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with which the Evangelist relates an interview between
the Jewish priests, and John the Baptist. Omitting the
few clauses of narrative, it is a dialogue, thus ;

Priests ; — Who &rt thou ?

John ; — ^I am not the Christ.

Priests ; — ^What th^n i art thou Elias i

John ; — I am nSt.

Priests ; — Art thou that prSphet ?

John ; — N5.

Priests ; — Who art thou ? — ^that we may give an an-
swer to them that sent us. What sclyest thou of thyself f

John ; — I am the voice of one crying in the wilder-
ness, — Make str&ight the way of the Lord, as said the
prophet Esaias.

Priests ; — Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not
that Chrfst, or Elias, neither that pr6phet ?

John ; — ^I baptize with water ; but there standeth one
among you, whom ye know not 5 &c. The reader will
perceive by turning to the passage in the Evangelist John,
1: 19, — and repeating it as it stands there, that, not only
must the same voice ask the questions, with a higher note,
and give the answers, with a lower ; but also must distin-
guish the intermingled clauses of narrative, from the dia-
logue.

Now all these thoughts might be intelligibly expressed



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REPBR f ENTATION. 131



in the language of description, by the very common pro-
cess of changing the pronouns into the third person, and
the verbs into the third person of the past tense, and, of
course, transforming all the interlocutory tones, into those
of narrative. But where would be the variety and spirit
of the passage f It would scarcely retain even a dull re-
semblance of its present form.

It is by just this sort of transformation, that reporters
of debates in legislative bodies, so often contrive to divest
a speech of half its interest, if they do not grossly ob-
scure its meaning. As I wish to be understood, 1 will give
a specimen of this kind, where the orator is described as
proceeding thus ; '^ He said that the remarks of the hon-
orable member, whether so intended by him or not, were
of a very injurious character. If not aimed at him per-
sonally, they were adapted to cast suspicion, at least, on
his motives. And he asked if any gentleman, in his mo-
ments of cool reflection, would blame him, if he stood
forth, the guardian of his own reputation."

Now let the narrator keep in his own province, and
merely state the thing as it was, — and the difference is
seen at once. The orator speaks in the first person ; " I
say that the remarks of the honorable member, whether
so intended by him or not, are of a very injurious charac-
ter. If not aimed at me, personally, they are adapted to
cast suspicion, at least, on my motives. And 1 ask, will
any gentleman, in his moments of cool reflection, blame
me, if I stand forth, the guardian of my own reputation f • '
Here, if any one will analyze the language, in both cases,
he will see that, in the former, verbs are accommodated
to past time, and pronouns are all thrown into the third



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132 RBPSBSBNTATiOH*

person, though belongiDg to different aatecedeots ; and
dius die reporter's pen spreads ambiguity and weakness
over a thought, as the torpedo benumbs what it touches.

So in sacred oratory, it is a common thing, that a pas*
sage frdm the Bible, wluch would speak to the heart, with
its own proper authority and energy, if the preacher had
simply cited it as the word of God; is transmuted into
comparative insignificance, by the process of quotation.

The reader will perceive, that the principle which I
here aim to illustrate, though it bekmgs primarily to the
phik)sophy of siyht has a very extensive influence over
every department of delivery.

The man who feels the inspiration of true eloquence,
will find some of his happiest resources in what I here call
representation. He can break through the trammels of a
tame, inanimate address.. He can ask questions, and an«-
swer them ; can personate an accuser and a respondent ;
can suppose hiipself accused or interrogated, and give his
replies. He can call up the absent or the dead, and
make them speak through his lips. The skill of represent-
ing two or more persons, by appropriate management of
language and voice, may properly be called a rhetorical
dialogue. It was thus that the great orators of antiquity,
and thus that Chrysostom and Massillon, held their hear-
ers in captivity.

I will only add, that when a writer, in the act of com^
position, finds himself perplexed with clashing pronouns of
the third person ; — or when he is at a loss, whether part
or the whole of a sentence, slKMikl or should not be dis*
tinguisfaed with a mark of imerrogation, he should suspect
in himself some aberation from the true principles of
style.



