Quintilian's Institutes of Oratory
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Book 9 - Chapter 4

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Of composition, or cultivation of style; authority of Cicero acknowledged, § 1, 2. Attention to composition too much discouraged by some authors, 3, 4. In everything the powers of nature should be cultivated to the utmost, 5-7. Union of power with grace, 8, 9. Excellence of style serves not only to please but to convince the hearer, 10-13. This may be proved by altering the arrangement of words and phrases in elegant composition, 14, 15. Style not neglected by the ancients, 16-18. Prose may be more or less compact and studied, 19-21. Particulars that require attention in it, 22. Of order, 23-31. Of junctions of words, and of hiatus, 32-36. Of junctions of consonants and vowels and the repetition of syllables, 37-43. Of members and commas, 44. Of numbers or rhythm, 45. Difference between rhythm and meter, 46-51. Of feet in prose; a remark of Cicero, 52-55. How far number or rhythm should be studied in prose, 56. Oratorical numbers or rhythm, 57-60. Attention to numbers most requisite at the beginnings and ends of periods, 61-65. What regard to be paid to the middle parts, 66-71. Of the occurrence of verses, or parts of verses, in prose, 72-76. Everything that sounds like meter should be avoided, 77, 78. Of feet, 79-86. All kinds of feet must enter into prose composition, 87-89. Are varied by union and division, 90, 91. The force and influence of particular feet, 92-94. Of the closing feet of periods, 95-109. Of the fourth paeon, 110, 111. A speaker must not be too solicitous about his measures, 112-115. The ear must judge; many things cannot be taught by rule, 116-121. Of commata, 122, 123. Of a period, and its members, 124-127. What kinds of sentences are eligible for particular parts of speeches, and for particular subjects, 128-130. What feet should prevail in certain sorts of composition, 131-137. Composition and delivery must be alike varied to suit different subjects, 138-141. A rough and forcible style preferable to the smooth and nerveless, 142-145. Concluding remarks, 146, 147.

1. I should not presume to write on composition after Cicero—I know no other part of oratory he has treated more carefully—had not men of his own age, in letters addressed to him, ventured to criticize his style, and had not many writers, since his day, communicated to the world many observations on the same subject. 2. However, I shall adhere to Cicero in general and shall touch but briefly on such points, as they are undisputed; on other things, I shall perhaps dissent from him. But even when I offer my own opinion, I shall leave my readers to form their own.

3. I know there are some who would repudiate all attention to composition and who contend that unpolished language, such as it happens to present itself, is both more natural and more manly. But if they call "natural" only that which originally springs from nature and precedes culture, then the whole art of oratory is at an end. 4. For men of the earliest ages did not speak with our exactness and care, nor did they have any knowledge of preparing an audience with an exordium, enlightening them with statements of facts, convincing them with arguments, and exciting them with appeals to their feelings. They were ignorant of all these arts, not merely of composition. If we should speak no better than they, huts should never have been relinquished for houses, dresses of skins for decent apparel, or mountains and forests for cities. 5. What art, we may also ask, came to perfection all at once? What is not improved by culture? Why do we prune our vines? Why do we dig about them? Why do we root out brambles from our fields, when the ground naturally produces them? Why do we tame animals when they are born untamed? In truth, a thing is most natural when nature has allowed it to be brought into the best condition.

6. Should we say that what is unconnected is stronger than what is compact and well-arranged? If short feet— such as those of Sotadic and Galliambic meter, and others that wanton with almost equal licence in prose— diminish the force of our matter, this is not to be imputed to too much care in composition. 7. Just as the current of rivers is more forcible in a descending channel, which offers no obstruction to their course, than amidst rocks that oppose their broken and struggling waters, so language that is properly connected and flows on with a full flood is preferable to that which is rugged and fragmentary. Why, then, should they think that strength is relaxed by attention to beauty, when nothing attains its full strength without art, and beauty always accompanies art? 8. Do we not see that the spear, which is hurled with the greatest effect, is also hurled with the most grace? The surer the archer's aim, the finer his position. In passages of arms and in all the exercises of the palaestra, what blow is successfully avoided or aimed by him whose movements have not something artificial and whose step is not assured by skill? 9. In a like manner, thoughts appear to me to be aimed and impelled by studied composition, just as javelins and arrows are by the thong or the bowstring. Indeed, the most learned are of opinion that it is of the highest efficacy not only for giving pleasure, but for producing conviction. 10. In the first place, nothing can fairly pass into the mind which gives offense as it enters the ear, which is, as it were, the vestibule of the mind. Secondly, we are adapted by nature to feel pleasure in harmony; otherwise, it would be impossible for the notes of musical instruments, which express nothing but meaningless sounds, to excite various emotions in the hearer. 11. In the sacred games, the musicians do not excite and calm the mind with the same strains. They do not employ the same tunes when a warlike charge is to be sounded and when supplication is to be made on the bended knee; nor is there the same concert of signals when an army is going forth to battle as when notice is given to retreat. 12. It was the custom of the disciples of Pythagoras, when they awoke in the morning, to excite their minds with the sound of the lyre that they might be more alert for action and to soothe themselves with it before they lay down to sleep in order to allay any tumultuous thoughts that might have disturbed them.

13. If there is such a secret force in mere melody and modulation, there must surely be the utmost power in the music of eloquence. Just as it makes a difference in what words a thought is expressed, so it makes a difference in what form words are arranged, either in the body of a sentence or in its conclusion. For some thoughts, of slight import and expressed with but moderate force, are set off and recommended by the beauty of language used to convey them. 14. In short, if you take apart and rearrange the words of any sentence you believe has been forcibly, agreeably, or gracefully expressed, then all the force, agreeableness, and grace will at once disappear. In the Orator, Cicero does this with some of his own sentences, as, neque me divitiae movent, quibus omnes Africanos et Laelios multi venalitii mercatoresque superurunt. He also does this with some of the following periods, in which, when you effect such disarrangement, you seem to throw, as it were, broken or ill-directed weapons. 15. Cicero also corrects a sentence which he regards as having been composed inelegantly by Gracchus. This was very becoming in him, but for ourselves, we may be content with the task of rendering compact what has presented itself to us loosely while writing it. What profit would it be to seek examples of incorrectness when everyone may find them in his own compositions? I consider it quite enough to remark that the more beautiful, in thought and expression, the sentences are that we distmantle, the more their language appears disfigured, for the faultiness in arrangement is seen more clearly by the light of their brilliant phraseology.

16. However, at the same time that I admit that the art of composition (I mean the perfection of the art) was the last attained by orators, I consider that it was counted among objects of study by the ancients as far as their skill had then reached, for not even Cicero himself, great as his authority is, shall persuade me that Lysias, Herodotus, and Thucydides felt but little solicitude about it. 17. They perhaps did not aim at the same sort of style as Demosthenes and Plato (who, however, were quite unlike each other), for the simple and delicate diction of Lysias was not to be vitiated by the introduction of fuller periods, as it would have lost the grace of its simple and unaffected coloring, which is seen in him in its highest excellence. It would have lost also the credit which it commanded, because he wrote for others and did not speak himself, so that his orations were necessarily made to appear plain and artless, a quality which is itself the effect of art. 18. History, which ought to flow on in a continuous stream, would have been ill-suited by those clauses that break the course of oratory, those breathing-places so necessary in spoken pleadings, and those artificial modes of concluding and commencing sentences. Indeed, in speeches of the historians, we may see some similarity of cadence and antithetic arrangement. In Herodotus, assuredly, his whole style, as I at least think, has a smooth flow, and the very dialect which he uses has such a sweetness that it appears to contain within it some latent rhythmical power. 19. But of the diversity in styles, I shall speak hereafter. At present, I shall notice some particulars that must first be learned by those who would compose with success.

In the first place, there are two kinds of style, one compact and of a firm texture, the other of a looser nature, such as is used in common conversation and in familiar letters, except when they treat of something above their ordinary subjects, such as questions of philosophy, politics, and the like. 20. In saying this, I do not mean to intimate that the looser sort of style has not a certain measure, which is perhaps even more difficult to be observed than that of the other kind (for the style of conversation and correspondence should not present perpetual recurrences of hiatus between vowels or be destitute of rhythm). But it does not flow in an unbroken stream, or maintain an exact coherence, or attach phrase to phrase, so that it has rather a lax connection than none at all. 21. Such simplicity of style is sometimes becoming in pleading causes of an inferior kind. This simplicity is not void of numerousness, but has it of a different sort from that of the higher oratory, and dissembles it, or rather observes it less ostentatiously.

22. The more compact kind of style has three principal parts: "phrases," which are by the Greeks called κόμματα (commata); "members" or κῶλα (cola); and "periods," for which the Latin term is ambitus, circumductum, continuatio, or conclusio. But in all composition there are three particulars necessary to be observed: order, junction, and rhythm.

23. Let us first, then, speak of order, which should be regarded in the use of words both separate and in conjunction. Words taken separately we call ἀσύνδετα (asyndeta). In respect to these, we must be cautious that they do not decrease in force and that a weaker be not subjoined to a stronger, as "thief" to "templespoiler," or "insolent fellow" to "robber." For the sense ought to increase and rise, as in the admirable words of Cicero, "You, with that throat, those sides, and that strength of your whole frame suitable for a gladiator, etc.," since the words are successively of larger meaning. But if he had commenced with the whole frame, he could not have proceeded with good effect to the sides and the throat. There is also another sort of order which we may call natural; thus we should say "men" and "women," "day" and "night," "rising" and "setting," rather than the reverse way. 24. Some words, when their position is changed, become superfluous, as in fratres gemini, for if gemini is put first, it is not necessary to add fratres. The solicitude of certain writers, who desired that nouns should be prefixed to verbs, verbs to adverbs, nouns to adjectives and pronouns, is absurd, for the contrary is often done with the happiest effect. 25. It is far too exacting a proof to always place first that which is ordered first in time, not that this order is not frequently preferred, but because that which precedes is often of greater importance and should consequently be placed after what is of less. 26. If the composition will allow, it is by far best to close the sense with the verb, for the force of language lies in verbs. But if that order is attended with harshness of sound, it must yield to a more harmonious arrangement, as is very often the case among the most eminent orators both Greek and Latin. Doubtless, every verb that is not at the end causes a hyperbaton, but this is admitted among tropes and figures, which are considered as beauties. 27. Words indeed are not arranged by feet and may therefore be transferred from one place to another, so as to be joined with those to which they are most suitable, just as in building with unhewn stones, their very irregularity suggests to what other stones they may be applied and where they may rest. The happiest kind of composition, however, is that in which judicious order, proper connection, and harmony of cadence are found combined. 28. But some transpositions are carried too far, as I have observed in the preceding books, and give rise at times to faults in construction, being adopted merely in sport or wantonness. An example are these [unconnected] phrases of Maecenas:

Sole et aurora rubent plurima.
[They] are red with the rays of the sun, and much light from the east.

Inter sacra movit aqua fraxinos.
The sacred water flows amidst the ash trees.

Ne exequias quidem unus inter miserrimos viderem meas.
I would not, alone among the most miserable of men, see my own funeral rites.

What is most objectionable in this last passage is that the composition is flighty upon a grave subject.

29. There is sometimes an extraordinary force in some particular word, which, if placed in an inconspicuous position in the middle part of a sentence, is likely to escape the attention of the hearer and to be obscured by the words surrounding it. However, if it is placed at the end of the sentence, it is urged upon the hearer's notice and imprinted on his mind, as in this passage of Cicero, Ut tibi necesse esset in conspectu populi Romani vomere postridie, "That you were forced to vomit in the sight of the people of Rome the following day." 30. Transfer the last word to some other place, and it will have much less effect, for standing at the conclusion, it forms a point, as it were, to the whole sentence, adding to the disgraceful necessity of vomiting (when the audience expected nothing further) the shamefulness of being unable to retain meat on his stomach the following day. 31. Domitius Afer, again, used to put particular words at the end of his sentences, merely for the purpose of giving roughness to his style, especially in his exordia. Thus, in his speech for Cloantilla, he says, Gratias agam continuo, "I will thank you at once," and in that for Laelia, Eis utrisque apud te judicem periclitatur Laelia, "By both of these Laelia is brought into danger before you as judge." He was so little disposed to be studious of the nice and delicate gratifications of melody that even when harmony presented itself, he would put something in its way to interrupt it. 32. I suppose no one is ignorant that ambiguity may be produced by a faulty collocation of words. These few remarks I thought it necessary to make respecting order, for if the order of a speaker's words be ill-judged, his style, though it be on the whole compact and harmonious, will nevertheless be justly characterized as deficient in elegance.

The next particular is connection, which has reference to words, phrases, members and whole sentences, for all these have beauties and faults dependent on combination.

