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luly, ? p. A knowledge of the ancient pronunciation of our Lan. g-aqc accessary in order to form a Judgment of the Versification of Chaucer, '. 10. How a critick in the age nf Augustus would have pro* ceded in judging of the metre of Ennius, }u. The fame method re. commended with respect to Chaucer. General reasons for believing that he understood aud practised the ordinary rules of metre, ' 12. The uffcDces against metre in an English verse enumerated* as arising from l. a superfluity, 2. a deficiency of syllables, and 3. a misplacing us accents, J13, Wo superfluity of syllables inChaucer's verses, } 14. The seeming defitltmitiln his metre may generally be supplied by restoring the ancient pronunciation of certain syllables, j 15.; and especially us thee feminine. Reasons for believing that the Anal e'\a our ancient Lan. Kuagc v-2i pronounced like the t feminine of the French, & if". The thinl kind of irregularity, arising from a mi/placing of actfttti,may be rectified, in many instances, by accenting certain words in a manner different from that now in use, and more agreeable to the French practice. Proof* that such a mode of accentuation was used by Chaucer in words of Saxon as well as of French original. The early poets in France and Italy not exact in the disposition of their accents, $ 17. Illustration of the foregoing theory by a grammatical and metrical analysis of the first eighteen lines of The Canterbury Tales, J 18,
AN ESSAY, &e.
The Language of Chaucer has undergone two very different judgments. According to one (i) he is the "well of English undented ;" according to the other he has corrupted and deformed the English idiom by an immoderate mixture of French words (a). Nor do
(1) Spenser, F. O^b. IV. c. II. st. 52.
(z) Vcrftegan, c. 7. ** Some tew ages after fthe conquestj '* came the poet Geffery Chaucer, who writing his poesies in ** Englith ia of some called the 6rrt illuminator of the English "tongue. Of their opinion I am not, though I reverence Chau •* cer as an excellent poet for his time. He was indeed a gre.it 11 mingler of Entlijbvvitb Vrtncb, unto which language (belike "for that he was descended of French or rather Waloon race) •* he carried a great affection."
Skinner, Etymul. L. A. I*rxf. "Ex hoc malesano novitatis "pruritu, Belgæ Gallicas voces passim civitate sua donando *l patrii seraioois puritatem nuper non levUcr inquinarunt, et the opinions with respect to his Versification seem t» have iu'cn less discordant. His contemporaries (3), and they who lived nearest to his time, universally extol him ay the '* chief poete of Britainc," "the "flour of poetes," Use. titles which must be supposed to imply their admiration of his metrical skill as Well as of hU other poetical talents; but the later criticks (4), though they leave him in possession of the fame founding titles, yet they are almost unani
44 Chauccrua pneta, pesfimo cxemplo, inteiris •vocum plaujris 44 ex eadem GailU in nqjlrain lingnam /niv£j.r}eam, nimia antes 14 a Normannorum victoria adulteratam, omni fere nativa 44 gratia et nitore fyoliavit."
(3) Udgatc, Occlcve, et a!. Sec the Testimonies prefixed to this volume.
(4) I Hull only quote Pryriqn,Pref. to his Fables. "The 44 verse of Chance*; 1 confess* is not harmonious to us—They *' who lived with him, and some time after him, thought it mu41 Real, and it Continue* so even in our judgment, if compared 44 with the number* of Lydgate and Gower, his contempora•4 ries.—It is true 1 cannot go so far a* he who published the laft "edition of him, [Mr. Speght,] for he would make us believe V the sank is in our ears, aud tliat there were really ten syllables. 44 in a verse where we rind but nine: but this opinion is not 44 worth confuting; it is so profs and obvious an errour that ft common fense (which Is a rule in every thing but matters of 44 faith rind revelation; mutt convince the reader tliat equality 44 ot"numbers in every vtiie which we call Hcroick was either *• not known or not always practised in Chaucer's age. It were 44 an easy matter to piodact fume thousands of his verses which 44 are lame forwent oinaif afoot, and sometimes a whole one, 44 and which no pronunciation can make otherwise."—This peremptory decision hat* never since (that I know) been controverted, except by Mr. t'rry, whose design os reitcring the metre of Chaucer by a collation of mss. was as lauduble ib bis execution of it has ca-vainly been unfucceftfuk
raocfly agreed that he was either totally ignorant or negligent of metrical rules, and that Ms verses (if they may be ib called) are frequently deficient by a syllable or two of their just measure. ■
It is the purpose of the following Essiy to throw some light upon both these questions. Admitting the tact that the English of Chaucer has a great mixture gf French in it, 1 hope to (hew that this mixture (if a crime) cannot fairly be laid to his charge: I lhail then proceed to state some observations upon the most material peculiarities of the Norman-Saxon or Estglilh Language, as it appears to have been in general use in the age os Chaucer; and, lastly, applying these observations to the poetical parts of The Canterbury Tales, as they are faithfully printed in this edition from the befr mss. which'I could procure, I (hall leave it to the intelligent reader to determine whether Chaucer was really i-rnwrant of the* laws, or even of the graces, of Versification, and whether he was more negligent of either than"the very early poets in almost all languages are found to have been.
.. PART THE "IRST.
§ I. In order to judge, in the first p'-ice, how far Chaucer ought to be charged as the importer of the many French word., and phrase's which are so visible in all his writings, it will be necessary to take a short view of the early introduction aud long prevulency of the Trench language in this country before his time. It might be sufficient perhaps for our purposeto beginthis view at the conquest; but I cannot h eiji observing from, a contemporary historian, that several years before that great event the language of France had been introduced into the court of Engt'otumcl. 1
land, and from thence among the people. The account which Ingulphus gives of this matter is (5), that Edward, commonly called The Confessor, having been educated at the court of his ancle Duke Richard J I. and having resided in Normandy many years, became almost a Frenchmen: upon his return iVora thence, and accession to the throne of England. in 1043, he brought over with him a number of Normans, whom he promoted to the highest dignities; and (according to Ingulphus) under the influence of the King and n*s Norman favourites the whole nation began to lay aside their English fa/Lions, and imitate the manners of the French in many things; in particular, he feys expressly that all th; nobility in their courts began to speak French as a great piece ofgtntiltty. § 2. This fuihion, hovvever, of speaking rrench, having been adopted only in compliance wfth the caprice of the reigning prince, would not probably have spread very wide or laired very long; but at the revolution, which followed soon after in 1066, the language of the Norman conqueror was interwoven with the new political system (6), and the
'5) Ingulph. Hitt. Croy!. p. 62. ed. Cal*. "Rex autem Ed"wardus njius in Angli.i, sod nutritui in Vo-rmania et diutis*• fiinc immoratus pen? in Galltcum traniiprat, adducenu ac "•ittrahens rfc Kormania plurimos, ijuos variiy dignitatibus 11 piomototi in immensum exaltabaf.—Cœpit ergo tota terra '• sub Kegc et sub aliis Normanis iiitmdutlU AngHcos situs dl"njittert, et Francorum more* in multis imitari, Gallscum "s s:i!i:c!) iMorn.i omucs Magnates in/uit cur Us tanqttam mag»* w.iHi gentllitium lo<juit durtas ct chtrograplia sua more Fran"c<;rum conftcere, et propnam cunfuetudinem in hi* et in '* aliiit multis crubestere."
[6} Hubert Hclkot .as quoted by Seldcn, arf £adm:r, p. i?9,) ftfcral establishments which weie made for the support and security of the one all contributed, in a greater or less degree, to the diffusion and permanency cf the other.
§ 3. To begin with the court; If we consider that the King himself, the chief officers of state, and by far the greatest part of the nobility, were all Normans, and could probably speak, no language but their own, we can have no doubt that French (7)
says that the Conqueror—" deliberavit quomodo unguam ** Saxonicam potTet deitruere, et Angliam et Normaniam la "idtomate concordare."—But Holkot wrote only in the 14th century, and I do not tind that the earlier historians impute to the King so filly a project. On the contrary Ordericus Vital is si. iv. cio,] assures us that William—** Angiicam locutionem ** plerumpque sategit ediscere: ut fine interpretc querelairi 41 subjectælegis posset intdHgere,etscitarectitudinIsunicuique "(prout ratiodictaret) affectuose depromcre. Asta perceptione "hiijusmodiduriorætas ilium cornpescebat,ettumutnismul** timodarum occupationum ad alia necessario adtxahetwt."— And several of his publick instruments, which are still extant In Saxon, [Hickes G. A. S. p. 164—Pro's, p. xv, xvi,] prove that he had no objection to using that language in business j so that it seems more natural to suppose that the introduction ot" the French language was a consequence only and not an object of his policy".
?-) I apprehend that Idng before this time the Daniih tongue had ceased to be spoken In Normandy; it was never general there, a* appears from a passage of Dudon, I. Hi. p. 112. Duke William I. gives this reason for sending his son Richard to be educated at Baieux; "Qnnrriam quideni Rotomagenflscivitas "Romana potius quam Uacisca utitur eloquent!.!, ct Bajoca"centis fruitur frequentius Dacisca lingua quam Romana, vol<» "igirur ut ad Bajocacenfia deferatur quantocii:s mcenia," E^i. V we recollect that the Daniih settlers under Rollo were few m comparison with the original inhabitants, and had probahly fcarec any use of letters among them, we IhnM «mt be surprised