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The reader will perceive, that the principle which I here aim to illustrate, though it belongs primarily to the philosophy of style, has ́ a very extensive influence over every department of delivery.
The man who feels the inspiration of true eloquence, will find some of his happiest resources in this kind of representation. He can break through the trammels of a tame, inanimate address He can ask questions, and answer them; can personate an accuser and a respondent; can suppose himself accused or interrogated, and give his replies. He can call up the absent or the dead, and make them speak through his lips. The skill of representing two or more persons, by appropriate management of language and voice, is properly called rhetorical dialogue. It was thus that the great orators of antiquity, and thus that Chrysostom and Massillon held their hearers in captivity.
Sect. 10.-The reading of Poetry.
The genius of verse requires that it be pronounced with a fuller swell of the open vowels, and in a manner more melodious and flowing than prose. As the peculiar charms of poetry consist very much in delicacy of sentiment, and beauty of language, it were absurd to read it without regard to these characteristics. But on the other hand, to preserve the metrical flow of versification, and yet not impair the sense, is no easy attainment. The following general principles may be of use to the student.
1. In proportion as the sentiment of a passage is elevated, inspiring emotions of dignity or reverence, the voice has less variety of inflection, and is more inclined to the
2. When the sentiment of a passage is delicate and gentle, especially when it is plaintive, it inclines the voice to the rising inflection; and for this reason, poetry oftener requires the rising inflection than prose: yet,
3. The rights of emphasis must be respected in poctry. When the language of a passage is strong and discriminating, or familiarly descriptive, or colloquial,-the same modifications of voice are required as in prose. The emphatic stress and inflection, that must be intensive, in prose, to express a thought forcibly, are equally necessary in poetry.
Say first, of God above, or man below,
But sometimes virtue starves, while vice is fed:
4. The metrical accent of poetry is subordinate to sense, and to established usage in pronunciation. That is a childish conformity to poetic measure, which we sometimes hear, as marked in the following examples.
False eloquence, like the prismatic glass,
Where the metrical accent would do violence to every ear of any refinement, the best way of obviating the difficulty, is to give both the metrical and the customary accent; at least so far, that neither shall be very conspicuous; thus
Our supréme foe, in time may much relent.
Encamp their legions, or with obscure wing—
I think of only two exceptions to these remarks on accent. The first is, where a distinguished poet has purposely violated Harmony, to make the harshness of his line correspond with that of the thought.
-On a sudden open fly,
With impétuous recoil, and jarring sound,
The infernal doors; and on their hinges grate,
The other is where a poet of the same order, without any apparent reason, has so deranged the customary accent, that, to restore it in reading, would be a violation of euphony not to be endured; thus—
With glory áttributed to the high
Only to shine, yet scarce to contribute
5. The pauses of verse should be so managed, if possible, as most fully to exhibit the sense, without sacrificing the harmony of the composition. No good reader can fail
to observe the caesural pause, occurring after the fourth syllable, in these flowing lines;
Warms in the sun || refreshes in the breeze,
Yet no good reader would introduce the same pause, from regard to melody, where the sense utterly forbids it, as in this line;
I sit, with sad || civility I read.
There is another poetical pause, occurring at the end of the line. In blank verse, even when the sense of one line runs closely into the next, the reader may generally, not always, mark the end of the line, by a proper protraction and suspension of voice, on the closing syllable,—as in the following notation;
-Thus with the year ..
Seasons return, but not to me returns..
Day or the sweet approach of even or morn.
And over them triumphant Death his dart..
"The affectation," says Walker, "which most writers of blank verse have of extending the sense beyond the line, is followed by a similar affectation in the printer, who will often omit a pause at the end of a line in verse, when he would have inserted one in prose; and this affectation is still carried farther by the reader, who will run the sense of one line into another, where there is the least opportunity for doing it, in order to show that he is too sagacious, to suppose that there is any conclusion in the sense, because the line concludes."
In regard to rhyme, there can be no doubt that it should be so read, as to make the end of the line quite perceptible to the ear: otherwise the correspondent sound of the final syllables, in which rhyme consists, would be entirely lost.
6. The vowels e and o when apostrophized, in poetry, should be preserved in pronunciation. But they should be spoken in a manner so slight and accelerated, as easily to coalesce with the following syllable.—As;
But of the two, less dang'rous is th' offence.
THOUGH the chief object of this book, is to regulate the voice, in reading and speaking, a few remarks on gesture, may be useful to those members of academies, and higher schools, who wish to acquire proper habits in exercises of declamation. These remarks I shall introduce, with a very brief view of some faults, not uncommon, as to management of countenance and attitude, in a speaker.
The eye is the only part of the face, that it falls within my design to notice here, both because this is the chief seat of expression, and because its significance is especially liable to be frustrated by mismanagement. The intercourse of soul, between speaker and hearers, is carried on more unequivocally through the eye, than in any other way. But if he neglects to look at them, and they in return neglect, (as they commonly will,) to look at him; the mutual reaction of feeling through the countenance is lost; and vocal language is all the medium of intercourse that remains. The eye "bent on vacuity," as the artists call it, is the next most common defect, of this sort. The glass eye of a wax figure at once tells its own character. There may be, in other respects, the proportion and complexion of a human face; but that eye, the moment it is examined, you perceive is nothing more, and, at best, it can be nothing more than a bungling counterfeit. So the eye of a speaker may be open, and yet not see; at least there may be no discrimination, no meaning in its look. It does not look at any thing. There is in its expression, a generality, a vacuity, so to speak, that expresses nothing. To the same class belongs that indefinite sweep of the eye, which
passes from one side to another of an assembly, resting no where; and that tremulous, waving cast of the eye, and winking of the eyelid, which is in direct contrast to an open, collected, manly expression of the face.
So fatal are these faults to the impression of delivery hat too much care cannot be taken to avoid them.
Attitude I use, not in the theatrical sense of the word, (for this has no concern with oratory,) but as denoting the general positions of the body, which are becoming or otherwise, in a speaker. In some few instances, I have observed the head to be kept so erect, as to give the air of haughtiness. In others, it is dropped so low, that the man seems to be carelessly surveying his own person. In others, it is reclined towards one shoulder, so as to give the appearance of languor or indolence.
As to the degree of motion that is proper for the body. may be safely said, that while the fixedness of a post is an extreme, all violent tossing of the body from side to side, rising on the toes, or writhing of the shoulders and limbs, are not less unseemly.
The remarks which come next to be made on gesture, are more various.
One principal fault which I have noticed in this, is want of appropriateness. By this I mean that it is not sufficiently adapted to circumstances. An address to an assembly of common men, admits a boldness of action, that would be unseemly in one delivered to a prince.
More vivacity and variety is admissible in the action of a young speaker, than of one who is aged; and the same boldness of manner which is proper when the orator is kindled to a glowing fervor, in the close of a discourse, would be out of place at its commencement. Yet the same action is used by some speakers, in the exordium, as in the conclusion; in cool argument to the understanding, as in impassioned appeals to the heart. Good sense will lead a