James Rush.

The philosophy of the human voice : embracing its physiological history; together with a system of principles, by which criticism in the art of elocution may be rendered inteligible [i.e. intelligible], and instruction, definite and comprehensive to which is added a brief analysis of song and recita online

. (page 19 of 59)
Online LibraryJames RushThe philosophy of the human voice : embracing its physiological history; together with a system of principles, by which criticism in the art of elocution may be rendered inteligible [i.e. intelligible], and instruction, definite and comprehensive to which is added a brief analysis of song and recita → online text (page 19 of 59)
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are both proper to speech, yet the prolonged cry and interjection
are the forced efect of ocasional pasion ; and this not often ocurring
in ordinary uterance, the cause is not continued, and the vocal
practice not confirmed.

The foregoing notice of the exclusion of the peculiar intonations
of song from speech, furnishes one cause why persons of great
accomplishment as singers, are nevertheles indiferent readers or
comonplaco actors. Other causes will hereafter be asigned for the
general want of interchangeable facility in the exercise of the arts
of song, and speech. That arising from the different stnictures
of the radical and vanish in the two cases, is not the least influen-
tial. The endowed singer may have at comand all the means of
expresion, employed in song: but these means, as we shall learn,
are peculiar to song, and are not transferable to speech ; and while
he is able to clothe every feeling of the Composer, with the nielo-


dious sucesion of his long-drawn notes, his disqualified atempts at
speaking intonation, strip off or tear to pieces, every expresion, to
be spread by the equable concrete, over the language of the Poet.

To return from this acount of diferent forms of the concrete, to
the consideration of the uses of its varied quantity. An immu-
table, mutable, and indefinite time, has each its apropriate manner
of fulfiling the purposes of expresion. It is however, upon in-
definite sylables that the most graceful and dignified effect of into-
nation is acomplished ; as we shall learn in future parts of this
essay. Readers who are ignorant of the principles of quantity,
do yet perceve the necesity of a deliberate movement, for a grave
and admirative expresion. They therefore, endeavor to suply the
want of a long sylabic time, by slight pauses after words, and even
between sylables. Propriety and taste however, alow here no
compensation : they require most of the prolonged time in digni-
fied uterance, to be spent on the sylable itself, and reject the other
means, as ofensive monotony or afectation.

Eminent mstances of the esential importance of long quantity
may be shown, by considering the sylabic construction of sentences
with reference to expression : for as the vocal signs of certain
states of mind require the prolonged time of indefinite sylablesj it
may hapen that such states are to be expresed on the limited dura-
tion of a mutable, or the mere moment of an imutable time. This
may be ilustrated by a pasage from the fourth book of Paradise
Lost, where Satan is brought before Grabriel. In the dialogue
between them, one of the replications of Satan is as folows.

Not that I less 'endure,' or shrink from pain,
In-swZ^-ing angel ! well thou know'st I stood
Thy /ferc-est, when in batle to thy aid,
The blasting volied thunder made all speed.
And seconded thy else not dread-Qdi spear.
But still thy words at random, as before.
Argue thy inexperience what behoves
From hard assays and ill succcses past
A faithful leader, not to hazard 'all'
Thru waj's of danger by himself untried:
'I,' therefore, ' I' ' alone' first undertook
To wing the desolate abys, and spy
This new created world, whereof in Hell
Fame is not silent, here in hope to find


Bcter abode, and my aflictod powers

To setle here on earth, or in mid nir;

Tho for posession put to try once more

"What thou and thy gay legions 'dare' against:

Whoso easier busincs were to ' serve ' their ' Lord '

High up in Heaven, with songs to hymn his throne,

And practis'd distances to ' cringe,' not fght.

