Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/171

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167
INTERNATIONAL SPEECH

Finally, just what is Esperanto? Esperanto is the name given to a language composed by Dr. Ludovic Lazare Zamenhof, a physician of Warsaw in Russian Poland, born in 1859, in Bielostok in Russia, and now, therefore, in the prime of life. His first publication, issued in Warsaw in 1887 under the pseudonym of "Dro. Esperanto," literally translated, "one who hopes," bore the title "Langue internationale, Préface et manuel complet." The project, which had occupied the author from his youth, made scarcely any impression in the first years after its publication. Volapük then held the field, after the utter fiasco of which, Esperanto suffered from the effects of the general wave of skepticism, ridicule and obloquy that followed in the wake of its failure. It was indeed a considerable time before a new proposal for an international language could so much as gain a hearing in Europe. But Esperanto found a brilliant expositor, also in France, in the person of M. Louis de Beaufront of Louviers, to whose enthusiastic adhesion to the language in its early days is undoubtedly due to a very considerable degree its present success. To an almost fanatical enthusiasm M. de Beaufront conjoined extraordinary talent and ingenuity in the exposition of the merits and claims of Esperanto, and marked tact and cleverness in disarming its opponents. After ten years the effects of the efforts of the founder and his supporters began to be felt; and France soon began to teem with the Esperanto movement. To-day, what began as the desperate struggle of a forlorn little band of idealists, against contempt, ridicule and misrepresentation, and against almost hopeless odds, has risen to the proportions of a formidable affair of international significance, challenging the attention of rulers.

What now are definitely the claims of this remarkable tongue, the sole achievement of a single human being, wrought unaided by a single brain, a work of supreme genius? Without going into one slightest detail, let it be simply said that it answers fully to all the fundamental requirements above mentioned for an international language. Its grammar can be read and perfectly understood in an hour. The pronunciation is simplicity itself, as the letters have each but one simple sound, and the accent rests always on the same syllable, the penult. Seventy per cent. of the word-roots will be recognized at sight by a person of good education in English alone. The utter simplicity of its syntax might make it appear as though such a language must necessarily be bare, meager and inexpressive. On the contrary, as the result of its extraordinary structure, it is ample, rich and full, with much of the flexibility and mobility of English, much of the style and precision of French, not a little of the elegance and grace of Italian, while in great measure it has the full, sonorous quality of sound and imposing dignity of form peculiar to the Latin.