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will enable the student to obtain such a knowledge of early English, that he can read with facility every thing written in the language, from the period when it assumed a distinct form to its complete development in the seventeenth century.

Critical discussions of the literary merit of English authors would be foreign to the plan of the present course, and in noticing writers of different periods, I shall refer chiefly to their value as sources of philological instruction. First in time, and not least in importance, is the Ormulum, a very good edition of which was published in 1852. This is a metrical paraphrase of a part of the New Testament, in a homiletic form, and it probably belongs to the early part of the thirteenth century. Its merit consists mainly in the purity of its Saxon-English, very few words of foreign origin occurring in it. The uniformity of its orthography, and the regularity of its inflections, are far greater than are to be found in the poetical compositions even of the best writers of the succeeding century. One reason of this is that the unrhymed versification adopted by the author relieved him from the necessity of varying the terminal syllables of his words for the sake of rhyme, which led to such anomalous inflections in other poetical compositions, and it accordingly exhibits the language in the most perfect form of which it was then capable. In fact, the dialect of the Ormulum is more easily mastered than that of Piers Ploughman, which was written more than a century later, and it contains fewer words of unknown or doubtful signification. It is, moreover, especially interesting as a specimen of the character and inherent tendencies of the Anglo-Saxon language as affected by more advanced civilization and culture, but still uncorrupted by any considerable mixture of foreign ingredients; for we

discover no traces of the Norman element in the vocabulary, and but few in the syntax of this remarkable work.* Piers Ploughman, on the contrary, employs Latin and French words in quite as large a proportion as Chaucer, although the forms and syntax of the latter author are much nearer the modern standard. The compliment which Spenser bestows upon Chaucer’s “ Well of English undefiled” is indeed well merited, if reference be had to the composite character that English assumed in the best ages of its literature, but it would be more titly applied to the Ormulum, as a repository of the indigenous vocabulary of the Anglican tongue. In any event, no student of the works of Chaucer will dispute Spenser's opinion that

“In him the pure well-head of poesy did dwell,”

and it is no extravagant praise to say that the name of Chaucer was the first in English literature, until it was, not eclipsed, but surpassed by those of Shakespeare and Milton.

In the earliest ages of all literature, poetry seems to be little more than an artificial arrangement of the dialect of common life, but as literary culture advances, both the phraseology and the grammar of metrical compositions diverge from the vulgar speech, and poetry forms a vocabulary and a syntax of its own. Although, therefore, the practice of

The vocabulary of the Ormulum consists of about twenty-three hundred words, exclusive of proper names and inflected forms. Among these I am un. able to find a single word of Norman-French origin, and scarcely ten which were taken directly from the Latin. The whole number of words of foreign etymology previously introduced into Anglo-Saxon, which occur in the Ormulum, does not exceed sixty, though there is some uncertainty as to the origin of several words common to the Latin and the Gothic languages in the earliest stages in which these latter are known to us.-See Lecture vi.

+ See Lecture vi.

great poetical writers is authority for their successors, yet it is by no means trustworthy evidence as to the actual character of the language employed by speakers or prose writers; and this is more emphatically true of the English than of most Continental languages, in consequence of the derangement of its flectional system, which I have already noticed.

The dialect of Chaucer doubtless approaches to the court language of his day, but the prose of. Wycliffe is more nearly the familiar speech of the English heart in the reign of Edward III., and the pages of Holinshed more truly reflect the living language of Queen Elizabeth's time than the stanzas of Spenser.

The English prose literature of the fifteenth century consists, in large proportion, of translations, and these always partake more or less of the color of the source from whence they were taken. There is, in fact, so little native English of that period extant in a printed form, that it is not easy to determine how far the prevalence of Gallicisms in the translations printed by Caxton is to be ascribed to the influence of French originals upon the style of the translator, and how far it was a characteristic feature of the language of the time. The same remark applies, though with much less force, to Lord Berners' admirable translation of Froissart, the two volumes of which were published in 1523 and 1525 respectively; but this translation is doubtless the best English prose style which had yet appeared, and as a specimen of picturesque narrative, it is excelled by no production of later periods. The dramatic character and familiar gossipping tone of the original allowed some license of translation, and the dialogistic style of the English of Lord Berners is as racy and nearly as idiomatic as the French of Froissart.

Tyndale's translation of the New Testament is the most important philological monument of the first half of the sixteenth century, perhaps I should say of the whole period between Chaucer and Shakespeare, both as a historical relic, and as having more than any thing else contributed to shape and fix the sacred dialect, and establish the form which the Bible must permanently assume in an English dress. The best features of the translation of 1611 are derived from the version of Tyndale, and thus that remarkable work has exerted, directly and indirectly, a more powerful influence on the English language than any other single production between the ages of Richard II. and Queen Elizabeth.*

The most important remaining prose works of the sixteenth century are the writings of Sir Thomas More,t (which, however, with all their excellence, are rather specimens of what the language, in its best estate, then was, than actually influential models of composition,) and those of Hooker. These last, indeed, are not remarkable as originating new forms or combinations of words, but they embody nearly all the real improvements which had been made, and they may be considered as exhibiting a structure of English not equalled by the style of any earlier, and scarcely surpassed by that of any later writer.

I shall reserve what I have to say upon the dialect of the authorized English version of the Bible for another occasion, and it would be superfluous to commend to the study of the inquirer such authors as Bacon, and Shakespeare, and Milton. There are, however, two or three classes of writers of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, whose works are much less known than their philological importance deserves. First,

See Lecture xxviii.

+ See Lecture vi.

are what we must call, in relation to Shakespeare, and only in relation to him, the minor dramatists of the period in question. They are valuable, not only as perhaps the best authorities

upon the actual spoken dialect of their age, but as genuine expressions of the character and tendencies of contemporaneous English humanity, and also for the aid they afford in the illustration and elucidation of Shakespeare himself, whose splendor has so completely filled the horizon of his art, that those feebler lights can hardly yet be said to have enjoyed the benefit of a heliacal rising.

Next come the early English translators of the great monuments of Greek and Roman literature. The reigns of Elizabeth and James-produced a large number of translations of classical a thors, as for example the Lives and the Morals of Plutarch, the Works of Seneca, the History of Livy, the Natural History of the Elder Pliny, and other voluminous works. These translations are naturally more or less tinctured with un-English classical idioms, but the vast range of subjects discussed in them, especially in Plutarch and Pliny, demanded the employment of almost the entire native vocabulary, and we find in these works exemplifications of numerous words and phrases which scarcely occur at all in any other branch of the literature of that important period

For the same reasons, the early voyagers and travellers, such as the voluminous collections of Hakluyt and Purchas, as well as the separately published works of this class, are very valuable sources of philological knowledge. Their vocabularies are very varied and extensive, and they are rendered especially attractive by the life and fervor which, at a period when all that was foreign to Europe was full of wonder and mystery, clothed in almost poetic forms the narratives of events, and descriptions of scenery and objects, now almost

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