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HILE the best instructors agree that Nature furnishes the
basis of all true eloquence, and that they are the most accomplished and most effective speakers who observe her laws, yet it must be conceded that Art can do much to guide and control the faculties which she has conferred on man: hence, although we do not present, or attempt to present a system of elocution, yet we believe that a few concise, practical suggestions upon the subject may be of importance to the pupil, in preventing erroneous modes of utterance, and in assisting him to acquire a proper and natural style of delivery.
We would, however, warn him at the outset not to commit the grave error of supposing that any directions, or any set of rules, can supply the place either of careful, constant drill, in accordance with fixed principles, or the instructions of the living teacher, whose example is needed to influence the imitative powers of the learner.
In order to simplify the subject as much as possible, attention is asked to but four particulars, upon which all elocutionary rules depend - ARTICULATION, EMPHASIS, MODULATION, DELIVERY.
Articulation is the distinct utterance of the elements of spoken or vocal language.
It is effected by the proper action of the vocal organs, which, with the muscles of the mouth, not only secure distinctness of enunciation, but also add very materially to the expressiveness of the face.
It is impossible to give too much attention to this particular; for words or phrases not clearly and fully received by the ear, can not affect the judgment or influence the feelings. A public speaker, with but a moderate volume of voice, is better understood and is more effective, if he articulates correctly, than one who vociferates without knowledge or discretion.
Distinctness of articulation may be acquired by drill: 1. Upon separate vowel and consonant sounds. 2. Upon combined vowel and consonant sounds. 3. Upon words: the elementary sounds separately, and then the whole word. 4. Upon words in sentences, avoiding the union of the sound of one word with that of another.
Vowels and Difficult Consonant Combinations. 1. Clime, club; glad, glen; spleen, split; crew, crow; drop, drub; three, threw; shred, shrub; scrip, scroll; squaw, squib; twang, twig.
2. Reefs, fifes ; pelf, wolf; whelm, film; yolk, sulk; false, else; quilt, bolt; valve, shelve; cask, frisk; chasm, schism; hives, loves. 3. Maddened, deadened; beckoned, likened ; gulped, scalped; orbed, barbed; arched, searched; forked, worked; hustles, measles; drivels, grovels; giv'st, serv'st; dazzled, frizzled.
4. Sobb’dst, digg'dst, wedg’dst, shav’dst, buckl'st, puzzl’st, sift'st, darken’st, poison’st, drunk'st, storm'st, breath'st, humbl’dst, battl'dst, burn'dst, season'dst, catch’dst, gulp'dst, strengthen'st.
Words in Sentences.
1. He watched and wept, he prayed and felt for all.
2. He could speak upon either side of the question; he could speak upon neither side.
3. Masses of immense magnitude move majestically through the vast extent of the solar system. 4. That morning, thou, that slumber'dst not before,
Nor sleptst, - great ocean, – laidst thy waves at rest,
And hush'dst thy mighty minstrelsy.
The solemn temples, the great globe itself, –
NOTE. — Correct pronunciation and accent can be obtained only by following the rules laid down in some standard dictionary.
Emphasis is a stress of voice laid upon a word or a phrase, in order to bring out its meaning, and the meaning of the sentence, in the most impressive and forcible manner.
Upon the proper placing of emphasis depends not only the meaning of a sentence, but also the life and spirit of all discourse; as, otherwise, the speaker cannot convey what he understands and feels, and, consequently, he will fail utterly to make any impression upon his hearers.
As emphasis is determined solely by the sentiment to be expressed, no rule can be given which will regulate its place, kind, or degree, except the general one — that the speaker must thoroughly comprehend the idea to be uttered, and be guided by a just conception of its force and spirit.
In delivery, he should pause before and after each emphatic word, and let his voice dwell upon it for a greater or less length of time, as the sense requires.
Examples. 1. I do not ask, I demand your attention.
2. The war is inevitable, and LET IT COME! I repeat it, sir, LET IT COME!
3. The wicked fee when no man pursueth; but the righteous are bold as a lion.
4. The young are slaves to novelty; the old, to custom, the middleaged, to both; the dead, to neither.
5. But yesterday, the word of Cæsar might
Have stood against the world; now lies he there,
And none so poor to do him reverence.
But this very day,
Modulation is the varying of the voice so as to express the feelings and the emotions inspired by the subject of discourse.
It refers to the right management of the voice as regards loudness and volume, and includes inflection, pitch, force, and quality; and, therefore, it produces that variety of expression so essential to eloquence.
Correct modulation can be obtained by strict attention to the natural variations of tone in ordinary conversation or in earnest speech, by drill, by judgment in determining the idea to be expressed, by accommodating the sound to the sense, and by identification with the person to be represented.
INFLECTIONS are turns or slides of the voice in uttering a letter, a syllable, or a word.
The Rising Inflection is the upward slide of the voice. It is usually indicated by the acute accent (7): thus, Is he truthful?'
The Falling Inflection is the downward slide of the voice. It is usually indicated by the grave accent (): thus, Would you make men truthful?' Believe them.
The Circumflex Inflection is the union of the rising and the falling inflection. It is usually indicated by the union of the acute and the grave accent (^or V): thus, And thîs man is nởw become a gôd!
Examples. 1. Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish, I give my hand and my heart to this vote. 2.
What men could do
Pitch is the degree of the elevation of vocal sound.
Middle Pitch is that which is, or should be employed in ordinary conversation, and expresses moderate emotion.
Low Pitch is that which is below the usual speaking key, and expresses deep feeling; as, Silence, how dread! darkness, how profound!
High Pitch is that which is above the usual speaking key, and expresses pity, and joyous feeling; as, Ring, happy bells, across the
Examples. 1. Education, when it works upon a noble mind, draws out to view every latent virtue and perfection, which, without such helps, are never able to make their appearance.
2. There was silence, and I heard a voice saying,
“Shall mortal man be more just than God
Shall a man be more pure than his Maker ?”
No sleep till morn, when Youth and Pleasure meet