Page images

lodious tone of voice: in Dryden's ode of Alexander's feaft, the line, Faln, faln, faln, faln, represents a gradual finking of the mind, and therefore is pronounced with a falling voice by every one of tafte, without inftruction. In general, words that make the greatest figure, ought to be marked with a peculiar emphafis. Another circumftance contributes to the refemblance between fenfe and found, which is flow or quick pronunciation: for though the length or fhortnefs of the fyllables with relation to each other, be in profe ascertained in fome measure, and in verse always; yet taking a whole line or period together, it may be pronounced flow or faft. A period accordingly ought to be pronounced flow, when it expreffes what is folemn or deliberate; and ought to be pronounced quick, when it expreffes any thing brifk, lively, or impetuous.

The art of pronouncing with propriety and grace, being calculated to make the found an echo to the fenfe, fcarce admits of any other general rule than that above mentioned. It may indeed be branched out into many particular rules and obfervations: but thefe belong not properly to the prefent undertaking, because no language furnisheth words to fignify the different degrees of high and low, loud and foft, faft and flow. Before thefe differences can be made the fubject of regular inftruction, notes must be invented resembling thofe employ'd in mufic: we

[ocr errors]

have reafon to believe, that in Greece every tragedy was accompanied with fuch notes, in order to ascertain the pronunciation; but the moderns hitherto have not thought of this refinement. Cicero indeed *, without the help of notes, pretends to give rules for afcertaining the various tones of voice that are proper in expreffing the different paffions; and it must be acknowledged, that in this attempt he hath exhausted the whole power of language. At the fame time, every perfon of difcernment must perceive, that these rules avail little in point of inftruction: the very words he employs, are not intelligible, except to those who beforehand are acquainted with the fubject.

To vary the scene a little, I propose to close with a flight comparison between finging and pronouncing. In this comparison, the five following circumftances relative to articulate found, must be kept in view. Ift, A found or fyllable is harsh or finooth, 2d, It is long or short. 3d, It is pronounced high or low. 4th, It is pronounced loud or foft. And, laftly, A number of words in fucceffion, conftituting a period or member of a period, are pronounced flow or quick. Of thefe five, the first depending on the component letters, and the fecond being afcertained by custom, admit not any variety in pronouncing. The three last are arbitrary, depend

* De oratore, 1. 3. cap. 58.

ing on the will of the person who pronounces; and it is chiefly in the artful management of these, that just pronunciation confifts. With refpect to the first circumftance, mufic has evidently the advantage; for all its notes are agreeable to the ear; which is not always the cafe of articulate found. With refpect to the fecond, long and short fyllables variously combined, produce a great variety of feet; yet far inferior to the variety that is found in the multiplied combinations of musical notes. With respect to high and low notes, pronunciation is ftill more inferior to finging; for it is obferved by Dionyfius of Halicarnaffus *, that in pronouncing, i. e. without altering the aperture of the windpipe, the voice is confined within three notes and a half: finging has a much greater compafs. With respect to the two laft circumftances, pronunciation equals finging.

In this chapter, I have mentioned none of the beauties of language, but what arife from words taken in their proper fenfe. Beauties that depend on the metaphorical and figurative power of words, are, referved to be treated chap. 20.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]




HE mufic of verfe, though handled by every grammarian, merits more attention 'than has been given it. This fubject is intimately connected with human nature; and to explain it thoroughly, feveral nice and delicate feelings must be employ'd. But before entering into the music of verfe, we must first see what verfe is, or, in other words, by what mark it is diftinguished from profe; a point not so easy as may at first be apprehended. Verse of every fort, hath, it is true, rules for its conftruction; being compofed of feet, the number and variety of which are ascertained; whereas profe, though alfo compofed of feet, is more loofe, and fcarce fubjected to any rules. But are the many who know nothing of rules, left without means to make the diftinction? and even with refpect to the learned, muft they apply the rule before they can with certainty pronounce whether the compofition be profe or verfe? This will hardly be maintained; and therefore, instead of rules, the ear muft be appealed to as the proper judge. But what gain we by being thus referred to another standard; for it still recurs, By what mark

[ocr errors]

mark does the ear diftinguish verfe from profe? The proper and fatisfactory answer is, That these make different impreffions upon every one who hath an ear. This advances us one ftep in our inquiry.

Taking it then for granted, that verfe and profe make upon the ear different impreffions; nothing remains but to explain this difference, and to affign its cause. To this end, I call to my aid an observation made above upon the found of words, that they are more agreeable to the ear when composed of long and fhort fyllables, than when all the fyllables are of the fame fort: a continued found in the fame tone, makes not a musical impreffion: the fame note fucceffively renewed by intervals, is more agreeable; but still makes not a musical impreffion. To produce this impreffion, variety is neceffary as well as number: the fucceffive founds or fyllables, must be some of them long, fome of them fhort; and if also high and low, the mufic is the more perfect. Now if fuch impreffion can be made by fingle words, much more by a plurality in an or- : derly fucceffion. The musical impreffion made: by a period confifting of long and fhort fyllables arranged in a certain order, is what the Greeks call rhythmus, the Latins numerus, and we melody or measure. Cicero juftly obferves, that in one continued found there is no melody: "Nu"merus in continuatione nullus eft." But in what follows he is wide of the truth, if by nume

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »