Quote: “The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Speech.
Figure of speech: period, the stately sentence.
There is a reason why we don’t hear speeches like Lincoln’s anymore, and that reason is the forgotten period (from the Greek perihodos, “way around”). In rhetoric, the period is a sentence that unfolds like a flower, with one clause leading to the next, each clause enriching the one that came before. (The word didn’t turn into punctuation until the Middle Ages.)
Lincoln’s use of all those commas seems archaic to our eyes. But read the sentence aloud, and your ears will hear — not a speech as we know it, but music: a lyrical poem that ends with a celestial choir.
Our leaders have much to learn from Lincoln’s rhetoric. It teaches us that a president’s legacy lies not in the power he wields, but in his will to conduct, literally and figuratively conduct, our union.
A happy Fourth to you.
Snappy Answer: None whatsoever.