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which it received being Latin terms introduced by Christian missionaries.
Down to the middle of the seventh century, few, comparatively, of the educated writers composed in their own language; and Latin was regarded as exclusively adapted to the exigencies of literary composition.
The first Anglo-Saxon writer of eminence who wrote in his own language, and of whom there are any remains, was Cædmon, a monk of Whitby, who died about A.D. 680. The following is a specimen of Anglo-Saxon poetry in that day; it was composed by Cædmon on the “Work of Creation,” and is selected, as will be other specimens of AngloSaxon and early English, from Chambers' “Cyclopædia of English Literature:
Anglo-Saxon.-"Nu we sceolan herian-heofonrices weard, metodes mihte and his mod-ge-thonc wera wuldor fæder! swa he wundra ge-hwæs ece dryhten oord onstealde."
Translation.—“Now we shall praise the guardian of heaven, the might of the Creator, and his counsel, the glory Father of men! how he of all wonders, the eternal Lord, formed the beginning
A few names of inferior note fill up the list of AngloSaxon writers down to the time of the venerable Bede. His works were very numerous, and consisted chiefly of Scriptural translations, commentaries, religious treatises, and, the most useful of all, an ecclesiastical history of the AngloSaxons. Some of his works were subsequently translated into the vernacular by the illustrious Alfred, who designed thereby to improve the condition of his ignorant subjects. Alfred was born A.D. 848, and died A.D. 901.
The following specimen of Anglo-Saxon, as it existed in the interval of these dates, is an extract from his translation of Boethius “On the Consolation of Philosophy," and is selected from Spalding's "History of English Literature:" “We sculon get, of ealdum leasum spellum, the sum bispell
Hit gelamp gió, thette án hearpere wes on these theode the Thracia hátte. Thås náma was Orfeus. He hæfde án swithe ænlic wif. Sió wæs háten Eurydice."
Translation.—“We will now, from old lying tales, to thee a
certain parable tell. It happened formerly, that a harper was in the nation which Thrace was called. His name was Orpheus. He had a very incomparable wife. She was called Eurydice.
Subsequently to Alfred, the next important name is that of Ælfric, Archbishop of Canterbury, who died A.D. 1006. He, like Alfred, wrote much in the vernacular for the enlightenment of the people. The following specimen of Anglo-Saxon prose, in his day, is a selection from his * Paschal Homily:
“Hæthen cild bith ge-fullod, ac hit ne bræt na his hiw withutan, dheah dhe hit beo withinnan awend. Hit bith ge-broht synfull dhurh Adames forgægednysse to tham fant fate. Ac hit bith athwogen fram eallum synnum with-innan, dheah dhe hit withutan his hiw we awende.”
Translation." A heathen child is christened, yet he altereth not his shape without, though he be within changed. He is brought sinful through Adam's disobedience to the font vessel. But he is washed from all sins inwardly, though he outwardly his shape not change.
We have now arrived at that stage—the semi-Saxon period of the language- at which the vernacular AngloSaxon first began to pass into modern English. There exists a production, usually known by the name of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which gives a view of early English history, and is supposed to have been composed by a series of authors, commencing soon after the death of Alfred, and continuing down to the reign of Henry II. The following passage thereof gives a description of the miseries endured by the peasantry during the disturbed reign of Stephen, and must therefore have been written subsequently to that king's death, which took place A.D. 1154:“ Hi swencten the wrecce men of the land mid castel.
Thá the castles waren maked, thá fylden hi mid yvele men.
Translation.—" They oppressed the wretched men of the land with castle works. When the castles were made, then filled they (them) with evil men.
The Norman conquest produced a great change in the language of the country. Norman-French, a modification of Latin which arose in the middle ages, became the
language of education, of the law courts, and of the upper classes generally. But it was destined, in the course of the twelfth century, to undergo great grammatical changes. Its sounds were greatly altered, syllables were cut short in the pronunciation, and the terminations and inflections of words were softened down until they were entirely lost. Dr. Johnson says that, in this manner, rather than by the introduction of new words," the Normans affected the Anglo-Saxon; and this opinion is supported by the evidence supplied by Layamon's metrical chronicle, the "Brut," which belongs to the end of the twelfth century, or the beginning of the thirteenth, and must, therefore, have been written a century and a half after the Norman Conquest, and which, notwithstanding that it contains more than 32,000 lines, has few words not Anglo-Saxon, and only about fifty which may be regarded as French.
