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It is oftentimes curious to consider the far-off beginnings of great events, and to study the aspect of the cloud no bigger than one's hand. The British peasant looked seaward from his harvest-field, and saw, with wondering eyes, the piratical schooner of a Saxon Viking, making for the mouth of the Thames. A few years, only a few years, -afterward, while the same peasant, driven from his homestead north or west, still lives to tell the story to his grandchildren, another race lords it over the land, speaking a different language and living under different laws. This important event in his history is more important in the world's history. Thus began the reign of the Saxons in England; and the downfall of one nation, and the rise of another, seem to us at this distance only the catastrophe of a stage-play.

The Saxons came into England about the middle of the fifth century. They were pagans; they were a wild and warlike people; brave, rejoicing in sea-storms, and beautiful in person, with blue eyes and long, flowing hair. Their warriors wore their shields suspended from their necks by

the pure and regular language of which he has already treated, namely, that found in the authors who flourished in the southern and western parts of Britain. These dialects he arranges, according to certain periods of history, as follows; 1. The Britanno-Saxon, which, he says, was spoken by our ancestors, from their original invasion of Britain till the entrance of the Danes, being about 337 years.-2. The Dano-Saxon, which, he says, was used from the entrance of the Danes till the Norman invasion, being 274 years, and more especially in the northern parts of England and the south of Scotland.-3. The Normanno-Dano-Saxon, spoken from the invasion by the Normans till the time of Hen. II., which towards the end of that time, he says, might be termed Semi-Saxon.- Writers of considerable eminence appear to have considered this arrangement of the dialects as a complete history of the language, without adverting to the circumstance of Hickes's distinguishing them all from the pure and regular language,' which is the primary subject of his work. From this partial view, a notion has become current, that the Dano-Saxon dialect, previously to or during the reigns of the Canutes, became the general language of this country, and that our present language was formed by gradual alterations superinduced upon the Dano-Saxon. This being taken for granted, it has appeared easy to decide upon the antiquity of some of the existing remains. Poems written in Dano-Saxon have been of course ascribed to the Dano-Saxon period; and Beowulf, and the poems of Cadmon, have been deprived of that high antiquity which a perusal of the writings themselves inclines us to attribute to them, and referred to a comparatively modern era.

"With all due respect for the learning of the author of the Thesaurus, it may be said, that he has introduced an unnecessary degree of complexity on the subject of the dialects. His first dialect, the Britanno-Saxon, may be fairly laid out of the question. The only indisputable specimen of it, according to his account, is what he calls, a fragment of the true Cædmon,' preserved in Alfred's version of Bede, - a poem which has nothing


chains. Their horsemen were armed with iron sledgehammers. Their priests rode upon mares, and carried into the battle-field an image of the god Irminsula; in figure like an armed man; his helmet crested with a cock; in his right hand a banner, emblazoned with a red rose; a bear, carved upon his breast; and, hanging from his shoulders, a shield, on which was lion in a field of flowers.

Not two centuries elapsed before this whole people was converted to Christianity. Elfric, in his homily on the birthday of St. Gregory, informs us, that this conversion was accomplished by the holy wishes of that good man, and the holy works of St. Augustine and other monks. St. Gregory beholding one day certain slaves set for sale in the marketplace of Rome, who were "men of fair countenance and nobly-haired," and learning that they were heathens, and called Angles, heaved a long sigh, and said; "Well-away! that men of so fair a hue should be subjected to the swarthy devil! Rightly are they called Angles, for they have angels' beauty; and therefore it is fit that they in heaven should be

in language or style to distinguish it from the admitted productions of Alfred. Dismissing the supposed Britanno-Saxon, as unworthy of consideration, the principal remains of the Saxon language may be arranged in two classes, viz. those which are written in pure Anglo-Saxon, and those which are written in Dano-Saxon. These, in fact, were the two great dialects of the language. The former was used (as Hickes observes) in the southern and western parts of England; and the latter in the northern parts of England and the south of Scotland. It is entirely a gratuitous supposition, to imagine, that either of these dialects commenced at a much later period than the other. Each was probably as old as the beginning of the heptarchy. We know, that, among the various nations which composed it, the Saxons became predominant in the southern and western parts, and the Angles in the northern. As these nations were distinct in their original seats on the continent, so they arrived at different times, and brought with them different dialects. This variety of speech continued till the Norman conquest, and even afterwards. It is not affirmed that the dialects were absolutely invariable. Each would be more or less changed by time, and by intercourse with foreigners. The mutual connexion, also, which subsisted between the different nations of the heptarchy would necessarily lead to some intermixture. But we may with safety assert, that the two great dialects of the Saxon language continued substantially distinct as long as the language itself was in use, that the Dano-Saxon, in short, never superseded the Anglo-Saxon. In a formal dissertation on this subject, citations might be made from the Saxon laws from Ethelbert to Canute, from the Saxon Chronicle, from charters, and from works confessedly written after the Norman conquest, to show, that, whatever changes took place in the dialect of the southern and western parts of Britain, it never lost its distinctive character, or became what can with any propriety be termed DanoSaxon. After the Norman conquest, both the dialects were gradually corrupted, till they terminated in modern English. During this period of the

companions of angels." As soon, therefore, as he undertook the popehood (papanhad underfeng), the monks were sent to their beloved work. In the Witena Gemot, or Assembly of the Wise, convened by King Edwin of Northumbria, to consider the propriety of receiving the Christian faith, a Saxon Ealdorman arose, and spake these noble words; "Thus seemeth to me, O king, this present life of man upon earth, compared with the time which is unknown to us; even as if you were sitting at a feast, amid your Ealdormen and Thegns in winter time. And the fire is lighted, and the hall warmed, and it rains, and snows, and storms without. Then cometh a sparrow, and flieth about the hall. It cometh in at one door, and goeth out at another. While it is within, it is not touched by the winter's storm; but that is only for a moment, only for the least space. Out of the winter it cometh, to return again into the winter eftsoon. So also this life of man endureth for a little space. What goeth before it and what followeth after, we know not. Wherefore, if this new lore bring aught more certain and

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declension of the Saxon language, nothing was permanent; and whether we call the mixed and changeable language Normanno-Dano-Saxon,' or Semi-Saxon,' or leave it without any particular appellation, is not very important. An additional proof that the two great dialects were not consecutive, but contemporary, might be drawn from early writings in English, and even from such as were composed long after the establishment of the Normans. We find traces of the pure Anglo-Saxon dialect in Robert of Gloucester, who wrote in the time of Edward the First, and whose works are now understood almost without the aid of a glossary; whereas the language of Robert Langland, who wrote nearly a century later, is more closely connected with the Dano-Saxon, and so different from modern English as to be sometimes almost unintelligible. Though these differences have been gradually wearing away, our provincial glossaries afford evidence, that, even at the present day, they are not entirely obliterated.

"Alfred's language is esteemed pure Anglo-Saxon; yet we find in his poetical compositions some words, which, according to Hickes, belong to the Dano-Saxon dialect. This may be readily accounted for. It is extremely probable that the works of the poets who flourished in the north of England and the adjoining parts of Scotland, and who composed their poems in Dano-Saxon, were circulated, if not in writing, at least by itinerant reciters, in all the nations of the heptarchy; that they were imitated by the southern poets; and that some particular words and phrases were at length considered as a sort of poetical language, and indispensable to that species of composition. Some words which occur in the poems of Alfred, as well as in Beowulf, Cædmon, &c., are seldom or never met with in prose. Of Alfred's early attention to poetical recitations we have a remarkable testimony in Asser; Saxonica poemata die noctuque solers auditor relatu aliorum sæpissime audiens, docibilis memoriter retinebat.' Wise's Asser, p. 16."

