« VorigeDoorgaan »
Death, what hast thou to do with one for whom
Time is not lord, but servant ? What least part
Of all the fire that fed his living heart,
And bright as hope, can aught thy breath may dart
Quench! Nay, thou knowest he knew thee what thou art, A shadow born of terror's barren womb, That brings not forth save shadows. What art thou, To dream, albeit thou breathe upon his brow,
That power on him is given thee,—that thy breath
And hears all time sound back the word it saith ?
A graceless doom it seems that bids us grieve :
Venice and winter, hand in deadly hand,
Have slain the lover of her lovely strand And singer of a storm-bright Christmas Eve. A graceless guerdon we that loved receive
For all our love, from that the dearest land
Love worshipped ever. Blithe and soft and bland,
That gird or guard thee, Venice : cold and black
We have given thee love-10 stint, no stay, no lack :
But he-to him, who knows what gift is thine,
Death ? Hardly may we think or hope, when we
Pass likewise thither where to-night is he, Beyond the irremeable outer seas that shine And darken round such dreams as half divine
Some sunlit harbor in that starless sea
Where gleams no ship to windward or to lee, To read with him the secret of thy shrine.
There too, as here, may song, delight, and love,
Fulfil with joy the splendor of the sky
But none of all that search the heavens, and try
Among the wondrous ways of men and time
He went as one that ever found and sought
And bore in hand the lamplike spirit of thought
No spirit in shape of light and darkness wrought,
No faith, no fear, no dream, no rapture, nought
No serpent sleeping in some dead soul's tomb,
But he might hear, interpret, or illume
What secret thing of splendor or of shade
Surmised in all those wandering ways wherein
Man, led of love and life and death and sin, Strays, climbs, or cowers, allured, absorbed, afraid, Might not the strong and sunlike sense invade
Of that full soul that had for aim to win
Light, silent over time's dark toil and din,
The heart within the beart that seems to strive,
And hear, through all thy storms that whirl and drive,
jocs i lle held no dream worth waking : so he said,
He who stands now on death's triumphal steep,
Awakened out of life wherein we sleep
“Look forth” he bade the soul, and fear not. Weep,
that trust not in his truth, and keep
Who, seeing the sunset-colored waters roll,
Nor weep nor doubt that still the spirit is whole,
In the year 1712 Dr. Jonathan Swift, apply to the wild and reckless colloquial the renowned author of Gulliver's Travels speech of the multitudes which then as and the Tale of a Tub, one of the literary now was overburdened by vulgar slang unmagnates of an eminently literary age, fit for the purposes of literature, and conpublished a pamphlet, containing a propo- fined his efforts at correction and imsal for “ correcting, improving and ascer
ascer. provement to the language employed in taining 'the English tongue. The idea books, or in the speech of the educated excited little attention except among the classes, of the bar, of the pulpit and of witlings and petty punsters, who hung on the senate, and the ordinary conversation to the skirts of literature, as their succes- of refined and intelligent people. In those sors do now, and who did their best, or days slang was almost wholly confined to their worst, to turn it into ridicule. These the lowest classes, to the tramps, the beg. people were especially hostile in their own gars, and the thieves to whom books and small way to the notion that the Govern- letters were unknown, and whose jargon ment should give any assistance to the had not penetrated out of the slums, and project of establishing an Academy of the haunts of the dishonest and disreputaLetters, similar to that which had not long ble, into the ordinary conversation of genpreviously been instituted in France by tlemen and gentlewomen, or become the royal authority. The Academy was the stock-in-trade of vulgar and aggressive main recommendation of the plan by which journalists of the lowest grade, and had Dr. Swift hoped to effect his much-needed not grown into excrescences and deformreform. The proposal, in spite of the in. ities on the fair body of literature. difference and the opposition with wbich Possibly the project would have had a it was received, bad much to recommend better chance of acceptance, if it had not it, although the necessity of such a regula- been encumbered with the scheme of the tion of the literary language of the nation Academy on the Paris model, unwelcome was much less imperative than it has since to the English people because it was become. Dean Swift was not sanguine French, if for no other reason ; and might enough to hope that the reformation would have been considered on its merits, as the Dean of St. Patrick's doubtless hoped that Australia, New Zealand, and every country it would be. But in those days everything where seed can grow or man can thrive, to that was French was unpopular; and liter- take the place of such old grandfathers of ature itself was not much regarded unless civilization as the English, French, Italits influence was directed to the support of ian, and German languages of the sixfactions and parties which were then, as teenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth cennow, the scandal and misfortune of Great turies. Britain and all free countries, and govern- The purpose of the present paper, as ments dependent upon mob support. Had was that of Dean Swift a hundred and the ruling powers of that day understood seventy years ago, is to treat of the purity the importance of literature to a great na- and preservation of literary English, and tion-great because of its literature, as to leave undiscussed and with slight menwell as on account of its arts, its arms, tion the colloquial parlance of the multiand its material wealth—and had had tude, which is governed by its own laws sagacity and forethonght enough to in- or by the absence of laws, and corrupted
Minister of Education, as well as by the changeful, frivolous, and often base a Minister of War, of Finance, and of and degraded fashion of the time, and Foreign Affairs, among its high function- which has no claim to represent the cularies, the project of the Dean might have ture of the nation, and to maintain a fared better at the hands of his contem- purity of language which it neither appreporaries. This is a consummation, how- ciates nor is able to understand. The ever, to which the nation has not even subject naturally divides itself into three yet arrived, though some approaches have branches ; first, the correction of old or been made toward it.
