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 47 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 47 of 59)
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of acent and quantity resembling the various structures of English verse.
There is an example of our anapestic measure, in the first Cunto and second
line of Voltaire's Ilenriade,

Et par droit de conquete et par droit de naissancc.

Alowing for the manor of tho French, in jirolonging their .sylables, many


now ofer a more formal acount of this mater, with the design to
speak of the Rythmus of prose ; and to notice in as few words as

like corespondencies to the usual English measures may be gathered from
what they call their heroic rhyme.

But all such cases are acidental in French versification, and do not acord
with the general character of its iregular sucesion : a sucesion, shocking to
tlie English ear, and uterly without a flowing rythmus either as poetry or

We pronounce the word acominodation with a strong accent on the second
and fourth sylables, and a contrasted feeble one, on the third and fifth : whereas
the French, with whom it has six sylables, as ac-com-mo-da-ci-on, make but a
slight variation in the degree of stres among them. Hence, if the word be
moderately caricatured by a full stres on every sylable, it will resemble French
pronunciation. And in general, to mimic that pronunciation, in English
words, it is only necesary to substitute de, for the; to give, to the English ear
at least, an afected prolongation to certain sylables, and a like degree of aoent
on all. It may be perceved that the French language, in its acent and quan-
tity, does not admit of Blank-verse ; as no proper prosodial meter can be given
to its lines. Under this condition, instead of altogether rejecting the vain
atempt at measure, and employing plain but dignified prose, in their Epic and
Dramatic composition^ they endeavor to suply the want of a regular temporal
and acentual rythmus, by the poor regularit}- of an equal number of sylables
in each of their lines, and by terminating them with rhyme : and on this
ground alone to raise the verbal structure of their poetry. May we not there-
fore admire the esthetic choice of the ' amiable' Fenelon, who tells the grace-
ful and instructive story of Telemac/ius, in the unembarassed dignity of Prose,
by excluding the puerile counting of sj-lables, and chime of words, in French
heroic versification ?

I would submisively propose as a subject of future inquiry among the French,
whoj whenever they look at themselves, by the light of an analytic speech,
will be the best judges in the case^ whether this peculiar construction led to
their use of the florid and exagerated form of their Histrionic intonation : and
whether, in the desire to withdraw the ear from the paling efect of the equal
count of sylables ; and to lesen the monotony of the rhymes, they did not
purposely endeavor to produce, thruout the curent, and particularly at the
close of jiroximate lines, a contrast of striking intervals and waves; such as
that of a rising interval, or an indirect wave, at the end of one line, and a
reverse movement on the next; without those intonations having the least
regard to a natural propriety of expresion. ' For we must remember;; the
monotony of French rhymej which under English law is not always canonical^
and of its equal number of sylables, is not i-elevable by the atractive rythmus,
of the English maner of acentual or temporal measure. And finaly, whether
by this atempt to avoid monotony, they did not substitute, that equaiy strik-

t ing and more eroneous monotony, which is always produced by impresive

I, intervals improperly aplied.

вЦ† This is the view, which our ' Philosophy' of speech ofers of the universal

I 33



posible, the originul and practical system of Mr. Steele, on the
subject of acentuation and pause : this being among the first results,
in modern times, of an inquiry into the philosophy of spoken

Speech would not be suited to the interchange of thot and
pasion, if every sylable of every word were sucesively and equaly
acented. For by this uniform acentuation, it would want that
vocal light and shade, and that pronounced relief, required for a
distinct picture of mental and audible perception j consequently
thots would not be easily distinguished from each other ; and
speech would be inconveniently slow. Whether this slownes
would result from the hiatus, in pasing from one acent to another,
each with a full radical upon it, we need not here inquire. It is
enuf to know, that if the folowing, or any other sentence be read
with every sylable acented, the delay will be unavoidable.

The Eight of suf-frage in a Ke-pub-lic, will, thru the suc-es-ive
Oli-gar-chy of weak and am-bi-tioas Knaves, al-ways end in the Wrongs
of the Peo-ple.

Although this political axiom should be deliberately read as well
as closely laid to heart ; still, with an impresive acent on every
sylable, the pronunciation of this eternal truth would far excede
in time, even what its solemn uterance deserves. Let us take
another example, to be read with forcible and proximate acent.

