Page images

as to acquire a perfect command of the force and pitch of “grave" style, as differing from the “solemn," on the one hand, and from the “ serious," on the other,


Example. The Throne of Eternity is a throne of mercy and love: God has permitted and invited us to repose ourselves and our hopes on that which alone is everlasting and unchangeable. We shall shortly finish our allotted time on earth, even if it should be unusually prolonged. We shall leave behind us all which is now familiar and beloved; and a world of other days and other men will be entirely ignorant that once we lived. But the same unalterable Being will still preside over the universe, through all its changes; and from His remembrance we shall never be blotted. We can never be where He is not, nor where he sees and loves and upholds us not. He is our Father and our God for

He takes us from earth, that He may lead us to heaven, that He may refine our nature from all its principles of corruption, share with us His own immortality, admit us to His everlasting habitation, and crown us with His eternity.”

2. — “ Serious" Style. This form of utterance differs from the preceding, in not possessing so low a pitch. It is a still milder form of the same general effect. The fault usually exhibited in “ serious” style, is nearly the same with that mentioned above: it substitutes the deep and full-toned notes of the

grave” style for the moderate and less-marked character of the merely "serious." The purity of tone in this style is usually marred by the same cause as in the preceding instance of the “ ve" utterance. The beauty and gentleness of the tone of serious feeling, are thus lost; and the

expression” is untrue to the intended effect.

The following example requires attention and careful practice, to preserve its exact pitch and appropriate force.

When the " serious tone has come fully under the student's command, by practice on the exercise subjoined, the repetition of the elements, syllables, and words, will serve to fix it definitely in the memory.

Example. “There is no virtue without a characteristic beauty to make it particularly loved of the good, and to make the bad ashamed of their neglect of it. To do what is right, argues superior taste as well as morals; and those whose practice is evil, feel an inferiority of intellectual power and enjoyment, even where they take no concern for a principle.

Doing well has something more in it than the fulfilling of a duty. It is the cause of a just sense of elevation of character; it clears and strengthens the spirits; it gives higher reaches of thought; it widens our benevolence, and makes the current of our peculiar affections swift and deep."

3. — “ Animated," or Lively, Style. This mode of voice differs, in three respects, from the “ serious : " it has more force, a higher pitch, and a quicker movement; and the comparatively greater force renders the purity of the tone still more conspicuous.

The common fault, as regards this style, is a dull or deadened tone, instead of that of animation. The dulness of the objectionable tone, arises from keeping the pitch as low, perhaps, as that of the “serious” tone, from withholding the due force of animated utterance, and from allowing the voice to move too slowly. Along with these faults usually goes an impure, husky quality of voice, instead of the clear resonant sound which belongs to animation of


It is unnecessary to expatiate on the effects of a style so obviously bad as that of dulness and monotony. In consequence of indulging this habit, the school-boy reads with the tone of apparent reluctance, indifference, or stupor, and the man speaks as if his intention were to lull his audience to sleep. The origin of this false tone is to be found in the fact that elementary teachers too generally permit reading to be dull work, and that reading-books abound in dull or unintelligible lessons. The tones of life and interest, are not cultivated and cherished at the period when the style of the voice is forming; and neglected habit is attended, here, as elsewhere, with every evil : the voice is killed, the spirits are quenched; and the reader or speaker has apparently neither will nor power to awaken his own soul to perception and feeling, nor to arouse the hearts of others.

The following example should be attentively practised with reference to lively and spirited effect.

The exercise in “ animated” utterance should be extended, as a matter of practice, to the elementary sounds, and to the repetition of the tables of words as far, and as often, as individuals or classes may seem to require.

Example. “ The air, the earth, the water, teem with delighted existence. In a spring noon, or a summer evening, on whichever side we turn our eyes, myriads of happy beings crowd upon our view. The insect youth are on the wing.' Swarms of new-born flies are trying their pinions in the air. Their sportive motions, their gratuitous activity, their continual change of place, without use or purpose, testify their joy, and the exultation which they feel in their lately discovered faculties."

