Slike strani

pronounced an impossibility. Although receiving accessions of French words so large that its character was materially changed, the English still remained an essentially Teutonic tongue. The change itself has no fixed date ; it was a gradual process, and must have advanced with more or less rapidity in different parts of the country. Its progress depended on geographical conditions. In remote or upland districts, where it hardly penetrated, the inhabitants still exhibit in their patois an evident preponderance of the Saxon element, using many old Teutonic words now obsolete in our own language, and retaining Teutonic peculiarities of accent and pronunciation. “Nothing can be more difficult," says Hallam, "than to determine, except by an arbitrary line, the commencement of the English language ; not so much, as in those of the Continent, because we are in want of materials, but rather from an opposite reason, the possibility of tracing a very gradual succession of verbal changes that ended in a change of denomination. ... .For when we compare the earliest English of the thirteenth century with the Anglo-Saxon of the twelfth, it seems hard to pronounce why it should pass for a separate language, rather than a modification or simplification of the former. We must conform, however, to usage, and say that the Anglo-Saxon was converted into English : 1, by contracting or otherwise modifying the pronunciation and orthography of words ; 2, by omitting many inflections, especially of the noun, and consequently making more use of articles and auxiliaries; 3, by the introduction of French derivatives ; 4, by using less inversion and ellipsis, especially in poetry. Of these the second alone, I think, can be considered as sufficient to describe a new form of language ; and this was brought about so gradually that we are not relieved from much of our difficulty whether some compositions shall pass for the latest offspring of the mother or the earliest proofs of the daughter's fertility.”

The picturesque element so happily employed by Scott in the opening chapter of Ivanhoe, often has been quoted as

good popular exemplification of the mode in which Example

the Saxon and French elements were blended. from "Ivanhoe" The common animals which serve as food to man of the lingual retained, under the charge of Saxon serfs and bondtransition,

men, their Teutonic name, but, served up at the table of the Norman oppressor, they received a French designation. As instances of this Scott cites the parallel terms ox and beef, swine and pork, sheep and mutton, calf and veal. It is curious to see, on examining the early English grammar and language of our old poets and chroniclers, how often the primitive Saxon forms gradually became effaced before the French orthography and pronunciation of the newly-introduced words

had been harmonised with the general character and from Chaucer.

of the new idiom. Take, for example, the following lines of Chaucer :


"The sleere of him-self yet saugh I ther,

His herte-blood hath bathed al his heer ;
The nayl y-driven in the shode a-night ;
The colde deeth, with mouth gaping up-right.
Amiddes of the temple sat meschaunce,
With disconfort and sory contenaunce.

In these verses we see the Saxon grammatical forms combined with a large importation of Norman-French words which have not yet lost their original accentuation. We find the Teuton forms moving into and overlapping the newly introduced Gallicisms. Such was the state in which Chaucer found the national idiom at the beginning of the fourteenth century: at its end, his genius may be said to have put the last touch to the consolidation of the English language. Nevertheless, for a considerable period after his time such writings as were addressed to the sympathies of the lower classes continued to retain much of the Saxon: character in their orthography, grammatical structure, and versification. The alliterative system of verse left its mark on English literature for a period long subsequent to the reign of Richard II; while, on the other hand, the elaborate compositions addressed to the still purely Norman aristocracy keep much of the French spirit in their diction and imagery.

$ 9. Although we can assign no exact date to the transition from Anglo-Saxon to English, the chief alterations may be approximately assigned to the following epochs :1. Anglo-Saxon, from A.D. 450 to 1150.

Classification 11. Semi-Saxon, from A.D. 1150 to 1250 (i.e. from language the reign of Stephen to the middle of the reign of Henry III), so called because it partakes strongly of the characteristics of both Anglo-Saxon and of the subsequent Old English.

III. Old English, from A.D. 1250 to 1350 (i.e. from the middle of the reign of Henry III to the middle of the reign of Edward 111).

IV. Middle English, from A.D. 1350 to about 1550 (i.e. from the middle of the reign of Edward III to the reign of Edward VI).

V. Modern English, from A.D. 1550 to the present day,

The first three periods scarcely belong to a history of English literature, and only a brief account of them is given in the Notes and Illustrations appended to the present chapter. Some writers, disliking the term Anglo-Saxon, have wished to call the Anglo-Saxon First English, the Semi-Saxon Second English, and the remainder of our language (i.e. from A.D. 1250 to the present day) Third English. It is purely with this Third English that we are concerned, and its real literary history begins only in the reign of Edward III, under the creative and brilliant genius of Geoffrey Chaucer.


