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LATIN, SAXON-ENGLISH, AND NORMAN
“ The Saxon Chronicle” is continued to 1154; but the two principal works of the Saxon-English literature are LAYAMox's translation or imitation of WACE's “ Brut," and " The Ormulum,” written by Orm, or Ormin, a metrical paraphrase of Scripture.
WACE, who died about 1184, is the most celebrated of the Norman-French poets. His
principal poems are " Brut d'Angleterre" and " Roman de Rou," a translation of Geoffrey's “ History of Britain” into verse, and a history of the dukes of Normandy to Henry II.
GEOFFREY GAIMAR wrote the “ History of the Angles," in Norman-French. The Norman-French was the parent of the modern French tongue. Its poets, called Trouvères, or Trouveurs, were the authors of the poems called “ Fabliaux" and the Anglo-Norinan romances, of which the most remarkable are those relating to King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, of whom we learn something in “The Idylls of the King." But Latin was the language of the Church and the learned, and of the prose and poetry of the age.
JOSEPHUS ISCANUS, or JOSEPH OF EXETER, wrote two epic poems, –“Antiocheis,” a story of the third crusade, almost entirely lost; and “The 'Trojan War," which is said to be remarkable for its pure and harmonious Latin. “The Confession of Golias," a drinking-song in rhyming Latin, satirical against the clergy, was written by Walter Mopes.
INGULPHUS. “ History of the Abbey of Croyland.”
WILLIAM OF MALMESBURY. “History of the English Kings, from the Saxons to 1142."
GEOFFREY OF MONMOUTH. History of the Britons," with its celebrated legends of the Celts.
GERALD BARRY, BENEDICT, ROGER DE HOVEDEN, HENRY OF HuntingDON, GERVASE OF TILBURY, and Matthew PARIS, were historians and chroniclers.
There is no end to the wonderful fictions of this period. The most remarkable collection, perhaps, is the “Gesta Romanorum," the great source of inspiration of the earlier poets.' The story of the caskets, pound of Hesh, and evasion of payment, in “ The Merchant of Venice," are found in the Gesta;" also the specter-legend of Scott's “Marmion," of " The Three Black Crows," and other well-known jests.
LATIN, CELTIC, AND ANGLO-SAXON
In the fifth century, there were four languages used in the British isles:
1. Latin, the language of the Church and the learned. 2 The Erse, or Gaelic, from which the Scottish and Irish. 3. The Cymric, the language of the Ancient Britons, preserved in the Welsh. 4. The Anglo-Saxon, the backbone of the English.
The poetic legends and heroic deeds of the Saxons were sung in camp, and at the festive bourd, in alliterative verse, - a style borrowed from the Northmen, — by the Gleeman, or Minstrel.
The romance of “ Beowulf," a poem of sis thousand lines, relates the incredible exploits and dangers of a Danish soldier.
The “ Paraphrase " of CEDMON, who was inspired in a dream to sing (about 680), is regarded as one of the oldest specimens of Anglo-Saxon existing, - especially the story of the Creation and Fall.
" The Battle of Finsborough," " The Traveler's Song," “ Judith,” and “ Athelstane's Song of Victory," in " The Chronicle" of 938, are other Anglo-Saxon remains.
King ALFRED, born 848, is the most distinguished writer of Anglo-Saxon prose. He gave his people translations, with additions of his own thought and knowledge, of Bede's “ Church History,” Pope Gregory's “Duties of the Clergy, " Orosius " Ancient History," Bæthius “ On the Consolation of Philosophy," and some of the Soliloquies” of St. Augustine of Hippo.
Alfric (died 1006) wrote eighty "Homilies” for the common people, “ Latin Grammar,"
," " Glossary," and " Book of Conversation.” “ The Saxon Chronicle" is supposed to have been commenced by PLEGMUND, primate of Alfred's time, written in the monasteries, bearing different dates, closing with 1154. King Alfred's Will, some homilies, and a few other works, are all that remaiu of Anglo-Saxon prose.
