Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

sorrow.* But speech is not so accommodating. Here every sentence must not only have its appropriate time, but the tune must be properly pitched.

The melody of song is graduated on a scale whose degrees are as definite as those of the scale of Gunter. But the melody of speech is not formed with such mathematical exactness—it has no scale of determinate degrees; for, if an exact notation of the melody of speech should be given, it is doubtful whether it would be of much practical importance to the generality of mankind, as none but a Paganini would be able to read it.

For practical purposes, however, it is not essential to present every syllable in speech under its proper note, as is done in song: it is only necessary to give a notation of the relative pitch of the emphatic syllables. Such a notation may be read by those who have no knowledge of music whatever, and, consequently, does not require the aid of a Paganini. Besides, if the relative pitch of the heavy, or emphatic syllables, and their inflections, are given, (and which can only be done effectually by the living teacher, the light, or unemphatic syllables will naturally take their proper degrees of elevation.

MODULATION.

MODULATION is a changing of the pitch note to a higher or lower degree of elevation—in other words, it is the process of changing the key, or of passing from one key to another. This change is sometimes made to a proximate key; at other times, a bold and abrupt transition to a remote key is necessary to produce the desired effect. There is not a more important requisite in Elocution --nothing which contributes more to the pleasure of an audiencenothing which gives stronger proof that an orator is master of his

* The reader must not infer that I entertain the opinion that in song, melody cannot be adapted to sentiment. I believe that if the composers of music were elocutionists, they would always construct their melodies with reference to the sentiments to be expressed.

art, than a well regulated and expressive modulation. Modulation, however, should never be resorted to for the sake of mere variety, it should always be subservient to the sense; for it is the province of modulation to mark changes of sentiment, changes in the train of thought, and parenthetical clauses.

There are many public speakers who never modulate their voices, however necessary it may be to give proper expression to their sentiments: and, what is worse, they generally pitch their voices a third, a fifth, or an octave, too high. I once listened to an excellent sermon, preached by a very learned man, which, however, was nearly lost upon the audience from the disgusting manner in which it was delivered. The preacher pitched his voice an octave too high, and without any variation in pitch, force, or time; and what rendered his delivery still more offensive, every syllable was marred with an. intolerable drawling. Such elocution is discreditable to any man who speaks in public, and ought not to be tolerated by an educated community.

FORCE.

Force is the degree of the loudness of sounds.

The degrees of Force are best described by the terms loud and soft, forcible and feeble, strong and weak. Force may be manifested—first, by loudness, and consequently violent impression on the ear during a short impulse of sound: or secondly, it may be continued equally through a long one : or thirdly, it may be manifested by gradual increase; as when a sound increases perceptibly in volume during its progress as compared with its commencement, terminating at its loudest point, or again diminishing before it terminates. Suppose the element, a, (or any other syllable,) uttered with great percussive force and quickness, it will exhibit one modification of force. Suppose it to begin with less force, growing louder by degrees, in the usual sense of the expression, swell of voice, and then again gradually diminishing to its termination, and you have another modification of force. Again, suppose the voice to begin with comparative fullness, and to lessen constantly in its volume till it dies away in silence, and the ear would be able to compare degrees of force under a third modification. Lastly, suppose the element, a, to be uttered in the usual manner, except at its termination, but there to have a great and sudden increase of sound, and you have a modification of the element of force different from any of the preceding instances.

TIME.

The varieties of Time in the utterance of syllables are best expressed by the terms long and short, quick, slow, rapid, moderate. The most important general consideration as to the time of syllables is, that it can be varied upon the same syllable. The term quantity, as applicable to syllables, means exactly the same as time. The time of pauses, it is perfectly apparent, may be lengthened or shortened at pleasure. Suppose the sounds a, bee, cee, dee, to be uttered in immediate succession, each sound to be shortened as much as possible, and as short pauses as possible to be made between each ; in such case, each syllable will have short quantity, the pauses will have short time, and the general movement will be in quick time. But the four sounds above mentioned can be greatly lengthened without altering their customary pronunciation. If a lengthened pronunciation is given to each, and the pauses between them are made about half as long as the time consumed in the pronunciation of each syllable, the whole series will be in slow time, and each syllable will have long quantity. The term quantity is employed absolutely and relatively. If a syllable is pronounced long, we may say, with propriety, that it has quantity absolutely; but we speak of quantity as a power inherent in the voice relative to syllables, because many of the vowels and consonants can (though some cannot) be pronounced long or short as may be desirable ; and the terms, long and short quantity, describe the two cases of such syllables.

We say, then, of syllables, that they are syllables of quantity because they can be extended, or because they are actually extended in their pronunciation. We say of a passage, that it has long quantity, meaning that the syllables and pauses are intentionally lengthened; that it has short quantity, because the syllables either do not admit of extension, or are not extended. The pauses, in all good delivery, bear a proportion to the length of syllables.

PART II.

GESTURE.

GRACEFUL and appropriate gesture renders vocal delivery far more pleasing and effective. Its cultivation is, therefore, of primary importance to those who are ambitious of accomplishment in Elocution.

The stroke of the gesture is analagous to the emphasis of the voice; and they should both fall exactly on the accented syllable of the emphatic word. In this way the emphatic force of the voice, and the stroke of the gesture, co-operate in presenting the idea in the most lively manner, to the eye as well as the ear. In all discourse, whether calm or impassioned, the words and the gestures should accompany each other. As, in beating time in music, the beat is made on the accented part of the measure, so in speaking, the stroke of the gesture should fall on the accented syllable of the emphatic word. The emotion which calls forth the word, at the same moment, prompts the gesture. Hence, the muscles of gesticulation should move synchronously and harmoniously with those of the voice. When gesture is not marked by the precision of the stroke, in the proper places, it is very offensive. The arms, like those of a person groping in the dark, seem to wander about in quest of some uncertain object: and the action is of that faulty kind which is called, sawing the air. Even graceful motions, unmarked by the precision of the stroke of the gesture, as sometimes seen, particularly among singers on the stage, lose much of their force, and very soon cease to afford pleasure. All the unmeaning motions of public speakers are attended with the same ill effect, as à mouthing and canting tone of declamation, which lays no emphasis with just discrimination, but swells and falls with a vain affectation of feeling, and with absolute deficiency both in taste and judgment.

For the maintenance of grace, in rhetorical action, variety is indispensable. The iteration of the same gesture, or set of gestures however graceful in themselves, betrays a poverty of resource which is altogether prejudicial to the speaker.

Simplicity and truth of manner, if they do not constitute grace in themselves, are inseparable from it. Gestures which are manifestly contrived for the mere display of the person, or for the exhibition of some foppery, as, for instance, a white hand, or a valuable ring, instantly offend.

To simplicity of gesture is opposed affectation, which destroys every pretension to genuine grace. The more showy the gestures are, unless they are adapted to the subject, and to the character of the speaker, the more do they offend the judicious by their manifest affectation.

The faults of manner are analagous to those of character, and almost as disgusting : such as, the assumption of dignity where there is none in the sentiment; pathos, where there is nothing interesting ; vehemence in trifles, and solemnity on common-place subjects.

It is an observation founded on fact, that the action of young children is never deficient in grace; for which two reasons may be assigned. First, because they are under no restraint from diffidence, or from any other cause, and therefore use their gestures, with all sincerity of heart, only to aid the expression of their thoughts; and secondly, because they have few ideas of imitation, and, consequently, are not deprived of natural grace by affectation, nor perverted by bad models.

The grace of action, according to Hogarth, consists in moving the body and limbs in that curve which he calls the line of beauty. When action is considered independent of language and sentiment, this definition will, perhaps, be found generally correct. Rhetorical action, however, derives its grace, not only from the actual motions of the speaker, but also from the congruity of his motions with his own character and situation, as well as with the sentiments which he delivers. The dignity, which is a becoming grace in a judge, would be quaint affectation in a young advocate; and the colloquial,

« PředchozíPokračovat »