Immagini della pagina

to his character. What indignation does it give us in a trial upon atrocious crimes, to hear a pleader breaking his jokes, or an advocate merry, while he is speaking in defense of the miserable !

Besides, we are to reflect that some judges are of so serious a cast as not to endure anything that may raise a laugh. Sometimes it happens that the reproach we aim at our opponent hits the judge himself, or suits our own client. And some are so foolish that they cannot refrain from expressions that recoil upon themselves. This was the case with Longus Sulpicius, who, being himself a very ugly fellow, and pleading a cause that affected the liberty of another person, said, “Nature had not given that man the face of a free man. “ Then,” replies Domitius Afer to him, "you are in your soul and conscience of opinion that every man who has an ugly face ought to be a slave.”

An orator likewise is to avoid everything that is illmannered, or haughty, offensive in the place, or unseasonable upon the occasion. He is likewise to say nothing that seems premeditated and studied before he came into court. Now, as I have already said, it is barbarous to joke upon the miseries of another; while some are so venerable, so amiable in their universal character, that a pleader only hurts himself by attacking them.

One maxim is of use, not only to the purposes of an orator, but to the purposes of life; which is, never to attack a man whom it is dangerous to provoke, lest you be brought to maintain some disagreeable enmities, or to make some scandalous submissions. It is likewise highly improper to throw out any invectives that numbers of people may take to themselves; or to arraign, by the lump, nations, degrees, and ranks of mankind, or those pursuits which are common to many. A man of sense and good breeding will say nothing that can hurt his own character or probity. A laugh is too dearly bought when purchased at the expense of virtue.

It is, however, extremely difficult to point out all the different manners of raising a laugh, and the occasions that furnish it. Nay, it is next to impossible to trace all the different sources of ridicule. In general, however, a laugh may be raised either from the personal appearance of an opponent, or from his understanding, as it appears by his words or actions, or from exterior circumstances. These, I say, are the three

[ocr errors]

sources of all vilifying, which, if urged with acrimony, become serious ; if with pleasantry, ridiculous. Now, all the ridicule I have mentioned arises either from exposition, narrative, or characterizing.

Sometimes, but seldom, it happens that an object of ridicule actually presents itself upon the spot. This happened to Caius Julius, who told Helmius Mancia, who was deafening the whole court with his bawling, that he would show him what he resembled. The other challenging him to make good his promise, Julius pointed with his finger to the distorted figure of a Gaul, painted upon the shield of Marius, which was set up as a sign to one of the booths that stood round the forum, and in fact was very like Mancia. The narrative of imaginary circumstances may be managed with the greatest delicacy and oratorical art; witness Cicero's narrative concerning Cepasius and Fabricius, in his pleading for Cluentius; and the manner in which Marcus Cælius represents the race run between Caius Lælius and his colleague, which should get first to his province. But all such recitals require every elegant, every genteel touch the orator can give them ; and the whole must be brought up with the most delicate humor. How much

How much ridicule does Cicero apply to the description of the retreat of Fabricius ! “ Thus he thought himself doing mighty matters, while he was, from his magazines of eloquence, playing off those most pathetic expressions : ‘Look back upon the mutability of fortune ; look back to the variety and alterations to which human life is subject; look back upon the old age of Fabricius.' Now, when he came to the last look back,' which he had so often repeated to embellish his discourse, he looked back' himself; but by this time Fabricius had stolen out of court.' And what follows is in the same strain ; for the passage is well known. All this high finishing did not contain a word that was fact, more than that Fabricius had left the court.




(Translated by Sir Richard F. Burton.)

[Caius VALERIUS CATULLUS, a leading Roman poet, was born at Verona, B.C. 87; died about B.C. 47. He was a wealthy and pleasure-loving gentleman, the friend of Cicero and other chief men of his time. He wrote lyrics, elegies, odes, etc.)

