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Who does not feel that there is a charm and a power in the very sounds which speak the thoughts of Demosthenes and Tully; and that if the thought may be represented by the fires of heaven, or its pure element of light, the sounds may be represented by the thunder, or by the music of the spheres.
Poetry is so dependent, in this respect, that it cannot be defined without refering to the properties of the sound. Coleridge, in one of his inspired conversations, gave the following distinctive definition of prose and poetry :-" Prose is words in their proper places -poetry is words in their most proper places." It is a beautiful, striking, and original definition. It exalts prose as the language of wise men, and makes poetry the language of heaven. But what law regulates the position of words in poetry? Poetry and eloquence are often common as to their subjects, their trains of thought, their pathos, and their words. The difference, obviously, according to the above definition, consisting wholly in the arrangement of the words. The law is the law of melody, a property of the sound. There may be some who are at first thought ready to exclaim, "It is degrading to poetry to lay its distinction in mere sound." But pause a moment and think of music. Music is sound; but there is in it a spirit which opens to the soul the infinite and the divine. Music, without speaking a thought, and when unaided by any association, from its wonderful connection with the soul, excites it to thoughts and aspirations, and fills it with delights which have never yet found a language-which leave language with all its properties of the thought far behind, and dwell silently in their own mystery. Now the sounds which enter into language, enter into music likewise. Music has infinitely more variations than language. It embraces, indeed, a greater quantity of sound, but the philosophical distinction between music and language lies in the succession and combinations. Music is all melody and harmony; language is thought expressed with only such a degree of melody as is possible while preserving the necessary current and connection of thought. Now poetry is language while expressing thought wrought into determinate melody-into melody of a fixed law of succession and combination; and the perfection of the poetry, as poetry, will be just in proportion to the perfection of the melody. If it were possible, while expressing thoughts sublime and beautiful, to subject the sounds of language to the laws of music, so that the succession of sound necessary to express the thought would in itself be music, we should then have the most perfect poetry. The adaptation of the measure to the sentiment is a grace of poetry which belongs to the thought.
Thus far we have considered language with respect to those arbitrary sounds, (if arbitrary they be) and those successions which form elegance, eloquence, and poetry. But these do not
exhaust the properties of the sound. It remains to consider language with respect to those inflexions and modulations which enter into it when spoken. These may be arranged under four heads; that which belongs to correct pronunciation; those which belong to melody; those which are necessary to the clear expression of the sense; and those which express emotion and passion. Correct pronunciation requires but one inflexion from the component sounds of words, and that is the accent which usage has affixed to some one syllable of every word consisting of several syllables. The inflexions and modulations of melody belong to verse: these are the accents and pauses without which poetry cannot be read. They are subject to certain laws of succession, modified, however, by the sentiment.
The inflexions and modulations necessary to a clear expression. of the sense are of several kinds. There is the accent as employed to distinguish the signification of words having the same form. The emphasis which points out the words which determine the meaning of sentences. The rising, falling, and circumflex inflexions, which are essential to question and answer, to affirmation and denial, to command reproof and denunciation, to mark conjunction and opposition, contrast and comparison, to express irony and ridicule, and to mark the close of periods.
The origin of these inflexions is a curious question. Do they belong to nature or to custom? One thing is certain, they are inseparable from language. They are, indeed, a sort of common language accompanying all languages, so that persons speaking languages in their lexicology unintelligible to each other, can, notwithstanding, carry on some degree of communication by means of tones simply. Now can that which is common to nations widely separated, be ascribed to custom, which always supposes intercourse and convention? Must we not conclude, that as man was formed not only to reason but also to speak, so those modifications of the voice which are requisite to the proper and intelligible utterance of thought are the result of a fixed and universal law of his being?
The tones and inflexions of emotion and passion, which enter into the pronunciation of language complete our classification. Emotions and passions have a two-fold language; a language of the thought, and a language of the tone. The language of the thought consists in that phraseology which represents the trains of thought to which the emotions and passions give rise. This is eloquence. The language of the tone consists in those modifications of the voice which are produced by the energy of the emotions and passions while the voice is speaking their sentiments. This is oratory.
It is the province of philosophical criticism to investigate the language of the thought. It is the province of philosophical rhetoric to investigate the language of the tone.
The language of the tone, of course, includes all those modifications of the voice which belong to intelligible speech, viz.: accent, emphasis, and the rising, falling, and circumflex inflexions. For passion speaks its sentiments intelligibly, as well as communicates its own peculiar intonations to the voice. It is to be remarked also that certain passions choose particular inflexions. Thus the stronger passions choose the falling inflexion, and the gentler and more tender, the rising.
Passion, however, has its own peculiar and marked language of the tone. It is too various and too subtle to admit of accurate analysis; and because it is the peculiar language of passion, it is not in the power of other language to describe it: it is untranslatable, nor does it require to be translated: it is the universal language of the heart, which all at once understand. We may remark, however, that the language of the tone appears in the pitch of voice or the key; in the loudness and softness of the voice; in the utterance, as connected or interrupted, as free or suppressed, as rapid or slow, and, above all, in expression.
It appears in the key. The deep and dark passions, or any passion when intense, will express itself on a low key. The gayer passions, or passion in general, when not at its highest excitement, will express itself on a high key-for let it be remembered that when passion storms it is not at its highest excitement. But although passion has its key, yet key in itself cannot form a scale of passion, inasmuch as it is a feature in individual peculiarity of voice.
It appears in the loudness and softness of the voice. Loudness and softness are possible on all keys. Loudness is produced by increasing the volume of voice and prolonging the time of utterance; softness, by diminishing the volume of voice. Softness belongs to the gay and gentle passions, under gentle excitement. When the gay and gentle passions become loud, they take the high key. Loudness belongs to passion when majestic, and energetic, and self-possessed; but it is loudness on the low key. When passion is noisy and frantic it becomes loud on the high key. All passions cannot express themselves in soft tones; but they may all express themselves in loud ones. The loudness of tone, therefore, is governed by passion, without in itself being indicative of the character of passion. But loudness in connection with key might, perhaps, be formed into a scale to denote the degrees of excitement.
It appears in the utterances, as connected or interrupted, as free or suppressed, as rapid or slow. These, again, mark degrees of excitement. Passion at its highest excitement is interrupted, slow, and suppressed; at lesser degrees of excitement, connected, free, and rapid.
Above all, the language of the tone appears in expression. Of all the varieties of the tone that we have as yet enumerated, softness alone marks a kind of passion, and is, therefore, involved in expression. All the others mark only a state of the passions, without being distinctive marks of the passions themselves. But expression marks the kind of passion. It is that peculiarity of tone which passion gives to the voice to denote its kind, and to communicate with the human heart. But what is this peculiarity of tone? How can it be described? We say, the tones of love and tenderness, the tones of compassion, the tones of confidence, the tones of fear and horror, the tones of malice, envy, jealousy, and revenge, &c. But can we say anything further? Can we tell what are the distinctive expressions of these tones? It is impossible. They are like light and colors known by the sensation, but incapable of being represented under any symbols. Expression is but another name for the language of passion itself, which we have already designated as the universal language of the heart, which the heart always speaks and always understands. It requires to be described by no other language, to be translated into no other language, because the most perfect language in itself; and that it cannot be described or translated is the very condition of its perfection.
The enquiry which we started respecting the origin of those modifications of the voice which are essential to intelligible speech, must extend itself, also, to those modifications of the voice which belong to passion, and if the former cannot be traced to custom, much less the latter. Intonations to mark the thought might be a subject of convention, but conventional intonations are precluded by the very idea of passion, which never deliberates and contrives, but speaks and acts. The signs of passion in the voice, like the signs of passion in the eye and in the muscles of the countenance, are an inspiration of
A question here arises of a very interesting nature. Can the language of passion in the tone be cultivated or made a subject of education?
In the first place, it is obvious from what has been said above, that no rules can be laid down in language for the tones of passion, nor any symbols contrived to represent them; we can know them only in themselves.
There are but two methods by which these tones could be learned. Either by attending the public assemblies, if great orators chance to be found there, and listening to their tones of passion under the excitement which great occasions and momentous interests produce, or by listening to the recitation of passionate pieces by professors of elocution. The first would undoubtedly be the superior method of the two, but would be
attended with the difficulty, that such schools of elocution would be rare, their instructions infrequent, and accessible only to a few. Yet, supposing it were otherwise, could the tones of passion indeed be learned from the public speaking of great orators? A little reflection will convince us that it is impracticable. The orator speaks in the tones of passion, because he is under the inspirations of passion; with him it is nature and truth, and, therefore, it is power. The student of oratory returns home electrified by the display, and ambitious of imitating the splendid model. He attempts it, and catches tones and manner, as he imagines, with tolerable success. But has he the genuine tones of passion? His tones confessedly are imitations, and, therefore, must be artificial. The orator, rapt with his subject, and glowing with passion, forgets tone and manner, and it is because he forgets tone and manner, and yields himself to thought and feeling, that he is what he is. While the student of oratory, on the other hand, making the tone and manner his object, passes by the very power which produces them.
If the first method be impracticable then, a fortiori, the second must be impracticable. A professor of elocution is himself either an imitator or an actor. If he is a mere imitator, inasmuch as he has not the genuine tones of passion himself, he cannot teach them. By an actor, we mean one who by a powerful imagination transforming himself into the very character he represents, loses his own being in the imagined being of another, and then speaks like that being, under the full force of imagined circumstances also, the genuine language of passion. Such was Garrick. Such was Siddons. Now a professor of elocution may have this high and splendid power of genius. But still the tones of passion cannot be learned from him, for the same reason that they cannot be learned from a great orator. Nor will it be possible for him, as it is not possible for any great actor, to give to another the power of acting, however minute and laborious he may be in his instructions; and that for this plain reason, that imagination and feeling cannot be taught. But if it were possible to communicate the power of acting, this would not constitute oratory. The orator speaks his own sentiments, the actor the sentiments of another; and although by the imagination the sentiments of another should become for the time the sentiments of the actor or of the pupil of this system; still it would be a most circuitous and unnatural way of arriving at the power of speaking one's own sentiments with the truth of passion, to practise in imaginary situations. The conclusion is, therefore, inevitable, that the tones of passion cannot be taught, or made directly the subject of education.
The intellectual powers frame their language by studied and