Obrazy na stronie

and philanthropy, and all virtue? “I believed, and therefore did I speak, we also believe, and therefore also we speak,” is in all the process of advance which the world has made. We shall continue to talk and men will continue to ask it. Carlyle is reported to have spoken four hours in praise of silence. Who that heard would have known that silence is so admirable had it not been thus praised in speech, followed by the opportunity to make proof of all which had been said? It is much like the sweetness of solitude. When you find it, you need a friend to whom you may whisper “ Solitude is sweet."

Of course all which is said in commending words is with the understanding that the words shall be good and shall be well-spoken. For this some things are requisite which we ought now to consider and express in words. It is obvious that the prime requisition must be knowledge. The man must have something worth saying. It may have come by study, by thought, by reading or hearing, by imagination, by appropriation, but it must be his. It has been remarked that the reason a dog does not talk is, that he has nothing to say. Probably that is not strictly correct, but it gives a hint in the right direction. It must be a slander, that one said there were not more than ten men in Boston who could have written

kespeare's plays; but the story is more credible that Wordsworth expressed slight regard for Shakespeare's sonnets, saying that he could have written them himself if he had a mind to, and that Lamb replied there was nothing wanting but the mind. Someone described Seneca's eloquence as sand without lime. A man can talk without a tongue, but he must have ideas if he would speak to advantage. The demand is not unreasonable, seeing that knowledge is within reach, and should be acquired for its own sake. First, to know something; then to be somebody.

Words are the man.” The man enters into his words. The moral and mental character are disclosed, and even the habits and methods of the man. George Eliot said that talkers who could not be stopped were like a clock which strikes twelve and keeps on to thirteen and fourteen, not because this is the hour, but because the clock has something wrong inside. We all know how much the value of words depends on the person who speaks them. This is true of promises and prophecies, and also in all matters of judgment. The character gives convincing power to the sentences. It has been truly said that we are allowed not only to judge men by their words, but words by their men.

Indeed there is speech without words, conveying thought and feeling which are well understood. When Ole Bull was assailed with hostile criticism he was offered the columns of the New York Herald for his reply. He shrewdly answered in his broken English, “I tink, Mr. Bennett, it is best tey writes against me and I plays against tem.” “You're right, Ole Bull, quite right," was the editor's response. The great violinist learned to play from the mountains of Norway which gave him of their life and strength, and this he carried with him where he went. Eloquence is often indebted to the evident sincerity of the speaker; to his earnestness, and the painstaking which justifies it. Even the look may add to its life. They say that Massillon had an eloquent eye, which may stand with the saying of Demosthenes, that the power of oratory is as much in the ear as in the tongue. The man inoves in his words. His passion is felt in the tones of his voice. “There is something very seductive in the order of St. Dominic, and that is Father Lacordaire." John Randolph said that the most eloquent speaker he ever heard was a slave mother pleading for her child. Rufus Choate thought that the most eloquent talk in the English language was the address of Mr. Standfast in the river. The place helped the words. The Pilgrim was at the end of his journey, and before him opened celestial delights. As he looked he spoke, and as he spoke his countenance changed, and he ceased to be seen of men.

The good speaker will be discreet and economical in using his words. He will save his best words for the best occasions. If he employs

[ocr errors]

them when cheaper terms would do as well, he is at a loss when he really needs them and has no substitute. It is pitiful to see the extravagance with which thoughtless persons throw away their choicest words and thus impoverish themselves. The word Friend, for example, is a word which should not be spoken carelessly, or it will not serve us when we want it. Even a higher word is Love, which should certainly be spoken with economy. There is a familiar use of it which lessens its value. There are few things which are not loved in this fashion, when it would be enough to like them, to enjoy them, to think well of them. The range of Love should be limited. It marks the highest duty. It is the fulfilling of the divine Law. It is the answer of the heart to its Maker and Redeemer. What shall we give Him if we have lavished our love on things? Among the most sacred sentences ever fashioned is God is Love. Yet how lightly it is spoken and how slight is the impression when we hear it! This is in good degree because Love has lost its meaning. It has been despoiled till it no longer serves us and we have nothing in its place. Love is often a thin sentimental pleasure; a kind of meaningless Airtation. With this conception what force is there in these words now before us! The Holiness, the Majesty, the Mercy, and Justice of God, His sustaining Providence and Eternal care, all belong in the words, but Love, in its fallen

[ocr errors]

estate, no longer suggests them, and wins us to reverence and obedience to the character and conduct inspired by sacred affection. We may well learn to guard more carefully, and to use with more discretion that “ Eternal God word, Love."

Keeping in the shadow of these general principles, we may notice several minor things which belong in good speaking. Many of these are comprehended in the one word Tact: which may here be defined as the science of saying the right thing in the right place. It is a native gift, but it may in a measure be acquired by pains and care, and a judicious amount of silence. Many a man has passed for wise because he held his tongue, and by reversing the rule has acquired a contrary estimation. “ No one was ever so wise as Thurlow looked.” Tact has been the making and the saving of many a reputation. It is worth learning. In this will be included a proper regard for the time and the place, and the particular conditions. There is in it a keenness of apprehension: a quick sense of the fitness of things. The man of Tact is not easily surprised. In our common phrase, he has his wits about him. He is quick with his answer, which must be given at once, if it is to be given at all. Leonard Woods was invited with a friend to dine with Louis Napoleon. At the appointed hour the two men presented themselves. The Emperor said as they approached, “We did not know that

« PoprzedniaDalej »