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READIKO OF POETRY. 133

SscT. 10. — Reading of Poetry.
Before we dismiss the general subject of this chapter,
some remarks may be expected on proper management
of the voice in the reading of verse. These remarks,
however, must necessarily be so brief as to give only a
few leading suggestions on this difficult branch of elocu-
tion. I say difficult, because on the one hand, the genius
of verse requires that it be pronounced with ^ fuller swell
of the open vowels, and in a manner more melodious and
flowing than prose. As the peculiar charms of poetry
consist very much in delicacy of sentiment, and beauty
of language, it were absurd to read it without regard to
these characteristics. But on the other hand, to preserve
the metrical flow of versification, and yet not impair the
sense, is no easy attainment. The following general prin-
ciples may be of use to the student.

1 . In proportion as the sentiment of a passage is ele-
vated, inspiring emotions of dignity or reverence, the voice
has less variety of inflection, and is more inclined to the
monotone. The grand and sublime in description, and in
poetic simile ; the language of adoration, and of supplica-
tion, are universally distinguished, in the above respect,
from familiar discourse.

2. When the sentiment of a passage is delicate and
gentle, especially when it is plaintive, it inclines the voice
to the rising inflection ; and for this reason, poetry oftener
requires the rising inflection than prose : yet,

3. The rights of emphasis must be respected in po-
etry. When the language of a passage is strong and dis-
criminating, or familiarly descriptive, or colloquial, — the
same modifications of voice are required as in prose,

12



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134 HEADING OF POETRY.

~ —

The emphatic stress and inflection^ that must be intensive,
in prose, to express a thought forcibly, are equally neces-
sary io poetry.

EXAMPLES.

Say first, of God above, or man below,
What can we riasorif bnt from what we kndw f
Is the great chain, that draws all to a^rree,
And drawn, supports, — upheld bj G6d oi Me f
Who thos define it, saj they more or less
Than this, — that hdppiness is happiness.
Order is heaven's first law ; and this confest.
Some are, and most be greater than the rest ;
More r\ch, more wise ; but who infers from hence.
That such are h&ppier j^ahockB all common sense.
But sometimes virtue starves, while vice is fed :
What Mn ?— is the reward of virtue briad f
4. The metrical accent of poetry is subordinate to
sense, and to established usage in pronunciation. It Is a
general rule, that though the poet has violated this prin -
ciple in arranging the syllables of his feet, still it should
not be violated by the reader. That is a childish con-
formity to poetic measure, which we sometimes hear, as
marked in the following examples.

False eloqiiencef like the prismatic glass,
Its gaudy colors spreads on every place.

Again ;

Their praise is still, the style is BTcelUiU ;
The sense, they humbly take upon content.

And worse still ;

My soul ascends above the sky,
And triuiiiphs in her liberf^.



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tlfiAJOlMfi Oir POETRY, 135

Id most iDstances of this sort, wh^re the metrical ac-
cent would do violence to every ear of any refinement,
the reader should not att^^)pt to bide tlie fault of the po*
et, by committing a greater one himself. There are
some cases, however, jin which the be$t way of obviating
the difficulty, is to give both the metrical and the custom-
ary accent ; or at least to do this so far, that neither shall
be very conspicuous ; thus —

Oar supreme foe, ia time m^y mueh relent.
Of thrones and mighty seraphim prdstrdu —
Encamp their legions, or with dbsc^re wing —

I think of only two exceptbns to these remarks on ac-
cents The first occurs where a distinguished poet has
purposely violated harmony, to make the harshness of his
line correspond with that of the thought. This Milton
has effectually done, in the following example, by making
the customary accent supersede the metrical.



"On a sadden open fiy^



With impetuous recoil, and jarring sound,
The infernal doors ; and on their hinges grate
Harsh thunder.

The Other exception occurs, where a poet of the
same order, without any apparent reason, has so derang-
ed the customary accent, that to restore it in reading,
would be a violation of euphony not to be endured ;
thus —



And as is due

With glory ittrihuted to the high

Creator ?-t

Only to shine, yet scarce to edniributt
JSach orb a glimpse of light*



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136 HEADING or POETRT.

5. The pauses of verse should be so managed, if pos-
sible, as most fully to exhibit the sense, without sacrificing
the harmony of the composition. No good reader can
fail to observe the ctesural pause, occurring after the
fourth syllable, in these flowing lines :

Warms in the ion || refreshes in the breeie,
Glows in the stars |[ and blossoms in the trees.

