Page images
PDF
EPUB

FULL LUNGS-PRONUNCIATION.

[ocr errors]

363

long sentence, and as far as possible keep them all the time inflated. This practical direction is of great value to speakers. In an expiration the lungs are never entirely emptied, but they may be so nearly so that it is impossible to speak easily and loud. In such a case the muscles of the throat and the upper part of the chest do all the work. The result is exhaustion and, often, bronchitis. But let the lungs be full, let the position be erect, and let the speaker pause frequently enough to inflate his lungs fully-not usually through the mouth, but through the nostrils and the voice comes out easily, the whole chest plays, and the abdominal muscles, as a kind of reserved force, assist the lungs in time of need; and thus a man, with suitable variations of tone and rapidity, can address a thousand people for several hours without bodily weariness, and repeat the exercise daily without harm. Speak naturally, variously, and with fully expanded lungs, thus using the abdominal muscles, and so far from producing bronchitis, public speaking will be found to be its most efficient preventive, and even remedy. This should not be called "preachers' sore throat," but "poor speakers' sore throat."

18. A Correct Pronunciation.—It seems almost superfluous to call attention to correctness of pronunciation, as one of the mechanical elements of Elocution. Sometimes, but rarely, does a mispronunciation of a word—an error in accent or in the sound of a syllable -mislead the hearer, but it always betokens that the speaker is ignorant of the right way. If one pronounces many words incorrectly he will be regarded as an

ignorant man; his opinion, especially on matters that require scholarship and attention to nice particulars, will not be so highly esteemed as though he were habitually correct.

19. Proper Positions of the Body.-The bodily positions assumed by the speaker have an influence upon the hearers, and, reciprocally, upon the speaker, and thus constitute an element of mechanical Elocution. For the most part, the body should be naturally erect, so as to give full play to the lungs and throat, but not excessively and unyieldingly so, thus indicating haughtiness or pride. If the weight is supported chiefly upon the left foot, with the right foot a little advanced, and right knee slightly bent, the body is in the best natural position to furnish an easy play for the right hand in gesture. A similar resting upon the right foot is an equally easy position, furnishing an easy play for the left hand. Animated speaking will naturally lead to an advance of the foot that was partially unoccupied, now resting the principal weight upon it, and communicating to the person an appearance of deep earnestness. Any position not uncouth or awkward, or too persistently maintained, is allowable. Speaking behind a high desk which conceals the most of the person, and is often leaned upon, leads to pernicious habits of position, and often deprives what is uttered of a great part of its effect. Speakers should not be separated from audiences by a fence. If the fence exists, let the speaker, as far as possible, ignore it.

20. Gesticulation.-Gesticulation may, to a narrow

[blocks in formation]

extent, be an element of natural language. There are gestures instinctively acknowledged to be significant. The open hand betokens generosity and favor; the clenched hand earnestness, sometimes defiance; the quivering hand excitement and zeal. No explanation is needed of such gestures as pointing in any direction, looking upward or downward, striking with the hand, or stamping with the foot. If by private practice the student has disciplined himself to a variety of movements, not constrained but free and easy, the motions that will be spontaneously assumed under the influence of excited feeling will be the best for him to employ. An impassive, immobile style of speaking is the most reprehensible. The speaker is not a machine to grind out words mechanically. There should be some good reason why the people would rather hear than read his speech. If he has earnestness, or any emotion, it will show itself in the voice, the eye, the position, the movements of the hands, and arms, and feet, and the whole body. The body of an orator should be, for the time, an obedient servant of the mind. It should not be trammelled by any awkward habits, but yield itself to the expression of thought and emotion.

At the same time excessive gesture is more disagreeable than deficiency. It soon satiates and disgusts. It reacts against the speaker, and calls attention away from the words uttered to the manner, which is fatal to all genuine eloquence.

CHAPTER III.

INTELLECTUAL AND MORAL ELEMENTS OF ELOCUTION.

21. Intellectual Character of Elocution.-ELOCUTION is far more comprehensive and subtle in its laws and powers than would appear simply from those mechanical elements already described. It is pre-eminently intellectual and emotional. It is the art by which mind and heart produce the greatest effect on mind and heart. It is almost inexhaustible in its resources, and makes subservient to its purposes nearly all modes of acting upon the human soul.

22. Relation of Sound to Thought.—Consider first its relation to sounds. Some sounds intrinsically suggest certain thoughts and feelings. It is not a matter of association, but of intuition. Even a young animal can distinguish between a call, and a cry of alarm and warning, made by its mother. Is a human being inferior, in this matter, to a brute? Does a child need to be taught that the roar of a lion or the barking of a dog is disagreeable, that the hissing of a snake is hateful, or that the singing of a bird is melodious? How early does an infant distinguish the meaning of the various voices of the mother! In these facts we see the germ of music, whose wondrous power has been the theme of many an oration and poem.

EFFECT OF VARIOUS SOUNDS.

367

But, developed in a different direction, sounds made by the human voice become significant, wholly independent of the meaning arbitrarily associated with words. There is a certain amount of vocal language without articulation. A man who speaks only a foreign language can communicate many ideas by his voice. A new word invented for the occasion, or a word of another language not understood, may be so uttered, or intoned, as to indicate successively a request, a command, pleasure, pain, laughter, indignation, and scorn. Indeed were men confined to inarticulate language, it might, by culture, become no mean vehicle of thought and emotion. It is said that a noted actor, by the repetition of the word Mesopotamia, could make many of his hearers shed tears. Sounds alone, especially musical notes, can awaken, or subdue, or modify passion. It is not a matter of fashion or caprice, that public prayers are intoned, or uttered in a peculiar voice, which would be ridicu lously inappropriate in conversation or in a secular oration. There are peculiar tones of voice appropriate to the expression, respectively, of plaintive emotion, entreaty, love, reverence, fear, anger, authority, surprise, awe, instruction, suggestion, denial, resolution, and almost all other passions and states of the mind.

23. Employment of this Principle by Oratory.- The accomplished orator uses these various tones and kinds of voice, and blends their influence with the meaning of the words which he utters. A sentence uttered by him means little or much, as he desires to have it. It

« PreviousContinue »