The language of this extract variously embraces argument,
narative, and pasion. We here refer to the last. I have marked
in italics, some of the sylables representing that state, but which
are incapable of prolongation. The sylables, less, shrink, suit,
fierce^ else, and dread, belong to our class of mutables, yet they
cannot l)e extended, without making in the several cases, the pro-
longed radical on /, e, and r; and this would change pronunciation
to a drawl. We supose less, taken with endure, to embrace the
mental conditions of sufering and resignation^ shrink, those of
taunt and exultationj suit, those of complaint, pride and roproachj
fierce, that of scornful defiance^ else, a contingency of self-confi-
dence and contempt^ and dread, when interpreted by the preceding
exceptive, else, a similar contingency of self-relying courage. The
expresion of all these states, as we shall learn hereafter, calls for
a prolonged quantity', on the wider intervals of pitch, and on the
wave ; which the shortnes of the elemental sounds, in tlie above
emphatic sylables, does not alow. The emphasis of stress might
indeed be laid upon them, but this would not expres their pur-
pose. The last line however, afords a more marked ilustration of
the subject before us : for of the words not fight, the former is only^
mutable ; and the latter being strictly imutable, they cannot b&
extended, without a disagreeable departure from corect pronuncia-
tion. Tiiis i>lirase representing a mental state of strong contempt
and exultation, its expresive intonation should be made upon in-
definite sylables. A reader of delicate perception can never satisfy
his ear on these restrictetl quantities. J have thruout tiie extract,
marked with inverted commas, a few words, embracing states of
mind that (tdl for wide intervals on an extended time ; and these
words by their power of intlefinite prolongation alow the required

I add here another exem])lification of this subject, from the gen-
eric, brief, and magnificent description of Satan's Imperial Presence


in Pandemonium, at the opening of the second book of Paradise


High on a throne of royal state, which far
Outshone the wealth of Ormus and of Ind,
Or, where the gorgeous East with richest hand
Showers on her Kings barbaric pearl and gold,
Satan exalted sat.

In these lines, Milton, with a just instinct of versification, has
employed long quantities, in hapy adaptation to the admirative
dignity of the description.

I use here, rather remarkably, the term, instinct of versification,
not in oversight of the inteligence with which this Extraordinary
Man executed every high design and every tittle of his work ; but
because it is clearly seen he did not intend to construct the measure
of his poem by the rules of quantity alone. • The development of
the full resources of an acentual versification by Milton, was a
new and absorbing labor. Had this advance-step preceded him,
the originality and restles enterprise of his intelect, would most
probably have aded to the many available principles of Greek and
Roman composition, so hapily transfered to his own language^ the
acomplishment of the suposed imposibility of adopting the rules
of their prosody. In most of the words of the above example,
where the majesty of his th5t so secured the homage of quantit}^,
some of the sylables sudenly arest the perception of extended
movement and deliberate dignity, produced by the indefinite time
of those words. The sylables, state, rich, and sat, are too short
for the otherwise good iambic temporal measure : and the word
barbaric occasions some iregular contrariety in the impresions of
quantity and acent. In the simple pronunciation of this word,
the first sylable, bar, is somewhat longer tlian the second, which
will not, in this case, bear unusual extension. And as the longer
sylable is here in the place of the weak sylable of iambic acent,
the impresivenes of exceding length reverses the sucesion of the
prevailing measure. Nor does the simple meaning of the epi-
thet barbaric, alow a suficient degree of acentual strcs on the
second sylable, to overrule the impresivenes of greater length in
the first. If the Reader, excusing the rhetorical change, will
substitute the adjective orient, for barbaric, he will perceve by


comparison, the diference between the acentual and the temporal

Showers 6n | her kings | hgr 6r | i^nt pearl | and g6ld.

Mlietlier the first and the fourth section of this line are con-
sidered respectively in order, a trochee and an iambus, as here
marked, or as a dactyl and an anapest, as they may be read, by
license in our iambic measure^ the admisible prolongation of the
indefinite sylable o;*-e, produces an admirative dignity of uterance
that cannot be efected on the short time of the acented sylable of
barbaric. And it may be aded further, that this line does fulfil
the conditions of poetic quantity, as completely as any line ever
constructed with Greek or Roman words.*

To a bad reader, nearly all sentences are alike, however im-
properly constructed for vocal expression. He who looks abroad
for excelence, thru all the ways of the voice, must often find the
tendencies and demands of his uterance restricted, by the unyield-
ing character of an imutable phraseology. A limited discernment,
and the comon uses of quantity often sufice to set forth the thots
of an author ; but an admirative or a pasionative expresion will
in many cases be imperfect, or lost, if tried on the imutable time of
sylables. A reader who can asume the mental state of the poet, will
not be able to give the prompted expresion to part of the last line
of the folowing example. It is taken from Gabriel's answer to
Satan's apology for his flight from Hell, just quoted, and is a coment
on the title of faithful leader, vaunted by Satan.