The most important of the Latin authors and their numerous works are, ALDHELM. – Author of a book of riddles, and much poor Latin prose and
BEDE. — The celebrated anthor of “ The History of the Anglo-Saxon Church," and forty other theological and scientific works; also translation of John's Gospel into Anglo-Saxon.
Alcuin. – The learned friend and companion of Charlemagne. Wrote much on theology and church history.
ERIGENA (John Scotus). — An Irishman, the Irish being called Scots until about 1600, when the name was transferred to the North Britons. Was one of the most learned men of his time. Author of works on “ Predestination," " The Eucharist," and “ On the Division of Nature."
DUNSTAN. — The famous Archbishop of Canterbury: wrote many learned theological works.
Of the Celtic writers, GILDAS, NENNIUS, and St. COLUMBANUS, wrote also in Latin. In Wales, the poems of TALIESIN, MERLIN, and other bards of the sixth century, are extant. Of the Scottish Gaelic, the poems of Ossian— “ Fingal ” and “ Temora" are considered forgeries, committed by the pretended translator, JAMES MACPHERSON, about 1760. But Ireland claims the oldest specimens of all literature in modern Europe. “ The Annals," scraps of contemporary history in Irish verse from the fifth century, “ The Psalter of Cashel,” and “The Annals of Tigernach and of the Four Masters of Ulster," belong to the ninth and eleventh centuries.
SIR JOHN DE MANDEVILLE
Was the earliest writer of an English prose-work that has been preserved. He wrote a narrative of his travels, in Latin; afterwards translated by himself into French, then into English. He was a traveler the most of his life ; and his narrative abounds in marvelous stories. We give a short extract from —
And for als moche as it is longe tyme passed, that ther was no generalle Passage ne Vyage over the See; and many Men desiren for to here speke of the holy Lond, and hand thereof gret Solace and Comfort; I John Maundevylle, Knyght, alle be it I be not worthi, that was born in Englond, in the Town of Seynt Albones, passed the See, in the Zeer of our Lord Jesu Crist MCCCXXII, in the Day of Seynt Michelle; and hidre too have been longe tyme over the See, and have seyn and gon thorghe manye dyverse Londes, and many Provynces and Kingdomes and Iles, and have passed thorghe Tartarye, Percye, Ermonyes the litylle and the grete; thorghe Lybye, Caldee and a gret partie of Ethiope; thorghe Amazoyne, Inde the lasse and the more, a gret partie; and thorghe out many othere Iles, that ben abouten Inde; where dwellen many dyverse Folkes, and of dyverse Maneres and Lawes, and of dyverse Schappes of men. Of whiche Londes and Iles, I schalle speke more pleynly hereaftre. And I schalle devise zou sum partie of thinges that there ben, whan time schalle ben, aftre it may best come to my mynde; and specyally for hem, that wylle and are in purpos for to visite the Holy Citee of Jerusalem, and the holy Places that are thereaboute. And I schalle telle the Weye, that thei schulle holden thidre. For I have often tymes passed and ryden the way, with gode Companye of many Lordes: God be thonked.
And zee schulle undirstonde, that I have put this Boke out of Latyn into Frensche, and translated it azen out of Frensche into Englyssche, that every Man of my Nacioun may undirstonde it. But Lordes and Knyghtes and othere noble and worthi Men, that conne Latyn but litylle, and han ben bezonde the See, knowen and undirstonden, zif I erre in devisynge, or forzetynge, or elles; that thei mowe* redresse it and amende it. For thinges passed out of longe tyme from a Mannes mynde or from his syght, turnen sone in forzetynge: Because that Mynde of Manne may not ben comprehended ne witheholden, for the Freeltee of Mankynde.