Yet no good reader would introduce the same pause,
from regard to melody, where the sense utterly forbids it,
as in this line ;

I sit, with sad civility I read.

While the ear then, in our heroic measure, commonly
expects the caesura after the fourth syllable, it often de-
mands its postponement to the sixth or seventh, and some-
times rejects it altogether.

But there is another poetical pause, namely, that
which occurs at the end of the 7ine, concerning which
there has been more diversity of opinion and practice
among respectable authors. The most competent judges
have, indeed, very generally concurred in saying, that this
pause should be observed, even in blank verse, except on
the stage. Lowth, Johnson, Garrick, Kaimes, Blair, and
Sheridan, were all of this opinion. Others, particularly
Walker, have questioned the propriety of pausing at the
end of the line, in blank verse, except where the same
pause would be proper in prose.

Now it seems clear to me that, (if there is any tolera-
ble harmony in the measure,) even when the sense of one
line runs closely into the next, the reader may, generally,
mark the end of the line by a proper protraction and sua-*



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WUDIKG OF POETBT. 137

peoaioD of voice, in the closing syllable,<**-as in the ibl-
lowing QotatiOD ;

— — — Thos with tlie y«tr ••

6«Mon8 retoniy bat not to me retcmM ••

Day H or the iweet approach of eyen or moro.

And oTor them trinrophaBt Death hie 4art •*

6hoek H but delayed to etrike.

■ All air seemed then ••

Conflicting fire ; long time in eren scale ••
The battle hung.



For now the thought ••

Both of lost happiness and lasting pain ••
Torments him.

In none of these cases perhaps, would a printer insert
a pause at the end of the line ; and yet there appears to
be no difficulty in making one with the voice, by a mode-
rate swell and protraction of sound. But there certainly
are examples, and those not a few, in which the writers
of blank verse have so amalgamated their lines by prosaic
arrangement of pauses, that all attempts of the reader to
distinguish these lines would be useless. Here, again,
as was said of misplaced accent, the reader must look to
the sense, and let the poet be responsible for the want of
musical versification.

I add, in this place, a judicious remark of Walker,
to whom, by the way, I am indebted for several of the
foregoing illustrations. ^'Thc affectation," says he,
" which most writers of blank verse have of extending the
sense beyond the line, is followed by a similar affectation
in the printer, who will often omit a pause at the end of a
12*



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IS8 HEADING OF POETRY.

lioe io verse, when he would have inserted ooe in prose ;
and this affectation is still carried farther by the reader,
who will run the sense of one line into another, where
there is the least opportunity for doing it, in order to show
that he is too sagacious to suppose that there is any con*
elusion in the sense, because the line concludes/'

In regard to rhymej there can be no doubt that it
should be so read, as to make the end of the line quite
perceptible to the ear : otherwise the correspondent sound
of the final syllables, in which ryhroe consists, would be
entirely lost. It is a strange species of trifling, therefore,
which we sometimes witness in a man, who takes the
trouble to adjust his rhymes, in a poetic composition, and
then in reading or speaking, slurs them over with a pre-
posterous hurry, and confounds them by an undiscriminat-
ing utterance, so that they are necessarily unperceived by
the hearers.

6. I entirely concur with Walker in his remark that
the vowek e and o, when apostrophized, in poetry, shoidd
be preserved in pronunciation. But they should be spok-
en in a manner so slight and accelerated, as easily to coa-
lesce with the following syllable. An example or two. of
this will require no explanation.

Bat of the two, less dang'rous is the offence.

Who durst defy th* Omnipotent to arms ?



It was my intention, for the benefit of young preach-
ers, to remark at some length, in this section, on the read-
ing, of hymns in the pulpit. But as the foregoing obser-



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READING OF P0BTR7. 139

vatioDS apply generally, to the readiog of psalras and
bymnsy as well as other poetry ; it may be sufficient to
give a few suggestions, on points which pertain especially
to this interesting, and often very defective branch of
Christian elocution.

