« PreviousContinue »
THE UNIVERSAL HYMN OF NATURE.
The following passage forms an example of apostrophe and adoration, in the loftiest mood of poetry. Solemnity, sublimity, and ardour of devotional feeling, are all blended in the “expression,” and produce one of the noblest examples of sustained “orotund” in its “effusive” and “expulsive” forms, varying from the one degree to the other, according to the softened or the energetic character of the emotion uttered in each apostrophe. “Median stress” prevails throughout the piece, imparting a full sonorous swell to the utterance, in conjunction with the majestic “rhythm,” and “ prolonged quantities” of the blank verse. The “ movement” is “slow” and stately throughout; and the pauses, at each apostrophe, remarkably
long. The faults to be shunned in the reading of this and similar exercises,
are those of a slight, feeble, hurried, and inerpressive utterance. The voice should always, in such cases, indicate the grandeur of the theme, although it should never fall into that mouthing and chanting swell, which is sometimes indulged through false taste.)
Nature, attend ! join every living soul,
Soft roll your incense, herbs, and fruits, and flowers,
CHARACTER OF PRIMITIVE POETRY.
[Critical disquisitions on themes of a poetic nature, while they necessa
rily adopt the staid and regular form of utterance which belongs to didactic style, retain, — so to express it, — the tinge which they naturally derive from the tone of their subject. Hence we find that pieces such as the following, allow much more scope to “ expression” in reading, than those which are restricted to topics of science merely. The basis of elocution, in passages like this, is a clear, distinct enunciation, exact inflections, and discriminating emphasis. But, from the nature of the subject, there is implied the addition of " expressive” effect in a style approaching to that of poetry. A “slower” o movement” therefore prevails, than in ordinary prose, and is accompanied by perfectly “pure tone," slight “median siress” and a comparatively delicate “ vanish” in the sounds of the voice, yet without losing the animation which accompanies the contemplation and expression of beauty.]
Poetry is the oldest birth of the human mind. The first unravellings of that veil of light which God has woven into the frame of man, are in the form of verse. A poet of our own times, has supposed that the first poet sang when the rainbow first shone upon the “ green, undeluged earth,” as a covenant between God and man. But surely sixteen hundred years had not rolled by, without some musical utterance, however rude and uncouth, of those sensations and emotions which are felt in the blood and in the soul of man. Suns had set, and moons had risen; and the sweet influences of the stars had dropped from the midnight sky; the spinning earth had known its alternations of day and night, seed-time and harvest; lovers had wooed, and maidens had been won; the child had been born, and the old man had been carried to his grave; joy and sorrow, hope and fear, smiles and tears, had brightened and darkened man's life; and it cannot be that the minstrel had not sung, - that the harp of Jubal had not trembled to the poet's touch.
As children resemble each other more than men, so are nations more alike in their infancy than in their mature age. All early poetry is marked, more or less strongly, by the same general characteristics. It has the unstudied movement, and
the unconscious charm, of childhood. It fills the mind with a sense of the golden light and dewy freshness of morning. It flows from an age which acknowledges a vivid satisfaction in the mere possession of life. That pleasure in the simple exercise of the faculties, without reference to the end or object of pursuit, which is common to the young of all animals, and in which the benevolent observation of Paley saw the most striking proof of the goodness of God, is then the heritage of the race. It is a privilege to be alive: to enjoy the pleasurable sensations which accompany a healthful organization; to hear the bird sing, to drink the red wine, to gaze on the cheek of beauty.
The natural pleasures which lie upon the lap of the common earth, content the child-like man. The feeling of satiety, of weariness and unrest, of longing after some ideal and unattainable good, is as yet unknown. The morning star of hope is in the ascendant, and not the evening star of memory. The poles of nature are not yet reversed. The appetites are not yet perverted from their legitimate function of means, and made to become ends. That unhappy system of anticipation, which brings the meal before the hunger, the bed before the weariness, has not begun. It is no disparagement to a brave man to express that honest fear of death which results naturally from an honest love of life. If we imagine grown-up men carrying into the common business of the world, that heartiness, that irrepressible vivacity, that fulness of animal life, which children put into their play, we shall have a notion of that unwithered world which surrounds the early poet, and which he reproduces in his epic, his saga, or his ballad. The heroes of Homer feel their life in every limb: they recoil from the unfathomable gulf of death, as children from a dark room. That same sense of the value of mere existence, beats, like a strong pulse, through the early poetry of Spain, England, and Germany. The sorrow which is breathed over the dead body of Arcite, in the Knight's Tale of Chaucer, flows chiefly from the feeling of what he had lost in losing life.
“Why woldest thou be ded? this women crie
[An example of “lively” and “humorous” conversational style.
Graphic effect in tone, which is the main element in the reading of such passages, consists in carrying “expression” to its full extent. In other words, the elocution of pieces of this class, requires the full ringing effect of humorous and jocular utterance, bordering, sometimes, on laughing tone. The emphasis should be strongly given, the “ inflections ” well marked, and the “ stress” fully indulged. To enter heartily into the spirit of the scene, in feeling and in tone, is the great thing to be aimed at, and all feebleness and frigidness of style, are the faults to be avoided.]
Never, I firmly believe, did there exist a family that went more by tangents than the Cocklofts. — Every thing, with them, is governed by whim; and if one member starts a new freak, away all the rest follow, like wild geese in a string. As the family, the servants, the horses, cats and dogs, have all grown old together, they have accommodated themselves to each other's habits completely; and though every body of them is full of odd points, angles, rhomboids, and ins and outs, yet somehow or other, they harmonize together like so many straight lines; and it is truly a grateful and refreshing sight to see them agree so well. Should one, however, get out of tune, it is like a cracked fiddle, the whole concert is ajar ; you perceive a cloud over every brow in the house, and even the old chairs seem to creak “ affettuoso.”
If my cousin, — as he is rather apt to do, – betray any symptoms of vexation or uneasiness, - no matter about what, — he is worried to death with inquiries, which answer no other end' than to demonstrate the good will of the inquirer, and put him in a passion ; for every body knows how provoking it is to be cut short in a fit of the blues, by an impertinent question about “what is the matter ?” when a man can't tell himself.
I remember, a few months ago, the old gentleman came home in quite a squall; kicked poor Cæsar, the mastiff, out of his way, as he came through the hall; threw his hat on the table with most violent emphasis, and pulling out his box, took three huge pinches of snuff, and threw a fourth into the cat's eyes, as he sat purring his astonishment by the fireside.