The dif-er-ence be-twoen the two great An-tag-o-nists a-niong na-
tions, is this : In a Des-pot-ism, the gov-ern-mcnt preys up-on the peo-

prevalence of the remarkable intonation in French Tragedy : a philosophy,
drawn from the ordination of nature in the human voice, and that should
make no ulowance for national self-deception, and its self-solacing vanity.
Be this view admisible or not, my observation ventures to afirm this exoesive
use of florid intervals, in all the French Tragedians I have heard, including
an Actress of the day, whom the Critics of Paris, with unbounded eulogy,
but without the least vocal discrimination, present to the world as the para-
gon of Tragic Art. I say nothing here, of gesture and other acom])animent3
of this vivid and false intonation : nor of Comedy and Vaudeville, which tho
employing a somewhat oxagerated form of coloquial speech are altogether
most admirable.

Could I have had tho oiwrtunity of personaly observing the method of
teaching Declamation in the Conservatorio, I might have spoken with more
fulnes, and acuracy on this subject.


pie. In a De-moc-ra-cy, the peo-ple prey up-on the gov-orn-ment. The
life-blood is drawn a-like by each. - In one case by the Ea-gle ; in the
oth-er by the Hats.

It is from this alternation of strong and weak acent, with the
variations of long and short quantity, that the graceful flow of
style, and much of the power and beauty of speech are derived.

This being the character of the acentual function, Mr. Steele,
by an original view of the relations between acent, quantity, and
pause, made divisions of the line of speech, analogous to the
Bars of musical notation. These may be caled Acentual Sec-

AVe will atempt to explain part of the system of Mr. Steele,
by the folowing sentence ; using italics in place of his symbol
for the acented sylable; the numeral seven for the pause; and
marking the sections, merely for reference.

12 3 4 5 6

I 7 In the | sec ond | cent u-ry | 7 of the | christ ian | e ra |

7 8 9 10 11 12

I 7 the I em j)ire of | Rome | 7 com-pre | hend ed the \fair est |

13 14 15 16 17 18

I part of the | earth 7 | 7 and the [ most 7 | civ i-lized | 2^or tion |

19 20

I 7 of man | kind. \

Mr. Steele first asumes the time of the several bars to be equal,
like that of the bars in music; the term bar, meaning, not the
vertical lines, but the space between them. He next subdivides a
sentence into bars, each of equal time ; that time consisting, either
altogether of verbal sound, or of a verbal sound and of a silent
time or pause. Suposing then a bar, or acentual section, to con-
tain, in its verbal time, one, and never more than one, acented

* The Greeic Rhetoricians gave the name of Prosodial Feet, to certain ar-
angements of long and short sylablesj these being identical in place however,
respectively with the acented and unacented; metaphorically implying the
regular progresion of poetical lines, by the measured steps of quantity and
acent. A foot with its first sylable short and its second long, or its first
lightly and its second strongly acented, was caled an Iambus, as consume.
"When this order of quantity and acent is reversed, a Trochee, as morn-ing.
A foot of three sylables, with the first long and the other two short, or the
first strongly and the others light)}' acented, a Dactyl, as grdce-ful-ly. Mr.
Steele's purjiose was to ajily to prose-reading, a rythmus founded on these
principles of poetic construction.



