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sage from the Spectator;* recollecting at the beginning of each sentence, to strike the words in the largest type, with a high and full voice, gradually sinking away in pitch and quantity, as the type diminishes, to the close.
OUR SIGHT IS THE MOST PERFECT, and Most DeLightful, Of All Oto Senses. IT FILLS THE MIND WITH THE LARGEST VARIETY OF IDEAS, Converses With
# -ITS OBJECTS AT THE GREATEST DISTANCE, AND CONTINUES THE LONGEST IN ACTION, WITHOUT BEING TIRED OR SATIATED WITH ITS PROPER ENJOYMENTS. THE SENSE OF FEELING CAN INDEED GIVE US A NOTION OF EXTENSION, SHAPE, AND ALL OTHER IDEAS THAT ENTER AT THE EYE, EXCEPT COLORS.
AT THE SAME TIME, it Is Very Much crwFiNED In Its
OPERATIONS, TO THE NUMBER, BULK, AND DISTANCE OF ITS PARTICULAR OBJECTS.
If you succeed in understanding the above illustration, then vary the trial on the same example, with a view to another fault, the periodic stress and tone. Take care to speak the words, printed in small capitals, with a note sensibly higher and stronger than the rest, dropping the voice immediately after these elevated words, into an undulating tone, on the following syllables,—thus:
Our sight is the Most perfect, and Most delightful, of all our senses. It fills the mind with the largest Variety of ideas, converses with its object at the Greatest distance, and continues the longest in action, without being Tired or satiated with its proper enjoyments. The sense of feeling can indeed Oive us a notion of extension, shape, and all other ideas that Enter at the eye, except colors. At the same time, it is very much con
niJKD in its operations, to the number, Bulk, and distance of its pvticfr ,ar objects.*
It is necessary now to give this same passage once more, so distinguishing the chief words, by the Italic character, at to exhibit the true pronunciation.
Our sight is the most perfect, and most delightful, of all our It fills the mind with the largest variety of ideas; converses with its objects at the greatest distance; and continues the longest in action without being tired or satiated with its proper enjoyments. The sense of feeling can indeed give us a notion of extension, shape, and all other ideas that enter at the eye, except colors. At the same time, it is very much confined in its operations, to the number, bulk, and distance of its particular ebjects.
But as no word in the foregoing passage, is strongly emphatic, my meaning may be more evident from an example or two, where a discriminating stress on a single word, determines the manner in which the fol lowing words are to be spoken.
Take this couplet from Pope, and read it first with the metrical accent and tone; thus,
What the weak head, with strongest bias rules,
Now let it be observed that in these lines there is really but one emphatic word, namely, pride. If we mark this with the strong emphasis, and the falling inflection, the following words will of necessity be spoken as they should be, dropping a note or two below the key note of the sentence,f and proceeding nearly on a monotone to the end;— thus,
What the weak head, with strongest bias rules, the never failing vice of fools.
* Walker's ear, though in cases of emphatic inflection, very discriminating, seems in other cases to have been perverted by his theory of harmonic inflection, as appears from his manner of pronouncing the following couplet, which nearly coincides with the tone I am condemning:
A brave man struggling in the storms of fate,
t By key note, I mean the prevailing note, that which you hear when a man reads aloud in another room, while you cannot distinguish aa»
Another example may help to render this more intelligible.
Or must we des ,
the author of the public calamities.
In pronouncing these examples, if the proper sound is given to the •mphatic words, all the rest must be spoken essentially as here described, it follows that the most direct means of curing artificial tones, is to acquire a correct emphasis. But,—
2. In order to this, another attainment seems indispensable, namely, some good degree of discrimination as to vocal tones and inflections.
Some, who can imitate a sound, immediately after hearing it from another voice, suppose this to be the only way in which it can be done. But let a thousand persons, who understand the English language, repeat the familiar question, "Do you expect to go, or slay?"—And will not every one of the thousand give the same turn of voice on the words in Italics Where is the difficulty then of placing such a mark on these turns of voice, that they may be transferred to any other word 1 This simple principle suggested to Walker his notation of sounds for the eye; and incomplete as it is, something of the kind is so necessary to the student of elocution, that, without it, the aid of a living teacher cannot supply the defect. And in most cases, nothing is wanting to derive advantage from such a theory but a little patience and perseverance in its application.
