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    "Never His Love."

    The most important speech airing this morning is, of course, Obama’s (see our last post).  But the best one—on NPR’s morning edition—was delivered ten years ago. 

    Father Mychal Judge, a New York Fire Department chaplain, was the first recorded death in the 911 World Trade Center attack. Four days later, Father Michael Duffy delivered a homily in front of 3,000 people. When Father Duffy reached for his notes, he realized he couldn’t get to them through his vestments. So he spoke his words by heart. We quote the lovely ending.

    And so, this morning we come to bury Myke Judge’s body, but not his spirit. We come to bury his voice, but not his message. We come to bury his hands, but not his good works. We come to bury his heart, but not his love. Never his love.

    This short passage uses several highly emotional figures. The most important:

    Antithesis (an-TIH-the-sis), the contrasting figure. From the Greek, meaning “opposing thoughts.”

    The antithesis weighs differences side by side: body, not spirit. Voice, not message. Hands, not works. Heart, not love.

    There are some first-rate word repeaters in there as well—including the anaphora, which repeats the first words through successive phrases. (“We come…”)

    And finally, there’s this:

    Palilogia (pal-ih-LOW-ja), the emphatic repeater. From the Greek, meaning “speak over again.” 

    “Not his love,” Father Duffy says. “Never his love.” This repetition boldfaces the word “love,” nailing the theme of his homily, while expressing the deepest kind of public emotion. It’s a near-perfect figure, and homily, to sweeten a bitter moment in our history.

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    Reader Comments (3)

    That's a beautiful post, Fig. I thought the antithesis was a logical figure, but you show how it could be used emotionally. Remarkable.
    September 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAlana
    Agreed. It's nice to see you back to commenting on speeches, Fig. I require my students to subscribe to your blog, and it's important for them to see this stuff.
    September 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBobby McGee
    Thanks, y'all. While I don't like to repeat my figures, you might like to see John Boehner's nice anthesis in my next post.
    September 16, 2011 | Registered CommenterFigaro

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