Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

violation of truth. His figures neither divert by distortion, nor amaze by aggravation. He copies life with so much fidelity, that he can hardly be said to invent; yet his exhibitions have an air so much original, that it is difficult to suppose them not merely the product of imagination.

As a teacher of wisdom, he may be confidently followed. His religion has nothing in it enthusiastic or superstitious; he appears neither weakly credulous, nor wantonly sceptical; his morality is neither dangerously lax nor implacably rigid. All the enchantments of fancy, and all the cogency of argument, are employed to recommend to the reader his real interest,-the care of pleasing the Author of his being. Truth is shown sometimes as the phantom of a vision, sometimes appears half-veiled in an allegory, sometimes attracts regard in the robe of fancy, and sometimes steps forth in the confidence of reason. She wears a thousand dresses, and in all is pleasing.

His prose is the model of the middle style: on grave subjects not formal, on light occasions not grovelling; pure without scrupulosity, and exact without apparent elaboration; always equable, and always easy, without glowing words or pointed sentences. His page is always luminous, but never blazes in unexpected splendour. It seems to have been his principal endeavour to avoid all harshness and severity of diction; he is therefore sometimes verbose in his transitions and connections, and sometimes descends too much to the language of conversation; yet if his language had been less idiomatical, it might have lost somewhat of its genuine Anglicism. What he attempted he performed; he is never feeble, and he did not wish to be energetic; he is never rapid, and he never stagnates. His sentences have neither studied amplitude nor affected brevity; his periods, though not diligently rounded, are voluble and easy. Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse, and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison. -Johnson.

Under these Seven Principles, viewed in connection with the theory of Emphasis, may be included all that is practically useful in the art of reading. Every possible variety of

M

sentence may be resolved, we apprehend, into one or other of these Seven Principles.

In the first place, what is the rule of the Elliptical Member, which some systems represent as a separate principle, but that of the Antithesis? Every antithesis, we have seen, admits, nay, necessarily involves, an ellipsis-the clause common to both terms of an antithesis, is obviously elliptical, and admits of no modulation. The following quotation is very generally adduced as an example of the elliptical member:-" Shall wé, in yoùr pérson, crówn the author of the public calamities, ór shall we destroy him?"-the clause, "author of the public calamities," being the elliptical member, and read, according to the supposed rule of the elliptical member, without any modulation, and on the monotone of the previously inflected word. But this is the very reading which the rule of the antithetic question would suggest" crown" and "destroy" being the two terms of a simple antithesis, as illustrated under Principle Seventh. On recurring to the examples of antithesis formerly given, it will be found that in each an elliptical clause occurs. mánner of speaking is as important as the màtter"—the phrase "of speaking" being elliptical, as common to the two terms "manner" and "matter." "Where is the jústice, or where the expèdiency, of such a measure?"—the phrase "of such a measure" being elliptical. The same principle obtains in every other example of the antithesis, the rule of which is, that the antithetic terms only take the inflection-consequently, any additional rule of ellipsis is

unnecessary.

"The

In the second place, what is the principle of the Climax but that of the Series? The climax, no doubt, is marked by an increase of energy in the reader proportioned to the increase of feeling or argument; but this has been shown to belong to the series, and every other form of sentence, and to depend not upon any particular form of sentence, or

any principle of modulation, but altogether upon the earnestness of the reader. He is expected, at all times, to consult the pervading sense of his passage, and resign himself to the feelings it awakens.

