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introduced by the Picts, a Scandinavian tribe who preceded the Scots, a Celtic colony from Ireland : and that the French part of the subsequent mixed language was produced by the frequent intermarriages of the Scotish kings and nobles, during the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries, with ladies of Anglo-Norman blood, and by the long residence of these princes in the counties of Northumberland and Cumberland, which they held, as feudatories, of the crown of England.
Mr. Ritson, on the contrary, in a no less elaborate essay, prefixed to his selection of Scotish songs, attempts to prove, by a long chain of authorities, that the Picts were, no less than the Scots, a Celtic nation ; that the Gaelic language was formerly universal in Scotland ; but that having never been employed in works of literature, it was gradually superseded by the English, in consequence of those relations with this country, which resulted from the policy of Malcolm III. and his succes
It is evidently impossible to reconcile antagonists who have no one opinion in common, and who interpret differently the same authorities, and draw opposite conclusions from the few facts on which they are agreed. I shall therefore content myself with stating, as correctly as I can, the present amount of our information on the subject, and leave the result to the determination of the reader.
It seems to be satisfactorily proved by Mr. Macpherson, in his “ Geographical Illustrations of Scotish History,” that the kingdom of Northumberland, founded by the Angles in the sixth century, extended from the Humber as far as the southern bank of the Frith of Forth ; and, following that shore to the westward, as far as the Graemis-Dyke, included the provinces of Lothian and Galloway ; a country, in superficial extent, not far short of one-fourth, and in wealth and population equal, perhaps, to about a third, of what we now call Scotland. These provinces, though claimed by the kings of England after the union of the Heptarchy, were definitively ceded by Edgar to Kenneth king of the Scots and Picts, on condition that “he should do homage for this part of his dominions to the crown of England, and preserve to the inhabitants their ancient customs and laws, as well as the appellation and language of Englishmen 2.”
The whole western region, comprehended between the mountains and the sea, was occupied by the Scots, whose language is universally admitted to have been Gaelic.
Lastly, the eastern coast to the northward of the Forth is to be allotted to the Picts, and when it shall be ascertained who the Picts were, and what was their original dialect, it will only remain to determine when and why they relinquished that dialect, for the purpose of talking English
Such seems to have been the distribution of the country when Malcolm III. in 1057 mounted the throne of Scotland. We all know, that during the usurpation of Macbeth he had been carried into England, wbere he spent seventeen years ; and that at the end of this time he was reinstated in his dominion, by means of an army raised in Northumberland, the earldom of his uncle Siward.
Hitherto, the usual residence of the kings of Scotland had been at Forteviot, or elsewhere in the neighbourhood of the Tay ; but Malcolm was induced, both by motives of taste and policy, to remove his court to the southward, to the castles of Dunfermline and Edinburgh. Having been educated in England, he might naturally prefer a residence in a Saxon province : it was no less
Fecitque Kineth Regi Eadgaro homagium, sub cautione multa promittens, quod populo partis illius antiquas consuetudines non negaret, et sub nomine et linguâ Anglicanâ permanerent. Quod usque hodie firmum manet. Wallingford ap. Gale, vol. iii. p. 545.
natural that he should wish to remove from a part of his kingdom where the partisans of his predecessor were perhaps still numerous : and, after the conquest of England by the Normans, it became highly necessary that the kings of Scotland should be enabled, by their vicinity to the frontier, to watch over the conduct of an ambitious and powerful neighbour.
To this essential policy Malcolm was by no means inattentive. He supported to the utmost of his power, both by negociation and by force of arms, the Saxon party in England ; he married the sister of Edgar Atheling; distributed grants of lands to the companions of her exile ; and afforded an asylum in his dominions to the numerous crowds of fugitives who, during the sanguinary expedition of William the Conqueror, in 1070, were expelled from the northern provinces of England. By these means he probably increased very considerably the population and industry of his country ; he certainly added much to its political influence ; and we are not surprised that his long and active reign should be considered as the commencement of an important era in the history of Scotland, distinguished by a very considerable change in the manners and language of its inhabitants.
What was the precise nature and extent of this change can now only be conjectured. Perhaps it was merely such as tended to diminish the difference between the English and Scotish dialects of the Saxon, and was occasioned by the numerous emigrations from England. At least it does not seem probable, that Malcolm and Edgar Atheling should have introduced into Scotland the language of their bitterest enemies. Mr. Pinkerton, indeed, contends that the Norman was the universal speech of the English nobles during the reign of Edward the Confessor : and it is certain that there existed at his court a strong Norman party ; and th he employed a foreign language in preference to his own, and delighted in the conversation of Norman favourites. Yet it is rather improbable that the whole body of Saxon nobles,—that the great council of the nation, who in 1052 decreed the banishment of all those foreigners,—and who, for the purpose of securing their country against the dominion of a Norman, raised to the throne a Saxon nobleman, distinguished by his hatred to that nation, should have imitated the phraseology of Edward, a sovereign whom they generally and justly despised.
But, be this as it may, the Saxon party in England having been annihilated, even before the death of Malcolm, his successors had no motive for continuing an unsuccessful struggle against a power now firmly established. His three sons, Edgar, Alexander, and David, who after the short reign of their uncle, Donald Baan, successively mounted the throne of Scotland, united themselves as closely as possible with the Norman kings of England. Their sister Matilda was married to Henry I.; Alexander to Sybilla, a natural daughter of the same Henry ; David to the heiress of Northumberland : and during these three reigns, including a period of fifty-six years, from 1097 to 1153, the intercourse between the two kingdoms appears to have been as uninterrupted as if they had been governed by a common sovereign. David, indeed, who passed many years at the court of his brother-in-law, acquired such an affection for Norman customs, that he was considered by his subjects as a Frenchman. He seems to have adopted the whole system of Norman jurisprudence : he promoted the marriage of his female wards with Norman barons ; he encouraged, by numerous privileges, the settlement of English and Norman artizans and merchants in the Scotish towns”;
3 The army of William the Lion in 1173 is said to have contained a considerable number of English; and William of Newborough observes that, at this time, they formed the bulk of the inhabitants and so far increased the commerce of his kingdom, that in the reign of his grandson, William the Lion, the burghs were enabled to furnish three-eighths of the whole national contribution 4. I should therefore be tempted to ascribe to this reign, and to the concurrence of the above-mentioned causes, that change of language which is generally attributed to the policy of Malcolm III.
If it were proved that the Norman-French was at any time the usual language of the court of Scotland, I should think it must have been so at this period. But it is to be considered that, in these early times, the courts of princes were, during great part of the year, composed solely of their own families and immediate attendants; their plenar courts, that is to say, the general councils or assemblies of their nobles, were only periodical ; and I should much doubt whether, in such assemblies of Scotish barons, the French language was ever universal, or even general. It is not easy to assign any motive which could have induced these independent chieftains to undergo the drudgery of learning a new phraseology. Besides, in estimating the relative efficacy of the causes which may be supposed to corrupt or change the speech of nations, I should attribute much less to the influence of kings and nobles, who must be comparatively few, than to the active intercourse produced among the more numerous classes of mankind by the relations of commerce.
It is well known, that in Cornwall the Celtic dialect has been, almost within our own memory, completely obliterated ; in Wales it has been evidently diminished ; and the distinctions of dialect in our English provinces
in all the towns of Scotland. By English, the historian probably meant people who talked a language composed of Saxon and French; for it is not credible that the towns of Scotland were peopled with nacives of England.
4 See Stowe's Annals, A.D. 1205.