He was a foe without hate

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#1
"He was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a soldier without cruelty; a victor without oppression, and a victim without murmuring. He was a public officer without vices; a private citizen without wrong; a neighbor without reproach; a Christian without hypocrisy, and a man without guile. He was a Caesar, without his ambition; Frederick, without his tyranny; Napoleon, without his selfishness, and Washington, without his reward." - Benjamin Harvey Hill of Georgia referring to Robert Edward Lee during an address before the Southern Historical Society in Atlanta, Georgia on 18 February 1874

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#2
There is nothing more ridiculous than the lengths to which a 19th century speaker will go to praise his subject. Why didn't Hill just propose Lee be canonized and save his breath?

I'm not interested in or able to describe Lee as a mockery of all of the above, but it is too stunningly over the top to be taken as a realistic assessment of a man who was something other than the Second Coming.
 
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Please, a great man? Yes. Godlike? No.
This. I have nothing inherently against praise for Lee, but the speaker is over the top in the style reserved for 19th century speakers and medieval "historians" (as in, those writing the chronicles in monasteries). The substance is lost in the search for superlatives.
 

Patrick H

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I see no reason to get all bent about the superlatives in this speech. It is quoted in its historical context. People often spoke that way then (some better than others, I'll grant you. Many an author of the era wrote flowery prose full of superlatives, too, which doesn't lend much to their readability nowadays.) But it's just a quote from a speech.
 
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#8
I see no reason to get all bent about the superlatives in this speech. It is quoted in its historical context. People often spoke that way then (some better than others, I'll grant you. Many an author of the era wrote flowery prose full of superlatives, too, which doesn't lend much to their readability nowadays.) But it's just a quote from a speech.
And its a style of speaking and writing I particularly dislike - not merely because of personal taste (my own writing isn't exactly the best example of plain and unadorned English) but because it obscures more than it reveals.

When every soldier killed in combat is as brave as Achilles and honorable as Bayard, as gallant as Sir Lancelot and so on and so forth, it loses all meaning to describe someone like that. How they actually compare to their contemporaries and what they actually did becomes impossible to decipher as the speaker or writer seeks to put what they have to say in the strongest possible terms rather than the clearest.
 

ole

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We can all agree that we have personal heroes and idols and goats. Can we leave it at that? The flowery prose of the OP is very pretty. Designed to appeal to those who tend to idolize Lee as a saint. He was a good man. Probably a great man but, so far as I know, didn't make water into wine. Nor did Jackson, Grant, Sherman, Lincoln or anyone else we might selectively find honorable.

This is maybe a study in how an ordinary man, or perhaps an extraordinary man, becomes an object of worship. Heck, Pele, is a god in South America. (Was he Brazil or Argentina?) Different strokes, people. No reason for heat.
 
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#10
We can all agree that we have personal heroes and idols and goats. Can we leave it at that? The flowery prose of the OP is very pretty. Designed to appeal to those who tend to idolize Lee as a saint. He was a good man. Probably a great man but, so far as I know, didn't make water into wine. Nor did Jackson, Grant, Sherman, Lincoln or anyone else we might selectively find honorable.

This is maybe a study in how an ordinary man, or perhaps an extraordinary man, becomes an object of worship. Heck, Pele, is a god in South America. (Was he Brazil or Argentina?) Different strokes, people. No reason for heat.
Brazilian
 
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We can all agree that we have personal heroes and idols and goats. Can we leave it at that? The flowery prose of the OP is very pretty. Designed to appeal to those who tend to idolize Lee as a saint. He was a good man. Probably a great man but, so far as I know, didn't make water into wine. Nor did Jackson, Grant, Sherman, Lincoln or anyone else we might selectively find honorable.
We can certainly leave it at that, I was more registering a complaint with the style than the subject, and would happily leave it at what I have posted unless someone wants to start a "Literary styles: Your opinion?" thread.
 

ole

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We can certainly leave it at that, I was more registering a complaint with the style than the subject, and would happily leave it at what I have posted unless someone wants to start a "Literary styles: Your opinion?" thread.
The OP's statement was certainly pretty and quite appropriate for an eulogy. But that's what it was, an eulogy.
 

rebelatsea

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#13
"He was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a soldier without cruelty; a victor without oppression, and a victim without murmuring. He was a public officer without vices; a private citizen without wrong; a neighbor without reproach; a Christian without hypocrisy, and a man without guile. He was a Caesar, without his ambition; Frederick, without his tyranny; Napoleon, without his selfishness, and Washington, without his reward." - Benjamin Harvey Hill of Georgia referring to Robert Edward Lee during an address before the Southern Historical Society in Atlanta, Georgia on 18 February 1874

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Ignoring the typical Victorian Hyberbole, about which no doubt we are going to get a lot of flapping mouths. How unbelievably dignified is that chapel, with none of the over the top dec oration usually seen in a memorial chapel over here. Plain simple and concentrates the attention on the subject.
 

ole

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Ignoring the typical Victorian Hyberbole, about which no doubt we are going to get a lot of flapping mouths. How unbelievably dignified is that chapel, with none of the over the top dec oration usually seen in a memorial chapel over here. Plain simple and concentrates the attention on the subject.
Taste is relative, rebelatsea.

I've not visited the Chapel at Lexington. (I was visiting a distant cousin at the time.) But I will suppose it is reverently comparable to Lincoln's Tomb which also inspires silence. But there's no controversy there about what flag is displayed.
 

unionblue

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#15
"He was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a soldier without cruelty; a victor without oppression, and a victim without murmuring. He was a public officer without vices; a private citizen without wrong; a neighbor without reproach; a Christian without hypocrisy, and a man without guile. He was a Caesar, without his ambition; Frederick, without his tyranny; Napoleon, without his selfishness, and Washington, without his reward." - Benjamin Harvey Hill of Georgia referring to Robert Edward Lee during an address before the Southern Historical Society in Atlanta, Georgia on 18 February 1874

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To All,

I felt compelled upon reading the OP of this thread to look up another famous funeral.

I note the contrast with the above with what was said at Grant's funeral in 1885.

"The last thought of Grant was for his country. His last efforts were for national harmony and reconciliation. As we contemplate his life, as the earch covers all of him that is mortal, let our thoughts also be directed towards our country. Let our faith in the people, and in our form of government be invigorated and intensified. Let not hostile criticism at any time make us fear that our institutions are too liberal. Let us remember that as God is just, free and equal laws must be just. Let us resolve that henceforth there shall be no North or South, East or West, but one people, dwelling together in unity, love, and peace."

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 
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Pat Young

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#18
The OP's statement was certainly pretty and quite appropriate for an eulogy. But that's what it was, an eulogy.
Wouldn't you have liked it if Hill had told a funny story about Lee? Most eulogies today try to humanize the dead, but poor Lee was already being mummified with greatness before he died.
 

rebelatsea

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Taste is relative, rebelatsea.

I've not visited the Chapel at Lexington. (I was visiting a distant cousin at the time.) But I will suppose it is reverently comparable to Lincoln's Tomb which also inspires silence. But there's no controversy there about what flag is displayed.
Indeed it is Ole.
I found my attention drawn to the central figure, simply because of the austere setting, I was not at least conciously aware of the flags. Contrast that with the ornate tombs more usually characteristic of the period here in Europe..
When it comes to verbiage, we should try to put it into context of the age and not apply modern mores.
 
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