Demetrius: On Style

    - CHAPTER 5

Translated by W. Rhys Roberts (1902).

See the key to translations for an explanation of the format.   Click on the G symbols to go to the Greek text for each section.

← Chapter 4

[240] G   We now come to the quality of force. It is clear, from what has already been said, that force also, like the styles previously described, may have three sources. Some things are forcible in themselves, so that those who give utterance to them seem to be forcible, even if they do not speak forcibly. Theopompus, for instance, in a certain passage describes the flute-girls in the Peiraeus, the stews, and the sailors who pipe and sing and dance; and through employing all this strong language he seems to be forcible, although his style is really feeble.

[241] G   In respect of composition this type of style requires, first of all, phrases in place of members. Prolixity paralyses vigour, while much meaning conveyed in a brief form is the more forcible. An example is the message of the Lacedaemonians to Philip: `Dionysius at Corinth.' If they had expanded the thought at full length, saying `Dionysius has been deposed from his sovereignty and is now a beggarly schoolmaster at Corinth,' the result would have been a bit of narrative rather than a taunt (cf. 8 supra.).

[242] G   The Lacedaemonians had a natural turn for brevity of speech under all circumstances. Brevity is, indeed, more forcible and peremptory, while prolixity is suited for begging and praying.

[243] G   For this reason symbolic expressions are forcible, as resembling brief utterances. We are left to infer the chief of the meaning from a short statement, as though it were a sort of riddle. Thus the saying `your cicalas shall chirp from the ground' is more forcible in this figurative form than if the sentence had simply run `your trees shall be hewed down' (cp. 99, 100 supra.).

[244] G   In this style the periods should be brought to a definite point at the end. The periodic form is forcible, while looseness of structure is more naive and betokens an innocent nature. This is true of all old-fashioned style, the ancients being distinguished by naïveté.

[245] G   It follows that, in the forcible style, we must avoid old-fashioned traits both of character and of rhythm, and regard the forcible style at present in vogue as our special goal. Now, for the members, cadences of the following kind, `I have agreed to plead, to the best of my ability, my clients' case' (cp. 10, 20, 31 supra), keep closest to the rhythm I have mentioned.

[246] G   Even violence conveys a certain impression of energy in composition. Yes, in many passages harshness gives all the effect of vehemence, as though we were jolted on rough roads. Demosthenes' words are a case in point: `(he has deprived) you of the bestowal- you of the prerogative' (Demosthenes, Against Leptines 2).

[247] G   We should avoid antitheses and exact parallelisms of words in the period, since in place of force they render the style laboured and often frigid. Theopompus, for example, when inveighing against the intimates of Philip, enfeebled his invective by the following antithesis: `men-slayers in nature, they were men-harlots in life' (Theopomp. Fragm. 249: cp. 27 supra.). The hearer, having his attention fixed on this elaboration, or rather affectation, forgets to be angry.

[248] G   We shall often find ourselves constrained by the very nature of the subject-matter to construct sentences which are rounded, indeed, but forcible too, as in the following passage of Demosthenes: `Just as you would not have made this proposal if any of the former parties had been convicted, so if you are convicted now no one will do so in future' (Demosthenes, Against Aristocrates 99: cp. 31 supra.). This particular arrangement obviously grew naturally out of the subject and the order of words evoked by it. Not even by violent perversion could a writer easily have framed the sentence otherwise. There are many topics in handling which we are swept along by the subject itself, just as though we were running down a slope.

[249] G   It also conduces to force to place the most forcible expression at the end. If this be surrounded and enveloped, its point is blunted. Let the following sentence of Antisthenes serve as an example: `almost torment will be caused by a man from brushwood started' (Antisth. fragm. 67, Mullach F. Ph. G. 11. p. 286). If a writer were to change the order thus, `almost will a man from brushwood started cause torment,' he will be saying the same thing but will no longer be believed to be saying the same.

[250] G   Excessive antithesis, already condemned in the case of Theopompus, is out of place even in Demosthenes, as in the following passage: `You were initiating, I was initiated; you taught, I attended classes; you took minor parts in the theatre, I was a spectator; you broke down, I hissed' (de Cor. 265). The elaborate parallelism of clauses produces the impression of false artifice; of trifling, rather than of honest indignation.

[251] G   An uninterrupted series of periods, although inappropriate in other styles, is favourable to force. Its crowded succession will convey the impression of line recited after line, - forcible lines like the choliambic.

[252] G   These massed periods should, however, be short (of two members, say), since many-membered periods will produce the feeling of beauty rather than of force.

