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5. My next task is to indicate what those should write whose aim is to acquire facility.1 At this part of my work there is no necessity for me to set forth the subjects which should be selected for writing, or the order in which they should be approached, since I have already done this in the first book,2 where I prescribed the sequence of studies for boys, and in the second book, where I did the same for young men. The point which concerns me now is to show from what sources copiousness and facility may most easily be derived.

Our earlier orators thought highly of translation from Greek into Latin. [2] In the de Oratore3 of Cicero, Lucius Crassus says that he practised this continually, while Cicero himself advocates it again and again, nay, he actually published translations of Xenophon and Plato,4 which were the result of this form of exercise. Messala likewise gave it his approval, and we have a number of translations of speeches from his hand; he even succeeded in coping with the delicacy of Hyperides' speech in defence of Phryne, a task of exceeding difficulty for a Roman. [3] The purpose of this form of exercise is obvious. For Greek authors are conspicuous for the variety of their matter, and there is much art in all their eloquence, while, when we translate them, we are at liberty to use the best words available, [p. 115] since all that we use are our very own.5 As regards figures, too, which are the chief ornament of oratory, it is necessary to think out a great number and variety for ourselves, since in this respect the Roman idiom differs largely from the Greek.

[4] But paraphrase from the Latin will also be of much assistance, while I think we shall all agree that this is specially valuable with regard to poetry; indeed, it is said that the paraphrase of poetry was the sole form of exercise employed by Sulpicius. For the lofty inspiration of verse serves to elevate the orator's style and the bold license of poetic language does not preclude6 our attempting to render the same words in the language natural to prose. Nay, we may add the vigour of oratory to the thoughts expressed by the poet, make good his omissions, and prune his diffuseness. [5] But I would not have paraphrase restrict itself to the bare interpretation of the original: its duty is rather to rival and vie with the original in the expression of the same thoughts. Consequently, I disagree with those who forbid the student to parahrase speeches of our own orators, on the ground that, since all the best expressions have already been appropriated, whatever we express differently must necessarily be a change for the worse. For it is always possible that we may discover expressions which are an improvement on those which have already been used, and nature did not make eloquence such a poor and starveling thing, that there should be only one adequate expression for any one theme. [6] It can hardly be argued that, while the gestures of the actor are capable of imparting a wealth of varied meaning [p. 117] to the same words, the power of oratory is restricted to a narrower scope, so that when a thing has once been said, it is impossible to say anything else on the same theme. Why, even if it be granted that no new expression we discover can be better than or even equal to the old, it may, at any rate, be a good second. [7] Do we not often speak twice, or even more frequently, on the same subject, sometimes even to the extent of a number of sentences in succession? It will scarce be asserted that we must not match ourselves against others when we are permitted to match ourselves against ourselves. For if there were only one way in which anything could be satisfactorily expressed, we should be justified in thinking that the path to success had been sealed to us by our predecessors. But, as a matter of fact, the methods of expression still left us are innumerable, and many roads lead us to the same goal. [8] Brevity and copiousness each have their own peculiar grace, the merits of metaphor are one thing and of literalness another, and, while direct expression is most effective in one case, in another the best result is gained by a use of figures. Further, the exercise is valuable in virtue of its difficulty; and again, there is no better way of acquiring a thorough understanding of the greatest authors. For, instead of hurriedly running a careless eye over their writings, we handle each separate phrase and are forced to give it close examination, and we come to realise the greatness of their excellence from the very fact that we cannot imitate them.

[9] Nor is it only the paraphrase of the works of others that we shall find of advantage: much may [p. 119] be gained from paraphrasing our own words in a number of different ways: for instance, we may specially select certain thoughts and recast them in the greatest variety of forms, just as a sculptor will fashion a number of different images from the same piece of wax. [10] But it is the simplest subjects which, in my opinion, will serve us best in our attempt to acquire facility. For our lack of talent may easily shelter itself behind the complicated mass of detail presented by persons, cases, circumstances of time and place, words and deeds, since the subjects which present themselves on all sides are so many that it will always be possible to lay hold of some one or other. [11] True merit is revealed by the power to expand what is naturally compressed, to amplify what is small, to lend variety to sameness, charm to the commonplace, and to say a quantity of good things about a very limited number of subjects.

