A rhetorician of times past said, that to make little things appear great was his profession. This was a shoemaker, who can make a great shoe for a little foot.—[A saying of Agesilaus.]—They would in Sparta have sent such a fellow to be whipped for making profession of a tricky and deceitful act; and I fancy that Archidamus, who was king of that country, was a little surprised at the answer of Thucydides, when inquiring of him, which was the better wrestler, Pericles, or he, he replied, that it was hard to affirm; for when I have thrown him, said he, he always persuades the spectators that he had no fall and carries away the prize. —[Quintilian, ii. 15.]—The women who paint, pounce, and plaster up their ruins, filling up their wrinkles and deformities, are less to blame, because it is no great matter whether we see them in their natural complexions; whereas these make it their business to deceive not our sight only but our judgments, and to adulterate and corrupt the very essence of things. The republics that have maintained themselves in a regular and well-modelled government, such as those of Lacedaemon and Crete, had orators in no very great esteem. Aristo wisely defined rhetoric to be "a science to persuade the people;" Socrates and Plato "an art to flatter and deceive." And those who deny it in the general description, verify it throughout in their precepts. The Mohammedans will not suffer their children to be instructed in it, as being useless, and the Athenians, perceiving of how pernicious consequence the practice of it was, it being in their city of universal esteem, ordered the principal part, which is to move the affections, with their exordiums and perorations, to be taken away. 'Tis an engine invented to manage and govern a disorderly and tumultuous rabble, and that never is made use of, but like physic to the sick, in a discomposed state. In those where the vulgar or the ignorant, or both together, have been all-powerful and able to give the law, as in those of Athens, Rhodes, and Rome, and where the public affairs have been in a continual tempest of commotion, to such places have the orators always repaired. And in truth, we shall find few persons in those republics who have pushed their fortunes to any great degree of eminence without the assistance of eloquence.
Pompey, Caesar, Crassus, Lucullus, Lentulus, Metellus, thence took their chiefest spring, to mount to that degree of authority at which they at last arrived, making it of greater use to them than arms, contrary to the opinion of better times; for, L. Volumnius speaking publicly in favour of the election of Q. Fabius and Pub. Decius, to the consular dignity: "These are men," said he, "born for war and great in execution; in the combat of the tongue altogether wanting; spirits truly consular. The subtle, eloquent, and learned are only good for the city, to make praetors of, to administer justice."—[Livy, x. 22.]
Eloquence most flourished at Rome when the public affairs were in the worst condition and most disquieted with intestine commotions; as a free and untilled soil bears the worst weeds. By which it should seem that a monarchical government has less need of it than any other: for the stupidity and facility natural to the common people, and that render them subject to be turned and twined and, led by the ears by this charming harmony of words, without weighing or considering the truth and reality of things by the force of reason: this facility, I say, is not easily found in a single person, and it is also more easy by good education and advice to secure him from the impression of this poison. There was never any famous orator known to come out of Persia or Macedon.
I have entered into this discourse upon the occasion of an Italian I lately received into my service, and who was clerk of the kitchen to the late Cardinal Caraffa till his death. I put this fellow upon an account of his office: when he fell to discourse of this palate-science, with such a settled countenance and magisterial gravity, as if he had been handling some profound point of divinity. He made a learned distinction of the several sorts of appetites; of that a man has before he begins to eat, and of those after the second and third service; the means simply to satisfy the first, and then to raise and actuate the other two; the ordering of the sauces, first in general, and then proceeded to the qualities of the ingredients and their effects; the differences of salads according to their seasons, those which ought to be served up hot, and which cold; the manner of their garnishment and decoration to render them acceptable to the eye. After which he entered upon the order of the whole service, full of weighty and important considerations:
"Nec minimo sane discrimine refert, Quo gestu lepores, et quo gallina secetur;" ["Nor with less discrimination observes how we should carve a hare, and how a hen." or, ("Nor with the least discrimination relates how we should carve hares, and how cut up a hen.)" —Juvenal, Sat., v. 123.]and all this set out with lofty and magnificent words, the very same we make use of when we discourse of the government of an empire. Which learned lecture of my man brought this of Terence into my memory:
"Hoc salsum est, hoc adustum est, hoc lautum est, parum: Illud recte: iterum sic memento: sedulo Moneo, qux possum, pro mea sapientia. Postremo, tanquam in speculum, in patinas, Demea, Inspicere jubeo, et moneo, quid facto usus sit." ["This is too salt, that's burnt, that's not washed enough; that's well; remember to do so another time. Thus do I ever advise them to have things done properly, according to my capacity; and lastly, Demea, I command my cooks to look into every dish as if it were a mirror, and tell them what they should do." —Terence, Adelph., iii. 3, 71.]And yet even the Greeks themselves very much admired and highly applauded the order and disposition that Paulus AEmilius observed in the feast he gave them at his return from Macedon. But I do not here speak of effects, I speak of words only.
