Page:Modern Parliamentary Eloquence.djvu/83

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75
Modern Parliamentary Eloquence

Neither of these passages was extemporaneous. Both were written in advance; one was recited and the other read. They violate the canons, therefore, of those who apply the test of improvisation to oratory. I quote them here because they seem to me to represent better than any explanation or definition could do that which is not rhetoric nor declamation, nor even sermonising, but the purest gold of human eloquence, nay, of eloquence almost divine. Either could be delivered, if a man capable of composing and delivering them were to exist, in any assemblage, before any audience, at any time of the modern world's history, without a suggestion of artifice or incongruity, with an effect inexorably sure and eternally true. They were uttered by a man who had been a country farmer and a district lawyer before he became a statesman. But they are among the glories and the treasures of mankind. I escape the task of deciding which is the masterpiece of modern English eloquence by awarding the prize to an American.