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One elementary principle which has been more than once suggested already, respecting management of the voice, deserves to be repeated here, because of its direct bearing on the subject of this chapter and the next.
No useful purpose can be answered by attempting to establish any system of inflections in reading and speaking, except so far as these inflections do actually accompany, in good speakers, the spontaneous expression of sentiinent and emotion. We say without any scruple, that certain feelings of the speaker are commonly expressed with certain modifications of voice. These modifications we can describe in a manner not difficult to be understood. But here a serious obstacle meets us. The pupil is told how emotion speaks in a given case, and then he attempts to do the same thing without emotion. But great as this difficulty is, it is not peculiar to any one mode of instruction; it attends every system of elocution that can be devised. Take, for example, the standing canon, BE NATURAL, which for ages has been thought the only adequate direction in delivery. This maxim is just; it is simple; it is easily repeated by a teacher ;—but who does not know that it has been repeated a thousand times without any practical advantage? What is it to be natural? It is so to speak that the modifications of voice
shall be such as feeling demands. But here is the same obstacle as before ;--the pupil attempts to be natural in speaking, and fails, just because he attempts to do what feeling demands, without feeling. This intrinsic difficulty accompanies every theory on this subject, even when no perverted habits of voice are to be encountered, and much more where such habits exist. The only remedy to be relied on is that which I have briefly urged in another place. The Teacher, who would give his pupils a just emphasis and modulation, must unceasingly impress on them the importance of entering with feeling into the sentiments which they are to utter.
EMPhasis is governed by the laws of sentiment, being inseparably associated with thought and emotion. It is the most important principle, by which elocution is related to the operations of mind. Hence when it stands opposed to the claims of custom or of harmony, these always give way to its supremacy.
The accent which custom attaches to a word, emphasis may supersede; as we have seen under the foregoing article. Custom requires a cadence at the final pause, but emphasis often turns the voice upward at the end of a sentence; as,
You were paid to fight against Alexander, not to răil at him. See  p. 64. Harmony requires the voice to rise at the pause before the cadence; whereas emphasis sometimes prescribes the falling slide at this pause, to enforce the sense ; as,
Better to reign in hell, than serve in heaven. Now I presume that every one, who is at all accustomed to accurate observation on this subject, must be
sensible bow very little this grand principle is regarded in forming our earliest habits of elocution; and therefore how hopeless are all efforts to correct what is wrong in these habits, without a just knowledge of emphasis.
What then is emphasis? Without staying to assign reasons why I am dissatisfied with definitions heretofore given, by respectable writers, the following is offered as more complete, in my opinion, than others which I have seen. Emphasis is a distinctive utterance of words, which are especially significant, with such a degree and kind of stress, as conveys their meaning in the best manner.
According to this definition, I would include the whole subject under emphatic stress and emphatic inflection.
19] Sect. 1.-Emphatic Stress. This consists chiefly in the loudness of the note, but includes also the time in which important words are uttered. Both these are commonly united ; but the latter, since it will require some notice when I come to speak of rate and emphatic pause, may be dismissed here, as to its separate consideration, with a single remark. A good reader or speaker, when he utters a word on which the meaning of a sentence is suspended, spontaneously dwells on that word, or gives it more time, according to the intensity of its meaning. The significance and weight which he thus attaches to words that are important, is a very different thing from the abrupt and jerking emphasis, which is often witnessed in a bad delivery. Bearing this fact in mind, we may proceed to consider, more particularly, why emphatic stress belongs to some words, and not to others.
The indefinite description which was formerly given of emphasis, as a stress laid on one or more words to distinguish them from others,' was attended with a correspondent confusion in practice. In some books of elocution, more than half the words were printed in Italics, and regarded as equally emphatical. To remedy so great a fault, Walker proposed his threefold classification of words,
as pronounced with emphatic force, accented force, or unaccented force. The first he considered as belonging to words of peculiar significance; the second to nouns, verbs, &c.the third to connectives and particles. But these distinctions, after all, leave a very plain subject in obscurity ; for it is enough to say that emphatic force is to be governed solely by sense ; and that the word, to whatever part of speech it belongs, which renders but little aid in forming the sense, should be passed over with but little stress of voice. It is indeed generally true that a subordinate rank belongs to particles, and to all those words which merely express some circumstance of a thought. And when a word of this sort is raised above its relative importance, by an undue stress in pronunciation, we perceive a violence done to other words of more significance ; and we hardly admit even the metrical accent of poetry to be any excuse for so obvious an offence against propriety. One example of this sort we have in the common manner of reading this couplet of Watts
Show pity, Lord, O Lord, forgive,
Let a repenting rebel live. This stress upon a, in the second line, shows the absence of just discrimination in the reader.*
* I beg leave to ask here, if it shows want of taste in the reader, in such a case, to sacrifice the sense to the syllabic accent of po
But to show that emphasis attaches itself not to the part of speech, but to the meaning of a word, let one of these little words become important in sense, and then it demands a correspondent stress of voice.
We have an example in the two following sentences, ending with the particle so. In one it is used incidentally, and is barely to be spoken distinctly. In the other it is the chief word, and must be spoken forcibly. “And Saul said unto Michal, why hast the decèived me so ?"« Then said the high priest, are these things só ?”
Another example may show how a change of stress on a particle changes the entire sense of a sentence. In the narrative of Paul's voyage from Troas to Jerusalem, it is said, “ Paul bad determined to sail by Ephesus.” This sentence, with a moderate stress on Ephesus, implies that the Apostle meant to stop there ; just as a common phrase, “ the ship is going to Holland by Liverpool,” --implies that she will touch at the latter place.
Now, what was the fact in the case of Paul ? The
etry, why is it, that, in the sister art of music, as applied to metrical psalmody, no practical distinction is made between accent and emphasis ? On the contrary, a choir is so trained in psalmody, as not to reflect whether one word has more meaning than another, but whether its relative position requires strong or feeble utterance. Thus a full volume of sound is poured out on a preposition, for example. just because it happens to coincide with musical note at the beginning of a bar. Illustrations of this are so many that they may be taken almost at random. In the Hymn beginning,
God of the morning, at whose voice, the musical accent, in many tunes would recur four times during the line, and two of these on prepositions. But is there no philosophy and rhetoric in inusic? Is the spirit of this divine art to be rigidly tied down by mere rules of harmony and metrical stress? Music is but an elegant and charming species of elocution. And, important as accent is, it should never contravene the laws of sentiment in the former, more than in the latter art.