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David J. (David Josiah) Brewer.

Crowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) online

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before it be too late ? How plain again is here the path, I may
add the only way, of duty, of prudence, of true patriotism. Let
us abandon all idea of acquiring further territory and by conse-
quence cease at once to prosecute this war. Let us call home
our armies, and bring them at once within our own acknowledged
limits. Show Mexico that you are sincere when you say you
desire nothing by conquest. She has learned that she cannot
encounter you in war, and if she had not, she is too weak to
disturb you here. Tender her peace, and, my life on it, she will
then accept it. But whether she shall or not, yon will have
peace without her consent. It is your invasion that has made
war; your retreat will restore peace. Let us then close forever
the approaches of internal feud, and so return to the ancient
concord and the old ways of national prosperity and permanent
glory. Let us here, in this temple consecrated to the Union,
perform a solemn lustration; let us wash Mexican blood from
our hands, and on these altars, and in the presence of that
image of the Father of his Country that looks down upon us,
swear to preserve honorable peace with all the world, and eternal
brotherhood with each other.




VICTOR COUSIN

(1792-1867)

jrcTOR Cousin, celebrated both as a statesman and a philoso-
pher, ranks with Guizot among the most eminent of the
great platform orators of the nineteenth century. It is as
a lecturer rather than as a political speaker that he is celebrated,
and among his addresses delivered from the lecture platform are to
be found most admirable examples of that class of oratory which has
characterized the intellectual movement of the nineteenth century, as
in another way it did that of the golden age of intellect at Athens
and at Rome. The orations of Cicero and of Demosthenes were pre-
pared in advance of delivery with the same care shown in the prep-
aration of such addresses as those of Cousin and Guizot in France,
Schlegel in Germany, Ruskin in England, Emerson in America, and
the other great orators of the lecture platform who have forced
issues for progress in every line during the nineteenth century, in
advance of the great orators of the Forum and the Senate. Cousin's
style is most attractive. While the tendencies of his mind are meta-
physical and his reasoning abstract, he has what among philosophical
thinkers is the rare faculty of clothing abstract thought in beauty of
expression. His argument on some points of psychology frequently
blossoms out into eloquent metaphors, which are never forced and
never florid. His statement is always sustained and he is always
master of his subject, of himself, and of the language in which he
undertakes to give himself and his subject expression. He was born
at Paris, November 28th, 1792; and at a time when the "fierce democ-
racy* of France was attempting to stamp out every vestige of the
Middle Ages, he won his first honors by a Latin oration, for which
he was crowned in the Mediaeval Hall of the Sorbonne, " in the pres-
ence of the general concourse of his school competitors. * In 18 15 he
began at the Sorbonne those lectures for which he is so justly cele-
brated, but in 1820 he was proscribed by the Reactionist party under
Louis XVIII. , as was also Guizot. Leaving France for Germany, he
was arrested and imprisoned at Berlin as a result of the same influ-
ence which had driven him from France. Released, and in 1828 re-
stored to his position as teacher, he became a member of the Coun-
cil of Public Instruction in 1830, peer of France in 1832, and Ministef

185



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of Public Instruction in 1840, under Thiers. It is said that during the
three years of his lectures after his return in 1828, «the Hall of the
Sorbonne was crowded with auditors as the hall of no philosophical
teacher in Paris had been since the days of Abelard.** He died at
Cannes, January 13th, 1867.



ELOQUENCE AND THE FINE ARTS
(From the Ninth Lecture on the True, the Beautiful, and the Good)

IT WILL, perhaps, seem strange that we rank among the arts
neither eloquence, nor history, nor philosophy.

The arts are called the fine arts, because their sole object
is to produce the disinterested emotion of beauty, without regard
to the utility either of the spectator or the artist. They are also
called the liberal arts, because they are the arts of free men and
not of slaves, which affranchise the soul, charm and ennoble ex-
istence; hence the sense and origin of those expressions of antiq-
uity, artes liberales, artes ingemicB. There are arts without
nobility, whose end is practical and material utility; they are
called trades, such as that of the stove-maker and the mason.
True art may be joined to them, may even shine in them, but
only in the accessories and the details.

