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Thomas Hearne, or Miles Davies, the illustrious author of the • Icon Libellorum.' With scarcely one of all the company who shows not a paternal coat of three generations, our volumes might well be esteemed a Battle Abbey Roll of English gentility, within whose ranks are included all upon whose merit time has stamped her seal. To this select number we occasionally add one and another when emerging from our suburban retreat, we visit the deep recesses, and prowl among the populous solitudes of the great metropolis. Often in one of those time corroded passages which pierce to the very heart of this beehive of the nations, may we be seen surveying with eager glance the title page of some long pursued and antique fashioned volume, and after a hasty preliminary examination well understood by the brethren of the book craft, conveying the newly acquired treasure to the communion of kindred minds. Such occurrences have been rare of late, partly owing to the fact that our trans-atlantic brethren have recently made so many demands on our stock of ancient literature and particularly in the department of theology, and partly—but we have no right to obtrude these facts on our readers' attention. In the dearth of these gems of ancient time to which we have now referred, a dearth which must sensibly increase with
year, and under the painful sensation that the births of the current time will not compensate, at least in the opinion of the illuminati, for the death and the oblivion into which so many of the books of older times are daily falling, we rejoiced to hear of an attempt on the part of some respectable brethren of the craft, to bring into the field a reinforcement to our present army under the auspicious name of the Camden Society.
It is the laudable design of this very excellent brotherhood to procure such manuscripts as illustrate any portion of our ancient history, and print them in such numbers as to supply each of their members with a copy, and in that size and manner as shall be equally removed from the poverty-stricken baldness of the trade reprints, and the princely magnificence which has characterized some previously originated societies. The works which have been already printed by the Camden Society are, ' A Contempo'rary Narrative of the arrival of Edward IV., 1471-King John, an English play by John Bull, Bishop of Ossory-A Contemporary alliterative poem on the deposition of Richard II., with a Latin poem on the same subject, by Richard de MaydestoneThe Plumpton Correspondence-a Series of Letters tempore Edward IV.-Henry VIII.
It will be evident to our readers from such a commencement of their labours, that this society is properly denominated from the great father of English history, and we earnestly hope that, redeeming the pledge they have offered in the distinctive appellation they have chosen, they will be successful in rescuing from oblivion many interesting facts relating to both our general national history, and to the particular records of our more ancient private families, which are yearly diminishing in so fearful a rate, that excepting in a few instances occurring in the more northern counties, we may vainly inquire in any of our provincial districts for the descendants of the genuine English nobility, the men whose names are identified with the village which their mansions dignified, and whose hospitality to the cottagers of their immediate neighbourhood in health, and attention to their wants in sickness, was the bond that once united the extremes of elevated rank and dependent poverty in this land. This society has already given publicity to one document of this nature in the correspondence of the Plumpton family, a volume replete with information on the history of many of the old Yorkshire families, and rich with touches of rude but faithful pencilling in fire-side scenes and domestic anecdote, and many more records of a similar character we shall expect from their zeal and assiduity in illustrating the antiquities of their fatherland.
Of a kindred spirit to the articles of the Camden Society is the tract whose title stands at the head of this paper. It is truly one of the richest specimens of racy and vigorous English this particular school of our national literature has produced. Without, perhaps, the professional accuracy of Camden, or the universal scholarship of Selden, or the minute circumstantiality of Lambarde, or the technical research of Somner, master Richard Verstegan is entitled to the praise of having treated even the driest subjects with a felicity of style and language which perhaps has never been exhibited on similar topics, of having made even etymology interesting, antiquity fresh with novelty, and of giving importance and intelligibility to those generally imagined unmeaning particles which so uniformly conclude the names of our towns and villages, and of the persons designated from them. The following analysis of his treatise will satisfy the reader that there is much in it which an Englishman ought to know. Chap. I. treats of the origin of nations, and especially as it regards the nation from which Englishmen descend. Chap. II. Of the Germanic descent of our countrymen. III. Of the manners and idolatrous usages of the Saxons. IV. Of the isle of Albion. V. Of the arrival of the Saxons here. VI. Of the Danish and Norman invasions. VII. Of the antiquity, amplitude, and worthiness of the English tongue. VIII. The Etymology of Saxon proper names. IX. That from the surnames of English families it may be determined from what people they descend. X. Of English titles of honour.
Having walked some distance ourselves in the forest of etymology, and being, therefore, well convinced how difficult it is to find the road amidst the perplexing underwood with which that journey is encumbered, we will not pretend to decide in the question to
which our author refers in the following extract : we give it rather to show Master Verstegan's lively spirit of narration than as any thing decisive on the controverted point.
