Изображения страниц

At what period the Athenians entered the confederacy we know not; but whenever it was, we may be sure that they did not, as Herodotus conjectures, abandon on that occasion their old Pelasgian speech, and learn universally a new language. Possibly the story of the death of Codrus, which savours strongly of Grecian fiction, was invented in order to conceal the submission of Athens to the Hellenic league.

The population of Italy is a very curious subject, and we regret that Adelung, who was so competent to such researches, has done little more than copy the speculations of Frèret on this topic. The mountaineers who occupied the fertile districts of the Apennines before the arrival of Grecian colonists, were partly Illyrians and partly of Celtic origin. It is not easy, or very important, to distinguish which tribes belonged to either of these nations.

The civilized Etruscans are far more important in history than the barbarous hordes of the Apennines; yet every thing relating to their history still remains enveloped in mystery. All the old writers, with the single exception of Dionysius of Halicarnassus, maintained that the Tyrrheni, or Tuscans, were a colony from Asia Minor. The maritime tribes of Pelasgi on the shores of the Hellespont are called Tyrrheni by Sophocles and Thucydides, and this seems to identify them with the Tuscans. The manners and institutions of the Etruscans appear to leave no doubt of their Oriental origin. Yet many late authors overlook all these facts, and attempt to derive them from the northern European nations. Adelung insists on proving the Etruscans to have been a Celtic tribe. His chief argument is their near affinity to the Rhæti, who inhabited the Rhætian Alps, and were, in his opinion, unquestionably a Celtic people. Hence he derives the Etruscans from the Celtæ. We may observe, however, that Livy, whose authority is the greater, as he was a native of the north of Italy, expressly affirms that the Rhætians were a colony from Etruria. The remains of Tuscan art, which Müller mentions to have been discovered in the Rhætian Alps, confirm this iden, for this people certainly drew their arts from Italy. If Livy be right, Adelung's argument falls to the ground. Probably the truth lies between both opinions. We may mention, as confirming this idea, a fact which has escaped our author: viz. that several names of the Roman gods and goddesses which are not Greek, are Celtic; and as the Romans borrowed their rites from the Tuscans, they probably adopted the titles of their divinities, Such are Venus, Luna, and Minerva, while Janus and Anna Perenna are both in their names and ceremonies plainly Oriental. Of the same kind were the worship of fire, under the name of Vesta, and the armed dances of the Salian priests.

The chief information we possess at present concerning the Etruscan language is contained in the work of Lanzi, entitled “ Saggio di Lingua Etrusca.” It appears that Mr. Adelung intended to insert some extracts from this work in the volume before us. These the editor has suppressed, under the singular pretext, that they contradict several of the author's conclusions. He deferred these extracts in order to insert them in an Appendix at the end of the work. No such Appendix however has made its appearance.

Ao very interesting part of Mr. Adelung's work is the historical account he has given of the Latin tongue from its rude beginning to its period of classical refinement, and to its subsequent degeneracy into the Romance of the middle ages, and the modern dialects of the south of Europe. The oldest specimen we have of the Latin language appears to be an hymn of the Fratres Arvales, a well known order of priests. It is referred to the age of Romulus.

Enos Lases juvate

Nos Lares juvate
Neve luerue Marmar Sins incurrere
Neve luem Mamers Sines incurrere.
in Pleores satur fufere Mars lumen sali
in flores ador fieri Mars Aunty maris
sta Berber, Semunes Alternei advocapit

Semones alterni advocate


omnes. This was an inscription discovered at the repairing of St. Peter's Church in 1777. The laws of Numa of which some fragments are preserved by Festus, must be nearly as ancient as the foregoing. The following is a specimen of them.

Sei hemonem fulmin Jobis ocisit nei supera genua tolitod; hemo sei fulmined ocisus escit oloe iousta nuli fieri oportetod.

Se cuips hemonem loebesom dolo sciens mortei duit, pariceidad estod, &c.

Even as late as 261 years before the Christian era, the old Celtic terminations in od and ai, were retained in the Latin language. The words pucnandod and prcdad occur in the incription in memory of the victory of Duilius.

From this rude state, it is surprising how soon the language became refined by a succession of great orators and poets, who had the example of the Greeks before them, and made the dialect of Rome approach continually towards the elegant structure of the Attic idiom. Fabius Pictor, Porcius Cato, Ennius, Plautus, Terence, and Cicero, form the series of illustrious men who brought the language from rude simplicity to its utmost refinement. . This rapid improvement, accounts, as our author judiciously observes, for the confinement of pure Latinity to so small a number of the people: the lower orders were not able to keep up with the change. “ Cicero knew only five or six Roman ladies in his time who spoke their language with purity and correctness;" when he heard his mother-in-law, Lælia, speak, he fancied he was listening to Plautus. Even the comic poets sinned every móment on the theatre against the purity of the language. Hence we may judge what was the state of the vulgar tongue. Quintilian complains that the populace could not utter an exclamation of joy without a barbarism. Already Plautus had divided the Latin tongue, as it was spoken at Rome, into “ Nobles and “ Plebeian.” Afterwards, when the difference became yet more remarkable, the former was named classic, because it was only to be found among citizens of the first classes, and “ lingua Urbana, and Urbanitas;" the latter was termed - Vulgaris” and « Rustica,because it was the most corrupt in the country. It was more difficult to acquire the classical Latin, even when flourishing in its highest perfection, than to learn the language of any foreign nation. Quintilian complains that it was a very hard matter for his scholars to learn Latin in the midst of Rome, and we are told by Cicero; “ that he sometimes employed several days in studying the purity of a single expression."