new orthographical errors ; second, the In our School Board era- when the misuse of words that are still legitimate new generations are being taught to handle and necessary parts of the language ; and the tools of knowledge, to read, to write,
third, the restoration to currency of the and to cast accounts, and boys and girls words that have been unnecessarily suffered think themselves educated because these to drop out of the speech of our cultivated tools of education are put within their ancestors, whose genius created and reach, although the skill and the power to adorned our literature, and gave it a foreuse them to advantage are not given them, most place in the intellectual history of or are possible to be acquired by them in mankind. the fierce competition for bare existence, As regards the first branch of the subconsequent on the excess of population ject. few will deny that the orthography and the overcrowded state of the labor of the English language demands reform. market in our narrow islands-a revival of We need not go the length of the fanatics the project of Dean Swift might have a of phoneticism (who would spell wife yf, more favorable chance of acceptance by knee nee, and write eye in the same manner the State than it had in his day.
as the personal pronoun I) to desire a The questions involved are still open change in the spelling of many English for discussion. Our noble speech prom- words which are a stumbling-block to forises to become the predominant, though eigners as well as to natives. The innot perhaps the only language of the civil- stances of plough,” though, ization of the coming centuries, and is al
borough,” cough,' ready heard like the morning drum-beat
” in which seven of British power in every part of the words the letters ought to have seven difglobe. It floats upon the wings of a ferent sounds, are more than sufficient to widely pervading literature, and of a still prove that a reformation in spelling is more pervading commerce to the uttermost highly desirable, and that plough ought to ends of the earth, and will inevitably be be written and printed plow; through, the speech, more or less preserved in its thru, or throo; enough, enuf; borough, purity, or corrupted by ignorance, care burrow, or burro; cough, cawf ; dough, lessness, or the imitative perversity of the doe ; and ought, aut or ort with the r semi-educated multitude of the young
and quiescent. In like manner the verb mighty nations, now in their adolescence do” ought to be written to du" or to or early maturity, which have arisen or are doo," and the past tense of "to read " arising in North America, South Africa, ought not to be spelled in exactly the same
manner as the present tense of the same peut” and “ il se pourra.” But no such verb; but I did read (pronounced 1 redd) niceties of grammatical construction are should be written phonetically; and I did permissible in the English. These defects eat (pronounced I ett, or I ate) should follow are ineradicable and irremediable in the the same rule. Wby the double I should old age of the language, but might have necessarily be employed in the words been adopted in its youth if any great auspell, well, bell, smell
, fell, and many thors had given them currency. others, while one l is considered sufficient The very common substitute of had for in rebel, propel, excel, repel, expel, &c., would, consequent upon the abbreviation is not apparent to ordinary intelligence, of i'd, which does duty both for I had or explicable by any philological and ety- and I would, stands in a different category, mological reasons.
and is easy of correction, if competent and Why English writers, talkers, and print- fashionable writers would but take the ers should persist in ignoring the past trouble to understand the language which tenses of so many verbs in daily use passes they employ. “I had rather not,” incomprehension, so needless and so anom- stead of "' I would rather not,” is a pbrase alous is the lazy and incorrect habit into of constant recurrence in the editorial colwhich some good writers as well as the umns of influential journals of the first vulgar have permitted themselves to fall. rank, and in the pages of authors of es“I bid bim do it now” is correct ; but tablished reputation. The few following “I bid him do it yesterday,” in which instances may serve to show the prevalence the present tense is used instead of bade of the crror. in the past, is an indefensible corruption.
People in the responsible position of minisAmong the verbs which have been de
ters had better take time. (It would be better prived of their past tenses and their pre- for people in the responsible position of minterites, may be specified to bet, to beat, to isters to take time.) -- Times. let, to spread, to shed, to cut, to put, and Interesting as is the subject, and eloquent as to shut. There are no grammatical or any them descant upon some other theme.— Times.
are the speakers, we had (would) rather hear other reasons why they should not have
The preface had better not have been writbeen among the verbs which have inflec- ten. (It would have been better if the preface tions in other languages, but never had in had not been written.) — Morning Post. English, though they ought to have bad if
A gentleman of such delicate susceptibili. intelligent grammarians had had the orig. himself to a personal interview with Mr.
ties as Mr. Walpole had better not have trusted inal ordering of the language.
Beales. - Saturday Review. (It would have been and must have not even the infinitive better if Mr. Walpole had not trusted himself,
to can” and “to must. “ Can” has &c.) a past tense (“could”), but no future, rather have lost an arm.) – Thackeray,
I had rather have lost an arm. (I would which can only be rendered by the para- Virginians.' phrase “ I shall be able," or "It will be The account of it had better be given in his my power." Must has neither a own words. (It would have been better if the ac.
count had been given in his own words.) — past nor a future—“I must do it to-day”
Leigh Hunt, " The Old Court Suburb. has to be put into the past tense by the roundabout Jocution, "I was obliged to Reforms in the orthography not affect
It was necessary that I should ing the structure of a language, or much, do it ;" while the future of the verb if at all, atfecting its grammar, are comfalloir, which in the corresponding case, paratively easy for any Government, in the more precise language of the French, whether free or despotic, to establish. is il faut, becoming il faudra in the fu- The fact is evident from the attempt sucture, is in English only to be expressed by cessfully made by the German Government a periphrase, expressive both of compul- in 1880 to purify the German language as sion and obligation in futurity. The same spoken in Prussia, from the literal excresdisability to express the future belongs to cences which it bad inherited from the the verb may, which, like can, has no in- past, or which had been suffered to grow finitive, though it has a past tense as upon it by the careless ignorance of new might, but no future in will may, and no generations. In that year, the then Minpresent participle corresponding with the ister of Education under Kaiser Wilhelm French pouvant.
The French are more the First (a monarch who personally cared precise than the English, and say " il se little or nothing for literature, but was