« PreviousContinue »
the Vistula,* or by the uncertain limits of Sarmatian tribes; towards the north ancient Germany had no limitations: all the countries beyond the Baltic, supposed of old to be islands or clusters of islands in the Northern Ocean, were comprehended in its extent.
It must be observed that some German tribes lived beyond these limits, both towards the east and west. German tribes were known in Gaul, and several of the nations inhabiting Sarmatia, that is the region beyond the Vistula, were ascertained or supposed to be of Germanic origin. On the other hand, there were districts within the boundaries of Germany still occupied by people foreign to the Teutonic blood. Such were the Celts of Boiohemum and of the Hercynian Forest, and the remains of the aboriginal people of Scandinavia. The Wends of Northern Germany perhaps entered it after the great southward migration of the northern tribes.+
The diversified nature of the country in different parts of Germany may have given rise to the great varieties observed in the character of the inhabitants. The districts on the Rhine were the best cultivated; and here under the Roman dominion towns of growing refinement soon displayed themselves: Strasburg, Spiers, but particularly Mentz and Cologn,-for the left branch of the Rhine was already occupied by German tribes in the age of Cæsar,-became flourishing cities soon after the Roman government was established over Gaul. In the interior of Germany the Hercynian Forest extended over tracts which a traveller could pass in sixty days. Taking its rise near the fountains of the Rhine, it terminated at Rugen on the Baltic, in order to reappear on the northern coast of that inland sea and cover the whole of Finnland. The Black Forest, the Odenwald, the Westerwald, Spessart, the woulds of Bohemia, Thuringia, and the Hartz, are remains of the Hercynian Forest. The northern coast of Germany consisted of morasses, subject to frequent inundations, where the natives fixed their
Germania hinc ripis Rheni usque ad Alpes, à meridie ipsis Alpibus; ab oriente Sarmaticarum confinio gentium ; quâ Septentrionem spectat oceanico littore obducta est. (Pompon. Mela, de situ Orbis, lib. iii. cap. 3.)
+ Schloezer thought that some of the Wendish tribes had obtained a footing in ancient Germany before the migration of the northern tribes, but he wa nearly singular in that opinion.
dwelling upon spots of firmer and more elevated soil. Between the sea-coast and the Hercynian Forest the country consisted of vast heaths or steppes, for the most part only fit for pasturage and the chase. This was the land of the Suevi, a nomadic people of simple manners, but high-minded and valiant, and in warfare prodigal of that life which they expected to recover in the everlasting halls of Woden.
Both Cæsar and Tacitus describe the Suevi as the most powerful and warlike division of the German race. According to the latter they were not a particular tribe, but a great division of the German people, divided into different names and kindreds, though all bearing the common designation. It was characteristic of the Suevi to braid their hair and tie it over their heads in knots, which was considered as a mark of freedom. The most ancient and noble of the Suevi were the Semnones, who assembled at a stated time in a sacred grove, and there, as Tacitus says, by the public slaughter of a human victim, celebrated the fearful origin of their sacred rites.*
Paragraph 1.-Divisions of the German race into four great tribes.
Ancient writers have left us some accounts of the distribution or division of the German race into lesser groupes or families; but these would be unintelligible if they were not illustrated by philological information. Researches into the history and affinity of languages and dialects afford in this as in other instances the most available means of arriving at satisfactory conclusions as to the relations of particular tribes. The first writer who attempted with any degree of success to distribute and classify the German dialects, and to trace the history of the German language, was the author of the Mithridates. Adelung divided the whole number of the German dialects, both extant and such as are only known by written remains, into two classes, which he supposes to belong respectively to two races; he terms the races, with very doubtful propriety, Suevi and Cimbri, and their language the Ober-deutsch or Upper-German, and the Low or Nether-German. He supposed the Ober-deutsch or Upper-German, of which the modern
* Tacitus, Germania, c. 38.
High-Dutch is a refined and improved variety, to have been originally the language of all the tribes in the north-eastern parts of Germany. In the same department he included the Goths, the Suevi, and the Vandals, some of whom are by later writers, as we shall observe, considered to form a separate class. The Low-German or Nether-Dutch language and its dialects belonged, according to Adelung and others, to the Saxons, Frisians, and other nations of Western Germany. The difference of these two languages is, in the opinion of Adelung, so strongly marked that it cannot be supposed to have originated in Germany, but argues a very ancient separation of the two races before they quitted their primitive abodes in remote parts of Asia. Though these tribes must have undergone, both in earlier and in later ages, occasional intermixture from the mutual alliances and subjugations which take place among neighbouring tribes, yet the distinctive character of their dialects is still clearly to be recognised in the different branches of each great stem. Local relations have indeed changed, and that within the age of authentic history; the Suevic tribes having abandoned their country in the northeast of Germany to various hordes of Slavonic origin who entered it after the great southward migration of the German hordes, transplanted their language to the south-eastern parts of Germany and the adjoining countries. From the Suevic or Alemannic branch are descended the people of Switzerland, Alsace, the Upper and the Middle Rhine; from the Langobards, who took a more easterly direction, are derived the Bavarians, the Austrians, the Tyrolese, and other German subjects of Austria, and the people who still preserve relics of the German language in the Vicentine and Veronese.
