Immagini della pagina

generations. His whole work was done in the space of seven years, a space whose shortness amazed his own generation.—Edward A. Freeman, Norman Conquest, vol. iv. p. 361.

Hincmar, in his reply, which is worded with the utmost respect, reminds the Pope of the forms of procedure with regard to appeals to Rome, as prescribed by the Council of Sardica, upon whose decrees the practice mainly rested.—W. Henley Jervis, The Gallican Church, vol. i. p. 33.

There is a what equivalent to that which,' embodying both antecedent and relative, specially called into action in the opening of sentences where the French would use “Ce que.' This condensed what, at first probably learnt from a Latin quod, has been extended by the English speech-genius:

What in me is dark
Illumin, what is low raise and support.

John Milton, Paradise Lost, i, 22. What we call a simple fact is in great part the product of our judgment, and therefore often of our fancy, working upon very fragmentary data. What we do in observing a fact is to fill in an outline of which only a point here and there has been actually assigned, an outline therefore which may be no more obligatory than the shapes of the constellations on a celestial globe. - J. Venn, Hulsean Lectures for 1869, p. 13.

474. Before quitting this set, it may be interesting to observe that what in Anglo-Saxon had a peculiar function as a leading interjection, a usage still familiar to those who know the dialect of the Lake district. The minstrel often began his lay with HwÆT !

The noblest of Anglo-Saxon poems, the Beowulf, begins with this exclamation :

Hwæt we Gar Dena on gear dagum
Þeod cyninga þrim ge frunon

Hu þa æðelingas ellen fremedon.
What ho! the oft-told tales of ancient trysts,
The martial musterings of mighty Gar-Dane kings,

And famous feats of arms performed by æthelings. Interrogation, appeal, expostulation, admiration, lie very near to one another in the structure of the human mind, and hence we see in many languages an approach to this habit. In Latin there is the rhetorical use of quid! in French of quoi ! and if we would see a situation in which several of those meanings blend inseparably, we may refer to Proverbs xxxi. 2, where the version of 1611 is rigidly literal, while that of 1535 is homely and unconstrained according to wont. Miles Coverdale.

1611. My sonne, thou sonne of my body: What, my sonne ! and what, the O my deare beloued sonne.

sonne of my wombe ! and what, the sonne of my vowes !

The Indefinite Pronouns. 475. For the sake of continuity let who and what come first. These had of old the function of Indefinites (472), as well as of Interrogatives: but since they have become Relatives their Indefinite character has not grown, but remains merely as a survival in the old compounds whoso, whatso, somewhat. Another

pronoun which is still more a thing of the past, is that Indefinite Personal pronoun which was made out of a symbolised man, like the indefinite pronoun in German (33); and like the French on, a form of homme, in which the spelling has varied with the sublimation of the meaning. This indefinite man, or, as it was oftener written, mon, we lost at an early date, in the great shaking that followed the Conquest; but it is so natural a word for a pronoun to grow out of, that we do, from time to time, fall as if unconsciously into this use. In the following quotation from Mark viii. 4, a man is a manifest pronoun; the Greek is duvňoetai tis. To show the pedigree of the expression in this place, three versions are put side by side :Wiclif, 1389.

Tyndale, 1526. The Bible of 1611. Wherof a man schal From whence myght

From whence can a mowe fille hem with a man suffyse them with man satisfie these men looues here in wildir- breed here in the wyl- with bread here in the nesse ? dernes?



476. This is, however, but a feeble example of the pronominal use of the word man, a use which it has been our singular fortune to lose after having possessed it in its fulness. In place of it, we resort to a variety of shifts for what may justly be called a pronoun of pronouns, that is to say, a pronoun which is neither I nor we nor you nor they, but which may stand for either or all of these or any vague commixture of two or three of them. Sometimes we say 'you' not meaning, nor being taken to mean you at all, but to express a corporate personality which quite eludes personal application.

It is always pleasant to be forced to do what you wish to do, but what, until pressed, you dare not attempt.—Dean Hook, Archbishops, vol. iii. ch. 4.

This you is often convenient to the poet as a neutral medium of address, applicable either to one particular person, or to all the world :

Yet this, perchance, you'll not dispute,-
That true Wit has in Truth its root,

Surprise its flower, Delight its fruit. Sometimes, again, it is we, and at other times it is they which represents this much-desired but long-lost or notyet-invented representative'

representative' pronoun. We render the French ‘on dit' by they say.

477. Besides the resort to pronouns of a particular person in order to achieve the effect of a pronoun impersonal, we have also some substantives which have been pronominalised to this effect, as person, people, body, folk.

people. Bothwell was not with her at Seton. As to her shooting at the butts when there, this story, like most of the rest, is mere gossip. People do not shoot at the butts in a Scotch February.—Quarterly Review, vol. 128, p. 511.

People are always cowards when they are doing wrong.-M. Manley, When I was a Boy (William Macintosh), p. 24.

body. The foolish body hath said in his heart, There is no God.—Psalm liii. 1, elder version.

And from this we get the composite pronouns somebody, nobody, everybody, and a-body, as little John Stirling, when he saw the new-born calf

Wull't eat a-body ?- Thomas Carlyle, Life, ch. ii. In like manner, but less fixed in habit, some people, and also some folk, as in the well known refrain

Some folk do, some folk do!

478. One. The first numeral has an intimate natural affinity with the pronominal principle, and this is widely acknowledged in the languages by pronominal uses which are very well known. Some of our pronominal uses of one are easily paralleled in other languages, the one and the other = l'un et l'autre; one another = l'un l'autre. But there is an English use which is far from common, even if it is not absolutely unique; namely, when it is employed as a veiled Ego, thus : 'One may be excused for doubting whether such a policy as this can have its root in a desire for the public welfare’; or, 'One never knows what this sort of thing may lead to. It would be impossible to put in these places l'un or ein or unus or eis.

The one of which we speak is quite distinct from those cases in which it is little removed from the numeral, as ‘One thinks this, and one thinks that. In this case one is fully toned, but not so in the case referred to, as when a person who is pressed to buy stands on the defensive with, 'One can't buy everything, you know'; here the one is lightly passed over with that sensitiveness which accompanies egotism.

There are instances in which one language catches up a confused idea from another, and matches it with a like sound in its own vocabulary. And it is just possible that the French on has had some such undefined effect in this member of our language, guiding us through the association of sound to our peculiar use of the first numeral.

This pronoun appears in concord or under government in ways which it would be hard to parallel in other languages:

As nations ignorant of God contrive

A wooden one. William Cowper, The Timepiece. The strictly logical deduction from the premises is not always found in practice the true one.—Sir J. T. Coleridge, Keble, p. 388.

Combinations with one : each one, every one (496), no one, some one, many one, many a one, such one, such as one.

such one.

The kinsman of whom Boaz had spoken, came by: and he sayd, Ho, such one, come, sit downe here.-Ruth iv, 1. Genevan, 1560.

479. None is the negative of one. Originally adjectival, and used before consonants and vowels alike, it was shortened to no before consonants, and none continued in use only before vowels: as, “There is none end of the store and glory,' Nahum ii. 9; “There was none other boat there,' John vi. 22. This is now obsolete, and the form none is only used substantivally, as 'I have none.'

Ought or aught, from Saxon AwUHT, a composite of wight or whit. It is now little used.

He asked him, if hee saw ought.—Mark viii. 23.

And when ye stand praying, forgiue, if ye haue ought against any.Mark xi. 25.

« IndietroContinua »