sylable, or heavy Poize, as he calls it ; and one or more unacented,
which he calls the light Poize; the begining of the bar is always
ocupied by the heavy acent, and the end by the light, or in their
absence, by a respectively equivalent silent time or pause. In the
first bar of the above example, there is no hea\y accent, for the
sentence begins with two light sylables, but its time is indicated
by the symbol of a silent pause : the two light are set at the end
of the acentual section. The word second, in the next bar, has a
heavy sylable folowed by a light one, and thus makes a full and
audible time. In the third bar, the word century has a heavy,
folowed by two light sylables. The fourth has the same time in
sylable and pause, as the first. The fifth and sixth are of the
same construction as the second. The seventh has one light acent,
and a pause in place of the heavy. The eighth is like the third.
The ninth and twentieth have each one heavy acent ; for each syla-
ble being a prolongable quantity, the time may be extended to an
equality with that of the other bars. The fourteenth and six-
teenth have each, like the last-named, a heavy ; but wanting the
light, its time is suplied by a pause : for the short quantity of
these words does not alow their prolongation to the full time of a
bar. The other bars are only resjjectively, repetitions of those
already described. If we supose so many sylables within a bar,
as to require an improper precipitancy of uterance, to make the
time of the sections equal, it becomes necesary to add a new bar,
for the redundant light sylables, and to set them at the end of the
new bar, and the symbol of a pause, at the begining, in place
of the heavy or acented sylable. In the example, we might put
[ century of the | into one section ; but when the sentence is read
deliberately, this section is too long. It is beter ordered in the
example, by a subdivision, and by a pause in the place of an
acented sylable. An imcdiate sucesion of long quantities may
alow a change of the rythmus. In the eighth bar of the example,
em lias the first place, as the acented sylable ; and it may be em-
})haticaly prolonged to the time of an entire bar; butjJiVeis so
impresive by its quantity that it also may form the first part of a
bar, and the division may he; \ em | pire of | Rome | . It is the
same with the seventeenth ; where tho civ is the acented, lizcd is
tlic longer sylable, and we may have the divisions; | ciu i | lized | ;


the last long sylable, from its quantity suplying the time of an
entire bar. With this general explanation, the Reader is refered
to Mr. Steele's work, for a more particular acount of the svstem.
Perhaps I have not properly marked the bars of this sentence.
My purpose however, being only to ilustratej others may vnih an
ear of taste, improve the reading for themselves. Yet it is worthy
of remark, that if this sentence is read without its linear divisionsj
the voice of a good reader is disposed to make its pauses in those
very places, and of that duration, visibly indicated by the symbol
of the pause, both in the light and heavy parts of the bar ; show-
ing the instinct of the voice ; with the powers of analysis, and
the originality of Mr. Steele.

It will perhaps be asked herej What is the meaning of these
divisions? And what useful purpose they serve in instruction?

All works on elocution before the time of Mr. Steele, recomend
the acurate acentuation of words, and a strict atention to their
separation at the proper places for pausing. And altho Mr.
Sheridan gives particular examples of notation for rhetorical em-
phasis, and for pause, he lays-down no formal rule, to direct a
pupil on these points, as Mr. Steele has done, by his divisional
bars placed before the heavy accent. The importance of the sub-
ject in our early schools, may be learned from the maner in which
children begin to read; for their hesitating uterance, and their
close atention to the single word, lead them to lay an equal stres
on every sylable, or at least on every word. This habit continues
a long time after the eye has acquired a facility in folowing up dis-
course ; and in some cases infects pronunciation during subsequent
life : as it is not till the tongue goes triping, or rather halting, with
its firm and its tender step on words, that the ear becomes sensible
of the use and beauty of acent. Mr. Steele's notation having a
symbol for the degrees of stres, here marked by an italic sylable,
presents a visible analogy to the light and hea^^ impresion, and
furnishes a child wnth the picture of his leson on acent, and with
a monitor to his ear. I do not sayj this object would not be
ataincd in a degree, by employing the comon mark of stres on all
acented sylables : yet even this is never done ; could it have the
generality of a precept, or be as definite for elementary instruc-
tion, as the conspicuous division by bars ; nor would it include the


indication of pause, together with other points embraced by the
system of Mr. Steele.

One of the objects of a scientific institute is, to point out what
is necesary in an art, even should it not be able to direct the exact
maner of executing it; and perhaps no one who has atentively
looked into Mr. Steele's notation will hesitate to aknowledgej it
has set the subjects of acentuation and pause in an entirely new
light before him.

This notation is founded on a knowledge of the conventional
acents of English words, and tho it W'Ould not inform a child what
sylables are of long quantity, or emphatic ; nor, where the pauses
are to be placed; it will enable a master, who knows how to order
all these things in speech, to furnish his scholar wdtli a visible
ilustration of his task, and a rule for subsequent use. If a boy is
taught by this method, he acquires a habit of atention to the sub-
jects of acentuation and pause, that may be readily aplled, without
the notation, in ordinary discourse.