Lastly, what is the rule of the Echo, or Repetition, as it is sometimes called, but that of the Exclamation ?—which was already stated, in connection with the Interrogation, as generally requiring the rising modulation. What is the Monotone, or Circumflex, or Harmonic Inflection, but a natural and animated manner of delivering certain passages according to the awakened earnestness of the reader? The numerous varieties, and shades of varieties, into which the theory of delivery has, from time to time, been subdivided, have all originated in the supposition that earnestness can be taught; that feeling and animation can, by mere dictation, be transfused into the mind of the reader. The principles of modulation have no such tendency. Feeling, energy, intensity, are all the reader's own; correctness, grace, impressiveness of manner, are the gifts of elocution. We suspect we are near the truth when we affirm that the orator is never so successful as when, in entire forgetfulness of all extreme niceties of voice and gesture, he throws himself into his subject, and follows whithersoever nature may carry him. To assign rules for every modification of tone, emphasis, or feeling, is not less absurd than to insist that a child should understand the laws of speech before he articulates the letters of the alphabet. The faculty of speech is already possessed, and the volition of the child is all that is required for its full development; in like manner, the orator possesses the sensibility of expressing every elevation of sentiment in its appropriate earnestness, could he only resign himself to its natural impulse. Much of the propriety of delivery consists in the graceful shifting of the voice from one level to another; which, of course, is altogether a general principle, not reducible to rule, any more

than those other refinements of taste which study and practice can communicate; yet is it a desideratum the importance of which cannot be overestimated. It imparts freshness, enlivens the subject, and checks that insipidity of speech which the educated ear rejects, as alike painful to the hearer and prejudicial to the speaker.

POETICAL DELIVERY.

What constitutes poetry? Elevation of sentiment, originality of conception, concentration of thought, clothed in proportionally precise and glowing language-" words that glow, and thoughts that burn"-are some of its distinctive features. Where there is no peculiar reach of thought, where the ideas are trite and commonplace, however sensible in themselves and grammatically expressed, there is no genuine poetry. The writer who chooses to express such sentiments in the measured quantities of verse, commits an egregious error, inasmuch as he dresses them in an attire to which they have no natural alliance. Mere versification is not poetry, neither is it strictly essential to poetry; notwithstanding that the world has been so accustomed to hear mere versification so denominated, while destitute of the qualities essential to the art, that the two terms have become nearly synonymous. Who has not detected, in the countless attempts ever issuing from the press, a frequent absence of the poetic talent,-little originality,-none of that concentration of sense which Shakspeare has characterised as the soul of wit; but, in place of these, a commonness of idea and tameness of flight, as if the wing on which it rose had been lamed in its progress? All such ordinary level of thought and illustration would better suit the simpler arrangements of unassuming prose, than the higher pretensions of verse. Since it is mind, then-the inventive faculty -that forms the essential feature of poetry, it is clear there

may be found much poetry in prose. The writings of Ossian are equal, in fertility of imagination and power of description, to any poetry extant. There is much poetry in the prose writings of Sir Walter Scott and Washington Irving, and much in the sermons of Dr Chalmers.

Without entering into the consideration of the several orders of poetic composition, as being foreign to our object, it may be proper to remind the juvenile reader that Rhyme is that species of versification in which a harmony of sound occurs at the close of some successive or alternate verse; whereas Blank Verse recognises no such similarity of sound, and differs from prose only in the precision of its quantities. With regard to the reading of poetry, it is to be understood that, whatever principles apply to prose, apply equally to verse. The rules of the Affirmative member, Negative, Concessive, &c., belong to every class of composition; any peculiarities that may be advanced in reference to verse, are to be considered as subordinate to these.

Poetical composition, it may be premised, admits more of the monotone, and a greater fulness and length of tone than prose. This is supposed to proceed from the frequent recurrence of the long syllable, as well as the sublimity of the composition itself. The thoughts and language are supposed to be so engrossing, as not to admit of a rapid delivery. The reader is so arrested by the imagery, so captivated by the originality and truthfulness of the poet's delineations, that he is compelled to pause, both that he may enjoy the subject himself and recommend it to others. It is, indeed, a sure evidence of deficiency in the poetic talent, a proof of the paucity of thought and barrenness of invention that pervade the composition, when the reader feels inclined to take leave of his author. He may be likened to one journeying over an arid waste, where, tired of the sterility that surrounds him, he hurries forward to the fresher green that lies beyond; unlike to him who enjoys a walk by some winding stream, where

« PředchozíPokračovat »