Influencing By Narration. Part 3
Marius, the man who rose to be seven times consul, was in a dungeon, and a slave was sent in with commission to put him to death. These were the persons, - the two extremities of exalted and forlorn humanity, its vanward and its rearward man, a Roman consul and an abject slave. But their natural relations to each other were, by the caprice of fortune, monstrously inverted: the consul was in chains; the slave was for a moment the arbiter of his fate. By what spells, what magic, did Marius reinstate himself in his natural prerogatives? By what marvels drawn from heaven or from earth, did he, in the twinkling of an eye, again invest himself with the purple, and place between himself and his assassin a host of shadowy lictors? By the mere blank supremacy of great minds over weak ones. He fascinated the slave, as a rattlesnake does a bird. Standing "like Teneriffe," he smote him with his eye, and said, "Tune, homo, audes occidere C. Marium?" - "Dost thou, fellow, presume to kill Caius Marius?" Whereat, the reptile, quaking under the voice, nor daring to affront the consular eye, sank gently to the ground - turned round upon his hands and feet - and, crawling out of the prison like any other vermin, left Marius standing in solitude as steadfast and immovable as the capitol.
- Thomas De Quincy.
Here is a similar example, prefaced by a general historical statement and concluding with autobiographical details:
A Reminiscence Of Lexington
One raw morning in spring - it will be eighty years the 19th day of this month - Hancock and Adams, the Moses and Aaron of that Great Deliverance, were both at Lexington; they also had "obstructed an officer" with brave words. British soldiers, a thousand strong, came to seize them and carry them over sea for trial, and so nip the bud of Freedom auspiciously opening in that early spring. The town militia came together before daylight, "for training." A great, tall man, with a large head and a high, wide brow, their captain, - one who had "seen service," - marshalled them into line, numbering but seventy, and bade " every man load his piece with powder and ball. I will order the first man shot that runs away," said he, when some faltered. "Don't fire unless fired upon, but if they want to have a war, let it begin here."
Gentlemen, you know what followed; those farmers and mechanics "fired the shot heard round the world." A little monument covers the bones of such as before had pledged their fortune and their sacred honor to the Freedom of America, and that day gave it also their lives. I was born in that little town, and bred up amid the memories of that day. When a boy, my mother lifted me up, one Sunday, in her religious, patriotic arms, and held me while I read the first monumental line I ever saw - "Sacred to Liberty and the Rights of Mankind."
Since then I have studied the memorial marbles of Greece and Rome, in many an ancient town; nay, on Egyptian obelisks have read what was written before the Eternal raised up Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt; but no chiseled stone has ever stirred me to such emotion as these rustic names of men who fell "In the Sacred Cause of God and their Country."
Gentlemen, the Spirit of Liberty, the Love of Justice, were early fanned into a flame in my boyish heart. That monument covers the bones of my own kinsfolk; it was their blood which reddened the long, green grass at Lexington. It was my own name which stands chiseled on that stone; the tall captain who marshalled his fellow farmers and mechanics into stern array, and spoke such brave and dangerous words as opened the war of American Independence, - the last to leave the field, - was my father's father. I learned to read out of his Bible, and with a musket he that day captured from the foe, I learned another religious lesson, that "Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God." I keep them both " Sacred to Liberty and the Rights of Mankind,'* to use them both "In the Sacred Cause of God and my Country." - Theodore Parker.
Narration Of Events In General
In this wider, emancipated narration we find much mingling of other forms of discourse, greatly to the advantage of the speech, for this truth cannot be too strongly emphasized: The efficient speaker cuts loose from form for the sake of a big, free effect. The present analyses are for no other purpose than to acquaint you with form - do not allow any such models to hang as a weight about your neck.
