Quintilian does not give rules from which there is no departure; pleaders must act according to the requisitions of their subjects, § 1-7. What an orator has chiefly to keep in view, and how far rules should be observed, 8-17.
1. BUT let no man require from me such a system of precepts as is laid down by most authors of books of rules, a system in which I should have to make certain laws, fixed by immutable necessity, for all students of eloquence, commencing with the prooemium and what must be the character of it, saying that the statement of facts must come next, and what rule must be observed in stating them; that after this must come the proposition, or as some have preferred to call it, the excursion, and then that there must be a certain order of questions; adding also other precepts, which some speakers observe as if it were unlawful to do otherwise, and as if they were acting under orders; 2. for rhetoric would be a very easy and small matter if it could be included in one short body of rules, but rules must generally be altered to suit the nature of each individual case, the time, the occasion, and necessity itself; consequently, one great quality in an orator is discretion, because he must turn his thoughts in various directions according to the different bearings of his subject. 3. What if you should direct a general that whenever he draws up his troops for battle, he must range his front in line, extend his wings to the right and left, and station his cavalry to defend his flanks? Such a method will perhaps be the best, as often as it is practicable, but it will be subject to alteration from the nature of the ground, if a hill come in the way, if a river interpose, if obstruction be caused by declivities, woods or any other obstacles; 4. the character of the enemy, too, may make a change necessary, or the nature of the contest in which he has to engage; and he will have to fight, sometimes with his troops in extended line, sometimes in the form of wedges, and to employ, sometimes his auxiliaries, and sometimes his own legions, and sometimes it will be of advantage to turn his back in pretended flight. 5. In like manner, whether an exordium be necessary or superfluous, whether it should be short or long, whether it should be wholly addressed to the judge, or, by the aid of some figure of speech, directed occasionally to others, whether the statement of facts should be concise or copious, continuous or broken, in the order of events or in any other, the nature of the causes themselves must show. 6. The case is the same with regard to the order of examination, since in the same cause, one question may often be of advantage to one side and another question to the other, to be asked first; for the precepts of oratory are not established by laws or public decrees, but whatever is contained in them was discovered by expediency. 7. Yet I shall not deny that it is in general of service to attend to rules, or I should not write any; but if expediency shall suggest any thing at variance with them, we shall have to follow it, deserting the authority of teachers.
8. For my part I shall, above all things,
Direct, enjoin, and o'er and o'er repeat,
that an orator, in all his pleadings, should keep two things in view: what is becoming and what is expedient; but it is frequently expedient and sometimes becoming to make some deviations from the regular and settled order, as, in statues and pictures, we see the dress, look, and attitude varied. 8. In a statue, exactly upright, there is but very little gracefulness, for the face will look straight forward, the arms hang down, the feet will be joined, and the whole figure, from top to toe, will be rigidity itself; but a gentle bend, or to use the expression, motion of the body, gives a certain animation to figures. Accordingly, the hands are not always placed in the same position, and a thousand varieties are given to the countenance. 10. Some figures are in a running or rushing posture, some are seated or reclining, some are uncovered, and others veiled, some partake of both conditions. What is more distorted and elaborate than the Discobolus of Myron? Yet if any one should find fault with that figure for not being upright, would he not prove himself void of all understanding of the art in which the very novelty and difficulty of the execution is what is most deserving of praise? 11. Such graces and charms rhetorical figures afford, both such as are in the thoughts and such as lie in words, for they depart in some degree from the right line and exhibit the merit of deviation from common practice. 12. The whole face is generally represented in a painting, yet Apelles painted the figure of Antigonus with only one side of his face towards the spectator, that its disfigurement from the loss of an eye might be concealed. Are not some things, in like manner, to be concealed in speaking, whether it may be because they ought not to be told or because they cannot be expressed as they deserve? 13. It was in this way that Timanthes, a painter, I believe, of Cythnus, acted in the picture by which he carried off the prize from Colotes of Teium; for when, at the sacrifice of Iphigenia, he had represented Calchas looking sorrowful, Ulysses more sorrowful, and had given to Menelaus the utmost grief that his art could depict, not knowing, as his power of representing feeling was exhausted, how he could fitly paint the countenance of the father, he threw a veil over his head and left his grief to be estimated by the spectator from his own heart. 14. To this device is not the remark of Sallust somewhat similar, "For I think it better to say nothing concerning Carthage, than to say but little"? For these reasons it has always been customary with me to bind myself as little as possible to rules which the Greeks call katholika, and which we, translating the word as well as we can, term universalia or perpetualia, "general" or "constant," for rules are rarely found of such a nature that they may not be shaken in some part or wholly overthrown.
But of rules I shall speak more fully and of each in its own place. 15. In the meantime, I would not have young men think themselves sufficiently accomplished if they have learned by art some one of those little books on rhetoric, which are commonly handed about, and fancy that they are thus safe under the decrees of theory. The art of speaking depends on great labor, constant study, varied exercise, repeated trials, the deepest sagacity, and the readiest judgment. 16. But it is assisted by rules, provided that they point out a fair road and not one single wheel-rut, from which he who thinks it unlawful to decline must be contented with the slow progress of those who walk on ropes. Accordingly, we often quit the main road (which has been formed perhaps by the labor of an army), being attracted by a shorter path, or if bridges, broken down by torrents, have intersected the direct way, we are compelled to go round about. And if the gate is stopped up by flames, we shall have to force a way through the wall. 17. The work of eloquence is extensive and of infinite variety presenting something new almost daily; nor will all that is possible ever have been said of it. But I will endeavor to set forth the precepts that have been transmitted to us, considering, at the same time, which of them are the most valuable, whether anything in them seems likely to be changed for the better, and whether any additions may be made to them, or anything taken from them.