« AnteriorContinuar »
even involuntary breathing was stopped: while sensation with its consequences, as thinking and acting, with the will, were perfect, and all the voluntary actions were as strong as before."
In the whole history of man I do not know of a more extraordinary case. The functions of the soul were perfect, while the most important functions of the body, those upon which the life depends absolutely, in all ordinary cases, were dead for nearly an hour. Why did not the soul separate from the body? and why did not the body itself commence that change, that subjection to the laws of chemical affinity, which it evinces in every ordinary case of the death or inaction of the vital organs? Because in the present instance, as in every instance of suspended animation from hanging or drowning, the vital principle, whatever it consists in, had not ceased, or deserted the corporeal frame. It continued visible in its effect, though invisible in its essence and mode of operation.
Let us apply this remark to the subject immediately before us: it will serve as a ready clue to its intricacies. In many animals, then, and in most vegetables, the living principle often continues in the same manner to reside in, and to actuate the organic frame; while the vital functions, as they are called, and in conjunction with these, all the other functions of the system, remain inactive, not for an hour only, but for months and sometimes for years. It does so in the seeds of plants, and the eggs of animals, so long as they are capable of germinating or pullulating. It does so in most animals, and perhaps in all vegetables, that sleep or become torpid during the winter-season; for though in a few hybernating animals, as the hedge-hog and Alpine marmot, we trace a small degree of corporeal action from their appearing thinner or returning to activity in the spring, the greater number, like dormice and squirrels, exhibit no diminution whatever. It does so, in a more extraordinary manner, in the ears of blighted corn; which, though incapable of filling and fattening, and seemingly lifeless and effete, still contain a seed that may be rendered productive of a sound and healthy increase. It does so in various species of the moss; in various species of the snail, in one or two of the snake, in the wheel-polype, sloth, and tile-eel, and a variety of other animals and animalcules, that, like many of the preceding, have been kept apparently dead and in the form of dried preparations, totally destitute of irritability, altogether withered, and in substance as hard as a board for months and years, in some instances as long as twenty years,—and have afterward been restored to life and activity upon the application of warmth, moisture, or some other appropriate stimulus.*
These are extraordinary facts, and may be difficult to be comprehended: but they are facts nevertheless, and may be proved at any time and by any person. But there is a fact still more extraordinary, and of infinitely higher moment; and one in which we are all infinitely more interesteda fact to which these remarks naturally lead, and which they may serve in some degree to illustrate; it is the termination of the sleep of death, the resurrection of the body from the grave.
* Snails revived after being dried fifteen years and more.-Phil. Trans. 1774, p. 432. See also Mr. Baner's Croonian Lecture "On the Suspension of the Muscular Powers of the Vibrio Tritici."-Phil. Trans. 1823. Art. 1. He has revived this curious worm after perfect torpitude and apparent death for five years and eight months, merely by soaking it in
ON VOICE AND LANGUAGE; VOCAL IMITATION; AND VENTRILOQUISM.
LANGUAGE, in the fullest scope of the term, is of two kinds; natural and articulate or artificial. The first belongs to most animals; the last is peculiar to man: it is his great and exclusive prerogative. This also is of two divisions; oral or vocal, which constitutes speech; and literal or legible, which constitutes writing. The first of these divisions shall form our subject for the present study; the second we will examine in a subsequent lecture.
At the root of the tongue lies a minute semi-lunar shaped bone, which from its resemblance to the Greek letter v, or upsilon, is called the hyoid or u like bone; and immediately from this bone arises a long cartilaginous tube, which extends to the lungs, and conveys the air backward and forward in the process of respiration.* This tube is denominated the trachea or windpipe; and the upper part of it, or that immediately connected with the hyoid-bone, the larynx and it is this upper part or larynx alone that constitutes the seat of the voice.
The tube of the larynx, as short as it is, is formed of five distinct cartilages; the largest, and apparently, though not really, lowermost of which, produces that acute projection or knot in the anterior part of the neck, and especially in the neck of males, of which every one must be sensible. This is not a complete ring, but is open behind; the open space being filled up, in order to make a complete ring, with two other cartilages of a smaller size and power; and which together form the glottis, as it is called, or aperture out of the mouth into the larynx. The fourth cartilage lies immediately over this aperture, and closes it in the act of swallowing, so as to direct the food to the esophagus, another opening immediately behind it, which leads to the stomach. These four cartilages are supported by a fifth, which constitutes their basis; is narrow before, and broad behind, and has some resemblance to a seal-ring. The larynx is contracted and dilated in a variety of ways by the antagonist power of different muscles, and the elasticity of its cartilaginous coats; and is covered internally with a very sensible, vascular, and mucous membrane, which is a continuation of the membrane of the mouth.
