The name Runic was so called from the term Rún,' which was used by the Teutonic nations to designate the mystery of writing. The heathen Teutons believed that the runes possessed magical influence, that they could stop a vessel in her course, divert an arrow in its flight, cause love or hatred, raise the corpse from its grave, or cast the living into death-slumbers. On account of the idolatrous veneration with which paganism invested these runes, the early preachers and missionaries of Christianity endeav. ored to set them aside, and to introduce the use of Roman characters in their stead. It was doubtless from this cause that Ulphilas refrained from writing his version of the Scriptures in the Runic letters employed by the Gothic nations, and adopted a modification of the Greek and Latin alphabets. After their conversion to Christianity, the Anglo-Saxons adopted the latter, in which they were obliged, however, to retain two of the runes, because there were no Roman characters corresponding to them. One was the old Thorn p, for which the Latin mode of expression was th; the other was the Wen p.

The p was superseded by a double u after the Norman Conquest, but the p had a more prolonged career. This, and a modified Roman letter, namely Đ 8, divided the th sound between them, the former representing the hard sound of th, as in thing, and the latter the soft sound of the same letters, as in thine. During the Saxon period these were used either without any distinction at all, or with very ill-observed discrimination, until they were both ultimately banished by the general adoption of the th. This change was not completely established until the very close of the fifteenth century. And even then there was one case of the use of the rune p which was not abol. ished. The words the and that continued to be written pe and pat or pt. This habit lasted long after its original meaning was forgotten. The Þ got confused with the character y at a time when the y was closed a-top, and then people wrote “ye" for the and “yat” or “y” for that. This has continued almost to our own times : and it may be doubted whether the practice has entirely ceased

even now.

1 Runa meant "a whisper"; and even as late as the thirteenth century we find the word used as such in a Moral Ode, in which it is said of the Omniscient that

Elche rune he ihurð & he wot alle dede.
Each whisper he hears, and he knows all deeds.

When in the seventh century the Roman alphabet began to obtain the ascendancy over the native runes, the latter did not at once fall into disuse. Runes are found on gravestones, church crosses, bells, fonts, amulets, rings, bracelets, brooches, etc., down at least to the eleventh century. The Isle of Man is famous for its Runic stones, especially the church of Kirk Braddan. These are Scandinavian, and are due to the Norwegian settlements of the tenth century. For lapidary inscriptions, clog almanacs, and other familiar uses, it is difficult to say how long they may have lingered in remote localities. In such lurkingplaces a new kind of importance and of mystery came to be attached to them. They were held in a sort of traditional regard, which at length grew into a superstition. They were the heathen way of writing, while the Roman alphabet was a symbol of Christianity. Gradually, however, they disappeared; being looked down upon at last as fit only for sorcery and magic.

The Roman alphabet was introduced into England from two opposite quarters; from the north west by the Irish missionaries, and from the southeast by those sent from Rome. It is to be remembered that while the Anglo-Saxons were pagans and barbarians, Christian life and culture had already taken so deep a hold of Ireland that, in the time of Augustin, she most actively co-operated with him by sending forth missions to instruct and convert her neighbors. Ireland, indeed, was then the chief seat of learning in Christian Europe, and, for a long time after, the most distinguished scholars who appeared in other countries were mostly Irish by birth, or had received their education in Irish schools. We are informed by Bede that in his day—the earlier part of the eighth century-it was customary for his English fellow-countrymen of all ranks, from the highest to the lowest, to retire for study and devotion to Ireland, where, he adds, they were all hospitably received and supplied gratuitously with food, with books, and with instruction. “Such in fact," says O'Curry, “were the crowds of stranger-stu. dents that flocked to some of our great schools of lay and ecclesiastical learning, that they were generally obliged to erect a village or villages of huts as near as they conveniently could, and to find subsistence in the contributions of the surrounding residents."1 From these celebrated "O'Curry, Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, Lect. iv, vol. ii.


schools, which had been founded in the beginning of the sixth century, went forth bearers of learning to all parts of the civilized world, and under their influence education made considerable progress in both England and Scotland in the seventh and eighth centuries. Out of this revival came Albert, the teacher of York school, his pupil Alcuin, and also the venerable Bede, who informs us that in his time there were monks in England who knew Latin and Greek as well as they knew their mother-tongue. Certain it is that the Irish, who were called Scots in that century, cultivated Greek and Latin literature when other parts of the civilized world had ceased to do so, and that they were much given to dialectic disputation. There was a living scholarship among them, and a genuine speculative spirit. It was an Irish scholar, Maeldurf, who taught Aldhelm, at Malmesbury, in the seventh century; and the Greek monk, Theodore of Tarsus, was, on his assuming the primacy of England, surrounded, says Aldhelm, by Irish scholars. In those dark days of almost universal ignorance the Irish distinguished themselves by the culture of the sciences beyond all the other European nations, traveling through the most distant lands, both with the view to improve and communicate their knowledge; and while almost the whole of Europe was desolated by war, peaceful Ireland, free from the invasions of internal foes, opened to the lovers of learning and piety a welcome asylum.