Eloquence, history, philosophy, are certainly high employ-
ments of intelligence. They have their dignity, their eminence,
which nothing surpasses; but rigorously speaking, they are not
arts.

Eloquence does not propose to itself to produce in the soul
of the auditors the disinterested sentiment of beauty. It may
also produce this effect, but without having sought it. Its direct
end, which it can subordinate to no other, is to convince, to
persuade. Eloquence has a client which, before all, it must save
or make triumph. It matters little whether this client be a
man, a people, or an idea. Fortunate is the orator if he elicit
the expression: That is beautiful! for it is a noble homage ren-
dered to his talent; unfortunate is he if he does not elicit this,
for he has missed his end. The two great types of political and
religious eloquence, Demosthenes in antiquity, Bossuet among
the moderns, think only of the interest of the cause confided to
their genius, the sacred cause of country and that of religion,
whilst at bottom Phidias and Raphael work to m.ak© beautiful



VICTOR COUSIN jgy

things. Let us hasten to say, what the names of Demosthenes
and Bossuet command us to say, that true eloquence, very differ-
ent from that of rhetoric, disdains certain means of success. It
asks no more than to please, but without any sacrifice unworthy
of it; every foreign ornament degrades it. Its proper character
is simplicity, earnestness. I do not mean affected earnestness, a
designed and artful gravity, the worst of all deceptions; I mean
true earnestness, that springs from sincere and profound convic-
tion. This is what Socrates understood by true eloquence.

As much must be said of history and philosophy. The phi-
losopher speaks and writes. Can he, then, like the orator, find
accents which make truth enter the soul; colors and forms that
make it shine forth evident and manifest to the eyes of intelli
gence ? It would be betraying his cause to neglect the means
that can serve it; but the profoundest art is here only a means,
the aim. of philosophy is elsewhere; whence it follows that phi-
losophy is not an art. Without doubt, Plato is a great artist; he
is the peer of Sophocles and Phidias, as Pascal is sometimes the
rival of Demosthenes and Bossuet; but both would have blushed
if they had discovered at the bottom of their souls another de-
sign, another aim than the service of truth and virtue.

History does not relate for the sake of relating; it does not
paint for the sake of painting; it relates and paints the past
that it may be the living lesson of the future. It proposes to
instruct new generations by the experience of those who have
gone before them, by exhibiting to them a faithful picture of
great and important events, with their causes and their effects,
with general designs and particular passions, with the faults,
virtues, and crimes that are found mingled together in human
things. It teaches the excellence of prudence, courage, and great
thoughts profoundly meditated, constantly pursued, and executed
with moderation and force. It shows the vanity of immoderate
pretensions, the power of wisdom and virtue, the impotence of
folly and crime, Thucydides, Polybius, and Tacitus undertake
anything rather than procuring new emotions for an idle curi-
osity or a worn-out imagination. They doubtless desire to interest
and attract, but more to instruct; they are the avowed masters of
statesmen and the preceptors of mankind.

The sole object of art is the beautiful. Art abandons itself as
soon as it shuns this. It is often constrained to make conces-
sions to circuinstances, to external conditions that are imposed



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upon it; but it must always retain a just liberty. Architecture
and the art of gardening are the least free of arts; they are sub-
jected to unavoidable obstacles; it belongs to the genius of the
artist to govern these obstacles, and even to draw from them
happy effects, as the poet turns the slavery of metre and rhyme
into a source of unexpected beauties. Extreme liberty may carry
art to a caprice which degrades it, as chains too heavy crush it.
It is the death of architecture to subject it to convenience, to
comfort. Is the architect obliged to subordinate general effect
and the proportions of the edifice to such or such a particular
' end that is prescribed to him ? He takes refuge in details, in
pediments, in friezes, in all the parts that have not utility for a
special object, and in them he becomes a true artist. Sculpture
and painting, especially music and poetry, are freer than archi-
tecture and the art of gardening. One can also shackle them,
but they disengage themselves more easily.