The organ of the voice, then, is the larynx, its muscles, and other appendages; and the voice itself is the sound of the air propelled through and striking against the sides of its glottis, or opening into the mouth. The shrillness or roughness of the voice depends on the internal diameter of the glottis, its elasticity, mobility, and lubricity, and the force with which the air is protruded. Speech is the modification of the voice into distinct articulations, in the cavity of the glottis itself, or in that of the mouth, or of the nostrils.
Those animals only that possess lungs, possess a larynx, and hence none but the three first classes in the Linnéan system, consisting of mammals, birds, and amphibials. Even among these, however, some genera or species are entirely dumb, as the myrmecopbaga, or ant-eater, the manis or
*Stud. of Med. i. p. 457. edit. i.
pangolin, and the cetaceous tribes, together with the tortoise, lizards, and serpents; while others lose their voice in particular regions: as the dog is said to do in some parts of America,* and quails and frogs in various districts of Siberia.†
It is from the greater or less degree of perfection with which the larynx is formed in the different classes of animals that possess it, that the voice is rendered more or less perfect; and it is by an introduction of superadded membranes, or muscles, into its general structure, or a variation in the shape, position, or elasticity of those that are common to it, that quadrupeds and other animals are capable of making those peculiar sounds, by which their different kinds are respectively characterized, and are able to neigh, bray, bark, or roar; to pur, as the cat and tiger kind, to bleat as the sheep, or to croak as the frog.
The larynx of the bird class is of a very peculiar form, and admirably adapted to that sweet and varied music with which we are so often delighted in the woodlands. In reality, the whole extent of the trachea or windpipe in birds may be regarded as one vocal apparatus; for the larynx is divided into two sections, or may rather, perhaps, be considered as two distinct organs; the more complicated, or that in which the parts are more numerous and elaborate, being placed at the bottom of the treachea, where it divides into two branches, one for each of the lungs; and the simpler, or that in which the parts are fewer, and consist in those not included in the former, occupying its usual situation at the upper end of the trachea, which however is without an epiglottis; the food and other substances being incapable of entering the aperture of the glottis from another contrivance. The lungs, trachea, and larynx of birds, therefore, may be regarded as forming a complete natural bagpipe; in which the lungs constitute the pouch, and supply the wind; the trachea itself the pipe; the inferior glottis the reed, or mouth-piece, which produces the simple sound; and the superior glottis the finger-holes, which modify the simple sound into an infinite variety of distinct notes, and at the same time give them utterance.
Here, however, as among quadrupeds, we meet with a considerable diversity in the structure of the vocal apparatus, and especially in the length and diameter of the tube or trachea, not only in the different species, but often in the different sexes of the same species, more particularly, among aquatic birds. Thus the trachea is straight in the tame or dumb swan (anas Olor) of both sexes; whilst in the male musical swan (anas Cygnus), it winds into a large convolution contained in the hollow of the sternum. In the spoon-bill (platalea Leucorodia), as also in the mot-mot pheasant (phasianus Mot-mot), and some others, similar windings of the trachea occur, not enclosed in the sternum. The males of the duck and merganser (Anas and Mergus), have, at the inferior larynx, a bony addition to the cavity, which contributes to strengthen their voice.
Many of the frog genus have a sac or bag in the throat, directly communicating with the larynx, as the tree frog (rana arborea), while the green frog (rana esculenta) has two considerable pouches in the cheeks, which it inflates, at the time of coupling, by two openings close to the glottis. And it is on this account they are able to give forth that kind of croaking
*Pennant, Arctic Zool.
† Muller, Collect. of Russian Discoveries, vol. vii, p. 123.
music which they generally begin in the evening and continue through the greater part of the night. Two or three species, possessed of a similar kind of apparatus, are very clamorous animals; and, pretending to a knowledge of the weather, are peculiarly noisy before rain or thunder-storms; while several, as the jocular and laughing toad (rana risibunda and r. bombina) are of a merrier mood, and seem to imitate with tolerable exactness the laugh of the human voice, in the hey-dey of their activity, which is always in the evening.
Among the bird tribes there are some possessed of powers of voice so singular, independently of that of their own natural music, that I cannot consent to pass them over in total silence. The note of the pipra musica, or tuneful manakin, is not only intrinsically sweet, but forms a complete octave; one note succeeding another in ascending, and measured intervals, through the whole range of its diapason. This bird is an inhabitant of St. Domingo, of a black tint, with a blue crown and yellow front and rump; about four inches long, very shy, and dexterous in eluding the vigilance of such as attempt to take it. The imitative power of several species of the corvus and psittacus kinds is well-known; the jays and parrots are those most commonly taught, and the far-famed parrot of the late Colonel O'Kelly, which could repeat twenty of our inost popular songs, and sing them to their proper tunes, has been, I suppose, seen and heard by most of us. The bulfinch (loxia Pyrrhula), however, has a better voice, as well as a more correct taste in copying musical tones, and the bird-breeders of Germany find a lucrative employment in training multitudes of this family for a foreign market.
