صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

alarm given, when a troop rushing out, inflict summary pun. ishment upon the hapless spy.

Ants afford a striking exemplification of this language, not only in affectionate intercourse, but in war. In the heat of action, when ant struggles with ant in mortal combat, if, as sometimes happens among men, friends make an assault upon a party from their own city, through misapprehension, å recognition takes place, by the crossing of their antennæ, and they immediately set to, with renewed zeal, to compensate for the loss of time. We are told by a gentleman of great celebrity in the literary world, that being annoyed by some ants, that encamped in the neighborhood, and not unfrequently despatched foraging parties, in quest of honey, sugar, and similar rarities, he suspended a dish of molasses, by a string to the ceiling.

The marauders paid their visit as usual; but not finding what they coveted, most of them returned to their quarters; one, more curious than the rest, pursuing his inquiries, chanced to set foot upon the string, and traveling down, discovered the treasure. After satisfying his appetite, he, too, disappeared; but soon, the gentleman was surprised to see him returning, as pilot, with a troop of companions following him; down the string he went, and down they all went, and had a merry time of it. Who doubts that a conversation, maintained as I have intimated, was the cause of the latter expedition? These proofs of antennal language among insects, were taken at random, from a multitude; I might speak of the signals of alarm and attack; of orders and counterorders; of the calls for assistance, and the reciprocation of affection among these creatures; in short, of all those communications which must always be maintained by language, between good citizens in any well-regulated community,

1

He wraps

whether of ants or of men; in a metropolis, or an emmet. hill. This subject you can examine at your leisure, and you may be assured that it is one which a few moments, or a few hours of contemplation will not exhaust.

Let us now turn our attention to the natural language of Gesticulation; a medium of expression to which we frequently resort, and of which we are accustomed to think so lightly; a language as perfect in the savage as in the civilized, in the Asiatic as in the American; a language which needs no Grammar, no interpretation except one which is readily sug. gested. How often would the traveler in strange lands perish from hunger or cold; how often would his life be jeoparded, were it not for gesticulation; to this he can resort. Is his home eastward? He points thither. Is his destination west? He indicates it in a similar manner. Is he cold or weary?

his garment more closely about him and shivers, or prostrates himself upon the ground. The veriest savage understands it well, though he may proffer no assistance.

Have you never felt the power of a single gesture—a something which words could not possibly have effected? Have you never seen an orator as well as heard him, when you was at a loss to determine of which sense you had rather be deprived, sight or hearing? Then, indeed, do you know something of the language of gesticulation.

The language of gesticulation is much used by those nations who have not assumed the fetters of arbitrary rule, or by those rude tribes, whose artificial language is inadequate to clothe all the ideas which they have occasion to express. As artificial methods of communication are improved, the necessity for gesticulation is removed, and therefore, it is in a great measure dispensed with. This is undoubtedly a defect in the elocution of our country; fearing to become theatrical, we have become statue-like, and, in many instances, display no more signs of life, than did the fabled statue of Memnon, whence musical sounds were said to issue.

This species of Natural Language cannot be learned in the schools; it is not a human invention, and human skill can no more improve it, than it can the eye itself; we should avoid extravagance and inelegance in gesture, but give a person an important subject, let him understand it fully, and feel deeply its moment, and his gesticulation, thus prompted, will be as graceful, and yet forcible, as his emotions are strong and natural.

The best rule for employing this, and every other species of natural language, is to observe no rule; touch them not with the finger of art; suffer them to be what they are, natural, and criticism will be silent, as in the presence of the great standard. When I speak of gesticulation, I do not refer to the automaton. like movements which are too frequently displayed at school exhibitions, for the admiration of the multitude. To a person of discernment, the merit, if there be any, does not consist in nature, but in the imitation of it, and he may be betrayed into the same error, as was Johnson, who mingled with a vociferous rabble, to witness the antics of a bear; returning home, he pranced and leaped about, fairly surpassing Bruin, "but," said his friend, "it was a bear, you know, and not a man; this was the true cause of the stormy admiration which you witnessed.” Real gesticulation is not necessarily a separate part, but with the speaker, should spring directly out of the subject; and as, when you touch some string of a harp, the corresponding chord will give forth its tone though unstricken, so, in obedience to a kindred law, should gesticulation add depth and power and richness to the thought. To return to the anecdote; what in the bear exoites wonder, in the man, would either awaken contempt, or be a mere matter of course; thus a man gamboling about like a quadruped, is a proper object for ridicule; but a human being, walking, "with countenance erect," is what every one expects.

But an individual, who, without being interested in his subject, indulges in frequent and violent gestures, threshing the innocent air in the most barbarous manner, tells that of him. self, that his friends would shrink from telling for him. He discloses most clearly, not only a want of feeling, but a consciousness of it; how revolting in any speaker, whose theme is one of interest, whether in the legislative hall, at the bar, or in the private circle, but especially in the occupant of the sacred desk the minister at the altar! Let him who has witnessed such a scene, (and who has not?) take warning. The language of gesticulation is farther removed from the perverting power of the hypocrite, than the invented language

It requires no extraordinary share of discernment to discover whether the gestures of the speaker have a more intimate connection with the man, than the movements of the vane upon the spire. Theatrical performers present no sound objection to this statement; for it is well known that the tears which trickled down the cheeks of Garrick, or the smiles that lit up the countenance of Foote, were not fictitious ones, but the real, scalding tears of grief, and the heart-born expressions of joy. This is the acknowledgment of almost every actor of the first class, and indeed it was remarked of one, that “he never was natural except when he acted.” Let us, then, preserve natural language as its Architect gave it, that the ceremonious and sincere may not be blended in an inseparable unity.

The ancient Romans employed gesticulation to a far greater extent than we do now. They even separated speaking

of men.

and acting; and while one individual pronounced the sentiment, another made the appropriate gestures; an arrange. ment which seems very strange to us, but it is not so strange perhaps, as a feat which it was reserved for us moderns to perform; viz: for one individual to carry on both parts, without any obvious connection; learn to pronounce the piece first; second, the gestures; and third, so ingeniously to com. bine them, that an acute observer could at least determine, that it was one sentiment or another of several consecutive ones, which the particular gesture was designed to enforce.

It is recorded that Cicero, the great Roman orator, contended with Roscius, the actor, which should express a thought in the greater number of ways, the former in artificial, spoken language, or the latter in gesticulation. This shows, in a strong light, the great skill which was attained in the latter species of language.

Plays, performed without spoken language, but simply looked and acted, are called Pantomimes, compounded of two Greek words, meaning, "imitating every thing.” Some in. dividuals can convulse an audience with laughter one moment, and melt them to tears the next, without employing an audible word, but merely looks and gestures. But the days when fingers talked, and muscles moved eloquently, are almost gone by. Artificial methods of communication are making sad inroads upon the peculiar province of natural language. Inventions are multiplied almost daily, that supersede the ne. cessity for its use, although they can never attain its elegance or power. The demonstrative or pointing pronouns furnish an apposite illustration:-Suppose you are directing the at. tention of a child to some objects in nature; perhaps a beautiful plain, stretching away almost to the horizon's verge, and a mountain looming up in the distance beyond. Pointing to

« السابقةمتابعة »