Page images

and mechanical style, - is, in part, owing to exact compliance with the direction to pause, invariably, for a given time at each point. A change of feeling, or a shade of meaning, may lengthen, shorten, or destroy the usual pause at a comma. The syntax of a sentence may demand a separating point, where oral expression glides on continuously, and allows no break. The converse is as true. The rule of syntax may forbid a comma where a sudden change of feeling may produce a pause longer than that usually made at a period. — A most instructive lesson in elocution is given by Sterne, in his satirical sketch of the literal critic, with stop-watch in his hand, taking note of Garrick's " ungrammatical ” pause between the nominative and the verb.

The mistake, however, is too generally sanctioned by books and teachers, that the comma, semicolon, &c., are intended as guides to the ear. They do, no doubt, incidentally, serve this purpose, – but by no means uniformly. The design of grammatical punctuation is to aid the eye of the reader, in resolving a sentence into its syntactical portions. These often coincide, in phrases and clauses, with the natural cessations of voice, which mark the divisions and subdivisions of utterance that constitute the portions of the oral expression of a thought: they enable the reader to refer a given word or clause to another at a distance from it in place, but connected with it in sense, and thus aid his apprehension of its meaning. But, in many cases, this coincidence of grammatical and rhetorical pausing does not take place. Even the close punctuation adopted in modern typography, does not present all the pauses which feeling and sentiment, or abstract thought itself, require; as may be seen by running the eye over the rhetorical and other pauses marked in the exercises occurring in preceding pages. Nor is it possible to read correctly, in many instances, without omitting a pause at the grammatical points; as may be observed even in the familiar phrases, “ Yes, sir,” .no, sir.” The comma, if followed as a guide, would here produce an awkward, limping gait of voice, - resembling that of a young child in its first lessons.

The exercise of reading aloud has but one true, safe, and uniform standard, — the ear, - or, rather the intuitive perception of the mind. The comma and other ocular points are, at best, but collateral and incidental aids, not always to be depended on; and, sometimes, they are to be regarded as impediments which emotion is to put down, in order to attain true expression.

The general rule of elocution, then, as regards the comma, semicolon, and colon, if we use them as guides to the voice,

- must be, to follow them only so far as they coincide with the meaning, and to lengthen or shorten, or omit the pauses corresponding to them, as the sentiment or emotion expressed in a sentence may require, in slow or in lively utterance; but especially to remember that there may be a long pause of feeling, where no grammatical point occurs.


The application of "time" to speech, includes, in addition to points already discussed, the consideration of the rate of voice in successive sounds, - sometimes regulated by the predominating “quantities ” of a passage, whether these be long, as in the solemn and slow utterance of " indefinite” syllables, or short, as in the brisk and rapid utterance of “immutable” syllables. “ Movement," however, has its primary foundation on emotion; and although, in poetry, the “ quantities are often beautifully adapted, by the poet's natural ear and prosodial skill, to the expression of emotion, they are not uniformly so; and in prose, – which exhibits the effect of " ment as distinctly as poetry, - less regard is usually paid to the effect of quantity.” * Movement,” therefore, requires a distinct attention, as a separate element of expression in the voice, and of effect in elocution.




The term " movement,” for which the word "rate" is sometimes substituted, has the same application in elocution as in music; and while “ quantity” regards single sounds as long or short, “ movement” regards successive or consecutive sounds as fast or slow. It unites, too, with “ quantity” in regulating the length of pauses; as we find that slow “ movement,” as well as long “ quantity,” requires long pauses; and that brisk, or rapid “movement,” and brief quantity," equally require short pauses.

Movement,” in elocution, is not measured with the comparative exactness implied in the musical terms, adagio, andante, mezzo, vivace, allegro, presto, &c. It approaches, however, to a considerable degree of definiteness in its use of the designations “slowest,” or “very slow;" “slow;" “moderate;" “lively;" "brisk," or "quick ;” and “rapid," "quickest,” or “very quick.”

The “ slowest,” or “very slow movement," is exemplified in the expression of the deepest emotions of the soul; as horror, awe, profound reverence and solemnity, and adoration.

- The “slow movement” characterizes the utterance of gloom, melancholy, grief, pathos, sublimity, solemnity and reverence, in their usual form, profound repose, grandeur, majesty, vastness, power, and splendor. -" Moderate movement” is the usual rate of utterance in unimpassioned language. It belongs to common narration and description, and

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

to didactic thought. The rhetorical modes of style to which it is applicable, are those which are denominated the “ dry," the “plain,” and the “ neat.”- Lively movement” implies emotion in that gentle form which does not exceed liveliness, or animation. The lower degrees of all vivid feeling, are expressed by this style of " movement.” A slight degree of joy is usually the under current of its effect. - “Quick” or

brisk movement,” is characteristic of gay, exhilarated, and glad emotion : the full feeling of joy is implied in its “expression.” It gives utterance to all playful, humorous, and mirthful moods. It sometimes, on the other hand, gives its characteristic effect to fear.— The “movement designated as “ quickest,” “very quick,” or “rapid,” is that of haste, hurry, alarm, confusion, and fear, when rising to terror.

