Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

whose office it was to celebrate the praises of their gods and heroes.

Q. What branches of knowledge did the Druids chiefly culti. vate?

A. Besides the learning peculiar to their sacerdotal office, they cultivated principally medicine, astronomy, and law.

Q. Were they acquainted with the art of writing ?'

A. Cæsar says they were, but that they never prac ticed it, except for the purpose of concealing, rathe: than of promulgating the knowledge which they possessed.

Q. What were some of the principal changes introduced by the Roman conquest ?

A. The art of writing, of agriculture, and of architecture; and while it abolished Druidism, it substituteil Christianity in its room.

CHAPTER V. OF THE EFFECTS OF THE SAXON CONQUEST. 2. Did the arts and improvements introduced by the Romum continue long to flourish ?

A. No; they had not been long established wlien they were not merely checked, but entirely obliter. ated. Q. By what event did this take place?

A. By that great revolution, called the Saxon con. quest. Q. What change did this produce upon the language ?

A. The people having been exterminatel by their invaders, rather than subdued, except among the fastnesses of Wales and the Highlands, every trace of the Celtic language became obliterated in all the other parts of the island, and the Saxon introduced in its stead. Q. What was the character of the Saxons for learning ?

A. Being a rude and savage race, whose sole occu. pation was war, in religion they were heathens, and in learning so deficient as not even to be acquainted with the use of letters.

Q. Did they long continue in this state ?

A. No; for, having completely subjugated the coun: try, they gradually settled down to a more regular course oi sife; and the reintroduction of Christianity gave a new impulse to learning by making the people acquainted with the art of writing.

Q. In what language did the learned men continue for a tine to write ?

A. In the Latin; and one or two of the most dis tinguished of the Saxon Latin writers are Gildas, a native of Alcluyd, now Dumbarton; Aldhelm, abbot of Malmesbury; and the Venerable Bede, a native, and afterward a monk, of the Abbey of Wearmouth in the county of Durham.

Q. What characters did the Saxons use in writing their own tongue?

A. With the exception of a character to denote th, and another to denote w, their letters were the same as the Roman.

Q. Who were among the earliest writers in the Saxon lar, guage?

Ă. Two individuals called, for distinction, the one the elder, the other the second Caedmon, who were the authors of religious poetry. Q. Of what did the Saxon literature chiefly consist?

A. Principally of poems, histories or chronicles, religious treatises, and translations from the Scriptures and from Latin authors, with some few tales or fic tions. Q. Who is one of its brightest ornaments ?

A. The celebrated King Alfred, who is regarded no! only as one of the wisest of monarchs, but as one of the most learned men of his day, and an ardent promoter both of religion and learning among his subjects.

Q. Did the Saxon language and literature regularly improve after Alfred's time?

A. Quite the reverse ; for, Hirst by their incursions, and then by the invasion and ultimate conquest of the country by the Danes, society was thrown into the utmost confusion, and all improvement in language, ing iterature, and the arts of life, was completely checked.

Q. Did the Nanish conquest produce much change upon the character cita language ?

A. Much less than might have been expected, for the Danish, like the Saxon tongue, being of Gothic origin, was only a different dialect of the same lan guage, and, with the exception of checking its im. provement, had little effect in altering the speech of ihe country

CHAPTER VI. OF THE EFFECTS OF THE DANISH CONQUEST. Q. What was the first event that produced much effect upon the Saxon language ?

A. The great intercourse which began to take place between Britain and Normandy, in part directly, but still more indirectly, was the first thing that tended to affect the language to any great degree.

Q. To what was this intercourse chiefly owing?

A. To the circumstance of so many of the Saxon princes and pobility having taken refuge in that country during the period of Danish sway in Britain.

Q. What individual in particular showed great partiality for every thing Norman?

Å. Edward the Confessor, who, being descended from Ethelred the Second, a Saxon refugee, had been brought up at the court of Normandy, and therefore took every opportunity of testifying his attachment to his benefactors.

Q What effect had his example upon the rest of the country?

A. It caused the nobility, and those possessed of wealth, to send their sons into Normandy to be edu. cated, which in time produced, in the higher classes a strong partiality to the Norman, and a sad disregard to their own language. Q. What sort of language was the Norman?

4. A language which had arisen from the admixture of the Latin as spoken in France, and of that dialect of the Gothic which was spoken by the Northmen and other warlike tribes, who had overrun and conquered that fine country.

Q. In what respects did the new language resemble or differ from those from which it had sprung?

A: It retained a greater resemblance to the Latin in the words of which it was composed; but seemed more akin to the Gothic or Teutonic in its general structure, and in the arrangement of its words into sentences.

Q. What motive had the English nobility to prefer the Norman language to the Saxon?

A. Probably the vanity, in part, of being thus farther distinguished from the common people ; though the consideration of the Norman being regarded as a more refined and cultivated language, must have had no slight influence.

Q. What was the indirect consequence to the language of this great intercourse with Normandy ?

A. It paved the way for the Norman conquest, an event which happened in the year 1066, and which ultimately produced a complete revolution in the lan. guage, the literature, and the institutions of the country.

CHAPTER VII. UF THE EFFECTS OF THE NORMAN CONQUEST. Q. To what barbarous policy had the Norman conquerors re course, the better to strengthen their usurped power ?

A. To the dire expediency of endeavoring to extirpate the very language of the people, in order that, by making them forget their Saxon lineage, they might more reconcile them to the Norman yoke.

Q. What measures were taken the better to effect this purpose?

Ă. All offices of honor, of trust, and of emolument, were filled by the foreigners, and the Norman tongue was enjoined as the language to be used at court, in the enactment of laws, and in all legal proceedings.

Q. Whom did the Normans easily get to obey these harsh edicts?

A. The nobility or higher classes, who had not been ejected from their estates, though of this description of persons the number was very small; and the Nor. mans, who became masters of the country had na motive to abandon their original speech

(As an evidence that the English language was wholly foreign to the English court, D'Israeli relates a ludicrous anecdote of the chancellor of Richard the First. This chancellor, in his flight from Canterbury, disguised as a female hawker, carrying under his arm a bundle of cloth, and an ell measure in his hand, sat by the sea-side waiting for a vessel. The fishermen's wives inquiring the price of the cloth, he could only answer by a burst of laughter; for this man, born in England and chancellor of Engs land, did not know a single word of English !]

Q. How many languages, then, were for a time spoken in the country?

A. Two: the Norman, among all who aimed at being genteel, and the Saxon, by all the common peo.. ple;

while the Latin still continued to be the language of the learned, and of the Church service.

Q. What was ultimately the result of this distinction?

A. For a time, these two languages kept perfectly distinct, but at last they began to coalesce, and then sprung up that noble tongue which we now call English.

Q. At what time did this result begin to take place?

A. The precise period can not now be ascertained; but it is likely to have been early; for, as the common people could not speak the Norman, nor the higher classes the Saxon, they would soon see the propriety of compromising the matter, by each party, for the sake of being understood, adopting more or less of the language of the other.

Q. Which language ultimately prevailed over the other?

A. They were probably nearly on a par as to the number of words adopted from each; but the Saxon retained the decided ascendency as to the terminational distinctions and the grammatical construction of the words into sentences.

Q. What are the kinds of words in our language that are chiet. y of Saxon origin?

A. Most of those that are short, and are used to express common objects and common events.

Q. What was the nature of those words derived from the Noi man French ?

A. They were chiefly those of a Latin origin, and which, being generally words of more syllables than one, are used to express less common objects and occurrences.

Q. With what two languages has this union chiefly aílied the English ?

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »