Page images
PDF
EPUB

from the chest, firmness from the throat, and clearness from the head and mouth.

Without these qualities, it is impossible to give right effect to the beauty and grandeur of noble sentiments, whether expressed in prose or in verse,

Childhood and youth are the favorable seasons for acquiring and fixing, in permanent possession, the good qualities of agreeable and effective utterance. The teacher cannot exert too much vigilance, nor the pupil take too much pains, to avoid the encroachments of faulty habit, in this important requisite to a good elocution.

The subjoined exercise should be frequently and attentively practised, with a view to avoid every sound which mars the purity of the tone, or hinders a perfect smoothness of voice.

Exercise in Smoothness and Purity' of Voice. “No sooner had the Almighty ceased, but all

The multitude of angels, with a shout,
Loud as from numbers without number, sweet,
As from blest voices uttering joy ;-heaven rung
With jubilee, and loud hosannas filled
The eternal regions ;-lowly reverent,
Towards either throne they bow; and to the ground,
With solemn adoration, down they cast
Their crowns, inwove with amaranth and gold.
Then crowned again, their golden harps they took,--
Harps ever tuned,—that, glittering by their side,
Like quivers hung, and with preamble sweet
Of charming symphony, they introduce

Their sacred song, and waken raptures high.” Note. The various passions and emotions of the soul, are, to a great extent, indicated by the quality of the voice. Thus, the malignant and all excessive emotions, as anger, hatred, revenge, fear, and horror, are remarkable for "guttural quality', and strong aspiration', orá expiration', accompanying the vocal sound, and forming impure' tone; substituting a harsh', husky, aspirated utterance, for the orotund', or the pure' tone; while pathos, serenity, love, joy, courage, take a soft and smooth oral', or head tone, perfectly pure, or swelling into 'orotund'. Awe, solemnity, 'reverence, and melancholy, take a deep, ' pectoral' murmur; the voice resounding, as it were, in the cavity of the chest, but still keeping perfectly pure' in tone, or expanding into full 'orotund'.-See Section on Expressive Tones.'

Young persons cannot be too deeply impressed with the importance of cultivating, early, a pure and smooth utterance. The excessively deep pectoral' tone sounds hollow and sepulchral; the guttural' tone is coarse, and harsh, and grating to the ear; the nasal' tone is ludicrous ; and the combination of 'guttural' and

[ocr errors]

6

.nasal' tone, is repulsive and extremely disagreeable. Some speakers, through excessive negligence, allow themselves to combine the pectoral', 'guttural', and 'nasal' tones, in one sound,-for which the word grunt is the only approximate designation that can be found. Affectation, or false taste, on the other hand, induces some speakers to assume an extra fine, or double-distilled, oral' tone, which minces every word in the mouth, as if the breast had no part to perform in human utterance.

The tones of serious, serene, cheerful, and kindly feeling, are nature's genuine standard of agreeable voice, as is evinced in the utterance of healthy and happy childhood. But prevalent neglect permits these to be lost in the habitual tones of boys and girls, men and women. Faithful teachers may be of much service to young persons, in this particular.

3. Versatility, or Pliancy of Voice, Signifies that power of easy and instant adaptation, by which it takes on the appropriate utterance of every emotion which occurs in the reading or speaking of a piece characterized by varied feeling or intense passion.

To acquire this invaluable property of voice, the most useful course of practice is the repeated reading or reciting of passages marked by striking contrasts of tone, as loud or soft, high or low, fast or slow.

The following exercises should be repeated till the pupil can give them in succession, with perfect adaptation of voice in each case, and with instantaneous precision of effect.

Exercises for Versatility, or Pliancy of Voice :

Very Loud.
“ And dar'st thou, then,
To beard the lion in his den,-

The Douglas in his hall ?
And hop'st thou hence unscathed to go?
No! by St. Bride of Bothwell, no ”
Up, drawbridge, groom! What! warder, ho!

Let the portcullis fall !”

Very Soft.
“I've seen the moon climb the mountain's brow,

I've watched the mists o'er the river stealing,
But ne'er did I feel in my breast, till now,
So deep, so calm, and so holy a feeling :-
'Tis soft as the thrill which memory throws
Athwart the soul, in the hour of repose."

Very Low.
“ I had a dream, which was not all a dream,
The bright sun was extinguished ; and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless; and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air.”

65

Very High.
'I woke :-where was I ?-Do I see
A human face look down on me ?
And doth a roof above me close ?
Do these limbs on a couch repose ?
Is this a chamber where I lie ?
And is it mortal, yon bright eye,
That watches me with gentle glance ?"

Very Slow. “Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure; yea, all of them shall wax old, like a garment; as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same ; and Thy years shall have no end."

Very Quick.
“I am the Rider of the wind,
The Stirrer of the storm!
The hurricane I left behind

Is yet with lightning warm ;-
To speed to thee, o'er shore and sea

I swept upon the blast.”

4. True Pitch of Voice. The proper pitch of the voice, when no peculiar emotion demands high or low notes, is,—for the purposes of ordinary reading or speaking,-a little below the habitual note of conversation, for the person who reads or speaks. Public discourse being usually on graver subjects -and occasions, than mere private communication, naturally and properly adopts this level. But, through mistake or inadvertency, we sometimes hear

persons read and speak on too low a key for the easy and expressive use

of the voice, and, sometimes, on the other hand, on a key too high for convenient or agreeable utterance.

The following sentences should be repeated till the note on which they are pitched is distinctly recognized, and perfectly remembered, so as to become a key to all similar passages.

Exercise on Middle Pitch. " In every period of life, the acquisition of knowledge is one of the most pleasing employments of the human mind. But in youth, there are circumstances which make it productive of higher enjoyment. It is then that every thing has the charm of novelty; that curiosity and fancy are awake, and that the heart swells with the anticipations of future eminence and utility.”

Contrast this pitch with thảt of the pieces before quoted, as examples of 'high' and 'low'.

§ II. DUE QUANTITY, OR LOUDNESS.

The second characteristic of good reading, is the use of that degree of loudness, force, “volume', or quantity', of voice which enables those to whom we read or speak, to hear, without effort, every sound of the voice; and which, at the same time, gives that degree of force which is best adapted to the utterance of the sentiments which are read or spoken.

All undue loudness is a great annoyance to the ear, and an injury to the expression ; while a feeble and imperfect utterance fails of the main purposes of speech, by being partly or entirely inaudible, and consequently utterly unimpressive.

The failure, as regards loudness, is usually made on passages of moderate force, which do not furnish an inspiring impulse of emotion, and which depend on the exercise of judgment and discrimination, rather than of feeling.

It is of great service, however, to progress in elocution, to possess the power of discriminating the various degrees of force which the utterance of sentiment requires. The extremes of very loud' and very 'soft', required by peculiar emotions, have been exemplified in the exercise on

versatility' of voice. There are three degrees of loudness, all of great importance to the appropriate utterance of thought and feeling, required in the usual forms of composition. These are the following: moderate', 'forcible', and 'empassioned'. The first, the moderate', occurs in the reading of plain narrative, descriptive, or didactic composition, addressed to the under

6

[ocr errors]

standing, rather than to the feelings: the second, the forci. ble', is exemplified in energetic declamation: the third, the

empassioned', occurs in the language of intense emotion, whether in the form of poetry or of prose.

The teacher's watchful attention will be required, in superintending the pupil's practice on the following examples, so as to enable him to detect, and fix definitely, in ear, the exact degree of loudness appropriate to each passage. The exercises should be repeated till they can be executed with perfect precision, so as to form a standard for all similar expression, in subsequent reading.

Exercise in Moderate' Force.

“ An author represents Adam as using the following language. • I remember the moment when my existence cominenced: it was a moment replete with joy, amazement, and anxiety. I neither knew what I was, where I was, nor whence I came.

I opened my eyes : what an increase of sensation! The light, the celestial vault, the verdure of the earth, the transparency of the waters, gave animation to my spirits, and conveyed pleasures which exceed the powers of utterance."

Declamatory' Force. “ Advance, then, ye future generations! We bid you welcome to this pleasant land of the Fathers. We bid you welcome to the healthful skies, and the verdant fields of New England. We greet your accession to the great inheritance which we have enjoyed. We welcome you to the blessings of good government, and religious liberty. We welcome you to the treasures of science, and the delights of learning. We welcome you to the transcendant sweets of domestic life, to the happiness of kindred, and parents, and children. We welcome you to the immeasurable blessings of rational existence, the immortal hope of Christianity, and the light of everlasting Truth!”

Empassioned' Force. “ Shame! shame! that in such a proud moment of life,

Worth ages of history-when, had you but hurled One bolt at your bloody invader, that strife Between freemen and tyrants, had spread through the

world,

« PreviousContinue »