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THE ENGLISH PEOPLE AND OF
THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
THE EARLY INHABITANTS OF BRITAIN.
EUROPE has been peopled by successive immigrations from the East. Five great waves of population have rolled in, each in its turn urging the flow which had preceded it farther and farther toward the West. The mighty Celtic inundation is the first which we can trace in its progress across Europe, forced onward by the succeeding deluges of Roman, Teutonic, and Sclavonic peoples, till at length it was driven forward into the far western extremities of Europe.
The Celts found in Britain at the time of the Roman invasion were of two kinds, namely: the Gauls, that is, the Celts who came from what is now France and Belgium ; and the Gaels or Celts of an earlier migration, whose colonies were found in every part of the British Islands that was not held by the Gaulish nations. Dispersed among all these various tribes of Celtic origin, there were remnants of other nations of pre-historic times, and traces of these races are still discoverable here and there among the living.
It was once a general belief among the English people that they were the lineal descendants of the LowGerman tribes which, during the fifth and sixth centuries, came from the shores and flats between the Rhine and the Elbe, and who in history are known by the name of Anglo-Saxons. This belief, however, has not been sustained by evidence; it being now shown that the early English conquest, which was assumed to have been one of extermination, extended only over half the island of Great Britain, and never touched Ireland. Indeed, the older races, which still chiefly occupy their ancient homes, but are infused into the English by a thousand ties of intercourse and intermarriage, have long since formed a vital part of the nation, as much so as the Danes and the Normans, who subsequently came to England, and, like them, left their impress on the national character and language. Thus many anomalies in the vernacular will be best accounted for by the fact that the English nation is compounded of the blood of many different races, and might claim a personal interest not only in the Gaelic and Belgic tribes, who struggled with the Roman legions, but even in the first cave-men, who sought their prey by the slowly-receding ice-fields, and in the many forgotten peoples whose relics are explored in the sites of lake-vilsages, or sea-side refuse-heaps, or in the funeral mounds, and whose memory is barely preserved in the names of mountains and rivers. For it is hardly possible that a race should ever be quite exterminated or extinguished ; the blood of the conquerors must in time become mixed with that of the conquered ; and the preservation of men for slaves, and of women for wives, will always insure the continued existence of the inferior race, however much it may lose of its original appearance, manners, or language.
According to the authors of the earliest Triads, the island which now bears the name of Great Britain was originally called the Country of Green Hills, afterward the Island of Honey, and later, again, the Island of Bryt or Prydain, from which latter word, Latinized, the names of Britain and Britannia are supposed to have been derived.?
1 The Triads of the Welsh bards are poetical histories in which the facts recorded are grouped in threes, three things or circumstances of a kind being mentioned together.
• The Celtic aborigines do not seem to have called themselves Britons, nor can any complete and satisfactory explanation of the name be discovered in any of the Celtic dialects. Its earliest occurrence is found in the pages of Greek and afterward Latin writers. The word, however, is foreign both to the Greek and Latin speech, but belongs to that family of languages of which the Lapp and the Basque are the sole living representatives; and hence it is inferred that the earliest knowledge of the island which was possessed by any of the civilized inhabitants of Europe must have been derived from the Iberic mariners of Spain, who either in their own ships, or in those of their Punic masters, coasted along to Brittany, and thence crossed to Britain, at some dim pre-historic period. The name Br-itan-ia contains, it would seem, the Euskarian suffix etan, which is used to signify a district or country. We find this suffix in the names of many of the districts known to, or occupied by, the Iberic race.
It occurs in Aqu-itan-ia or Aquitaine, in Lus-itan-ia, the ancient name of Portugal, in Maur-etan-ia, the "country of the Moors," as well as in the names of
From the remotest antiquity the Island of Prydain or Britain appeared to those who visited it to be divided, from east to west, into two almost equal portions, of which the rivers Forth and Clyde formed the common boundary. The northern part was called Alben, signifying region of mountains; the other, to the west, bore the name of Cymry; and that of Llægwria, to the east and south. These two denominations were not derived, like the former, from the nature and appearance of the soil, but from the names of the two races of people who conjointly occupied almost the whole extent of Southern Britain. These were the Cymrya and the Llægwry, or, according to Latin orthography, the Cambrians and the Logrians.
The Cambrian nations claimed the higher antiquity. They had come in a body from the eastern extremities of Europe, across the German Ocean. One part of the emigrants had landed on the coast of Gaul; the other had chosen the opposite shore of the strait," and colonized Britain. There they found men of another origin and a different language, evidences of which exist even now in the names of places foreign to the Cambrian language, as well as in the ruins of an unknown age. This primitive population of Britain was gradually forced upon the west into Wales, and north into Caledonia, by the successive invasions by strangers who landed in the east.
Some of the fugitives crossed the sea, and reached the
very many of the tribes of ancient Spain, such as the Cerr-etan-i, Aus-etan-i, Lal-etan-i, Cos-etan-i, Vesc-itan-i, Lac-etan-i, Carp-etan-i, Or-etan-i, Bast-itan-i, Turd-etan-i, Suess-etan-i, Ed-etan-i, and others.
* Alben, Alban, Alliyn, in Latin Albania, are the various forms of the Celtic Alb or Alp, “a high mountain,” “Gallorum lingua, alpes montes alti vocantur." -Isidore of Seville, Orig., 14.