[253] G   Conciseness is so favourable to this style that a sudden lapse into silence is often yet more forcible, as when Demosthenes says: `I could on my part ...but I do not desire to say anything offensive; only, my opponent accuses at a great advantage' (Demosthenes, de Cor. 3). The orator's reserve is here more effective than any possible retort could have been.

[254] G   And (strange though it may seem) obscurity often produces force, since what is distantly hinted is more forcible, while what is plainly stated is held cheap.

[255] G   Occasionally cacophony produces vigour, especially if the subject requires harshness of sound, as in Homer's line:

Then shuddered the Trojans, beholding the writhing serpent.
          (Iliad 12. 208)

It would have been possible to construct the line more euphoniously, without violating the metre, thus:

Then shuddered the Trojans, the writhing serpent beholding.

But there would then have seemed to be nothing terrific whether in the speaker or in the serpent itself.

[256] G   On this model we may venture other similar experiments, such as the order egrapsen an in place of (panta) an egrapsen or paregeneto houchi in place of parageneto.

[257] G   In this style we shall, also, sometimes end with the conjunctions de or te, notwithstanding the instructions we have received to avoid terminations of the kind. Such endings are often useful, as in the words `He did not praise him, though he deserved it; he insulted him, on the contrary' (hêtimase de; Scr. Inc.); or as in `Schoenus too, Scolus too' (Homer, Iliad 2. 497). In Homer elevation is the result of ending thus with conjunctions.

[258] G   Force of style will also mark a sentence of this kind: `He turned upside down, in his folly and his impiety too, things sacred and things holy too.' As a general rule, smoothness and a pleasant cadence are characteristic of the elegant rather than the forcible style; and these two styles seem to be direct opposites.

[259] G   In many passages there is an air of vigour due to a dash of fun. This is so in comedies; and all the Cynic manner is of this character. Crates' words are an instance in Comedy:

There lieth a dim land under a lurid smoke-pall smothered.
          (Cratetis fragm. 7, Bergk.)

[260] G   So with a saying of Diogenes at Olympia, when (at the conclusion of the race between the men in armour) he ran up and proceeded to proclaim himself victor at the Olympic games over all mankind-in high personal character. This exclamation excites mingled laughter and applause, and there is a light touch of mordant wit about it too.

[261] G   So also with his words to the handsome youth, when wrestling with whom Diogenes unawares assumed an unseemly position. The lad was frightened and started back. `Never fear, my dear boy,' he exclaimed, `I am not your match in that way.' There is wit in the ready reply and point in the hidden meaning. And it may be said in general that every variety of Cynic speech reminds you of a dog that is ready to bite even while he fawns.

[262] G   Orators will always employ, as they always have employed, this weapon of sarcasm. Witness Lysias and his remark to an old woman's lover that `it was easier to count her teeth than her fingers' (Lys. Fragm.; cp. 128 supra). He has represented the grandam in a most repulsive and a most ridiculous light. So, too, Homer with his already quoted words `Noman will I eat last' (Odyssey 9. 369: cp. 130 supra.).

[263] G   We shall next show how force can be secured by rhetorical figures. It can be secured by figures conveying the speaker's thought. Take, for instance, that which is called `praetermission,' e.g. `I pass over Olynthus, Methone, Apollonia, and the two-and-thirty towns on the confines of Thrace' (Demosthenes, Philip. 3. 26). In these words the orator has said everything he wished, while professing to have passed everything over in his desire to proceed to weightier matters.

[264] G   The figure `aposiopesis' already mentioned, which partakes of the same character, will also make expression more forcible.

[265] G   Another figure of thought-the so-called `prosopopoeia'- may be employed to produce energy of style, as in the words: `Imagine that your ancestors, or Hellas, or your native land, assuming a woman's form, should address such and such reproaches to you' (Scr. Inc.).

G   Plato uses the figure in his Funeral Oration:

`Children, that you are sprung from noble sires, etc.' (Menexenus 246d). He does not speak in his own name, but in that of their ancestors. The personification makes the passage much more vehement and forcible, or rather makes it quite dramatic.

[267] G   The forms and figures of thought will, therefore, be employed in the way described; the instances cited may suffice to serve as a sample. As for the figures of language, the more ingeniously they are chosen, the more forcible can discourse be made. Take the figure `reduplication,' as for example: `Thebes, Thebes, our neighbour-state, has been torn from the heart of Greece' (Aeschines, Against Ctesiphon 133). The repetition of the proper name has a powerful effect.

[268] G   The same thing is true of the figure `anaphora,' as in the words: `against yourself you summon him; against the laws you summon him; against the democracy you summon him' (Aeschines, Against Ctesiphon 202). Here the figure in question is threefold. It is, as has been already said, an `epanaphora,' because of the repetition of the same word at the commencement of each clause; an `asyndeton,' because of the absence of conjunctions; and a `homoeoteleuton,' because of the recurring termination `you summon him.' And force is the cumulative result of the three figures. Were we to write `against yourself and the laws and the democracy you summon him,' the force would vanish together with the figures.

[269] G   It should be observed that, above all figures, disjunction is the handmaid of force: e.g. `he passes through the place of assembly, puffing out his cheeks, raising his eyebrows, walking in step with Pythocles' (Demosthenes, de Falsa Leg. 314) If the words be coupled by conjunctions, the effect will be tamer.

[270] G   The figure called `climax' may also be employed. It is exemplified in the following sentence of Demosthenes: `I did not speak thus, and then fail to move a resolution; I did not move a resolution, and then fail to act as an envoy: I did not act as an envoy, and then fail to convince the Thebans' (Demosthenes, de Cor. 179). This sentence seems to climb ever higher and higher. If it were re-written thus, `having expressed my views and moved a resolution, I acted as an envoy and convinced the Thebans,' it would be a mere recital of events, with nothing forcible about it.

[271] G   In a word, the figures of speech help the speaker in delivery and in debate; lending especially the effect of abruptness, - in other words, of energy. - With regard to both kinds of figures what has been said must suffice.

[272] G   In the forcible style the same kinds of diction may be employed as in the elevated style, but not with the same end in view. By the use of metaphor force can be gained, as in the words: `Python was blustering and rushing upon you in full flood' (Demosthenes, de Cor. 136: cp. 80 supra.).

[273] G   So, too, by the use of similes, as in Demosthenes' expression: `this decree caused the danger which then threatened the city to pass by like a cloud' ( de Cor. 188).

[274] G   But poetical images do not suit the forcible style owing to their length: e.g. `like as a gallant hound, ignorant of danger, charges a boar recklessly' (Xenoph. Cyropaedia 1. 4. 21: cp. 89 supra.). There is an air of beauty and finish about this sentence. But the forcible style demands a certain vehemence and terseness, and resembles combatants dealing blows at close quarters.

[275] G   Compound words also lend vigour, as is seen in those which usage often forms so forcibly, e.g. `earthward-hurled,' `slant-shelving,' and the like. Many equally good examples may be found in the orators.

[276] G   We should endeavour to use picturesque words. For example, we may say of a man who has acted violently and unscrupulously, that `he has elbowed his way through'; of one who has used violence openly and recklessly, that `he has hewed his way through, he has swept aside obstacles;' of one who has had recourse to guile and evasion, that `he has wormed his way,' or `slipped through,' - or whatever expression is equally appropriate to the subject.

[277] G   A discreet use of elaborate language produces not only dignity but vigour of style. For instance: `You ought not, Aeschines, to refrain from holding out your palm as a speaker, but to refrain from holding out your palm as an ambassador'. (Demosthenes, De Falsa Leg. 255)

[278] G   And similarly: `Nay, he was appropriating Euboea.' (Demosthenes, On the Crown 71) The object of the rise in tone here is not to make the style dignified, but to make it forcible. This occurs when in mid-height of our exaltation we are denouncing some opponent. So here, Aeschines and Philip are respectively denounced.

[279] G   In speaking it is sometimes forcible to address questions to the audience without disclosing one's own view. For instance: `Nay, he was appropriating Euboea and establishing a fortress to command Attica; and in so doing was he wronging us and violating the peace, or was he not?' (Ibid.). The orator forces his hearer into a sort of corner, so that he seems to he brought to task and to have no answer. If the positive statement ` he was wronging us and violating the peace' were substituted, the effect would be that of precise information rather than of cross-examination.

[280] G   The figure called `epimone,' which is a mode of expression going beyond the bare statement of fact, will contribute very greatly to vigour of style. An example of it may be quoted from Demosthenes: `Men of Athens, a terrible malady has fallen upon Hellas ...' (Demosthenes, De Falsa Leg. 259). [If thus changed], the sentence would have been less forcible.

[281] G   An element of vigour may also be found in what is called `euphemism,' whereby a man makes inauspicious things appear auspicious and impious acts appear pious. A speaker once urged that the golden Statues of Victory should be melted down, so that the proceeds might be used to prosecute the war. But he did not say outright, `Let us cut up the Victories for the war.' Such a proposal would have seemed impious and like an insult to the goddesses. He put it in the more euphemistic form: `We will seek the cooperation of the Victories for the war.' This expression seems to suggest not the cutting up of the Victories, but the conversion of them into allies.'

