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we find an explanation accompanying the words of this sort which are used in it. And this circumstance sufficiently informs us, that the adoption was at that time but newly introduced.
“I do thankingis to God up on the unenarrable, or that may not be told, gifte of hym.”
2 Corinthies, cap. 9. " Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.”
Modern Version, verse 15. “ Whom whanne ye han not seyn ye louen, in “ to whom also now ye not seynge bileuen, forsoth
ye bileuynge shulen haue ioye with outeforth in “ gladnesse unenarrable that may not be teld out."
i Petir, cap. 1. " Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable.”
Modern, verse 8. “ From hennesforth brithren, whateuer thingis “ ben sothe, whateuer thingis chaist, whateuer
thingis iust, whateuer thingis holi, whateuer thingis amyable, or, able to be louyd.”
Philippensis, cap. 4. “ Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things “ are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever “ things are lovely."
Modern, verse 8. “ The whiche is not maid up the lawe of fleshly “ maundement: but up vertu of lyf insolible, or, “ that may not be undon.” Ebrewis, cap, 7. PART II.
« Who is made not after the law of a carnal com“ mandement, but after the power of an endless 6 life.”
Modern, verse 16. « Forsothe wisdom that is fro aboue, first sotheli - it is chast, astirwarde pesible, mylde, swadibile, " that is, esi for to trete and to be tretid.”
James, cap. 3. “ But the wisdom that is from above, is first
pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be “ intreated."
Modern, verse 17. Gower, in his Conf. Amant. (written, as he informs, in the sixteenth year of Richard the second) has taken very little advantage of this then newly introduced abbreviation. He uses only six of these words, viz. credible, excusable, impossible, incurable, invisible, noble ; and one, made by himself, I believe, in imitation, chaceable.
« She toke hir all to venerie,
Gower, lib. 5, fol. 90, pag. 2, col. 1.
F. I understand you then to say that the words in our language with the termination BLE, are merely the potential passive adjective: and that we have adopted this termination from the Latin, for
the purpose of abbreviation. But the Latin grammarians had no such notion of this termination. They have assigned no separate office, nor station, nor title, to this kind of word. They have not ranked it even amongst their participles. They call these words merely verbalia in bilis : which title barely informs us, that they have indeed something or other to do with the verbs; but what that something is, they have not told us. Indeed they are so uncertain concerning the relation which these words bear to the verb; that most of the grammarians, Vossius, Perizonius, Goclenius, and others, tell us, that these verbalia in bilis signify sometimes passively and sometimes actively. And I am sure we use great numbers of words with this termination in English, which do not appear to signify either actively or passively.
Vossius says....“ Hujusmodi verbalia sæpius ex“ ponuntur passivè, interdum et activè.”
Perizonius....“ Porro sunt et alia unius formæ “ vocabula, duplicem tamen, tum activam, tum
passivam habentia significationem ; veluti adjec66 tiva in bilis exeunta. De quorum passiya “ significatione nullum est dubium. De activa, “ hæc exempli loco habe, &c.”
And I think I could, without much trouble, furnish
with a larger catalogue of words in ble, used in English, without a passive signification ; than you have furnished of those with a passive signification.
What say you to such as these?
And the French have a multitude besides, such as secourable, &c. which we have not adopted from them. H. All this is very true.
But what says Scaliger of these verbals in bilis ?....“ Recentiores audacter “ nimis jam actus significationem attribuere, idque “ frivolis sane argumentis. Auxere errorem per“ tinaciâ. Poeticâ licentiâ dictum est penetrabile, 66 active."
De causis, lib. 4, cap. 98. Scaliger speaks of their frivolous arguments; but I have never yet seen any attempt at any argument whatever on the subject. They bring some examples indeed of an active use of some words in bilis. From good authors they are very few indeed: from Virgil one word: two from Terence; one from Livy; one from Tacitus: one from Quintus Curtius; one from Valerius Maximus : they produce abundance from Plautus, who used such words as voluptabilis, ignorabilis, &c. And after the Latin language became corrupted; in its decay, we meet with heaps of them. It is in the terminations chiefly that languages become corrupted : and I suppose the corruption arises from not having settled or well understood the meaning and purpose of those terminations.
Had the Latin grammarians been contented with the old Stoic definition of modus 'verbi casualis, these verbals might very well have been ranged with their participles ; but when they defined the principle to be a word significans cum tempore, these verbals were necessarily excluded : and to retain the participle present, as they called it, they were compelled obstinately, against all reason and evidence, to maintain that there was a signification of time, both in the indicative and in its adjective the present participle; although there was no termination or word added to the indicative of the verb, by which any time could be signified. With equal reason might they contend, that the same word with the termination, bilis, was properly used to signify indifferently two almost opposite ideas : viz. to feel, or, to be felt; to beat, or, to be beaten: which would be just as rational, as that the same word should be purposely employed in speech, to signify equally the horse which is ridden, and the man who rides him. Words may undoubtedly, at some times and by some persons, be so abused: and too frequently they are so abused. And when any word or termination becomes generally so abused, it becomes useless; and in fact ceases to be a word: for that is not a word, whose signification is unknown. A few of these corruptions