Ebenezer Porter.

Analysis of the principles of rhetorical delivery as applied in reading and ... online

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which shall be to all people." Here the local extent
which belongs to the thought, is properly expressed by
action of both bands.



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1 60 RH ETOBIC AL ACTION.

If there is language io action, it requires propriety and
precision. The indiscriminate movement of the hands
signifies nothing. Want of emphasi$ in this language is a
great but common fault. When the speaker, however,
has an emphatic stroke of the hand, its effect is lost if
that stroke does not accompanny the empbasisof the voice ;
that is, if it falls one syllable after the stress of voice, or
if it is disproportionate in force to that stress, in the same
degree its meaning is impaired. The direction of the
hand too, in which the emphatic stroke terminates, is sig-
nificant. The elevated termination suits high passion;
the horizontal, decision; the downward, disapprobation.
And any of these may denote definite designation of par*
ticular objects.

Another fault of action is excess. In some cases it is
too constant. To enter on a discourse with passionate
exclamations and high wrought figures, while the speaker
and audience are both cool, is not more absurd than to
begin with continual gesticulation. No man probably ev-
er carried the language of action to so high a pitch as Garr
rick. Yet Dr. Gregory says of this great dramatic speak-
er ; " He used less action than any performer I ever saw ;
but h'ls action always had meaning ; it always spoke. By
being less than that of other actors, it had the greater
force." But if constant action has too much levity, even
for the stage, what shall we say of that man's taste, who,
in speaking on a subject of serious importance, can scarce-
ly utter a sentence without extending his liands. '^JVe
quid ntrnw."*

* Fenelon says, — ^'Some time ago, I happened to fall asleep at
asarmon j and when I awaked, the preacher was in a very violeqt



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RHETORICAL ACTION. 161

But' action may be not merely too much; — it may be
too violent. Such are the habits of some men, that they
can never raise the hand, without stretching the arm at
full length dbove the head, or in a horizontal sweep : or
drawing it back, as if in the attitude of prostrating some
giant at a stroke. But such a man seems to forget that
gentleness, and tranquillity, and dignity, are attributes that
prevail more than violence, in real oratory. The full
stroke of the hand, with extended arm, should be reserv-
ed for its own appropriate occasions. For common pur-
poses, a smaller movement is suiScient, and even more
expressive. The meaning of a gesture depends not on
its compass. The tap of Caesar's finger was enough to
awe a Sehate.

Action is often ioo complex. When there is want of
precision, in the intellectual habits of the speaker, he
adopts perhaps two or three gestures for one thought.
In this way all simplicity is sacrificed ; for though the idea
is complex, an attempt to exhibit each shade of meaning
by the hand is ridiculous. After one principal stroke,
every appendage to this, commonly weakens its effect.

Another fault of action, is too great uniformity. Like
periodic tones and stress of voice, the same gesture recur-



agitation, so that I fancied at first, he was pressing some important

Soint of morality. But he was only giving notice, that on the Sun-
ay following, he would preach upon repentance. I was extremely
surprised to hear so indifferent a thing uttered with so much vehe-
mence. The motion of the arm is proper, when the orator is very
vehement ; but he ought not to move his arm in order to appear ve-
hement. Nay, there are many things that ought to be pronounced
calmly, and without any motion.*'

14*



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\62 RHETORICAL ACTION.

ring constaotly} shows want of discriminating taste. ^' In all
things," says Cicero, "repetition is the parent of satiety."*

This barren sameness usually prevails, in a man's
manner, just in proportion as it is ungraceful. Suppose,
for example, that he is accustomed to raise his arm by a
motion from the shoulder, without bending the elbow ;
or that the elbow is bent to a right angle, and thrust out*
ward ; or that it is drawn close to the side, so that the ac-
tion is confined to the lower part of the arm and hand ;
or that the hand is drawn to the left, by bendbg the wrist
so far as to give the appearance of constraint, or back-
wards so far as to contract the thumb and fingers ; — in all
these cases, the motion is at once stiff and unvaried.

The same thing is commonly true of all short, abrupt,
and jerking movements. These remind you of the dry
limb of a tree, forced into short and rigid vibrations by the
wind ; and not of the luxuriant branch of the willow,
gently and variously waving before the breeze. The ac*
tion of the graceful speaker, is easy and flowing, as well
as forcible. His band describes curve lines, rather than
right or acute angles ; and when its office is finished, in .
any case, it drops gently down at his side, instead of being
snatched away, as from the bite of a reptile. The action
of young children is never deficient in grace or variety ;
because it is not vitiated by diflidence, affectation, or habit.

