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knowledge for thyself; wisdom and knowledge is granted
"Fair ladies mask'd are roses in their buds,
"He proposed an amicable adjustment of all difficulties." "We must fight it through."
"It must be so."
"After the most straitest sect."
"This was the most unkindest cut."
"Amidst the mists he thrusts his fists against the posts,
Quintilian observes, that "there is no one who has not obtained something by application." Practising upon the elements and upon difficult sentences, will prepare the voice for recitation, reading, and public speaking.
The Grecians were obliged to exhibit satisfactory evidence, that they had been engaged for ten months at Elis, in gymnastic and almost incessant exercises, before they were allowed to contend for any of the prizes of the national games at Olympia. The great object at which they seem to have aimed, was, to excel each other. Be it ours to endeavor to surpass our former selves. Let us cherish that spirit which is portrayed by Dryden :
"C A noble emulation heats your breast,
And your own fame now robs you of your rest."
Let American youth spend as much time in improving their elocution, as the Greeks did in qualifying themselves to run for the prizes at the Olympic games; and, to say the least, good readers and speakers would be greatly multiplied among us.
It is certainly vain to imagine, that while a knowledge of law, theology, physic, &c. cannot be obtained without study, yet, that proficiency in oratory requires no effort at all. Nature can only lay the foundation; the superstructure, with all its ornaments, is the work of education. Although those noble gifts of mind, without which no one can become an eloquent speaker, are from nature's God, yet articulation, the elements, quantity, &c. are to be learned.
By indefatigable study, and long continued practice, the renowned orators of antiquity became almost perfect in articulation. They were unwilling that even a single error should escape their lips. This is one of the great secrets of their im mortality. They knew that the faculty of speech is the power of giving sounds to thought. They were correct in their views; and nothing is wanting but zeal and perseverance, to enable the young men of the United States, to make great and extraordinary improvement in oratory.
SPECIMENS, ACCOMPANIED BY OBSERVATIONS, ILLUSTRATIVE OF GOOD READING.
In order to read well, the meaning of an author must be perfectly understood. If it be not, an individual will necessarily read at random. The reason there is so much formality and affectation in the declamation of school-boys, is owing to their ignorance of the meaning of the writers whose pieces they attempt to recite. Can a school-boy analyze the works of the great and unrivalled delineator of human character? Can he read well the writings of him, whose "thoughts that voluntarily move harmonious numbers," elevate the mind to the "blue serene?" Has his voice fulness, power, and stately elegance enough to exemplify the majesty of Shakspeare and Milton? In vain, may he undertake to read or recite Hamlet's soliloquy on death, Antony's oration over Cæsar's body, or the meeting of Satan, Sin, and Death. Unless his instructor teaches him the meaning of such pieces, and of all pieces which he does not understand, his attempts at declamation will be unsuccessful, and unattended with beneficial results. It avails nothing for a teacher to say to his scholars: You read too fast; you don't mind your stops;
"Learn to speak slow-all other graces
This is mere poetry, in which there is but little truth. There are many bad readers whose faults do not consist in quick time.
Equally unavailing is it, for a teacher to tell his pupils to be natural. The teacher himself must be a good reader, otherwise
his scholars cannot become so. If the copy he sets be in bad taste, let him not blame his imitators. To read the narrative of the blind man, and St. Paul's description of the resurrection,to speak of the turning of a top, and of the bright orbs which circle their way in the heavens,-to tell a story and attemp to pour forth
"the resistless eloquence of woe,"
in the same intonations, key, and quantity of voice, is as ab surd as it would be to sing, were it practicable, all sentiments in Mear or Old Hundred.
They know little of human nature, who do not know that no faculty in a child is stronger, or earlier developed than imi tation. We are no less creatures of imitation than of habit. Let the teacher of reading, then, be his lesson. Let him in his own person, illustrate and justify the poet's representation:
"A proper judge will read each work of wit
If teachers of youth would always take pains to understand the meaning of an author, and would read to their pupils under the influence of the same feelings which animated him at the time he wrote, good readers would be as common, they are now rare, among us. Educators must be educated,teachers themselves must be taught elocution, before they are competent to teach the sublime art to others. No man should assume a station until he is in some measure-qualified to perform the duties which it imposes upon him. It is not enough that a minister, lawyer, physician, or teacher, does the best he He must know what are the duties of his profession; and knowing, perform them well.
