Page images
PDF
EPUB

CELEBRATED IMAGINARY ADDRESSES AND

SOLILOQUIES

he laws of language and the laws of music are so closely correlated that even

the plainest prose is governed by the same principles of melody which

govern the highest form of poetical expression. There is no break at any point of the development of speech towards its highest possibilities of beauty and power. The poets are thus the best teachers of prose, because it is in their best verse only that the laws of prose find perfect expression. All great orators have been taught by the great poets.

Homer in the classical ages and Shakespeare in modern times have taught the greatest orators who ever lived. Anyone who will read aloud their verse and the verse of other great poets as persistently as a musician practices to acquire skill on his instrument, is almost sure to acquire a controlling (ear» for melody in language. It is indispensable for success, however, that the verse should be read aloud, in order that the ear may clearly grasp its vowel harmonies. This has been recognized practically, even if it has not been defined as a principle, for the «recitation of speeches and soliloquies from Homer, Milton and Shakespeare has long been a favorite exercise in the schools. Some of the speeches which the great poets put in the mouths of their characters represent eloquence of the highest order. The orations delivered at the Council of War in hell by Milton's fallen angels have seldom been equaled, and, certainly, they have never been surpassed in either the American Congress or the British Parliament. It would be safe to say the same thing of the speeches and soliloquies in Homer, Shakespeare, and Byron. In selecting such speeches and soliloquies for this work, care has been taken to find, by examining the “Speakers » most used in America and England, those which general experience has shown to be most widely useful for oratorical purposes. Only the most celebrated have been included, and, though what may be called the acting versions,” — as they have been adapted for recitation by the best elocutionists,— have been retained, they have been compared with the original texts in standard editions and corrected.

CELEBRATED IMAGINARY ADDRESSES AND

SOLILOQUIES

HOMER

(Greece c. 850 (?) to 800 (?) B. C.)

ACHILLES TO THE Envoys OF AGAMEMNON

of this his offer,- all the treasured heaps
Which he possesses, or shall yet possess,
All that Orchomnos within her walls,
And all that opulent Egyptian Thebes
Receives,- the city with a hundred gates,
Whence twenty thousand chariots rush to war,-
And would he give me riches as the sands,
And as the dust of earth,- no gifts from him
Should soothe me, till my soul were first avenged
For all the offensive license of his tongue.
I will not wed the daughter of your Chief, -
Of Agamemnon. Could she vie in charms
With golden Venus,- had she all the skill
Of blue-eyed Pallas, - even so endowed,
She were no bride for me !
Bear ye mine answer back.
- From The Iliad," Book IX. Cowper's translation.

ACHILLES TO THE Envoys - LANG's Li'r

ERAL VERSION

I must with plainness speak my fixed resolve:
For I abhor the man - not more the gates
of hell itself!- whose words belie his heart.
So shall not mine! My judgment undisguised
Is this: that neither Agamemnon me
Nor all the Greeks shall move! For ceaseless toil
Wins here no thanks; one recompense awaits
The sedentary and the most alert!
The brave and base in equal honor stand, -
And drones and heroes fall unwept alike.
I, after all my labors, who exposed
My life continual in the field, have earned
No very sumptuous prize! As the poor bird
Gives to her unfledged brood a morsel gained
After long search, though wanting it herself,
So I have worn out many sleepless nights,
And waded deep through many a bloody day
In battle for their wives. I have destroyed
Twelve cities with my fleet; and twelve, save one
On foot contending, in the fields of Troy.
From all these cities precious spoil I took
Abundant, and to Agamemnon's hand
Gave all the treasure. He within his ships
Abode the while, and, having all received,
Little distributed, and much retained.
He gave, however, to the Kings and Chiefs
A portion, and they keep it. Me, alone,
Of all the Grecian host, hath he despoiled!
My bride, my soul's delight, is in his hands!
Tell him my reply:
And tell it him aloud, that other Greeks
May indignation feel like me, if, armed
Always in impudence, he seek to wrong
Them also. Let him not henceforth presume-
Canine and hard in aspect though he be
To look me in the face. I will not share
His counsels, neither will I aid his works.
Let it suffice him, that he wronged me once, –
Deceived me once ; – henceforth his glozing arts
Are lost on me! But, let him rot in peace,
Crazed as he is, and, by the stroke of Jove,
Infatuate ! I detest his gifts !- and him
So honor as the thing which most I scorn !
And would he give me twenty times the worth

