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- The Evolution of Expression Vol. I - 10/20 -

They moved with masses of men, and were sure of the applause of party spirit, of political tradition, and of established institutions. Phillips stood alone.

4. With no party behind him and appealing against established order and acknowledged tradition, his speech was necessarily a popular appeal for a strange and unwelcome cause, and the condition of its success was that it should both charm and rouse the hearer, while, under cover of the fascination, the orator unfolded his argument and urged his plea. This condition the genius of the orator instinctively perceived, and it determined the character of his discourse.

5. He faced his audience with a tranquil mien and a beaming aspect that was never dimmed. He spoke, and in the measured cadence of his quiet voice there was intense feeling, but no declamation, no passionate appeal, no superficial and feigned emotion. It was simple colloquy--a gentleman conversing. Unconsciously and surely, the ear and heart were charmed. How was it done? Ah! how did Mozart do it, how Raphael? The secret of the rose's sweetness, of the bird's ecstacy, of the sunset's glory--that is the secret of genius and of eloquence.

6. What was heard, what was seen, was the form of noble manhood, the courteous and self-possessed tone, the flow of modulated speech, sparkling with matchless richness of illustration, with apt illusion, and happy anecdote, and historic parallel, with wit and pitiless invective, with melodious pathos, with stinging satire, with crackling epigram and limpid humor, like the bright ripples that play around the sure and steady prow of the resistless ship. The divine energy of his conviction utterly possessed him, and his

"Pure and eloquent blood Spoke in his cheek, and so distinctly wrought That one might almost say his body thought."

7. Phillips cherished profound faith in the people, and because he cherished it he never flattered the mob, nor hung upon its neck, nor pandered to its passion, nor suffered its foaming hate or its exulting enthusiasm to touch the calm poise of his regnant soul. He moved in solitary majesty, and if from his smooth speech a lightning flash of satire or of scorn struck a cherished lie, or an honored character, or a dogma of the party creed, and the crowd burst into a furious tempest of dissent, he beat it into silence with uncompromising iteration. If it tried to drown his voice, he turned to the reporters, and over the raging tumult calmly said, "Howl on, I speak to 30,000,000 here."

8. There was another power in his speech sharper than in the speech of any other American orator,--an unsparing invective. The abolition appeal was essentially iconoclastic, and the method of a reformer at close quarters with a mighty system of wrong cannot be measured by the standards of cool and polite debate. Phillips did not shrink from the sternest denunciation, or ridicule or scorn, of those who seemed to him recreant to freedom and humanity. The idols of a purely conventional virtue he delighted to shatter, because no public enemy seemed to him more deadly than the American who made moral cowardice respectable.

9. He knew that his ruthless words closed to him homes of friendship and hearts of sympathy. He saw the amazement, he heard the condemnation; but, like the great apostle preaching Christ, he knew only humanity and humanity crucified. Tongue of the dumb, eyes of the blind, feet of the impotent, his voice alone, among the voices that were everywhere heard and heeded, was sent by God to challenge every word, or look, or deed that seemed to him possibly to palliate oppression or to comfort the oppressor.

10. I am not here to declare that the judgment of Wendell Phillips was always sound, nor his estimate of men always just, nor his policy always approved by the event. I am not here to eulogize the mortal, but the immortal.

11. The plain house in which he lived--severely plain, because the welfare of the suffering and the slave were preferred to book, and picture, and every fair device of art; the house to which the north star led the trembling fugitive, and which the unfortunate and the friendless knew--the radiant figure passing swiftly through these streets, plain as the house from which it came, regal with, a royalty beyond that of kings--the ceaseless charity untold--the strong, sustaining heart--the sacred domestic affection that must not here be named--the eloquence which, like the song of Orpheus, will fade from living memory into a doubtful tale--the surrender of ambition, the consecration of a life hidden with God in sympathy with man--these, all these, will live among your immortal traditions, heroic even in your heroic story.

12. But not yours alone. As years go by, and only the large outlines of lofty American characters and careers remain, the wide republic will confess the benediction of a life like this, and gladly own that if with perfect faith, and hope assured, America would still stand and "bid the distant generations hail," the inspiration of her national life must be the sublime moral courage, the all-embracing humanity, the spotless integrity, the absolutely unselfish devotion of great powers to great public ends, which were the glory of Wendell Phillips.




I come from haunts of coot and hern, I make a sudden sally, And sparkle out among the fern, To bicker down a valley.


By thirty hills I hurry down, Or slip between the ridges; By twenty thorps, a little town, And half a hundred bridges.


I chatter over stony ways, In little sharps and trebles, I bubble into eddying bays, I babble on the pebbles.


With many a curve my banks I fret By many a field and fallow, And many a fairy foreland set With willow-weed and mallow.


I chatter, chatter, as I flow To join the brimming river, For men may come, and men may go, But I go on for ever.


I wind about, and in and out, With here a blossom sailing, And here and there a lusty trout, And here and there a grayling.


And here and there a foamy flake Upon me as I travel, With many a silvery water-break Above the golden gravel.


I steal by lawns and grassy plots, I slide by hazel covers, I move the sweet forget-me-nots That grow for happy lovers.


I slip, I slide, I gloom, I glance, Among my skimming swallows; I make the netted sunbeam dance Against my sandy shallows.


I murmur, under moon and stars In brambly wildernesses, I linger by my shingly bars, I loiter round my cresses.


And out again I curve and flow To join the brimming river; For men may come and men may go, But I go on for ever.



Wasn't it pleasant, O, brother mine, In those old days of the lost sunshine Of youth--when the Saturday's chores were through, And the "Sunday's wood" in the kitchen, too, And we went visiting, "me and you," Out to Old Aunt Mary's?

It all comes back so clear to-day! Though I am as bald as you are gray-- Out by the barn-lot, and down the lane, We patter along in the dust again, As light as the tips of the drops of the rain, Out to Old Aunt Mary's!

We cross the pasture, and through the wood Where the old gray snag of the poplar stood, Where the hammering "red-heads" hopped awry,

The Evolution of Expression Vol. I - 10/20

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