Irish books were written with the Roman alphabet, which they must have possessed from an early date, as even the oldest manuscripts that have been preserved present that kind of lettering with a distinct Hibernian physiognomy. Of the two denominations of missionaries which from opposite quarters came to England—the Roman and the Irish-the former gained the ecclesiastical pre-eminence; but the latter for a long time furnished the teachers. Hence it was that the first Anglo-Saxon writing was formed after the Irish, and not after the Roman,

· The glory of this age of Irish scholarship and genius is the celebrated Joannes Scotus, or Erigena, as he is as frequently designated-either appellative equally proclaiming his true birthplace. He is supposed to have first made his appearance in France about the year 845, and to have remained in that country till his death, which appears to have taken place before 875. Erigena is the author of a translation from the Greek of certain mystical works ascribed to Dionysius the Areopagite, which he executed at the command of his patron, the French king, Charles the Bald, and also of several original treatises on metaphysics and gy. His productions may be taken as furnishing clear and conclusive evidence that the Greek language was taught at this time in the Irish schools.-J. L. Craik, Manual of English Literature.







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model; and, since the Irish letters had developed forms and acquired values unlike those used by the Romans, it follows that the value of Anglo-Saxon letters and their

IRISH. SAXON. ROMAN. pronunciation must be chiefIy found in the Celtic tongue, from which these letters are Α Α А taken. The accompanying у ъ B b b table will exhibit the Anglo- C C с

с Saxon alphabet and its Irish

6 ა D 6 d models, together with their

ее E corresponding Roman char.


f acters for reference. Besides the above, the symbol j was

3 5

g employed to represent and, nh

ph h and the symbol 8 sometimes 1


i occurs as an abbreviation for

1 1 L 1 1 dat; and also p for pat.1

mm The earliest specimens we

n n

n have of the Anglo-Saxon lan

O lo

0 0 guage date from the end of the seventh century, and be

pp P P

р long to the Anglian dialect 1 1 which, under the political ry

6 s eminence of the early North- T t T +

t umbrian kings, first attained

u u to literary distinction. Of this literature, in its original

PP form, only fragments exist, one of the most interesting of


у which consists of the verses

p” said to have been uttered by

Đ 8 Bede, on his death-bed, to his pupil Cuthbert, and preserved in a nearly contemporaneous manuscript, of which the following is a copy, with its translation in modern English:

1 Five letters of the English alphabet, j, k, % v, and 2, are not found in genuine Anglo-Saxon; but are invariably placed where k and q would be used at present. In the eleventh century the national alphabet gradually fell into disuse, and the French style of writing, introduced by the Normans, superseded the old Saxon mode of lettering. During the succeeding centuries the new character assumed a variety of forms, especially that known as “ black letter,” which at one time was used all over the north of Europe. In Holland it was abandoned for the Roman type toward the end of last century; but in Germany and the Scandinavian countries it is maintained up to the present day together with the Roman type, the use of which, however, seems destined ere long to replace the older forms entirely.

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U u





Fore the neidfæræ

Before the unavoidable journey nenig uuiurthit

no one is thonc-snotturra

wiser of thought than him tharf sie,

than he hath need, to ymbhycgannæ

to consider æer his hiniongæ,

before his departure, huat his gastae

what for his spirit godaes æththe yflæs of good or evil æfter deoth-daege

after the death-day doemid uuieorthæ.

shall be doomed. Bede died in 735, after having witnessed the intellectual growth and decline of the Anglian people. Indeed, his own name is the only one recorded as eminent for scholarship in this portion of the English annals. The historian William of Malmesbury affirms that the death of Bede was fatal to learning in England, and especially to history; “insomuch that it may be said,” he adds, writing in the early part of the twelfth century, “that almost all knowledge of past events was buried in the same grave with him, and hath continued in that condition even to our times.” “There was not so much as one Englishman," Malmesbury declares, "left behind Bede, who emulated the glory which he had acquired by his studies, imitated his example, or pursued the path to knowledge which he had pointed out. A few, indeed, of his successors were good men, and not unlearned, but they generally spent their lives in an inglorious silence; while the far greater number sunk into sloth and ignorance, until by degrees the love of learning was quite extinguished in this island for a long time.”

Thus far the country, in its various divisions and subdivisions, as well as its inhabitants, was known under various names; but in the year 827, during the reign of Egbert, who was king of the West Saxons from 802 to 837, the distinction between Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Mercians, Northumbrians, or by what other names the various tribes and fractions of tribes were known throughout the island, was formally abolished, and the name of England, for the entire country then occupied by them, and that of English for all its inhabitants indiscriminately, as well as for their language, was proclaimed by royal decree.?

Hoc vel sequenti anno Egbertius in regem totias Britanniæ coronatus est. Edixit illa die, ut insula in posterum vocaratur Anglia, et qui Juti vel Saxones dicebantur, omnes communi nomine Angli vocarentur.-Annal. Wintonens, ad anno 827. Qui prius vocati sunt reges Westsaxonum, abhinc vocandi

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