* The name, pronounced very nearly like Cumry among the modern Welsh, has been adopted by them to denote their “new nation” in the political sense of the word. It is the plural of Cymro, and means “ fellow-countrymen," or “confederates"; and the country is called Cymró, “a federation.".
“A word of protest, once for all, against the modern affectation of writing Kelt and Kymry. The former violates the sound principle of following the Latin orthography of names made familiar by classic usage, and also attempts the vain task of changing a customary pronunciation. The letter stands selfconvicted of the absurdity of spelling a Welsh name with a letter (K) that does not exist in the language.”- The Quarterly Review, April, 1885.
It may be here the proper place to state that, while the text presents the subject in its leading features, the notes are intended to afford such additional information as will satisfy the wants of the more advanced student.
3 Supposed to mean" men coming from the Loire.”
5 These ruins are commonly called Cyttiau y Gwyddelad, “houses of the Gaels."
large island which was called Erin' by its inhabitants, and spread to the other western isles, peopled, it is most likely, by men of the same race and language as the aboriginal Britons. Those who retreated into North Britain found an impregnable asylum in the high mountains which stretch from the banks of the Clyde to the extremities of the island, and here they maintained their independence under the name of Gaels, which they still bear. The time at which these movements of population took place is uncertain; but it was at a later period that the men called Logrians made their descent, according to the British annals, on the southern coast of the island.
From the same records it appears that they emigrated from the southwest coast of Gaul, and derived their origin from the same primitive race as the Cambrians, with whom their language made it easy for them to communicate. It would seem that they were kindly received, as, to make room for the new-comers, the first colonists spread themselves along the borders of the western sea, which region thenceforward took exclusively the name of Cambria, while the Logrians gave their own name to the southern and eastern parts, over which they were distributed. After the founding of this second colony there arrived a third body of emigrants, sprung from the same primitive Celtic race, and likewise speaking the same language, or a dialect differing but little from it. They had previously inhabited that portion of Western Gaul included between the Seine and the Loire, and, like the Logrians, they obtained lands in Britain without any violent contests. To them the ancient annals and national poems especially apply the name of Brythons, or Britons, which in foreign tongues served to designate, in a general manner, all the inhabitants of the island.
These nations of one common origin were visited at intervals, either in a pacific or hostile manner, by various tribes. A band, coming from that part of Gaul which
Ire, Eire, Erie, “ west"; hence Erin, “western island"; in Latin, lernia, Hibernia,
? More correctly Gadhels, or Gwyddyls.
: In ancient times the whole group of islands were called Britain, or the Britannic Isles, the two largest being even then distinguished by the names of Albion and lerne. The “Book of the World," a very ancient compilation, which was long attributed to Aristotle, describes them in the following passage : “In the ocean are two islands of great size, Albion and Ierne, called the Bretannic Isles, lying beyond the Celti; and not a few smaller islands around the Bretannic Isles and around Iberia encircle as with a crown the habitable world, which itself is an island in the ocean."
is now called Flanders, compelled to leave their native country in consequence of a great inundation, crossed the sea, and landed on the Isle of Wight and the adjacent coast, first as guests and then as invaders. Another band, called Coranians,' who were of Teutonic descent, and emigrated from a country which the British annals designate as “the Land of the Marshes," sailed up the gulf formed by the mouth of the Humber, and established themselves on the banks of that river and along the eastern coast, thus separating into two portions the territory of the Logrians. Fifty years or more before the Roman invasions began, Divitiacus, king of Soissons, and the most powerful of all Gaul, extended his dominion over the kindred tribes already settled in Southern Britain.” At a period not very remote from the life time of Cæsar himself, several Belgian tribes had invaded the island for purposes of devastation and plunder; and finding the country to their liking, they had remained as colonists and cultivators of the soil. Cæsar could recognize the names of several clans, and could point out the continental states from which the several colonies had proceeded. The Gauls of a later generation pushed far to the north and west ; but in Cæsar's age they had not yet, generally, advanced to any great distance from the shores of the German Ocean. The four kingdoms of the Cantii stretched across East Kent and East Surrey, between the Thames and the Channel, and the whole southeastern district was doubtless under their power. The Trinobantes, another Belgian tribe, had settled in such parts of the modern Middlesex and Essex as were not covered by the oakforests or overflowed by the sea. North of them lay the territory of the Iceni, also a Gaulish nation, who had seized and fortified the broad peninsula which fronted the North Sea and the confluence of rivers at the Wash, and was cut off in almost every other direction by the tidal marshes and the great Level of the Fens. This region included all the dry and higher-lying portions of the dis
In Celtic, Corraniaid; in Latin, Coritani.
Apud eos (Suessiones) fuisse regem, nostrâ etiam memoriâ, Divitiacum, totius Galliæ potentissimum, qui cum magnæ partis harum regionem tum etiam Britanniæ imperium obtinuerit.—Cæsar, De Bell. Gall., ii, c. 4.
. Britanniæ pars interior ab iis incolitur quos natos in insula ipsa memoria proditum dicunt; maritima pars ab iis qui prædæ ac belli inferendi causa ex Belgis transierant, qui omnes fere iis nominibus civitatum appellantur quibus orti ex civitatibus eo pervenerunt, et, bello illato, ibi remanserunt, atque agros colere cæperunt.-Cæsar, De Bell. Gall., v, c. 14.