33. To proceed methodically, in the first place, there are some faults so palpable that they incur the reprehension even of the illiterate, such as when two words come together to produce, by the union of the last syllable of the former with the first syllable of the latter, some offensive expression. In the next place, there is the clashing of vowels, for when this occurs, the phrases gape, open, dispart, and seem to labor. Long vowels, especially when they are the same, have the very worst of sound in conjunction, but the hiatus is most remarkable in such vowels as are pronounced with a round or wide opening of the mouth. 34. "E" has a flatter and "I" a closer sound, and consequently any fault in the management of them is less perceptible. The speaker who puts short vowels after long ones will give less offense, and still less if he puts short ones before long ones; but the least offense of all is given by the concurrence of two short. In fact, whenever vowels follow vowels, the collision of them will be more or less harsh in proportion to whether the mode in which they are pronounced is more or less similar. 35. A hiatus of vowels, however, is not to be dreaded as any great crime, and indeed I do not know which is worse—too little or too much care in regard to it. The fear of it must necessarily be a restraint on an orator's efforts and divert his attention from points of more consequence. Just as it is a mark of carelessness to be constantly running into this fault, so it is a sign of littleness to be perpetually in dread of it. Not without reason, critics have considered all the followers of Isocrates, and especially Theopompus, to have felt too much solicitude as to this particular. 36. As for Demosthenes and Cicero, they paid it but moderate attention. Indeed, the amalgamation of two vowels, which is called synaloepha, may render a period smoother than it would be if every word retained its own vowel at the end. Sometimes, too, a hiatus is becoming and throws an air of grandeur over what is said, as, Pulchra oratione acta omnino jactare. Besides, syllables that are long in themselves and require a fuller pronunciation gain something from the time that intervenes between the two vowels, as if taking a rest. 37. On this point I shall quote, with the utmost respect, the words of Cicero: "The hiatus and concourse," he says, "of open vowels has something soft in it, indicating a not unpleasing negligence, as if the speaker were more anxious about his matter than about his words."

But consonants, especially those of a harsher nature, also are liable to jar with one another in the connection of words, such as "S" at the end of a word with "X" at the commencement of the following, and the hissing is still more unpleasant if two of these consonants clash together, as Ars studiorum. 38. As I have observed, this was Servius' reason for cutting off the letter "S" whenever it terminated a word and was followed by another consonant, a practice which Lauranius blames, but Messala defends, for they do not think that Lucilius retained the final "S" when he said, Serenus fuit and Dignus locoque; and Cicero in his Orator states that many of the ancients spoke in the same way. 39. Hence belligerare and pomeridiem, and the Diee hanc of Cato the Censor, the letter "M" being softened into "E." Persons of little learning are disposed to alter such modes of writing when they find them in old books, exposing their own ignorance while thinking they censure that of transcribers. 40. But the same letter "M," when it terminates a word and is in contact with a vowel at the commencement of the following word, so that it may coalesce with it, is hardly expressed, though it is written, such as, Multum ille, Quantum erat. It gives almost the same sound as a new letter, for it is not extinguished, but merely obscured, and is, as it were, a mark of distinction between the two vowels to prevent them from combining. 41. We must also take care that the final syllables of a preceding word, and the initial syllables of that which follows it, are not the same. That no one may wonder at such an admonition, I may remark that there has escaped even from Cicero, in a letter, Res mihi invisae visae sunt, Brute, and in his verses,

O fortunatam natam me consule Romam.

42. A number of monosyllables, too, have a bad effect in succession, because the language, from the many stops that it will occasion, will seem to proceed by fits and starts. For the same reason also, a succession of short verbs and nouns should be avoided, and on the other hand, of long ones, which make sentences heavy and slow. It is a fault, moreover, of the same class when words of similar cadence, and of similar terminations and inflections, are joined together. 43. Nor is it proper that verbs should be joined to verbs, or nouns to nouns, and the like, in a long succession, as even beauties themselves will tire unless they are aided by the charms of variety.

44. The connection of members and phrases does not require the same management as that of single words (though the beginnings and endings of them should harmonize), but it makes a great difference, in terms of composition, what is put first or last. Thus in the words Vomens frustis esculentis gremium suum et totum tribunal implevit, the proper gradation is observed. But on the other hand (for I shall often use the same examples for different purposes, that they may be the more familiar), in the phrases Saxa atque solitudines voci respondent, bestiae saepe immanes cantu flectuntur atque consistunt, there would be a better rise in the sense, if their order were inverted, for it is a greater thing that rocks should be moved than beasts; yet gracefulness of structure has ordered it the other way.

45. But let us pass on to numbers, for all structure, measure, and connection of words is concerned either with numbers (by which I mean rhythm) or with meters (that is, certain dimensions of syllables). 46. But though both rhythm and meter are composed of feet, they have nevertheless several points of difference, for rhythm consists of lengths of times, while meter, besides length, requires the times to be in a certain order; thus the one seems to refer to quantity, the other to quality. 47. Rhythm lies either in:

  1. feet having two parts equally balanced, as the dactyl, which has one long syllable equal to two short (there is, indeed, the same property in other feet, but the name of dactyl is the most common; even children know that a long syllable consists of two times and a short syllable of one), or
  2. feet that have one part consisting of two times and another of three, as the first paean, which is formed of a long syllable and three short, or its opposite, which is formed of three short syllables and one long (or in whatever other way three syllables opposed to two make this sesquialteral proportion), or
  3. feet in which the one part is double of the other, as the iambus, which is formed of a short and a long syllable, or the trochee which is the reverse.

48. The same feet are used in meter, but there is this difference: that it is of no moment to the rhythm whether the dactyl has the first or last syllables short, for rhythm measures merely the time, its object being that the space from the raising to the lowering of the voice be the same. The measure of verses is altogether different, for there an anapaest or spondee cannot be put for a dactyl, nor can a paean begin or end with short syllables indifferently. 49. Indeed, not only does the regularity of meter refuse to admit one foot for another, but it will not possibly admit even one dactyl or one spondee for another. Thus if, in the verse,

Panditur interea domus omnipotentis Olymipi,

we change the order of the five dactyls, we destroy the meter altogether. 50. There are also the following differences: Rhythm has indefinite space, meter definite; meter runs in a certain circle, rhythm flows on as it has commenced, as far as the μεταβολή (metabole), or point of transition to another kind of rhythm; and meter is concerned only with words, while rhythm is applied even to the motions of the body. 51. Rhythm also more easily admits blank times, though these are found also in meter. There is, however, still greater licence in music, where people measure time in their mind and where they distinguish intervals by certain marks, with a stroke of the foot or the hand, and observe how many short notes such intervals contain. Hence come the percussive terms τετράσημοι (tetrasemoi), "of four times," πεντάσημοι (pentasemoi), "of five times," and others still longer, for the Greek word σημεῖον (semeion) denotes one time. 52. In the structure of prose, the measure is more determined and ought to be kept more apparent to every hearer.

Accordingly, measure consists in metrical feet. These so readily present themselves in oratory that in composing, verses of all kinds frequently escape us without our knowledge, and certainly there is nothing written in prose that may not be reduced into some sorts of verses or parts of verses. 53. But I have met with grammarians so fastidious that they would force the syllables of prose composition into various measures similar to the verses of lyric poets. 54. Cicero, it is true, observes in several places that the whole beauty of composition consists in numbers. In consequence, he is censured by some writers as if he wanted to bind prose down to rhythmical rules, for numbers are rhythm, as he himself asserts, and Virgil who followed him,

Numero memini, si verba tenerem,

I have the numbers, if I knew the words,

and Horace,

Numerisque fertur Lege solutus,

And rushes on in numbers freed from law.