The distinctive character of the Upper German language consists partly in a peculiar mode of utterance, for which the people who speak it are remarkable. It abounds with guttural and hissing and imperfectly articulated consonants, and deeplytoned diphthongal sounds, which take place of the softer dental and palatines, and the open vowel sounds of the Lower German dialects.
The Lower German language must not be confounded with the Platt-deutsch, which is only one of its varieties. The
dialects of this speech in general are remarkable for substituting a soft aspirate for the hard guttural, a dental t for the sibilants or s, a simple s for the hissing sch, p for pf, or for f, as piper for pfeifer, tehen or ten for zehen. Adelung observes that the Lower German languages are rich in expressions connected with navigation, traffic, and maritime affairs, but poor in abstract terms. The characteristics of the Lower German are recognised in the dialects of all the Belgians and the borderers on the Lower Rhine, in the English and Lowland Scottish.*
Adelung considered the Scandinavian dialects, in which are included the Icelandic, the Danish and Swedish, as intermediate between his two principal German languages, and supposed them to have resulted from an intermixture of tribes belonging to the two great divisions of the German race in the Scandinavian peninsula. Later writers on the history of the German languages have been led by further research to adopt a very different conclusion on this subject. Professor Rask has maintained that the German and the Scandinavian, or the old Northern speech, may rather be termed sister languages than cognate dialects. He observes that "the dialects of the Scandinavians and those of the Germans have respectively many traits by which the members of each are connected among themselves, and distinguished from those of the opposite division." Even the classical High German and the language of Holland resemble each other in many particulars, in which both differ from the Swedish and Danish.t Rask therefore considered the old Norse and the German as two sister languages, and this opinion coincides with that of Professor Jacob Grimm, the most celebrated philologer who had devoted himself to the history and etymology of the German language. Grimm divides the dialects of the German language into four classes: first, the Gothic, known to us by the extant parts of the version of the Scriptures, made by Ulphilas into the idiom of the Moso-Goths; secondly, the Old High German, or the
• These remarks were published by Hofrath Adelung in his history of the German language, and afterwards appeared in the second volume of the Mithridates.
+ Rask, über das Alter und die Echtheit der Zendsprache, &c., übersetzt von F. H. von der Hagen. Berlin, 1826.
Francic; exemplified by the remains of Otfried, the glosses of Keron, and other relics of the language prevalent in Franconia, Swabia and Switzerland during the middle ages; thirdly, the Low German dialects; fourthly, the Northern language, the Norse or Scandinavian. He observes that these four great stems of dialects display various relations to each other. The first and second are nearly related; by Adelung they are reckoned, as we have seen, under one division, that of the Upper German, but the mutual affinity of the three German languages is much closer than the relation which they all bear to the Old Norse.*
A learned and accurate writer, whose main object has been history and ethnography, M. Zeuss, has availed himself of these results of philological research in elucidating the distribution of German tribes left by Pliny and Tacitus. His attempt appears to be more successful than any former endeavours,
• Professor Grimm's data are developed in his Herculean work on the German languages, which bears the inadequate title of "Deutsche Grammatik." His general conclusions were collected from scattered notes and papers in periodical works by M. Zeuss, in a work entitled “Die Deutschen und die Nachbarstämme,” p. 79 et seqq.
I must here observe that some remarks have been made on the philological system of Professor Grimm by a writer whose opinions on subjects of this nature are entitled to the highest regard. M. E. Barnouf, in the appendix to his learned "Commentaire sur le Yaçna," maintains that it is advisable, in comparing the Germanic languages with the Zend and Sanskrit, to limit the comparison to the Gothic and Anglo-Saxon, and to pass over the Francic, termed by Grimm the Old High German. "Je le nomme Francique à bon droit d'après l'exemple d'Otfrid." He adds his reason for this advice: "Dans le Germanique et l'Anglo-Saxon on voit un type général; tandisque dans le Francique, l'on voit beaucoup de nuances diverses qui me semblent être plutôt locales que chronologiques. Grimm a pris pour base la prononciation la plus rude, comme la mieux caractérisée; mais, à mon avis, elle n'a jamais été générale. Allez à Zurich ou à St.-Gall, vous y trouverez encore aujourd'hui les gloses de Kéron toutes vivantes. Grimm a même été jusqu'à prendre quelques monosyllabes Gothiques pour des contractions, quand l'orthographe de l'ancien Haut-Allemand présentait en apparence deux syllabes, par exemples baurgs = purah. Mais cela n'est que l'endurcissement des organes qui ne savent pas prononcer une consonne après un r, sans l'intervention d'une voyelle parasite. La forme Gothique s'est maintenue dans toutes les langues romanes: borgo, Burgos, bourg. Les gloses donnent homo (homme): Otfrid écrit gomo, et c'est ainsi qu'ont parlé les Francs de la cour; le nom de la reine Gometrude le prouve. Ainsi donc l'ancien Haut-Allemand ne ferait que compliquer la doctrine des permutations, qui est simple et belle entre le Sanscrit, le Grec et le Latin d'une part, et le Gothique de l'autre." (M. Barnouf, Comm. sur le Yaçna. Addit. et Corr. clxiii.)