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more advantageous, then is it worthy, that we should follow it." This brave man spake well; and how like an American Indian !*

Thus the Anglo-Saxons became Christians. For the good of their souls they built monasteries and went on pilgrimages to Rome. The whole country, to use Malmesbury's phrase, was "glorious and refulgent with relics." The priests sang psalms night and day; and so great was the piety of St. Cuthbert, that, according to Bede, he forgot to take off his shoes for months together, sometimes the whole year round;- from which Mr. Turner infers, that he had no stockings. They also copied the Evangelists, and illustrated them with illuminations; in one of which St. John is represented in a pea-green dress with red stripes. They also drank ale out of buffalo horns and wooden-knobbed goblets. A Mercian king gave to the Monastery of Croyland his great drinking-horn, that the elder monks might drink therefrom at festivals, and "in their benedictions remember sometimes the soul of the donor, Witlaf." They drank his health, with that of Christ, the Virgin Mary, the Apostles, and other saints. Malmesbury says, that excessive drinking was the common vice of all ranks of people. We know that King Hardicanute died in a revel; and King Edmund in a drunken brawl at Puckle church, being, with all his court, much overtaken by liquor, at the festival of St. Augustine. Thus did mankind go reeling through the Dark Ages; quarrelling, drinking, hunting, hawking, singing psalms, wearing breeches, grinding in mills, eating hot bread, rocked in cradles, buried in coffins, - weak, suf

* How much, too, like our Indian names are some of the Anglo-Saxon names, when translated. For example; Ethelwulf, The noble wolf; Eadwulf, The prosperous wolf; Ealdwulf, The old wolf; Hundberht, The illustrious hound; alfheag, Tall as an elf; Dunstan, The mountain stone; Heaburg, The high tower.

History of the Anglo-Saxons, Vol. II. p. 61.

Over the door of this pious Cuthbert's cell should have been inscribed these two lines, from the Poem of the Phenix, in the Exeter Manuscript; "Hær se halga stenc

Wunath geond wyn lond."

In an old Anglo-Saxon dialogue, which we shall notice hereafter, a shoemaker says, that he makes slippers, shoes, and leather breeches," (swyftleras, sceos, and lether-hose.)

fering, sublime. Well might King Alfred exclaim, "Maker of all creatures! help now thy miserable mankind."

Having already spoken somewhat of the language of this people, and as much of the people themselves as is necessary for our present uses, we now pass willingly to their literature. But a national literature is a subject, which we always approach with reverence. It is difficult to comprehend fully the mind of a nation; even when that nation still lives, and we can visit it, and its present history, and the lives of men we know, help us to a comment on the written text. But here the dead alone speak. Voices, half understood; fragments of song, ending abruptly, as if the poet had sung no farther, but died with these last words upon his lips; homilies, preached to congregations that have been asleep for many centuries; lives of saints, who went to their reward, long before the world began to scoff at sainthood; and wonderful legends, once believed by men, and now, in this age of wise children, hardly credible enough for a nurse's tale; nothing entire, nothing wholly understood, and no farther comment or illustration, than may be drawn from an isolated fact, found in an old chronicle, or perchance a rude illumination in an old manuscript! Such is the literature we have now to consider. Such fragments, and mutilated remains, has the human mind left of itself, coming down through the times of old, step by step, and every step a century. Old men and venerable accompany us through the Past; and, pausing at the threshold of the Present, they put into our hands, at parting, such written records of themselves, as they have. We should receive these things with reverence. We should respect old age.

"This leaf, is it not blown about by the wind?

Woe to it for its fate!

Alas! it is old."

What an Anglo-Saxon glee-man was, we know from such commentaries as are mentioned above. King Edgar forbade the monks to be ale-poets (eala scopas); and one of his accusations against the clergy of his day was, that they entertained glee-men in the monasteries, where they had dicing, dancing, and singing, till midnight. The illumination of an old manuscript shows how a glee-man looked. It is a frontispiece to the Psalms of David. The great psalmist sits upon his throne, with a harp in his hand, and his masters of sacred

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