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say) the listener to terminate the incomplete music by his own reply: thus appeasing his wounded ears, hurt by the antimelodious suspension, at the same time that he is satisfying the curiosity of his interrogator.
To judge by these rules, so easy and so simple in appearance, you would not believe how much of abstracted matter they contain, so curious, and so complicated that it is with difficulty language supplies me with the terms I stand in need of. I am, indeed, already puzzled how to express my ideas in a manner clear, striking, and intuitive.
Withdraw, I pray, for a moment, your attention from the play of the gestures, and fix it upon the rhythms of discourse: you will remark three different kinds of it. We find an infinity of intermediate degrees where the ordinary language more or less approaches elevated declamation, as the latter approaches to the chant.
Each of these diverse species I have just been indicating has its determinate employ: the metre is only proper in certain cases; for there are some where it would be displaced. In some situations of the soul it serves to reinforce the effect of the expression, which it would destroy or v\ eaken in others.
What would be the calm and reflective discussion of a thinker on the cold recital of a historian in verse? What would become of a slight dialogue, passing successively from one sentiment to another, in a feeble and superficial tone, if it were reduced to strophes and antistrophes i What, finally, would be a discourse, although full of energy, dictated by friendship, or a recital of daily events, composed in lyrical metre, of a characteristical cadence and harmony? We reject similar productions as displaced, as out of nature.
Formerly, whilst history was the tradition of grand events and glorious facts, which fervid imagination and patriotic ardour endeavoured to immortalize; whilst philosophy was confined to bold fictions upon the origin of the Gods and the formation of the world, the one and the other might easily ally themselves to poetry, and become borrowers of all its finest ornaments: but when the Muse of history sunk to a calm and impartial recital, and philosophy began to occupy itself with cold and abstracted researches, then Herodotus in the one, and Pherecydes in the other, followed the impression of the good taste which induced them to prefer prose.
Yet even the prosaic tone of Pherecydes would become false, if, every time he reasons on an object, he did not elevate his style till he approached towards the majestic rhythm and the proud number of the inspired orator, since the thing is the same in the number of prose as in the metre of verse; for instance, would it not be false and ridiculous, if a letter of friendship or business should assume the soft and languishing style of the Elegies of Tibullus? A similar letter ought doubtless to have a certain character of tenderness and amenity; the number and harmony ought equally to correspond with the nature of the predominant sentiment; but it is not necessary that it should be written with those sensibly noted cadences, with those soft and carefully selected measures, which constitute the charm of the prose of Gessner: without something above the vulgar, the style would be weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable.
The application of this remark to the different kinds of declamation makes itself; the song full of sentiment, whatever be its character, ought not to be recited, but should be chanted. When even declaimed with the most exact expression, it would avail but little in my opinion; for we can only feel the full charm of it whilst the simple sound becomes the musical tone, and when the indecided rhythm is subjected by the measure.
But where is the man who could bear to hear, without laughing (at least the first time), a letter chanted—such as was the case in the ancient French opera? The ridiculous becomes greater, when the personage, without having often reread, or written the letter himself, receives it only. Notwithstanding, this circumstance would not justify a letter in chant, since it then ceases to be so, and becomes a song, an elegy, a romance, addressed to a determinate personage. In the mean time, my friend, let us return from this apparent digression to the veritable object now in question.
The play of gesture has the same species, or, if you like it better, the same degrees we have distinguished above, in number and in declamation; all the expressions of the different situations of the soul, which we have learned to know, elevate themselves by innumerable degrees, from their origin, from the first suspicion of an affection, unto its entire developement. You will, without doubt, recall the sketch I traced you of joy under the appearance of rapture. Examine once more the eye open and smiling, the arms extended to their full length, and the figure elevated upon the point of the foot, and floating as it were in the air, &c. and you will have the most decided, most complete expression of this affection: an expression you may weaken more than once without destroying it, or even without making it any longer cognizable: give a soft curve to the right line described by the arms, and, spite of this change, these will remain extended j if one of the feet is more fixed on the earth, the other less elevated, and more near the former, the body will not the less exalt itself, and the step will be still light and floating. If the eye contract, and the mouth close a little; if the eye be brilliant, and the mouth more gently respire, the eyes will not be less open, the look will not be less lively, or the respiration less full. (See Plate XXXIX.)
Make here a second and more considerable change: sink the arms lower on each side; give less force to the muscles, so that the figure may insensibly elevate itself; place the two feet lightly upon the earth, and make the edge of the teeth visible by a feeble and fugitive motion of the mouth, and you will yet have more than the expression of simple contentment: it is joy—but