In the mean time, with shaking bodies and infirm gesture, the Parcæ began to intone their veridical chant. Their trembling frames were enwrapped around with white garments, encircled with a purple border at their heels ; snowy fillets bound each aged brow, and their hands pursued their never-ending toil, as of custom. The left hand bore the distaff enwrapped in soft wool ; the right hand, lightly withdrawing the threads with upturned fingers, did shape them, then twisting them with the prone thumb it turned the balanced spindle with well-polished whirl. And then with a pluck of their tooth the work was always made even, and the bitten wool shreds adhered to their dried lips, which shreds at first had stood out from the fine thread. And in front of their feet wicker baskets of osier twigs took charge of the soft white woolly fleece. These, with clear-sounding voice, as they combed out the wool, outpoured fates of such kind in sacred song, in song which none age yet to come could tax with untruth.

“O with great virtues thine exceeding honor augmenting, stay of Emathia-land, most famous in thine issue, receive what the sisters make known to thee on this gladsome day, a weird veridical ! But ye whom the fates do follow : Haste ye, a weaving the woof, O hasten, ye spindles.

“Now Hesperus shall come unto the bearing what is longed for by bridegrooms; with that fortunate star shall thy bride come, who ensteeps thy soul with the sway of softening love, and prepares with thee to conjoin in languorous slumber, making her smooth arms thy pillow round 'neath thy sinewy neck. Haste ye, a weaving the woof, O hasten, ye spindles.

“No house ever yet inclosed such loves, no love bound lovers with such pact, as abideth with Thetis, as is the concord of Peleus. Haste ye, a weaving the woof, O hasten, ye spindles.

By permission of H, S, Nichols, Ltd.


Haste ye,

“To ye shall Achilles be born, a stranger to fear, to his foemen not by his back, but by his broad breast known, who, ofttimes the victor in the uncertain struggle of the foot race, shall outrun the fire-fleet footsteps of the speedy doe. a weaving the woof, O hasten, ye spindles.

“None in war with him may compare as a hero, when the Phrygian streams shall trickle with Trojan blood; and when besieging the walls of Troy with a long-drawn-out warfare, perjured Pelops' third heir shall lay that city waste. Haste ye, a weaving the woof, O hasten, ye spindles.

“ His glorious acts and illustrious deeds often shall mothers attest o'er funeral rites of their sons, when the white locks from their heads are unloosed amid ashes, and they bruise their discolored breasts with feeble fists. Haste ye, a weaving the woof, O hasten, ye spindles.

“For as the husbandman bestrewing the dense wheat ears mows the harvest yellowed 'neath ardent sun, so shall he cast prostrate the corpses of Troy's sons with grim swords. Haste ye, a weaving the woof, O hasten, ye spindles.

“ His great valor shall be attested by Scamander's wave, which ever pours itself into the swift Hellespont, narrowing whose course with slaughtered heaps of corpses, he shall make tepid its deep stream by mingling warm blood with the water. Haste ye, a weaving the woof, O hasten, ye spindles.

“And she a witness in fine shall be the captive maid handed to death, when the heaped-up tomb of earth built in lofty mound shall receive the snowy limbs of the stricken virgin. Haste ye, a weaving the woof, 0 hasten, ye spindles.

“For instant fortune shall give the means to the war-worn Greeks to break Neptune's stone bonds of the Dardanian city, the tall tomb shall be made dank with Polyxena's blood, who as the victim succumbing 'neath two-edged sword, with yielding hams shall fall forward a headless corpse. Haste ye, a weaving the woof, O hasten, ye spindles.

“ Wherefore haste ye to conjoin in the longed-for delights of your love. Bridegroom, thy goddess receive in felicitous compact ; let the bride be given to her eager husband. Haste ye, a weaving the woof, O hasten, ye spindles.

“Nor shall the nurse at orient light returning, with yestere'en's thread succeed in circling her neck. [Haste ye, a weaving the woof, O hasten, ye spindles.] Nor need her solicitous mother fear sad discord shall cause a parted bed for her


“These . . . outpoured fates of such kind in sacred song"

From a painting by Michael Angelo

« IndietroContinua »