SOURCES OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
MODERN English, in the formation of its words and grammatical structure of its sentences, dates from about A.D. 1500. Its vocabulary, of course, has been constantly increasing, from the adoption of foreign words and the growth of old and new sciences. The limits of this work will not allow any reference to modern speculations and theories of the formation of language, nor of comparative philology, nor of the progress of written language from rude picture-writing and Egyptian hieroglyphics to its present character. For all these, the student must consult the prefaces of the large dictionaries, and the works of modern philologists, grammars, and encyclopædias.*
ENGLish grammar, as to its system of etymology and syntax, is Anglo-Saxon in its distinctive characteristics. It is simpler than the Anglo-Saxon, from having lost several inflectional terminations of words; and its syntax could be reduced still more by abolishing case altogether, regarding all possessives as adjectives. “Our chief peculiarities of structure and of idiom are essentially Anglo-Saxon; while almost all the classes of words which it is the office of grammar to investigate are derived from that language. Thus the few inflections we have are all Anglo-Saxon. The English genitive, the general modes of forming the plural of nouns, and the terminations by which we express the comparative and superlative of adjectives (-er and -est); the inflections of the pronouns; those of the second and third persons, present and imperfect, of the verbs; the inflections of the preterites and participles of the verbs, whether regular or irregular; and the most frequent termination of our adverbs (-ly), - are all AngloSaxon. The nouns, too, derived from Latin and Greek, receive the Anglo-Saxon terminations of the genitive and plural; while the preterites and participles of verbs derived from the same sources take the Anglo-Saxon inflections. As to the parts of speech, those which occur most frequently, and are individually of most importance, are almost wholly Saxon. Such are our articles and definitives generally, - as 'a, an, the, this, that, these, those, many, few, some, one, none;' the adjectives whose comparatives and superlatives are irregularly formed; the separate words “more and most,' by which we express comparison as often as by distinct terminations; all our pronouns, — personal, possessive, relative, and interrogative; nearly every one of our socalled irregular verbs, including all the auxiliaries, have, be, shall, will, may, can, must,' by which we express the force of the
Webster's, Worcester's, Richardson's, Walker's, and Johnson's Dictionaries; Chambers', Rees', Edinburgh, and Metropolitan Encyclopædias; Lectures of Max Müller and of G. P. Marsh.
Latham's “ English Language;” “ Diversions of Purley,” by Tooke; “ Study of Words,” by Trench; Crabb’s “Synonyms;” Prof. Craik's Works; Rask's "'Anglo-Saxon Grammar."
principal varieties of mood and tense; all the adverbs most frequently employed; and the prepositions and conjunctions almost without exception."
The English language, like the Continental languages of Europe, substitutes new forms of expression for inflections, and, as is reasonable to suppose, becomes more and more perfect as its grammar becomes simpler.
The language derives its words from, –
2. Latin and Greek, many of the latter coming through the Latin.
3. French, other languages, and provincialisms.
From the Anglo-Saxon come the words, and parts of words, indicating relations; also the adjectives, nouns, and verbs classed as irregular, the same being words of most common use in the language; the names of objects of most frequent and striking occurrence, sun, moon, stars, land, water, wood, stream, hill, and dale; horse, cow, and the most common animals and plants; spring, summer, winter, light, darkness, heat, cold, rain, snow, thunder and lightning; sounds, postures, and motions of animal life. Specific terms render style more animated, forcible. Our specific terms are generally Anglo-Saxon. Color is Latin, as most of our abstract terms are, or French; but red, yellow, blue, white, black, green, and brown are Anglo-Saxon. Motion is Latin; but leap, spring, stagger, slip, slide, glide, fall, walk, run, swim, ride, creep, crawl, and fly are Anglo-Saxon. Affection and animation are Latin; but love, hate, hope, fear, gladness, sorrow, weeping, laughter, smile, tear, sigh, groan, father, mother, man, wife, child, son, daughter, kindred and friends, home, hearth, roof, fireside, and many other of the most touching words in the language, and most frequently on the tongue, are Anglo-Saxon, and, for the greater part, “the language of business, of the countinghouse, the shop, the market, the street, the farm.” The principal and most forcible language of invective, humor, satire, and pleasantry, is Anglo-Saxon.
From the Latin and French, it being difficult always to tell which, since the French itself is from the Latin, are coln (colonia), in Lincoln, chester from castrum, monk, bishop, saint, minister, porch, cloister, mass, psalter, chalice, pall
, candle, most general and abstract words, and many thousand terms of theology, metaphysics, and all the old and new sciences. The nomenclatures of modern sciences manufacture much from the Greek.
* Edinburgh Review, vol. Ixx., 1839.