandest story upon record.