The following pure narration of events, from George William Curtis's "Paul Revere's Ride," varies the biographical recital in other parts of his famous oration:
That evening, at ten o'clock, eight hundred British troops, under Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, took boat at the foot of the Common and crossed to the Cambridge shore. Gage thought his secret had been kept, but Lord Percy, who had heard the people say on the Common that the troops would miss their aim, undeceived him. Gage instantly ordered that no one should leave the town. But as the troops crossed the river, Ebenezer Dorr, with a message to Hancock and Adams, was riding over the Neck to Roxbury, and Paul Revere was rowing over the river to Charlestown, having agreed with his friend, Robert Newman, to show lanterns from the belfry of the Old North Church - "One if by land, and two if by sea" - as a signal of the march of the British.
The following, from the same oration, beautifully mingles description with narration:
It was a brilliant night. The winter had been unusually mild, and the spring very forward. The hills were already green. The early grain waved in the fields, and the air was sweet with the blossoming orchards. Already the robins whistled, the bluebirds sang, and the benediction of peace rested upon the landscape. Under the cloudless moon the soldiers silently marched, and Paul Revere swiftly rode, galloping through Medford and West Cambridge, rousing every house as he went spurring for Lexington and Hancock and Adams, and evading the. British patrols who had been sent out to stop the news.
In the succeeding extract from another of Mr. Curtis's addresses, we have a free use of allegory as illustration:
The Leadership Of Educated Men
There is a modern English picture which the genius of Hawthorne might have inspired. The painter calls it, "How they met themselves." A man and a woman, haggard and weary, wandering lost in a somber wood, suddenly meet the shadowy figures of a youth and a maid. Some mysterious fascination fixes the gaze and stills the hearts of the wanderers, and their amazement deepens into awe as they gradually recognize themselves as once they were; the soft bloom of youth upon their rounded cheeks, the dewy light of hope in their trusting eyes, exulting confidence in their springing step, themselves blithe and radiant with the glory of the dawn. Today, and here, we meet ourselves. Not to these familiar scenes alone - yonder college-green with its reverend traditions; the halcyon cove of the Seekonk, upon which the memory of Roger Williams broods like a bird of calm; the historic bay, beating forever with the muffled oars of Barton and of Abraham Whipple; here, the humming city of the living; there, the peaceful city of the dead; - not to these only or chiefly do we return, but to ourselves as we once were. It is not the smiling freshmen of the year, it is your own beardless and un-wrinkled faces, that are looking from the windows of University
Hall and of Hope College. Under the trees upon the hill it is yourselves whom you see walking, full of hopes and dreams, glowing with conscious power, and "nourishing a youth sublime;" and in this familiar temple, which surely has never echoed with eloquence so fervid and inspiring as that of your commencement orations, it is not yonder youths in the galleries who, as they fondly believe, are whispering to yonder maids; it is your younger selves who, in the days that are no more, are murmuring to the fairest mothers and grandmothers of those maids.
Happy the worn and weary man and woman in the picture could they have felt their older eyes still glistening with that earlier light, and their hearts yet beating with undiminished sympathy and aspiration. Happy we, brethren, whatever may have been achieved, whatever left undone, if, returning to the home of our earlier years, we bring with us the illimitable hope, the unchilled resolution, the inextinguishable faith of youth.
- George William Curtis.
Questions And Exercises
1. Clip from any source ten anecdotes and state what truths they may be used to illustrate.
2. Deliver five of these in your own language, without making any application.
3. From the ten, deliver one so as to make the application before telling the anecdote.
4. Deliver another so as to split the application.
5. Deliver another so as to make the application after the narration.
6. Deliver another in such a way as to make a specific application needless.
7. Give three ways of introducing an anecdote, by saying where you heard it, etc.
8. Deliver an illustration that is not strictly an anecdote, in the style of Curtis's speech on page 259.
9. Deliver an address on any public character, using the forms illustrated in this chapter.
10. Deliver an address on some historical event in the same manner.
11. Explain how the sympathies and viewpoint of the speaker will color an anecdote, a biography, or a historical account.
12. Illustrate how the same anecdote, or a section of a historical address, may be given two different effects by personal prejudice.
13. What would be the effect of shifting the viewpoint in the midst of a narration?
14. What is the danger of using too much humor in an address? Too much pathos?