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word, the most innocent in the world (being merely the Romanesque form of the Latin filius, a son), obtained at this period a well-known heraldic import, which it has ever since retained.
The Norman poetic literature of this early period has left few traces on our language. We have an intervening period to survey before we come to any literary blending between the two languages. In this interval, which may be rudely defined by the dates 1215-1350, we see strong efforts after a native literature. But as yet these have no centre of their own-they hang aloof as it were, and hover provincially around the privileged and authoritative languages of French and Latin. They have not among themselves a common or even a leading form of speech. This is the period that has been so excellently illustrated by the labours of the Early English Text Society.
The first example of the new group is the beautiful poem of Genesis and Exodus. Here the word shall is thus declined: sing. sal, salt; pl. sulen. Also srud for the Saxon scrud, modern shroud ; and suuen as a participle of the verb which we now write shove. This speaks for its Anglian character. This poem exhibits also the remarkable feature of he for the Anglo-Saxon hi, equivalent to the modern they. The date of it is about A.D. 1250, and Mr. Morris is probably right in assigning Suffolk as its locality. It has that apparent confusion between X and d for which the last continuation of the Saxon Chronicle (E) is remarkable. As a specimen of the language, we may quote the butler's narrative of his dream to Joseph in the prison
Me drempte ic stod at a win-tre,
I dreamt I stood at a vine-tree that bad waxen boughs three. Erst it bloomed and then it bare the berries ripe, as I was ware :
He kinges kuppe ic hadde on hond, de beries dor-inne me dhugte ic
wrong, and bar it drinken to Pharaon, me drempte, als ic was wune to don.
the king's cup I had in hand, the berries therein me-thought I
wrung, and bare it to drink to Pharoah (I dreamed) as I was wont to do.
At the end of his version of Genesis he alludes to himself and his work :
God schilde hise sowle fro helle bale de made it dus on Engel tale !
God shield his soul from bell-bale that made it thus in English tale !
With the Genesis and Exodus may be roughly classed as to locality Havlok the Dane, though that poem uses the sh.
But the most remarkable of all the productions of the transition period is the poem entitled The Owl and the Nightingale. Its locality is established by internal evidence, as having been written at or near Portesham in Dorsetshire. It is a singular combination of archaic English with ripe and mature versification. The forms of words and even the terms of expression frequently recall Mr. Barnes's Poems in the Dorset Dialect. A prominent feature is the frequent use of v where we write f, as vo for foe; vlize = flies; vairer fairer; vram=from ; vor for; but so for-vorþ for ‘so far forth'; ware-vore = wherefore; &c. In connection with which it ought to be remembered that we in modern English use the v in many places where the Saxon orthography had f. Instances :-heaven, Saxon heofon ; love, Saxon lufu ; but this alteration avoids initial f's which remain with us as in Saxon times. The change may be well illustrated by the numeral five, Saxon fife; where the first f stands unaltered, but the second has been transformed to v. The fact is that the break in the continuity of our literary language opened the
way for much of west-country style that never could have been admitted unless such an interruption had taken place.
It has already been shewn above that the Saxon literary language was not really native to Wessex, that it was not originally Saxon at all, but Anglian. This poem may safely be pronounced the oldest extant specimen of the pure Wessex dialect. And when we add that it is one of the most lovely idylls of any age or of any language, we hope that some Englishmen will be induced to master the dialects of the thirteenth century, in order to be able to appreciate this exquisite pastoral. Its date may be somewhere about A.D. 128o. So far from substituting s for sc (=sh) this poem spells schaltu, schule, scholde, schonde, schame, schaked, schende, schuniet, scharp, &c.
On the other hand it tends to soften the ch guttural.
In the Romance of King Alexander we first begin to hear a sound as of the coming English language. Most of the transition pieces are widely distinct from the diction of Gower and Chaucer, but this has the air of a preparation for those writers. This romance sometimes resembles not distantly the Romaunt of the Rose. The feature which most claims attention is the working in of French words with the English. This is a translation of the poem which was the grand and general favorite before the Romance of the Rose superseded it. It was a French work of the year A.D. 1200, consisting of 20,000 long twelve-syllable lines, a measure which thenceforward became famous in literature, and took the name of ' Alexandrine,' after this romance. The English version was made some time in the thirteenth century, in a lax tetrameter. It was not till Spenser that the Alexandrine metre was systematically employed in our national poetry.
As the poem was originally French, this may partly account for the number of French words and phrases in the translation. Partly, but not altogether : Havelok is from a French original, but it is very free from French words.
The fact seems to be that this translation carries us into the atmosphere of the court; not only by the variety and pureness of the French words in it, but also by its metrical resemblance to that eminently courtly work, Chaucer's Romaunt of the Rose. Moreover, the language is in other respects so like the court-English of the fourteenth century, that we cannot but regard it as in a special manner one of the dawning lights of the standard language. In Chaucer and Gower the French words are often so Anglicised, that a reader might pass them for pure Saxon. Not so in the Romance of King Alexander. The two languages do not yet appear blended together, but only mixed bilingually. The following lines will illustrate this crude mixture of French with English:
1. That us telleth the maistres saunz faile.
To hem stalworth and asperaunt.
Is semblabel to an hors. In the rhyming Chronicle of Robert of Gloucester we have a fine specimen of west-country English, which touches the dialect of The Owl and Nightingale at many points; the infinitives ending in -i or -y, or -ie, as to conseili = to counsel ; he wolde susteini = he would sustain ; 'he ne let nozt clupie al is folc' he let not call all his folk ; duc William uorbed alle his to robby' = duke William forbad all his men to rob; hoseli = to housel ; 'bis noble duc Willam him let crouny king' this noble duke William made them crown him king.
But near relationship is not more indicated by similarity of grammatical forms than by peculiar applications of prepositions and cunjunctions. The Owl and Nightingale has the adverb fort (which is in fact our modern forth) in the
prepositional sense of until : as, bu singest from eve fort amorze' = thou singest from evening until morning. And also conjunctionally, as, 'bos hule abod fort hit was eve' = this owl abode until it was evening. In Robert of Gloucester we find the same word in the conjunctional sense of until, as in the address of William to his soldiers after their landing :
Understondaþ hou zoure elderne be king nome also,
And held him until he had amended that he had ill done. But in many cases this dialect differs strongly from the Dorset, as exhibited in the Owl and Nightingale. The latter has the initial h very constant in such words as Ich habbe I have; þu havest thou hast; ho hadde she had, &c.; whereas in Robert of Gloucester it is adde, as may be seen in the last quotation. Also he writes is for his very frequently, though not constantly. It seems as if he put the h to this word when it was emphatic. The Dorset, on the other hand, retains the h in hit for it; writes the owl down as a “hule,' and a 'houle”; never fails in sh, but rather strengthens it by the spelling sch, as scharpe, schild, schal, schame, &c. ; whereas the Gloucester dialect eludes the h in such instances, and writes ss, as ssolde should; ssipes = ships ; ssriue = shrive; ssire = shire; bissopes = bishops; and even Engliss for English, Frenss for French.
The following line offers a good illustration both of this feature, and also of the metre of this Chronicle, which is not very equable or regular, but of which the ideal seems to be the fourteen-syllable ballad-metre: • Hou longe ssolle hor luper heued above hor ssoldren be?'
Morris, Specimens, p. 66. How long-a shall their hated heads
Above their shoulders be?