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EXPRESSION in elocution implies the peculiar tones of voice, and the manner of utterance, expressive of the thoughts, feelings, and emotions, of the reader or speaker.
It includes several particulars, which are important to be explained before giving any rules or directions, as aids to its proper application.
PITCH of voice refers to the note or key on which we read or speak.
In every person's yoice this key-note may have as many variations as the notes in the scale of music; but it is sufficient for all practical purposes to consider it as having only three general distinctions.
1. The high pitch, as heard in calling a person at a distance. 2. The middle, as heard in common conversation.
3. The low, as heard in a grave under key.
QUANTITY is used to signify the volume or loudness with which one speaks on the same key or pitch.
Learners frequently suppose that loudness means a higher note, and, when requested to "speak louder," immediately raise the key, without increasing the quantity. A person may, however, speak loud or soft on the same note or key.
To illustrate this, the following sentence may first be spoken in a very feeble voice, and then repeated on the same pitch, doubling the quantity at each repetition. The dots at the end of the sentence exhibit to the eye the increase of volume at each reading.
Banished from Rome!
QUESTIONS. What is meant by Expression, as here used? What subjects are introduced and explained under Expression? What is Pitch? How many general distinctions has Pitch? What are they? What is Quantity? How is it illustrated? Read the example.
STRESS has particular reference to the force or impulse of utterance, and characterizes sound as forcible, faint, or moderate.
MOVEMENT refers to the time or rate of uttering words and sentences.
There are three general distinctions; quick, slow, and moderate.
The only sure guide, in the application of the principles of expression, is clearly to comprehend the sentiment of the piece, and to enter fully into the spirit of those emotions with which such sentiment is naturally uttered. The learner, however, will find a few general directions of service.
RULE 1. Narrative and descriptive pieces should generally be read in a natural, free, and conversational tone, and with moderate movement; didactic, with a voice somewhat fuller and firmer.
The son of a rich merchant had abandoned himself in his youth to every excess. By this means he irritated his father, whose kind advice he despised. The old man, in the decline of life, makes a will by which he disinherits his younger son, and dies. Dorval, informed of the death of his father, reflects seriously, looks into his own heart, and deplores his past follies. He soon learns he is disinherited. This news draws no murmur on the memory of his father. He respects it even at the period most disadvantageous to his interest. He only says, "I have merited it."
This moderation was communicated to Jenneval, his brother, who, rejoicing to see the change of conduct in Dorval, goes to seek and embrace him, and addresses him in these words, forever memorable : 'My brother, by a will of our father's, I am instituted sole heir; but he wished only to exclude the man you then were, and not him you now are. I render to you the portion which is due to you."
What is Stress? How does it characterize sound? What is Movement? How many and what are the general distinctions? What is Rule First, or the rule for narrative, descriptive pieces, &c.? Read the examples.
Everything looked smiling about us as we embarked. The morning was now in its freshness, and the path of the breeze might be traced over the lake, wakening up its waters from their sleep of the night. The gay, golden-winged birds that haunt the shores were in every direction shining along the lake, while, with a graver consciousness of beauty, the swan and the pelican were seen dressing their white plumage in the mirror of its wave. To add to the animation of the scene, a sweet tinkling of musical instruments came, at intervals, on the breeze, from boats at a distance, employed thus early in pursuing the fish of the waters, that suffered themselves to be decoyed into the nets by music.
Upon whatever foundation happiness is built, when that foundation fails, happiness must be destroyed; for which reason it is wisdom to choose such a foundation for it as is not liable to destructive accidents. If happiness be founded upon riches, it is liable to theft, deceit, oppression, war, and tyranny; if upon fine houses and costly furniture, one spark of fire is able to consume it; if upon friends, health, or life, a thousand diseases, and ten thousand events, have power to destroy it; but if it be founded upon the infinite bounty and goodness of God, and upon those virtues that entitle to his favor, its foundation is immovable, and its duration eternal.
RULE 2. Tender emotion, pathetic and plaintive language, should be uttered with rather a slow movement, and in a soft and subdued tone of voice.
Adieu, ye lays, that Fancy's flowers adorn,
He sleeps in dust, and all the muses mourn,
Ye flowery lays, adieu !
QUESTIONS. What is Rule Second, or the rule for tender emotion, &c. ? the subjects of the examples given under this rule ?
When I left thy shores, O Naxos,
Spoke my bosom's struggling swell.
Still the blue wave danced around us
'Mid the sunbeam's jocund smile;
My boy refused his food, forgot to play,
RULE 3. Whatever is grave, solemn or dignified, should generally be read in a moderately deep, full, and firm tone, with few inflections of voice, and slow movement.
QUESTION. What is Rule Third, or the rule for the language of gravity, &c.?
Father! thy hand
Hath reared these venerable columns; Thou
How shocking must thy summons be, O Death!
RULE 4. Whatever partakes of grandeur, sublimity, awe, or deep reverence, should generally be read on a low note, with slow movement, and a clear voice, approaching monotone.
Night, sable goddess, from her ebon throne,
Her leaden scepter o'er a slumbering world.
Silence how dead! and darkness how profound!
The clouds now rolled, in volumes, over the mountain tops; their summits still bright and snowy, but the lower parts of an inky blackThe rain began to patter down in broad and scattered drops: the wind freshened, and curled up the waves: at length it seemed as
QUESTIONS. What are the subjects of the Examples under Rule Third? What is Rule Fourth? Will you name the subjects illustrated? How should language of this kind generally be read?