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should pulsate through the audience, and go no farther.

An audience is asleep. Logic demands more warmth, more fire. Not at all.
Keep silent and the sleepers will awaken.

2. Sound, notwithstanding its many shades, should be homogeneous; that
is, as full at the end as at the beginning. The mucous membrane, the
lungs and the expiratory muscles have sole charge of its transmission.
The vocal tube must not vary any more for the loud tone than for the low
tone. The opening must be the same. The low tone must have the power of
the loud tone, since it is to be equally understood. The acoustic organs
should have nothing to do with the transmission of sound. They must be
inert so that the tone may be homogeneous. The speaker or singer should
know how to diminish the tone without the contraction of the back part
of the mouth.

To be homogeneous the voice must be ample. To render it ample, take high
rather than low notes. The dipthong _eu_ (like _u_ in muff), and the
vowels _u_ and _o_ give amplitude to sound. On the contrary, the tone
is meagre in articulating the vowels _é_, _í_ and _á_. To render the
voice ample, we open the throat and roll forth the sound. The more the
sound is _circumvoluted_, the more ample it is. To render the voice
resonant, we draw the tongue from the teeth and give it a hollow form;
then we lower the larynx, and in this way imitate the French horn.

3. The voice should always be sympathetic, kindly, calm, and noble, even
when the most repulsive things are expressed. A tearful voice is a grave
defect, and must be avoided. The same may be said of the tremulous voice
of the aged, who emphasize and prolong their syllables. Tears are out of
place in great situations; we should weep only at home. To weep is a
sure way of making people laugh.

Chapter IV.

The Voice in Relation to Measure.

_Of Slowness and Rapidity in Oratorical Delivery._

The third and last relation in which we shall study voice, is its
breadth, that is, the measure or rhythm of its tones.

The object of measure in oratorical diction is to regulate the interval
of sounds. But the length of the interval between one sound and another
is subject to the laws of slowness and rapidity, respiration, silence
and inflection.

Let us first consider slowness and rapidity, and the rules which govern

1. A hasty delivery is by no means a proof of animation, warmth, fire,
passion or emotion in the orator; hence in delivery, as in tone, haste
is in an inverse ratio to emotion. We do not glide lightly over a
beloved subject; a prolongation of tones is the complaisance of love.
Precipitation awakens suspicions of heartlessness; it also injures the
effect of the discourse. A teacher with too much facility or volubility
puts his pupils to sleep, because he leaves them nothing to do, and they
do not understand his meaning. But let the teacher choose his words
carefully, and every pupil will want to suggest some idea; all will
work. In applauding an orator we usually applaud ourselves. He says
what we were just ready to say; we seem to have suggested the idea. It
is superfluous to remark that slowness without gesture, and especially
without facial expression, would be intolerable. A tone must always be
reproduced with an expression of the face.

2. The voice must not be jerky. Here we must keep jealous watch over
ourselves. The entire interest of diction arises from a fusion of tones.
The tones of the voice are sentient beings, who love, hold converse,
follow each other and blend in a harmonious union.

3. It is never necessary to dwell upon the sound we have just left; this
would be to fall into that jerky tone we wish to avoid.

_Of Respiration and Silence._

We place respiration and silence under the same head because of their
affinity, for respiration may often be accounted silence.

_Of silence._ - Silence is the father of speech, and must justify it.
Every word which does not proceed from silence and find its vindication
in silence, is a spurious word without claim or title to our regard.
Origin is the stamp, in virtue of which we recognize the intrinsic value
of things. Let us, then, seek in silence the sufficient reason of
speech, and remember that the more enlightened the mind is, the more
concise is the speech that proceeds from it. Let us assume, then, that
this conciseness keeps pace with the elevation of the mind, and that
when the mind arrives at the perception of the true light, finding no
words that can portray the glories open to its view, it keeps silent and
admires. It is through silence that the mind rises to perfection, for
_silence is the speech of God_.

Apart from this consideration, silence recommends itself as a powerful
agent in oratorical effects. By silence the orator arouses the attention
of his audience, and often deeply moves their hearts. When Peter
Chrysologue, in his famous homily upon the gospel miracle of the healing
of the issue of blood, overcome by emotion, paused suddenly and remained
silent, all present immediately burst into sobs.

