Cicero at Port Alberni, BC

Tuesday, May 21, 2002, 9:13 am, Port Alberni, BC

Rather pooped all yesterday: from running those hills! A good kind of fatigue, though.

The Maples, Sproat Lake, Port Alberni, BC, 20 May 2002

The day was intermittently rainy, so we did not hike. Instead I concluded reading Cicero’s On the Orator (I) – about 100 pages – and quite enjoyed it. Precepts have not changed in 2500 years: to be excellent at what you do, it is necessary to have enthusiasm for the endeavour: “a passion just short of love.”

… the fields which have produced the smallest number of distinguished exponents are poetry and oratory. (p. 239)

But if he [the speaker] is called upon to take on some theme he knows nothing about, once he has picked up its technicalities from the experts he will speak about the subject far better than they themselves ever could. (p. 259)

For since any sort of talking, except when absolutely necessary, is a silly activity, talking about talking must surely be the most imbecile procedure in the world. (p. 275)

It is true that the mass of lawsuits that crop up, and the illiterate rabble who crowd into the Forum, give even the most deplorable speaker a chance. But that is no reason why we should lose sight of our ideal. On the contrary, we must adopt the same standards as we apply to those arts which aim not at indispensable utility, as oratory does, but at intellectual pleasure pure and simple. (p. 277)

 … the essence of art is taste – though … that is the one thing an instructor in the art cannot possibly teach. (p. 282)

‘You [Crassus] are kind enough to assure us that our own natural endowments for oratory are not totally deficient. Well, then, we should like to know what we need to supplement them.’ Crassus smiled at this, and said: ‘You need just one thing: enthusiasm – a passion little short of love! Without such a passion, no one is going to achieve anything outstanding in life, least of all what you are looking for…. ‘Nevertheless, nobody can reach any objective at all, however hard he tries, without first mapping out the path which will lead him to his goal. (pp. 282-3)

… eloquence is not derived from the rules: it is the other way round. (p. 286)

… nothing ought to delight us so much as our own country. (p. 304)

… I am convinced that if the two of you are really determined to embark on the pursuits which Crassus indicated, you must first manage to open the gateway and get through the door, and then you will find the rest of the journey quite easy. (p. 308)

… there is no earthly reason why a man should limit himself to the knowledge of one art and one only. Neither nature nor statute nor usage demand any such restriction. (p. 313)

In the early afternoon, though, we did drive to the water bombers’ base — immense flying machines — and into town for groceries.

We have relaxed considerably during our stay here; and this cabin has been one of the best of its kind that we have stayed in.

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