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profound sentiments of contrition-enkindle within them the ardent flame of love-and bring them, as it were, into the very presence-chamber of the great object of their adoration.
But alas! how often does it utterly fail of producing any hallowed effect, and even excite sentiments of distaste and aversion, from its being performed in a careless, heartless and inappropriate manner! How important is it for the interests of religion and the honour of the church, that the clergy should seek to give additional interest and efficiency to this portion of their labours? To aid them in this laudable effort, is the object of the little work now re-published, in which the application of the rules of good reading is exhibited, not only to the ear, but to the eye, by one of the most accomplished masters of the art.
The frequent reading of the daily services of the church accompanied with Sheridan's marks of emphases and pauses, will do more, by the blessing of God, towards correcting the deficiencies and errors of the clergy and qualifying them for an appropriate and edifying discharge of this part of their holy functions, than the most careful and long continued study of the rules of rhetoricians, without such an application or exemplification of them, would ever be able to accomplish.
Let it not be inferred, however, from what has been said, that the most undeviating adherence to the laws of correct and rhetorical reading, will of itself alone, render the performance of the Liturgy impressive and profitable. No! we have heard it read according to those rules, when the only emotion excited,
was one of admiration of the voice and skill of the performer. It was considered merely as an exercise of art, not of devotion.
After all, the great art in reading devotional services, is, to avoid the appearance of art. It is to have the soul so thoroughly absorbed by the holy sentiments that are uttered, as to allow no room for a thought about the manner of utterance. The clergyman in the desk and at the altar, should, as far as possible, forget every thing but this-"I am in the more immediate presence of the heart-searching God, leading a company of penitent sinners in supplication for mercy at the throne of grace,—or, expressing the thanks of the same sinners, for all the mercies they have received, and especially for the transcendant mercies of redemption, by Jesus Christ."
Such a conviction, vividly impressed upon the mind, will constrain a man to pray the Liturgy, and not merely to read it. And a heart "touched as with a live coal from off the altar," and thoroughly imbued with the sentiments that pervade the Prayer Book, will be the best prompter as to the mode of uttering them. It will naturally suggest, that earnestness of manner, variety of intonation, and propriety of emphasis, which the nature of the various parts of the service requires, and which will give to each of them their highest effect.
It is the object of all the elaborate treatises on Elocution to enforce the natural mode of speaking and reading aloud;—and their authors profess nothing more than to have embodied the dictates of nature in their
artificial rules. But it may admit of a question whether this be not, to say the least, a very circuitous and unpromising mode of attaining the end; and whether any real benefit is derived from a study of those works, further than as they tend to impress this general principle more strongly upon the mind, and afford judicious exemplifications of it?
The remarks of the Rt. Rev. Dr. Whately, the present Archbishop of Dublin, on this point, are so excellent, that I cannot deny myself the pleasure of laying them before the reader. "If a person could learn to read and speak as it were, by note, with the same fluency and accuracy as are attainable in the case of singing, still, the desired object of a perfectly natural, as well as correct Elocution, would never be in this way attained. The reader's attention being fixed on his own voice, (which in singing, and there only, is allowed and expected,) the inevitable consequence would be, that he would betray more or less his studied and artificial delivery; and would in the same degree, manifest an offensive affectation. It should be observed, however, (he remarks in a note,) that, in the reading of the Liturgy especially, so many gross faults are become quite familiar to many, from what they are accustomed to hear, if not from their own practice, as to render it peculiarly difficult to unlearn, or even detect them; and as an aid towards the exposure of such faults, there may be great advantage in studying Sheridan's observations and directions respecting the delivery of it: The generality of his remarks respecting the way in which each passage of
the Liturgy should be read, are correct; though the mode recommended for the attainment of the proposed end, is totally different from what is suggested in the present treatise."*
"The practical rule, then, to be adopted in conformity with the principles here maintained, is, not only to pay no studied attention to the voice, but studiously to withdraw the thoughts from it, and to dwell as intently as possible on the sense; trusting to nature to suggest spontaneously the proper emphases and tones. He who not only understands fully what he is reading, but is earnestly occupying his mind with the matter of it, will be likely to read as if he understood it, and thus to make others understand it;† and in like manner, with a view to the impressiveness of the delivery, he who not only feels it, but is exclusively absorbed by that feeling, will be likely to read as if he felt it, and to communicate the impression to his
* Whately has here, I think, done injustice to Sheridanwhose general principles on the subject are precisely like his own. The examples he gives, are designed, merely, as an illustration of those principles, and an auxiliary in the applica tion of them; he marks only the pauses and emphases which would naturally be made by a reader, who entered into the spirit of the sentiments delivered.
Who, for instance, that was really thinking of a resurrection from the dead, would ever tell any one that our Lord “rose again from the dead;" (which is so common a mode of reading this article of the creed,) as if he had done so more than once? It is to be observed, however, that it is not enough for a reader to have his mind fixed on the subject,
hearers. But this cannot be the case if he is occupied with the thought of what their opinion will be of his reading, and how his voice ought to be regulated ;if, in short, he is thinking of himself, and of course, in the same degree, abstracting his attention from that which ought to occupy it exclusively.
It is not indeed, desirable, that in reading the Bible for example, or any thing which is not intended to appear as his own composition, he should deliver, what are, avowedly another's sentiments, in the same style, as if they were such as arose in his own mind; but it is desirable that he should deliver them as if he were reporting another's sentiments, which were both fully understood, and felt in all their force by the reporter; and the only way to do uns eieciuany,—with such modulations of voice, &c. as are suitable to each word and passage, is to fix his mind earnestly on the meaning, and leave nature and habit to suggest the utterance."*
But in leading the devotions of a congregation in the use of the Liturgy, supplications, intercessions, thanksgivings, &c. though not of our own composition, should
without regard to the occasion &c. It is possible to read a prayer well, with the tone and manner of a man who is not praying, i. e. addressing the Deity, but addressing the audience, and reciting a form of words for their instruction: and such is generally the case with those who are commended as readers" of the Liturgy. Extemporaneous prayers are generally delivered, with spirit indeed, but, (after the few first sentences,) not as prayers, but as exhortations to the congregation.