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“When breezes are soft, and skies are fair,
I steal an hour from study and care,
Had given their stain to the wave they drink.” The same general class of tones, predominates in the reading of common narration or description, in prose.
"Being now. resolved to be a poet, I saw every thing with a new purpose; my sphere of attention was suddenly magnified: no kind of knowledge was to be overlooked. I ranged mountains and deserts for images and resemblances, and pictured upon my mind every tree of the forest and flower of the valley. I observed with equal care the crags of the rock, and the pinnacles of the palace. Sometimes I wandered along the mazes of the rivulet, and sometimes watched the changes of the summer clouds.”
The moderate order of tones prevails also in the style of essays and discourses.
Successive T'ones. The tones of the voice are now to be considered as occurring in succession, according to the various sentiments introduced in the course of the composition; and producing that frequent and easy variation of the voice* by which it changes in force, pitch, and rate, accommodating itself to the varying character of the language, giving to every shade of thought and emotion its appropriate utterance, and forming a stream of voice which deepens or expands, retards or accelerates its current, and shifts its course, according to the varying flow of style. The general tone of reading is thus made to resemble that of free and animated conversation on interesting subjects.
* Tone and “modulation" are usually presented as distinct and separate qualities in the management of the voice. This arrangement is unfavourable to a natural cultivation of vocal expression. It renders modulation more difficult than it really is, by representing it as necessarily a different thing from tone, an attainment which occurs late in the order of acquisition, and as one for which a young learner is not responsible. Variation of tone being thus neglected in the early stages of instruction and practice, a hard, unmeaning, and wearisome monotony, is unavoidably contracted, which it becomes difficult to throw off, when at last felt to be an evil ; and is, even then, displaced, for the most part, by forced attempts at a rhetorical variety, as far removed from nature and true taste as the measured sameness of school reading.
The importance of this principle of adaptation of voice, may be perceived by adverting to the fact, that nothing so impairs the effect of address, as the want of spirit and expression in elocution. No gravity of tone, or intensity of utterance, or precision of enunciation, can atone for the absence of that natural change of voice, by which the ear is enabled to receive and recognise the tones of the various emotions accompanying the train of thought which the speaker is expressing.. These, and these only, can indicate his own sense of what he utters, or communicate it by sympathy to his audience. The adaptation of the voice to the expression of sentiment, is not. less important, when considered in reference to meaning, as dependent on distinctions strictly intellectual, or not necessarily implying a vivid or varied succession of emotions. The correct and adequate representation of continuous or successive thought, requires its appropriate intonation; as may be observed in those tones of voice which naturally accompany discussion and argument, even in their most moderate forms. The modulation or varying of tone is important, also, as a matter of cultivated taste; it is the appropriate grace of vocal expression. It has a charm founded in the constitution of our nature; it touches the finest and deepest sensibilities of the soul; it constitutes the spirit and eloquence of the human voice, whether regarded as the noblest instrument of music, or the appointed channel of thought and feeling.
The pitch of voice which may be referred to most conveniently, as a standard, is that of animated conversation. The average force of voice may be taken as that which is sufficient for appropriate and intelligible utterance. The middle or common rate of artic
ulation, is that which prevails in moderate emotion Variation, then, is to be understood as any departure from one or all of these, towards either extreme of utterance, whether loud or faint, high or low, fast or slow,-or as a transition or passing from one extreme to another of one or more of these qualities. Strong emotion will require marked, and great, and, sometimes, sudden changes; whilst in moderate emotion, the changes will be slight and gradual.
The variation required in passing from one degree of force to another, is termed modulation ;* the change from one note or pitch to another, transition ;-from one movement to another, as fast or slow,--change of rate.
The following passage from Collins's Ode will afford a good example of variation. In passing from the tone of Melancholy to that of Cheerfulness, it will be observed that the voice changes from a faint utterance, low note, and slow rate, to a strain which is comparatively forcible, high, and rapid.
Melancholy : “Through glades and glooms the mingled measure
stole, Or, o'er some haunted stream, with fond delay,
Round an holy calm diffusing,
Love of peace and lonely musing,
Her bow across her shoulder flung,
Blew an inspiring air, that dale and thicket
| rung!— The hunter's call, to Faun and Dryad known.”
The variations which take place in the reading of prose depend, of course, on the variety of the style
* This term, however, is often used, in a wide sense, for vazia'tion in general.
and the character of the language. In some pieces abounding in varied emotion and figurative expression, the manner being nearly that of poetry, the tones of voice become assimilated to it by vivid and frequent modulation, sudden and great transitions, and a continually varying rate of utterance. From this extreme of style in composition and in expression, we may descend through various stages, till we come to the ordinary manner of prose, in which we find plain language prevailing, but interspersed occasionally with figurative and descriptive passages, which call for variation of tone, in order to produce a natural and appropriate expression.
The changes which occur in animated narration and description, may be exemplified in the following extract.
1. "As I was once sailing in a fine stout ship across the banks of Newfoundland, one of the heavy fogs that prevail in those parts, rendered it impossible for me to see far ahead, even in the day time; but at night the weather was so thick, that we could not distinguish any object at twice the length of our ship.2. I kept lights at the mast-head, and a constant watch forward to look out for fishing smacks, which are accustomed to lie at anchor on the banks.-3. The wind was blowing a smacking breeze, and we were going at a great rate through the water.-4. Suddenly the watch gave the alarm of a sail ahead !' but it was scarcely uttered, till we were upon her.-5. She was a small schooner at anchor, with her broadside towards us.-6. The crew were all asleep, and had neglected to hoist a light.-7. We struck her just amid-ships.8. The force, the size, and weight of our vessel, bore her down below the waves; we passed over her, and were hurried on our course.
9. As the crashing wreck was sinking beneath us, I had a glimpse of two or three half-naked wretches, rushing from her cabin; they had just started from their beds to be swallowed shrieking by the waves.-10. I heard their drowning cry mingling with the wind.--11. The blast that bore it to our ears swept us out of all further hearing.–12. I shall never for
get that cry !-13. It was some time before we could put the ship about, she was under such headway. 14. We returned, as nearly as we could guess, to the place where the smack was anchored.-15. We cruised about for several hours in the dense fog.16. We fired several guns, and listened if we might hear the halloo of any survivors; but all was silent- il we never heard nor saw any thing of them more!”
The principal changes of tone in the appropriate reading of this piece, are the following:-a change of force and rate occurs on leaving the moderate tone with which a narrative generally commences, and which continues till circumstances of interest are introduced. The moderate commencing tone prevails in the first two sentences of the first paragraph, and is succeeded in the third sentence, “The wind was blowing,” &c., by a tone of greater force and quicker rate, but not abruptly introduced. This change arises from the increasing animation and interest of the narrative, and corresponds, in force and vivacity, to the nature of the circumstance mentioned in the sentence.
The next sentence, (4,) “Suddenly the watch gave the alarm," &c., opens with an abrupt and sudden change to the tone of alarm and agitation, which is marked by rapid, forcible, and hurried articulation, and a higher note than that of the preceding sentence.
The next change is at the clause “but it was scarcely uttered,” &c. The voice drops at once to the deep and slow tone of awe and horror, but passes, at the close of the sentence, into the hurried tone of terror.
In the next two sentences, (5, and 6,) the strain of ordinary narrative is resumed; the tone resembling that used at the commencement of the piece. The voice rises, then, in pitch, and returns to the moderate degrees of force and rate.
In the short sentence, (7,) “We struck her," &c., the voice assumes the same tone as at the clause, “till we were upon her;" adding the force of particular and earnest description, which gives great intensity to the tone. The change here, then, is from the moderate