There is one more class of faults, which seems to arise
from an attempt to shun such as I have just described,
and which I cannot better designate, than by the phrase
mechanical variety.

* " When a preacher," sayi Rejbaz, ** htm only mu gesture, it
will, necessarily, be incorrect or insiffnificant : — a dall uniformity of
action is the common defect of preacners."



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KHfiTORlCAL ACTION. 163

This is analogous to that variety of iones, which is pro-
duced by an effort io be various, without regard to sense.
The diversity of notes, like those of the chiming clock, re-
turns periodically, but is always the same diversity. So a
speaker may have several gestures, which he repeats al-
ways in the same successive order. The most common
form of this artificial variety, consists in the alternate use
of the right hand and the left. I have seen a preacher,
who aimed to avoid sameness of action, in the course of
a few sentences, extend first his right hand, then his left,
and then both. This order was continued through the
discourse ; so dmt these three gestures, whatever might
be the sentiment returned, with nearly periodical exact-
ness. Now wiiatever variety is attained in this way, is at
best but a uniform variety ; and is the more dbgusting,
in proportion as it is the more studied and artificial.

But the question arises, does this charge always lie
against the use of the left hand done 9 I answer, by no
means. The almost universal precepts, however, in the in-
stitutes of oratory, giving precedence to the right hand, are
not without reason. It has been said, indeed, that the
confinement of the left hand in holding up the robe, was
originally the ground of this preference ; and that this is a
reason which does not exist in modern times. But how
did it happen that this service, denoting inferiority, came
to be assigned to the leftf rather than the right hand f
Doubtless because this accords with a general usage of
men, through ail time. When Joseph brought his two
sons to be blessed by Jacob, the Patriarch signified which
was the object of special benediction, by placing the right
hand on bis bead, and the left on the head of the other.



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164 RHETORICAL ACTION.

As a token of respect to his mother, Solomon gave her a
seat on the right band of this throne. In the same man-
ner the righteous will be distinguished from the wicked,
in the final judgment. Throughout the Bible, the right
hand is spoken of as the emblem of honor, strength, au-
thority, or victory.

The common act of salutation b expressed by the
right hand ; and hence its name dexira^ from dixoftai to
take^ that is, by the hand ; and hence, by figure, the En-
glish word dextrous^ denoting skill and agility. General
custom has always given preference to the right hand,
when only one is used, in the common offices of life. The
sword of the warrior, the knife of the surgical operator,
-the pen of the author, belong to this hand. With us, to
call a man left-handed is to call him awkward ; and it is a
curious fact that the Sandwich Islanders use the same
phrase to denote ignorance or unskilfulness. To give
the left hand in salutation, denotes a careless familiarity
and levity, never ofiered to a superior. To employ this
in taking an oath, or in giving what is called the ^^ right
hand of fellowship," as a religious act, would be deemed
rusticity or irreverent trifling.

Now so long as this general usage exists, without in
quiring here into its origin, it is manifest that the left hand
can never, without incongruity, assume precedence over
the right, so as to perform alone the principal gesture, with
the few exceptions mentioned below. To raise this hand,
for example, as expressing authority ; or to lay it on the
breast, in an appeal to conscience, would be likely to ex-
cite a smile. Though it often acts, with great significance,
in conjunction with the right hand, the only cases, that I



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RHETORICAL ACTION. 165

recollect, where it can with propriety act alone, in the
principal gesture, are these :

Firstj when the left hand is spoken of in contradistinc-
tion from the right ; . *' He shall set the sheep on his
right hand, but the goats on his left. " Secondly^ when
there is local allusion to some object on the left of the
speaker. For example, if bis face is to the north, and he
points to the setting sun, it is beUer perhaps to do it with
his left hand, than to turn his body, so as to make it con-
venient to do it with his right. Thirdlyj when two things
are contrasted, though without local allusion, if the case
requires that the one be marked By the action of the right
hand, it is often best to mark the antithetic object with
the left.

But I would not magnify, by dwelling on it, a ques*
tion of so small moment. It would have been despatched
in a sentence or two, had it not seemed proper to show,
that what some are disposed to call an arbitrary and
groundless precept of ancient rhetoric, has its foundation
in a general and instinctive feeling of propriety. Still I
would say, that when a departure from this precept results,
not from affectation, but from emotion, it is far better than
any minute observance of propriety, which arises from
a coldly correct and artificial habit.