* If the Reader would know how certain words may be pronounced as a
foot or prosodiul section, either of two or of three sylables, let him recur to
our principles of sylabication. The word showers is one sylable, wlien the e
is omitted ; the dipthongal tonic oii, vanishing directly into the subtonic r, as
in s/iotors. If the sound of c is retained, that element requires its radical and
vanish, and the word becomes thereb}' of two sylables, as in s/ioiv-ers. The
trisylable orient, is reduced to a disylable, by withholding a radical from the
sound represented by t, and thereby droping that sound as a distinct sylable.
In the trisylable, i represents the sound of ec-1, and ec-\ by readily changing
into the subtonic y-e, coalesces with the suceding tonic e-nd ; thus y taking
the place of ce-1, joins itself to the subtonic n, to form the contracted sylable
yent. The word orient, in corect pronunciation, is a true dactyl in quantity.
I have set it as an iambus, not intending to defend the propriety of tlie change,
but to form thereby, a regular iambic line, and to ilustrate one of the princi-
jiles of Englisii pronunciation.


O name,
O sacred name of faithfulnes profan'd I
Faithful to whom ? to thy rebelious crew ?
Army of Fiends, Jit body to Jit head.

The six s}- lables of this last phrase are short, and all the em-
phatic ones are imutable. They contain a degree of admiration
at the well marked felowship, bet^veen a ringleader and his creM^,
ming-led with scorn at the wicked faithfulnes of the rebelious out-
cast : and these states of mind, we shall learn hereafter, cannot be
eminently shown on the abrupt shortnes of the sylabic time here
employed. With an acomplished sj^eaker, the management of
this phrase would resemble the efforts of a musician of feeling and
skill, on a limited instrument ; and the diferent efect of his voice,
on the above short sylables, and on indefinite quantities embracing
the same states, would be like that of the inexpresive chatering
of the harp or piano-forte, compared with the gliding resources
and swayful concrete of intonation, from an Andante movement
on the violoncelo. The harsh and unyielding character of the
short sylables in the above example, would be striking to a good
reader, by its contrast with the preceding phraseology ; in which,
the two interjectives, the words name, profaned, whom, thy, crav,
army, Jiends, and perhaps faith/itZj being all of indefinite time,
and some of them emphatic^ aford the most ample means, for a
true and elegant intonation of the admirative and partly pasion-
ative states of mind they convey.

Although abrupt and atonic elements produce many instances
of short sylabic construction, that do not admit the extended forms
of intonated expresionj yet most sentences contain the amount of
prolongable sylables, which the state of mind may require. For
it is not necesary, that every word should bear the full expresion,
conveyed by an extended intonation. One or two emphatic long-
quantities, assisted by an accordant, even if faint intonation, on
the short and unemphatic sylablesj in a maner to be described
hercafterj will suficiently convey the thot and pasion embraced by
the sentence. The indefinite sylable par in the folowing line has
a variable quantity, which, without impropriety, may be doubled
or more, in expresive uterancc ; and the same may be said of


Pardon me thou bleeding piece of earth,

That I am meek and gentle with these butchers.

Tlie circumstances of the scene in Julius Cccsnr, from which
this is taken, inform us tJiat Marie Antony's mental states, ex-
presed in the first Ime, are those of love, grief, and wmtrition ;
his revenge does not apear until the second. The former, it will
be shown hereafter, call particularly for an extension of sylabic
time ; and we here regard the words jxirdou and bleeding as em-
phatic, since they respectively picture tlie special object of the
8upliant, and the disastrous asasination, that with self-reproach, he
had delayed to punish. The acented sylables of these words freely
receve the temporal prolongation ; and the employment of the
required expresion on their indefinite quantity, togetlier witJi the
asistance of a slight prolongation on the short and unaccented
sylables, directs the stream of that expresion every where thruout
the line.

