Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

in his Rhythmical Grammar, and by Mr. Barber, in his Grammar of Flocution. The following lines are marked according to Mr. Steele's plan.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

offspring of | Heaven | first

..

[ocr errors]

born. I

..

WALKER'S ELEMENTS OF ELOCUTION. -INFLECTIONS OF THE VOICE.

Towards the close of the last century, Mr. John Walker, author of the excelent"Critical Pronouncing Dictionary" which bears his name, promulgated his analysis of vocal inflection. He showed that the primary division of speaking sounds is into the upward and downward slide of the voice; and, that whatever other diversity of time, tone or force, is added to speaking, it must necessarily be conveyed by these two slides or inflections, which are, therefore, the axis, as it were, on which the power, variety, and harmony of speaking turn. In the following sentence:-"As trees and plants necessarily arise from seeds, so are you, Antony, the seed of this most calamitous war," the voice slides up at the end of the first clause, as the sense is not perfected, and slides down at the completion of the sense at the end of the sentence. The rising slide raises expectancy in the mind of the hearer, and the ear remains unsatisfied without a cadence. Walker adopted the acute accent () to denote the rising inflection, and the grave accent (') to denote the falling inflection; as thus

Does Cæsar deserve fame' or blame?

Every pause, of whatever kind, must necessarily adopt one of these two inflections, or continue in a monotone. Thus, when we ask a question without the contrasted interrogative words, we naturally adopt the rising inflection on the last word; as,

Can Cæsar deserve blame? Impossible` !

Here blame the last word of the question has the rising inflection, contrary to the inflection on that word in the former instance; and impossible, with the note of admiration, the falling. Besides the rising and falling inflection, Walker gives the voice two complete sounds, which he terms circumflexes: the first, which he denominates the rising circumflex, begins with the falling and ends with the rising on the same syllable; the second begins with the rising and ends with the falling on the same syllable. The rising circumflex is marked thus, ; the falling, thus, ^. The monotone, thus marked, denotes that there is no inflection, and no change of key.

---

Having explained the inflections, Walker proceeds to deduce the law of delivery from the structure of sentences, which he divides into compact, loose, direct periods, inverted periods, &c. By the term series, he denotes an enumeration of particulars. If the enumeration consists of single words, it is called a simple series; if it consists of clauses, it is called a compoun series. When the sense requires that there should be a rising slide on the last particular, the series is called a commencing series; and when the series requires the falling slide on the last particular, it is termed a concluding series. The simple commencing series is illustrated in the following sentence having two (12′) members:

"Honor' and shame' from no condition rise."

The simple concluding series is illustrated in the following sentence of four (12′ 3′4) members:-"Remember that virtue alone is honor', glory wealth, and happiness.

Among the Rules laid down by Walker and his followers are the following, which we select as the most simple. The pupil must not take them, however, as an infallible guide. Some are obvious enough; but to others the exceptions are numerous, -so numerous, indeed, that they would be a burthensome charge to the memory. The Rules, however, may be serviceable in cases where the reader desires another's judgment in regard to the inflection of voice that is most appropriate.

RULE I. When the sense is finished, the falling inflection takes place; as, "Nothing valuable can be gained without labor'."

II. In a compact sentence, the voice slides up where the meaning begins to be formed; as, "Such is the course of nature', that whoever lives long, must outlive those whom he loves and honors."

There are many exceptions to this rule. For instance, when an emphatic word is contained in the first part of the compact sentence, the falling inflection takes place; as, "He is a traitor to his country', he is a traitor to the human kind', he is a traitor to Heaven', who abuses the talents which God has given him."

III. In a loose sentence, the falling inflexion is required; as, "It is of the last importance to season the passions of a child with devo'tion; which seldom dies in a mind that has received an early tincture of it."

IV. In a compound commencing series, the falling inflection takes place on every member but the last; as, "Our disordered hearts', our guilty passions', our violent prejudices', and misplaced desires', are the instruments of the trouble which we endure."

V. In a compound concluding series, the falling inflection takes place on every member except the one before the last; as, "Chaucer most frequently. describes things as they are'; Spenser, as we wish them to be; Shakspeare, as they would be; and Milton, as they ought to be."

66

VI. In a series of commencing members forming a climax, the last member, being strongly emphatic, takes a fall instead of a rise; as, A youth', a boy', a child', might understand it."

VII. Literal interrogations asked by pronouns or adverbs (or questions requiring an immediate answer) end with the falling inflection; as, "Where are you going? What is your name?" Questions asked by verbs require the rising inflection, when a literal question is asked; as, "Are you coming? Do you hear?"

To these rules the exceptions are numerous, however. Emphasis breaks through them continually; as,

Was ever woman in this humor wooed'?
Was ever woman in this humor won'?

VIII. The inflection which terminates an exclamation is regulated by the common rules of inflection. This rule is, of course, broken through by passion, which has slides and notes of its own. As a general rule, it may be stated that exclamations of surprise and indignation take a rising slide in a loud tone; those of sorrow, distress, pity and love, the rising slide in a gentle tone; and those of adoration, awe and despair, the falling inflection.