[282] G   The sayings of Demades, also, though thought to have a peculiar, even eccentric character, possess a certain force, which they owe to innuendo, to the employment of an allegorical element, and (lastly) to hyperbole.

[283] G   This is an example: `Alexander is not dead, men of Athens; or the whole world would have scented the corpse' (Demad. fragmm., Baiter-Sauppe ii. p. 315). The use of `scented' in place of `perceived,' is allegorical and hyperbolical alike; and the idea of the whole world perceiving it suggests the might of Alexander. Further, the words convey a thrilling effect, which is the joint result of the three causes. And every such sensation is forcible, since it inspires fear.

[284] G   Of the same character are the words: `It was not I that wrote this resolution, but the war wrote it with Alexander's spear;'(Ibid.) and these; `The might of Macedon, after losing Alexander, resembles the Cyclops with his blinded eye' (Ibid.).

[285] G   And elsewhere: `A State, no longer the sea-warrior of the days of our ancestors, but a lean and slippered crone supping her posset' (Ibid.). Here the expression `crone' is used figuratively for a weak and declining State, whose impotence it indicates in an exaggerated way. The words `supping her posset' imply that the city was occupied with feasts and banquets and was squandering the war-funds.

[286] G   Enough has been said with respect to the Demadean vigour, which indeed has dangers of its own and is not easily copied. There is in its nature something poetical, if allegory and hyperbole and innuendo are poetical. But it is poetry with a dash of burlesque in it.

[287] G   Next comes the so-called `covert allusion.' This the orators of our day employ to a ridiculous extent, coupling it with low, and (so to say) suggestive, innuendo. The true `covert allusion' depends on two conditions, good taste and circumspection.

[288] G   Good taste is shown in the `Phaedo,' where Plato desires to reproach Aristippus and Cleombrotus because they were feasting at Aegina when Socrates was lying for many days imprisoned at Athens, and did not cross to visit their friend and master, although they were less than thirty miles from Athens (Phaedo 59c). He has not said all this in express terms (for that would have been an open reproach), but with fitting reserve as follows. Phaedo is asked who were with Socrates. He enumerates the men one by one. Next he is asked whether Aristippus and Cleombrotus were present. ` No,' he answers; `they were in Aegina.' Everything that precedes owes its point to the words `they were in Aegina.' The passage is all the more forcible because its point is conveyed by the fact itself and not by the speaker. So, although he might no doubt have reproached Aristippus and his companions without incurring any risk, Plato has done so under cover of a figure.

[289] G   Often in addressing a despot, or any person otherwise ungovernable, we may be driven to employ a figure of language if we wish to censure him. Demetrius of Phalerum dealt in this way with the Macedonian Craterus who was seated aloft on a golden couch, wearing a purple mantle and receiving the Greek embassies with haughty pride. Making use of a figure, he said tauntingly: `We ourselves once received these men as ambassadors together with yon Craterus' (Demetr. Phaler. fragm. 7, C. Müller Orat. Att. 11. p. 476). By the use of the demonstrative yon all the pride of Craterus is indicated and rebuked in a figure.

[290] G   Under the same heading comes the reply of Plato to Dionysius who had broken a promise and then denied having ever made it: `It is not I, Plato, who have to you made any promise: it is you-by heaven, it is you!' (cp. Plat. Epist. 7, 349b). Dionysius is thus convicted of falsehood, while the form of the words is at once dignified and circumspect.

[291] G   Words are often used with an equivocal meaning. If anyone wishes to practise this art and to deal in censures which seem unintentional hits, he has an example ready to his hand in the passage of Aeschines about Telauges. Almost the entire account of Telauges will leave one puzzled as to whether it is eulogy or satire. This ambiguous way of speaking, although not irony, yet has a suggestion of irony.

[292] G   The `covert allusion' may be employed in yet another way as follows. Great lords and ladies dislike to hear their own faults mentioned. Accordingly, when counselling them to refrain from faults, we shall not speak in direct terms. We shall, rather, blame some other persons who have acted in the same way. For example, in addressing the tyrant Dionysius, we shall inveigh against the tyrant Phalaris and his cruelty. Or we shall praise individuals who have acted in the opposite way to Dionysius, saying of Gelon or Hieron (for example) that they were like fathers and educators of Sicily. The hearer is admonished without feeling himself censured; he emulates Gelon, the subject of these praises, and covets praise for himself.

