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The English language is essentially a branch of the Teutonic or Indo-Germanic language spoken by the inhabitants of Central Europe before the dawn of history. The earliest inhabitants of the British Islands were a Celtic race, one of the most important of the Aryan family of nations, and the Celtic language is still spoken, divided into two sections One of these is the Gaelic of Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, and the Isle of Man. The other is the Cymric of Wales and of the French province of Brittany, the ancient Armorica. A Celtic dialect lingered in Cornwall until past the middle of the last century. It has been calculated that, if the English language were divided into a hundred parts, sixty would be Saxon. Mr. Sharon Turner, the historian of the Anglo-Saxons, and Archbishop Trench, concur in this estimate, and it is said to be verified by the vocabulary of our English Bible and by the dramas of Shakspeare. But on the other hand, a high linguistic authority, F. Max Müller, states that the Norman elements in English have a decided preponderance; and he cites M. Thommerel, who had counted every word in our dictionaries, and established the fact that the number of Teutonic or Saxon words in English amounts to 13,230, whereas there are 29,853 traceable to a Latin source. This disparity arises from the philologist looking at the words apart from the stem or grammar of the language. The great influx of Neo Latin and other vocables in the course of the nation's progress is undoubted, but, as F. Max Müller admits, languages, though mixed in their dictionary, can never be mixed in their grammar,' and in a scientific classification the English must be ranked as Saxon. The great bulk
of our laws and social institutions, the grammatical structure of our language, our most familiar and habitual expressions in common lite, are derived from our rude northern invaders; and now, after fourteen centuries, their language, enriched from various and distant sources, lias become the speech of fifty millions of people, to be found in all quarters of the globe. May we not assume that the national character, like the national language, has been moulded and enriched by this combination of races? The Celtic imagination and impulsive ardour, the Saxon solidity, the old Norse maritime spirit and love of adventure, the liter Norman chivalry and keen sense of enjoyment; these have been the elements, slowly combined under northern skies, and interfused by a pure ennobling religion, that have gone forth in literature and in life, the moral pioneers and teachers of the world.
The Celts were not without a native literature. The Welsh had their Triads and their romantic fables of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. The real Arthur of history appears to have been the ruler of the ancient Britons in the beginning of the sixth century, and was slain by Modred in 512. lle makes no great figure in history, where lie las only a twilight sort of existence, Ilis true realm is romance, and there he sits enthroned in poetic splendour surrounded l;y his circle of invincible kuights. He could not subdue the Anglo-Saxons, but the Welsh bards invested him with all kinds of supernatural perfections. lle forms, with his court, the subject of a whole library of heroic lays and legends. Centuries after his death, Arthur reappeared in the tales of the Norman and French minstrels as the ideal of a perfect knight and the mirror of chivalry. The great chiefs of English song-Spenser, Milton, Dryden, and Gray- prolonged the legendary tales,' as related' by Sir Walter Scott, himself an enthusiastic devotee; and in our own day they have been revived by a poet not unworthy of being named along with that illustrious band. It was in the twelfth century, and up to the time of Elizabeth, that Welsh literature was in its most high and palmy state;' and the massacre of the bards attributed to Llward I., anil commemorated in undying verse by Gray, seems to be wholly witliout foundation.
The Gacl as well as the Cymry had regular bards, who chanted the praises of their monarchis and chiefs, and recounted the deeds of their ancestors. Ireland was early distinguished as a seat of learning, and from its colleges or monasteries learning and Christianity were diffused over the kingdom, even to the remote IIebrides. The Irish annals are among our most ancient records. Pelagius, Celestius, and St. Patrick are said to have becn natives of the British Islands. The tradition is doubtful, but, if Scotland in the fifth century gave St. Patrick to Ireland she received in the sixth a more memorable return in Columba, the saint of Iona.