IX. Any intermediate clause affecting the sense of the sentence (generally termed the modifying clause) is pronounced ir a different key from that in which the rest of the sentence is spoken. As th intermediate words are frequently the pivot on which the sense of the entence turns, the mind is directed to it by a change of voice. The voice sinks at the beginning of the clause, but rises gradually towards the conclus on; as, "Age, in a virtuous' person, carries in it an authority which makes it preferable to all the pleasures of youth."

X. The Parenthesis is an intermediate clause, not necessary to the sense. is pronounced in a different key from that in which the sentence is pro

nounced, in order to distinguish it from the body of the sentence; and it is pronounced more quickly, that the hearer may not be diverted by it into forgetting the connection of the sentence. It generally terminates with the inflection of the clause preceding it. When it contains a strongly emphatic word, the falling inflection is necessary:

Let us (since life can little more supply
Than just to look about us and to die)
Expatiate free o'er all this scene of man;
A mighty maze! but not without a plan.

XI. An echo, or the repetition of a word or thought introductory to some particulars, requires the high rising inflection, and a long pause after it. This is frequently the language of excitement; the mind recurs to the exciting idea, and acquires fresh intensity from the repetition of it; as, “Can Parliament be so dead to its dignity and duty as to give its sanction to measures thus obtruded and forced upon it? - Measures, my Lords, which have reduced this late flourishing Kingdom to scorn and contempt."

66

XII. When words are in contradistinction to other words, either expressed or understood, they are pronounced with emphatic force, when the contradistinction is not expressed, the emphasis must be strong, so as to suggest the word in contradistinction; as, How beautiful is nature in her wildest scenes!" That is, not merely in her soft scenes, but even in her wildest scenes. "It is deplorable when age' thus errs.' Not merely youth, but age. XIII. A climax must be read or pronounced with the voice progressively ascending to the last member; accompanied with the increasing energy, animation or pathos, corresponding with the nature of the subject.

""

See, what a grace was seated on this brow!
Hyperion's curls'; the front of Jove himself;
An eye like Mars', to threaten and command';
A station like the herald Mercury",
New lighted on a heaven-kissing hill';
A combination' and a form' indeed,
Where every god' did seem to set his seal",
To give the world assurance of a man'.

RUSH'S PHILOSOPHY OF THE HUMAN VOICE.

Dr. Rush, whose "Philosophy of the Human Voice" presents the most minute and scientific analysis of the subject that has yet appeared, adopts an arrangement of the elementary sounds of our language into tonics, subtonics, atonics and aspirates. He distinguishes the qualities of the voice under the following heads: the Orotund, which is fuller in volume than the common voice; the Tremor; the Aspiration; the Guttural; the Falsette; and the Whisper. The complex movement of the voice occasioned by the union of the rising and falling slides on the same long syllable he calls a wave. It is termed by Steele and Walker the circumflex accent. Dr. Rush illustrates the slides of the voice by reference to the Diatonic scale, consisting of a succession of eight sounds, either in an ascending or descending series, and embracing seven proximate intervals, five of which are Tones, and two Semitones. Each sound is called a Note; and the changes of pitch from any one note to another are either Discrete or Concrete, and may be either rising or falling. Concrete changes of Pitch are called slides; and of these movements there are appropriated to speech the slides through five different intervals, the Semitone, the Second, the Third, the Fifth, and the Octave. By a careful analysis of the speaking voice, Dr. Rush shows that its movements can be measured and set to the musical scale; and that, however various the combilations of these vocal movements may at first appear, they may readily be

red aced to six, called Phrases of Melody. These are the Monotone, the Rising and Falling Ditone, the Rising and Falling Tritone, and the Alternate Phrase. By a more careful analysis, we ascertain that some of the simpler styles of delivery take their character from the predominance of some one of these phrases of melody. Thus we have the Diatonic Melody, the Melody of the Monotone, of the Alternate Phrase, and of the Cadence; and to these are added the Chromatic Melody which arises from the predominance of the Semitone, and the Broken Melody.

INSUFFICIENCY OF ARBITRARY SYSTEMS OF ELOCUTION.

It would be impossible, in the space we have given to the subject, to do justice to any one of these ingenious analyses; and it would be quite unprofitable to enumerate the many systems that have been deduced from them up to the present time. The important question is, Do they establish, severally or collectively, a positive science of elocution, which will justify the pupil in laboring to master it in its details, and to accomplish himself according to its rules of practice? We believe there are very few students, who have given much time and attention to the subject, who will not render a negative reply. The shades of expression in language are often so delicate and undistinguishable, that intonation will inevitably vary according to the temperament of the speaker, his appreciation of the sense, and the intensity with which he enters into the spirit of what he utters. It is impossible to establish rules of mathematical precision for utterance, any more than for dancing. Take the first line of Mark Antony's harangue :

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears!