1

AND Achilles, fleet of foot, answered and said unto him: «Heaven-sprung son of Laertes, Odys. seus of many wiles, in openness must I now declare unto you my saying, even as I am minded, and as the fulfillment thereof shall be, that ye may not sit before me and coax this way and that. For hateful to me even as the gates of hell is he that hideth one thing in his heart and uttereth another; but I will speak what me seemeth best. Not me, I ween, shall Agamemnon son of Atreus persuade, nor the other Danaans, seeing we were to have no thank for battling with the foemaa ever without respite. He that abideth at home hath equal share with him that fighteth his best, and in like honor are held both the coward and the brave; death cometh alike to the untoiling and to him that hath toiled long. Neither have I any profit for that I endured tribulation of soul, ever staking my life in fight. Even as a hen bringeth her unfledged chickens each morsel as she winneth it, and with herself it goeth hard, even so I was wont to watch out many a sleepless night and pass through many bloody days of

battle, warring with folk for their women's sake. Twelve cities of men have I laid waste from shipboard, and from land eleven, I do you to wit, throughout deep-soiled Troy-land; out of all these took I many goodly treasures and would bring and give them all to Agamemnon, son of Atreus, and he staying behind amid the fleet ships would take them and portion out some few, but keep the most. Now some he gave to be meeds of honor to the princes and the kings, and theirs are left untouched; only from me of all the Achaians took be my darling lady and keepeth her,– let him sleep beside her and take his joy! But why must the Argives make war on the Trojans? Why hath Atreides gathered his host and led them hither? Is it not for lovely-haired Helen's sake? Do then the sons of Atreus, alone of mortal men, love their wives? Surely whatsoever man is good and sound of mind loveth his own and cherisheth her, even as I too loved mine with all my heart, though but the captive of my spear. But now that he hath taken my meed of honor from mine arms and hath deceived me, let him not tempt me that know him full well; he shall not prevail. Nay, Odysseus, let him take counsel with thee and all the princes to ward from the ships the consumiug fire. Verily without mine aid he hath wrought many things, and built a wall and dug a foss about it wide and deep, and set a palisade therein; yet even so can he not stay murderous Hector's might. But so long as I was fighting amid the Achaians, Hector had no mind to array his battle far from the wall, but scarce came unto the Skaian gates and to the oak tree; there once he awaited me alone and scarce escaped my onset. But now, seeing I have no mind to fight with noble Hector, I will to-morrow do sacrifice to Zeus and all the gods, and store well my ships when I have launched them on the salt sea,- then shalt thou see, if thou wilt and hast any care therefor, my ships sailing at break of day over the Hellespont, the fishes' home, and my men right eager at the oar; and if the great Shaker of the Earth grant me a good journey, on the third day should I reach deep-soiled Phthia. There are my great possessions that I left when I came hither to my hurt; and yet more gold and ruddy bronze shall I bring from hence, and fair-girdled women and gray iron,- all at least that were mine by lot; only my meed of honor hath he that gave it me taken back in his despitefulness, even Lord Agamemnon, son of Atreus. To him declare ye everything even as I charge you, openly, that all the Achaians likewise may have indignation, if, haply, he hopeth to beguile yet some other Danaan, for that he is ever clothed in shamelessness. Verily not in my face would he dare to look, though he have the front of a dog. Neither will I devise counsel with him nor any enterprise, for utterly he hath deceived me and done wickedly; but never again shall he beguile me with fair speech, - let this suffice him. Let him begone in peace ; Zeus, the lord of counsel, hath taken away his wits, Hateful to me are his gifts, and I hold him at a straw's worth. Not even if he gave me ten times, yea twenty, all that now is his, and all that may come to him otherwhence, even all the rev

enue of Orchomenos or Egyptian Thebes, where the treasure-houses are stored fullest, — Thebes of the hundred gates, whence sally forth two hun. dred warriors through each with horses and char. iots, - nay, nor gifts in number as sand or dust; not even so shall Agamemnon persuade my soul till he have paid me back all the bitter despite. And the daughter of Agamemnon, son of Atreus, will I not wed, not were she rival of golden Aphrodite for fairness, and for handiwork matched bright-eyed Athene, - not even then will I wed her; let him choose him of the Achaians another that is his peer and is more royal than I. Por if the gods indeed preserve me, and I come unto my home, then will Peleus himself seek me a wife. Many Achaian maidens are there throughout Hellas and Phthia, daughters of princes that ward their cities; whomsoever of these I wish will I make my dear lady. Very often was my high soul moved to take me there a wedded wife, a helpmeet for me, and have joy of the possessions that the old man Peleus possesseth. For not of like worth with life hold I even all the wealth that men say was possessed of the well-peopled city of Ilios in days of peace gone by, before the sons of the Achaians came : neither all the treasure that the stone threshold of the archer Phoebus Apollo encompasseth in rocky Pytho. For kine and goodly flocks are to be had for the harrying, and tripods and chestnut horses for the purchasing; but to bring back man's life neither harrying nor earning availeth when once it hath passed the barrier of his lips. For thus my goddess mother telleth me, Thetis, the silver-footed, that twain fates are bearing me to the issue of death. If I abide here and besiege the Trojans' city, then my returning home is taken from me, but my fame shall be imperishable ; but if I go home to my dear native land, my high fame is taken from me, but my life shall endure long while, neither shall the issue of death soon reach me. Moreover I would counsel you all to set sail homeward, seeing ye shall never reach your goal of steep Ilios; of a surety far-seeing Zeus holdeth his hand over her, and her folk are of good courage. So go your way and tell my answer to the princes of the Achaians, even as is the office of elders, that they may devise in their hearts some other better coussel, such as shall save them their ships and the host of the Achaians amid the hollow ships ; since this counsel availeth them naught that they have now devised, by reason of my fierce wrath. - From the " Iliad," Book IX. 307-427. Trans

lated by Andrew Lang. MacMillan & Co.

