Just as amid urchin's foot and the rough rest-harrow Flowering snowdrops grow, delicate in their bloom.2For when some have declaimed a panegyric upon vomiting or fever, nay I vow, even upon a kitchenpot, not without a certain amount of plausibility, how could it be that a discourse delivered by a man who in some sort bears the repute and name of philosopher, should not offer, at some point, to benevolent and humane hearers some respite and opportunity for commendation ? We know, at any rate, that all persons in the bloom of youth do somehow or other, as Plato 3 says, act as a stimulus upon the man inclined to love ; the fair ones he names ‘children of the gods,’ the dark ‘manly,’ while the hook-nosed he endearingly terms ‘kingly,’ the snub-nosed ‘fetching,’ the sallow ‘honey-hued,’ and so welcomes and likes them all; for love, like ivy, is clever in attaching itself to any support. Much more, then, will the scholar and diligent hearer always be ready to discover some cause for which he may openly bestow on every speaker some commendation not inappropriate. So Plato,4 although he cannot commend Lysias's speech for invention, and although he condemns its arrangement as disorderly, nevertheless commends the style, and that ‘each word was clearly and roundly turned.’ One [p. 243] might find fault with Archilochus for his subject matter, Parmenides for his versification, Phocylides as commonplace, Euripides for his loquacity, and Sophocles for his unevenness; and it is equally true of the orators that one of them has no power to portray character, another is slow to rouse emotion, another is lacking in grace ; yet it is a fact that each one of them is commended for the special faculty with which Nature has taught him to move us and draw us on. It follows, then, that there is ample and abundant opportunity for hearers to show friendliness toward those who are speaking. For some it is quite enough, even if we do not attest this by the voice, that we vouchsafe to them a gentleness of glance, a serenity of countenance, and a disposition kindly and free from annoyance. Finally, the following matters, even with speakers who make a complete failure, are, as it were, general and common requirements at every lecture : to sit upright without any lounging or sprawling, to look directly at the speaker, to maintain a pose of active attention, and a sedateness of countenance free from any expression, not merely of arrogance or displeasure, but even of other thoughts and preoccupations. Now in every piece of work, beauty is achieved through the congruence of numerous factors, so to speak, brought into union under the rule of a certain due proportion and harmony, whereas ugliness is ready to spring into being if only a single chance element be omitted or added out of place. And so in the particular case of a lecture, not only frowning, a sour face, a roving glance, twisting the body about, and crossing the legs, are unbecoming, but even nodding, whispering to another, smiling, sleepy [p. 245] yawns, bowing down the head, and all like actions, are culpable and need to be carefully avoided.
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The proprieties in regard to bestowing commendation also require some caution and moderation, for the reason that neither deficiency nor excess therein befits the free man. An offensive and tiresome listener is the man who is not to be touched or moved by anything that is said, full of festering presumption and ingrained self-assertion, as though convinced that he could say something better than what is being said, who neither moves his brow nor utters a single word to bear witness that he is glad to listen, but by means of silence and an affected gravity and pose, seeks to gain a reputation for poise and profundity; as though commendation were money, he feels that he is robbing himself of every bit that he bestows on another. For there are many who take that saying of Pythagoras wrongly and out of harmony with his meaning. He declared that he had gained this advantage from philosophy, to wonder at nothing ;1 but these men think that their advantage gained is to commend nothing, to show respect for nothing, holding that immunity from wonder lies in disdain, and seeking to attain to dignity by means of contempt. Now it is true that philosophic reasoning, through knowledge and acquaintance with the cause in every case, does away [p. 239] with the wonder and amazement that spring from blindness and ignorance, but at the same time it does not destroy our serenity, moderation, or human interest. For to persons who are truly and consistently good it is the highest credit to bestow credit upon someone deserving of credit, and the most conspicuous honour to honour such a man, since this argues a superabundant and generous store of repute; whereas those who are niggardly in their commendation of others give the impression of being pinched and starving for their own. On the other hand, however, the opposite type of person, light-minded and flighty, who uses no judgement, but hangs intent on every word and syllable with an ejaculation ready on his lips, is frequently no satisfaction to the disputants themselves, and is always a painful affliction for the audience, startling them as he does and exciting them to join him contrary to their judgement, as though they for shame could not help being dragged into the applause. He gets no benefit from the lecture because for him it has been made full of confusion and fluttering excitement by his continual applaudings, and he departs with the name of being one of three things : a dissembler, a flatterer, or a boor in all that relates to discourse. Now a man sitting as a judge in court is bound to listen without regard either to enmity or favour, but in sober judgement with regard to justice ; but at scholarly lectures no law and no oath prohibits us from receiving the lecturer with goodwill. Indeed, the ancients gave Hermes a place beside the Graces from a feeling that discourse demands, above all, graciousness and friendliness. For it is not possible [p. 241] for a speaker to be a failure so abject and complete that he does not afford something meriting commendation, an original thought, a reminiscence from others, the very subject and purpose of his discourse, or at least the style and arrangement of his remarks,