페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

are the signs of the one; tones, of the other. Without the use of these two sorts of language, it is impossible to communicate, through the ear, all that passes in the mind of man. But there is an essential difference between the two, which merits our utmost attention. The language of ideas is wholly arbitrary; that is, words, which are the signs of our ideas, have no natural connexion with them, but depend purely upon convention, in the different societies of men, where they are employed; which is sufficiently proved, by the diversity of languages spoken by the different nations of the world. But it is not so with regard to the language of emotions. Nature herself has taken care to frame that for the use of man; having annexed to every act, and feeling of the mind, its peculiar tone, which spontaneously breaks forth, and excites in the minds of others, tuned invariably by the hand of nature in unison to those notes, analogous emotions. Whenever, therefore, man interferes, by substituting any other notes, in the room of those which nature has annexed to the acts and feelings of the mind, so far the language of emotions is corrupted, and fails of its end. For the chords of the human heart, thus tuned in unison to the natural notes only, will never vibrate in correspondence to those of the artificial kind. These artificial notes are at best insignificant; when not regulated by certain rules of proportion, as in the irregular accentual, they are discordant to the ear, and deform utterance; and when reduced to the nicest musical proportion, as in the regular accentual, the utmost effect they can produce, is, to delight the ear, and amuse the

fancy. But whether this be not purchasing a sensual, or fantastic gratification, at too dear a rate, by sacrificing to it that endless variety of notes, annexed by nature to that endless variety of thoughts and emotions, may justly be questioned. And however high my idea of the ancient orators may be, and whatever powerful effects may have been produced by their mode of delivery, I cannot help thinking that with the same skill and ability in all the other branches of oratory, they would have produced effects still more powerful, had they delivered themselves in a language constituted like ours, the language of nature, unsophisticated by art. This may be illustrated by an instance of a similar kind; for I believe it will be allowed, that the finest opera, with all the charms and expression of music, and performed in the best manner possible, however it may delight the ear, and captivate the fancy, will not make an equal impression on the mind, or move the passions to so high a degree, as a wellacted tragedy, delivered with all the energy of emphatic speech.

From this account of emphasis, the proper use of it in reading, is clearly pointed out; and is to be acquired by a due degree of attention and practice. Every one who understands what he reads, cannot fail of finding out each emphatic word; and his business then is to mark it properly, not by stress only, as in the accented syllables, but by a change of note, suited to the matter, which constitutes the essence of emphasis. If it be asked how the proper change of note is always to be hit upon, my answer is, that he must not only

understand, but feel the sentiments of the author; as all internal feeling must be expressed by notes, which is the language of emotions; not words, the language of ideas. And if he enters into the spirit of the author's sentiments, as well as into the meaning of his words, he will not fail to deliver the words in properly varied tones. For there are few people who speak English without a provincial tone, that have not the most accurate use of emphasis, when they utter their sentiments in common discourse; and the reason that they have not the same use of it, in reading aloud the sentiments of others, is owing to the very defective and erroneous method, in which the art of reading is taught; whereby all the various, natural, expressive tones of speech, are suppressed, and a few artificial, unmeaning, reading notes are substituted in their room.*

*The necessity of observing propriety of emphasis is so great, that the true meaning of words, cannot be conveyed without it. For the same individual words, ranged in the same order, may have several different meanings, according to the placing of the emphasis. Thus, to use a trite instance, the following sentence may have as many different meanings, as there are words in it, by varying the emphasis. "Shall you ride to town to-morrow ?" If the emphasis is on shall, as, shall you ride to town to-morrow? it implies, that the person spoken to had expressed before such an intention, but that there is some doubt in the questioner, whether he be determined on it or not, and the answer may be, Certainly, or, I am not sure. If it be on you, as, shall yoù ride to town to-morrow? the question implies that some one is to go, and do you mean to go yourself, or send some one in your stead? and the answer may be, No, but my servant shall. If on ride, as, shall you ri`de, &c. the

There is no article, in which more frequent mistakes are committed, than in this important one of emphasis, both with regard to stress and tone. The chief reason, of this general abuse of emphasis, seems to be, that children are taught to read sentences which they do not understand; and as it is impossible to lay the emphasis

answer may be, No, I shall walk. If on tow`n, as shall you ride to tow`n to-morrow, the answer may be, No, but I shall ride to the forest. If on to-morrow, as, shall you ride to town to-morrow, the answer may be, No, not to-morrow, but the next day.

As there is no pointing out the very meaning of the words by reading, without a proper observation of emphasis, it surely has been a great defect in the art of writing, that there have been no marks invented for so necessary a purpose; as it requires at all times, a painful attention in the reader to the context, in order to be able to do it at all; and in many cases, the most severe attention will not answer the end; for the emphasis is often to be regulated, not by the preceding part of the sentence, but by the subsequent one; which frequently is so long, that the motion of the eye, cannot precede the voice, with sufficient celerity, to take in the meaning in due time. The want of such marks is no where so strongly perceived as in the general manner of reading the Church Service; which is often so ill performed, that not only the beauty, and spirit of the service is lost, but the very meaning is obscured, concealed, or wholly perverted. I have heard many clergymen, who did not read one single sentence as it should be, from the beginning to the end; and I have known but few who were not guilty of many faults in omitting, or misplacing the emphasis. And on this account it is, that there is no composition in the English tongue, which is at all attended to, so little understood, in general, as the Church Service.

right, without perfectly comprehending the meaning of what one reads, they get a habit either of reading in a monotone, or if they attempt to distinguish one word from the rest, as the emphasis falls at random, the sense is usually perverted, or changed into nonsense. The way to prevent this, is, to put no book into their hands, which is not suited to their slender capacities; and to take care that they never read any thing whose meaning they do not fully comprehend. The best way, indeed, of furnishing them with lessons for a long time, would be to take down their common prattle, and make them read it, just as they speak it; only correcting any bad habits they may have acquired in their utterance. Thus they will early be initiated into the practice of considering reading to be nothing more than speaking at sight, by the assistance of letters; in the same manner as singing at sight is performed in music, by the help of notes. And as it is certain that nature, if left to herself, directs every one in the right use of emphasis, when they utter their own immediate sentiments, they will have the same unerring rule to guide them after they have been written down; and in process of time, by constant practice in this way, they will be able to deliver the sentiments of others, from books in the same manner. This will be found the best method, not only of giving them a just and natural delivery in reading, but also of ensuring it to them when they come afterwards to speak in public.

With regard to persons more advanced in life, who have contracted a habit of neglecting, or misemploying emphasis in reading, the best way to remedy this will

« 이전계속 »