網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

liver the panegyrics on the saints. The second class are wild and raving fanatics, who rage, and shout, and sing, and scream, and use the most extravagant gestures and contor. tions of body, in order to work upon the passions of their hearers, and rouse them up to the highest pitch of excitement. He said that he once saw a preacher of this class, in one of the largest churches of Naples, who, among other extravagant tricks, hurled a cross which he held in his hands at the heads of his audience, as if to prostrate them in repentance, but it was secured to his arm by a cord, so that it did not reach those at whom it was aimed, and though they bowed themselves down to avoid it, they were, in the end, far more frightened than hurt. The third class of preachers are regular buffoons, of the lowest grade, who practice in the pulpit every species of vulgar wit, pantomime, and grimace, in order to excite in the audience the same indecent and boisterous laughter which is caused by similar exhibitions on the stage. As an instance of this, he said that he once heard a clerical buffoon of this class, preaching about the embassy of the Gibeonites to Joshua, and after a number of low jokes, as to the title by which they probably addressed the Jewish leader, he came to the verse which says, that they wore old shoes, and clouted on their feet. In order to elucidate this part of the subject, he had dressed out one of his own feet, in the manner described in the text, and having thrown it over the front of the pulpit so that all the audience might see it, and thus standing on one leg and hanging by the other, he proceeded, amidst immense applause, to comment at length, on this important matter. There was some years since, in Spain, a friar known by the name of Padre Diego de Cadiz, who was regarded as an inspired prophet. He travelled on foot through all parts of the kingdom, and such was the eloquence of his sermons, that large numbers of his hearers often proceeded on the spot, to scourge, and to beat themselves most violently, as a penance for their sins. How much good might such a man have effected, had he, instead of enjoining this self-righteous penance, directed his convicted hearers, in accordance with the Scripture, to the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sins of the world.

When last in Naples, I purchased a large supply of Catholic tracts, many of which are in poetry, and have awful pictures of the day of judgment, purgatory, and other matters, with horrid looking devils thrusting pitch-forks through

the poor wretches, who have fallen into their power. One of the most curious tracts I have met with, however, is a letter from souls in purgatory, to those living on earth, asking for alms to be given to the priests, to hire them to chant masses for the benefit of the poor sufferers in those lower regions. A lucky invention, this, truly, and one too by which the clergy have doubtless profited not a little.

The same gentleman referred to above, repeatedly mentioned to me, and dwelt upon the fact as both important and perfectly notorious, that great efforts are making in Italy to diffuse Catholic religion in the United States, even to the neglect of its interests at home; and that every report of its success in our country is hailed with exultation, and widely published through the leading journals. I well remember that the first article, in the first number of the government paper at Naples, that I chanced to read, was an account of the success of the Catholic missions in the state of Michigan, setting forth, in flowing language, the “visit of some priests to a Protestant settlement, and the wonderfully devout manner in which the people prostrated themselves before the host, and performed the other acts of pantomime, required by the “Only true Church.” It is a well-known fact, that our whole country is regarded by Catholics as missionary ground, and that strenuous efforts are now making, to reclaim the great multitude of poor, blind, Protestant heretics there, and bring them back from the error of their ways. To say nothing of the famous Leopold Institution in Austria, which is charged with this special object, there is a single society in France, which, in 1828, appropriated $ 120,000, to what they style, “ The Mission in America." This was placed at the disposal of the respective bishops of Boston, New York, Baltimore, &c., in sums varying from 5,000, to $ 30,000 each. From a regard to these facts, and from our views, as Protestants, of the prophecies in the Bible, which speak of the character, influence, and destiny of the Romish Church, have we not quite as strong and pressing reasons for exerting ourselves to enlighten and reform the Catholic nations of Europe, as they have to extend a kind and fostering hand to us? And while they are actually engaged in favoring us with a system of faith, which has almost uniformly been identified with popular ignorance, and with civil and religious despotism, shall we not repay them, by carrying into their own strongholds, that light and liberty, which arise

from a general knowledge of the pure and simple principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ ?

The style and manner of public speakers in Spain are widely different from what is seen in our own country. They have rather the appearance of men engaged in dignified and spirited conversation, or in free and familiar discussion, than that air of stiff and formal speech-making, or of noisy and unnatural declamation, which are so prevalent among our public speakers. The gestures and action of the Spaniards are likewise peculiarly free, easy, and graceful. This general fact, as seen in the manners of both sexes, I attribute, in no small degree, to their religious training, to the frequent change of position in kneeling, and otherwise, required by the Catholic church, and the constant use of the arms in making the sign of the cross, and other acts of pantomime. It is much the same with the public speaker, as to gracefulness and ease in attitude and action, as it is with respect to a natural and proper modulation of the tones of the voice. A man may have a correct taste, and an ear so nicely accurate as easily to detect and point out the slightest error of tone, emphasis, or cadence, and still, from want of proper practice and training, he may not be able, when speaking in public, to deliver a single sentence with either accuracy or effect. In just the same way, a man may correctly criticize the gestures of another, while, from want of early and continual drilling in the use of his limbs, he may himself be as stiff and formal in his motions, as the arms of a windmill. If one may be permitted, in a case like the present, to refer to himself for illustration, I might state, that for many months after commencing the instruction of the deaf and dumb, and with a perfectly definite idea of the signs necessary to convey a given meaning, yet, from want of practice, so much were my elbows in the way, that there was but little ease and satisfaction in my efforts at pantomime. I hardly need say, that our own public speakers are commonly very deficient as to ease and nature, in both tone and gesture, though they often excel in a rough, unpolished energy, and impressiveness of manner and address. The Spaniards, far more than ourselves, attend to personal accomplishments, and, being at once a polite and dignified, as well as a social and excitable people, they greatly excel us, not only in gracefulness of manners, but also in ease and ability in conversation. The fact, that there are so few in our country who converse well, is doubtless a leading reason

why we have so small a number of good public speakers; as talents for these two classes of effort have an evident and intimate connexion with each other. Indeed, what is proper public speaking, so far, at least, as manner is concerned, but the use of the same natural tones and gestures which we use in dignified and animated conversation, and in free and familiar private discussion ?

The Spanish language, by which I mean the pure Castilian, as distinguished from the various provincial dialects, has some peculiar advantages for use in public speaking. It is less verbose and effeminate than the Italian, more sonorous and dignified than the French, more polished and melodious than the English, and combines much of the vigorous and energetic expression of the pure old Latin, with that smoother and more mellifluous sound which arises from increasing the proportion of vowels used, and also from dropping the harsher consonants, or substituting for them those of a softer and more liquid cast. There are, moreover, just words enough of a Moorish or Arabic origin, to give to the stronger and more violent passions the advantage of a deep and powerful guttural intonation, which is truly awful; while, at the same time, the essential purity and unity of the language is preserved. Hence it is, that the language of common life, as far at least as words are concerned, is much the same with that required by the writer and the public speaker, so that the perplexity and embarrassment arising from the labor of selecting proper words, as well as the obscurity caused by using language which is not understood alike by the learned and the ignorant, are both avoided. True, there are some disadvantages in this, and there is to me an air of mock gravity, which is irresistibly ludicrous, in hearing the high sounding and dignified words of the Spanish tongue applied to the smallest objects, and to the slightest trifles, that ever occupy the mind. Even Don Quixote himself, when I read his adventures in English, was but a sad and melancholy specimen of insanity, over which the endless saws and proverbs of Sancho, and his clumsy, cross-legged wit and humor, could scarce cast a veil of pleasantry. In reading the same work in Spanish, however, the Don is by far the most ludicrous of the two, mainly from the fact of the striking contrast there is between the sonorous and grandiloquent language which he uses, and the silly conceits which fill his own head, and the contemptible feats to which he applies this language. Hence it is, that no translation of

VOL. I.

[ocr errors]

Don Quixote can give any adequate idea of the peculiar wit of the original, for no other language has, in the same degree, that character to which this wit is owing. I have thus referred to this work, in order clearly to point out an important difference between the Spanish language and our own. The English language, being compounded mainly of Saxon and Latin, has therefore two perfectly distinct classes of words, which are used to express the same ideas. Of these, such as are derived from Saxon are the shorter and more energetic, and are commonly used in conversation; while words of Latin origin are longer, and more sonorous and dignified, and are employed mainly in writing, and in the conversation and public speaking of literary men. The writings of Dr. Johnson are among the higher specimens of Latin English, and of the same general character is Smollet's translation of Don Quixote. The translation of the same work by Jarvis, on the other hand, is Saxon English, and thus, while it gives to Sancho's witticisms their greatest point and pith, it fails in a greater degree than that of Smollet in imparting a proper degree of ludicrous grandiloquence to the high-fown speeches of the crack-brained Don. We have also a large class of low, vulgar words, expressive of the various acts connected with fights and quarrels, which were derived from the Danish language. This is owing to the fact, that during the Danish invasion, the old inhabitants of England were engaged in constant broils and contentions with their invaders, and hence a peculiar prominence was given to the class of words referred to above. Such are some of the causes which have given us a double language, one division of which is used in common life, and the other in the higher class of literary efforts. Hence, in public speaking, we are apt to assume a stiff, studied, and constrained air and manner, directly opposed to the easy, natural, and pleasing tones and action of dignified and spirited conversation.

No language can exceed the Spanish in its peculiar adaptation to express adoration, and the more elevated and sublime emotions of Christian devotion, but still I think it far inferior to the English in its power of giving utterance to feelings of deep humility, of heart-broken anguish and contrition, and other of the more intense and powerful actings of the human soul. The Spanish language may excel our own tongue when used for splendid declamation, or for elevated appeals to the passions; while we, on the other hand, have greatly the ad

« 上一頁繼續 »