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name of wapna smið, the weapon-smith; but we have the promoter of laughter called hleahtor smið, laughter-smith; we have the teacher called lậr smið, lore-smith; we have the warrior called wig smið, war-smith.
36. Heap is now only applied to inert matter, but in Saxon to a crowd of men : as, 'Hengestes heap,' Hengest's troop (Beowulf, 1091); 'þegna heap,' an assembly of thanes; preosta heap,' a gathering of priests. In Norfolk may still be heard such a sentence as this: 'There was a heap of folks in church to-day.'
Can. This verb was used in Saxon in a manner very like its present employment. But when we examine into it, we find the sense attached to it was not, as now, that of possibility, but of knowledge and skill. When a boy in his French exercises comes to the sentence “Can you swim?' he is directed to render it into French by "Savez vous nager ?' that is ‘Know you to swim?' There is something strange to us in this; and yet ‘Can you swim?' meant exactly the
same; for in Saxon, CUNNAN is to know : 'Ic can,' I know; 'þu canst,' thou knowest. It had, moreover, a use in Saxon which it has now lost, but which it has retained in German, where kennen, to know, is the proper word for speaking of acquaintance with persons. So in Saxon : 'Canst þu þone preost þe is gehaten Eadsige?' Knowest thou the priest that is called Eadsige?
37. On is a common preposition in Saxon, but its area of incidence is different. We often find that an AngloSaxon on cannot be rendered by the same preposition in modern English, e. g. pone pe he geseah on þære cyrcan, Whom he saw in the church; ‘Landferð se ofersæwisca hit gesette on Leden,' Landferth from over the sea put it into Latin; 'Swa swa we on bocum redað,' As we read in books; 'Sum mann on Winceastre,' A man at Winchester. In certain cases where of is now used, as, 'bishop of Winchester,''abbot of Abingdon,' we find on in the Saxon formula : biscop on Winceastre,' “abbot on Abbandune.' There are, however, instances in which this preposition needs not to be otherwise rendered in modern English, e. g. “Eode him þa ham hal on his fotum, se pe ær was geboren on bære to cyrcan': He went off then home whole on his feet, he who before was borne on bier to church. One of the least changed is the preposition to.
This will mostly stand in an English translation out of Saxon: 'And se halga him cwæþ to, Ponne pu cymst to Winceastre,' And the saint said to him, When thou comest to Winchester: 'Se mann wearð þa gebroht to his bedde,' The man was then brought to his bed.
38. With in Saxon meant against, and we have still a relic of that sense in our compound verb WITHSTAND, which means to stand against, to oppose.
We have all but lost the old preposition which stood where the ordinary WITH now stands. It was MID, and it still keeps its old place in the German mit. We have not utterly lost the last vestiges of it, for it does reappear now and then in poetry in a sort of disguise, as if it were not its own old self, but a maimed form of a compound of itself, amid; and so it gets printed like this,'mid.
An is a word in Saxon and also in modern English, and it is the same identical word in the two languages. But in the former it represents the first numeral, which we now call won and write ONE; in the latter it is the indefinite article.
By such examples we see that words which in their visible form remain unaltered, may yet have become greatly changed in regard to their place and office in the language.
39. Such were some of the features of the Saxon speech, as well as we can illustrate them by a reference to modern English. Speaking relatively to the times, it was not a rude language, but probably the most disciplined of all the vernaculars of western Europe, and certainly the most cultivated of all the dialects of the Gothic barbarians.
Its grammar was regulated, its orthography mature and almost fixed. It was capable, not of poetry alone, but of eloquent prose also, and it was equal to the task of translating the Latin authors, which were the literary models of the day. The extant Anglo-Saxon books are but as a few scattered splinters of the old Anglo-Saxon literature. Even if we had no other proof of the fact, the capability to which the language had arrived would alone be sufficient to assure us that it must have been diligently and largely cultivated. To this pitch of development it had reached, first by inheriting the relics of the Romano-British civilisation, and afterwards by four centuries and a half of Christian culture under the presiding influence of Latin as the language of religion and of higher education. Latin happily did not then what it has since done in many lands; it did not operate to exclude the native tongue and to cast it into the shade, but to the beneficent end of regulating, fostering, and developing it.
