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“Can these dry bones live ? asked the seer of old, on seeing a valley strewn with them.
“Can these dry bones live ? Did they ever live ?” many a reader has asked of himself, on looking over a book-valley filled with lifeless, disjointed words. Yes, many sentences of common-place words and thin and weak ideas, which, in cold, inanimate type, seem dead to the reader, have thrilled and stirred hundreds to the deepest emotion when listening to them as they fell burning from the tongue. Words are the veins, but not the vital fluid of mental life. As in the case of the dry bones the prophet saw, a living spirit must pass over and through them before they glow, and breathe, and throb with life. Spoken words are often delivered upon the mind of the listener with a temporary force and impression which the written cannot produce upon the reader. In the first place, listening to a public speaker is a congregate exercise, and he can play upon the sympathy of a hundred minds drinking in the same thoughts at the same moment. Even if they were all blind, and could not see each other's faces as they listened, they would be conscious of the tide of feeling that the speaker was raising in the invisible assembly. Thus he has a peculiar advantage over the writer in this simple sentiment of sympathy in a compact congregation of hearers; for in ninety-nine cases in a hundred the author's words fall upon the mind of an isolated reader, without any accessory charm or force that the tongue can give or ear receive. Then, if the preacher or orator has an impressive or well-modulated voice, he can give to his words a power which type cannot reproduce, or save from evanescence. But the great, capital advantage he has over the writer, though transient, is in the projectile force of feeling he can throw into his words through his voice, eyes, face, and action. Many a speaker, by the very mesmerism of his own heart-power, has raised dead words from the ground and made them electrify a great audience with their startling life. We have seen this effect produced under a great variety of circumstances, and with the simplest words. We once attended a negro church service in Virginia, where a large chapel was filled with slaves of every age. One of their fellow-members had died the week before, and a coloured brother on the platform was "improving the occasion."
He had gradually brought the congregation to a certain level of emotion by his simple and
pathetic tribute of affectionate regard for the deceased. When he had raised them to a sympathetic point, from which they would have easily subsided to a calmer feeling without new explosive force on his part, he turned himself half round from the audience and uttered the simple words-“ Jimmy lies dere in he grabe.” Could those maimed words live? a classical scholar might ask. Yes, they did live, with a vitality and power that might well have astonished the prophet who saw the dry bones stir with animation. They filled the walls of the house as with a mighty rushing wind of human emotion, with sobs of sympathy and ejaculations of intense feeling. Half the audience rose to their feet, and several men and women waved their arms, with uprolled eyes, as if swimming up to heaven in their extacy. “ Jimmy lies dere in he grabe!" were the simple words through which he produced this effect. They were the veins through which he transfused 300 human hearts with the vital fluid of the feeling which filled his own to this passionate outburst. How cold they look in type! Who would read them with any interest above the general sentiment which the bare statement is calculated to inspire? They come to the reader's mind in their bald and isolated meaning, abstracted from every accessary or surrounding circumstance that affected their utterance.
No printed words would convey an idea of that outburst of feeling which forced itself into that simple exclamation, of the tremor of his voice, of the expression of his countenance, as the white tears ran down his black face. He stepped to the left edge of the platform as he half turned from the audience. He bent his form and placed a hand on each knee; he stretched out his neck as if to look over the sharp edge of the grave; for a silent moment he trembled from head to foot, in every joint and in every hair of his head ; then, in a voice tremulous with a melting pathos, as if his tears were dropping upon the dead face of their departed friend, he sobbed out, “Jimmy lies dere in he grabe!" Never did we hear before six words uttered with such a projectile force of feeling, or that produced such an effect upon an audience.
Another instance we will notice to illustrate the effect which mere heart-power in the speaker may give, even to words that may have no intellectual meaning to an audience. The Peace Congress in Paris, in 1849, was perhaps the first public meeting in France in which French, English, Americans, Germans, Spaniards, and Italians ever assembled together to discuss principles and topics in which they felt a common interest. Those of us especially who had laboured for months to bring