Furthermore, silence gives the orator time and liberty to judge of his
position. An orator should never speak without having thought, reflected
and arranged his ideas. Before speaking he should decide upon his
stand-point, and see clearly what he proposes to do. Even a fable may be
related from many points of view; from that of expression as well as
gesture, from that of inflection as well as articulate speech. All must
be brought back to a scene in real life, to one stand-point, and the
orator must create for himself, in some sort, the rôle of spectator.

Silence gives gesture time to concentrate, and do good execution.

One single rule applies to silence: Wherever there is ellipsis, there
is silence. Hence the interjection and conjunction, which are
essentially elliptic, must always be followed by a silence.

_Respiration._ - For the act of respiration, three movements are
necessary: inspiration, suspension and expiration.

_Its importance._ - Respiration is a faithful rendering of emotion. For
example: _He who reigns in the skies_. Here is a proposition which the
composed orator will state in a breath. But should he wish to prove his
emotion, he inspires after every word. _He - who - reigns - in - the - skies_.
Multiplied inspirations can be tolerated on the strength of emotion, but
they should be made as effective as possible.

Inspiration is allowable: -

1. After all words preceded or followed by an ellipse;
2. After words used in apostrophe, as Monsieur, Madame;
3. After conjunctions and interjections when there is silence;
4. After all transpositions; for example: _To live, one must work_. Here
the preposition _to_ takes the value of its natural antecedent,
_work_; that is to say, six degrees, since by inversion it precedes
it, and the gesture of the sentence bears wholly on the preposition;
5. Before and after incidental phrases;
6. Wherever we wish to indicate an emotion.

To facilitate respiration, stand on tip-toe and expand the chest.

Inspiration is a sign of grief; expiration is a sign of tenderness.
Sorrow is inspiratory; happiness, expiratory.

The inspiratory act expresses sorrow, dissimulation.

The expiratory act expresses love, expansion, sympathy.

The suspensory act expresses reticence and disquietude. A child who has
just been corrected deservedly, and who recognizes his fault, expires.
Another corrected unjustly, and who feels more grief than love,

Inspiration is usually regulated by the signs of punctuation, which have
been invented solely to give more exactness to the variety of sounds.


_Their importance._ - Sound, we have said, is the language of man in the
sensitive state. We call inflections the modifications which affect the
voice in rendering the emotions of the senses. The tones of the voice
must vary with the sensations, each of which should have its note. Of
what use to man would be a phonetic apparatus always rendering the same
sound? Delivery is a sort of music whose excellence consists in a
variety of tones which rise or fall according to the things they have to
express. Beautiful but uniform voices resemble fine bells whose tone is
sweet and clear, full and agreeable, but which are, after all, bells,
signifying nothing, devoid of harmony and consequently without variety.
To employ always the same action and the same tone of voice, is like
giving the same remedy for all diseases. "_Ennui_ was born one day from
monotony," says the fable.

Man has received from God the privilege of revealing the inmost
affections of his being through the thousand inflections of his voice.
Man's least impressions are conveyed by signs which reveal harmony, and
which are not the products of chance. A sovereign wisdom governs these

With the infant in its cradle the signs of sensibility are broken cries.
Their acuteness, their ascending form, indicate the weakness, and
physical sorrow of man. When the child recognizes the tender cares of
its mother, its voice becomes less shrill and broken; its tones have a
less acute range, and are more poised and even. The larynx, which is
very impressionable and the thermometer of the sensitive life, becomes
modified, and produces sounds and inflections in perfect unison with the
sentiments they convey.

All this, which man expresses in an imitative fashion, is numbered,
weighed and measured, and forms an admirable harmony. This language
through the larynx is universal, and common to all sensitive beings. It
is universal with animals as with man. Animals give the identical sounds
in similar positions.

The infant, delighted at being mounted on a table, and calling his
mother to admire him, rises to the fourth note of the scale. If his
delight becomes more lively, to the sixth; if the mother is less pleased
than he would have her, he ascends to the third minor to express his
displeasure. Quietude is expressed by the fourth note.

