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• was a great obstacle to surmount. How could they leave it
for another, whose advantages were not yet foreseen, and whose difficulties were so obvious ?
In proportion as the language of articulate founds became 6 more copious, there was more need of seizing early oppor6 tunities of improving the organ of speech, and for preserv
ing its first fexibility. Then it appeared as convenient as • the mode of speaking by action: they were both indiscrimi• nately used; till at length articulate sounds became so easy, that they absolutely prevailed.'
The Abbé having thus considered the mode of speaking by action, and that of articulate sounds, observes, that speech, succeeding the language of action, retaind its character for some time : in order therefore to supply the place of the violent contorsions of the body, the voice was raised and depress'd by very sensible intervals. The first names of animals probably were made in imitation of their cries : a remark which is equally applicable to those that were given to winds, to rivers, and to every thing that makes a noise. It is evident that this imitation supposes the sounds to have succeeded each other by very distinct intervals.
At the origin of languages the manner of pronouncing admitted of inflexions that were so distinct, as a musician might prick it down, making only fome small changes; I shall say then that it partook of the nature of music.
This prosody was so natural to mankind in the beginning, that to several it has appeared easier to express different ideas by the same word pronounced in different tones, than to multiply the number of words in proportion to that of ideas. This language is still preserved among the Chinese. They have only 328 monosyllables ; these they vary on five tones, which is equivalent to 1640 figns. It has been observed that our languages are not more copious. Other people, doubtless of a more fruitful imagination, chose rather to inyent new words. Prosody with them began insensibly to recede from music, in proportion as the reasons for its former approximation, ceased to take place. But it was a long time before it became so fimple as it is at present.
That the Greeks and Romans determined their recitation or declamatory speaking by notes and fignatures, and accompanied it with the found of instruments, is beyond all manner of doubt : was therefore properly a kind of chant or song. This is an evident consequence to such as have the least knowledge of the principles of music. In the first place, they are not ignorant that it is impossible to have any permanent marks of sound, otherways than by measuring it, Secondly, that nothing can be measured in music, without the resonance of sonorous bodies. Thirdly, that this resonance does not produce any other sounds, or intervals, than such as are admitted in vocal music.
It is also unquestionable, (says the Abbé) that this musical recitation was not at all offensive to the ancients. We do not find that they ever complained of its being unnatural, except in particular cases, as we are apt to do ourselves, when we think a comedian overacts his part. On the contrary, they considered vocal mufic as essential to poetry. The versification of the very best Lyric poets, says Cicero*, appears like prose, unless it be supported by vocal music. Does not this evidently shew that the pronunciation, which at that time was looked upon as natural in familiar discourse, partook lo much of the nature of chant or long, that it was imposible for them to imagine such a medium as our manner of declaiming ?
Some sounds therefore at the origin of languages succeeded each other with great velocity, and others very slowly. From thence arises what grammarians call quantity, or the sensible difference between long and short fyllables. Quantity, and pronouncing by distinct intervals, have kept pace together, and altered very nearly in the same proportion.; The prosody of the Romans bordered upon vocal music; hence their words were composed of very unequal fyllables : in the French the quantity has been no farther preserved, than as the weak inflexions of the voice have rendered it neceflary.
As Cic. de oras.'
As the inflexions by sensible intervals introduced the use of mufical declamation, so the distinct inequality of fyllables added a difference of time and measure to it. The declamatory, speaking of the ancients, contained therefore those two things, which characterise vocal melody; I mean modulation and movement.
Movement is the soul of music: hence we see that the ancients confidered it as absolutely necessary to their recitation. There was a person appointed at their theatres to determine it by stamping with his feet; so that the ancient comedians were as much tied down to measure as musicians and dancers in our times. It is beyond all doubt that such a recitation would deviate too widely from our manner of pronouncing, ever to seem natural to us. Far from requiring that an actor should follow a particular movement, we forbid him to make us sensible of the measure of our verfe ; nay, we insist on his breaking it so, as he shall seem to express himself in profe. Upon the whole it appears, that ' the pronunciation of the ancients, in familiar conversation, bordered so near upon vocal music, that their declamation may be said to have been musical in the strict sense of the word,
In consequence of the changes which have happened in prosody, the manner of declaiming is become so simple, that, that it can no longer be ascertained by rules. It is become alınost an affair of instinct or taste. With us it cannot constitute any part of education ; nay, it is nes glected to such a degree, that we have orators, who do not seem to think it an essential part of their profession ; which the ancients would have found it as hard to conceive, as we to believe any of the most surprizing facts of antiquity. Not having made any carly improvement in declamatory speaking, we do not resort to the theatres with the fame anxious desire as they, nor are we influenced so much by the force of eloquence. The oratorical discourses which they have left us, retain only a part of their expression. We are acquainted neither with their tone nor gesture, which must have to powerfully actuated the minds of their hearers.
