The Ancient Library
 

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chap, ill

RITUAL 23

of expression does matter infinitely to the force of the meaning, and ritual has really a mana of its own. Ordinary conversation teems with the magic of methods of expression ; intonation, gesture, tone of voice are all of the very highest importance. The recitation of poetry may make or mar the poem.1 In the expression of our ordinary thoughts or emotions it is true that the modes of expression are in part unlearned and instinctive, and do not come by prayer and fasting; but in proportion as the occasion is momentous or the emotion to be expressed important, the desire will arise to employ a mode of expression as distinctive as the occasion, and satisfactory alike to the demands of the crisis and the feelings of the agent.

1 It is interesting to compare the remarks of Robert de Brunne, the annalist, on the loss in value of True Thomas's romance of Sir Tristrem when its author was no longer alive to say it in the right way, with a modern poet's experience. De Brunne says—

I see in song, in sedgeying tale

Of Ercildoune and of Kendale.

Now thame says as they thame wroght,

And in thare saying it seems nocht.

That thou may here in Sir Tristrem

Ouer gestes it has the steme,

Ouer all that is or was :

If men it said as made Thomas.

(Ellis, Specimens of the Early English Poets, i. p. 105.) In his in­troduction to the late Mr. Synge's play, The Well of the Saints, Mr. Yeats remarks, "Above all, he made word and phrase dance to a very strange rhythm which will always, till his plays have created their own tradition, be difficult to actors who have not learned it from his lips."

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