Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

most part silent. These appellations, which originally had a descriptive import, referring mostly to the physical features of the land, have even the advantage over the common names of a nation's speech of being less subject to the process of phonetic decay. They seem to be endowed with a sort of inherent and indestructible vital. ity which makes them survive the catastrophes which overthrow empires, and outlive devastations which are fatal to almost everything else. Wars can trample down or extirpate whatever grows upon a soil, excepting only its native plants and the names of those sites upon which man has found a home. Seldom is a people utterly exterminated, for the proud conqueror has need of some at least of the natives to till the soil anew; and these enslaved outcasts, though they may hand down no memory of the splendid deeds of the nation's heroes, yet retain a most tenacious recollection of the names of the hamlets which their ignoble progenitors inhabited, and near to which their fathers were interred. Geographical nomenclature is, therefore, an important factor in all that concerns a nation's early history, and it often furnishes most effectual aid in the solution of linguistic problems.

If, then, we would trace the English language to its sources, the course to be pursued is clearly marked out. The subject, which covers a wide range of interesting studies, involves, first of all, a critical inquiry into the origin, character, and distribution of the various races of men-Celts, Romans, Saxons, Danes, Normans—who at various epochs have found their way into the British islands—their idioms and forms of religion, their social and political differences, their relative progress in the arts of civilized life. From the complexity of the subject, it is obvious that the knowledge we possess of all these details is not the fruit of any one man's learning, but the result of long and patient labors of many specialists in each of these branches. Availing ourselves of the latest researches of the distinguished scholars whose names we quote as our authorities in the list appended, and whose acknowledged learning and accuracy need no commendation, we here present to the student, who has not time to make a close study of their numerous works, a digest of their substance, so arranged as to be neither reduced to the skeleton of a mere abridgment, nor extended to the huge dimensions of a learned work. Supposing the reader to be familiar with at least the outlines of early English history, we will not follow it throughout its continuity, but rather dwell on those great epochs of national struggle in which we find two peoples of different origin and speech, meeting first in deadly strife, and then continuing to live on the same soil in hostile relation for many generations, until, in course of time, common interests, by drawing them together, brought about a corresponding fusion of their idioms, the traces of which are still so clearly marked as not only to reveal, in almost every instance, the character and extent of each successive conquest, but even to indicate the degree of power and tenacity to national speech and customs which was displayed by each race in their amalgamation.

History and language, thus studied by the light which they shed upon each other, will impress the reader all the more vividly as the scenes depicted more truly represent the men of by-gone ages as living beings who think and speak and act, with motives for their actions. Individual celebrities are here of less account, and need be noticed only as centers around which the great facts of history are grouped; whereas an inquiry into the sources of the language will bring us more immediately among the people, and lead us to observe the social existence of the masses in their daily relations of life. Thus considered, and divested in our imagination of the illusions of distance in time and place, the various populations which will be brought to view, either simultaneously or successively, will excite in us all the interest and sympathy with which we would look upon immediate neighbors whose collective existence is filled, like our own, with alternations of happiness and grief, of hope and of dejection. In thus reanimating past generations, our own thoughts, acts, and motives will be to some extent the measure by which we can judge theirs; and in placing ourselves in their midst we shall find that their speech also, in which they are living yet, exhibits in all its changes and vicissitudes the same phenomena which we may observe immediately around us, under our own eyes, and in our very homes. The vast amount of immigration into this country from all parts of the world, and the various idioms and dialects we hear all around us, and which in course of time must all change into English, will furnish us in this respect with an abundance of instances and illustrations.

By thus viewing the subject in its historical aspect mainly, and as it were identifying ourselves with the people whose speech we are investigating, we shall the better understand their inner life, their wants, and their ideas, their gradual progress in civilization, and at the same time the outward garb in which, at different epochs of their national existence, they have contrived to clothe their thoughts and feelings. Thus, even in its rudest forms, the language, as it once was used, will become the object of our deepest interest when, tracing it through all its vicissitudes, we finally see it emerge from comparative obscurity to take its place among the world's leading idioms, producing masterpieces in every department of literature, and rapidly becoming the means of general intercourse among all civilized nations.

From this brief outline of the plan and scope of this work, it will be readily perceived that it is not presented as a treatise on either Early English History, or English Language and Literature, but rather as an adjunct to the former, an introduction to the latter, and an assistance, we hope, in the rational study of both.

CONTENTS.

Gaels, Gauls, and pre-historic occupants of Britain-Origin of the names
“Britain” and “Britannia"-Natural division of the island into north and
south-The northern part called Alben-The southwestern part called
Cymry-The eastern and southern parts called Lloegria-The primitive
population driven to the west into Wales, and to the north into Caledonia

- Part of the fugitives cross the sea into the isle of Erin and the smaller
western islands—Albion, Ierne, and the smaller islands known to the an-
cients as the “ Bretannic Isles "-Cambrians, Logrians, and Britons-
Early invasions of Britain—The Belgæ-The Coritani-Invasion of Diviti-
acus, King of Soissons—The four Gaulish kingdoms of Kent—The Trino-
bantes—The Iceni—The Catuvellaunian confederacy-Civilization of the
Gaulish settlers—Their dwellings—A chief's house Physical appearance-
Dress–Ornaments-Equipments in war and peace Scythed chariots-
Agriculture—Horses—Cattle-Domestic life.

Gaelic settlements in western and northern Britain-Climate and phys-

ical appearance of the country—The tribes of the southwest—The Dam-

nonians and Durotriges—Their superior culture—Their foreign trade-

Description of their ships—The other tribes of the west are of low civili.

zation and of mixed blood—The Silurians of South Wales—The Demeta-

The Dobuni— The Cornavii— The Ordovices of North Wales-- They are of

Gaelic descent—The central tribes—The Coritavi, a name applied to sever-

al distinct races, some semi-barbarous, others utterly so- -The ruder tribes

are migratory, disfigure themselves with woad, and live by war and plun-

der–The Confederate tribes of the north, called Brigantes by the Ro-

mans-Their prowess in war-Tacitus's opinion of the British nations as

enemies.

Non-Celtic tribes-Tacitus ascribes to them a Spanish origin–Irish

legends on the subject-The Fir-Bolgs-Fair and dark races--Survivals of
the pre-Celtie-stocks-The nations of pre-historic Britain-How classi-
fied-The Stone or Pre-metallic Age—The Bronze Age—The Iron Age

« VorigeDoorgaan »