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THE EDUCATION OF THE PUBLIC READER.1 T oo often the egotism and a certain sort of vanity which lead
1 young men and women to choose public reading as a profession, prevent them from correctly appreciating the value of the education they do not already possess. It is because, in so many cases, the aspirant places himself before the public thus impatiently that people have come to believe in some instances that elocution is a sort of fungus growth, like an extra hump, or other deformity, not at all incompatible with an uncultivated, undisciplined mind. And until this matter is properly understood, — until it is known to be as necessary to prepare for the study of public reading by a good education as it is for the study of law or medicine, — public reading will not occupy the position it deserves.
First of all, the public reader must have something to express before he can express it. Not only must he repeat the words of the author, but his mind must be sufficiently refined and responsive to think the author's thoughts and sympathize with the author's ideals. In no other profession is there such need of a well-rounded development. The study of books, men, art, nature, and especially any study or line of thought which will develop the imagination, is necessary to this end. Then, too, there is the technical training, – the freeing and controlling the voice and body so that they become not only willing, but able, servants of the soul. This is absolutely necessary. Without it the worker in our art would be as powerless as the violinist without his violin. On the other hand, the most perfectly fexible and expressive body and voice, without the appreciation and understanding of truth and beauty in the soul within, would be like the violin without the violinist.
And yet the young aspirant is not to blame because he does not realize that general education and broad culture should come prior to special knowledge of his art, and moreover are essential to his knowledge of it. No doubt vanity and love of approbation urge him forward ; but in most cases perhaps there is a something within him that responds in a vague emotional way to the beauty he finds in whatever he reads; and his egotism whispers in his ear that the world needs him, and that he has a message no one else can express, and that he must express it immediately and in his own way. If he does so, without waiting for the right education and training, without waiting until this vague response becomes a definite and clear one, even that original vague response in his soul, which is truth, and will become the breath of his art-life if he but wait upon it, may die away; for egotism will take the place of truth, and this wonderful echo-chamber within responds to nothing but truth. If, hushing self, he will wait upon and listen to this response within him, vague though it be at first, he will learn wonderful lessons. He will learn that in art, as in life, he must lose his life to gain it; and if there is a special message that he is to bring to the world, the world will get it soonest by his humbly serving the truth. Here again it is education and development of mind that enable one to hush the buzz of self and listen, and thus learn these wonderful lessons; and where there was once a vague murmur in this chamber of the soul, now in the perfect silence comes a glorious response. The personal life that was lost in the contemplation of the truth finds itself again in this expression of universal life.
1 Given at the Conference on Expression.
Should, then, these first impulses towards expression be checked until the mind is more disciplined and cultivated than is usually the case when the impulse first takes possession of us ?
As long as the response within to the beauty without is vague and undefined, waiting will help growth.
We may read the passage over aloud, and then read it again and yet again, receiving new impressions of the beauty and truth in it by way of the ear as well as the eye; and thus reacting upon our minds, new beauties and truths will be responded to, and what was vague at first will gradually grow defined and become a clear mental picture.
But this is the work of the studio. It is educational. It is a part of the waiting, — the work of impression rather than expression.
Let us train our minds to be receptive, — to wait reverendy for the coming of the voices.
Did Mary choose the better part, or did Martha? Is contemplation - I use the word in its highest and most spiritual sense — that reverent attitude of soul which tends towards self-effacement? Is contemplation the completest act of worship? Is it the highest effect of art! All good art starts from it; all good art induces it.
LELAND T. POWERS.
The painters of our day have contempt for the opinion of those outside their own profession; yet outsiders, it is said, sometimes see deeper into a game than those who are engaged in playing it. Painters have respect for each other's opinions; they paint for each other, — 0r, at any rate, they follow each other. If one makes a hit, all the others try to follow like a flock of sheep.
Artists should study the needs, the ideals, the spirit, the burden of their age. They should even study the wishes of their audience. They should study whether they have anything to say. Much of the art of our time consists of mere studies. There is no expression of anything ; it is merely an exhibition of technical execution. The painter who is to become an artist must, first of all, study his own heart, and learn what he feels most intensely, loves most surely so that he can express it artistically. Painting is simply a mode of expression; but it is peculiar in that a whole life, a whole character, or the very soul of a scene in nature must be breathed into one supreme moment, and upon a few inches of canvas.
Some one has said, “ Great art can never come down to us; we must climb to it.” Taste, appreciation of something great and noble, is cultivated by struggles to rise, and never by “ adaptation,” or by degrading the art to popular whim.
The art of explaining art is most difficult.
An interpretative art
EXPRESSION. THE study of Literature through Vocal Expression implies a T v ivid imaginative realization in the reader of the environment of the poetic thought, life, character of the poem. Such environment is essential to the spirit of poetry. It implies a cultivated instinct to discern relations. This instinct is in some degree universal, but may be cultivated by systematic training. Whatever will develop the power to think with the poet through a series of circumstances or situations, will furnish such training.
The Authors' Recitals, given in the School of Expression, have proved to large and cultivated audiences that such training is adapted to the average student as well as to those of exceptional ability.
Said a student of a neighboring university, after hearing a recital .from “ Les Misérables” by the students of the School of Expression: “I should like to know how they get such results. We have nothing in our university that can be compared to what we have heard this evening in its practical results. These students know that book.”
Professor Corson speaks of the “key tone of a poem,” — that delicate something which can never be imitated, but which is a natural consequence of thinking the thought in its natural environment.
Notes on the Reading of Milton's “ L'ALLEGRO.” 1. Read the poem through thoughtfully and receptively. Be open to whatever is potent in its influence. This kind of artistic or intense attention to thought can be cultivated by actual use. On finishing the reading of the poem, speak aloud to yourself your own spontaneous opinion of the poem. Note this down, and preserve it with care. It is of more value to you at this stage of your study than the most elaborate judgment of scholars.
2. Read the poem again. This time have pencil and paper at hand, and note every reference you cannot explain.
A PRACTICAL LESSON IN LITERATURE AND EXPRESSION.
(a) Every classical allusion or illustration. Study the classical references, then return to the poem, and note particularly what the similes are meant to illustrate, or, in other words, discover the thought in the use of the simile; remember that a simile may be as a word in the mind of the poet, and in the understanding of the meaning of that word may be the key to his thought. It is often necessary to know words in their historic life, in order to understand the shade of meaning a poet conveys through them. It may be necessary to know a Greek god, in his life and in his influence in Greek art, before the truly fine and subtle meaning in a simile drawn from mythology can be felt.
(6) Note every word you cannot define; make it the subject of a line of thorough study, first by means of the dictionary, then its history as suggested by the dictionary, — its use in early English compared with its use to-day, — and its use by Milton as compared with other authors.
(c) Read the poem a third time, and this time aloud. Does it seem to you as if you could talk those lines? No? Why? Determine the “ why,” by noting the lines that you feel to be affected or unreal. Are they lines where the thought is illustrated by a classical allusion ?
" Hence, loathèd Melancholy,
Of Cerberus and blackest Midnight born -