55. They attack, accordingly, that passage of Cicero, among others, in which he says that the thunderbolts of Demosthenes would not have vibrated with so much force if they had not been hurled and impelled in numbers. If, by this expression, he means impelled by rhythm, I am not of his opinion, for rhythm, as I said, has no certain limit nor any variety in its course, but runs on to the end with the same elevations and depressions with which it commenced. But prose will not stoop to be measured by taps of the fingers. 56. This Cicero himself understood very well, for he frequently remarks that he desires prose to be numerous only so far that it should be rather not ἄῤῥυθμος (arrhythmos) (which would be a mark of ignorance and barbarity), than ἔνρυθμος (enrhythmos), or poetical, just as we do not wish men to be palaestritae, and yet do not wish them to be such as are called ἀπάλαιστοι (apalaistoi).

57. But the regular flow of a period, which results from the combination of feet, requires some name. What name can be better, then, than number, that is, oratorical number, as an enthymeme is called an oratorical syllogism? For my own part, that I may not fall under the censure which not even Cicero has escaped, I request that wherever I use the term number to signify regular composition, and wherever I have already used it in that sense, I may be considered to mean oratorical number.

58. As to collocation, its business is to connect words already chosen and approved, and as it were consigned to it, for words rudely united are better than words that are useless. Yet I would allow a speaker to select some words, for the sake of euphony, in preference to others, provided he select from such as are of the same signification and force, and to add words, on condition that he does not add such as are superfluous, and to take away, so that he does not withdraw any that are necessary. I would permit him also to vary cases and numbers by means of figures, since variety, which is frequently adopted for embellishing composition, pleases even independently of anything else. 59. When reason, too, pleads for one word, and custom for another, let composition choose which of the two it thinks proper, vitavisse or vitasse, deprendere or deprehendere. Nor am I unwilling to admit coalescence of syllables or anything that is not prejudicial to the thought or the expression. 60. However, the triumph of art in this department is to understand what word is most suitable for any particular place, and he will construct his sentences best who shall best observe this, though not merely with a view to structure.

But it should be observed that the management of feet in prose is much more difficult than in verse, first, because a verse is included in a comparatively small number of words, while prose often runs in long periods, and secondly, because verse is always in some degree uniform and flows in one strain, while the language of prose, unless it is varied, offends by monotony and convicts itself of affectation. 61. Numbers, indeed, are dispersed throughout the whole body and course, so to speak, of prose, for we cannot even speak but in short and long syllables, of which feet are composed. It is at the close of periods, however, that regard to numbers is more requisite, as well as more observable, than anywhere else, first, because every body of thought has its limit and requires a natural interval to separate it from the commencement of that which follows, and secondly, because the ear, having listened to a continuous flow of words and having been led on, as it were, by the current of the speech, is better able to form a judgment when the stream comes to a stop and gives time for consideration. 62. There should be nothing, therefore, harsh or abrupt in that part where the mind takes breath, as it were, and is recruited. The close of the period is the natural resting-place of the speech; it is this that the auditor expects, and it is here that approbation bursts forth into applause.

The beginnings of periods demand a degree of care next to that which is required for the close of them, for the hearer pays strict attention to them also. 63. But the management of them is less difficult, for they have no close connection with what precedes, but merely refer to it so far as to take a starting-point from it, with whatever descent towards the close, though this descent must be graceful, for the close will lose all its charms if we proceed to it by a rough path. Hence it happens that though the language of Demosthenes is thought to be unobjectionably euphonious in the words, Πρῶτον μὲν, ὦ ἄνδρες Αθηναῖοι, τοῖς θεοῖς εὔχομαι πᾶσι καὶ πάσαις, (Proton men, o andres Athenaioi, tois theois euchomai pāsi kai pāsais), "In the first place, Athenians, I pray to all the gods and goddesses," and in the phrase (which, as far as I know, has been disliked by nobody but Brutus and has satisfied everyone else), κἃν μήπω βάλλῃ μηδὲ τοξεύῃ (kān mēpō ballēī mēde toxeuēī), "even though he does not yet throw or shoot," 64. the critics find fault with Cicero in regard to Familiaris caeperat esse balneatori, "he had begun to be familiar with the bath keeper," and Non nimium dura archipiratae, "not too severe to the private captain," for though balneatori and archipiratae are terminations similar to πᾶσι καὶ πάσαις, and μηδὲ τοξεύῃ, the words of Demosthenes are more studied. 65. There is also something in the circumstance that, in Cicero, two feet are included in one word, a peculiarity which, even in verse, has much of nervelessness, not only when a word of five syllables ends a verse, as fortissima Tyndaridarum, but even when the concluding word consists of but four, as Apennino, armamentis, Orione. 66. We must, accordingly, take care not to use words of several syllables at the close of a period.

As to the middle parts of periods, we must not only take care that they cohere, but that they are not drawling or prolix, and also (what is a great vice of the present day) that they do not, from being composed of a number of short syllables, proceed by starts, as it were, and make a sound like that of children's rattles. 67. For though the beginnings and endings of periods are of the most importance, inasmuch as it is there that the sense commences and concludes, there is also, here and there, a stress in the middle parts, which causes a slight pause, as the foot of a runner leaves an impression, though it does not stop. Hence, not only members and phrases ought to be well begun and ended, but even in the parts which are closely connected, and allow no respiration, there ought still to be certain, almost imperceptible rests. 68. Who can doubt, for example, that there is but one thought in the following words, and that they ought to be pronounced without respiration, Animadverti, judices, omnem accusatoris orationem in duas dirisam esse partes. Yet the first two words, the next three, the two following, and the last three, have respectively, as it were, their own numbers, which allow relief to the breath, at least so it is thought by those who are studious of rhythm. 69. As these short divisions also are in proportion grave or spirited, slow or quick, languid or lively, the periods composed of them will be severe or effeminate, compact or lax.

70. The ends of phrases, we may observe, appear sometimes lame and loose, when they are considered standing by themselves, but are upheld and supported by the words that follow them; thus that which would be faulty as a close is corrected by continuation. The phrase, Non vult populus Romanus obsoletis criminibus accusari Verrem, is harsh if you stop at the end of it, but when it is joined to that which follows, nova postulat, inaudita desiderat (though disunited in sense), the course of the whole is unobjectionable. 71. The words, Ut adeas, tantum dabis, would form a bad close, for they are the ending of a trimeter iambic verse, but there follows, ut cibum vestitumque inferre liceat, tantum, which, though still abrupt, is strengthened and supported by the conclusion, nemo recusabat.

