Изображения страниц

3. The true answer to the inquiry, how language arose, is this that God gave man language, just as Hel54 gave him reason, and just becausel21 He gave him reason Yetạo this must not be taken to affirm that man started at the first101 furnished with a fullformed vocabulary of words, and as it werel38 with his dictionary and first grammar ready-made to his hands.97 He did not thus begin the world with names, but with the power of naming ; for man is not a mere speaking-machine.25 God did not teach him words, as one of us teaches a parrot, from without; but He gave him a capacity, and then evoked the capacity which he gave.

4. Here, as in everything else that concerns the primitive constitution, 40 the great original institutes of humanity, our best and truest lights are to be gotten from the study of the first three chapterski of Gěněsis. You will observe that there it is not God who imposed the first names on the creatures, but Adam ; Adam, however, at the direct suggestion of his Creator.

5. Man makes his own language, but he makes it as the bee makes its cells, as the bird its nest. How this latento power evolved itself first, how this spontaneous generation of language came to pass, is a mystery, even as every act of creation is a mystery. Yet we may perhaps a little help ourselves to the realizing of what the process was, and what it was not, if we liken it to the growth of a tree springing out of and unfolding itself from a root,20 and according -to a necessary law ; that root being the divine capacity of language with which man was created; that law being the law of highest reason with which he was endowed.

6. Language is full of instruction, because it is the embodiment of the feelings and thoughts and experiences of a nation, yea, often68 of many nations, and of all which through centuries they have attained to and won. “ Language is the armory of the human mind, and at once contains the trophies of its past and the weapons of its future conquests.”

7. The mighty moral instincts100 which have been working in the popular40 mind have found therein their unconscious voice; and the single kinglier spirits; that have looked deeper into the heart of things, have oftentimes gathered up all they have seen into some one word which they have launched upon the world, and with which they have enriched it forever, — making in that new word a region of thought to be henceforward in some sort the common heritage of all.

8. Language is the amber in which a thousand precious and subtle45 thoughts have been safely embedded and preserved. It has arrested ten thousand lightning flashes of genius, which, unless thus fixed and arrested, might have been as bright, but would have also been as quickly passing and perishing, as the lightning, « Words convey the mental treasures of one period to the generations that follow; and, laden with this, their precious freight, they sail safely across gulfs of time in which empires have suffered shipwreck, and the languages of common life have sunk into oblivion.”

9. And, for all these reasons, far more and mightier in every way is a language than any one of the works which may have been composed in it. For that work, great as it may be, is but the embodying of the mind of a single man; this, 128 of a nation. The Iliade is great; yet not so great in strength or power or beauty as the Greek language. Paradise Lostei is a noble possession for a people to have inherited; but the English tongue is a nobler heritage yet.

10. Great, then, will be our gains, if, having these treasures of wisdom and knowledge lying round about us, we determine that we will make what portion of them we can our own; that we will ask the words we use238 to give an account of themselves, to say whence they are, and whither103 they tend. Then shall we often rub off the dust and rust from what seemed but a common token, which we had taken and given a thousand times, esteeming it no better, but which now we shall perceive to be a precious coin, bearing the image and superscriptioner of the great king.

11. Then shall we discover that there is a reality about words; that they are not merely arbitraryEl signs, but living powers ; not like the sands of the sea, innumerable disconnected atoms, but growing out of roots, clustering in families, connecting and intertwining themselves with all that men have been doing and thinking and feeling, from the beginning of the world till now. We should thus grow in our feeling of connection with the past, and of gratitude40 and reverence towardsEr it; we should estimate more truly, and therefore more highly, what it has done for us, all that it has bequeathed to us, all that it has made ready to our hands.

12. It was something for the children of Israël, e when they came into Cānaan,Et to enter upon wells which they digged not, and vineyards which they had not planted, and houses which they bad not built; but how much greater a boon, ei how much more glorious a prerogative,e for any one generation to enter upon the inheritance of a language which other generations by their truth and toil have made already a receptacle of choicest treasures, a storehouse of so much unconscious wisdom, a fit organ for expressing the subtlest distinctions, the tenderest sentiments, the largest thoughts, and the loftiest imaginations, which at any time the heart of men can conceive!


Part SECOND 1. We are not to look for the poëtry, which a people may possess, only in its poems, or its poetical customs, traditions, and beliefs. Many a single word also is itself a concen'trated poem, having stores of poetical thought and imagery laid up in it. Es. amine6s it, and it will be found to rest on some deep analogy of things natural and things spiritual ; bringing those lai to illustrate and to give an abiding form and body to these.

2. Let me illustrate that which I have been here saying somewhat more at length by the word “ tribulation." We all know, in a general way, that this word, which occurs not seldom in Scripture and in the Liturgy, I means affliction, sorrow, anguish ; but it is quite worth our while103 to know how it means this, and to question the word a little closer. It is derived from the Latino “ trib'ulum,” which was the thrashing instrumento or roller whereby the Roman husbandman separated the corn from the husks ; and “ tribulātio," in its primary significance, was the act of this separation.