I do not know whether it may have the same operation upon other men that it has upon me, but when I hear our architects thunder out their bombast words of pilasters, architraves, and cornices, of the Corinthian and Doric orders, and suchlike jargon, my imagination is presently possessed with the palace of Apollidon; when, after all, I find them but the paltry pieces of my own kitchen door.
To hear men talk of metonomies, metaphors, and allegories, and other grammar words, would not one think they signified some rare and exotic form of speaking? And yet they are phrases that come near to the babble of my chambermaid.
And this other is a gullery of the same stamp, to call the offices of our kingdom by the lofty titles of the Romans, though they have no similitude of function, and still less of authority and power. And this also, which I doubt will one day turn to the reproach of this age of ours, unworthily and indifferently to confer upon any we think fit the most glorious surnames with which antiquity honoured but one or two persons in several ages. Plato carried away the surname of Divine, by so universal a consent that never any one repined at it, or attempted to take it from him; and yet the Italians, who pretend, and with good reason, to more sprightly wits and sounder sense than the other nations of their time, have lately bestowed the same title upon Aretin, in whose writings, save tumid phrases set out with smart periods, ingenious indeed but far-fetched and fantastic, and the eloquence, be it what it may, I see nothing in him above the ordinary writers of his time, so far is he from approaching the ancient divinity. And we make nothing of giving the surname of great to princes who have nothing more than ordinary in them.
Final project passage
Words, words words words words words. Let me name off a few. These are a few words. That last sentence had absolutely no meaning at all, it won’t sway an opinion it won’t evoke emotion nor will inspire the masses. It has no eloquence, no grandeur or great wisdom. Throughout history words have been used in countless ways in even more countless combinations. Though Montaigne did not hesitate to explain the evils and lies that words have been used to create and how words have been used to control, oppress and trick the masses, keep them beneath the educated. However, what he failed to realize is that he himself with his many essays and letters used words for absolutely no reason, just like the second sentence of this passage, he simply wrote his thoughts as they came and by doing that with no goal or end in mind what should be viewed as a great philosophical insight could be viewed as the meaningless ramblings of a lonely man that held no real technical skills. I will be the last to say I agree to such a statement however it is quite easy to see why so many are put off and bored or sometime aggravated by his essays.
He explains the importance of word placement and how you pronounce each word, which is key to persuading someone with words alone, this is true, but he neglects to mention why you must you words alone, spoken word, why not the written word? Well that is obvious the following two sentences are no different to an illiterate man when on a page of paper. The cat drank the milk. Hay, gag flour pencil banana. In fcat wehn it cmeos to us raednig stidues hvae swhon taht as lnog as all ltrtes are pesrnet in a wrod and the frist and lsat ltrtes are crrocet we can slitl raed the snetcne pfrcelty.
Though in his essay Of the Vanity of Words focuses on the lies words have formed I would rather gear my mind to the counter opinion of the good and truths words have brought when in the hands of a truly great man with command of their mind.
Martin Luther King Junior used words of peace, of harmony and understanding to rally a people and give them the strength to fight for equality, to stand against the world that seemed to want them kept under the heels of others. And he himself was inspired by Mohandas Gandhi, who was once hailed as the man that ‘fought the tyranny of the British Empire with words, and won.’
They used the beliefs they held sewn into every word they spoke to strike the meaning of each phrase deep into the minds of those that followed them and opposed them, they did not want to control, they wanted to guide and lead their people to a better state in life free from the control and lies of another’s words and actions.
Words are used to up lift people from their lows when they feel like the world is falling down around them, they let us confide secrets to others to relieve burdens from our shoulders, they allow us to create bonds and connections with those around us.
The words we speak help us and others define who we are to others that may not be able to see the truth just by looking at us. They define the poor man as a philosopher, the casual man as an artist, the business man as a father.
Without words to speak and release our feelings, both good and bad, we live in a mute world without explanation, open thought, discussion and connection.
‘An eye for an eye and the world goes blind’
‘To be or not to be’
‘Those who stand for nothing, fall for anything’
‘Think not what your country can do, but what you can do for your country’
‘I have a dream’
‘Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.’
These are the quotes that rise to the forefront of my mind. They stand there powerfully and meaningfully.
To craft words into a statement that sticks into the minds of others and resonates with a meaning is something I’ve meant to do forever, and I’ve tried many times but it never seems to stick.
‘When one makes war over a fool’s petty joke, he turns himself a fool.’
‘Words are only nonsense sounds, until you give them a meaning.’
‘To forbid a word is to forbid knowledge, so I say this, fuck.’
Words are versatile, malleable, they can be used as a weapon or as a shield, they can bring people together, and drive them apart.
Revolution starts with an idea spread to others through a voice carrying the words of wise men.
Words are craft music that touches our hearts and stirs the greatest emotions from the depths of our beings.
Words give hope, joy, despair and sorrow.
How we use them is what truly matters, they define us, and our words that remain here forever after, passed down whether we know it or not are the proof that we exist.