A.--ANGLO-SAXON LITERA. the lay of Beowulf, which has been TURE.

described in the text. It seems to

have originated at the primitive seat A.D. 450-1150.

of the Angles in Schleswig, and to The earliest literature of the Anglo- have been brought over to England Saxons bears the impress of the re- about the end of the fifth century. ligious culture under which it was The other two are Widsith, or the formed. Unlike their brethren, who Traveller's Song, which, in the besang their old heroic lays in the ginning, was due to some wandering primeval forests, the conquerors of bard, and appears from internal the rich provinces of Britain had evidence to belong to the end of descended from action to contem- the fourth or the beginning of the plation, and their literature was arti- fifth century; and The Battle of ficial. There was but little difference Finnsburg, a fragment describing of time in the development of poetry the massacre of Hraef the Dane by and prose, and the works produced Finn, King of the North Frisians. were with very few exceptions the The manuscripts of all these works elaborate compositions of educated belong to a much later period, prinmen, rather than the spontaneous cipally to the eleventh century, and products of genius inspired by a therefore have suffered a good deal people's ancient legends. The chief from interpolations. It is only in subjects were moral, religious, his- the tenth century that we again meet torical, and didactic. Under the with compositions of this class, in tutelage of the Church the most the patriotic poem on Athelstan's lasting monuments of Anglo-Saxon victory at the battle of Brunanburh prose literature were written in Latin, (A.D. 937), the collection of songs while the vernacular tongue was on Edgar the Peaceable (959-975). chiefly employed in translating the and on the death of Edward the learned works of such men as Bede Martyr (979), and in The Battle of and Alcuin. The value of the Maldon (991). vernacular literature is confined to 2. Of religious poetry, the chief the early poems: the later work specimen is the so-called Metrical lacks form, and is interesting only | Paraphrase of the Scriptures, which, on account of its matter.

in its original form, was the work of 1. The VERNACULAR POETRY | ST. CÆDMON (fl. 660-680), a monk scarcely retains a trace of that wild of St. Hilda's monastery at Streoneepic fire which is seen in the Scandi- shalh (Whitby). In ascribing the navian Sagas. 1. We have at least beginning of these poems---which three important specimens of old were continued by Cædmon's fol. national songs, written in the spirit lowers all through the eighth century of the continental Germans, and -to Cædmon himself, we rely on the probably composed, in part at least, sole authority of Bede; and some before their migration to England. modern critics have assigned the The authors are heathens ; they are whole of the collection of scriptural the bards or Scops (i.e. shapers) who paraphrases to a later period. The were attached to the households of treatment of the stories shows how pagan chieftains and were treated the old heroic notions of pagan with singular honour. The origin society mingled themselves with the of these poems is probably to be new Christianity, and thus would found in the detached lays sung by alone point to the early date of part these noble minstrels, which were of the poem. Whatever be the date, afterwards welded together into a it is a striking piece of work, and compact form. The chief of them is l appears to have supplied Milton with some hints. This is particu- | already mentioned as containing so larly true of the part of the poem, much of Cynewulf's poetry, contains probably Cædmon's own, known as a number of other poems of all the ihe Genesis A to distinguish it from early periods. For example, the Genesis B, a later version and am- pagan Widsith and a contemporary plification belonging to the ninth | lay, Deor, or the Singer's Complaint, century.

come from it. It was bequeathed to But more interesting even than the cathedral with a number of other Cædmon is the mysterious CYNE- | books, by Leofric, Bishop from 1046 WULF, of whom nothing is known to 1072, who removed the seat of his save that he lived between 750 and see from Crediton to Exeter. The 790 and was very probably a North- Vercelli Book is an eleventh century umbrian. It seems almost certain manuscript, discovered in the Chapthat the Anglo-Saxon Riddles pre- ter Library at Vercelli in 1822. served in that museum of Early II. (a) The LATIN LITERATURE English literature, the Exeter Book of the Anglo-Saxon period demands are, at least in part, the work of notice before the vernacular prose Cynewulf. If so, they belong to his literature, since it formed the groundearly youth, when he was wandering work upon which the vernacular about and singing in noble houses, writers founded their attempts. It and his later religious poems follow was the product of foreign ecclesias. his conversion. Four poems are

