Quintilian, years and years ago,
Was It on oratory;
Demosthenes and Cicero
He studied con amore;
He ran an elocution school
And taught the Roman lispers
The reason and the rote and rule
For requesting father, dear father, to come home with me now, in most pathetic whispers.
‘Twas he who showed that thus and thus
One should appear when stating
The last remarks of Spartacus
On ceasing gladiating.
(Perchance the word we just have used
Escaped your dictionary.
We mean when Spartacus refused
To be butchered to make a Roman holiday exceedingly exciting and otherwise gladsome and merry.)
Quintilian’s book on How to Speak
Is classic at this moment;
It tells the speaker when to shriek
And when his rage to foment.
The boy who on commencement day
Cites Patrick Henry’s speeches
Must do so in Quintilian’s way
When a single order of liberty, with a supplemental second choice of death, he beseeches.
The actor who would thrill the crowd
(A blood and marrow freezer)
By handing out in accents proud
“Mark Antony on Cæsar,”
Must heed the rules set down by Quint.,
And so must he who rises
To heights of glowing fame by dint
Of the justly famous to be or not to be, center of the stage, two spotlights sizzling, when he as Hamlet soliloquizes.
Quintilian, we are fain to say,
Was It on oratory,
And even in this later day
Receives his share of glory,
Except when elocutionists
Our peace and comfort mangle,
By showing how fair Bessie’s wrists
Were strained and bruised while swinging around in the belfry the time she said the curfew should not jangle.