« ZurückWeiter »
the Saxon dialects differ from the Gothic, Old-German, &c. in the form of the present indicative plural--making all three persons to end in ap or ad ;-we-ze-hi-lufi-ap (ad). Schmeller and other German philologists observe that a nasal has been here elided, the true ancient form being and, ant, or ent. Traces of this termination are found in the Cotton MS. of the Old Saxon Evangelical Harmony, and still more abundantly in the popular dialects of the Middle-Rhenish district, from Cologne to the borders of Switzerland. These not only exhibit the full termination ent, but also two modifications of it, one dropping the nasal and the other the dental. E.g.: Pres. Indic. Plur. 1, 2, 3 liebent;
lieb-en; -the last exactly corresponding with the Mercian. It is remarkable that none of the above forms appear in classical German compositions, while they abound in the Miracle-plays, vernacular sermons, and similar productions of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, specially addressed to the uneducated classes. We may, therefore, reasonably conclude from analogy that similar forms were popularly current in our midland counties, gradually insinuating themselves into the written language. We have plenty of examples of similar phenomena. It would be difficult to find written instances of the pronouns scho, or shé, their, you, the auxiliaries sal, suld, &c. &c., before the twelfth century; but their extensive prevalence in the thirteenth proves that they must have been popularly employed somewhere even in times which have left us no documentary evidence of their existence.
Compositions more or less Mercian are pretty numerous : :-the difficulty of arranging them arises from the rarity of pure, undoubted specimens. Many of our present copies have passed through the hands of several transcribers, each of whom has altered something; while others are notoriously adaptations of Northumbrian or Southern compositions to a Midland dialect. The systeinatic employment of verbal plurals in en is the most certain proof of Mercian influence. It is a question of fact, not always of easy determination, whether that influence is original or secondary. From its central position this dialect was liable to be acted upon by its neighbours on all sides, and to act upon them in its turn, on which account Midland compositions appear under innumerable modifications, and are extremely difficult to classify.
Though the above rules prove nothing positive respecting the original dialect of Layamon, they may serve to show where the two existing copies were not written. No such composition at that
period could be penned in Northumbria, in Yorkshire, or eastward of the direct line from London to Sheffield. Our own opinion is that both were transcribed to the south of the Avon, and that the priest of Ernley's original language-though retained in substance-agreed more closely with the literary Anglo-Saxon than either text does at present. We would further observe that it is not from this form that our present English is directly descended. A language agreeing much more closely with our standard speech in words, in idiom, and in grammatical forms, existed in the Eastern Midland district before Layamon's · Brut' was written. This form, which we may, for the sake of distinction, call Anglo-Mercian, was adopted by influential writers and by the cultivated classes of the metropolis-becoming, by gradual modifications, the language of Spenser and Shakspeare. Whoever takes the trouble to compare Chaucer with Orm's Paraphrase and Mannyng's Chronicle—making allowance for the provincialisms of the latter—will at once perceive their strong resemblance in grammar and idiom; and this resemblance will be rendered still more evident by contrasting all three with Layamon or Robert of Gloucester. Sir Francis Palgrave's theory of a colloquial language, nearly approaching to modern English, concurrently existing with Anglo-Saxon-may be partially true as to certain northern and north-eastern counties; but it is totally erroneous with respect to the southern and south-western districts. Orm's Paraphrase is more English than Anglo-Saxon, while Layamon's Brut' of the same period is more Anglo-Saxon than English. Contemporary Kentish and Hampshire documents follow still more closely the analogy of the ancient speech of Wessex. Particular words were admitted into the standard speech from those extreme southern dialects; but their general influence upon it during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was very inconsiderable. After the fourteenth century the cultivated language began to act powerfully upon all provincial forms, and it is still daily reducing them within narrower limits. The adoption of the speech of Leicestershire* and Northamptonshire as the standard form, in preference to that of Kent and Surrey, is one of the many phenomena which we can perceive, but cannot account for otherwise than conjecturally. It is possible that Chaucer and Wickliffe may have exercised something of the same influence in England as Dante and Boccaccio did in Italy, and Luther in Germany.
As a specimen of the work and a text for the application of the foregoing rules and remarks, we shall select some lines from the
We believe Mr. Guest was the first to point out the analogy between the Leicestershire dialect and classical English, History of English Rhythms,' vol. ii. p. 193.
account of the flight of Childric and the death of Colgrim, being
SECOND TEXT. MS. Cort.
Otho. C. xiii,
Zet him speketh Arthur : : athelest kingen.
baldest alre kinge. gurstendæi wæs Baldulf:
zorstendai was Baldolf: cnihten alre baldest.
cniht alre haldest. nu he stant on hulle :
nou he stond on hulle: & Avene bi-haldeth.
and Avene bi-holdetb. bu ligeth i than stræme:
hou liggeth in than streme :
Efne than worde
that the king saide. he bræid hæze his sceld :
he breid hebze his scelde : forn to his breosten.
up to his breoste. he igrap his spere longe :
he grop his spere longe : his hors he gon spurie.
and gan his hors sforie. Neh al swa swi[the] :
Neh al so swithe : swa the fuzel Alizeth.
so the fowel flieth. fuleden than kinge :
folwede than kinge:
fif and twenti thousend.
Tho iseh Colgri:
war Arthur com toward him. ne mihte Colgri for than wæle:
ne mihte he fliht makie :
in nevere one side.
tho saide Arthur:
to Colgrim than kene.
Nou we solle this kinelond:
deale ous bi-twine. Æfne than worde:
Efne than word : tha the king saide.
that the kinge saide.
his brode sweord he ut droh :
and uppe Colgrim his helm smot.
and to-cleof thane brunie hod : that hit at the breoste at-stod.
that hit at the breoste a-stod. And he sweinde touward Baldulfe: And he a wither sweyncde : mid his swithre bõde.
to Baldolf his brother. & swipte that hæfved of:
and swipte that heved of forth mid than helme,
forth mid than helme. tha loh Arthur:
tho loh Arthur the king : the althele (athele) king.
and thus geddlien agon:
and thes worde saide.
Li nou thar Colgrym:
the [thou) were iclemde to heze. and Baldulf thi brother :
and Baldolf thin brother : lith bi thire side.
lith bi tbine side. nu ich al this kine-lond :
nou ich al this kinelond:
ze clemde to hehze :
thisse hulle. swulc thu woldest to hærene:
ase theh ge wolde to heveue : nu thu scalt to hwlle.
ac nou ze mote to helle. ther thu miht kenne:
and thare geo mawe kenne : much of thine cunne.'
moche of zoure cunne.' -Layamon's Brut, vol. ii., pp. 471-6.
Amidst the rudeness of its versification and language, the reader who is capable of picking out the meaning will not fail to discern in this episode-(which is too long for us to give in extenso) — a considerable portion of rough vigour, occasionally enlivened with graphic touches. In the lines now quoted, the comparison of the Saxons submersed in the Avon to dead fishes, though somewhat fanciful, presents a striking picture to the mind's
eye. The addresses of Arthur are, as a general's should be, brief and energetic; and the author shows his natural good taste in not dwelling upon minute details of slaughter. In this respect he presents an advantageous contrast to some Italian epic-writers, who are often so long in killing or half-killing a champion that the reader feels tempted to skip a leaf or close the book. Arthur's sarcasm respecting Colgrim's share of the kingdom will remind the classical scholar of Marius's reply to the ambassadors of the Cimbri, and the reader of Ivanhoe' of Harold's answer to Tosti. We must also bear in mind that this episode, with many similar ones, is no servile copy. As the editor observes in his note, • This long and highly poetic narrative is due to the imagination of our English poet; for in his original, the conclusion of the battle, the death of Baldulf and Colgrim, and the flight of Cheldric, are described in four lines.'
A comparison of the two texts will show the numerous liberties taken by the more recent transcriber, in transposing, altering, and abridging those passages which he did not like or could not understand. Several parallel cases might be pointed out; and this shows how unsafe it frequently is to speculate on the original form of a mediæval composition from such copies as we happen to possess. Both our existing MSS. of the · Brut' are of the same age—the second probably not fifty years later than VOL. LXXXII. NO, CLXIV.
the first; yet we find a visible change in language, and, what is still worse, a strong propensity to tamper with the integrity of the matter. If the older MS. has undergone a similar ordeal, which is by no means unlikely, it must be difficult indeed to fix the original readings. Each, however, may be taken as an evidence, more or less exact, of the grammar and dialect of the period and locality to which it belongs. The analyses of the grammatical peculiarities of the work, furnished by Mr. Kemble, Mr. Guest, and Sir Frederick Madden, save us the trouble of entering into further detail respecting them; and we cannot do better than refer our readers to what they have said. Those who wish to trace the literary history of the poem, and its connexion with the legends of contemporary and succeeding writers, will find ample satisfaction in the notes of the editor. With a full sense how heavily the task must have pressed on a gentleman not a little burdened already with official duties, we cannot but thank him for his labours, and congratulate him on their successful termination. It would certainly be no charity to wish to bind him again to a similar undertaking: but we cannot refrain from expressing a hope that when the inedited portion of Robert of Brunne's Chronicle makes its way to the press, he may have an opportunity of contributing to its illustration. The value of that work as a monument of language, and a repository of early traditions, is not sufficiently known; and the incidental observations of Sir Frederick Madden, in his notes on Layamon, show that he is fully qualified to do justice to the subject.
Art. II.-1, The Statistical Account of Scotland; drawn up
from the Communications of the Ministers of the different Parishes. By Sir John Sinclair, Bart. 21 vols. 8vo. Edin.
1791-1799. 2. The New Statistical Account of Scotland ; by the Ministers of
the respective Parishes. Under the Superintendence of a Committee of the Society for the benefit of the Sons and Daughters of the Clergy, 15 vols. 8vo. Édin. 1835—1845. THE study of topography is not new in Scotland. The great
English work of Camden was speedily followed in that quarter by the labours of a series of zealous men who worked for a common object—the local illustration of their country—with a unity of purpose and system which it is difficult to account for, by the slender information we possess of any union of their exertions or common head and centre of action.