Wednesday, December 28, 2005


The Ladder Revisited

Waiter Rant, in a list of wise sayings, includes this excellent example of the rhetorical device known as the ladder:
Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.
Yoda utters these words in a Star Wars movie, The Phantom Menace (1999).

This gives me an excuse to supplement my previous post on this figure of speech. Heinrich Lausberg, Handbook of Literary Rhetoric, Eng. tr. (Leiden: Brill, 1998), § 623 (pp. 279-280), has an extensive list of ancient definitions and examples of the ladder. Among the definitions are these:

Isidore, Origines 2.21.4:
The ladder is a progression, when the next phrase starts from the last word of the preceding phrase, and henceforward the order of speech is preserved like a step, as is this example from Africanus: "From integrity is born dignity, from dignity honor, from honor power, from power freedom"; some call this figure of speech a chain, because one word is linked to another, as it were, and several things are tied together by doubling of words.

climax est gradatio, cum ab eo, quo sensus superior terminatur, inferior incipit, ac dehinc quasi gradus dicendi ordo servatur, ut est illud Africani: "ex innocentia nascitur dignitas, ex diginitate honor, ex honore imperium, ex imperio libertas"; hanc figuram nonnulli catenam appellant, propter quod aliud in alio quasi nectitur nomine, atque res plures in geminatione verborum trahuntur.
Pseudo-Rufinus, On Figures of Speech 19:
It is a ladder when phrases make a progression from one point to the next, as "which Jove omnipotent to Phoebus gave, Phoebus to me: a word of doom, which I, the Furies' elder sister, here unfold" (Vergil, Aeneid 3.251-252, tr. Theodore C. Williams), and "The grim-eyed lioness pursues the wolf, the wolf the she-goat, the she-goat herself in wanton sport the flowering cytisus" (Vergil, Eclogues 2.63-64, tr. J.B. Greenough). In Latin this device is called gradatus.

κλῖμαξ est, cum ex re in rem gradum tibi sententiae faciunt, ut "quae Phoebo pater omnipotens, mihi Phoebus Apollo / praedixit, vobis Furiarum ego maxima pando", et "torva leaena lupum sequitur, lupus ipse capellam, / florentem cytisum sequitur lasciva capella". Latine haec figura dicitur gradatus.
Rutilius Lupus 1.13:
Plaiting: in this figure of speech the second phrase arises from the first, the third from the second, and thus several in succession; for as many little circles joined together make a chain, so several phrases linked together create the effect of this rhetorical device.

ἐπιπλοκή: in hoc ex prima sententia secunda oritur, ex secunda tertia, atque ita deinceps complures; nam quemadmodum catenam multi inter se circuli coniuncti vinciunt, sic huius schematis utilitatem complures sententiae inter se conexae continent.
Lausberg's examples include two from Cicero's speeches. The first is from Cicero's speech In Defense of Milo 61 (tr. C.D. Yonge):
Nor did he trust himself to the people only, but also to the senate; nor to the senate only, but also to the public guards and their arms; nor to them only, but also to the power of that man to whom the senate had already entrusted the whole republic, all the youth of Italy, and all the arms of the Roman people.

neque vero se populo solum, sed etiam senatui commisit; neque senatui modo, sed etiam publicis praesidiis et armis; neque his tantum, verum etiam eius potestati, cui senatus totam rem publicam, omnem Italiae pubem, cuncta populi Romani arma commiserat.
The second is from Cicero's speech In Defense of Sextus Roscius of Ameria 75 (tr. C.D. Yonge):
In a city, luxury is engendered; avarice is inevitably produced by luxury; audacity must spring from avarice, and out of audacity arises every wickedness and every crime. But a country life, which you call a clownish one, is the teacher of economy, of industry, and of justice.

in urbe luxuries creatur, ex luxuria exsistat avaritia necesse est, ex avaritia erumpat audacia, inde omnia scelera ac maleficia gignuntur; vita autem haec rustica quam tu agrestem vocas parsimoniae, diligentiae, iustitiae magistra est.
Lausberg also cites a passage from Homer's Iliad (13.449-454, tr. Samuel Butler):
Jove first begot Minos chief ruler in Crete, and Minos in his turn begot a son, noble Deucalion; Deucalion begot me to be a ruler over many men in Crete, and my ships have now brought me hither, to be the bane of yourself, your father, and the Trojans.
But if this is a bona fide example of the ladder, then so is practically every other literary genealogy.

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