Similar by their common end, all the arts differ by the par-
ticular effects which they produce, and by the processes which
they employ. They gain nothing by exchanging their means and
confounding the limits that separate them. I bow before the
authority of antiquity; but, perhaps, through habit and a remnant
of prejudice, I have some difBculty in representing to myself
with pleasure statues composed of several metals, especially
painted statues. Without pretending that sculpture has not to a
certain point its color, that of perfectly pure matter, that espe-
cially which the hand of time impresses upon it, in spite of all the
seductions of a contemporaneous artist of great talent, I have
little taste, I confess, for that artifice that is forced to give to
marble the morbidezza of painting. Sculpture is an austere
muse; it has its graces, but they are those of no other art.
Flesh-color must remain a stranger to it. Nothing more would
remain to communicate to it but the movement of poetry and
the indefiniteness of music! And what will music gain by aim-
ing at the picturesque, when its proper domain is the pathetic?
Give to the most learned symphonist a storm to render. Noth-
ing is easier to imitate than the whistling of the winds and the
noise of thunder. But by what combinations of harmony will he
exhibit to the eyes the glare of the lightning rending all of a
sudden the veil of the night, and, what is most fearful in the
tempest, the movement of the waves that now ascend like a
mountain, now descend and seem to precipitate themselves into



VICTOR COUSIN



189



bottomless abysses ? If the auditor is not informed of the sub-
ject, he will never suspect it, and I defy him to distinguish a
tempest from a battle. In spite of science and genius, sounds
cannot paint forms. Music, when well guided, will guard itself
from contending against the impossible; it will not undertake to
express the tumult and strife of the waves and other similar
phenomena; it will do more: with sounds it will fill the soul
with the sentiments that succeed each other in us during the
different scenes of the tempest. Haydn will thus become the
rival, even the vanquisher of the painter, because it has been
given to music to move and agitate the soul more profoundly
than painting.

Since the * Laocoon ^ of Lessing, it is no longer permitted to re-
peat, without great reserve, the famous axiom, — Ut pictura poesis ;
or, at least, it is very certain that painting cannot do everything
that poetry can do. Everybody admires the picture of Rumor,
drawn by Virgil; but let a painter try to realize this symbolic
figure; let him represent to us a huge monster with a hundred
eyes, a hundred mouths, and a hundred ears, whose feet touch
the earth, whose head is lost in the clouds, and such a figure will
become very ridiculous.

So the arts have a common end, and entirely different means.
Hence the general rules common to all, and particular rules for
each. I have neither time nor space to enter into details on this
point. I limit myself to repeating that the great law which
governs all others is expression. Every work of art that does
not express an idea signifies nothing; in addressing itself to such
or such a sense, it must penetrate to the mind, to the soul, and
bear thither a thought, a sentiment capable of touching or ele-
vating it. From this fundamental rule all the others are derived;
for example, that which is continually and justly recommended,
-—composition. To this is particularly applied the precept of
unity and variety. But, in saying this, we have said nothing so
long as we have not determined the nature of the unity of which
we would speak. True unity is unity of expression, and variety
is made only to spread over the entire work the idea or the sin-
gle sentiment that it should express. It is useless to remark,
that between composition thus defined, and what is often called
composition, as the symmetry and arrangement of parts accord-
ing to artificial rules, there is an abyss. True composition is
nothing else than the most powerful means of expression.



jQQ VICTOR COUSIN

Expression not only furnishes the general rules of art, it also
o-ives the principle that allows of their classification.

In fact, every classitication supposes a principle that serves as
a common measure.

Such a principle has been sought in pleasure, and the first of
arts has seemed that which gives the most vivid joys. But we
have proved that the object of art is not pleasure: — the more or
less of pleasure that an art procures cannot, then, be the true
measure of its value.

This measure is nothing else than expression. Expression
being the supreme end, the art that most nearly approaches it is
the first of all.

All true arts are expressive, but they are diversely so. Take
music; it is without contradiction the most penetrating, the pro-
foundest, the most intimate art. There is physically and morally
between a sound and the soul a marvelous relation. It seems as
though the soul were an echo in which the sound takes a new
power. Extraordinary'- things are recounted of the ancient mu-
sic. And it must not be believed that the greatness of effect
supposes here very complicated means. No, the less noise music
makes, the more it touches. Give some notes to Pergolese, give
him especially some pure and sweet voices, and he returns a
celestial charm, bears you away into infinite spaces, plunges you
into ineffable reveries. The peculiar power of music is to open
to the imagination a limitless career, to lend itself with astonish-
ing facility to all the moods of each one, to arouse or calm, with
the sounds of the simplest melody, our accustomed sentiments,
our favorite affections. In this respect music is an art ^\'ithout a
rival; however, it is not the first of arts. . . .