In finishing this chapter, the general remark may be
made as applying to action, and indeed to the whole sub-
ject of delivery, that many smaller blemishes are scarcely
observed in a speaker, who is deeply interested in his sub-
ject; while the affectation of excellence is never excus-
ed by judicious bearers. To be a first-rate orator, re-
quires a combination of powers which few men possess :



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166 BUBTOBICAL ACTIOIT^

and no means of cultivation can ever confer these highest
requisites for eloquence, on public speakers generally.
But neither b it necessary to eminent usefulness, that
these requisites should be possessed by all. Any man,
who has good sense, and a warm heart, if his faculties for
elocution are not essentially defective, and if he is patient
and faithful in the discipline of these faculties, may ren*
der himself an agreeable and impressive speaker.



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EXERCISES,

PART I.

DESIGNED TO ILLUSTRATE THE PRINCIPLES OF
RHETORICAL DELIVERY,



REMARKS AND DIRECTIONS.

These Exeicises are divided into two parts. The
first part consists of selections, which are made expressly
to illustrate the principles laid down in the foregoing

ANALYSIS OF RBETORtCAIi DELIVERY. The classification

of these selections is denoted, in each case, hy the number,
corresponding with the marginal figures in the Analysis.
In using these exercises of the first part, the student may
be assisted by the ioDowbg remarks and directions.

1 ; When a principle is supposed to be abeady famil*
iar, the illustrations will be few ; in cases of more difficul-
ty, or more importance, they will be extended to greater
length.

S. In these examples, a rhetorical notation is applied,
to designate inflection, emphasis, and, in some instances,
modulation. When a word has but a moderate stress, it
will often be distinguished only by the mark of inflecticm ;



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168 . BEMARKS AND DIRECTIONS.

when the stress amounts to decided emphasis, it will be
denoted by the Italic type ; and sometimes when strong-
ly intensive, by small capitals. The reader is desired to
remember too, that in passages taken from the Scriptures,
Italic words are not used as in the English Bible, but
simply to express emphasis.

3. This rhetorical notation is applied, only to cases in
which my own judgment is pretty clear ; though, in many
of these cases, I am aware that there is room for diversity
of taste. Should this notation be found useful in practice,
it may be more extensively applied, in a separate collec-
tion of exercises.

4. The principle to be illustrated by any Exercise,
should be carefully examined and well understood, in the
first place ; and, until the student has become quite famil-
iar with this praxis of the voice, he should not attempt to
read an example, longer or shorter, without previous at-
tention to it.

5. The reader will observe that only very short ex*
amples can be expected to apply exclusively to a single
principle. On account of the great labor and difficulty
of selecting such examples, longer ones are often chosen,
which include other principles besides the one specially
in view. It will be deemed sufficient, in such cases, that
there is an obvious relation to the point chiefly to be re-
garded.



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Ex. 1,2. J EXERCISES ON ARTICULATION. l69



CXERCISESON ARTICULATION.



1 .] Page 27. Diffkult articulation from immediate iuc-
cetsion of the same or similar sounds,

1 . The youth hate5 study.

2. The wild beas^f ttraggled through the vale.

3. The steadfa«^ t^ranger in the fores^t forayed.

4. It was the fioe*^ street of the city.

5. When Ajao? f^rives some rock's vast weight to throw.

6. It was the severet^ storm of the season, but the
mas/t stood through the gale.

7. That hs(s tUl night. >



That la«r trill night.

He can debate on either side of the question.
He can debate on nettber side of the question.
Who ever imagined such an ocean to exist ? )
Who ever imagined such a notion to exist ? )



2.] Page 28. Difficult succession of consonants unthout
accent.

1. He has taken leave of terrestrial trials and enjoy-
ments, and is laid in the grave, the common receptacle and
home of mortals.

2. Though this barbarous chiefreceived us very cour-
teously, and spoke to us very communicatively at the first
interview, we soon lost our confidence in the disinterest-
edness of his motives.

3. Though there could be no doubt as to the reason"
ableness of our request, yet he saw fit peremptorily to re?

15



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!70 EXERCISES ON INFLECTION. [Ex. 3, 4.

fuse it, and authoritatively to require that we should de-
part from the country. As no alternative was left us, we
unhesitatingly prepared to obey this arbitrary mandate.