We know from Barbour and Gawin Douglas that in Scotland, at a very early period, the names of Fingal and Gaul, the son of Morni, were popular among the people. A body of traditional poetry was long prevalent in the Highlands, some of which Macpherson collected and expanded into regular poems—nay, epics; and many Celtic fragments have since been published in Ireland, describing the Fenian wars and the lamentations of blind Ossian. They are curious as antiquarian relics and national memorials, but as to poetical merit, they cannot for a moment be put in comparison with the Macpherson manufacture. It is the coat of frieze beside the royal tartan.
The earliest Anglo-Saxon historians, Gildas, Nennius, and Columbanus, wrote in Latin in the sixth century. The most celebrated of these literary ecclesiastics, and the greatest scholar of his age, was BEDE, known in history as the “Venerable Bede.' He was born about the year 672, entered the monastery of St. Peter at Wearmouth, county of Durham, at the age of seven, removed in his nineteenth year to the neighbouring monastery of Jarrow, where he took orders, and was ordained priest, and where he passed the remainder of his studious life till his death, May 26, 735. The works of Bede are numerous, including homilies, lives of saints, hymns, treatises on grammar and chronology, commentaries on the Bible and Apocrypha, a collection of epigrams, &c. In the spirit of Chaucer's Clerk of Oxenforde,' the good monk said: 'It was always sweet to me to learn, to teach, and to write. His greatest work is the ‘Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum,' an ecclesiastical history of England, which is also our chiet' authority for the civil listory of the country down to nearly the middle of the eighth century.-Among the other Latin writers inay be named EGBERT, archbishop of York (678–766), Sr. BONIFACE (Wilfred, who lived about 680–755), and ALCUIN (about 735-804). For three or four centuries afterwards, Latin treatises, historical and theological, issued occasionally from the monkish retreats.
From its first establishment in Britain, the Anglo-Saxon language experienced scarcely any change till after the irruption of the Danes. The accomplished Romans left few words behind them that were adopted by their successors. Some of the tales and legends of the Scandinavian Scalds were popular and served as models; and the Anglo-Saxon gleemen who sung, danced, and recited, were the precursors of the more lettered and refined minstrels of a later age. The oldest poem of an epic form in Europe is believed to be an AngloSaxon production, the 'Lay of Beowulf,' which describes an expedition made by Beowulf to deliver a Danish king from a demon or monster called Grendel. Beowulf vanquished the she-wolf of the abyss; she sank upon the floor, the sword was bloody, the man rejoiced in his deed; the beam shone, light stood within, even as from
hicaven millily shines the lamp of the firmament.' A few words will
Then came from the moor,
Grendel te go;
God's ire he bure. There are above six thousand of these short lines! Besides "Beowulf there are two other Anglo-Saxon remains, the ` Traveller's Song' and the 'Battle of Finnesburg;' also a fragment named ‘Judith, founded on the Apocrypha :
Judith slays Holofernes. The maid of the Creator with the twisted locks took then a sharp sword, hard Hiin scouring, and from the sheath drew it with her right limb. She took the heathun man fast by his hair; she drew him by his limbs towards her disgracefully, and the mischici-ful odious man at her pleasure laid, so as the wretch she might tre casiest well command. She with the twisted locks struck the hateful enemy, 112 ilitung hate with the red sword, till she had half cut off his neck, so that he Day in a swoon, drunk and mortally wonnded. He was not then dead, not entirely luss; she struck then carnest, the woman illustrious in strength, another time 11e heathen loud, till that his head rolled forth upon the floor ! The fou one lay without a coff. r; backward his spirit turned under the abyss, and there was plunged below, with supliur fastened, for ever afterwards wounded by wornis. 1o.iud in formenis, hari-imprisoned, in hell he burns. After his course he need not lop, with darkness overwhelmed, that he inay escape from that mansion of Worins; but there he shall remain ever and ever without end, henceforth in that Cuvera-home, void of the joys of hope.