Between sculpture and music, those two opposite extremes, is
painting, nearly as precise as the one, nearly as touching as the
other. Like sculpture, it marks the \'isible forms of objects, but
adds to them life; like music, it expresses the profoundest senti-
ments of the soul, and expresses them all. Tell me what senti-
ment does not come within the pro\nnce of the painter? He has
entire nature at his disposal, the physical world, and the moral
world, a churchyard, a landscape, a sunset, the ocean, the great
scenes of civil and religious life, all the beings of creation — above
all, the figure of man, and its expression, that living mirror of
what passes in the soul. More pathetic than sculpture, clearer



VICTOR COUSIN jQj

than music, painting is elevated, in my opinion, above both, be-
cause it expresses beauty more under all its forms, and the
human soul in all the richness and variety of its sentiments.

But the art par excelletice^ that which surpasses all others, be-
cause it is incomparably the most expressive, is poetry.

Speech is the instrument of poetry; poetry fashions it to its
use, and idealizes it, in order to make it express ideal beauty.
Poetry gives to it the charm and power of measure; it makes of
it something intermediary between the ordinary voice and music —
something at once material and immaterial, finite, clear, and pre
cise — like contours and forms the most definite, living and ani-
mated; like color pathetic, and infinite like sound, A word in
itself, especially a word chosen and transfigured by poetry, is the
most energetic and universal symbol. Armed with this talisman,
poetry reflects all the images of the sensible world, like sculpture
and painting; it reflects sentiment like painting and music, with
all its varieties, which music does not attain, and in their rapid
succession that painting cannot follow, as precise and immobile
as sculpture; and it not only expresses all that; it expresses what
is inaccessible to every other art, — I mean thought, entirely dis-
tinct from the senses and even from sentiment, — thought that
has no forms, — thought that has no color, that lets no sound es-
cape, that does not manifest itself in any way, — thought in its
highest flight, in its most refined abstraction.

Think of it. What a world of images, of sentiments, of
thoughts at once distinct and confused, are excited within us by
this one word — country! and by this other word, brief and im-
mense, — God! What is more clear and altogether more profound
and vast!

Tell the architect, the sculptor, the painter, even the musician,
to call forth also by a single stroke all the powers of nature and
the soul ! They cannot, and by that they acknowledge the supe
riority of speech and poetry.

They proclaim it themselves, for they take poetry for their
own measure; they esteem their own works, and demand that
they should be esteemed, in proportion as they approach the
poetic ideal. And the human race does as artists do: a beautiful
picture, a noble melody, a living and expressive statue, gives
rise to the exclamation, How poetical ! This is not an arbitrary
comparison; it is a natural judgment which makes poetry the



jg2 VICTOR COUSIN

type of the perfection of all the arts, — the art par excellence,
which comprises all others, to which they aspire, which none can

reach.

When the other arts would imitate the works of poetry, they
usually err, losing their own genius, without robbing poetry of
its genius. But poetry constructs, according to its own taste,
palaces and temples, like architecture; it makes them simple or
magnificent; all orders, as well as all systems, obey it; the differ-
mt ages of art are the same to it; it reproduces, if it please,
the Classic or the Gothic, the beautiful or the sublime, the meas-
ured or the infinite. Lessing has been able, with the exactest
justice, to compare Homer to the most perfect sculptor; with
such precision are the forms which that marvelous chisel gives
to all beings determined! And what a painter, too, is Homer!
And, of a different kind, Dante ! Music alone has something more
penetrating than poetry, but it is vague, limited, and fugitive.
Besides its clearness, its variety, its durability, poetry has also
the most pathetic accents. Call to mind the words that Priam
utters at the feet of Achilles while asking him for the dead
body of his son, more than one verse of Virgil, entire scenes of
the *Cid' and the ^Polyeucte,^ the prayer of Esther kneeling be^
fore the Lord, or the choruses of * Esther' and ^Athalie.* In the
celebrated song of Pergolese, ^ Stabat Mater Dolorosa,' we may
ask which moves most, the music or the words. The ^ Dies Irae,
Dies Ilia,* recited only, produces the most terrible effect. In those
fearful words, every blow tells, so to speak; each word contains
a distinct sentiment, an idea at once profound and determinate.
The intellect advances at each step, and the heart rushes on in
its turn. Human speech, idealized by poetry, has the depth and
brilliancy of musical notes; it is luminous as well as pathetic; it
speaks to the mind as well as to the heart; it is in that inimit-
able, unique, and embraces all extremes and all contraries in a
harmony that redoubles their reciprocal effect — in which, by
turns, appear and are developed, all images, all sentiments, all
ideas, all the human faculties, all the inmost recesses of the soul,
all the forms of things, all real and all intelligible worlds!



