Successes in Rhetoric: Language in the Life of Churchill





The orotund proclamations will be unavoidable at the new exhibition “Churchill: The Power of Words,” at the Morgan Library & Museum, because at the center of the gallery is a semi-enclosed theater. And from it, however muted, will emerge recordings of Winston Churchill’s voice, speaking to Parliament, to British radio listeners and to American audiences, breaking on the ear like waves, rising and falling with every breath, sometimes suspended unexpectedly in midair, other times rushing forward with renewed vigor.

If you enter that small theater to hear excerpts from eight of his landmark speeches more clearly, you will also see the words on screen, laid out in poetic scansion (“The whole fury and might of the enemy/must very soon be turned on us”), just as Churchill wrote them, to match the rhythms of his voice.

But ignore the sound, if you can, and leave it for last. For it is best first to be reminded just how important those speeches by a British prime minister really were, and what difference they made....



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