72. The occurrence of a whole verse in prose has an extremely bad effect, and even a part of one is unpleasing, especially if the latter half of a verse presents itself at the close, or the former half at the beginning of a period. As to the reverse, it is often not without grace, for the first part of a verse sometimes forms an elegant conclusion to a sentence, provided it is confined to a few syllables, and chiefly those of the iambic trimeter or tetrameter. 73. In Africa fuisse is the beginning of a senarius, and closes the first member of the speech for Quintus Ligarius. Esse videatur, which is now too much in use, is the beginning of an octonarius. Of a like nature are the expressions of Demosthenes, πᾶσι καὶ πάσαις (pāsi kai pāsais); καὶ πᾶσιν ὑμῖν (kai pāsin hūmīn); and ὅσην εὔνοιαν (osen eunoian), and throughout almost all the exordium of the speech against Ctesiphon. 74. The ends of verses, also, are very suitable for the commencements of periods, as Etsi vereor, judices, and Animadverti, judices. But the beginnings of verses are not suitable for the beginnings of periods, though Livy commences his history with the commencement of a hexameter: Facturusne operae pretium sim. For so he published it, and it is better so than as it has been corrected. 75. Nor are endings of verses proper for the endings of periods, though Cicero says, Quo me vertam nescio, which is the end of an iambic trimeter. We may call such a verse a trimeter or senarius indiscriminately, for it has six feet and three percussions. The end of a hexameter forms a still worse conclusion, of which Brutus gives an example in one of his letters, Neque illi malunt habere tutores aut defensores, quanquam sciunt placuisse Catoni. 76. Iambic verses are less observable because that kind of verse is nearer akin to prose. Such verses, accordingly, often escape us unawares. Brutus, through his very anxiety for elegance in composition, makes them very frequently; Asinius Pollio not seldom; and even Cicero himself at times, as in the commencement of his speech against Lucius Piso, Pro dii immortales, quis hic illuxit dies? 77. But we must avoid with equal care whatever is ἔνρυθμος (enrhythmos), or metrical, as in that of Sallust, Falso queritur de natura sua, for though prose should be bound, it should nevertheless appear free. 78. Yet Plato, though most careful in his composition, could not avoid such faults at the very commencement of his Timaeus, for you may find there, first of all, the commencement of a hexameter verse; then an Anacreontic, and, if you please, a trimeter iambic, and what is called by the Greeks a penthemimer, consisting of two feet and a half. All this is in a very few words. There has also escaped from Thucydides a phrase of the softest kind of meter, ὑπὲρ ἤμισυ Κᾶρες ἐϕάνησαν (huper hēmisu Kāres ephanēsan).

79. But since all prose, as I said, consists of feet, I shall add some remarks on them also. As different names are given them by different authors, we must settle, in the first place, by what name each is to be called. On this subject I shall follow Cicero (for he followed the most eminent of the Greeks), except in my opinion, a foot does not exceed three syllables, though he admits the paeon and the dochmius, of which the former extends to four and the latter to five feet. At the same time, he does not omit to notice that they are regarded by some as numbers, not feet. 80. Nor is this opinion unreasonable, for whatever exceeds three syllables contains more than one foot. Since, then, there are four feet that consist of two syllables, and eight of three, I shall call that which consists of two long syllables, a spondee; that which has two short, a pyrrhic (some call it a pariambus); that which has a short and a long syllable, an iambus; and the contrary to it, formed of a long and a short, a choreus, not, as others term it, a trochee. 81. Of those consisting of three syllables, that which is formed of a long and two short is universally called a dactyl, and that which contains an equal number of times, but in the reverse order, an anapaest. A short syllable between two long forms is an amphimacer, but the name more commonly given it is cretic. 82. A long syllable between two short is called an amphibrachys; two long syllables following a short, a bacchius; and two long preceding a short a palimbacchius. Three short syllables make a trochee, which those who give the name trochee to the choreus choose to call a tribrach; and three long make a molossus. 83. Of these feet, there is none that does not have a place in prose composition, but those that are fuller in times and stronger in long syllables give proportionably more weight to language, while short syllables give it celerity and briskness. Each sort is useful in its proper place, for gravity and slowness, when there is need of rapidity, and quickness and precipitation, when there is need of solemnity, are justly and equally reprehensible. 84. It may be important to remark, also, that some long syllables are longer than others, and some short syllables shorter than others. Though no long syllables appear to have more than two times, nor any short syllables less than one time (and hence all short syllables, and all long, when arranged in meter, are accounted equal one to another respectively), there are almost imperceptible differences in them, some seeming to contain more and some less. As to verses, they have their own peculiarities, and in them, accordingly, some syllables are common. 85. Nature, indeed, allows a vowel to be either short or long, as well when it stands alone as when it precedes two or three consonants. But in the measuring of feet, a short syllable becomes long when it is followed by another short having two consonants at the commencement, as,

Agrestem tenui musam meditaris avena.

86. "A" is short; and "gre" is short, yet makes the syllable preceding it long, and therefore communicates to it a portion of its own time. But how could it do so, unless it had more time than the very shortest of syllables, such as it would itself be if the consonants "st" were withdrawn? As it is, it lends one time to the syllable that goes before it, and borrows one from that which follows it. Thus the two syllables, by nature short, become possessed of four times by position.

87. But I am amazed that certain of the most learned writers should have entertained the opinion that they ought to choose some feet for prose and reject others, as if there were any foot that must not at times enter into prose composition. Although Ephorus delights in the paeon, which was invented by Thrasymachus and approved by Aristotle, and in the dactyl, as being happy compounds of short and long syllables, he shuns the spondee and the trochee, objecting to the slowness of the one and the rapidity of the other. 88. Aristotle thinks the heroic foot (that is, the dactyl) is more suitable for lofty subjects, and the iambus for those of common life, and dislikes the trochee as too flighty, giving it the name of a dancing measure. Similar opinions are expressed by Theodectes and Theophrastus, and subsequent to them, Dionysius of Halicarnassus. 89. Yet the feet to which they object will force themselves upon them in spite of their utmost efforts, and they will be unable constantly to use their dactyl or their paeon, the latter of which they commend most, because it rarely forms a verse. It is not, however, the mere choice of words, which cannot be altered as to quantity or made long or short like syllables in music, that will render the recurrence of certain feet more or less frequent, but the arrangement and combination of them after they are chosen.

90. Most feet, indeed, arise from the connection or separation of words; hence, different feet may be formed from the same words, and I remember that a poet, of no mean repute, wrote in sport,

Astra tenet caelum, mare classes, area messem,

a verse which, read backwards, becomes a Sotadic verse. So a trimeter iambic may be formed from a Sotadic read backwards:

Caput exeruit mobile pinus repetita.

91. Feet are consequently to be intermixed, and we must take care that those which are of pleasing kind form the greater number, and that the less agreeable be hidden, as it were, in a crowd of the better sort. The nature of letters and syllables cannot be changed, but much effect may be produced by studying that those may be associated which are best adapted to each other. As I remarked, long syllables have more impressiveness and weight, while short ones more lightness. Short syllables, if they are mixed with long, may be said to run; if they are continued in unbroken succession, to bound. 92. Feet that rise from short syllables to long are more spirited in sound; those which descend from long to short, more gentle. It is best to commence with long syllables, but we may sometimes commence very properly with short, as, Novum crimen, or what is milder in sound, Animadverti, judices, words which are happily repeated at the commencement of the speech for Cluentius, since such a beginning has something of similarity to partition, which requires speed. 93. The close of a period, too, may very well be composed of long syllables, though short ones may also form a conclusion; the length of the last syllable is regarded as indifferent. I am not ignorant that a short syllable, at the end of a sentence, is accounted as long, because the time in which it is deficient is in some degree supplied from that which follows it, but when I consult my own ears, I feel that it makes a great difference whether the concluding syllable is really long or only accepted as long. For example, the conclusion, Dicere incipientem timere, is not so full in sound as Ausus est confiteri. 94. Yet if it makes no difference whether the last syllable is long or short, the same foot will close both. But to me the latter has, I know not how, the air of sitting down, while the former that of merely stopping. Hence, some have been induced to assign three times to a long final syllable so that the time a short syllable takes following a long one might be added to the long syllable. Nor is it only of importance what foot is last in the period; it is also of consequence what foot precedes the last. 95. It is not necessary, however, to take account of more than three feet from the end (and three are not to be regarded unless they consist of fewer than three syllables, but poetical nicety is to be avoided), or fewer than two. If we go further back, the result will be measure, not number. But the one concluding foot may be a dichoreus, if that, indeed, is one foot which consists of two chorei. 96. Or it may be that particular paeon that consists of a choreus and a pyrrhic and is thought peculiarly fit for the commencement of a sentence. Or it may be the other paeon that is of a contrary form and is deemed appropriate for the termination of periods. It is these two paeons that writers on rhetoric generally mean when they speak of paeons, though they call other feet consisting of three long syllables and one short by that name, in whatever order the short syllables and the long one occur. 97. Or it may be a dochmius, which is formed of a bacchius and iambus, or an iambus and cretic, and which is a firm and grave foot for the close of a period. Or it may be a spondee, which Demosthenes has frequently used and which has great stability. A cretic may very happily precede it, as in these words, De qua ego nihil dicam, nisi depellendi criminis causa. This exemplifies what I said above, that it makes a great difference whether the two concluding feet are contained in one word or whether each consists of a single word. Thus criminis causa is forcible and archipiratae soft, the softness becoming still greater when a tribrach precedes the spondee, as facilitates, temeritates. 98. For there is a certain portion of time latent between the syllables of a word when it is divided, as in the spondee which forms the middle part of a pentameter, which, unless it consists of the final syllable of one word and the initial syllable of the next, constitutes no part of a regular verse. To the spondee, too though with less effect, may be prefixed an anapaest, as Muliere non solum nobili, verum etiam nota. 99. So the anapaest and the cretic—as well as the iambus which is found in both, but is shorter than either by a syllable—may very well precede the spondee, for thus one short syllable will be prefixed to three long. A spondee also may very properly go before an iambus, as Iisdem in armis fui. A spondee and bacchius, too, may be prefixed to the iambus, since the conclusion will then be a dochmius, as In armis iisdem fui. 100. From what I have just shown, it appears that a molossus is very suitable for the conclusion, provided that it is preceded by a short syllable belonging to any foot whatever, as, Illud scimus, ubicumque sunt, esse pro nobis. 101. If a pyrrhic precedes the spondee, it will have less gravity, as, Judicii Juniani, but the effect will be still worse if a paeon precedes, as, Brute, dubitari (unless we regard this rather as a dactyl and a bacchius). Two spondees can scarcely ever be used in succession (such a termination being remarkable even in a verse), unless when they may be made to consist, as it were, of three members, as, Cur de perfugis nostris copias comparat is contra nos? Here, we have one syllable, then two, and then one. 102. Nor can a dactyl be properly prefixed to a spondee, because we dislike the end of a verse at the end of a sentence in prose. The bacchius may conclude a period and may be doubled, as, Venenum timeres, and it likes a choreus and spondee to be before it, as, Ut venenum timeres. The palimbacchius, also, will form a very proper ending, unless we wish the last syllable to be long, and it will take a molossus before it with very good effect, as Civis Romanus sum, or a bacchius, as, Quod hic potest, nos possemus. 103. But it is more proper to say that these phrases are terminated by a choreus with a spondee preceding, for the rhythm lies chiefly in the words Nos possemus and Romanus sum. The dichoreus may also form a conclusion, that is, the choreus or trochee may be doubled, a termination which the Asiatics frequently use, and of which Cicero affords us this example, Patris dictum sapiens temeritas filii comprobavit. 104. The choreus will admit a pyrrhic before it, as, Omnes prope cives virtute, gloria, dignitate superabat. A dactyl, too, will form a good termination, or attention to the last syllable may make it a cretic, as, Muliercula nixus in litore, and it will take before it, with very good effect, a cretic or iambus, but not a spondee, and still less a choreus. 105. An amphibrachys forms a very good ending, as Quintum Ligarium in Africa fuisse, or we may prefer, by lengthening the last syllable, to make it a bacchius. The tribrach is not a very good ending, if the last syllable be accounted short, as it certainly must sometimes be, or otherwise how could a sentence end with a double trochee, which is a favorite ending with many? 106. From the tribrach, by lengthening the last syllable, is formed an anapaest, and by prefixing to it a long syllable it becomes a paeon, as, Si potero, and, Dixit hoc Cicero, and, Obstat invidia. But rhetoricians have consigned the paeon to the beginnings of sentences. A pyrrhic will form a conclusion with a choreus preceding it, for the two form a paeon. But all terminations of periods formed of short syllables will have less weight than those that consist of long. Nor are they eligible, except where rapidity of language is required, and no stress is laid upon the close of the sense. 107. The cretic is excellent for the commencement of periods; as, Quod precatus a diis immortalibus sum, and for terminations also, as, In conspectu populi Romani vomere postridie. From the last of these examples, it appears how properly an anapaest, or the paeon which is thought most suitable for conclusions, may precede the cretic; a double cretic may also be used with very good effect, as, Servare quam plurimos. This is better than if a trochee were to precede the cretic, as Non turpe duceret, where I shall suppose that the final syllable is considered as long. 108. Let us, however, make it Non turpe duceres. But in these words occurs the vacant interval of which I spoke, for we make a short pause between the last word but one and the last, and lengthen the last syllable of turpe by the break. Otherwise, an extremely tripping kind of sound would be produced, like that of the end of an iambic verse, Quis non turpe duceret? So the phrase, Ore excipere liceret, if it is pronounced without a pause, forms part of a free kind of verse, but if it is uttered with certain intervals and three commencements, as it were, it becomes full of gravity.