S.] Page 29. Ttndeney to dide over unaccented vowels.
The brief illaslration of this at p. 30 is perhaps sufficient.

JSXERCISBS ON IITFLECTION.

4.] Page 47. The disjunctive {or) has the rising in-
flection before^ and the falling after it,

1. Then said Jesus unto them, I will ask you one
thmg; Is it lawful on the sabbath-days to do good, or to
do dvil ? to s€v€ life, or to desirdy k f

2. Whether we are hurt by a m^d or a blind man,
the pain is still the same. And with regard to those who
are undone, it avails little whether it be by a man who
deceives them, or by one who is himself deceived.

3. Has God forsaken the works of his own h^nds f
or does he always graciously preserve, and k^ep and
guide them ?

4. Therefore, O, ye judges ! you are now to consid-
er, whether it is more probable that the deceased was
murdered by the man who inherits his est&e, or by him,
who inherits nothing but beggary by the same death. By
the man who'was raised from penury to plenty, or by him
who was brought from happiness to misery. By him
whom the hist of lucre has inflamed with the most invet-



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Ex. 5. ] EXERCISES ON INFLECTION. 171

erate hatred against bis own relations ; or by him whose
life was such, that he never knew what gain was, but from
the product of his own labors. By bim, .who, of all
dealers in the trade of bk>od„ was the most audacious ;
or by him who was so little accustomed to the forum and
trials, that he dreads not only the benches of a court, but
the very town. In short, ye judges, what I think most to
this point is, you are to consider whether it is most likely
that an enemy, or a son, would be guilty of this murder.

5. As for the particular occasion of these [charity]
schools, there cannot any offer more worthy a generous
mind. Would you do a handsome thing without retfirn ?
—do it for an infant that is not sensible of the obligation.^
Would you do it for the public g8od ? — do it for one who
will be an honest artificer. Would you do it for the sake
of heaven f — ^give it for one who shall be instructed in the
worship of him, for whose sake you gave it.

6.] Page 47. The direct question has the rising inflec-
tion, and the answer has thefalling*

1. Will the Lord cast off forever? aqd will he be
favorable no more ? Is his mercy clean gone forever ?
doth his promise fail for evermore ? Hath God forgotten
to be gracious ? hath he in anger shut up his tender
mercies ?

2. Is not this the carpenter's son ? is not his mother
called Mary ? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and
Simon, and Judas ? and his sisters, are they not all with us?

3. Are we intended for actors in the grand drama of

* DisjanctivB or is underitood.



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172 EXERCISES ON INFLECTION. [Ex. 5.

eternity ? Are we candidates for the plaudit of the ra-
tional creation f Are we formed to participate the su-
preme beatitude in communicating happiness ? Are we
destined to co-operate with God in advancing the order
and perfection of his w6rks ? How sublime a creature
then is man f

4. Can we believe a thinking being, that is in a per-
petud progress of improvement, and travelling on from
perfection to perfection, after having just looked abroad
into the works of his creator, and made a few discoveries
of his infinite goodness, wisdom, and power, must perish
at his first setting out, and in the very beginning of his
inqufriesf

ThefoUowing are examples of both question and answer.

5. Who are the persons that ^re most apt to fall into
peevishness and dejection — ^that are continually complain-
ing of the world, and see nothing but wretchedness around
them ? Are they those whom want compels to toil for
their daily br6ad ? — who have no treasure but the labor of
their hfods — who rise, with the rising sun, to expose
themselves to all the rigors of the seasons, unsheltered
from the winter's cold, and unshaded from the summer's
h6at ? Nd. The labors of such are the very blessings
of their condition.

6. What, then, what was Csesar's object ? Do we se-
lect extortioners, to enforce the laws of equity ? Do we
make choice of profligates, to guard the morals of socie-
ty ? Do we depute atheists, to preside over the rites of
relfgion ? I will not pr^ss the answer : I nded not press
the answer ; the premises of my argument render it un-



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Ex. 5.] EXERCISES ON INFLECTION. 173

necessary. — What would content you ? Talent ? N6 !
Enterprise ? Nd ! CoCirage ? N5 ! Reput^ion ? No !
Vfrtue ? Nd ! The men whom you would select, should
possess, not one, but &11 of these.

