Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

In reading this simile, the voice should fall into a plaintive monotone at So when a smooth expanse, and continue this tone till the words wat ry breast, the first of which must have the falling, and the last the rising inflection. The next couplet must be

pronounced differently, that is, the rising inflection on grow, and the falling on glow, to express the portion of perfect sense it includes. The rest of the simile must be pronounced with considerable variety ; the voice must assume a brisker, swifter tone, and the inflections must be various, to express the variety of objects thrown together on a sudden.

But in the following simile, from the same beautiful poem, where the youth shows the hermit the cup he has stolen, the voice must continue in a monotone till the last member, and looks with fear, which must end with the rising inflection :

Then pleas’d and thankful from the porch they go,
And, but the landlord, none had cause of wo:
His cup was vanish'd ; for, in secret guise,
The younger guest purloin'd the glittering prize:

As one who spies a serpent in his way,
Glist'ning and basking in the summer ray,
Disorder'd stops, to shun the danger near,
Then walks with faintness on, and looks with fear,-
So seem'd the sire, when, far upon the road,

The shining spoil his wily partner show'd. The same observations may be applied to a simile in a beautiful poem, called The Shipwreck, canto ii. v. 175:

While o'er the foam the ship impetuous flies,
Th’ attentive pilot still the hohn applies :
As in pursuit along the aërial way,
With ardent eye the falcon marks his prey,
Each motion watches of the doubtful chase,
Obliquely wheeling through the liqud space;
So govern'd by the steersman's glowing hands,
The regent helm her motion still cominands.

Here the voice falls into a lower tone at the third line, and continues this tone to the end of the fourth, which concludes with the rising inflection: the next couplet requires exactly the same tone of voice, but must have the rising inflection in a somewhat higher tone on space, when, after a long pause, the voice begins the last couplet in a higher tone than the two preceding ones, and admits of a variety of inflection on several of its parts.

But when in descriptive poetry a simile is introduced to illustrate some grand or terrible object, the monotone is no less suitable than in placid subjects. This may be illustrated by a passage from the beautiful poem

last quoted :
Rous'd from his trance, he mounts with eyes aghast,
When o'er the ship in undulation vast
A giant surge down rushes from on high,
And fore and aft dissever'd ruins lie;
As when, Britannia's empire to maintain,
Great Hawke descends in thunder on the main,
Around the brazen voice of battle roars,
And fatal lightnings blast the bostile shores ;
Beneath the storm their shatter'd navies groan,
The trembling deep recoils from zone to zone ;
Thus the torn vessel felt thi' enormous stroke,

The beams beneath the thund'ring deluge broke. In reading this passage the voice ought to fall into a lower tone at the fifth line, and continue nearly in a monotone till thunder on the main, the first of which words must have the falling, and the last the rising inflection : the next couplet assumes the same low monotone, and continues it to hostile shores, which adopt the falling and rising inflections like thunder and main: the succeeding couplet commences and continues the monotone like the last till the two words zone and zone, the first of which has the falling, and the last the rising inflection, in a somewhat higher tone than in the two former lines : but the last couplet, which applies the simile, begins in a high tone of voice, adopts the falling inflection on vessel, and lowers the voice gradually on the last line to the end.

Prosopopéia. Prosopopeia, or Personification, is the investing of qualities or things inanimate with the character of persons, or the introducing of dead or absent persons, as if they were alive and present. This is at once one of the boldest and finest figures in rhetoric. Poets are prodigal in their use of this figure, but orators more sparing, as nothing but a degree of enthusiasm can make it appear natural. The general rule for pronouncing this species of figure will be easily conceived, when we recollect that, wherever we give language to a character, we must give that language such a pronunciation as is suitable to that character. Thus, when Cicero introduced Milo as speaking to the citizens of Rome :

Should he, holding up his bloody sword, cry out, “Attend, I pray, hearken, 0 citizens! I have killed Clodius; by this sword, and by this right hand, I have kept off his rage from your throats, which no laws, no courts of judicature could restrain ; it is by my means that justice, equity, laws, liberty, shame, and modesty, remain in the city.”—Is it to be feared how the city would bear this declaration! Is there any one who, in such a case, would not approve and commend it?

In pronouncing this passage, we must give the words of Milo all that energy and fire which we suppose would actuate him on such an occasion. The right arm must be lifted up and extended ; the voice loud and elevated, as if speaking to a multitude, and almost every word must be emphatical; a long pause must precede the first question, which must begin in a low tone of voice, and end with the rising inflection; and as the last question is in opposition to the first, by contrasting approbation with disapprobation, it ought to be pronounced differently, and end with the falling inflection ; according to the rule laid down in the Elements of Elocution.

But here a question will naturally arise about the force we are to give to this figure when we only read it. Are we, it will be demanded, to give all the force and energy which we suppose Milo made use of, when we merely read it in Cicero's orations ? Yes, it may be answered, if we read these orations oratorically. But if we read them only to inform our hearers of the subject, without assuming the character of the orator, it is certain that there is no necessity for the same force as in the rostrum. The character we assume when we take up the book makes all the difference. The pronunciation expected from a gentleman by a small circle of his friends is as different from that of the orator, as the language of the orator is from the chit-chat of conversation ; but if the gentleman should, for the entertainment of his friends, assume the character of the orator, it is then expected that he should give the composition all the force and energy of which it is susceptible, that is, all the force and energy that would become the characters whose words are assumed. Thus Milton may be read by a person who forms no pretensions to public notice in a manner very differently from one who pronounces from the rostrum; . but if Milton be read to the greatest advantage, it must certainly be in the latter, and not the former

manner; though it must still be carefully observed, that these two manners differ only in degrees of force; the tones, inflections, and gesticulations, are essentially the same in both.

It was observed, in speaking of the Hypotyposis, that there is often a leading passion, which so absorbs the mind of the speaker, as to give every other passion which passes through it a strong tincture of itself. This leading passion may, for the sake of distinction, be called primary, and the other, secondary. If we so far forget the primary passion as to assume the secondary entirely, we fall into mimickry, and render our expression, however just in other respects, ridiculous. Thus, in the following speech of Hotspur in the first part of Henry the IVth:

-For it made me mad
To see him shine so brisk, and smell so sweet,
And talk so like a waiting gentlewoman,
Of guns, and drums, and wounds, (heav'n save the mark!)
And telling me the sovereign'st thing on earth
Was spermaceti for an inward bruise ;
And that it was great pity, so it was,
That villanous saltpetre should be digg'd
Out of the bowels of the harmless earth,
Which many a good tall fellow had destroy'd
So cowardly; and but for these vile guns,
He would himself have been a soldier.
This bald unjointed chat of his, my lord,
I answerd indirectly, as I said ;
And I beseech you let not his report
Come current for an accusation

Betwixt my love and your high majesty. If the hero who pronounces this description were to divest himself of the primary passions, anger and contempt, and go so far into the secondary as to assume the character he describes, we might laugh at him as a mimic, but should despise him as a man :-no; while

« VorigeDoorgaan »