HECTOR'S REBUKE TO POLYDAMAS

POLYDAMAS to dauntless Hector spake:
Ofttimes in council, Hector, thou art wont
To censure me, although advising well;
Yet hear my best opinion once again.
Proceed we not in our attempt against
The Grecian fleet. The omens we have seen
All urge against it. When the eagle fiew,
Clutching the spotted snake, then dropping it

Into the open space between the hosts,
Troy's host was on the left. Was this propitious ?
No. Many a Trojan shall we leave behind,
Slain by the Grecians in their fleet's defense.
An augur skilled in omens would expound
This omen thus, and faith would win from all.

To whom dark-lowering Hector thus replied:
Polydamas! I like not thy advice;
Thou couldst have framed far better ; but if this
Be thy deliberate judgment, then the gods
Make thy deliberate judgment nothing worth,
Who bidd'st me disregard the Thunderer's firm
Assurance to myself announced, and make
The wild inhabitants of air my guides,

Which I alike despise, speed they their course
With right-hand flight toward the ruddy East,
Or leftward down into the shades of eve!
Consider we the will of Jove alone,
Sovereign of Heaven and Earth. Omens abound;
But the best omen is our country's cause.
Wherefore should fiery war thy soul alarm?
For were we slaughtered, one and all, around
The fleet of Greece, thou need'st not fear to die,
Whose courage never will thy flight retard.
But if thou shrink thyself, or by smooth speech
Seduce one other from a soldier's part,
Pierced by this spear incontinent thou diest !

- From the " Iliad," Book XII., 210-250.
Sargent's revision of Cowper's translation.

CORNELIUS TACITUS

(Rome, c. 55-6. 117 A. D.)

GALGACUS TO THE CALEDONIANS (Galgacus is represented by Tacitus as address.

ing his followers, encamped on the Grampian Hills.)

AS OFTEN as I reflect on the origin of the war, and our necessities, I feel a strong conviction that this day, and your will, are about to lay the foundations of British liberty. For we have all known what slavery is, and no place of retreat lies behind us.

The sea even is insecure when the Roman fleet hovers around.

Thus arms and war, ever coveted by the brave, are now the only refuge of the cowardly. In former actions in which the Britons fought with various success against the Romans, our valor was & resource to look to; for we, the noblest of all the nations, and, on that account, placed in its inmost recesses, unused to the spectacle of servitude, had our eyes even inviolate from its hateful sight.

We, the last of the earth, and of freedom, unknown to fame, have been hitherto defended by our remoteness; now the extreme limits of Britain appear, and the unknown is ever regarded as the magnificent. No refuge is behind us; naught but the rocks and the waves,

and the deadlier Romans, - men whose pride you have in vain sought to deprecate by moderation and subservience.

The robbers of the globe, when the land fails, scour the sea. Is the enemy rich ? they are avari. cious ; is he poor? they are ambitious ; the East and the West are unable to satiate their desires. Wealth and poverty are alike coveted by their rapacity. To carry off, massacre, seize on false pretenses, they call empire ; and, when they make a desert, they call it peace.*

Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium, atque ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant. »

Nature has made children and relations dear. est to all ; they are carried off by levies to serve elsewhere. Our goods and fortunes they seize op as tribute, our corn as supplies; our very bodies and hands they wear out, amid strife and contumely, in fortifying stations in the woods and marshes.

Serfs born in servitude are once bought, and ever after fed by their masters; Britain alone daily buys its slavery, daily feeds it. As in fami. lies the last slave purchased is often a laughing. stock to the rest, so we, the last whom they have reduced to slavery, are the first to be agonized by their contumely, and reserved for destruction.

We have neither fields, nor minerals, nor har. bors, in working which we can be employed ; the valor and fierceness of the vanquished are obnoxious to the victors; our very distance and obscur. ity, as they render us the safer, make us the more suspected. Laying aside, therefore, all hope of pardon, assume the courage of men to whom salvation and glory are alike dear.

The Trinobantes, under a female leader, had courage to burn a colony and storm castles; and, had not their success rendered them negligent, they would have cast off the yoke. We, untouched and unconquered, nursed in freedom, shall we not show, on the first onset, what men Caledonia has nursed in her bosom?

Do not believe the Romans have the same prowess in war as lust in peace. They have grown great on our divisions ; they know how to turn the vices of men to the glory of their own army.

As it has been drawn together by success, so disaster will dissolve it, unless you suppose that the Gauls and the Germans, and, I am ashamed to say, many of the Britons, who now lend their blood to a foreign usurpation, and in their hearts are rather enemies than slaves, can be retained by faith and affection.

« EelmineJätka »