7. Can the truth be discovered when the slaves of
the prosecutor are brought as witnesses against the per-
son accused ? Let us hear now what kind of an exami-
nation this was. Call in Ruscio : call in Casca. Did
Clodius way-lay Mflo ? He did : Drag them instantly to
execution. — He did ndt: Let them have their liberty.
What can be more satisfactory than this method of ex-
amination ?

8. Are you desirous that your talents and abilities may
procure you resp6ct ? Display them not ostentatiously

. to public view. Would you escape the envy which your
rfches might excite ? Let them not minister to pride, but
adorn them with humility. — ^There is not an evil incident
to human nature for which the gospel doth not provide a
remedy. Are you ignorant of many things which it
highly concerns you to kn6w ? The gospel offers you
instrilction. Have you deviated from the path of duty ?
The gospel offers you forgiveness. Do temptations sur-«
round you ? The gospel offers you the aid of hdaven.
Are you exposed tomfsery ? It consdles you. Are you
subject to death ? It offers you immortality.

9. Oh how hast thou with jealousy infected
The sweetness of affiance ! show men dutiful ?
Why so didst thdu : or seem thy grave and learned ?
Why so didst thdu : come they of noble flimily ?
Why so didst thdu : seem they religious ?

Why so didst thdu.

15*^



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174 EXERCISES ON INFLECTION. [Ex. 6, 7.

6.] Page 48. When (or) is uted-^onjunetivelj/y it hat
the same inflection before ana after it.

In some sentences the disjunctive and tlie conjunctive use of or
are so intermingled as to require careful attention to distinguish
them.

1 • Caost thou bind the unicorn with his band in the

Mrrow ? or will he harrow the valleys tfter thee ? Wilt
thou trust him because his strength is greit ? or wilt thou
leave thy labor to hfm ? Gavest thou the goodly wings
unto tlie peacocks ? or wings and feathers unto the ds-
trich ? Canst thou draw out leviathan with a h6ok ? or
his tongue with a cord which thou lettest d6wn ? Canst
thou put a hook into his n6se ? or bore his jaw through
with a th6rn ? Wilt thou play with him as with a bfrd ?
or wilt thou bind him for thy miidens? Canst thon fill
his skin with barbed frons ? or his head with fish spears ?
2. But should these credulous infidels after all be in
the right, and this pretended revelation be all a fable ;
from believing it what hslrm could ensue ? would it ren-
der princes more tyr^nical, or subjects more ung6vema-
ble, the rich more f nsolent, or the poor more disorderly ?
Would it make worse parents, or chfldren, h&sbands, or
wives ; misters, or servants, frtends, or n6igfabors ? or*
would it not make men more virtuous, and, consequently,
more happy, in dvery situation ?



7.] Page 49. Negation opposed to affirmation.

1 . True charity is not a meteor, which occasionally
*The last or it disjunctive.



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Ex. 7.] EXBRCISB80N INFLECTION. 175

glares; but a luminary , which, id its drderly, and regular
course, dispenses a benignant influence.

2. The humble do not necessarily regard themselves
as the unworthiest of all with whom they are acqu^unted ;
but while they acknowledge and admire in many, a de*
gree of excellence which they have not attained, they
perceive, even in those to whom they are in some respect
superiors, much to praise, and much to imitate.

3. Think not, that the influence of devotion is confin-
ed to the retirement of the cbset, and the assemblies of
the saints. Ima^ne not, that, unconnected with the du-
ties of life, it is suited only to those enraptured souls,
whose feelings, perhaps, you deride as romantic and vis-
ionary. It is the guardian of innocence — ^it is the instru-
ment of virtue — it is a mean by which every good aflfec-
tion may be formed and improved.

4. Caesar, who would not wait the conclusion of the
consul's speech, generously replied, that he came into
Italy not to injure the liberties of Romq and its citizens,
but to restdre them.

5. If any man sin, we have an advocate with the
Father, Jesus Christ the righteous : and he is the propitia-
tion for our sin ; and not for ours only, but also for the
sins of the whole wdrld,

6. It is not the business of virtue to extirpate the af-
fections of the mind, but to rigulate them.

7. These things I say now, not to insult one who is
fallen, but to render more secure those who stiind ; not
to irritate the hearts of tlie wounded, but to preserve those
who are not yet wounded, in sound health ; not to sub-
merge him who is tossed on the biUows, but to instruct



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Online LibraryEbenezer PorterAnalysis of the principles of rhetorical delivery as applied in reading and ... → online text (page 12 of 30)