An ingenious speaker will give, at one time, the falling inflection, and at another the rising, to the word countrymen; and both modes shall seem equally expressive and appropriate. Nay, he will at one moment place the chief stress upon lend, and the next upon ears; and he will make either mode of rendering the verse appear appropriate and expressive. We do not deny that there are passages in regard to which there can be little doubt as to the inflection and emphasis to be employed; but these are precisely the passages in reference to which rules are not needed, so obvious is the sense to every intelligent reader, and so unerringly does nature guide us.

"Probably not a single instance," says Archbishop Whately, "could be found, of any one who has attained, by the study of any system of instruction that has appeared, a really good delivery; but there are many-probably nearly as many as have fully tried the experiment- who have by this means been totally spoiled." There is one principle, he says, radically erroneous, which must vitiate every system founded on it, the principle, "that, in order to acquire the best style of delivery, it is requisite to study analytically the emphasis, tones, pauses, degrees of loudness, &c., which give the proper effect to each passage that is well delivered; to frame Rules founded on the observation of these; and then, in practice, deliberately and carefully to conform the utterance to these rules, so as to form a complete artificial system of Elocution." "To the adoption of any such artificial scheme there are three weighty objections: first, that the proposed system must necessarily be imperfect; secondly, that if it were perfect, it would be a circuitous path to the object in view; and thirdly, that even if both these objections were removed, the object would not be effectually obtained."

The first of those objections, which is not denied by the most strenuous advocates of the artificial systems, would seem to be all-sufficient. Any number of Rules must needs leave the subject incomplete, inasmuch as the analysis of sentences, in their structure, and their relations to vocal inflection, may be carried to almost any extent. Few Rules can be laid down to which many unforeseen exceptions cannot be made. Mr. Walker, in his Rhetorical

66

[ocr errors]

Grammar," published some years after his "Elements of Elocution" had been before the public, admits the practical failure of the systems founded on his analysis. "The sanguine expectations I had once entertained," he says, "that this Analysis of the Human Voice would be received by the learned with avidity, are now over." And, his imagination kindling at a ray of hope, he adds: "It is not improbable that the active genius of the French, who are so remarkably attentive to their language, may first adopt this vehicle" of instruction in reading and speaking. But more than forty years have passed since this suggestion was thrown out; and the French, so quick to adopt improvements based on scientific analysis, have been as backward as Walker's own countrymen in applying to practical uses his discovery. But although the Science of Europe has weighed these artificial systems in the balance, and found them wanting for practical purposes of instruction, the hope seems to be entertained that Young America will not yet a while concur in the judg

ment.

"It is surely a circuitous path," says Archbishop Whately, "when the learner is directed first to consider how each passage ought to be read (that is, what mode of delivering each part of it would spontaneously occur to him, if he were attending exclusively to the matter of it); then to observe all the modulations, &c., of voice, which take place in such a delivery; then to note these down, by established marks, in writing; and, lastly, to pronounce according to these marks." "Such instruction is like that bestowed by Molière's pedantic tutor upon his Bourgeois Gentilhomme, who was taught, to his infinite surprise and delight, what configurations of the mouth he employed in pronouncing the several letters of the alphabet, which he had been accustomed to utter, all his life, without knowing how."?

The labors of Steele, Walker and Rush, are important, and their analyses of vocal expression may always be studied with profit. But the attempt to establish a practical system of elocutionary rules, which may be a consistent and reliable guide to the pupil in reading aloud and in declamation, has been continually baffled. The subject is not one that, in its nature, admits of a resolution into rigid analytical rules. Thought and language being as various as the minds of men, the inflections of the human voice must partake of their plastic quality; and passion and genuine emotion must break through all the rules which theorists can frame. Anatomy is a curious and a profitable study; but what if we were to tell the pugilist that, in order to give a blow with due effect, he ought to know how the muscles depend for their powers of contraction and relaxation on the nerves, and how the nerves issue from the brain and the spinal marrow, with similar facts, requiring, perhaps, a lifetime of study for their proper comprehension, - would he not laugh at us for our advice? And yet, even more unreasonable is it to say, that, to accomplish ourselves in reading and speaking, we must be able to classify a sentence under the head of "loose" or "compact," and their subdivisions, and then to glibly enunciate it according to some arbitrary rule, to which, the probability is, there are many unsurmised exceptions. When Edmund Kean thrilled the heart of a great audience with the tones of indescribable pathos which he imparted to the words,

"Othello's occupation 's gone,"

it would have puzzled him to tell whether the sentence was a "simple declarative" or an 66 imperfect loose." He knew as little of intensive slides," "bends," 99 66 sweeps," and ". closes," as Cribb, the boxer, did of osteology. He studied the intonation which most touched his own heart; and he gave it, reckless of rules, or, rather, guided by that paramount rule, which seeks the highest triumphs of art in elocution in the most genuine utterances of

nature.

Attention is the secret of success in speaking, as in other departments of human effort. Sir Isaac Newton was one day asked how he had discovered

« AnteriorContinuar »