The talents of the nightingale (motacilla Lucina) for speaking, are, likewise, said to be very extraordinary, and even equal to his talents for singing. But where is the man, whose bosom burns with a single spark of the love of nature, that could for one moment consent that this pride and delight of the groves should barter away the sweet wildness of its native wood-notes for any thing that art can offer in its stead?
There is no species, however, so much entitled to notice on account of its voice, as the polyglottus, or mocking-bird. This is an individual of the thrush kind; its own natural note is delightfully musical and solemn ; but beyond this it possesses an instinctive talent of imitating the note of every other kind of singing bird, and even the voice of every bird of prey so exactly as to deceive the very kinds it attempts to mock. It is moreover playful enough to find amusement in the deception; and takes a pleasure in decoying smaller birds near it by mimicking their notes, when it frightens them almost to death, or drives them away with all speed, by pouring upon them the screams of such birds of prey as they dread.
Now it is clear that the imitative, like the natural voice, has its seat in the cartilages and other moveable powers that form the larynx: for the great body of the trachea only gives measure to the sound, and renders it more or less copious in proportion to its volume. It is not, therefore, to be wondered at, that a similar sort of imitative power should be sometimes cultivated with success in the human larynx; and that we should occasionally meet with persons, who, from long and dexterous practice, should be able to imitate the notes of almost all the singing-birds of the woods, or the sounds of other animals, or even to personate the different voices of orators and other public speakers.
One of the most extraordinary instances of this last kind consists in the
VOCAL IMITATION, AND VENTRILOQUISM.
art of what is called VENTRILOQUISM,* of which no very plausible explanation has hitherto been offered to the world. The practitioner of this occult art is well known to have a power of modifying his voice in such a manner as to imitate the voices of different persons conversing at a considerable distance from each other, and in very different tones. And hence the first impression which this ingenious trick or exhibition produced on the world, was that of the artist's possessing a double or triple larynx; the additional larynxes being supposed to be seated still deeper in the chest than the lowermost of the two that belong to birds: whence indeed the name of VENTRILOQUISM OF BELLY-SPEAKING. Mr. Gough has attempted, in the Memoirs of the Manchester Society, to resolve the whole into the phænomena of echoes; the ventriloquist being conceived by him on all occasions to confine himself to a room well disposed for echoes in various parts of it, and merely to produce false voices by directing his natural voice in a straight line towards such echoing parts, instead of in a straight line towards the audience; who, upon this view of the subject, are supposed to be artfully placed on one or both sides of the ventriloquist. It is sufficient to observe, in opposition to this conjecture, that it does not account for the perfect quiescence of the mouth and checks of the performer while employing his feigned voices; and that an adept in the art, like Mr. Fitzjames, or Mr. Alexander, is wholly indifferent to the room in which he practises, and will allow another person to choose a room for him. Mr. Fitzjames is a native of France; and his vocal arts and vocal powers have been paid particular attention to by M. Richerand, one of the most popular French physiologists of the day; who has also examined the vocal organs of other ventriloquists, and observes, as the result of his investigations, that although there is little or no motion in the cheeks during the art of speaking, there is a considerable demand and expenditure of air; the ventriloquist always inhaling deeply before he commences his deception, passing a part of the air thus inhaled through his nostrils, and being able to continue his various voices as long as the inspired air may last, or till he has inhaled a fresh supply.
This view of the subject induced M. Richerand to relinquish the old hypothesis of a kind of vocal organ being seated in the stomach, to which we have already adverted, and which he had formerly embraced; though it does not appear that he has very distinctly adopted any other in its stead: "At first," says he, "I had conjectured that a great part of the air expelled by expiration, did not pass out by the mouth and nostrils, but was swallowed and carried into the stomach; and, being reflected in some part of the digestive canal, gives rise to a real echo; but having afterwards more attentively observed this curious phenomenon in Mr. Fitzjames, who exhibits it in its greatest perfection, I was soon convinced that the name of ventriloquism is by no means applicable; since the whole of its mechanism consists in a slow gradual expiration; in which the artist either influences at his will the surrounding muscles of the chest, or keeps down the epiglottis by the base of the tongue, the point of which is not protruded beyond the arch of the teeth."
M. De la Chapelle, without offering any particular explanation of this curious art, published, in 1772, an ingenious work, in which he attempted to prove that ventriloquism is of a very ancient date; and that it formed
* Stud. of Med. i. p. 463. edit. i.
Nouveaux Elemens de Physiologie, in loc. Paris, 1804.