This name, then, of Saxons they undoubtedly have of their use and wearing of a certain kind of sword or weapon invented and made bowing crooked, much after the fashion of a sitħe, in imitation whereof it should seem to have first been made. And when of late I conferred with the excellent learned man M. Iustus Lipsuis, about the Saxons' true appellation (who also I found to concur with me in opinion), he could presently put me in mind
that a sithe is yet at this present in the Netherlands called a Saisen. Now the swords of our ancestors being made somewhat after that manner (the edge being on the contrary side) they might well carry a like name unto such an edge-tool as they were made after ; and albeit we find these kind of swords anciently written Searen or Seaxes, yet it is like enough that our ancestors sounded the x as s, for the Welshmen wrote them Saison, as they yet write us, which it is like they wrote, according as they heard them pronounce their own appellation. Of this kind of weapon they had two sorts, the one whereof being long were worn for swords, and the other being short, as hangers or wood-knives, and these they called hand-seaxes; and such they were which after their coming into Britain they had still in use, and did wear privately hanging under their long-skirted coats; wherewith at a banquet on Salisbury Plain where Hengestus had invited king Vortigern, about three hundred of his nobles, the watchword Take your seaxes being given, were all of them suddenly slain. And as their long seaxes or swords were as is said before made after the form of a sithe, so might their hand-seares as well in fashion and bigness as somewhat in name, agree unto their then used manner of sicles. Of this kind of hand-seax, Erhwinwine king of the East Saxons did bear for his arms three argent, in a field gules. And the learned Englehusus of this kind of sease and of the name of the Saxons hath this ensuing Latine rhythme,
Quippe brevis gladius apud illos Saxa vocatur
Unde sibi Saxo nomen traxisse putatur. Which may be Englished thus
Because a Saxa termed is
The short sword which they wear,
May well be thought to bear.
Now then it being manifest that our ancestors did affect and usually bear this kind of weapon called a seax, and that we find it not to have been used among the other Germans, unless of such as have afterward may have followed them in that fashion, why may not the peculiar bearers of that kind of weapon have gotten after the same their appellation? for seeing the name of the weapon, and the name of the bear.
ers thereof is all one, either the weapon is so called of the men, or the men of the weapon : but that men are usually called according to the weapons which they bear, daily experience doth show us, especially in war, where by the names of Lances, Carabines, Pykes, Muskets, &c. the bearers of such weapons rather than the weapons are understood.
* And albeit such names do commonly remain unto their bearers only during the war, yet if they should still use those weapons, then doubtless would the names still remain unto them even from one posterity to another. For the Scythians as divers learned authors and of good judgment do report, gat and remained with that name because of their great use of shooting; for shooting in the Teutonick is called Schieten, and anciently cometh of the verb scytan, which signifieth to shoot. Moreover the Picards or people of Picardy are said first to have gotten that name of their great and most accustomed use of pikes. And as some affirm, the Galliglasses in Ireland do retain that name of the kind of polax which they are accustomed to use. And not only of the weapons or arms which they have born, have sundry people gotten their denominations, but others even of the fashion of apparel which they have been accustomed to wear, as the people inhabiting in Cisalpina were sometimes called Togatæ because they went in gowns. And the old inhabitants of the south parts of France were called Bracatæ of a short kind of coat wherewith they were usually clad. And he that will best consider the alterations of the names of many other people of Germany (which always have proceeded of one cause or other) will find it nothing strange that our ancestors having before had some other name, should
afterwards come to leave the same, and to be called by the name of Saxons ; for where for example sake (among others) are the names now valgarly known in Germany of the Catti, the Udi, the Quadi, the Marcomanni, the Bucoteri, and the Sicambri? are they not all changed into other appellation? And the latter, to wit the famous Sicambri long since even in Germany itself grown into two several names and people which are now called the Geldres, and yet remain in their ancient residence, and the Franks that have made their habitation more higher into the land as before hath been noted, whose country now beareth the name of Franconia ; part of them under prince Pharamund, entering afterwards into Gallia, left in fine unto that country the yet retained name of France, of some called Francia Occidentalis, because Franconia in Germany hath the name Orientalis.'--pp. 23—26.
Continuing the same subject, our author adds in a following chapter,
"And whereas some to make an ancient difference between the Sazons and the Germans, as if they were several nations, and came severally into Germany, will confirm an opinion that the Germans came from Persia, because (as is aforesaid) of the affinity of their language with the Persian ; surely it is an opinion of a very slender confirmation, for that indeed there is no affinity at all between those two languages; and albeit there may some half a dozen or half a score words be found in the Persian that are broken German words, as Choda, Phedar, Madar, Berader, Dochter, Star, Band, for God, Father, Mother, Brother, Daughter, Star, Band, what affinity makes this, when all the rest is altogether different ? yea as far different as two languages can be the one from the other : and because I was desi. rous to be surely informed in this point, I wrote unto a gentleman of my acquaintance in Italy, in the year 1601, at such time as Sir Anthony Serley (Shirley) and Cachin Ollybeag were ambassadors there from the king of Persia, desiring him to confer with the best interpreters in their train, to know what affinity there might be between the Dutch and the Persian speeches, for there were that spoke them both exceeding well ; but after they had used their memories as well as they might, they could find but about these half dozen words here set down, that could seem to have dependence on the Dutch ; but more words by odds than these may be found in the same tongue that seem to have dependance on the Latine ; and yet for all that, they are as far too few to make an affinity between the Latine and the Persian languages, as are the broken Latine words that are found in the Welsh language able to bring a nearness between the Latine and the Welsh. And I have heard that a man may find in the Irish some words that sound of the Hebrew, but they help little to make Irishmen thereby to be the better Hebricians : and he that will observe it, shall find divers words in divers other most different languages that also agree together.'—pp. 29–31.
That portion of our author's treatise which is most curious, and perhaps we may even say, most interesting, is that contained in the chapters he devotes to the etymological survey of English names of places and persons. If the limits of a review not especially devoted to such antiquarian discussions, had permitted, we should have indulged in rather a lengthened article on this not very obvious subject; but we fear our readers will think that we have trespassed already too much on their good nature by our tale of olden times, and lest we should offend beyond the possibility of pardon, we take our leave for the present. Perhaps a future opportunity for the indulgence of our passion may occur.