Every situation has its interval, its corresponding inflection, its
corresponding note: this is a mathematical language.

Why this magnificent concert God has arranged in our midst if it has no
auditors? If God had made us only intelligent beings, he would have
given us speech alone and without inflections. Let us further illustrate
the rôle of inflection.

A father receives a picture from his daughter. He expresses his
gratitude by a falling inflection: "Ah well! the dear child." The
picture comes from a stranger whom he does not know as a painter; he
will say, "Well now! why does he send me this?" raising his voice.

If he does not know from whom the picture comes, his voice will neither
rise nor fall; he will say, "Well! well! well!"

Let us suppose that his daughter is the painter. She has executed a
masterpiece. Astonished at the charm of this work and at the same time
grateful, his voice will have both inflections.

If surprise predominates over love the rising inflection will
predominate. If love and surprise are equal, he will simply say, "Well

_Kan_ in Chinese signifies at the same time the roof of a house, a
cellar, well, chamber, bed - the inflection alone determines the meaning.
Roof is expressed by the falling, cellar by the rising inflection. The
Chinese note accurately the depth and acuteness of sound, its intervals
and its intensity.

We can say: "It is pretty, this little dog!" in 675 different ways. Some
one would do it harm. We say: "This little dog is pretty, do not harm
it!" "It is pretty because it is so little." If it is a mischievous or
vicious dog, we use _pretty_ in an ironical sense. "This dog has bitten
my hand. It is a pretty dog indeed!" etc.

_Rules of Inflection._

1. Inflections are formed by an upward or downward slide of the voice,
or the voice remains in monotone. Inflections are, then, eccentric,
concentric and normal.

2. The voice rises in exaltation, astonishment, and conflict.

3. The voice falls in affirmation, affection and dejection.

4. It neither rises nor falls in hesitation.

5. Interrogation is expressed by the rising inflection when we do not
know what we ask; by the falling, when we do not quite know what we ask.
For instance, a person asks tidings of his friend's health, aware or
unaware that he is no better.

6. Musical tones should be given to things that are pleasing. Courtiers
give musical inflections to the words they address to royalty.

7. Every manifestation of life is a song; every sound is a song. But
inflections must not be multiplied, lest delivery degenerate into a
perpetual sing-song. The effect lies entirely in reproducing the same
inflection. A drop of water falling constantly, hollows a rock. A
mediocre man will employ twenty or thirty tones. Mediocrity is not the
too little, but the too much. The art of making a profound impression is
to condense; the highest art would be to condense a whole scene into one
inflection. Mediocre speakers are always seeking to enrich their
inflections; they touch at every range, and lose themselves in a
multitude of intangible effects.

8. In real art it is not always necessary to fall back upon logic. The
reason needs illumination from nature, as the eye, in order to see,
needs light. Reason may be in contradiction to nature. For instance, a
half-famished hunter, in sight of a good dinner, would say: "I am
_hungry_" emphasizing _hungry_, while reason would say that _am_ must be
emphasized. A hungry pauper would say: "I _am_ hungry," dwelling upon
_am_ and gliding over _hungry_. If he were not hungry, or wished to
deceive, he would dwell upon _hungry_.

_Special Inflections._

Among the special inflections we may reckon: -

1. _Exclamations._ - Abrupt, loud, impassioned sounds, and

2. _Cries._ - These are prolonged exclamations called forth by a lively
sentiment of some duration, as acute suffering, joy or terror. They are
formed by the sound _a_. In violent pain arising from a physical cause,
the cries assume three different tones: one grave, another acute, the
last being the lowest, and we pass from one to the other in a chromatic

There are appealing cries which ask aid in peril. These cries are formed
by the sounds ē and ŏ. They are slower than the preceding, but more
acute and of greater intensity.

3. _Groans._ - Here the voice is plaintive, pitiful, and formed by two
successive tones, the one sharp, the final one deep. Its monotony, the
constant recurrence of the same inflection, give it a remarkable

4. _Lamentation_ is produced by a voice loud, plaintive, despairing and
obstinate, indicating a heart which can neither contain nor restrain

5. _The sob_ is an uninterrupted succession of sounds produced by
slight, continuous inspirations, in some sort convulsive, and ending in
a long, violent inspiration.

6. _The sigh_ is a weak low tone produced by a quick expiration
followed by a slow and deep inspiration.

7. _The laugh_ is composed of a succession of loud, quick, monotonous
sounds formed by an uninterrupted series of slight expirations, rapid
and somewhat convulsive, of a tone more or less acute and prolonged, and
produced by a deep inspiration.

8. _Singing_ is the voice modulated or composed of a series of
appreciable tones.

Part Second.


Chapter I.

Of Gesture in General.

Human word is composed of three languages. Man says what he _feels_ by
inflections of the voice, what he _loves_ by gesture, what he _thinks_
by articulate speech. The child begins with feeling; then he loves, and
later, he reasons. While the child only feels, cries suffice him; when
he loves, he needs gestures; when he reasons, he must have articulate
language. The inflections of the voice are for sensations, gesture is
for sentiments; the buccal apparatus is for the expression of ideas.
Gesture, then, is the bond of union between inflection and thought.
Since gesture, in genealogical order, holds the second rank in human
languages, we shall reserve for it that place in the series of our
oratorical studies.

We are entering upon a subject full of importance and interest. We
purpose to render familiar the _heart language_, the expression of love.

We learn dead languages and living languages: Greek, Latin, German,
English. Is it well to know conventional idioms, and to ignore the
language of nature? The body needs education as well as the mind. This
is no trivial work. Let it be judged by the steps of the ideal ladder we
must scale before reaching the perfection of gesture. Observe the ways
of laboring men. Their movements are awkward, the joints do not play.
This is the first step.

At a more advanced stage, the shoulders play without the head. The
individual turns around with a great impulse from the shoulders, with
the leg raised, but the hand and the rest of the body remain inert. Then
come the elbows, but without the hand. Later come the wrist-joint and
the torso. With this movement of the wrist, the face becomes mobilized,
for there is great affinity between these two agents. The face and hand
form a most interesting unity. Finally, from the wrist, the articulation
passes to the fingers, and here is imitative perfection. If we would
speak our language eloquently, we must not be beguiled into any _patois_
of gesture.

Gesture must be studied in order to render it faultlessly elegant, but
in such a thorough way as not to seem studied. It has still higher
claims to our regard in view of the services it has rendered to
humanity. Thanks to this language of the heart, thousands of deaf-mutes
are enabled to endure their affliction, and to share our social
pleasures. Blessèd be the Abbé de l'Epée, who, by uniting the science of
gesture to the conventional signs of dactyology, has made the deaf hear
and the dumb speak! This beneficent invention has made gesture in a
twofold manner, the language of the heart.

Gesture is an important as well as interesting study. How beautiful it
is to see the thousand pieces of the myological apparatus set in motion
and propelled by this grand motor feeling! There surely is a joy in
knowing how to appreciate an image of Christ on the cross, in
understanding the attitudes of Faith, Hope and Charity. We can note a
mother's affection by the way she holds her child in her arms. We can
judge of the sincerity of the friend who grasps our hand. If he holds
the thumb inward and pendant, it is a fatal sign; we no longer trust
him. To pray with the thumbs inward and swaying to and fro, indicates a
lack of sacred fervor. It is a corpse who prays. If you pray with the
arms extended and the fingers bent, there is reason to fear that you
adore Plutus. If you embrace me without elevating the shoulders, you are
a Judas.

What can you do in a museum, if you have not acquired, if you do not
wish to acquire the science of gesture? How can you rightly appreciate
the beauty of the statue of Antinous? How can you note a fault in
Raphael's picture of Moses making water gush from the rock? How see that
he has forgotten to have the Israelites raise their shoulders, as they
stand rapt in admiration of the miracle? One versed in the science of
gesture, as he passes before the Saint Michael Fountain, must confess
that the statue of the archangel with its parallel lines, is little
better than the dragon at his feet.

In view of the importance and interest of the language of gesture, we
shall study it thoroughly in the second book of our course.

Chapter II.

Definition and Division of Gesture.