It is evident from the very nature of “movement,” that it must be an element of immense power, in expression. The funeral march suggests to the ear its effect, in music, as associated with

awe, gloom, and grief; and the music of the dance reminds us of its power over the feelings of gladness and exhilaration. The grave psalm, and the song of serious sentiment, express, in their measured regularity, the adaptation of gentle and “ moderate movement to tranquil and sedate feeling.

Similar effects, in degree, characterize the use of the voice, in recitation and in reading. Appropriate elocution accommodates the movement of the voice to every mood of thought, - from the slowest, prolonged, and lingering utterance of deep contemplation, and pro

found awe, to the swift and rapid strains of lyric rapture and ecstasy. Every mood of mind has its appropriate “ movement,” or rate " of utterance, as definitely expressed as its “ quality” of voice, its characteristic “force,” or its peculiar “ pitch," " slide," or wave.' Utterance, to be natural and effective, must have the genuine expression of its appropriate“ movement.” Solemnity cannot exist, to the ear, without slowness, nor gaiety without briskness of utterance, gravity without sedate style, nor animation without a livelymovement.

The power of “ movement," in the elocution of a skilful reader or speaker, is indefinite; as we may observe in the difference between a schoolboy gabbling through his task, in haste to get rid of it, and a great tragedian, whose whole soul is rapt in the part of Cato uttering the soliloquy on immortality, or Hamlet musing on the great themes of duty, life, and death.

A command over the “lively” and “ brisk movements” of the voice, is not less important than the power of slow and solemn utterance. The style of reading which is most frequently introduced to enliven the evening circle at home, requires of the reader


[ocr errors]

the power

to trip it as he goes,” in the mood of gay description, light satire, vivid dialogue, and droll humor.

The three principal faults of “ movement,” which are exemplified in the common practice of reading, are uniform slowness, or, perhaps, a drawling style ; habitual rapidity, which prevents all deep and impressive effect, and, perhaps, causes indistinctness of enunciation; a uniform moderate

6 movement,

" which never yields to any natural influence of emotion, as to become appropriately expressive, and pass from grave to gay, or the reverse, by a change in the gait of the voice, – but utters, automaton-like, all feelings in the same unmeaning and mechanical style; the voice marching on, with one uniform measured step, over all varieties of surface, as regards the tenor of language and the subject.

The following examples of " movement” should be assiduously practised, in conjunction with the elements and with tables of words, selected as exercises for this purpose, from the chapter on enunciation. The repetition of such exercises should be continued till the student can execute with perfect precision, and with the utmost readiness, all the movements enumerated in the classification.

[blocks in formation]

Amazement, Awe, and Horror.

[FROM BYRON'S DREAM OF DARKNESS.] (" Aspirated pectoral quality :" "Suppressedforce : “Median

stress :” “Lowest pitch :" Prevalent “ monotone :” Extremely long pauses.)

“ 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 ;
Morn came, and went, -and came, and brought no day.

- The world was void :
The populous and the powerful was a lump, —
Seasonless, herbless, treeless, manless, lifeless,-
A lump of death—a chaos of hard clay.
The rivers, lakes, and ocean, all stood still ;
And nothing stirred within their silent depths.
Ships, sailorless, lay rotting on the sea ;
And their masts fell down piecemeal: as they dropped,

They slept on the abyss without a surge ;-
The waves were dead; the tides were in their grave;
The moon, their mistress, had expired before ;
The winds were withered in the stagnant air ;
And the clouds perished : Darkness had no need
Of aid from them,— She was the universe.”

2.-Profound Reverence, Solemnity, and Adoration.

[DERZHAVIN's Hymn.] - Bowring. (“ Effusive and expulsive orotund :” “ Pectoral quality :” “ Sub

dued” force : - Median stress :" “ Low pitch :" Prevalent “ downward slide,” occasional “monotone :" Pauses extremely long.)

“Thou from primeval nothingness didst call
First chaos, then existence:- -Lord! on thee
Eternity had its foundation ;— all
Sprung forth from Thee, --of light, joy, harmony,
Sole origin :- all life, all beauty thine.
Thy word created all, and doth create;
Thy splendor fills all space with rays divine.
Thou art, and wert, and shalt be! Glorious! great!
Light-giving, life-sustaining Potentate!”

II. - Slow Movement."
1.-Reverence, Gratitude, and Praise.

[FROM THE Book of Psalms.] (“. Effusive orotund quality :" Subdued ” force : “ Median stress :"

“ Low pitch :" Prevalent“ downward slide :” Long pauses.)

“ O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth! who hast set Thy glory above the heavens.

“When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers; the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man that Thou art mindful of him ? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?

For Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »