Imágenes de páginas



Elocutionary practice enables us to express the full meaning of what we read or speak.

If we listen attentively to others, we shall soon observe that the words they speak often mean less than the manner of speaking them. Even a dog knows by his master's voice whether he is pleased or not. A simple exclamation like Oh! may mean pleasure, pain, anger, love, surprise, grief, or contempt, according to the expression of face and voice.


Our emotions are seldom expressed in so many words. do not often say, "I am very sad and miserable,” or “I am very angry." We do not need to say so. The emotions exhibit themselves unmistakably.

We state facts or describe scenes clearly enough in words, but our feelings about those facts or scenes are shown by our tones, inflections, and other means of vocal expression, as well as by facial expression which always accompanies true feeling. For example, in "The Chambered Nautilus," the poet says:

This is the ship of pearl, which, poets feign,
Sails the unshadowed main.

The words here state what is really not true, for the shell is not a ship of pearl, but resembles a ship of pearl. To read this in a matter-of-fact way would not bring out even the poet's thought. What he really wishes us to understand is that it is a beautiful object, and he wishes us to see it in imagination. Moreover, he wishes us to feel toward the shell as he does, that is, to love and admire it.

Now to read this well we must put ourselves in the author's place, try to think what he thought, see the shell in imagination, and finally feel toward it the same admiration that he felt. Moreover, we must strive to make our listeners see and understand as well as share our feelings.

One might read these lines with an intonation that would convey great contempt, the underlying thought being "how ridiculous for poets to imagine such nonsense about a mere shell." Of course this would be entirely wrong, but it would be possible to do it without changing a word, simply by a difference in expression.

We see, then, that one must determine the underlying meaning of a given passage before he can be sure of reading it properly, and supply mentally many descriptive or emotional words that are suggested but not written. To do this, we must study the context, that is, what precedes and what follows it. We must know something of the circumstances under which it was composed, and understand the historical or personal allusions which we often find in literature. Not only must we understand and sympathize with the author, but we must know how to use the voice so as to express his meaning naturally. In Longfellow's "The Reaper and the Flowers," occur these lines :

And the mother gave, in tears and pain,

The flowers she most did love;

She knew she should find them all again
In the fields of light above.

Now, one might read this, as is often done, in a careless, indifferent manner, or what would be almost as bad, in a very careful and painstaking way, as if one were explaining a problem in arithmetic. It is plain that neither way of reading would be right. To do justice to this stanza, we should try to see in imagination the weeping mother whose children have died, to sympathize with her sorrow and her love for them; then in the third and fourth lines we must endeavor to feel and express her hope and faith.

This is a difficult task, and only a very artistic reader can hope to succeed in it fully; but at least we may try to suggest the beauty of the poem, and even if we fail, we shall at least have gained something in the clearer understanding of its meaning.

In preparing your reading lesson ask yourself:

1. What was the purpose of the author? thoughts, pictures, feelings to be expressed?

What are the

2. What words are most essential to make the meaning clear, that is, what words should I emphasize?

3. What particular meaning shall I give to these words? Shall I say, for instance, "this is a beautiful shell, which as poets charmingly imagine, sails the broad sunlit expanse of the tropical ocean," or "this is a wretched broken shell, that silly poets would have us believe once sailed like a ship - how ridiculous!"

4. Is a given thought complete or does it depend on another thought?

5. What are the most important ideas in the whole selection, and what are the secondary ones?

6. What means of expression will best bring out the meaning, that is, shall I speak loudly or softly, fast or slow, with what inflection, etc.?

You already know something about emphasis, inflection, and pause. The following rules, well remembered, will help you to apply your knowledge:


We pause for every new idea, even if it is contained in a single word. The length of the pause depends on the importance of what we are saying.

In the pause we gather in energy for the next idea. If we are reading an unfamiliar passage, we master the new thought before going on.


We speak each phrase or thought group almost as if it were one long word with a strong accent on the most important or

emphatic syllables, thus: "How are you to-day?" not "How| are you to-day |?"

When speaking in a large room or where we wish to be impressive, we speak more slowly than usual, but keep the same proportion between the words in each group and between the different groups. That is, if we speak in a more serious manner, we also pause longer.


We dwell upon or emphasize the word which makes the new idea most clear. All things that are supposed to be known beforehand are passed over lightly, spoken more rapidly, and usually in a slightly lower pitch than the important words; as in the following example:

On the charge of sorcery and diabolical possession [mentioned before], she still appealed firmly to God. "I hold to my Judge," she said, as her earthly judges gave sentence against her [already spoken of], "to the King of Heaven and Earth."

Explanatory clauses and parentheses unless very important are passed over lightly; as

Now the queen (by reason of the words of the king and his lords) came into the banquet house.

What? said he.

Serious thoughts are often emphasized by being read slowly, and on a much lower pitch than the rest:

But the tender grace of a day that is dead

Will never come back to me.

When we are very earnest, we pause before or after the emphatic word to call special attention to it:

There is a Reaper || whose name || is Death.

'Twas an Angel || visited the green earth
And took the flowers away.

The same rules hold good of thought groups and sentences as of single words. The most important thoughts are spoken slowly and carefully, the less important, or subordinate phrases or sentences, are passed over lightly.


By inflection or slide, we mean the upward or downward movement of the voice on a syllable. Inflection is most noticeable on the emphatic syllables and on the final syllable of a phrase or sentence:

The falling slide or inflection ) is heard in complete


This is all I have to say.

It is also heard when we are very positive, earnest, or commanding, whether the sentence has the form of a statement or of a question:

I tell you I will!

Have you finished your lesson?
Sit down, sir!

When the statement is not complete, but depends on something else, or when we are uncertain instead of positive, or indifferent instead of earnest, the voice does not fall, but has a suspensive or slightly rising inflection (/)

This is all I have to say [but others may know more].

I think this is all I have to say [but I am not certain].
I will [if you wish it].

Oh yes,

[blocks in formation]

Have you finished your lesson? [Indifference.]

Won't you sit down, sir?

Direct questions, that can be answered by yes or no, have a very distinct rising inflection :

[blocks in formation]
« AnteriorContinuar »