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OLD ENGLISH OR ANGLO-SAXON PERIOD.

REPRESENTATIVE WRITERS.

POETRY.

Cædmon (+680).
Author of " Beowulf.”

PROSE..

Alcuin (735-804).
Bede (673-735).
Alfred the Great (849-901).

I.

OLD ENGLISH OR ANGLO-SAXON PERIOD.

(500-1066.)

English language composite — Original inhabitants of British Isles

Roman conquest Anglo-Saxon invasion — Character of AngloSaxons — Their religion — Missionary work of Augustine — Influence of Christianity – Education – Alcuin - Bede — Anglo-Saxon language – Different dialects — Poetry and gleeman — Principle of Anglo-Saxon poetry – Its characteristics — Value of Anglo-Saxon literature — Cædmon, “Beowulf” — Other poems Alfred the Great.

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The English nation, like the English language, is composite. The principal element in both, coming chiefly from the Angles and Saxons, is Teutonic. Through the native population of the British Isles — Britons, Scotch, and Irish -- there has gradually been introduced a Celtic element. The Danes, who in the ninth century established themselves in England and were afterward absorbed, strengthened the Teutonic element. Through the Norman Conquest, in the eleventh century, a further Celtic element was introduced. The infusion of this Celtic strain into the sturdier Teutonic stock has been peculiarly fortunate, imparting to the English character a greater delicacy of feeling and a finer poetic sensibility. The greatness of English literature is due, in no small measure, to this happy admixture of Teutonic and Celtic elements. The original inhabitants of the British Isles, within historic times, were Celts --- a part of the first great Aryan wave that swept over Europe. In a portion of Great Britain, - in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, - the Celtic element is still very strong. The Celts are a vigorous people, adhering to their national customs with great tenacity. They possess a lively imagination, delicate feeling, and a ready enthusiasm. They seem, however, to be lacking in the power of strong political organization ; and this defect made them a prey, first to Roman, and later to Teutonic, invaders.

The Romans under Cæsar invaded Britain, 55 B.C., and partly subdued it. In the following century Agricola extended the Roman conquest over the territory now included in England, and reduced Britain to a Roman province. Towns were built; military roads were constructed; Roman law was administered; Christianity was introduced; and a considerable commerce was developed. Corn was exported, and the tin mines of Cornwall were worked. But the native population, unlike what had taken place in Gaul and Spain, remained unassimilated to the empire, and still clung, in large measure, to its language and customs. When, after some four hundred years, the Roman forces were withdrawn, the Latin language, with the exception of a very few words, disappeared entirely. The principal relics of this Roman occupation surviving in our language to-day is the word street (from the Latin strata via, a paved way), and the words caster, cester, and chester (from the Latin castra, camp) in the names of places; as, Lancaster, Worcester, and Winchester.

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