I have gladly embraced an oportunity to notice the ingenius
originality of Mr. Steelej who was among the first to shriek-out at
the incubus of ancient prosody, which had crouched so close on the
bosom of his own, and of every modern language. The rythmical
portion of his work while observati ve, is neither full nor systematic ;
and his distinction of what he calls Poize, from the efect of quan-
tity and stres, apears to me to be altogether notional and cloudy.
Notwithstanding his philosophic turn for realy hearing speech, he
seems, on the subject of his light and heavy Poize, to have falen
almost into the mystfcism of ' Occult causes.' Still I have taken
a short and perhaps unsatisfactory view of this part of his esay, as
prefatory to the few folowing remarks on the subject of rytlimus.*

The Rytlimus of language is produced by a certain order of
acent, quantity, and pause. Or in other words, a certiiin sucesion
of sylables, having diferent degrees of stres, or of quantity ; and
this sucesion being divided into portions by pauses, constitutes the

* Mr. Steele first published his views, under tho title cited in the introduc-
tion to this esay. A few years afterwards he gave a second edition of his
work, with the ])hrase of ' Prosodia Rutionalis.' This lust has very little adi-
tion to tho former ])rint: and its Latin words servo only to t)bscurc the simple
explanation of his early English title.


agreeable impresion of the curent of spcceli, called Rythmus.
And further, certain perceptible relations, between the various
sounds of the elements and of sylables joined with the flow of that
rythmns, serve both in prose and verse, to extend and to highten
its esthetic character. These relations regard an interesting branch
of Rhetorical inquiry; embracing those delicate audible percep-
tions, either agreeable or otherwise, of the similarity and contrast
of elemental and sylabic sounds, which cannot have escaped the
notice of a cultivated ear ; and which may have been instinctively
observed, and practiced, in Greek and Roman Elocution, yet
never described or reduced to system. And if what is here said
may not be perceptible to every Reader ; some perhaps, may folow-
up this hint on the subject of those graceful acompaniments of
rythmus, which I am not at this time prepared to pursue.

Two methods of aplying the alternate force and remision of stres,
and the variations of quantity are employed in the construction of
rythmus. One procedes by a regular repetition of the same order
of impresions, in Versification. The other, in Prose, has no formal
arangement of its strong and weak, or its long and short sylables.
The system of the order of sylables in verse constitutes what is caled
Prosody. This subject having been ably treated by authors, and
being beyond the design of this esay, we here pass it by, with the
remark, that if English prosodists would listen to their om'u lan-
guage, when they undertake to regulate it, and would scrutinize
what the older gramarians have said upon the subject of Timcj
which, Ave have some causes for beleving, they themselves did not
strictly analyzej their science would be more- Intel igible, and their
rules of practice more useful to the student.

The broad distinction between prose and verse consists in the
more iregular sequence of acent and quantity in the former : still
they seem to compromise their diferences to a certain degree, in
their respective atempts at excelence. For the best poetic rythmus
is that which admits ocasional, and wel-ordered deviations from
the curent of acentuation ; these deviations however, not continu-
ing long enough to destroy the general character of regularity ; the
order returning before the ear has forgoten its previous impresion.
Prose, on the other hand, is constantly showing the begin ing of a
regular rythmus : but before any order of acent or quantity has


time to impres the ear with its measures the cros-purpose of a new
series destroys the order of incipient verse.

The sources of variety, beauty, and force, in rythmus may be
learned from the folowing general view of its structure.

In ordinary pronunciation there may be several sucesive mono-
sylabic-words marked by the abrupt acentj the abruptnes necesa-
rily producing a momentary pause between them : or there may be
an acented sylable folowcd by one or more, and not exceeding five
unacented ; the average proportion being about one acented, to two
or three unacented. From this it apears that the divisions, in-
cluded between the vertical lines of Mr. Steele's notation, caled
here, acentual sections, may consist of from one to five sylables,
and with peculiar arangement, and care in pronunciation, perhaps
of six. Consequently, if a rythmus were formed on the function
of acent alone, a series of these diferently constituted sections,
would furnish the ground-work for considerable variety. In the
above example, the sections consist of from one to five sylables,
for the third and fourth may be thrown together by omiting the
bar and the pause, without ofending the ear ; and these sections
being aranged in varied sucesion, is one of the causes of the agree-
able rythmus of that sentence.

