« PředchozíPokračovat »
in the midst of that broad field, or a distant lighthouse upon its verge, would generally require to be more accurately designated by the index finger.
An orator uses the words yonder heavens. It is sufficient, perhaps, merely to glance upward, or to wave the hand outward and up towards that part of the sky. But if the words be yonder star, his finger will point it out with some accuracy, as already shown.
If the object be an extensive forest, in sight of the speaker and occupying a great portion of the landscape, a gesture of the whole hand and arm, moving so as to direct attention to it as a large object, will suffice. But if it be a single tree, the finger will naturally point it out.
When Erskine, quoting from the supposed speech of an Indian chief, exclaims, –
Who is it that causes this river to rise in the high mountains, and to empty itself into the ocean? on the words, who is it, the speaker looks around, as if to see where the person inquired for may be found. Both the eye
and the hand indicate the respective locations of the river, the mountains, and the ocean. When Macbeth, in his soliloquy, says, —
Is this a dagger which I see before me? there is a most intense gaze, and the hand is likely to be unconsciously stretched towards the point which the dagger seems to occupy.
The more vivid the imagination of the speaker, and the more absorbed he is in his subject, the more numerous and the more striking will such gestures naturally be.
Our first class of gestures, then, are gestures of place. They answer the question, WHERE? They are simple and easily made, and they add life and picturesqueness to discourse. They are followed without effort, and they often assist wonderfully in the presentation of a subject.
They are sometimes used unnecessarily; as where a speaker, addressing an audience of medical gentlemen, places his hand on his heart, as if they needed to be informed of the locality of that organ!
Children and uncultivated people require more of these gestures than would a body like the Supreme Court, or the Senate of the United States. There is a great difference in the extent to which different speakers employ them.
Something will depend upon temperament. A man of light, active, nervous organization will use far more gestures of this kind, and indeed of every kind, than one who is slow, heavy, phlegmatic. Clay would gesticulate more than Webster; a demonstrative Frenchman more than a reticent Englishman ; a vivacious Italian more than a solid Dutchman.
Some applications of these principles may especially be noted. If there be a change in the position of the object while the mind is fixed upon it; for instance, if it be a bird flying, or a train of cars swiftly moving, or other object conceived of as making an extensive change in place; the eye, the
hand, the head, the upper part of the body, and perhaps the whole person will sympathetically tend to join in that movement. In the following from Bryant, the index finger may move as if to keep pace with the water-fowl sailing along the sky:
Vainly the fowler's eye
Thy figure floats along !
"Thy figure floats along." “In my place here," etc.
“Or elsewhere." Again, present is directly in front and near the speaker; absent is off at one side ; past is behind ; future is before, Thus Webster says,
When I shall be found, in my place here in the Senate, or elsewhere, to sneer at public merit, etc.
Burke, at the close of his final speech against Hastings, might have so located the past and future :
My lords, at this awful close, in the name of the Commons of Great Britain and surrounded by them, I attest the retiring, I attest the advancing generations, etc.
Furthermore, it is important to observe that all spiritual conceptions are based upon material facts. Things in the world of mind, moral qualities, ideas, cannot be expressed, perhaps cannot be conceived, except by the aid of types, figures, symbols, analogies supplied by the world of matter. Something of the original meaning clings to the word in its derived sense. Thus spirit means breath, and we rarely lose altogether the notion of breath, air, wind, when we use the word ; sublimity means height; heaven is heaved (heaven) high ; climax is ladder; towering is projecting aloft like a tower; base is low; disgust is offence to taste ; empyrean is the supposed fiery boundary of the universe ; transcendent is climb ing higher; lofty is from the Anglo-Saxon lyft, the air, and means up in the air; humility is from humus, the ground; supernal is from super, above; infernal is from infer, infra, below. We always think of the angels as above, of the devils as below; as Poe sings,
Neither the angels in heaven above,
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.
Hence it comes that moral qualities are assigned “a local habitation." All that is lofty, sublime, hopeful, high, exalted, noble, angelic, glorious, beautiful, august, eminent, celestial, superior, supernal, splendid, royal, soaring, radiant, elevated, cheering, inspiring, adorable, — in a word, all noble ideas, sentiments, and emotions, lift the soul, the eye, the hand; and they call for high gestures.
On the other hand, all that is low, base, earthly, mean, dirty, foul, brutal, beastly, contemptible, groveling, despicable, infamous, infernal, devilish, crawling, snaky, sneaking, filthy, shameful, abject, pitiful, disgusting, vile, beggarly, insignificant, -- in a word, all ignoble ideas, sentiments, and emotions, lower the soul, the eye, the hand; and they call for low gestures.
It will be a fair corollary, that all intermediate qualities, such as are suggested by the words passable, common, medium, moderate, average, ordinary, middling, usual, — and, in general, all qualities and allusions which do not clearly require high or low gestures, should, if expressed at all by gestures, be expressed by those near a medium elevation. This class comprises perhaps the majority of intellectual conceptions.
Unless, therefore, the speaker is forcibly impressed by the significance of a word, as denoting elevation of thought and sentiment or the opposite, and so demanding an elevated gesture or the opposite, he will do well to avoid extremes. The following combines both the high and the low :
If parts allure thee, think how Bacon shined, -
On wisest and brightest, of course, the looks and the action are elevated ; on meanest they are much depressed.
According to the foregoing principles, superlative excellence would be expressed by a gesture reaching far towards the zenith; and extraordinary demerit, by a gesture that should carry the mind to the dust at one's feet.