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Keeping time, time, time,
In a sort of Runic rhyme,
From the bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, bells, -
It needs no argument to show that in these two examples there should be a great difference in the size, if we may so speak, or, as we prefer to call it, the volume, of the voice. We instinctively open the mouth wide for full and resonant organ utterance in the former, and we narrow the vocal aperture for the slight yet sharp sounds of the sleigh-bells in the latter.
By analogy, too, we may safely infer that large things require a larger voice than small things. Contrast Byron's magnificent apostrophe to the ocean with Burns's exquisite address to a mouse :
Roll on, thou deep and dark blue ocean, roll!
Wee sleekit, cow'rin', tim'rous beastie,
Wi' bickering brattle ! Naturally, when one would enlarge our conceptions of an object, he' uses a large voice. In Tennyson's “ Princess"
The great organ almost burst his pipes,
Of solemn psalms ! How different the voice required in reading Shakespeare's description of Queen Mab!
She is the fairies' midwife, and she comes, a
The cover, of the wings of grasshoppers ;
Pricked from the lazy finger of a maid. From an attentive examination of such passages, we learn that the VOLUME of the voice is a very important element of expression; and that the vast, the sublime, the mighty, require a larger voice than the small, the delicate, and the weak. Here, too, a medium or moderate volume, as it allows of expansion or contraction to suit the varying needs of expression, is best adapted for all ordinary passages. Use it, therefore, whenever you know of no special reason for any other.
Large volume is usually appropriate to joy, rage, defiance, command, awe, solemnity, horror; small volume, to tranquillity, cheerfulness, humor, tenderness, sorrow, pity, contempt, malice, secrecy, fear, and some moods of remorse, despair, and wonder.
If we examine carefully the vowel sounds with reference to the time required to utter them, we shall find that those which we have characterized, under the two foregoing heads, as strong and large, are more prolonged than some of those which we have designated as weak and little. Contrast the time of the o in ho with the time of the o in hot; the a in hall with the a in hat; the a in large with the i in little. Contrast slope and slip, float and flit, gloom, gleam, and glim (Scotch). Some of the consonant sounds also are much more prolonged than others. Thus the ng in song is necessarily longer than the t in sot. Elementary sounds, then, differ in the rate or time of utterance.
Keeping this hint in mind, what element of vocal expression do we discern in the following utterance of Hamlet, when informed by the ghost in regard to his father's murder ?
Haste me to know it, that I, with wings as swift
May sweep to my revenge !
Slow rises worth by poverty depressed. In the utterance of these two examples we find ourselves spontaneously and almost irresistibly swayed by the meaning. Before we are aware, our voices are hurried or slackened, as if to correspond with the motion described. For further illustration, enter into the spirit of the two following extracts, and then read them with feeling. The first is from Cowper :
How fleet is the glance of the mind !
The swift-winged arrows of light !
Oft, on a plot of rising ground,
Swinging slow with sullen roar. Evidently the mind and the tongue adapt their movements to the movements described.*
* Great concentration of thought requires slow utterance, to give the mind of the listener time to take in the meaning. In President Lincoln's first inaugural message he condenses a great deal of thought into very few words. Thus :
“Can aliens make treaties easier than friends can make laws ? Can treaties be enforced between aliens easier than laws among friends ?"
In St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans we have,
“Now, if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fullness !”
“Love is a secondary passion with those who love most; a primary with those that love least."
We are told that the Australian savages seek to give by repetition the impression of great distance. Thus, –
He went through the wood, through the wood, across the plain, across the plain, across the plain, by the sea, by the sea, by the sea, by the
In like manner we sometimes repeat for the same reason. Thus,
Far, far at sea.
But oftener we convey the notion of distance by prolonging
So Emerson condenses a great deal of meaning into the following stanza :
Oh, tenderly the haughty Day
And one in our desire.
Love goes towards love, as school-boys from their books ;
But love from love, towards school with heavy looks. All these require to be read with great slowness, so that the full meaning may be grasped.
On the contrary, where the thought just skims the surface, a rapid movement may be proper. Thus, in Tennyson's “Brook Song" :
I wind about, and in and out,
With here a blossom sailing,
And here and there a grayling,
Upon me as I travel,
Above the golden gravel ;
To join the brimming river;
But I go on forever.
And out again I curve and flow
To join the brimming river;
But I go on forever. At the outset of speech, great slowness is commonly required for two reasons : first, to convey to the audience ideas of special importance ; sec. ondly, because the minds of the listeners are not yet aroused to quick action.
the sound. Read the following lines, prolonging the sound of far about two seconds, and observe the effect on the mind :
For I dipt into the future far as human eye could see.
So seemed, far off, the flying fiend.
It will be observed that the more the sound is prolonged the greater seems the distance. While the voice is uttering the words, the mind traverses, as it were, the space; or half imagines itself so employed. For further illustration, note the impression conveyed by dwelling one or two seconds on each of the accented sounds that are capable of prolongation in the following stanza from Conder :
Beyond, beyond the boundless sea,
Above that dome of sky,
Thy dwelling is on high ;
That thou, O God, art nigh !
We have, then, by this examination, evolved MOVEMENT, often called rate, or time, as an important element of vocal expression.
Excitement of all kinds, as in joy, impatience, rage, terror, surprise, quickens the pulse and the utterance. Emotions that soothe, hush, repress, or subdue, naturally make the utterance slow ; as in pity, sorrow, awe, reverence, despair. States of mind that neither excite nor depress naturally require a moderate movement of the voice.
As in the case of force and volume, it is well for the student to adopt, in regard to movement, a medium between extremes, in reading or speaking all ordinary passages.*
* The mechanical means of reading or speaking slowly are twofold : first, by pausing long between sentences, words, and syllables ; secondly, by prolonging the sounds that are capable of being lengthened. These methods may be combined in the slowest passages.