Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

the Romans had camps in Scotland, they do not seem to have been so important as to become the centres of towns. (b) The word strata has also taken different forms in different parts of England. While castra has always been a suffix, strata shows itself constantly as a prefix. When the Romans came to this island, the country was impassable by man. There were no roads worthy of the name,-what paths there were being merely foot-paths or bridle-tracks. One of the first things the Romans did was to drive a strongly built military road from Richborough, near Dover, to the river Dee, on which they formed a standing camp (Castra stativa) which to this day bears the name of Chester. This great road became the highway of all travellers from north to south, was known as "The Street," and was called by the Saxons Watling Street. But this word street also became a much-used prefix, and took the different forms of strat, strad, stret, and streat. All towns with such names are to be found on this or some other great Roman road. Thus we have Stratford-on-Avon, Stratton, Stradbroke, Stretton, Stretford (near Manchester), and Streatham (near London).—Over the other words we need not dwell so long. Colonia we find in Colne, Lincoln, and others; fossa in Fossway, Fosbrooke, and Fosbridge; portus, in Portsmouth and Bridport; and vallum in the words wall, bailey, and bailiff. The Normans called the two courts in front of their castles the inner and outer baileys; and the officer in charge of them was called the bailiff.

19. Latin Element of the Second Period (i).—The story of Pope Gregory and the Roman mission to England is widely known. Gregory, when a young man, was crossing the Roman forum one morning, and, when passing the side where the slave-mart was held, observed, as he walked, some beautiful boys, with fair hair, blue eyes, and clear bright complexion. He asked a bystander of what nation the boys were. The answer was, that they were Angles. "No, not Angles," he replied; "they are angels." On learning further that they were heathens, he registered a silent vow that he would, if Providence gave him an opportunity, deliver them from the

darkness of heathendom, and bring them and their relatives into the light and liberty of the Gospel. Time passed by; and in the long course of time Gregory became Pope. In his unlookedfor greatness, he did not forget his vow. In the year 596 he sent over to Kent a missionary, called Augustine, along with forty monks. They were well received by the King of Kent, allowed to settle in Canterbury, and to build a small cathedral there.

20. Latin Element of the Second Period (ii).—This mission, the churches that grew out of it, the Christian customs that in time took root in the country, and the trade that followed in its track, brought into the language a number of Latin words, most of them the names of church offices, services, and observances. Thus we find, in our oldest English, the words, postol from apostolus, a person sent; biscop, from episcopus, an overseer; calc, from calix, a cup; clerc, from clericus, an ordained member of the church; munec, from monachus, a solitary person or monk; preost, from presbyter, an elder; aelmesse, from eleëmosune, alms; predician, from prædicare, to preach; regol, from regula, a rule. (Apostle, bishop, clerk, monk, priest, and alms come to us really from Greek words—but through the Latin tongue.)

21. Latin Element of the Second Period (iii).—The introduction of the Roman form of Christianity brought with it increased communication with Rome and with the Continent generally; widened the experience of Englishmen; gave a stimulus to commerce; and introduced into this island new things and products, and along with the things and products new names. To this period belongs the introduction of the words: Butter, cheese; cedar, fig, pear, peach; lettuce, lily; pepper, pease; camel, lion, elephant; oyster, trout; pound, ounce; candle, table; marble; mint.

22. Latin of the Third Period (i).—The Latin element of the Third Period is in reality the French that was brought over to this island by the Normans in 1066, and is generally called Norman-French. It differed from the French of Paris both in spelling and in pronunciation. For example, Norman

*

French wrote people for peuple; léal for loyal; réal for royal; realm for royaume; and so on. But both of these dialects (and every dialect of French) are simply forms of Latin --not of the Latin written and printed in books, but of the Latin spoken in the camp, the fields, the streets, the village, and the cottage. The Romans conquered Gaul, where a Keltic tongue was spoken; and the Gauls gradually adopted Latin as their mother tongue, and—with the exception of the Brétons of Brittany-left off their Keltic speech almost entirely. In adopting the Latin tongue, they had-as in similar cases—taken firm hold of the root of the word, but changed the pronunciation of it, and had, at the same time, compressed very much or entirely dropped many of the Latin inflexions. The French people, an intermixture of Gauls and other tribes (some of them, like the Franks, German), ceased, in fact, to speak their own language, and learned the Latin tongue. The Norsemen, led by Duke Rolf or Rollo or Rou, marched south in large numbers; and, in the year 912, wrested from King Charles the Simple the fair valley of the Seine, settled in it, and gave to it the name of Normandy. These Norsemen, now Normans, were Teutons, and spoke a Teutonic dialect; but, when they settled in France, they learned in course of time to speak French. The kind of French they spoke is called Norman-French, and it was this kind of French that they brought over with them in 1066. But Norman-French had made its appearance in England before the famous year of '66; for Edward the Confessor, who succeeded to the English throne in 1042, had been educated at the Norman Court; and he not only spoke the language himself, but insisted on its being spoken by the nobles who lived with him in his Court.

23. Latin of the Third Period (ii). Chief Dates.—The Normans, having utterly beaten down the resistance of the English, seized the land and all the political power of this country, and filled all kinds of offices-both spiritual and temporal-with their Norman brethren. Norman-French became the language of the Court and the nobility, the language of Parliament and the law courts, of the universities and the schools, of the Church

and of literature. The English people held fast to their own tongue; but they picked up many French words in the markets and other places "where men most do congregate." But French, being the language of the upper and ruling classes, was here and there learned by the English or Saxon country-people who had the ambition to be in the fashion, and were eager speke Frensch, for to be more y-told of," to be more highly considered than their neighbours. It took about three hundred years for French words and phrases to soak thoroughly into English; and it was not until England was saturated with French words and French rhythms that the great poet Chaucer appeared to produce poetic narratives that were read with delight both by Norman baron and by Saxon yeoman. In the course these ree hundred years this intermixture of French with English had been slowly and silently going on. Let us look at a few of the chief land-marks in the long process. In 1042 Edward the Confessor introduces Norman-French into his Court. In 1066 Duke William introduces Norman-Fiench into the whole country, and even into parts of Scotland. The oldest English, or Anglo-Saxon, ceases to be written, anywhere in the island, in public documents, in the year 1154. In 1204 we lost Normandy, a loss that had the effect of bringing the English and the Normans closer together. Robert of Gloucester writes his chronicle in 1272, and uses a large number of French words. But, as early as the reign of Henry the Third, in the year 1258, the reformed and reforming Government of the day issued a proclamation in English, as well as in French and Latin. In 1303, Robert of Brunn introduces a large number of French words. The French wars in Edward the Third's reign brought about a still closer union of the Norman and the Saxon elements of the nation. But, about the middle of the fourteenth century a reaction set in, and it seemed as if the genius of the English language refused to take in any more French words. The English silent stubbornness seemed to have prevailed, and Englishmen had made up their minds to be English in speech, as they were English to the backbone in everything else. Norman-French had, in fact, become provincial, and was spoken

"to

only here and there. Before the great Plague commonly spoken of as "The Black Death"-of 1349, both high and low seemed to be alike bent on learning French, but the reaction may be said to date from this year. The culminating point of this reaction may perhaps be seen in an Act of Parliament passed in 1382 by Edward III., by which both French and Latin had to give place to English in our courts of law. The poems of Chaucer are the literary result "the bright consummate flower" of the union of two great powers-the brilliance of the French language on the one hand and the homely truth and steadfastness of English on the other. Chaucer was born in 1340, and died in 1400; so that we may say that he and his poems-though not the causes-are the signs and symbols of the great influence that French obtained and held over our mother tongue. But although we accepted so many words from our Norman-French visitors and immigrants, we accepted from them no habit of speech whatever. We accepted from them no phrase or idiom: the build and nature of the English language remained the same-unaffected by foreign manners or by foreign habits. It is true that Chaucer has the ridiculous phrase, “I n'am but dead" (for "I am quite dead" 1)-which is a literal translation of the well-known French idiom, "Je ne suis que." But, though our tongue has always been and is impervious to foreign idiom, it is probably owing to the great influx of French words which took place chiefly in the thirteenth century that many people have acquired a habit of using a long French or Latin word when an English word would do quite as well—or, indeed, a great deal better. Thus some people are found to call a good house, a desirable mansion; and, instead of the quiet old English proverb, "Buy once, buy twice," we have the roundabout Latin-. isms, "A single commission will ensure repetition of orders." An American writer, speaking of the foreign ambassadors who had been attacked by Japanese soldiers in Yeddo, says that they concluded to occupy a location more salubrious." This is only a foreign language, instead of the simple and homely English: "They made up their minds to settle in a healthier spot.”

66

1 Or, as an Irishman would say, “I am kilt entirely."

« VorigeDoorgaan »