109. But in specifying the preceding feet, I do not lay down a law that no others are to be used, but merely show what effect is commonly produced by those which I have mentioned, and what I thought best, for the moment, in each case. Let me add that one anapaest following another produces but an ill effect, as being the conclusion of a pentameter, or the meter which takes its name from the anapaest, as, Nam ubi libido dominatur, innocentiae leve praesidium est, for the synalaepha makes the two syllables sound as one. 110. The effect will be better if a spondee or a bacchius precede, as will be the case if we transpose the concluding words of the phrase just cited, and make it, leve innocentiae praesidium est. The paeon which consists of three short and a long has not many charms for me (though in this respect I dissent from some great authors), for it is but an anapaest with a short syllable prefixed, as, facilitas, agilitas. I do not understand why it pleased those writers so much, but possibly most of those who liked it were men who fixed their attention on the language of common life rather than that of oratory. 111. It likes to have before it a pyrrhic or trochee, as, mea facilitas, nostra facilitas, and even if a spondee is put before it, the conclusion will still be that of a trimeter iambic verse, as is that of the paeon itself. The paeon which has the syllables in the reverse order is deservedly esteemed for the commencement of periods, for it has one syllable pronounced slowly and three rapidly. Yet I think that there are others better than it for that purpose.

112. This subject, however, has not been introduced with the intention that the orator, whose language ought to flow onward in a continued stream, should waste his energies in measuring feet and weighing syllables, for that would be the part of a mean mind that occupies itself about trifles. 113. Indeed, he would devote himself wholly to that study would be unable to attend to things of more importance, but, disregarding force and beauty of thought, would employ himself, as Lucilius says, in arranging words like the parts of a tesselated pavement or mosaic work. Would not his ardor be thus cooled and his force checked, as delicate riders break the pace of horses by shortening their steps? 114. Numbers, surely, present themselves naturally in composition, and it is with prose as with poetry, which, doubtless, was at first poured forth artlessly, originating in the measure of time by the ear, and the observation of portions of language flowing similarly, and it was not till after some time that feet were invented. Practice in writing, accordingly, will qualify us sufficiently for observing due numbers in prose and enable us to pour them forth in a similar way extemporaneously. 115. Nor is it so much particular feet as the general flow of the composition that is to be regarded, as those who make verses contemplate not merely the five or six parts of which their lines are composed, but the whole sweep of their paragraphs. Verse had its being before the art of versification, and hence it is well said,

Fauni vatesque canebant,

The Fauns and prophets sang;

and, therefore, the place, that versification holds in poetry, composition holds in prose.

116. The great judge of composition is the ear, which is sensible of what fills it, misses something in whatever is defective, is offended with what is harsh, soothed with what is gentle, startled by what is distorted, approves what is compact, marks what is lame, and dislikes whatever is redundant and superfluous. Hence, while the learned understand the art of composition, the unlearned enjoy pleasure from it. 117. But some things cannot be taught by art. For instance, it is an excellent precept that a case must be changed, if, when we have commenced with it, it leads to harshness of construction. But can it be shown by rule to what other case we must have recourse? A diversity of figures is often a support to composition when it seems to flag. But of what figures, of speech, of thought, or of both? Can any certain directions be given on such points? We must look to opportunity and ask counsel of the circumstances in which we are placed. 118. By what judgment can the very pauses, which have a great effect in oratory, be regulated but that of the ear? Why are some periods, conceived in few words, sufficiently full or even more than sufficiently, when others, comprised in many, seem curt and mutilated? Why, in some sentences, even when the sense is complete, does there appear to be still something of vacancy? 119. Neminem vestrum, says Cicero, ignorare arbitror, judices, hunc per hosce dies sermonem vulgi, atque hanc opinionem populi Romani fuisse. "I suppose that no one of you is ignorant, judges, that it has been the talk of the common people during several days past, and that it has been the opinion of the people of Rome in general," etc. Why does he use hosce in preference to hos, for hos would not be harsh? I should perhaps be unable to assign any reason, but I feel that hosce is the better. Why would it not have been sufficient to say simply, sermonem vulgi fuisse? The structure and sense would have admitted it. I cannot say, but when I listen to the words, I feel that the period would be unsatisfactory without a clause to correspond to that which precedes. 120. It is to the judgment, therefore, that such matters must be referred. A person may be unable, perhaps, to understand exactly what is accurate and what is pleasing, yet he may act better under the guidance of nature than of art. But there is some degree of art in strict adherence to nature.

121. Undoubtedly, the business of the orator is to understand on what subjects he must employ particular kinds of composition. This embraces two points for consideration: one having reference to feet, the other to periods composed of feet.

122. Of the latter, I shall speak first. I observed that the parts of language are commas, members, and periods. A comma, according to my notion, is a certain portion of thought put into words, but not completely expressed; by most writers, it is called a part of a member. Cicero affords us the following examples: Domus tibi deerat? At habebas. Pecunia superabat? At egebas. "Was a house wanting to you? But you had one. Was money superabundant with you? But you were in want."A comma may consist merely of a single word, as, Diximus, Testes dare volumus, "We said, we are willing to produce witnesses," where Diximus is a comma. 123. A member is a portion of thought completely expressed, but detached from the body of the sentence, and establishing nothing by itself. Thus, O callidos homines! "O crafty men!" is a complete member, but, abstracted from the rest of the period, has no force any more than the hand, or foot, or head, separated from the human body. So, too, O rem excogitatam! "O matter well considered!" When, then, do such members begin to form a body? When the conclusion is added, as, Quem, quaeso, nostrum fefellit, id vos ita esse facturos? "To which of us, I pray, was it unknown that you would act in this manner?" a sentence which Cicero thinks extremely concise. Thus commas and members are generally mired and necessarily require a conclusion. 124. To the period Cicero gives several names, ambitus, circuitus, comprehensio, continuatio, circumscriptio. There are two kinds of it: one simple, when a single thought is expressed in a rather full compass of words; the other consisting of members and commas, which may contain several thoughts, as, Aderat janitor carceris, et carnifex praetoris, etc. 125. A period must have at least two members; the average number appears to be four, but it frequently admits of more. Its proper length is limited by Cicero to that of about four iambic trimeters, or the space between the times of taking breath. It ought fairly to terminate the sense; it should be clear, that it may be easily understood; and it should be of moderate length, that it may be readily retained in the memory. A member longer than is reasonable causes slowness in a period; those that are too short give it an air of instability. 126. Whenever we have to speak with spirit, urgency, and resolution, we must speak in a mixture of members and commas, for such a style is of vast force in pleadings. Our language should be so nicely adapted to our matter that rough numbers should be applied to rough subjects, and the hearer should be as strongly affected as the speaker. 127. In stating facts, we may use chiefly members or distinguish our periods into longer divisions, with a looser sort of connection, except in those portions which are introduced, not to inform, but to embellish, as the abduction of Proserpine in one of the orations against Verres, for a gentle and flowing sort of composition is suitable for such recitals. 128. Full periods are very proper for the exordia of important causes, where it is necessary to excite solicitude, interest, or pity. They are also adapted for moral dissertations and for any kind of amplification. A close style is proper when we accuse; a more diffuse one when we eulogize. The period is also of great effect in perorations. 129. But we should be careful that this copious kind of style is used when the judge not only thoroughly understands the case, but is captivated with the eloquence of the pleader, resigns himself wholly to its influence, and is led away by the pleasure which he experiences. History requires not so much studied numbers as a certain roundness and connectedness of style, for all its members are attached, as it rolls and flows along, just as men who steady their steps by taking hold of each others' hands both support and are supported. 130. All the demonstrative kind of eloquence requires free and flowing numbers. The judicial and deliberative kinds, as they are various in their matter, admit of proportionate variety in their style.