The following is an extract from a Charter of Henry III. in the common language of the time :
“Henry, thurg Godes fultome, king on Englenelaunde, Lhoaverd on Yrloand, Duk on Norman, on Acquitain, Earl on Anjou, send I greeting to alle hise holde, ilerde and illwelde, on Huntindonnschiere.
Translation.—" Henry, through God's support, King of Eng, land, Lord of Ireland, Duke of Normandy, of Acquitain, Earl of Anjou, sends greeting to all his subjects, learned and unlearned, of Huntingdonshire.' * The following specimen of old English belongs to the middle of the fourteenth century, and from it will at once be seen the rapid change the language had then undergone, so much so, that it can be given without a translation; it is taken from “The Vision of Pierce Ploughman,” a poem ascribed to a priest of that day, and written evidently for the purpose of exposing the corruptions of the Church, the cause which even then was silently preparing the way for the Reformation. Pierce is represented as falling asleep, and seeing a series of visions :
“ Out of the west coast, a wench, as we thought,
Came waeking in the way, to hell-ward she looked;
Her sister, as it seemed, came soothly waeking,
Of the din and of the darkness,” &c.* With these imperfect models as his only native guide, arose our first great author, Geoffrey Chaucer, distinctively known as the father of English poetry. Though our language had risen into importance with the rise of the Commons in the time of Edward I., the French long kept possession of the court and higher circles, and it required a genius like that of Chaucer to give literary permanence and consistency to the language and poetry of England. Henceforward his native style, which Spenser terms The pure well of English undefiled,” formed a standard of composition. It is unnecessary to continue specimens of the English language for the purpose of exhibiting the transitions thereof from one stage to another, farther down than the time of Chaucer and Wycliffe. The language they composed in has been called middle English, and is, in all essentials, so like our every-day speech, that there scarcely exists any difficulty, except, probably, the old-fashioned spelling, to prevent any well-informed Englishman of the present day from readily understanding every word of it.
The following selection is from Chaucer's “ Canterbury Tales :"
“A knight there was, and that a worthy man,
That fro the time that he first began
And ever honoured for his worthinesse.” The name of Wycliffe must ever be considered one of the greatest in English history. In maintaining the great
* Chambers's “Cyclopædia of English Literature.”
doctrines of the Reformation, and defending himself against priestly intolerance and persecution, he produced many controversial works of great merit; but the work of the most enduring utility was his translation of the Holy Scriptures into the vernacular.
The following, a translation of the “Magnificat,” may be taken as a fair specimen of his style :
“And Marye sayde, my soul magnifieth the Lord, and my spiryt hath gladid in God myn helthe. For he hath behulden the mekenesse of his handmayden ; for lo, for this alle generations schulen
seye that I am blessid. For he that is mighti hath don to me grete thingis, and his name is holy. And his mercy is fro kyndrede into kyndredis, to men that dreden him.
He hath made myght in his arm, he scatteride proude men with the thoughte of his herte.'
The comparative number of words in modern English derived from the mother tongue, and the method whereby such number has been tested, have been previously stated. It is not sufficient, however, for a thorough appreciation of the importance comparatively of the elements of our language, that we should know how many words therein are traceable to the Anglo-Saxon, and how many to a foreign original. The mere question of the number of words so derived has in it more of the curious than the useful : and, when so put, may have the effect rather of deceiving us as to the proper value to be attached to the respective elements. Words which may be very numerous in dictionaries, may be comparatively unimportant, as being wholly unnecessary to the conducting of correspondence, and carrying on of the ordinary business of every-day life; whilst words, on the contrary, or sorts of words, that occur less frequently, may be of such importance as to render it impossible to dispense with them. The vocabulary of the English language being analysed in this way, the obligations it is under to the Anglo-Saxon will appear in a much stronger light than by analysing it merely in reference to the number of words deduced from the latter. The following are the classes of words in modern English, derived from an Anglo-Saxon parentage.
1st. Words which imply relationships. The importance,