[ocr errors]

4. — “Gay,or Brisk, Style. This mode of utterance has all the characteristics of the animated style, carried to a greater extent. The tone to which we now refer, being that of exhilarated feeling, its pitch is higher, its force is greater, and its movement" quicker than that of an utterance, which, as in the preceding instance, does not go beyond the style of animation or liveliness, merely.

Gaiety and vividness of expression, are, in their proper

sphere, as important to appropriate effect in reading, as any of the opposite qualities of seriousness and gravity are in theirs. We can never, without these properties of voice, give natural expression to many of the most pleasing forms of composition, – to such, in particular, as derive their power over sympathy, from their presenting to us what the poet has termed “ the gayest, happiest attitude of things," or from the glowing and exhilarating colors in which language sometimes delights to invest the forms of thought. Dramatic scenes, sketches of life and manners, vivid delineations of character, all demand the utterance of exhilarated emotion. Unaided by the effect of such expression, the finest compositions fall flat and dead upon the ear, and leave our feelings unmoved or disappointed.

The lifeless routine of school habit, is too generally the early cause of the formation of such tones; and the chief expedient for removing them, is to enter, with full life and spirit, into the sentiments and emotions which we utter in reading.

The practice of the following and similar examples, should be carefully watched, with a view to this end; and the exercise of brisk and exhilarated utterance, should be repeatedly practised on the elements, syllables, and words contained in the tables, as a means of fixing definitely and permanently in the ear the requisite properties of voice. The learner is imperfect in practice, as long as there remains perceptible in his utterance, the least approach to the partial impurity of tone arising from the languid drawling usually connected with “nasal and guttural qualities," the feeble thinness of a mere “ oral ” tone, or the hollow murmur of the "pectoral" style. A clear and perfectly pure, ringing voice, corresponding to what the musician terms "head tone,” is the standard of practice in this branch of elocution.

“Sometimes, with secure delight,

The upland hamlets will invite,
When the merry bells ring round,
And the jocund rebecs sound,
To many a youth and many a maid,
Dancing in the checkered shade,

When young and old come forth to play,
On a sunshine holiday,
Till the livelong daylight fail."

5.-" Humorous," or Playful, Style. Perfect purity of tone is indispensable to the utterance of fanciful and humorous emotion, unless in the few instances in which, for mimetic or enhanced effect, a peculiar and characteristic voice is assumed, on purpose. Humor, in its genuine expression, not only enlivens and kindles tone, but seems as it were to melt it, and make it flow into the ear and the heart, as the full, clear, sparkling stream gushes into the reservoir. The playful and the mirthful style of utterance, seems to be voice let loose from all restraints which would impose upon it any rigidness, dryness, or hardness of sound.

Humor goes beyond mere gaiety or exhilaration, in the unbounded scope which it gives to the voice : its tones are higher, louder, and quicker in " movement."

Humor excels even gaiety, in effusive purity of tone, which seems to come ringing and full from the heart, with all the resonance of head and chest combined, “ flooding," as the poet says of the sky-lark, “the very air with sound.

Destitute of such utterance, the reading of some of the finest passages of Shakspeare, of Scott, or of Irving, becomes cold and torpid, or excites only aversion and disgust. The lighter strains of Cowper, and innumerable passages in all the truest and best of our poets, demand this highest form of mirthful utterance. The

faults usually exemplified in regard to this tone, are similar to those which were mentioned in speaking of the gay and brisk style of expression, and are owing principally to the causes then indicated. The remedy must also be of the same description with that which was then suggested. Humor demands, however, not a mere fulness but an actual exuberance and overflow of feeling, in order to give it expression. An approach to the style of laughter, should be perceptible in the quality with which it inspires the voice.

The following exercise should be practised with all the

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »