« IndietroContinua »
illustrative accompaniment, and it is the rendering of this which crowns the performance of the good reader, as it is the perception of this which constitutes the appreciative listener.
Or again. Consider the sound of a passionless Oh as it might be uttered by a schoolboy in a compulsory reading lesson, and then consider the infinite shades of meaning of which this interjection is capable under the emotional vibrations of the voice, and we must acknowledge that the distinction between these two elements of vocal sound is of a character likely to be attended with philological consequences.
Of sound as the necessary vehicle of speech, and as the passive material of those phenomena which our science is concerned to investigate, we have already treated in the first and second chapters. But of sound as bearing an accordant, concentive, illustrative part, as being an outer harmony and counter-tenor to the strains of the inner meaning; of sound as an illustrative, a formative, and almost a creative power in the region of language, we must endeavour to render some account in this concluding chapter.
The distinction here urged is akin to that which is mechanically effected by the musical instrument maker. A musical note on an instrument is a natural sound from which another sort of sound, namely that which we call noise, has been eliminated. All mechanical collision produces sound, and that sound is ordinarily of a complex kind, being in fact a noise with which a musical note is confusedly blended. It is the work of art to contrive mechanical means whereby these two things may be parted, so that the musical notes which give pleasure may be placed at the command of men. What he does physically, we may do mentally. We may separate in our minds between the
mere brute sound necessary to speech, and that musical tone which more or less blends with it according to the temper and quality of various voices. The latter is a sovereign agency in the illustration and formation and development of language, and this is the SOUND of which the present chapter treats.
I. OF SOUND AS AN ILLUSTRATIVE AGENCY.
The modulatory accompaniment of speech is not unworthy of comparison with music, although it is far more restricted in the range of its elevations and depressions. If its ups and downs are altogether on a smaller scale, if its motions are more subdued and less brilliant, yet, on the other hand, it has an advantage in the extent of its province. Music is the exponent of emotion only; it cannot be said to have any share in the expression or illustration of thought intellectual. Now speech-tones are in force over the whole area of human cognisance and feeling; they are coincident with the whole extent of meaning. They are emphatically the illustration of meaning.
As music is made of two elements, time and tune, so also is the modulation of speech. Time is expressed in quantity; and tune, or rather tone (which is the rudiment of tune), is embodied in accent. Our grammatical systems now take little heed of quantity, except as a poetical regulator in classical literature. The poetry of the classics was measured by quantity; that of the moderns is measured by accent. The period at which quantity was consciously and studiously observed as an element of ordinary speech, must have been very remote. Perhaps we may even venture speculatively
to regard quantity as the speech-note of that primitive period before the rise of flexion, when language was (as it still is in some respectable nations) syllabic or agglutinative. We know from a thousand experiences how conservative poetry is, and we may reasonably imagine that the quantitive measure of Greek poetry had descended with a continuous stream of song from high antiquity. With the decay of the Roman empire it ceased to be a regulative principle even in poetry, and from that time accent has been foremost, as it had previously been in the background. We must not suppose the principle of quantity to be extinct; but it is no longer formulated; it is absorbed into that general swelling and flowing movement of language which is known under the somewhat vague name of rhythm.
Leaving quantity then, we proceed to consider the illustrative value of accent.
In the first place, accent appears as the ally and colleague of sense in the structure of words. In the first order of compounds we have to do with words like the following:
-ash-house, bake-house, brew-house, wood-house. In these words the accent is on the predicate. That is to say, the stress of sound falls on that member of the word which bears the burden of the meaning. That which is asserted in those words is not house, but ash, bake, brew, wood. House is the subject or thing spoken of, and that which is asserted concerning it is contained in the word prefixed. And this word or syllable is signalised, as with a flag, by having the accent upon it.
There is a difference between good man and goodman. The difference in the sense ought to be rendered by a distinction in the sound. Good man is a spondee : goodman is a trochee. The latter means a man, not who is good (adjective), but a man who is master of the good (sub
stantive), i.e. of the household or property. Randle Cotgrave (1611), under the word 'Maistre,' says, towards the close of his definition
Also, a title of honour (such as it is) belonging to all artificers, and tradesmen; whence Maistre Pierre, Maistre Jehan, &c.; which we giue not so generally, but qualifie ihe meaner sort of them (especially in countrey townes) with the title of Goodman (too good for many).'
This illustration is useful for the English reader towards the understanding of Matthew xx. 11
* And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house;' which, in the Geneva Bible of 1560, is thus rendered :
. And when they had received it, they murmured against the master of the house.'
It is not always that we hear this word properly pronounced in church; and our Bibles, from 1611 down nearly to our own time, appear to have printed it erroneously. The reprint of 1611 itself has 'good man’ in two words. The handsome folio Baskerville of 1763 has it in the same
But in the modern prints of the last thirty years this has been set right, and it may be hoped that the true vocal rendering will also be restored by and by.
The fact is, the early printers did not attend to these minutiæ. As a rule they left such matters to the intelligence of the reader. In the first folio of Shakspeare, Love's Labour's Lost, i. 1. 289, it is printed, 'Ile lay my head to any good man's hat,' where, plainly, the meaning is ‘goodman's hat,' as suggested in the Cambridge edition. And it is astonishing to find that such a critic as Capell should have proposed to correct as follows :—I'll lay my head to any man's good hat,' prosaically deeming that, for the purpose of the wager, the goodness of the hat was of more importthan that of its wearer.
Just in the same manner chapman has the accent on the first syllable. The meaning of this word is a man engaged in chaffare, or merchandise. It is of the same family of words as Cheapside, which means market-side. It occurs in another form in Chippenham, Chipping Norton, and Copenhagen. It is still the standard word in German for a merchant, Kaufmann. But when the French word had occupied the foremost place in English, the native word chapman fell into homelier use. This may be seen in the following quotation, which exhibits also the accentuation of the word on its first or determinating syllable :
• Beauty is bought by iudgement of the eye,
Loves Labours Lost, ii. 1. 15. Considering the relation of thought which exists between the two parts of a compound, it is plain that there is a harmony between the thought and the sound, when the first or specific part of the compound is distinguished in the accentuation. We have hitherto noticed only the instance of a compound consisting of two monosyllabic words, as goodman, blackbird. But where the first element of the compound has more than one syllable, there we find a secondary accent rests upon the after, or generic part; or, if it cannot be said to have an accent, it recovers its full tone, as water-course, or in Crabbe's expressions of Whitechapel-bred, lonely-wood.
• His, a lone house, by Deadman's dyke-way stood;
And his, a nightly haunt, in Lonely-wood.' Sometimes we fall in with a triple compound, with its three storeys or stages of accentuation forming a little cascade of gradations, as Spenser's holy-water-sprinckle in the following lines :
. She alway smyld, and in her hand did hold