CÆDMON, THE MONK OF WHITBY. The next poet is CÆDMON, a monk of Whitby, who died about 630. Calmon was a genius of the class lieaded by Burns, a poet of nature's making, sprung from the bosom of the common people, and little judebteii to education. It appears that he at one time acted in the Capacity of a cow-herd. The circumstances under which his talents were first developed, are narrated by Bede with a strong cast of the Burvellous, under which it is possible, however, to trace a basis of natural truun. · We are told that he was so much less instructed than most of his equals, that he had not even learned any poetry; so that he was frequently obliged to retire, in order to hide his shame, when the harp was moved towards him in the hall, where at super it was customary for each person to sing in turn. On one of these occasions, it happened to be Cædmon's turn to keep L'lard at the stable during the night, and, overcome with vexation, lie quitted the table and retired to his post of duty, where, laying 1.imself dowli, he fell into a sound slumber. In the midst of his sleep, a stranger appeared to him, and, saluting him by his name, saill: “Cæmon, sing me something." Cædmon answered: “I know Boiling to sing; for my incapacity in this respect was the cause of my living the ball to come lither.” Nay,” said the stanger, “but thu last something to sing." “What must I sing?" said l'almon. "sing the Creation," was the reply; and thereupon Calmon begun to sing verses “ which he had never heard before,” and which are said to have been as follows: Nu we sceolan herian
Now we shall praise heofon-lices weard,
the guardian of heaven, metodes mihte.
the might of the creator and his mod-ge-thonc,
and his counsel, wera wuldor fäder!
the glory-father of men swa he wundra gc-hwæs, how he of all wonders, ece dryhten
the eternal lord, oord onstealde,
formed the beginning. He ærest ge-scéop
He first created ylda bearnum
for the children of men) heofon to hrófe,
heaven as a roof, halig scyppend!
the holy creator! Tha middan-geard
then the world mon-cynnes weard,
the guardian of mankind, ece dryhten,
the eternal lord, after teode,
produced afterwards, firum foldan,
the earth for men, frea ælmihtig,
the almighty master! Cædmon then awoke, and he was not only able to repeat the lines which he had made in liis sleep, but he continued them in a strain of admirable versification. In the morning he hastenel to the town-reeve, or bailiff, of Whitby, who carried him before the Abbess Hildı; and there, in the presence of some of the learned men of the place, he told his story, and they were all of opinion that he had receivel the gift of song from Heaven. They then expounded to him in his mother-tongue a portion of Scripture, which he was required to repeat in verse. Cædmon went home, with his task, and the next morning he produced a poem which excelled in beauty all that they were accustomed to lear. Cædmon composed many poems on the Bible histories, and on miscellaneous religious subjects, some of which have been preserved. His account of the Fall of Man resembles that in ‘Paradise Lost,' and one passage might almost be supposed to have suggested a corresponding one in Milton's sublime epic (Book II.), where Satan is described as reviving from the consternation of his overthrow. From Turner's 'Anglo-Saxous' and Thorpe's edition of Cæulmon we make two short extracts:
Satan's IIost lity. The universal Ruler had of the angelic race, through his hand-power--the holy Lord !-à fortress established. To them he well trusted that they his service would 15llow, would do his will. For this he gave them understanding, and with his hands made them. The holy Lord had stationed them so happily. One he had so strongly made, so mighty in his inind's thought, he let him rule so much-the hig!.cat in Heaven's kingdo.n; he had made him so splendid, so beautiful was his fruit in ileaven, which to him came from the Lord of Hosts, that he was like the brilliant
Praise ought he to have made to his Lord; he should have valued dear his joys in Heaven; he should have thanked his Lord for the bounty which in th: brightness he shared, when he was permitted so long to govern. But he departech fro:n it to a worse thing. He began to upheave strife against the Governor of the hichest heavens that sits on the holy seat. Dear was bo to our Lord; from whom is ould not be hid that his angel began to be over-proud. He raised himself against