In the preceding ilustrations, the Reader may now perceve some
ground for our arangement of sylables, acording to their time, and
in reference to the subject of expresive intonation ; and may there-
upon, admit the usefulnas of its nomenclature, for the purpascs of
criticism and instruction. Yet there is another view to be taken
of the efects of sylabic quantity. From the limited resources,
and tlie necesarily generic character of language, the same word
may in diferent sentences have a variation, so to speak, in its
thotive meaning. It is still more comon to find the same word
w'ith a diferent reverentive or pasionative expresion, in its change-
able combinations with other words. Some states of mind being
only properly represented by a short and abrupt uterance; it
folows that the shortnes of a word or sylable, which on one oca-
sion cannot denote the state of mind that requires a prolonged
intonationj may on another, fulfil the purpose of forceful expres-
ion with its i mutable quantity. It was shown in a former ex-
ample, that the word fight was incapable of the extension, there
neccsary for the full display of scorn. When Hamlet in the
violent scene with Laertes saysj

Why, I wiUJif/hi with him upon this theme,
Until ni}' eyelids will no lunger wagj


the quick time of the whole sentence, is generically inclusive of the
short time of its constituent sylables ; and the imutable quantity
of the word fight, admiting of abruptnes and force, may fuly
denote the resolute rage of the Prince.

The mterjection is the only Part of Speech, employed exclu-
sively for expresion. Those comon to all languages, consist of
tonics, that freely admit of indefinite prolongation. Interjections
are the instincts of the animal voice ; and universaly have an ex-
tendible quantity required for pasionative expresion. Other parts
of speech are sometimes the picture of thot, and sometimes of
pasion ; and acomodated to this, there is a diference in the time of
sylables. Had words been invented as signs of inter) ective ex-
presion only, most of them would have been made Avith an ex-
tended voice. Yet as the tonic elements may be utered either as
long or as short quantities, and the abrupt and atonic, in certain
positions, inconveniently produce a short quantity, it might be
infered, that a language consisting entirely of tonic sounds, man-
ageable both for longer and for shorter time, would beter fulfil all
the purposes of speech, than a language containing in part, ele-
ments of imutable quantity. But some states of mind are well
represented by a short quantity, and a suden isue of voice ; and
the abrupt elements are in certain positions, the best contrived
means for producing that sudennes with the greatest variety and
force.* And further, the atonies, with the exception of k, p, and
tj tho not properly explosive, yet arest the concrete progres of vo-
cality, and alow a suceding tonic readily to take on the explosive
opening. A language made up of sounds, having the varied
character of our tonic, subtonic, atonic, and abrupt elements, is
therefore well accomodated to the system of those expresive signs,
ordained thruout all vocal creation. f

* Those who delight in searching for undiscoverable things, may institute
an inquiry^ whether the abrupt elements derive their existence in speech,
from the suden uterance which anger and other animal pasions instinctively
asumed, at that nonenity of date, the origin of language. The only origin
of language we know, is that of a new term, invented for a new thOt, or for
an unamed physical fact.

f This remark will scarcely be aceptablc, to those who have always thotj
the greater the proportion of vowels to other elements, the greater tho har-
mony, as it is calod, of a language. And hence the sneer of Grecian scholar-


The employment of prolonged time, in the emphatic places of
discourse, with a view to expresive intonation, seems never to have
been thot of by ordinary writers ; and has been so far overlooked
in the schools, that it has never receved formal notice either in
Rhetoric or Elocution. Dramatists, to whose taste and duty this re-
mark is espccialy applicable, frequently neglect that proper adapta-
tion of time and acent, which would aford an Actor the means of
ading the finishing touches of his voice, to the vivid and forcible
picture of thot and pasion : for a rythmic style is more easily
read and more forcibly declaimed than a loose and unjointed con-

The judicious use of the variations of quantity is the very life
of elocution, and the right hand of dignity in the measure of poetry
and prose.

The human ear has conizance of two kinds of Proportion in
the sucesions of sound : one embracing the relationship of its
forces ; the other of its duration.

The First consists in the perception of unequal /orcf^ alternately
sucesive. Of this we have many species, derived from the order
of sucesion, or the number of the varied impulses ; as exhibited
in the folowing ilustration : where the first species shows a heavy
impulse folowed by a lighter one ; the second, one heaxj folowed