[293] G   One has often to exercise such caution in dealing with the great. Because he had only one eye, Philip would grow angry if anyone spoke of the Cyclops in his presence or used the word `eye' at all. Hermeias, the ruler of Atarneus, though for the most part of a gentle nature as it is said, became furious (because he was a eunuch) at hearing anybody speak of a `surgeon's knife,' of `amputation,' or of `excision.' I have mentioned these facts out of a desire to bring into relief the true character of great potentates, and to show, that it specially calls for that wary form of language which bears the name of `covert allusion.'

[294] G   It must be observed, however, that great and powerful populaces no less than despots usually require these ceremonious forms of language. An instance in point is the Athenian republic, which in the hour of its ascendency over Greece, harboured such flatterers as Cleon and Cleophon. Flattery no doubt is shameful, while adverse criticism is dangerous. It is best to pursue the middle course, that of the covert hint.

[295] G   At times we shall compliment a man who has failings not on his failings but on his proved avoidance of them. We shall remind an irascible person that yesterday he was praised for the indulgence he showed to So-and-So's errors, and that he is a pattern to the citizens among whom he moves. Every man gladly takes himself as a model and is eager to add praise to praise, or rather to win one uniform record of praise.

[296] G   In fine, it is with language as with a lump of wax, out of which one man fashions a dog, another an ox, another a horse. One will deal with his subject in the way of exposition and asseveration, saying (for example) that `men leave property to their children, but they do not therewith leave the knowledge which will rightly use the legacy' (Scr. Inc.): a way of putting it which is called `Aristippean.' Another will (as Xenophon commonly does) express the same thought in the way of suggestion, e.g. `men ought to leave not only money to their children, but also the knowledge which will use the money rightly.'

[297] G   What is specifically called the `Socratic' manner - one which seems to have excited the emulation of Aeschines as it is said, became furious (because he was a eunuch) at hearing anybody speak of a `surgeon's knife,' of `amputation,' or of `excision.' I have mentioned these facts out of a desire to bring into relief the true character of great potentates, and to show, that it specially calls for that wary form of language which bears the name of `covert allusion.'

[298] G   Such dialogues met with great success in the days of their first invention, or rather they took society by storm through their verisimilitude, their vividness, their nobly didactic character. - With regard to artificial speech and the employment of figures, this treatment must suffice.

[299] G   Smoothness of composition (such as is employed particularly by the followers of Isocrates, who avoid the concurrence of vowels) is not altogether suited to forcible language. In many cases greater force will result from an actual clashing, e.g. `when the Phocian war broke out originally, owing not to me, as I was not then engaged in public life' (Demosthenes, On the Crown 18). If you were to rearrange the words and fit them together thus (sc. in such a way as to avoid hiatus): `when through no fault of mine the conflict began in the Phocian War, since I was not then engaged in public life,' you would rob them of a good part of their force, since in many passages even the jingle of clashing vowels may be held to make a sentence more forcible.

[300] G   The fact is that words which are actually unpremeditated, and are as it were a spontaneous growth, will give an impression of vigour, especially when we are venting our anger or our sense of injustice. Whereas anxious attention to niceties of smoothness and harmony does not betoken anger so much as elegant trifling and a desire to exhibit one's powers.

[301] G   It has already been said that the figure of disconnected speech has a forcible effect. The same may now be said of disconnected composition generally. Hipponax is a case in point. In his desire to assail his enemies, he shattered his verse, and caused it to limp instead of walking erect. By destroying the rhythm, he made the measure suitable for energetic invective, since correct and melodious rhythm would be fitter for eulogy than for satire. - Thus much with regard to the collision of vowels.

[302] G   Side by side with the forcible style there is found, as might be expected, a corresponding faulty style, called `the repulsive.' It occurs in the subject-matter when a speaker mentions publicly things which are disgusting and defile the lips. The man, for instance, who accused Timandra of having lived a wanton life, bespattered the court with a description of her basin, her obols, her mat, and many other such unsavoury details (Scr. Inc.).

[303] G   Composition has a repellent effect, if it seems disjointed, as (for example) `this and that being thus, death' (Scr. Inc.). So, too, when the members are in no way linked to one another; but resemble fragmentary pieces. And long, continuous periods which run the speaker out of breath cause not only satiety but also disgust.

[304] G   Often objects which are themselves full of charm lose their attractiveness owing to the choice of words. Cleitarchus, for instance, when describing the wasp, an insect like a bee, says: `It lays waste the hill-country, and dashes into the hollow oaks' (Clitarch. Fragm.). This might have served for a description of some wild ox, or of the Erymanthian boar, rather than of a species of bee. The result is that the passage is both repellent and frigid. And in a way these two defects are close neighbours.

Table of Contents

Attalus' home page   |   21.10.19   |   Any comments?