Perhaps the Reader will now admitj the ear is as strongly
atracted by quantity, as by stres. When, therefore, these two
functions are combined, the means of variety are multi])lied. In
the folowing sentence, slightly altered from Gibbon, I have
marked in italics those sylables which make an impresion by their
quantity, and add dignity to the varied acentual rythmus.

The masters of the fairest and most wealthy climates of the globe, funi'd
with contempt from gloo)ny /lill.s, amiVd by the wintery tempest, from lakes
conccal'd in mist, and from cold and lonely heaths, over which the deer of the
forest were chased by a troop of naked barbarians.

Besides the variety and impresivenes arising from stres and
quantity, the rythmic efcct may be further diversified by including
one or more axientual sections witiiin the boundary of pauses. If
the useful economy of the term may be alowed, let us call tlie por-
tions of discourse so formed, Pausal sections. They may consist
of a single word ; and the structure of style, and of uterance,


rarely admit of tlieir containing more than twenty sylables. In
the folowing example the pausal sections are included between the
upright lines, that the order and variety of the sucesion may be
surveyed by the eye. The lines designate only the place of the
pause in clear and impresive reading, without denoting its several

It is gone | that sensibility of principle | that chastity of honor j which
felt a stain ( like a wound | which inspired courage | whilst it mitigated
ferocity | which enobled whatever it touched | and under which | vice it-
self I lost I half its evil | by losing all its grosnes. | *

The agreeable efect of variety- in the pausal sections will perhaps
be more remarkable, by contrasting it with the monotony of the
antithetic stjde. The following sentence exhibits, not the art, but
the artifice of rhetorical construction.

When I took the first survey of my undertaking | I found our speech |
copious I without order | and energetic | without rules | wherever I turned
my view | there was perplexity | to be disentangled | and confusion to be
regulated | choice was to be made | out of boundles variety | without any
established principle of selection | adulterations were to be detected ] with-
out anj- setled test of purity | and modes of expresion | to be rejected or
receved | witho\it the sufrages of any writers of classical reputation | or
acknowledged authority. |

Such measured divisions used ocasionaly may give variety to
discourse; but as a characteristic of style, they become tiresome
to the ear;? and aiming to be forcible merely by verbal contrasts,
often weaken the more important force of thot. There seems too,
to be a want of dignity in this kind of rythmus ; and those Avho
afect it, scarcely perceve how nearly they aproach to the principle
of the ludicroiLS : for when its features are slightly surcharged by
caricature, it realy becomes so. The principle Ls that of a re-
semblance in sound, with a difference in meaning. The similarity
in the number of words, together with the like places of their
acents, and the equal count of sylables, under which it has some-

* The maner in which lost, here forms by itself, a pausal section, is ex-
emplified in Mr. Steele's method of notation : I Viceh I self! \ lost! \ half its \
I e vil. I A good reader would pronounce this clause, with emphasis on lost,
and a pause before and after it: thus acording with Mr. Steele's principles of
Acentual division.


times been the literary practice to set-forth the strongest antithesis
in meaning, has not exactly the contrasted imagery of a pun, but
it reminds me of it.

The monotonous efect of a series of similar pausal sections, is
conspicuous in the folowing example from the poems of Ossian.
It is however, fair to remark, that as the extract has only two
trisylabic words, and not one polysylable, this peculiarity must
be taken into acount, with the other defects of its composition.

And is the son of Semo falen ? | mournful are Tura's walls. | Sorow dwells
at Dunscai. | Thy spouse is left alone in her youth. | The son of thy love is
alone! | He shall come to Bragela, | and ask whj^she weeps? | He shall lift
his eyes to the wall, | and see his father's sword. | Whose sword is that ? | he
will say. | The soul of his mother is sad. | Who is that, | like the hart of the
desert, | in the murmur of his course? | His eyes look wildly round | in search
of his friend. | Conal | sonofColgar | where hast thou been | when themighty
fell ? I Did the seas of Cogorma roll round thee ? | Was the wind of the south
in thy sails ? | The mighty have fallen in batle, | and thou wast not there.
I Let none tell it in Selma, | nor in Morven's woody land. | Fingal will be

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 47 of 59)