tical influence. The earliest missionknown to be his, since he has intro- aries were imbued with the learning duced his name into the text in an of the Western Church, and great acrostic of Runic characters. Mr. schools were founded, first in Kent, Stopford Brooke, judging from the then in Wessex, and afterwards in spiritual indications of these fer- | Northumbria. In 668 THEODORE yently religious hymns, places them OF TARSUS became Archbishop of in this order : (1) the Juliana, which Canterbury, and, with his friend the contains the acts of St. Juliana, deacon HADRIAN, taught both Greek virgin and martyr ; (2) the Christ, a and Latin literature. The School of splendid poem in three parts—the Canterbury, the earliest of the great Nativity, the Ascension, and the medieval schools of Latin, was Last Day. Both these poems are founded in 671, and was encourin the Exeter Book. The next two aged by subsequent archbishops. are in the book of Anglo-Saxon One can gain some impression of homilies and poems preserved at the eagerness with which Latin Vercelli. These are: (3) The Fates studies were pursued from the fact of the Apostles, whose title tells its that Alcuin, the great master of the own tale, and (4) the Elene, which is York School, complained to Charlefounded upon the legend of the In- magne, at the end of the eighth vention of the Cross by the Empress century, of the literary poverty of Helena. Of the other poems attri- France as compared with England. buted to Cynewulf, the Exeter Book He also gives an account of the contains The Phænix, which applies great library at York, from which the familiar tale of the phenix, as and from other lists we can see told in Latin by Lactantius, to the what writers formed the taste of the Resurrection, and the St. Guthlac ; seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries. while, in the Vercelli Book, we find There was a decided preference for the Andreas, or Acts of St. Andrew, the Greek authors above the Latin. and The Dream of the Rood. The The classical poets were read, but authorship of these last has per- with a pious suspicion, and the plexed critics, but they follow the works which received most attenmanner of Cynewulf very closely. tion were those of the Fathers and Certain continuations of Cædmon's the Christian poets, whose faults paraphrases probably belong to we find closely imitated in the Cynewulf or io some poet under poetry of the Anglo-Saxon churchhis influence.

men. This ecclesiastical taste was The Exeter Book, which we have strengthened and literary treasureş increased by the habit of visiting The schools of Wessex great Rome, which became frequent in monastic houses like Glastonbury the eighth century. Many women and Sherborne-produced no very were celebrated for their learning. great writers; their activity lay

(6) The Canterbury School lost its chiefly on the side of ecclesiastical vigour as the metropolitan see grew organisation, and their literature, in importance, and its energies were, after St. Aldhelm's time, is confined, for the most part, transferred to speaking generally, to the correspon. Wessex. This was principally due dence of those great missionaries to St. ALDHELM (circ. 640-709), a who, to the glory of Wessex, became pupil of Theodore and Hadrian, and the evangelists of the Teutonic tribes. à West Saxon himself. The Irish. The chief of these, St. BONIFACE, man Mailduf had already founded or, to give him his English name, a monastic school at Malmesbury, WINIFRID (680-755) of Crediton in which still bears his name in a cor- Devonshire, has left a collection of rupted form. Aldhelm had been one valuable letters to friends in England, of Mailduf's early pupils, and brought amounting (with those addressed to back to his old seminary the Latin him) to one hundred and six. As learning and monastic organisation is well known, he was the apostle of of Canterbury. He became Abbot of the Frisians and the first ArchMalmesbury, and the obscure little bishop of Mayence. The Danish intown on the confines of Wessex and vasion of Wessex in 871, although Mercia became the centre of a new successfully repelled by Ethelred i intellectual life which extended itself and Alfred, was fatal to the schools through the length and breadth of for the time being. Under Alfred, Wessex. From 705 to 709, as Bishop Winchester became the chief centre of Sherborne, Aldhelm travelled un- of learning, and the practice of ceasingly through his large diocese, writing in Latin revived. ASSER, making use of his numerous accom- | Bishop of Sherborne (d. 910), who plishments in spreading the life of wrote the doubtfully authentic life The Church and the new learning, of Alfred, was an importation from and continuing to found monastic St. Davids. The great revival of schools in Wiltshire and Somerset. monastic life and learning in EngHis missionary energy and his land must be attributed to the rescholarship are, perhaps, more re- nowned St. DUNSTAN (924-988), markable than his actual writings. a native of Glastonbury, who studied His poetry is turgid and full of there under Irish teachers and be. extravagant conceits.

He wrote came Abbot of the monastery. En a poem in hexameters, De laudibus joying the favour of Edgar the PeaceVirginum, which was a versified able, he passed through the sces adaptation of a prose treatise he of Worcester and London to the had previously written on the same throne of Canterbury. He wrote theme, a book of Ænigmata, which commentaries in Latin the was certainly studied by Cynewulf Benedictine rule, but his thoroughly before writing his Anglo-Saxon patriotic spirit led him to encourage Riddles, and a poem, De octo prin- , the study of English in his monascipibus Vitiis. These, with a few teries; and in this he was followed other poems and letters, form his by the great St. ETHELWOLD, Bishop extant works. But he also wrote in of Winchester. It was a Saxon monk the vernacular, and is said to have , of Winchester, WULFSTAN, who, at translated the Book of Psalms into the opening of Edward the Con. Anglo-Saxon verse. As he went on fessor's reign, translated Lanferht's his missionary expeditions he would Aliracula sancti Swithuni into sing his Anglo-Saxon hymns in the Latin verse. chief towns, and so attract people to (c) The great centre, however, of his preaching; and these poems | Latin writing was in Northumbria, were preserved orally, not only by the debatable ground of Celtic and the minstrels, but as exercises of Roman Christianity. The place of memory by the monks.

1 honour belongs almost equally to


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