VICTOR COUSIN jQ^



LIBERTY AN INALIENABLE RIGHT
(From the Fourteenth Lecture on the True, the Beautiful, and the Good)

PASSiCHsrs abandoning themselves to their caprices are anarchy.
Passions concentrated upon a dominant passion are tyranny.
Liberty consists in the struggle of will against this tyranny
and this anarchy. But this combat must have an aim, and this
aim is the duty of obeying reason, which is our true sovereign,
and justice, which reason reveals to us and prescribes for us.
The duty of obeying reason is the law of will, and will is never
more itself than when it submits to its law. We do not possess
ourselves as long as to the domination of desire, of passion, of
interest, reason does not oppose the counterpoise of justice.
Reason and justice free us from the yoke of passions, without
imposing upon us another yoke. For, once more, to obey them
is not to abdicate liberty, but to save it, to apply it to its legiti-
mate use.

It is in liberty and in the agreement of liberty with reason
and justice that man belongs to himself, to speak properly. He
is a person only because he is a free being enlightened by
reason.

What distinguishes a person from a simple thing is especially
the difference between liberty and its opposite. A thing is that
which is not free, consequently that which does not belong to
itself, that which has no self, which has only a numerical indi-
viduality, a perfect effigy of true individuality, which is that of
person.

A thing not belonging to itself belongs to the first person
that takes possession of it and puts his mark on it.

A thing is not responsible for the movements which it has
not willed, of which it is even ignorant. Person alone is respon-
sible, for it is intelligent and free; and it is responsible for the
use of its intelligence and freedom.

A thing has no dignity; dignity is only attached to person.

A thing has no value by itself; it has only that which person
confers on it. It is purely an instrument whose whole value
consists in the use that the person using it derives from it.

Obligation implies liberty; where liberty is not duty is want-
ing, and with duty right is wanting also.
4 — 13



194 VICTOR COUSIN

It is because there is in me a being worthy of respect, that I
have the duty of respecting it, and the right to make it respected
by you. My duty is the exact measure of my right. The one
is in direct ratio with the other. If I had no sacred duty to
respect what makes my person, that is to say, my intelligence
and my liberty, I should not have the right to defend it against
your injuries. But as my person is inviolable and sacred in itself,
it follows that, considered in relation to me, it imposes on me a
duty, and, considered in relation to you, it confers on me a right.

I am not myself permitted to degrade the person that I am
by abandoning myself to passion, to vice, and to crime, and I am
not permitted to let it be degraded by you.

The person is inviolable; and it alone is inviolable.

It is inviolable not only in the intimate sanctuary of conscious-
ness, but in all its legitimate manifestations, in its acts, in the
product of its acts, even in the instruments that it makes its own
by using them.

Therein is the foundation of the sanctity of property. The
first property is the person. All other properties are derived
from that. Think of it well. It is not property in itself that
has rights, it is the proprietor, it is the person that stamps upon
it, with its own character, its right and its title.

The person cannot cease to belong to itself, without degrading
itself, — it is to itself inalienable. The person has no right over
itself; it cannot treat itself as a thing, cannot sell itself, cannot
destroy itself, cannot in any way abolish its free will and its lib-



Online LibraryDavid J. (David Josiah) BrewerCrowned masterpieces of eloquence, representing the advance of civilization, as collected in The world's best orations, from the earliest period to the present time (Volume 4) → online text (page 18 of 39)