. It is not difficult to understand the causes of the decline of Latinity after the establishment of the monarchy. When oratory was no longer cultivated, the great incentive to improvement was lost. The distinguishing majesty of the Roman language ceased to exist when the dignity of republican manners had given way to the frivolous refinements of a court. A false taste immediately displayed itself. The higher class of citizens to whom the purity of speech had been confined were exterminated by the tyrants of Rome, and, amidst the turbulent horrors of a despotic government, people of the lowest order frequently rose to the highest rank. Even barbarians found their way to the Senate house, and before the reign of the second Claudius, an Arabian and a Goth had seated themselves on the throne of the Cæsars. The language of Cicero was now extinct, and nothing remained but the lingua rustica, which gradually prepared itself for its transition into the modern dialects.

But it was not till the irruption of the northern nations that the important change took place which destroyed the structure of the Latin language. The dialect was vulgar and debased before, but still it was Latin. It retained its inflections; the nouns

were declined in cases, and the verbs in conjugations. But the learning of these required greater attention than the barbarians could bestow, and in the dialects which were formed after the mixture of the conquerors with the old population, the use of particles and auxiliary verbs supplied the place of the old inflections. The consequence of this change was the loss of the varied collocation and harmonious structure of periods which had been the great ornament of the old languages, and particularly of the Latin, and the chief source of its rhetorical energy. A stiff and uniform structure, with little or no room left for choice of colloeation, was necessarily adopted in the new language. The latter has however the advantage of perspicuity, in which the Latin is greatly deficient.

The comparative advantages and disadvantages of these two systems are very fairly estimated by Mr. Adelung.

“ The new languages have often been reproached with degeneracy from their parent tongues. It is true that they have lost much in conciseness of expression and in richness of thought, but they have often gained in precision and perspicuity. The old idioms maintain an indisputable pre-eminence as the language of feeling and imagination; the modern as instruments of the understanding. Let every one therefore decide for himself how far he is at liberty to undervalue the latter."

We now pass to our author's account of the Celtic languages, and here we find nothing but inaccuracy and confusion. It is remarkable that foreign writers who touch upon this subject continually involve themselves in perplexity and error. Pelloutier and Mallet, though learned authors, particularly the latter, are full of mistakes with respect to the Celtic people and their languages. They ludicrously pronounce the High Dutch to be the most perfect specimen extant of this ancient idiom. Adelung, who has been deceived by Macpherson and other Scottish writers, represents the Gaëlic people as the only genuine offspring of the Celtæ. He imagines the Welsh to be the descendants of the Belgæ, who had possessed themselves of the south coast of Britain, before the arrival of the Romans, and avers that they have no claim to the title of ancient Britons, but are comparatively new comers; that their language is a jargon compounded of various shreds from other tongues, and that nearly one half of it is of German origin. He chooses to give it the name of Cimbric.

We cannot rest quietly and see our countrymen of the principality so unfairly stripped of the honour on which they have so long plumed themselves, without offering a few words in their behalf. We have sought for a motive for Mr. Adelung's unprovoked aggression, and have found it in the old name of VOL. VI. NO. XII.

2 L.

Cymru, (pronounced Cumri), which the Welsh give themselves to this day, and which he is determined to identify with Cimbri; in short, he is resolved to make our countrymen pass for a branch of that nation of savage monsters who laid waste the north of Italy and were defeated so shamefully by Caius Marius. But he is well aware that the dialect of the Cimbri was nearly allied to his own language. The names of the leaders of this people are evidently German, and we are informed by several Italian writers that a remnant of them still preserve their northern speech in some hilly cantons in the Vicentine and Veronese, where they were visited by a Danish prince who found them able to understand the language of his people.

Their intimate connection with the Teutones is a strong symptom of Germanism, and their fierce blue eyes, which are mentioned by Plutarch, bear the same testimony. Moreover we are told expressly by Cæsar, Tacitus, Strabo, and Pliny, that they were a native German race. This being settled, the only way of finding any affinity in their pedigree with that of the Welsh is to represent the latter as a branch of the Belgic Gauls, who according to Cæsar were in great part of German, or possibly of Cimbric, origin.

An appeal to the Welsh language completely refutes this unfounded conjecture. The dialect of the Welsh, as found in the Triads and in the writings of the old bards, is a far more genuine Celtic than that of the Gaëls. And if either people have ever been so far intermixed with foreigners as to destroy the integrity of its language, it was certainly the latter. One argument will serve amply to demonstrate the truth of this position. We have frequently had occasion to observe that the oldest dialects are more copiously inflected than modern ones. The Sanscrit has in this respect the advantage of the Greek (if it be an advantage) and of the popular dialects of India, and the Greek of the Romaic, or modern Greek. But the greatest disintegration in the structure of a language takes place when a nation becomes so mingled with foreigners as to constitute a new people. Such was the case of the Romans, who were formed of a mixture of Greeks and Celts, and more particularly of the nations of modern Europe, who grew out of the old Roman population, mingled with hosts of northern barbarians. In all these instances the idioms are found to have lost a great part of their inflections. Whenever indeed we find two dialects of one language, one of which has an inflected, and the other a simple structure, we may conclude the former to have undergone fewer alterations by foreign intermixture than the latter. Such is the difference that subsists between the Welsh and Gaëlic. The Welsh abounds with inflections of a particular kind, consisting of regular

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »