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echo that lofty strain of funeral triumph, “Their name liveth evermore !” – WEBSTER.
Here on all the long vowels, as in last, peal, organ, peace, evermore, sound, lofty, strain, name, the voice swells in the middle of the long sound. This kind of stress is known to elocutionists as the median, or middle, stress.
A few sounds are loudest at the last. The following may be so read as to give the stress on the very last part of the long sounds :
And nearer fast and nearer doth the red whirlwind come ;
MACAULAY. When the final part of the sound of a vowel or diphthong is loudest, the stress is called final stress.*
Abrupt, sudden sounds bear some analogy to abrupt, sudden emotions and ideas. Anger, for example, is quick, passionate, explosive. Thus Antony speaks to Brutus and Cassius with initial stress :
Villains ! you did not so when your vile daggers
SHAKESPEARE. Gentle, swelling emotions naturally require corresponding median stress. Thus :
I pant for the music which is divine ;
My heart in its thirst is a dying flower ;
Loosen the notes in a silver shower.
I gasp, I faint, -till they wake again !
* Final stress is termed by many elocutionists vanishing stress, the last part of the sound being designated by them the " vanish.”
Let me drink in the music of that sweet sound
More, O more!- I am thirsting yet.
Upon my heart, to stifle it.
SHELLEY. But when the feeling grows more intense during the brief time occupied in the utterance, the stress is often greatest on the last part of the prolonged sound. Thus, dogged obstinacy, growing momentarily more dogged, says, “I won't," with sudden force on the termination of the long vowel. So, impatience, growing more vehement, is uttered with the same final stress. Thus :
Shame! shame! that in such a proud moment of life,
Worth ages of history, when, had you but hurled
Between freemen and tyrants had spread through the world –
You shouid falter ! should cling to your pitiful breath!
MOORE. Among those emotions and states of mind which often require initial or “ radical” stress are cheerfulness, mirth, joy, contempt, scorn, malice, scolding, anger, rage, defiance, command, decision, fear, terror, surprise, wonder, and matter of fact. Among those which often require the middle or “median" stress are tranquillity, joy, delight, admiration, love, tenderness, sorrow, pity, reverence, solemnity, awe, and horror. Among those which often require the final or “vanishing" stress are obstinacy, impatience, distress, scorn, disgust, remorse.
A tremor of the voice is called tremulous or “ intermittent" stress; as in the following:
She prayed, her withered hand uprearing,
While Harry held her by the arm —
“God, who art never out of hearing,
WORDSWORTH. Extreme feebleness, fear, chilliness, agitation, may give rise to the intermittent stress. So may imitation.
Some elocutionists speak also of what they term “ thorough ” stress, in which the shouting tone is prolonged; as,
Rejoice, you men of Angiers ; ring your bells !
Elocutionists, furthermore, mention what they style " compound” stress. It is a combination of the initial and the final. Thus, in derision, the circumflex slide begins and ends with considerable force :
“0, but he paused on the brink !” Generally, wherever the circumflex slide is proper, as in surprise, mockery, irony, or in admitting what is true and coupling it with limitations, there the compound stress may be requisite.
QUALITY. Ben Jonson says of the letter r, “ It is the dog's letter, and hurreth (trills] in the sound.” The hissing s is still more unpleasant to the ear. The English language still has many harsh consonant sounds, although it has been very greatly softened during the last thousand years.
Our piratical Saxon ancestors, on the shores of the stormy German Ocean, had an articulation as rough as their roaring winds and waves. Byron forcibly contrasts the Italian and the English in the following stanza :
I love the language, that soft bastard Latin,
And gentle liquids gliding all so pat in,
Which we're obliged to hiss and spit and sputter all !
Pure quality is opposed to aspirated, hissing, or whispering tones, suggestive of secrecy, of snakes, of geese, and of angry cats; to guttural tones, reminding of choking anger and of swine and swinish men; to hoarse or wheezy tones, indicative of exhaustion and disease; to hollow or pectoral tones, hinting of ghosts and sepulchers; and to nasal tones, that tell of colds and whining and cant.
A profusion of vowel sounds is pleasing to the ear; a profusion of consonant sounds is annoying. The sweetness of music is largely due to its pure quality, and it is safe to assert, as a general principle, that beauty, purity, and all the milder virtues incline to clearness of voice. I have heard some fine music, as men are wont to speak,
- the play of orchestras, the anthems of choirs, the voices of song that moved admiring nations. But in the lofty passes of the Alps I heard a music overhead from God's orchestra, the giant peaks of rock and ice, curtained in by the driving mist and only dimly visible athwart the sky through its folds, such as mocks all sounds our lower worlds of art can ever hope to raise. I stood (excuse the simplicity !) calling to them in the loudest shouts I could raise, and listening in compulsory trance to their reply. I heard them roll it up through their cloudy worlds of snow, sifting out the harsh qualities that were tearing in it like demon screams of sin, holding on upon it as if it were a hymn they were fining to the ear of the great Creator, and sending it round and round in long reduplications of sweetness; until finally, receding and rising, it trembled as it were among the quick gratulations of angels, and fell into the silence of the pure empyrean ! I had never any conception before of purity of sound, or what a simple sound may tell of purity by its own pure quality ; and I could only exclaim, “O my God, teach me this ! Be this with me forever.” All other sounds are gone. The voices of yesterday, heard in the silence of entranced multitudes, are gone ; but that is with me still, and I trust will never cease to ring in my spirit till I go down to the chambers of silence itself ! - BUSHNELL.
The harsh, the rough, the disagreeable, are akin to impure vocal qualities. We are not, however, to conclude that there is no room for the exercise of the latter. Anger, for example, may be heroic or even divine. There would be little strength of character without it, and there would be no strength in speech without prominent consonant sounds. Thus :
I am astonished ! shocked ! to hear such principles confessed, — to hear them avowed in this house, or in this country ; principles equally unconstitutional, inhuman, and unchristian !
“That God and nature put into our hands”! I know not what ideas that lord may entertain of God and nature ; but I know that such abominable principles are equally abhorrent to religion and humanity ! What ! to attribute the sacred sanction of God and nature to the massacre of the Indian scalping-knife! to the cannibal savage, torturing, murdering, roasting, and eating -- literally, my lords, eating — the mangled remains of his barbarous battles ! . To turn forth into our settlements, among our ancient connections, friends, and relations, the merciless cannibal, thirsting for the blood of man, woman, and child! to send forth the infidel savage ! against whom ? against your Protestant brethren ! to lay waste their country, to desolate their dwellings, and extirpate their race and name with these horrible hell-hounds of savage war !- CHATHAM.
Of the emotions that especially require pure vocality, we may mention joy, delight, admiration, tranquillity, love, tenderness, sorrow when not excessive, pity, solemnity, reverence, and gentle command. Among those that usually require impure quality, are impatience, contempt, scorn, malice, scolding, rage, defiance, anger, terror, horror, remorse, surprise, wonder, secrecy, obstinacy, revenge, and great fear.
We have thus evolved the seven leading elements of vocal expression, — Force, Volume, Movement, Pitch, Slides, Stress, and Quality. We have seen that they are founded largely on imitation and analogy, and that they have a natural fitness to express corresponding facts.*
Language, as might have been inferred from what we have said, is largely onomatopoetic or imitative. This is abundantly evident from an inspection