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PIECES FOR PRACTICE
IN READING AND DECLAMATION.
EXERCISE 1.-LEGEND OF THE SEVEN SLEEPERS.—Lyell.
[As an exercise in elocution, this piece is designed for practice in the reading of plain narrative. The faults to be avoided, are monotony or formality, on the one hand, and undue familiarity, or affected animation, on the other : the points of style to be aimed at, are simplicity and nity, as in serious and elevated conversation.]
The scene of this popular fable, was placed in the two centuries which elapsed between the reign of the emperor Decius, and the death of Theodosius the younger. In that interval of time, between the years 249 and 450 of our erá, the union of the Roman empire had been dissolved, and some of its fairest provinces overrun by the barbarians of the north. The seat of government had passed from Rome to Constantinople; and the throne, from a pagan persecutor to a succession of Christian and orthodox princes. The genius of the empire had been humbled in the dust; and the altars of Diana and Hercules were on the point of being transferred to Catholic saints and martyrs.
The legend relates, that, “when Decius was still per. secuting the Christians, seven noble youths of Ephesus concealed themselves in a spacious cavern, in the side of an adjacent mountain, where they were doomed to perish by the tyrant, who gave orders that the entrance should be firmly secured by a pile of huge stones. The youths immediately fell into a deep slumber, which was miraculously prolonged, without injuring the powers of life, during a period of one hundred and eighty-seven years.
At the end of that time, the slaves 'of Adolius, to whom the inheritance of the mountain had descended, removed the stones, to supply materials for some rustic edifice: the light of the sun darted into the cavern; and the seven sleepers were permitted to awake. After a slumber, as they thought, of a few hours, they were pressed -by the calls of hunger,
and resolved that Jamblichus,* one of their number, should secretly return to the city, to purchase bread for the use of his companions.
The youth could no longer recognise the once familiar aspect of his native country; and his surprise was increased by the appearance of a large cross, triumphantly erected over the principal gate of Ephesus. His singular dress, and obsolete language, confounded the baker, to whom he offered an ancient medal of Decius,t as the current coin of the empire; and Jamblichus, on the suspicion of having discovered and appropriated a secret treasure, was dragged before the judge.
Mutual inquiries produced the amazing discovery, that two centuries were almost elapsed, since Jamblichus and his friends had escaped from the rage of a pagan tyrant."
This legend was received as authentic, throughout the Christian world, before the end of the sixth century, and was afterwards introduced by Mohammed, as a divine revelation, into the Koran, and hence was adopted and adorned by all the nations, from Bengal to Africa, which professed the Mohammedan faith. Some vestiges of a similar tradition have been discovered in Scandinavia.
This casy and universal belief,—so expressive of the sense of mankind,-may be ascribed to the genuine merit of the fable itself. We imperceptibly advance from youth to age, without observing the gradual, but incessant, change of human affairs; and, even in our larger experience of history, the imagination is accustomed, by a perpetual series of causes and effects, to unite the most distant revolutions. But if the interval between the two memorable eras could be instantly annihilated; if it were possible, after a momentary slumber of two hundred years, to display the new world to the eyes of a spectator who still retained a lively and recent impression of the old, his surprise and his reflections would furnish the pleasing subject of a philosophical romance.
EXERCISE II.-EVENING ON THE OCEAN.—Montgomery.
[The tone of the voice, in the reading of this piece, should not be allowed to become prosaic, yet should be kept free from • singing.']
Light as a flake of foam upon the wind,
Shaped like the moon ere half her horn is filled :
While the last bubble crowned the dimpling eddy,
These were but preludes to the revelry
While spouting whales projected watery columns
EXERCISE 111.—THE WEST.-Anonymous. [The prevailing style of this piece, is that of animated descrip tion, and lively sentiment, as in elevated and earnest conversation. The chief fault to be avoided, is that of a dull and lifeless tone.]
It seems almost fabulous, when we think what a tide of emigration has flowed towards the west, during the present generation. like the Roman power, which rolled over every shore, and inundated the world, this mighty current of human population, hąs penetrated the west, and rendered delightful many a nook and valley in that wilderness, which seems almost, like space itself, to swallow up all, as an ocean wave engulfs the melting snow-flake.
Where is the west? Hardly one fourth of a century since, and the North river divided it from those parts considered civilized. The valley of the Genesee next inherited the name. Then the weary emigrant journeyed onward, to find it on the southern banks of Lake Érie. Afterward, the wide-spread valley of the Mississippi was the scene amid which the weary wing of the eagle rested, as he retreated at the onward march of the 'pale faces,' startled by the din of engines and artillery, to find rest and silence in the mighty · West.'
And now, the roving hunter, disturbed in his pursuits there, shoulders his rife, or gathers up his traps, for a far
off trail; and after his moccasins have been worn thin, and his feet pained by the distance of the way, yet, as he asks the timid inmate of the last white man's cabin, where lies the West,' he will thence be guided onward ; and onward still the remote Pawnee and Mandan will beckon, whither the deer are flying and the wild horse roams, where the buffalo ranges, and the condor soars, far towards the waves where the stars plunge at midnight, and amid which bloom those ideal scenes for the persecuted savage, where white men will murder no more for gold, nor startle the game upon the sunshine hills.
Sublime, indeed, is the contemplation of a territory thus boundless, whose mighty forests bore, for many hundred leagues from the Atlantic, the uncouth blazings' of the red man's ' trail;' and in comparison with which, even on this day, our cultivated fields along the eastern sea-bgkd, seem merely as a golden fringe, bordering a mantle of unfading green.
But a thought more practically important here intrudes, cencerning the destiny of these dark domains. Bryant, in view of such a scene, has written :
“ Here are old trees, tall oaks, and gnarled pines,
That stream with gray-green mosses; here the ground
-In these peaceful shades,
Back to the earliest days of liberty.” Where crosses have been found on the remains of men, in graves over which tall oaks have waved for centuries, where splendid ruins, in the South, and mounds, in the North, alike proclaim that the New World is not new,-
,where even tradition is silent concerning the rise, destiny and fall of empires which have evidently risen, and perished, in ages far remote,-has a republic been founded. But, unlike the colonies of Greece and Rome, which were protected and cherished by their parent land, this confederation, to employ the sentiments of Col. Barre,—was planted by British tyranny, suffered most from her persecutions, and flourished best during her neglect. Nevertheless, she has advanced, and now ranks among the first nations of the earth.
The secret of this prosperity is revealed by the fact, that, superadded to a physical cụltựre similar to that of early