Sect. 3.—Pitch of Voice.
This is a relative modification of voice; by which we mean that high or low note, which prevails in speaking, and which has a governing influence upon the whole scale of notes employed. In every one's voice, this governing note varies with circumstances, but it is sufficiently exact to consider it as threefold; the upper pitch, used in calling to one at a distance; the middle, used in conversation; and the lower, used in cadence, or in a grave, emphatic under key. Exertion of voice on the first, exposes it to break; and on the last, renders articulation thick and difficult, and leaves no room for compass below the pitch. The middli key, or that which we spontaneously adopt in earnest conversation, allows the greatest variety and energy in speaking.
Whether this is high or low, compared with that of another man, is not essential, provided it be not in extreme. Among the first secular orators of Britain, some have spoken on the grave, bass key; while Pitt'i veice. it is said, was a full tenor, and Fox's a treble.
The voice that is on the bass-key, if clear and well-toned, has some advantages in point of dignity. But a high tone, uttered with the same effort of lungs, is more audible than a low one. Without referring to other proofs of this, the fact now mentioned is sufficient, that we spontaneously raise our key, in calling to one at a distance; for the simple reason, that we instinctively know he will be more likely to hear us, in a high note than a low one. So universal is this instinct, that we may observe it in very little children, and even in the call and response of the parent bird and her young, and in most brute animals that have voice.
The influence of emotion on the voice, is also among the philosophical considerations pertaining to this subject. A man under strong intellectual excitement, walks with a firmer and quicker step than when he is cool; and the same excitement which braces the muscles, and gives energy to the movements of the body, has a correspondent effect on the movements of the voice. Earnestness in common conversation assumes a higher note, as it proceeds, though the person addressed is at no greater distance than before.
A practical corollary from these suggestions is, that the speaker or reader should avoid a high pitch, at the beginning, lest he rise, with the increase of interest, to painful and unmanageable elevation.
The proper means of avoiding extremes, is to learn the distinction between force and elevation; and to acquire the power of swelling the voice on a low note. This introduces our next topic of consideration.
This term I use, not in the restricted sense of grammarians and prosodists, but as including rotundity and fullness of tone, loudness, and time.
Rotundity and Fullness. — As to inflection, emphasis, and the varied adaptation of tones to sentiment, the only laws of voice, in deliberate speaking and reading, that can be considered as natural, are derived from conversation. But in another respect, the habits acquired from this source, •evasion sens of the most stubborn difficulties, which the
learner in elocution has to surmount. For, to what purpose has he been accustomed to use his voice? Almost exclusively in a hurried utterance of a sentence or two at once, to an individual, or a small number of persons, so near him, or so well acquainted with what he is saying, as to understand him, though it be but half spoken. Thus, by using his voice only in conversation, (excepting occasionally, when he has opened his organs to a fuller note, in speaking a word or two, to some one at a distance,) he has become confirmed in a rapid, indistinct, feeble enunciation of the chief elementary sounds. But when he comes to train his organs, in exercises of elocution; that is, when he comes to read or speak any thing, so that it may be audible and interesting to a considerable number of hearers, a new task is imposed on his vocal powers. Cost what it may, he must exchange the clipping, slurring, jerking sounds of fireside-talk, for a clear, open articulation, or he cannot speak nor read well. Dignity and force in delivery, depend much on the power of filling, and swelling, and protracting an open vowel sound; but no one attains this power, without pains and care; and without a process different from any thing that is ordinarily acquired in conversation.
It requires very little skill in sounds, to perceive that a in hat, is shorter than a in hate; that is, in the former case, the organs pass quickly over the vowel to the consonant,—in the latter there is more continuance on the vowel. Now this continuance may be protracted, more or less, at-pleasure; for it requires only that we begin the sound of a in hate, and keeping the organs in exactly the same position, let the stream of
sound proceed; thus,—ha . . . . te, ha te.
Just so, if you bring the organs to the proper position, and begin the sound of a in hat, you may protract it through the whole stream of breath, if you please, before the t is spoken, —ha t.
But as every experiment of this kind implies a longer note