Imágenes de páginas

Angevin French elements were formed into a new literary language. This period extended from 1300 to 1477.

(4) The fourth, which dates from 1477 is called Modern English, and extends to the present time. During this period foreign words in very large numbers were borrowed and have since been assimilated. The vocabularies of the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the Scotch, the Dutch, the Germans, the Italians, the Turks, the Hindus, the Russians, the Persians, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Arabs, and even the Sudanese have been drawn upon for terms with which to enrich the English tongue. Originally merely borrowed, many of these terms have now passed into our language as Anglicized, and it should not be a matter of surprize if this, the present so-called Modern English period, is eventually so divided as to mark the dates of each distinct stage of this assimilation.

1. THE ANGLO-SAXON PERIOD: THE DIALECTS OF THE TRIBES The language of the different Teutonic tribes that invaded Britain was not common to all. Each tribe spoke a dialect which differed more or less from that of its neighbor. But once the tribes settled down upon the land, speech was divided into four dialects: (1) The Northumbrian, which was spoken from the Humber to the Forth; (2) the Mercian, which was spoken from the Thames northward through the Midlands to Cheshire; (3) the Kentish, spoken in the regions now known as the counties of Kent and Surrey; and (4) the West Saxon, spoken in all counties south of the Thames and west of Kent and Surrey. East Anglian dialects were spoken in Norfolk and Suffolk, but not much is known of these. The northern group, or Anglian, consisted of the Northumbrian and Mercian dia

lects, while the southern group comprised Kentish, as the language of the Jutes, and West Saxon, that of the Saxons.

Until comparatively recent times the study of the early English texts seems to have been neglected by the British. So low was the standard of linguistic science in England in the early decades of the second half of the last century that Marsh,' in writing on the subject, said: "British scholars have produced few satisfactory discussions of Anglo-Saxon or Old English inflectional or structural forms, and it is to Teutonic zeal and learning that we must still look for the elucidation of many points of interest connected with the form and the signification of primitive English. A large proportion of the relics of the Anglo-Saxon and of early English literature remains yet unpublished, or has been edited with so little sound learning and critical ability as to serve less to guide than to lead astray. But a better era has commenced. The recent admirable translations of Layamon, of the Ormulum, and of the Wycliffite translations of the Scriptures, are exceedingly valuable contributions to English philology, and in the highest degree creditable to the critical skill and industry of the eminent scholars who have prepared and published them."

[ocr errors]

The conditions to which Marsh refers were due probably to the fact that in England interest in matters of English philology is restricted to the few private individuals of independent means rather than distributed among the public at large. To cite an instance of this state of things no better example can be given than the vicissitudes from which the "New English Dictionary," still in course of production at Oxford University, has suffered. Sir James Murray's experience, and that of his assistants, was at one 1 "Lectures on the English Language," introd.

time almost on a par with that of his famous predecessor in lexicography, Dr. Samuel Johnson, who produced his dictionary "with little assistance of the learned." This is not strange, however, in a land where national recognition of literary talents is restricted to the appointment of a poet laureate. It is to be regretted that this land, that gave birth to so noble a tongue as our own, has not yet established as a concrete part of its national organization a department of public printing and another of literature and


Dr. Emerson2 traces the first official use of English words to a Kentish charter of the year 679, and of West Saxon words to a charter dated 778.

The Old English tongue was highly inflectional, but it was a homogeneous language which had very little of the foreign element in it. Its derivatives and compounds it formed from its own resources.

The Anglian or northern dialect was the first to produce a literature. This was fostered probably by Ionian scholars under the Northumbrian Kings who reigned from 616 to 685. Caedmon, or as it is sometimes spelled Cedmon, said to have been a cowherd belonging to the monastery at Whitby in Northumbria, and "even more ignorant than his fellows," was the first English poet to sing in AngloSaxon of whom we have any knowledge. He flourished about 650 (died about 680), and sang "verses which he had never heard or learned, praising and magnifying the Creator who made heaven and earth for the children of men.

[ocr errors]

Although the authorship of the poems commonly at

20. F. Emerson, "History of the English Language," page 45.

3 Dr. Thomas Arnold in "Encyclopedia Britannica," ninth ed., s.v.

[ocr errors]

tributed to Caedmon has been disputed, modern scholars generally concede that he was responsible for that part of the "Paraphrase," a collection of separate Bible stories which concerns the book of Genesis, and forms one of the Scriptural narratives to be found in a tenth century manuscript in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, England. The narratives form two series, the first comprising "Genesis, "Exodus," and "Daniel"; and the second, collectively called, "Christ and Satan," consists of the "Fallen Angels," the "Harrowing of Hell," and the "Temptation." The second series is believed to be of too late a date to be by Caedmon. In Milton's "Paradise Lost" there are some passages that closely resemble those of Caedmon's "Genesis" both in thought and language. Editions of these poems were published at Amsterdam in 1655; in London, under the auspices of the Society of Antiquaries, by Benjamin Thorpe the only complete one issued and now out of print -and at Elberfeld in 1847 and 1848.

The following lines cited from that part of the "Paraphrase" which treats of the "Song of Azariah," and accompanied by an extract from Thorpe's translation, afford opportunity for the comparison of Anglo-Saxon with Modern English.


þa of roderum was. Engel ælbeorht.

Ufan onsended.

Wlite scyne wer.

On his wuldor-haman.
Se him cwom to frofre.
& to feorh-nere.
Mid lufan & mid lisse.
Se pone lig tosceaf.

Thorpe's Translation

Then from the firmament was
An all-bright angel

Sent from above,

A man of beauteous form,

In his garb of glory:

Who to them came for comfort,
And for their lives' salvation,
With love and with grace;
Who the flame scattered

[blocks in formation]

The fragment of Caedmon reproduced below was first printed by Wanley from an ancient manuscript. It is accompanied by one printed by Hickes from Beda Hist. Eccl., 4, 24, and by a translation. The first of the three has been said to represent the Northumbrian dialect of Caedmon's time.

[blocks in formation]

Hefaen-ricaes uard, Heofon-ríces weard, The heaven-king

dom's ward,

Metudes mæcti,

Metodes mihte,

The might of the


End his modgepanc. And his módgethanc. And his mood

Uerc uuldur fadur,

Sue he uundra
Eci drictin,
Ord stelidæ.

He ærist scopa,
Elda barnum,
Heben til hrofe;
Haleg scepen:
pa mittungeard,

Weore wuldor-fæder, The glory-father of

Sva he wundra

Ecé drihten,
Ord onstealde.

Ne æ'rest scóp,
Eorðan bearnum,
Heofon tó rófe;
Hálig scyppend:
Dá middangeard,



As he, of wonders,

Eternal Lord,
Originally estab-

He erst shaped,
For earth's bairns,
Heaven to roof;
Holy shaper;
Then mid-earth.

« AnteriorContinuar »