The chief object of sacred poetry as connected with
sacred music, is to inspire devotional feeling. For this
purpose it has been, from the earlest ages, incorporated
into the public worship of Grod, by his own appointment.
Poetry written for the silent perusal of individuals, or
adapted only to the instruction or amusement of the so-
cial circle though read unskilfully, suffers only a diminu-
tion of interest, respecting a subject perhaps of momenta-
ry concern. But poetry written expressly to aid the pub-
lic devotions of Christians, and designed to be repeated,
again and again, in their solemn assemblies, cannot be
read unskilfully, without a serious loss of interest in the
bearers respecting subjects in which their duty and hap-
piness are involved.

That discrimination of taste and sensibility, which feels
the spirit of poetry, doubtless may be very defective in
some men, even of elevated piety. Sometimes from this
want of discrimination, and oftener still from inattention to
the subject, arise the faults which I shall briefly notice.

Perhaps the most comprehensive of these faults con-
sists in the injudicious Selection of the psalm or hymn to
be read. Not a few of these compositions, in the best
books that have been written or compiled, are merely nar-
rative or didactic in subject, and destitute of all poetic
spirit in execution. Even tbpse of the seraphic Watts,
surpassing, as they certainly do, all others in their general



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140 RBABING OF POBTRT.

merits, coDtatn maoy passages, that are quite tolerable as
to metre and rhyme, but destitute of the inspiration and
soul of real poetry. There is besides, a very mjurioos
tendency to fluctuation in our psalmody, arising from a
fastidious demand for novelty, and a disposition in difl^
ent Christian sects to have each its own padlm, as well as
doctrine. Hence the psalms of Daivid, as adapted by
Watts to Christian worship, are in a great degree supplaotr
ed by various collections of hymns ; and to accommodate
a vagrant taste in music, many of these are hymns writ-
ten in irregular and rapid measures, little suited to pro*
mote the solemnity of devotional feeling. Many others, I
know, are distinguished for pathos and are eminendy fit-
ted to awaken Christian fervor, especially on account of
their appropriateness to the occasion and the spirit of
the age. At the same time, if I may be excused Ux
turning a^de so much as to introduce this topic, I would
say, that preachers have injured the interests of psalmody
by their general preference of hymns in public worship,
to the psalms of the inspired poet, in the version of Watts.
The strain of humble devotion, of deep penitence, of ele-
vated praise, which prevails in these sacred songs, not^
withstanding the defects attending the best metrical ver-
sion of them which has been given to the church, ought
to preserve them from falling into neglect. Some of
these indeed, are too much wanting in dignity and poetic
spirit to be read in public ; but they ar€ generally free
from both the didactic and the fanciful character, of
which we have so many examples in our collectionrs of
hymns.

Next to want of skill in selection, is the fault of an



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ftEADlN<3 Of POEtftti 141

undiseriminating, inaniinate manner of reading. This
consists in that measured, scanning attention to poetic ac-
cent, and that undulating tone, by which the sense is
made subordinate to sound. As this is a general fault in
reading verse, no enlargement on it is necessary, except
to add an example or two, marked according to the roan*
ner to be avoided.

Here on my heart the burden lie«,
And past offencei pain mine eyes.

Lord, should thj judgments grow severe,
I am condemn'd but thou art clear.

Thy blood can make roe white as snow,
No Jewish types could cleanse me so.

This last stress on Jewish^ though almost universally
laid by readers, is an utter perversion of the sense, imply-
ing that other types than Jewish might effect what they
cannot.

Another fault is a too prosaic manner. It is the op-
posite of the foregoing, and consists in the disregard of
poetic harmony. This I will exemplify only as it respects
the pause at the end of the line.



Come let our voices join to raise
A sacred song of solemn praise ;

Gt>d is a sovereign king, rehearse
His honors in exalted verse.

Nor let our harden'd hearts renew
The sins and plagues that Israel knew.

Since they despise my rest, I swear
Their fi^^t shall |iever enter t^er^,



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14^ READING OF POETET*

See other e^campies of the same sort ia Watts, Psalm 96|
Com. Metr^, 4 and 5 verses : and Hyma 140, 2 Book, 1
verse.

Id cases of this sort, the reader, perhaps through af-
fectation of sagacity, hastens over the end of the line,
stopping just before and after it, when such stop is often
quite as much against the rules of common punctuation,
as to have made it at the end of the line. In the second
example above, he would read thus, " Nor let our har-
den'd hearts, — renew the sins, — and plagues, &c.