3. But some Latin writer of the Christian church appropriated the word and image for the setting forth of a higher truth; and sorrow, distress, and adversity, being the appointed means for the separating in men of their chaff from their wheat, of whatever in them was light and trivial and poor from the solid and the true, therefore he called these sorrows and griefs “ tribulations,” thrashings, that is, of the inner spiritual man, without which there could be no fitting him for the heavenly30 garner.

4. How deep an insight into the failings of the human heart lies at the root of many words; and, if only we would attend to them, what valuable warnings many contain against subtle+ tempt. ations and sins! Thus, all of us have probably, more or less, felt the temptation of seeking to please others by an unmanly assenting to their view of some matter, even when our own inde pendent convictions would lead us to a different. The existence of such a temptation, and the fact that too many yield to it, are both declared in a Latin Er word for a flatterer, "assentător," that is, “ an assenter; ” one who has not courage to say No, when a Yes is expected from him.

5. What a mournful witness for the hard and unrighteous judgment we habitually form of one another lies in the word « prejudice”! The word of itself means plainly no more than a “judgment formed beforehand,” without affirining anything as to whether that judgment be favorable or unfavorable to the person about whon, it is formed. Yet so predominantly do we forme harsh, unfavorable judgments of others before knowledge and experience, that a “prejudice," or judgment before knowledge and not grounded on evidence, is almost always taken to signify an un

favorable anticipation about one ; and “ prejudicial” has actu. ally acquired a secondary meaning of anything which is mischievous36 or injurious.

6. Full, too, of instruction and warning is our present employ. ment of the word “libertine.” It signified, according to its earliest use in French and English, a speculative free-thinker in matters of religion, and in the theory of morals, or, it might be, of government.92 But, as by a sure process free-thinking does and will end in free-acting, -as he who cast-off the one yoke will cast off the other, so a “ libertine" came, in two or three generations, to signify a profligate.

7. There is much, too, that we may learn from looking a little closely at the word “ passion.” We sometimes think of the “ passionato " man as a man of strong will, and of real though ungoverned energy. But this word declares to us most plainly the con’trary; for it, as a very solemn"9 use of it declares, means properly “ suffering ;” and a passionate man is not a man doing something, but one suffering119 something to be done on him.

8. When, then, a man or child is “in a passion,” this is no coming out in him of a strong will, of a real energy, but rather the proof that, for the time at least, he has no will, no energy ; ne is suffering, not doing, — suffering his anger, or what other evil temper it may be, to lord over him without control. Let po one, then, think of passion as a sign of strength.


PART THIRD. 1. THERE are vast harvests of historic lore garnered often in single words; there are continually great facts100 of history which they at once declare and preserve. If you turn to a map of Spain, you will take note, at its southern point and running out into the Straits of Gibraltar, El of a prom'ontory, which from its position is admirably adapted for commanding the entrance of the Mediterranean Sea, and watching the exiter and entranco of all ships.

2. A fortress stands upon this promontory, called now, as it was also called in the times of the Moorish domination in Spain, · Tari'fa ;” the name, indeed, is of Moorish origin. It was the custom of the Moorsel to watch from this point all merchant ships going into or coming out of the Midlands Sea ; and, issu. ing from this stronghold, to levy duties40 according to a fixed scale on all merchandise passing in and out of the straits; and this was called, from the place where it was levied, “ tarifa," or “tariff ;” and in this way we have acquired the word.

3. It is a signal evidence of the conservative powers of language, that we may oftentimese trace in speech the rec'ords of customs and states of society which have now passed so entirely away as to survive nowhere else but in these words alone. For example, a “stipulation," or agreement, is so called, as many are strong to affirm, from “stip'ula," a straw, because it once was usual, when one person passed over landed property to another, that a straw from the land, as a pledge or representative of the property transferred, should be handed from the seller to the buyer, which afterward was commonly preserved with or inserted in the title-deeds.

4. Whenever we speak of arithmeticEl as the science of “calculation,” we in fact allude to that rudimental period of the science of numbers when pebbles (calculi) were used, as now among savages they often are, to facilitate the practice of counting. In “library” we preserve a record of the fact that books were once written on the bark (liber) of trees..

5. No one now believes in astrology; yet we seem to affirm as much in language ; for we speak of a person as “jovial,” or “săt'urnīne,” or “mercurial ; " " jovial,” as being born under the planet JupiterEl or Jove; “saturnine," as born under the planet Săt'urn ;£1 and "mercurial,” that is, light-hearted, as those born under the planet Mer'curyEl were accounted to be.

6. With how lively an interest shall we discover words to be of closest kin which we had never considered till now but as entire strangers to one another! What a real increase will it be in our acquaintance with and mastery of English, to become aware of such relationship! Thus “heaven "30 is only the perfect of “ to heave ;” and is so called because it is “heaved ” or “ heaven” up, being properly the sky as it is raised aloft. The “smith” has his name from the sturdy blows that he “smites” upon the anvil ; "wrong” is the perfect participle of “to wring, that which one has wrung or wrested from the right.

7. The “brunt” of the battle is the “heat” of the battle, where it “burns " the most fiercely. “ Haft,” as of a knife, is properly only the participle perfect of “ to have,” that whereby you “have" or bold it. Or, take two or three nouns adjective: “strong" is the participle past of " to string ;” a “strong ” man weans no more than one whose sinewsl3 are firmly “strring.'

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »