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head of that Section, or selecting some other, at the discretion of the teacher.
3. In connection with this exhaustive study of one autnor in each Section, learn the portion in coarse print in regard to the other associated authors in that Section,
4. Name merely, without giving any other particulars, some of those authors who are presented in fine print. How many of these minor authors should be named, must be left to the judgment of the teacher. The better way is to require only a few, and leave the selection to each student.
By observing these four conditions, the teacher may take a class intelligently and profitably through the entire book, in the shortest time allotted to the study in any school that makes a pretence of studying the subject at all.
Having given this general survey of the whole subject, if more time is allowed, the process may be repeated, again and again, taking each time one additional author ir each Section for special study, and a few additiona! minor authors for mere mention.
Scholars, while passing through the book, should be advised and encouraged to read all the matter in its connection. Curiosity of itself will lead them in many cases to read about authors in whom they are interested. But in no case is it deemed advisable that a larger amount than that already indicated should be required for recitation.
ENGLISH BEFORE CHAUCER.
ENGLISH LITERATURE, strictly speaking, does not mean the literature of England.
Successive Literatures. - There have been in England several successive races, each having a literature of its own.
The Welsh. – The old Celts, still represented by the Welsh in the west of Eng. land, had a literature, rather extensive too, which is no more English than the Hebrew is. Anglo-Saxon.— The Anglo-Saxons, through a period of several centuries, culminating in the time of Alfred the Great, had a literature, some of it of a high order. This, though nearer to the English than any of the others are, though indeed tho parent of the English, still is not itself English: it is Anglo-Saxon. Norman-French. The Normans, who settled in England in the twelfth century, brought with them a noble literature. But it was Norman - French, not English. Church-Latin.- The ecclesiastics of the English Church, from the second century, possibly from the first, down to the time of the Reformation, and even a little later, had among them a literature of their own, which is very copious, and some of it of a high order. But it is Church-Latin, not English.
A literature is named, not from the soil on which it thrives, but from the language in which it is written. Hence,
English Literature is the literature which exists in the English language.
What it Includes. — It includes works written by Americans, as well as those written by Englishmen. It includes the works even of foreigners, provided those works are written in the English language.
How Divided. — For convenience of treatment, and in accordance with general usage, it is divided into two parts. The English works written in England and its dependencies are considered in the present volume, under the head of English Literature; those written in the United States are considered in a separate volume, under the head of American Literature.
To fix a precise point when English Literature may be said to have begun, we must first ascertain how far back the English Language goes.
NOTE:-In one sense, Language, being in a constant state of transition, has no begin. ning — none, that is, which may be traced to some precise point in historical times. And yet, if we follow any language back from its present condition through successive changes, we find after a while, that the documents which appear in it are no longer intelligible to ordinary readers. The stream is lost. We are obliged, therefore, for convenience of treatment, to assume a point, somewhat arbitrarily, where the language, in its present form, may be said to begin. Happily, in the case of the English language, historical events have defined this point more sharply than is the case with most langnages. The Saxons in England inaintained their language comparatively unimpaired until the coming of the Normans, A. D. 1066. For one or two centuries after the coming of the Normans, a sharp conflict took place, not only between the two races, but also between the two languages. The final result was a mixed race and a mixed language - predominantly Saxon, but with a large Norman element.
The mixed language resulting from the Conquest, neither pure Saxon, such as Alfred spoke and wrote, still less pure Norman-French, such as William and his barons spoke, is our modern English.
Changes that took place. — In the process by which the AngloSaxon became English, two vital changes took place. 1. Loss of Inflection. The Anglo-Saxon, like the Greek and Latin, was an inflectional language. In the rude jostling of Saxon and Norman speech, these inflections were forced to give way. This was the first result, and it was brought about mainly by the shock and violence of the Conquest. 2. New Words. The second result, and one considerably later, was the introduction of foreign words. It was not until the Normans began to consider themselves Englishmen, and to use the language of the natives, that Norman words began to show themselves in any great abundance in English composition.
Tho Precise Point. — In a change so gradual and continuous as that of the transition of a language from its ancient form to its modern form, it is not easy, as already stated, to fix a precise point, where it ceases to be one, and becomes clearly the other. But,
The date, A. D. 1200, may be assumed as a convenient dividing line between the old language and the new.
Documents written much earlier than that are either Anglo-Saxon or Norman-French, according to the birth and the proclivities of the writer; documents later than that, very rapidly became unmistakably English.
Taking this view of the subject, that is, recognizing the language as being English from and after the beginning of the thirteenth century, the first author in chronological order that claims attention, is a Chronicler by the name of Layamon.
The Brut of Layamon. The work of Layamon is called Brut, or more fully, Brutus of England. It is a chronicle of British affairs, from the arrival of Brutus, an imaginary son of Æneas of Troy, to the death of King Cadwalader, A. D. 689.
History of the Manuscript. — The existence of this Chronicle in manuscript has long been known, but it has not attracted particular attention until quite lately. The earlier critics spoke of it slightingly. Extracts from it, however, were printed from time to time, by different explorers, which gradually increased the public estimation of its merits, and, at length, in 1847, it was printed, Sir Frederick Madden having then brought out a splendid edition of the whole work, in 3 vols. 8vo., for the Society of Antiquaries of London.
Origin of the Legend. - Among the old Britons in Wales and Cornwall of England, and in Armorica or Brittany on the coast of France, there bad grown up a most extraordinary mass of legends in regard to the early history of the race. These Welshmen have always been an imaginative people, and their secluded condition those early centuries favored the growth of wild imaginations. They were connected ecclesiastically with Rome. Some of them, who knew Latin, had learned enough of Virgil to know that Rome was connected somehow with Troy. Their legends, consequently, presented a strange jumble of facts. The great object of patriotic ambition with them seemed to be to trace the origin of their race back to ancient Troy. This floating mass of traditionary legends had been collected by Bome Celtic hand, and woven, with all possible gravity, into a formal history of Britain, tracing its line of monarchs back, in regular succession, to Brutus, an imaginary son of Ænens of Troy. Brútus settled in Britain, as Æneas did in Italy. Such was the tradition.
Geoffrey of Monmouth. -- An English monk, Geoffrey of Monmouth, translated into Latin this Wolsh Chronicle, now lost. Geoffrey called his book Historia Britonum, A History of the Britons, It contained all sorts of incredible stories and fables, classical, Christian and heathen, the offspring of an imaginative people, among wild scenery, in an early stage of society. As history it is worthless. It forms, how. ever, an important link in the history of English literature, the materials of a large number of the earliest works that exist, both in English and in Norman-French, haying been drawn from this crude mass of fictions, misnamed history.
Origin of the Rhyming Chroniclers. — The first writers that we may fairly call English, were Rhyming Chroniclers. They professed to give in metre a record of early British history, and the matter of their Chronicles was made up from these grotesque Welsh traditions, so industriously preserved by Geoffrey of Monmouth. They did not, however, always take their materials directly from Geoffrey. Previously to their time, a race of minstrels had sprung up in France, and these French poets were the first to avail themselves of the materials collected by Geoffrey. Within a very few years after the appearance of his work, they had translated these legends from his prose Latin to Norman-French metre. Some of the English Chroniclers took their stories from these Norman-French poems; some took directly from the original Latin of Geoffrey: some took from both sources; and all added and varied, each to suit his own taste and circumstances.
Origin of Layamon's Chronicle.- Layamon's Chronicle, Brutus of England, is in the main a translation of a Chronicle of the same name, “ Brut d'Angleterre," by Wace, a Norman-French poet, who took the story from Geoffrey of Monmouth. Layamon, however, besides translating from Wace, took materials also from other sources, particularly from Venerable Bede, the ecclesiastical historian of Great Britain.
Of Layamon himself we know nothing, except what he himself tells us, which is very little. He tells us that he was a priest, and that he resided at Ernley, near Redstone, in Worcestershire; and he seems to say that he was employed in the services of the church there.
Date of the Chronicle. — The composition of the Chronicle, Brutus of England, has been assigned, from internal evidence, to the beginning of the thirteenth century, not later, probably, than the year 1205.
Versification of the Chronicle. - The French Chronicle which Layamon followed was in eight-syllable rhyming couplets. Layamon's Brutus sometimes rhymes; as,
- Kinges - theines
- thinges -sweines - scelde. Occasionally also it runs into regular octo-syllabics; as,
Summe heo gunnen lepen,
Summe heo drive balles. There is, too, an occasional appearance of the peculiar alliteration which characterized the old Saxon poetry. * On the whole, it would seem that Layamou, for his versifica
* See Hart's Composition and Rhetoric; subject, Versification, p. 222.