Another fault is the affectation of a rhetorical manner.
It consists in want of simplicity. Perhaps the reader as-
sumes a pompous or theatrical air, seeming to aim at the
display of his oratorical powers. Or on the other band,
he repeats a stanza that is full of sublime or devotional
sentiment, with the colloquial inflection of familiar prose.
Both of these faults show, that the heart of the reader is
not touched with that glow of religious feeling, which a
Christian hymn ought to inspire. Indeed, so delicate and
sacred is this thing, that all affectation of excellence, all
effort that is apparently artificial, is intolerable. It is in
this case, as it is in public prayer, and reading of the
scriptures, a heart filled with reverence towards God, and
warmed with the spirit of Christian devotion, is more ef-
fectual than all things else, to govern aright the modula-
tions of the voice.

In regard to inflections in reading the stanzas of a
hymn, I would suggest a caution against the very common
practice of dropping the voice at the end of the second
line, without regard to the connexion. Walker says that,
*< With very few exceptions, it may be laid down as a rule,



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READING OF POETRT. 143

in reading a stanza, that the first line may end with the
monotone, the second and third with the rising slide, and
the last with the falling." The exceptions to this rule, or
to any one that could be concisely expressed, I think are
not "very few." When the continuity of sense through a
stanza, is very close, the voice continues in the suspend-
ing slide, much more than when long pauses intervene.
The monotone, doubdess, should more frequently than is
common, be heard at the end of a line.

If some of the most rhetorical psalms were property
marked with a notation, especially so far as respects em-
pbastS) it might lead to a more discriminatiilg matiner in
reading them. But instead of giving specimens to illus-
trate ray meaning here, the reader is referred to the ex-
ercises, [28.] where some brief examples will be found.



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CHAP. VII.



RHETORICAIi AC^IOIC.



I USE the term action, not for the whole of delivery,
according to the most extensive sense given to it by the
ancients ; nor yet in the most restricted modern sense, as
equivalent to gesivre merely ; but as including also aiti-
tudes^ and expression of the countenance. While I shall
have occasion often to refer to what has been taught in
books on this subject, my chief design is to make such re-
marks as have been suggested by my own observation and
reflections. To what extent these remarks should be
carried, in so small a treatise on delivery, is a point on
which I have doubted ; and some perhaps may think that
whatever is of practical importance might have been said
in a briefer form.

That action, which Cicero calls " sermo corporis," is
an important part of oratory, is too evident to demand
proof. If any one doubts this, let him ask himself, how
does a great painter give reality and life to his portrait ?
How do children speak ? How do the dumb speak ?
Action and attitude in these cases are the language of na-
ture to express feeling and emotion.

There are two extremes respecting this subject, each
of which deserves a brief notice, in this place, as being at
variance with common sense.



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RHETORICAL ACTION. 145

The first is, that which encumbers a speaker with so
much technical regulation of his movements, as to make
him an automaton. It is a great mistake to suppose that
a young student, before he can commence his efforts in
oratory, must commit to memory a system of rifles re-
specting gesticulation, just as arithmetical tables must be
learned by the tyro in numbers. When a beginner in elo-
cution shall be able to look at an assembly, without an un-
manly flutter of spirits, and shall have acquired a good
degree of ease, in the attitudes and motions of his body,
then it will be lime enough to rectify, one after another,
the faults of his own manner, by attention to good mod-
els and correct principles of action. This I am persuad-
ed should be attempted gradually, rather than all at once ;
for the transforming influence of practice, is essential to
any useful application of precepts. And these precepts
too, when given to an individual, I am fully satisfied, af-
ter much observation, instead of being confined to minute
directions respecting his own gesticulation, should espe-
cially be adapted to instruct him in general principles.
All attempts to regulate the attitudes and movements of
his body, by diagrams and geometrical lines, without great
skill in the teacher, will lead to an affected, mechanical
manner. His habits- 2ire of prime importance. By these,
good or bad, he must be governed in the act of speaking,
for to think of his manner then will be the certain ruin of
all simplicity. Let these habits be well formed, and be
his own, so as to govern his movements spontaneously,
and trust the rest to emotion.

The other extreme to which I alluded, is that which
condemns all precepts and all preparatory practice too,
13



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146 RHETORICAL ACTION.



Online LibraryEbenezer PorterAnalysis of the principles of rhetorical delivery as applied in reading and ... → online text (page 10 of 30)