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LXV. – THE FALL OF D’ASSAS.
The Chevalier d'Assas, called the French Decius, fell nobly while reconnoitering a wood, near Closterkamp, by night. He had left his regiment, that of Auvergne, at a short distance, and was suddenly surrounded by an ambuscade of the enemy, who threatened him with instant death if he made the least sign of their vicinity. With their bayonets at his breast, he raised his voice, and calling aloud, “A moi, Auvergne! ce sont les ennemis !" (Help, Auvergne! the enemy!) fell, pierced with mortal blows.
Pronounce AUVERGNE, O-vern' (the e as in there), D'Assas, das-sah'. See in Index, CHEVALIER, COMRADE, DECIUS, HEMANS.
ALONE, through gloomy forest shades
A soldier went by night;
The youth all cheerily passed,
Came not faint whispers near?
What grasp hath wrenched the blade ?
Young soldier, thou 'rt betrayed !
“ Silence !” in undertones they cry,
“ No whisper! — not a breath!
Shall sentence thee to death!”
Still at the bayonet's point he stood,
And, strong to meet the blow,
He heard their tumults grow;
“ Auvergne ! Auvergne ! — the foe!”
LXVI. — WHAT WE OVE TO ATHENS.
In EXERCISE, ENERGY, LIBERTY, MANNERS, POVERTY, WESTERN, do not obscure the sound of e before r (e as in her); see $ 7.
Pronounce ARCHIVES, ar' kivz, TRIVIAL, triv'i-al, SUBTLETY, sut'l-ty, LACEDÆMONIAN, las'e-de-mo'ni-an.
See in Index, DYNASTY, EXAGGERATE, MOULDER or MOLDER, RIVALED or RIVALLED, SCEPTRE or SCEPTER, TRAVELER or TRAVELLER, BACON, BUTLER, CERVANTES, CICERO, DANTE, ERASMUS, GALILEO, MIRABEAU, Pascal, SHAKESPEARE, MACAULAY.
Delivery. This extract presents one of the most brilliant specimens of Macaulay's finished and elegant style. Let the delivery emulate the animation and grace of the diction. The pitch should be middle, tone pure, force gentle, time medium, pauses short.
1. It is strange that those whose office it is to supply statesmen with examples and warnings should omit, as too mean for the dignity of history, circumstances which exert the most extensive influence on the state of society. In general, the undercurrent of hu
man life flows steadily on, unruffled by the storms which agitate the surface.
2. The happiness of the many commonly depends on causes independent of victories or defeats, of revolutions or restorations, — causes which can be regulated by no laws, and which are recorded in no archives. These causes are the things which it is of main importance to us to know ; not how the Lacedæmonian phălanx was broken at Leuctra, — not whether Alexander died of poison or by disease.
3. I would hope that there may yet appear a writer who may despise the present narrow limits, and assert the rights of history over every part of her natural domain. Should such a writer engage in that enterprise, in which I cannot but consider Mr. Mitford * as having failed, he will record, indeed, all that is in'teresting and important in military and political transactions; but he will not think anything too trivial for the gravity of history, which is not too trivial to promote or diminish the happiness of man.
4. He will pārtray in vivid colors the domestic society, the manners, the amusements, the conversation of the Greeks. He will not disdain to discuss the state of agriculture, of the mechanical arts, and of the conveniences of life. But, above all, his attention will be given to the history of that splendid literature from which has sprung all the strength, the wisdom, the freedom, and the glory of the Western world.
5. If we consider merely the subtlety of disquisition, the force of imagination, the perfect energy and eloquence of expression, which characterize the great works of Athenian genius, we must pronounce them intrinsically most valuable; but what shall we say when we reflect that from hence have sprung, directly or indirectly, all the noblest creations of the human intel
* William Mitford, author of a History of Greece. He died, 1827.
lect; that from hence were the vast accomplishmento and the brilliant fancy of Cicero, the withering fire of Ju'venal, the plastic imagination of Dantë, the humor of Cervantes, the comprehension of Bacon, the wit of Butler, the supreme and universal excellence of Shakespeare ?
6. All the triumphs of truth and genius over prejudice and power, in every country and in every age, have been the triumphs of Athens. Wherever a few great minds have made a stand against violence and fraud, in the cause of liberty and reason, there has been her spirit in the midst of them ; inspiring, encouraging, consoling; — by the lonely lamp of Erasmus; by the restless bed of Pascal; in the trīb'une of Mirabeau ; in the cell of Galileo ; on the scaffold of Sidney.
7. But who shall estimate her influence on private happiness? Who shall say how many thousands have been made wiser, happier, and better by those pursuits in which she has taught mankind to engage; to how many the studies which took their rise from her have been wealth in poverty, — liberty in bondage, - health in sickness, - society in solitude.
8. Her power is indeed manifested at the bar ; in the senate; in the field of battle ; in the schools of philosophy. But these are not her glory. Wherever literature consoles sorrow or assuages pain, — wherever it brings gladness to eyes which fail with wakefulness and tears, and ache for the dark house and the long sleep, – there is exhibited, in its noblest form, the immortal influence of Athens.
9. The dervis, in the Arabian tale, did not hesitate to abandon to his comrade the camels with their loads of jewels and gold, while he retained the casket of that mysterious juice which enabled him to behold at one glance all the hidden riches of the universe. Surely it is no exaggeration to say, that no external advantage is to be compared with that purification of the intellectual eye, which gives us to contem'plate the infinite wealth of the mental world; all the hoarded treasures of the primeval dynasties, all the shapeless ore of its yet unexplored mines. This is the gift of Athens to man.
10. Her freedom and her power have for more than twenty centuries been annihilated; her people have degenerated into timid slaves ; her language into a barbarous jargon ; her temples have been given up to the successive depredations of Romans, Turks, and Scotchmen ; but her intellectual empire is imperishable.
11. And, when those who have rivaled her greatness shall have shared her fate; when civilization and knowledge shall have fixed their abode in distant continents ; when the sceptre shall have passed away from England; when, perhaps, travelers from distant regions shall in vain labor to decipher on some mouldering pedestal the name of our proudest chief; shall hear savage hymns chanted to some missliapen idol over the ruined dome of our proudest temple ; and shall see a single fisherman wash his nets in the river of the ten thousand masts, — her influence and her glory will still survive,
– fresh in eternal youth, exempt from mutability and decay, immortal as the intellectual principle from which they derive their origin, and over which they exercise their control.
LXVII. — THE EAGLE AND THE CHILD.
ROGERS. The incident here narrated is said to have occurred near the upper falls in Lauterbrunnen, Switzerland, a little village among the mountains, and hermed in between limestone precipices nearly vertical, down which innumerable rivulets tumble in long threads of silvery foam. An infant was here carried away by an eagle; but the bird was shot, and the child rescued See in Index, DISMAY, HEAVEN, ERE, ROGERS.