ship at our barbarian cacophony ; if I may with a repugnant car, thus lay an
example of classical harmony on an English page. A language that would
give to a, e, i, o, «, oi, and ou, an over-share of speech, would be very monoto-
nous, and might perhaps remind us of its vowel-roots among the sub-animals:
but in sound alone, it would interupt fluency by an increase of hiatus, and be
far from the harmonious. The term harmony, taken from other arts, has not
a very descriptive meaning, when aplied to language. Architecture, Music,
Painting, and the Landscape, require, respectively, a unity in their varied
distribution of sound, color, form, and surface, and a variety in the unitizing
power of contrast, to make up the engaging efects of their harmony : and
each has its peculiar maner, if I may so speak, of Preparing, and Striking, and
Resolving its discords. What the literary critic calls harmony of language,
is in reality a perception, not of consonant, but of different, impressions on
the ear, and consists in the varied and agreeable sucesions and contrasts,
of the forms of Force, Vocality and Time, with the intersections of pause;
shown in Knglish Composition, by a due aportionment of tonic, subtonic,
and atonic elements, to mutable, imutablo, and indefinite sylables, under the
name of Kythmua.


by two lighter ; the third and fourth being respectively the reversed
order of the other two.

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The Second kind of proportion consists in the different duration
of two or more sounds. Of these the species are formed upon the
relations of long and short, and from the direct or reverse order of
their diferences, ilustrated in the folowing diagram ; where the first
section is meant to represent a sound of given length, suceded by
one of half or leser fraction of its time ; the second shows a given
length folowed by two of shorter time ; the third and foiu'th being
respectively the reverse in order, of the times of the first and second.

The Reader can audibly ilustrate these schemes, by tonic sounds
respectively, of different force, and duration.

We can at present, reach no further in the investigation of this
subject, than to knowj the measurement of these proportions is an
agreeable exercise of the cultivated ear : and that we are more
pleased witli varied percusions, and varied durations of any me-
chanical sounds, of these or other symetrical arangements, than
with one unvaried order of percussions and durations, except
regular pauses are interposed between any given order of them ;
as in the following diagram : where the space of a pause is repre-
sented between a series of two, and of three similar sounds.

%^ e® ©o s e«® eeo «ee

As the voice has the power of this momentary peivusion, and
sylables have diferent degrees of duration, both of the above pro-
portional forms of force and time may be aplied to speech. The
perception of the former is called Accent j that of the later, Quau-


tity. To one who has equaly exercised his ear in these two kinds
of measurement, the alternation of quantity is by far the most agree-
able. For in the case of accent, no momentary sound or ' ictus '
can be tunable; whereas a prolonged quantity is the esential of
this agreeable tune. If then the perception of equal momentary
acents, with pauses between the given agregates, or of unequal
momentary acents, alternately continued, is agreeable, the percep-
tion of a similar order of difering tunable quantities must be more
so. Since the accntual function may be conjoined with quantity,
by giving the abrupt ictus to the beginning of a prolonged sylable;
and pauses may be interposed between agregates that make up the
sucesion of quantity.

The above view regards only the acentual stress, or the time of
sound, considered in itself. When quantity carries the intonation
of the concrete, and thus Ijecomes susceptible of vocal expresion,
its claims over acent are incalculable.

The preceding remarks refer especialy to the measure of verse :
and a principal cause of the diference between a good and a bad
reader therein, lies in a varied ability to attain an efective and
elegant comand over acent and quantity.

The efect upon the ear, and the silent perception in the mind,
of an agreeable variety in the sucesions of force and time, together
with the division by pause, both in prose and verse, is caled the
Rythmus of Speech,

It may be suposed, I alude to the Latin and Greek languages,
when speaking of the quantity of verse. Noj it is to the English
language, and to the partial tho unsot use of quantity, at present
prevailing in its measure : and I wish further to intimate a posi-
bility of the future construction of its rythmus, on the sole basis
of quantityj if the scholastic formalists of literature can be made
to belevej the subject of ancient prosody has, for ages past, been
exhausted ; that the labors of wrangling compilation arc inferior
to the works of inventive improvement; and that the investiga-
tion of their own respective languages may asure to them the first
births of originalityj and to their productions, if aml)itious of
such things, the consequent undivided heritage of fame.

About the time we are tat to measure the sylables of Homer
and Virgil, by the relations of long and short, we are toldj our


own tongue does not admit the rythmus of quantity ; and that the
prosody of the English as well as of other modern languages, is

Online LibraryJames RushThe philosophy of the human voice : embracing its physiological history; together with a system of principles, by which criticism in the art of elocution may be rendered inteligible [i.e. intelligible], and instruction, definite and comprehensive to which is added a brief analysis of song and recita → online text (page 19 of 59)