§ 5. Effects of the Norman Conquest.
40. Such was the state of our language when its insular security was disturbed by the Norman invasion. Great and speedy was the effect of the Conquest in ruining the ancient grammar, which rested almost entirely on literary culture. The leading men in the state having no interest in the vernacular, its cultivation fell immediately into neglect. The chief of the Saxon clergy deposed or removed, who should now keep up that supply of religious Saxon literature, of the copiousness of which we may judge even in our day by the considerable remains that have outlived hostility and neglect ? Now that the Saxon landowners were dispossessed, who should patronise the Saxon minstrel and welcome the man of song in the halls of mirth?
The shock of the Conquest gave a deathblow to Saxon literature. There is but one of the Chroniclers that goes on to any length after the Conquest; and one of them stops short exactly at A.D. 1066, as if that sad year had bereft his task of all further interest. We have Saxon poetry up to that date or very near to it, but we have none for some generations after it. The English language continued to be spoken by the masses who could speak no other; and here and there a secluded student continued to write in it. But its honours and emoluments were gone, and a gloomy period of depression lay before the Saxon language as before the Saxon people. It is not too much to say that the Norman Conquest entailed the dissolution of the old cultivated language of the Saxons, the literary Englisc. The inflectionsystem could not live through this trying period. Just as we accumulate superfluities about us in prosperity but in adversity we get rid of them as encumbrances, and we like to travel light when we have only our own legs to carry us -just so it happened to the Englisc language. For now all these sounding terminations that made so handsome a figure in Saxon courts—the -AN, the -UM, the -ERA and the -ENA, the -IGENNE and -IGENDUM,—all these, superfluous as bells on idle horses, were laid aside when the nation had lost its old political life and its pride of nationality, and had received leaders and teachers who spoke a foreign tongue.
41. Nor was this the only effect of the introduction of a langu into the country. A vast change was made in the vocabulary. The Normans had learnt by their sojourn in France to speak French, and this foreign
language they brought with them to England. Sometimes this language is spoken of as the Norman or Norman French. In a well-known volume of lectures on the Study of Words (the author of which is now Archbishop of Dublin) the relations between this intrusive “Norman’ and the native speech are given with much felicity of illustration. I have the pleasure of inserting the following passage with the permission of the author :
We might almost reconstruct our history, so far as it turns upon the Norman Conquest, by an analysis of our present language, a mustering of its words in groups, and a close observation of the nature and character of those which the two races have severally contributed to it. Thus we should confidently conclude that the Norman was the ruling race, from the noticeable fact that all the words of dignity, state, honour, and pre-eminence, with one remarkable exception (to be adduced presently), descend to us from them--sovereign, sceptre, throne, realm, royalty, homage, prince, duke, count, (earl indeed is Scandinavian, though he must borrow his countess from the Norman,) chancellor, treasurer, palace, castle, hall, dome, and a multitude more. At the same time the one remarkable exception of KING would make us, even did we know nothing of the actual facts, suspect that the chieftain of this ruling race came in not upon a new title, not as overthrowing a former dynasty, but claiming to be in the rightful line of its succession; that the true continuity of the nation had not, in fact any more than in word, been entirely broken, but survived, in due time to assert itself anew.
And yet, while the statelier superstructure of the language, almost all articles of luxury, all having to do with the chase, with chivalry, with personal adornment, is Norman throughout; with the broad basis of the language, and therefore of the life, it is otherwise. The great features of nature, sun, moon, and stars, earth, water, and fire, all the prime social relations, father, mother, husband, wife, son, daughter, —these are Saxon. Palace and castle may have reached us from the Norman, but to the Saxon we owe far dearer