In short, we scarce feel the force of Demofthenes's thunder, or the harmony of Cicero's eloquence.
It is plain therefore that if our theatrical entertainments are so greatly different from thofe of the Greeks and Romans, it is à natural effect of the changes which have happened in our prosody.
Our author's sentiments concerning prosody in general, are founded on truth and experience.
• The most perfect prosody (says he) is that whofe harmony is best adapted to exprefs alt forts of characters. Now there
are three things concurring to harmony; the quality of the o'sounds, the intervals by which they fucceed each other, and e the movement. A language mult therefore have founds of * different softness, even fome that are rough; in a word, fome of all kinds : secondly, it must have accents' to determine the voice to rise and to fall: thirdly, by inequality of fylla"bles it must be capable of expreffing all sorts of move*ments.
« To produce harmony, the cadences ought not to be placed indifferently. Sometimes the harmony ought to be fufpended, and other times it ought to terminate with a fensible pause. Consequently in a language, whose prosody is perfect, the succession of sounds should be subordinate' to the fall of each period, so that the cadences shall be more or « less abrupt, and the ear shall not find a final pause, till the mind be intirely satisfied.
If we confider the surprize with which Cicero speaks of the effects of oratorical numbers, it is sufficient to cortvince us that the prosody of the Romans made much'nearer approaches than ours to this point of perfection. He represents the people in raptures at harmonious periods; and to Thew that this was intirely owing to the numbers, he changes the oră der of words in a period that had met with great applause, • and assures us that they immediately perceived it had loft
its-harmony. The laft construction is no longer preserved by t'a proper mixture of long and short fyllables, and accents, * the necessary order for pleafing the ear*. The French language is soft and smooth, but there & forfiething farther
* Cicero de orat. VOL. II,
• wanting to constitute harmony. I do not find that in the « different turns or forms of expressions, our French orators
have ever hit upon any thing fimilar to those cadences, with « which the Romans were so greatly affected.
• Another reason that confirms the superiority of the Latin • prosody, is the relish the Romans had for harmony, and the <delicate ear for which even the common people were re(markable. The comedians could not commit the least de• fault in regard to quantity, but immediately the whole audience expressed their disapprobation.
• Facts like these we cannot read without surprize, because we observe nothing of the same kind in our own nation. • The reason is, the pronunciation of people of taste is so simple,
that those who are guilty of a small mistake can be correct
ed by very few, there being but very few to whom it is fami• liar. Among the Romans it was so strongly marked, and • the quantity of syllables was so determined, that even vulgar cars thoroughly understood it; so that whatever discomposed the harmony could not avoid being grating to them.
· I shall continue my conjectures with observing, that as the • Romans were more sensible of harmony than our nation, so • the Greeks had a greater sensibility than the Romans, and the
Asiatics still a greater than the Greeks: for the more ancient the languages, the nearer their prosody must have bordered
And indeed we have reason to think that the Greek language was more harmonious than the Latin, since
the latter borrowed its accents from the former. With reégard to the Afiatics they were fond of harmony to such a • degree, that the Romans looked upon it as an excess of
affectation. This we learn of Cicero, when, after blaming those who, to render the sentence more fonorous, fpoil it • by forced transpofitions, he represents the Asiatic orators as
greater flaves to numbers than the rest. Perhaps he would “think, were he now living, that the narwe of our lan
guage makes us fall into the oppolite extreine : but if in
this we lose some advantages, we shall pretently fee that we • are made amends in other respects.'
What the Abbé has observed on the music of the ancients, 2;}d their art of getture, his comparison between the musical