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combs, horns, bracteates, coffins, bells, fonts, clog-almanacks -and very little in books. The elder specimens have been collected and illustrated by Professor George Stephens, of Copenhagen. Runic inscriptions are chiefly found in the northern and western extremes of Europe, the parts which were never visited by Roman armies, or where (as in this country) great immigrations took place after the Romans had retired. There are Scandinavian Runes, and English Runes, and German Runes. These have some differences between them, but they agree in the main features. It is by comparing these together, and eliminating their differences, that we determine which were the original sixteen characters '.
They appear to have been the following:
Others were perhaps added later, ash M
X Ñ 4 С E G P Q W A Yet this distinction of the Runes into elder and younger has been called into question. Professor Stephens with
In the history of the Runic alphabet I have chiefly followed Wilhelm Grimm's Ueber Deutsche Runen, 1821. Since the text was in the printer's hands I have learnt from the second volume of Professor Stephens's Runic Monuments, 1868, that these views are open to question in many respects. In deference to the latter authority I have altered the value of and of Y.
great force maintains that the oldest Runic alphabet was the most various and multiplex.
When our Saxon ancestors adopted the use of the Latin alphabet, they still retained even in book literature two of the Runes, because there were no, Roman characters corresponding to them. One was the old Thorn, P, for which the Latin mode of expression was by the use of two letters TH, and the other was the more local p which was after the conquest superseded by a double U or double V.
The P (TH) had a more prolonged career. A modified Roman letter was put forward as a substitute for it, namely a crossed D, but the character thus excogitated (Ð 8) did not supersede the Rune ḥ, which continued to be used along with it in a confused and arbitrary manner, until they were both ultimately banished by the general adoption of the TH. This change was not completely established until the very close of the fifteenth century. And even then there was one case of the use of the Rune p which was not abolished. The words the and that continued to be written þe and þat or b. This habit lasted on long after its original meaning was forgotten. The Þ got confused with the character y at a time when the y was closed a-top, and then people wrote ‘ye’ for the and 'yt' for that. This has lasted down close to our own times : and it may be doubted whether the practice has entirely ceased even now.
Ben Jonson, in The English Grammar, considered that by the loss of the Saxon letters þ and we had fallen into what he called the greatest difficulty of our alphabet and true writing,' inasmuch as we had lost the means of distinguishing the two sounds of th, as in this, that, them, thine, from the sound of the same character in thing, thick, thread, thrive.
As a means of distinguishing these two sounds the letters
þ and 8 might have been highly serviceable. But there is no evidence that they were ever used with this discrimination in Saxon literature, or at any later period.
When, in the sixth century, the Latin alphabet began to obtain the ascendancy over the native Runes, the Runes did not at once fall into disuse. Runes are found on gravestones, church crosses, fibulæ, &c, down at least to the eleventh century. The Isle of Man is famous for its Runic stones, especially the church of Kirk Braddan. These are Scandinavian, and are due to the Norwegian settlements of the tenth century. For lapidary inscriptions, clog almanacs, and other familiar uses, it is difficult to say how long they may have lingered in remote localities. In such lurkingplaces a new kind of importance and of mystery came to be attached to them. They were held in a sort of traditional respect which at length grew into a superstition. They were the heathen way of writing, while the Latin alphabet was a symbol of Christianity. The Danish pirates used Runes at the time when they harried the Christian nations. There is a marble lion in Venice, on which is a Runic inscription, which commemorates a visit of one of the northern searovers at Athens (where the lion then was) in the tenth · century. After a time, they came to be regarded as positive tokens of heathendom, and to belong only to sorcery and magic.
We now pass to consider the Roman alphabet, and to note some of the peculiarities of its use among ourselves. And first, of our vowels, and the remarkable names by which we are wont to designate them. Our names of the vowels are singularly at variance with the continental names for the same characters. Of the five vowels A E IOU, there is but one, viz. 0, of which the name is at all like that given it in France or Germany. But it is in the names of
A and I and U that our insular tendencies have wrought their most pronounced effects. The first we call by an unwriteable name, and which we cannot more nearly describe than by saying, that it is the sound which drops out of the half-open mouth, with the lowest degree of effort at utterance. It is a diphthongal sound, and if we must spell it, it is this: Ae. This A is a curiosity of the English language, and will call for further notice by-and-bye. The character I we call eye or igh; the U we call yew.
That I was called eye in Shakspeare's time, seems indicated by that line in Midsummer Night's Dream, iii. 2. 188:
• Fair Helena; who more engilds the night,
Then all yon fierie oes and eies of light.' Where it seems plain that the stars are called O's and I's.
If this passage left it doubtful whether the letter I were sounded in Shakspeare's time as it is now, there is a passage in Romeo and Juliet, iii. 2 which removes the doubt :
• Hath Romeo slaine himselfe ? say thou but I,
Here it is plain that the affirmative which we now write ay, and the noun eye, and the vowel 1, are regarded as having the selfsame sound.
The extreme oddity of our sound of U comes out under a used-up or languid utterance, as when a dilettante is heard to excuse himself from purchasing pictures which are offered to him at a great bargain, on the plea that they do ac-cyew-myew-layte [accumulate] so !' In France this letter has the narrow sound which is unknown in English, but
which it has in Welsh, and which seems ever ready to degenerate into Y: in Germany it has the broad sound
As the sound of u has developed into the “yew' sound, so it is quite as much in the nature of i to grow into a kind of ‘yigh' sound, as may sometimes be heard in affected or exaggerated pronunciation. The following extract from a 'Prologue' by the American humourist Oliver Wendell Holmes will shew what is meant :• “The world's a stage,”—
-as Shakspeare said, one day;
- When the lorn damsel, with a frantic screech,
“Ha! Villain! Draw! Now, Terraitorr, yield or die !”' But with reference to these strange insular names of our vowels, there is an observation to be made, which has, I think, been overlooked. The names of the five vowels are, Ae, Ee, Igh, Oe, Yew; but these names, which are distinctly our own, and among the peculiarities of our language, do not in the case of any single vowel express the prevalent sound of that vowel in practical use. The chief sound of our A is that which it has in at, bat, cat, dagger, fat, gander, hat, land, man, nap, pan, rat, sat, vat, want. It has another very distinct sound, especially before