Gesture is the direct agent of the heart, the interpreter of speech. It
is elliptical discourse. Each part of this definition may be easily

1. _Gesture is the Direct Agent of the Heart._ - Look at an infant. For
some time he manifests his joy or sorrow through cries; but these are
not gesture. When he comes to know the cause of his joy or sorrow,
sentiment awakens, his heart opens to love or hatred, and he expresses
his new emotion not by cries alone, nor yet by speech; he smiles upon
his mother, and his first gesture is a smile. Beings endowed only with
the sensitive life, have no smile; animals do not laugh.

This marvelous correspondence of the organs with the sentiment arises
from the close union of soul and body. The brain ministers to the
operations of the soul. Every sentiment must have its echo in the brain,
in order to be unerringly transmitted by the organic apparatus.

_Ex visu cognoscitur vir._ ("The man is known by his face.") The rôle of
dissimulation is a very difficult one to sustain.

2. _Gesture is the Interpreter of Speech._ - Gesture has been given to
man to reveal what speech is powerless to express. For example: _I
love_. This phrase says nothing of the nature of the being loved,
nothing of the fashion in which one loves. Gesture, by a simple
movement, reveals all this, and says it far better than speech, which
would know how to render it only by many successive words and phrases. A
gesture, then, like a ray of light, can reflect all that passes in the

Hence, if we desire that a thing shall be always remembered, we must not
say it in words; we must let it be divined, revealed by gesture.
Wherever an ellipse is supposable in a discourse, gesture must intervene
to explain this ellipse.

3. _Gesture is an Elliptical Language._ - We call ellipse a hidden
meaning whose revelation belongs to gesture. A gesture must correspond
to every ellipse. For example: "This medley of glory and gain vexes me."
If we attribute something ignominious or abject to the word _medley_,
there is an ellipse in the phrase, because the ignominy is implied
rather than expressed. Gesture is then necessary here to express the
value of the implied adjective, _ignominious_.

Suppress this ellipse, and the gesture must also be suppressed, for
gesture is not the accompaniment of speech. It must express the idea
better and in another way, else it will be only a pleonasm, an after
conception of bad taste, a hindrance rather than an aid to intelligible

_Division of Gesture._

Every act, gesture and movement has its rule, its execution and its
_raison d'être_. The imitative is also divided into three parts: the
static, the dynamic and the semeiotic. The static is the base, the
dynamic is the centre, and the semeiotic the summit. The static is the
equiponderation of the powers or agents; it corresponds to life.

The dynamic is the form of movements. The dynamic is melodic, harmonic
and rhythmic. Gesture is melodic by its forms or its inflections. To
understand gesture one must study melody. There is great affinity
between the inflections of the voice and gesture. All the inflections of
the voice are common to gesture. The inflections of gesture are oblique
for the _life_, direct for the _soul_ and circular for the _mind_. These
three terms, oblique, direct and circular, correspond to the eccentric,
normal and concentric states. The movements of flection are direct,
those of rotation, circular, those of abduction, oblique.

Gesture is harmonic through the multiplicity of the agents which act in
the same manner. This harmony is founded upon the convergence or
opposition of the movements. Thus the perfect accord is the consonance
of the three agents, - head, torso and limbs. Dissonance arises from the
divergence of one of these agents.

Finally, gesture is rhythmic because its movements are subordinated to
a given measure. The dynamic corresponds to the _soul_.

The semeiotic gives the reason of movements, and has for its object the
careful examination of inflections, attitudes and types.

Under our first head, we treat of the static and of gesture in general;
under our second, of the dynamic, and of gesture in particular; and
finally, under our third head, of the semeiotic, with an exposition of
the laws of gesture.

Chapter III.

Origin and Oratorical Value of Gesture.


The infant in the cradle has neither speech nor gesture: - he cries. As
he gains sensibility his tones grow richer, become inflections, are
multiplied and attain the number of three million special and distinct
inflections. The young infant manifests neither intelligence nor
affection; but he reveals his life by sounds. When he discerns the
source of his joys or sufferings, he loves, and gesticulates to repulse
or to invite. The gestures, which are few at first, become quite
numerous. It is God's art he follows; he is an artist without knowing

_Oratorical Value of Gesture._

The true aim of art is to move, to interest and to persuade. Emotion,

Online LibraryVariousDelsarte System of Oratory → online text (page 3 of 31)