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Thus the Saxon of has to be sought with some care by him who would find it in modern English. Those of the current type, such as are illustrated in the following quotation, are French:-
“Thus it has come to pass that women have, by change to times of settled peace, and by the reformation of religion, lost something of dignity, of usefulness, and of resources.”—John Boyd-Kinnear, Woman's Work, p. 352.
Numerous as are the places in which this preposition now occurs, it is less rife than it was. In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the language teemed with it. It recurred and recurred to satiety. This Frenchism is now much abated. I will add a few examples in which we should no longer use it.
‘Paul after his shipwreck is kindly entertained of the barbarians.”—Acts xxviii. (Contents.)
‘I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Iesus.”—Phil. iii. 12.
This of as the instrument of passivity has been displaced, and by has been substituted in its stead.
‘How shall I feast him 2 What bestow of him.’
“What time the Shepheard, blowing of his nailes.’
“Doe me the favour to dilate at full,
Comedy of Errors, i. 1. 124. In the Fourth Folio this last of is at length omitted.
“Solomon was greater than Dauid, though not in vertue, yet in power: and by his power and wisdome he built a Temple to the Lord, such a one as was the glory of the land of Israel, and the wonder of the whole world. But was that his magnificence liked of by all?'—The Translators to the Reader, 1611.
Off is now little used prepositionally; it has become a separate word, appropriate to a peculiar set of what we must call adverbial uses, as be off, take off, wash off, write off, they who are far off, &c. But this is a modern distinction, and it exhibits one of the devices of language for increasing its copia verborum. Any mere variety of spelling may acquire distinct functions to the enrichment of speech. In Miles Coverdale's Bible (1535) there is no distinction between of and off; as may be seen by the following from the thirteenth chapter of the prophet Zachary:— “In that tyme shall the house off Dauid and the citesyns off Ierusalem to (= comparable to).
haue an open well, to wash of synne and vnclennesse. And then (sayeth the LoRDE off hoostes) I will destroye the names of Idols out off the londe.”
07)ér. “In a series of Acts passed over the veto of the President, Congress provided for the assemblage in each Southern State of a constituent Convention, to be elected by universal suffrage, subject to the disfranchisement of all persons who had taken an active part in the civil or military services of the Confederacy.’ Till is from an ancient substantive til, still flourishing in German in its rightful form as 3ies, and meaning goal, mark, aim, butt. Thus in some Saxon versified proverbs, printed in the Introduction to my Saxon Chronicles, p. xxxv :— ‘Til sceal on eble domes wyrcean.” Mark shall on patrimony doom-wards work. i.e. a borne or landmark shall be admissible as evidence. The preposition is now appropriated to Time: we say till them, fill to-morrow ; but not fill there, &c. Earlier it was used of Place, as in Shakspeare's Passionate Pilgrim —
“She, poor bird, as all forlorn
“A sweet thing is love,
Ballad Society, vol. i. p. 320.
“There were slaine of them, vpon a three thousand men.”—I Maccabees iv.
“But now what pietie without trueth ? what trueth (what sauing trueth) without the word of God? what word of God (whereof we may be sure) without the Scripture?'—The Translators to the Reader, 1611.
The prepositions are more elevated in the scale of symbolism than the pronouns. They are quite removed from all appearance of direct relation with the material and the sensible. They constitute a mental product of the most exquisite sort. They are more cognate to mind; they have caught more of that freedom which is the heritage of mind; they are more amenable to mental variations, and more ready to lend themselves to new turns of thought, than pronouns can possibly be. To see this it is necessary to stand outside the language; for these things have become so mingled with the very circulation of our blood, that we cannot easily put ourselves in a position to observe them. Those who have mastered, or in any effective manner even studied Greek, will recognise what is meant. To see it in our own speech requires more practised habits of observation. But here I can avail myself of testimony. Wordsworth had the art of bringing into play the subtle powers of English prepositions, and this feature of his poetry has not escaped the notice of Principal Shairp. In his Studies in Poetry and Philosophy, when speaking of Wordsworth, he says:—‘Here, in passing, I may note the strange power there is in his simple prepositions. The star is on the mountain-top; the silence is in the starry sky; the sleep is among the hills; the gentleness of heaven is on the sea—not “broods o'er,” as the later editions have it.” (p. 74.)
Wordsworth dedicated his Memorials of a Tour in Italy to his fellow-traveller, Henry Crabb Robinson. The opening lines are:—
‘Companion 1 by whose buoyant spirit cheered,
It was originally written ‘To whose experience,’ &c. Mr. Robinson suggested that “In’ would be better than ‘To," and the poet, after offering reasons for a thing which can hardly be argued upon, ended by yielding his own superior sense to the criticism of his friend. (Diary, 1837.)
A second series of prepositions are those in which flexion is traceable, especially the genitival form, as against, besides, silhence, &c.
besides (= without, or contrary to).
“Besides all men's expectation.”—Richard Hooker, Of the Laws &c. Preface, ii. 6.
“Which Scripture being given to teach matters of belief not less than of action, the Fathers must needs be and are even as plain against credit besides the relation, as against practice without the injunction of Scripture.”—Id. Bk. II. v. 3.
“We require you to find out but one church upon the face of the whole earth, that hath been ordered by your discipline, or hath not been ordered by ours, that is to say, by episcopal regiment, sithence the time that the blessed Apostles were here conversant.”—Richard Hooker, Of the Laws, &c. Preface, iv. 1.
near (comparative of nigh).
“The fruitage fair to sight, like that which grew
Paradise Lost, x. 562.
‘Happy the man whom this bright Court approves,
Alexander Pope, Windsor Forest, 235.
Perhaps we ought to range in this series such a preposition as save, which having come to us through the French sau/, from the Latin salvo, is still, at least to the perceptions of the scholar, redolent of the ablative absolute.
“In one of the public areas of the town of Como stands a statue with no inscription on its pedestal, save that of a single name, volTA.’—John Tyndall, Faraday as a Discoverer.
A third series of prepositions, consisting of more than one word, are the phrasal prepositions. In the development of this sort of preposition, we have been expedited by French tuition. A constant and necessary element in their formation is the preposition of. They are the analogues of such French prepositions as auprés de, autour de, &c.
long of; along of
* Long all of Somerset, and his delay.' Ibid. 46.
An older form of this preposition was long on or along on, as it is still frequently heard in country places. The French of prevailed over the native on, as it did also in some other positions. Chaucer has
‘I can not tell whereon it was along,
Canones Pemannes Tale.