For this purpose indefinite questions,7 of the kind we call theses, will be found of the utmost service: in fact, Cicero8 still exercised himself upon such themes after he had become the leading man in the state. [12] Akin to these are the proof or refutation of general statements. For such statements are a kind of decree or rule, and whatever problem may arise from the thing, may equally arise from the decision passed upon the thing. Then there are commonplaces,9 which, as we know, have often been written by orators as a form of exercise. The man who has practised himself in giving full treatment to such simple and uncomplicated themes, will assuredly find his fluency increased in those subjects which admit of varied digression, and will be [p. 121] prepared to deal with any case that may confront him, since all cases ultimately turn upon general questions. [13] For what difference is there between the special case where Cornelius,10 the tribune of the people, is charged with reading the text of a proposed law, and the general question whether it is lése-majestè for a magistrate himself to read the law which he proposes to the people; what does it matter whether we have to decide whether Milo was justified in killing Clodius, or whether it is justifiable to kill a man who has set an ambush for his slayer, or a citizen whose existence is a danger to the state, even though he has set no such ambush? What difference is there between the question whether it was an honourable act on the part of Cato to make over Marcia to Hortensius, or whether such an action is becoming to a virtuous man? It is on the guilt or innocence of specific persons that judgement is given, but it is on general principles that the case ultimately rests. [14] As for declamations of the kind delivered in the schools of the rhetoricians, so long as they are in keeping with actual life and resemble speeches, they are most profitable to the student, not merely while he11 is still immature, for the reason that they simultaneously exercise the powers both of invention and arrangement, but even when he has finished his education and acquired a reputation in the courts. For they provide a richer diet from which eloquence derives nourishment and brilliance of complexion, and at the same time afford a refreshing variety after the continuous fatigues of forensic disputes. [15] For the same reason, the wealth of language that marks the historian should be from time to time imported into portions of our written [p. 123] exercises, and we should indulge in the easy freedom of dialogue. Nay, it may even be advantageous to amuse ourselves with the writing of verse, just as athletes occasionally drop the severe regime of diet and exercise to which they are subjected and refresh themselves by taking a rest and indulging in more dainty and agreeable viands. [16] Indeed, in my opinion, one of the reasons why Cicero was enabled to shed such glory upon the art of speaking is to be found in his excursions to such bypaths of study. For if all our material was drawn solely from actions at law, our eloquence must needs lose its gloss, our limbs grow stiff, and the keen edge of the intellect be blunted by its daily combats.

[17] But although those who find their practice in the contests of forensic warfare derive fresh strength and repair their forces by means of this rich fare of eloquence, the young should not be kept too long at these false semblances of reality, nor should they be allowed to become so familiar with these empty shadows that it is difficult for them to leave them: otherwise there is always the danger that, owing to the seclusion in which they have almost grown old, they will shrink in terror from the real perils of public life, like men dazzled by the unfamiliar sunlight. [18] Indeed it is recorded that this fate actually befell Marcus Porcius Latro, the first professor of rhetoric to make a name for himself; for when, at the height of his fame in the schools, he was called upon to plead a case in the forum, he put forward the most earnest request that the court should be transferred to some public hall. He was so unaccustomed to speak in the open air that all his eloquence seemed to reside within the compass of a [p. 125] roof and four walls. [19] For this reason a young man who has acquired a thorough knowledge from his instructors of the methods of invention and style (which is not by any means an endless task, if those instructors have the knowledge and the will to teach), and who has also managed to obtain a reasonable amount of practice in the art, should follow the custom in vogue with our ancestors, and select some one orator to follow and imitate. He should attend as many trials as possible and be a frequent spectator of the conflicts in which he is destined to take part. [20] Next he should write out speeches of his own dealing either with the cases which he has actually heard pleaded or with others, provided always they be actual cases, and should argue them from both sides, training himself with the real weapons of his warfare, just as gladiators do or as Brutus did in that speech in defence of Milo which I have already mentioned.12 This is better than writing replies to old speeches, as Cestius did to Cicero's defence of Milo in spite of the fact that, his knowledge being confined to what was said for the defence, he could not have possessed sufficient acquaintance with the other side of the case.

[21] The young man, however, whom his instructor has compelled to be as realistic as possible in declamation, and to deal with every class of subject, instead of merely selecting the easiest and most attractive cases, as is done at present, will thus qualify himself much more rapidly for actual forensic practice. Under existing circumstances the practice of the principle13 which I mentioned second is, as a rule, hampered by the large size of the classes and the practice of allotting certain days for recitation, to which must be added [p. 127] the contributory circumstance that the boys' parents are more interested in the number of their sons' recitations than their quality. [22] But, as I think I said in the first book,14 the really good teacher will not burden himself with a larger number of pupils than he can manage, and will prune any tendency to excessive loquacity, limiting their remarks to the actual points involved by the subject of the declamation and forbidding them to range, as some would have them do, over every subject in heaven and earth: further, he will either extend the period within which he insists on their speaking, or will permit them to divide their themes into several portions. [23] The thorough treatment of one theme will be more profitable than the sketchy and superficial treatment of a number of subjects. For the latter practice has the result that nothing is put in its proper place and that the opening of the declamation exceeds all reasonable bounds, since the young orator crams all the flowers of eloquence which belong to all the different portions of the theme into that portion which he has to deliver, and fearing to lose what should naturally come later, introduces wild confusion into the earlier portions of his speech.

1 See x. i. 1. Ch. ix.

2 Ch. iv.

3 i. 155.

4 The (Economicus of Xenophon, the Proutayorus and Timaeus of Plato.

5 I.e. we shall not borrow from our models, as we do in paraphrasing Latin.

6 Lit. “forestall the power of using the language of ordinary prose.”

7 See III. v. 5 .sq.

8 Ad Att. IX. iv. 1.

9 See II. i 9–11 and iv. 22.

10 See IV. iv. 8; v. xiii. 26; VI. v. 10; II. iii. 3, 35.

11 profectus, lit. “progress,” abstract for concrete.

12 See III. vi. 93; x. i. 23.

13 I.e. “per totas ire materias.”

14 I. ii. 15.

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