A distinguished writer observes, that "not to teach, is only the absence of good; to misteach, is positive evil." It is even so. Pupils naturally and almost unavoidably imbibe the errors of their teachers. As the pupil advances in years, his errors increase in number and force, until it is almost impossible for him to unlearn and abandon them. The earlier, therefore, elocution is taught, the better.
Without farther remarks on reading, attention is invited to a few specimens, designed to show the indispensable necessity of perfectly understanding an author, in order to do him
justice. The Scriptures are not always read with nice dis crimination; in other words, the sense or sentiment is sometimes improperly or imperfectly conveyed. Philip inquired of the nobleman of Ethiopia, "Understandest thou what thou readest?" May we not ask some readers of the Bible, in modern times, the same question? And, moreover, if individuals do understand what they read, is it not often the case, that their intonations of voice are unadapted to the subject? The power of expressing the emotions of the heart, as well as the operations of the mind, is recognized in the Scriptures. King David speaks of "the voice of joy," and "the voice of supplication;" by which he doubtless means, that the elocution of joy is very different from that of prayer.
A striking instance of the importance of inquiring into the meaning of an author, and of adapting the voice to it, is to be found in the latter part of St. John, xix. 6. Pilate is there represented to have said to the chief priests and officers who were determined to imbrue their hands and hearts in the blood of Jesus Christ: "Take ye him, and crucify him; for I find no fault in him." All who are familiar with that portion of the Scriptures which relates to the crucifixion, know that Pilate thus spake, after he had taken Jesus into the judgment hall by himself, and examined him, and had become so well satisfied of his innocence, that he believed him to be, as he says in Matthew, xxvii. 24, "a just person." It is written in St. Mark, xv. 14, that Pilate inquired of the chief priests who called upon him to deliver Christ into their hands; "Why, what evil hath he done?" In St. Luke, xxiii. 4, Pilate said,. "I find no fault in this man." It is certain that Pilate saw no evidence that Christ was guilty of the crimes with which he was charged. It is equally certain that he intended "to have no hand in his death." It is, therefore, easy to perceive that if the passage in St. John: "Take ye him and crucify him, for I find no fault in him," be read at random, as absurd an idea may be conveyed, as if a court of oyer and terminer should say to the sheriff of a county, in reference to a man charged with the perpetration of a crime, but against whom no evidence had been adduced to prove him guilty: Take this man and execute him, for he is innocent! By giving sufficient power of voice to make the word "ye," prominent, and the letter "I" still more so, the true meaning will be con veyed. Thus: "Take ye him and crucify him, for I find no
fault in him;" and, inasmuch as I do not, Pilate might have added, I will have nothing to do with his crucifixion. It was foolish as well as wicked in Pilate, to release a personage into the cruel hands of persecutors and murderers, whom he believed to be so innocent, that, as he says in St. John, xviii. 38, he could "find in him no fault at all."
My principal object, however, in directing the reader's at tention to this subject, is to illustrate a highly essential princi ple in elocution, the importance of correct reading.
An example from Macbeth, in Shakspeare, may serve to illustrate still farther, the necessity of ascertaining the exact meaning of every sentence we read. Duncan, king of Scotland, consented to become the guest of his kinsman, Macbeth. An opportunity for murdering the king, offers itself. Macbeth's ambitious wife conjures him not to let it slip. Macbeth had met three of Shakspeare's imaginary beings, called witches, two of whom hailed him with titles of nobility; the third, with that of future king. This circumstance, combined with the importunity of Lady Macbeth and his own towering ambition, led him to assassinate the king and seize upon the crown. When the dagger hovered before Macbeth's eyes, at the feast, his mind was "ill at ease." He was fearful that justice would cry out "trumpet-tongued against the deep damnation" of the sanguinary deed. But the demoniac firmness of his wicked wife "screwed his courage to the sticking point" in the murder of the king. While revo.ving over in his mind the consequences which would accrue to him and others, from the commission of the atrocious crime, he said:
"If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well
By saying "if it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly," Macbeth means: if, when the crime is committed, no evil consequence will result from it, the sooner it is perpetrated, the better. It is, therefore, necessary to elevate the voice on the word done, as it first occurs. Any other mode of reading it, conveys either no idea, or a very absurd one. Repentance immediately follows; nay, if it be proper