I must now treat of the second division of the two which I just now made. Who doubts that some parts of a speech are to be uttered with slowness, others with rapidity; some in a lofty manner, others in a tone of argument; some in an ornate style, others with an air of simplicity? 131. Who doubts that long syllables are most suitable for grave, sublime, and demonstrative subjects? Calm topics require lengthening of the vowels; sublime and showy ones, fulness in the pronunciation of them; and topics of an opposite kind, such as arguments, distinctions, jests, and whatever approaches nearer to common conversation, demand rather short vowels. 132. As to the exordium, we may vary the style of it as the subject may require, for I cannot agree with Celsus, who has given one set form for this part and says that the best model of an exordium is to be found in Asinius: "If, Caesar, from among all men that are now alive, or that ever have lived, a judge could be chosen for the decision of this cause, no one would be more desirable for us than yourself." 133. I do not deny that this commencement is excellently composed, but I cannot admit that such a form of commencement should be observed in all exordia, for the mind of the judge is to be influenced by various means. Sometimes we would wish to excite pity, sometimes to assume an air of modesty, spirit, gravity, or plausibility, sometimes to sway the judge to certain opinions, or to exhort him to pay diligent attention to us. As these objects are of various characters, each of them requires a different sort of language. Has Cicero used the same kind of rhythm in his exordia for Milo, for Cluentius, and for Ligarius?

134. Statements of facts require slower and, if I may use the expression, more modest feet, and, in general, a mixture of all kinds. The style of this part is commonly indeed grave, but sometimes assumes elevation. Its great object is to inform the judge and to fix particulars in his mind, and this is not to be done by hasty speakers. To me, it appears that the whole narrative part of a speech admits of longer members than the other portions, but should be confined within shorter periods.

135. Arguments, too, that are of a spirited and rapid description, will require feet suited to their qualities, but among them they must not admit tribrachs, which will give quickness, but not force. Though they should be composed of short and long syllables, they should not admit more long than short.

136. The elevated portions of a speech requite long and sonorous syllables; they like the fulness of the dactyl also, and of the paeon, which, though it consists mostly of short syllables, is yet sufficiently strong in times. Rougher parts, on the contrary, are best set forth in iambic feet, not only because they consist of only two syllables, and, consequently, allow of more frequent beats as it were (a quality opposed to calmness), but because every foot rises, springing and bounding from short to long, making it preferable to the trochee, which from a long falls to a short. 137. The more subdued parts of a speech, such as portions of the peroration, call for syllables that are long indeed, but less sonorous.

Celsus represents that there is a superior kind of composition, but if I knew what it was, I would not teach it, as it must necessarily be dull and tame. Unless it arises of itself, however, from the nature of our language and thoughts, it cannot be sufficiently condemned.

138. But to make an end of this subject, we must form our language to suit our delivery. In the exordium, is not our manner generally subdued, unless, indeed, when, in making an accusation, we must rouse the feelings of the judge and excite him to some degree of indignation? Are we not, in narration, full and expressive; in argumentation, lively and animated, and spirited even in our action? Do we not, in moral observations and in descriptions, adopt a diffuse and flowing style; and, in perorations, one that is submissive and sometimes, as it were, faltering? 139. Even the movements of the body have their rhythm, and the musical science of numbers applies the percussions of measured feet no less to dancing than to tunes. Is not our tone of voice and our gesture adapted to the nature of the subjects on which we speak? Such adaptation, then, is by no means wonderful in the rhythm of our language, since it is natural that what is sublime should march majestically, what is calm should advance leisurely, what is spirited should run, and what is tender should flow. 140. Hence, when we think it necessary, we affect even tumor, which is best accomplished by the use of spondees and iambi:

En impero Argis: sceptra mihi liquit Pelops,

Lo, I rule Argos: Pelops to me left
His sceptre.

141. But the comic senarius, which is called trochaic, runs on rapidly by assuming several chorei (which, by others, are called trochees) and pyrrhics, but what it gains in celerity, it loses in weight:

Quid igitur faciam? Non eam, ne nunc quidem?

What, therefore, shall I do? Not go? Even now?

But what is rough and contentious proceeds better, as I said, in iambic feet, even in verse:

Quis hoc potest videre? quis potest pati?
Nisi impudicus, et vorax, et alveo?

Who can endure to see, who suffer this,
Except a rake, a glutton, cormorant?

142. In general, however, if I were obliged to make a choice, I should prefer language to be harsh and rough rather than excessively delicate and nerveless, such as I see in many writers, and, indeed, we grow every day more effeminate in our style, tripping, as it were, to the exact measures of a dance. 143. It is a sort of versification to lay down one law for every species of composition, and it is not only a manifest proof of affectation (the very suspicion of which ought carefully to be avoided), but also produces weariness and satiety from uniformity. The sweeter it is, the sooner it ceases to please, and the speaker, who is seen to make such melody in his study, loses all power of convincing and of exciting the feelings and passions, for the judge cannot be expected to believe that orator, or to be filled with sorrow or indignation under his influence, whom he observes to turn his attention from his matter to niceties of sound. 144. Accordingly, some of our composition should be purposely of a looser kind, so that, though we may have labored it most carefully, it may appear not to have been labored. But we must not cultivate such studied negligence so far as to introduce extravagantly long hyperbata (lest we should make it evident that we affect that which we wish to seem to have done without affectation), nor above all, must we set aside any apt or expressive word for the sake of smoothness. 145. In reality, no word will prove so unmanageable that it may not find a suitable place in a period. But to say the truth, our object in avoiding such words is frequently not elegance, but ease in composition.

But I do not wonder that the Latins have studied niceties of composition more than the Greeks, though they have less variety and grace in their words. 146. Nor do I call it a fault in Cicero that he has differed in this respect from Demosthenes. But the difference between the Latin and Greek languages shall be set forth in my last book.

Composition (for I hasten to put an end to a book that has exceeded the limits prescribed to it) ought to be elegant, pleasing, and varied. The particulars that require attention in it are three: order, connection, and rhythm. 147. The art of it lies in adding, retrenching, and altering. The quality of it must be suited to the nature of the subjects on which we speak. The care required in it is great, but that devoted to thought and delivery should be greater. But all our care must be diligently concealed in order that our numbers may seem to flow from us spontaneously and not to be forced or studied.

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Lee Honeycutt (honeycuttlee@gmail.com) Last modified:1/15/07
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