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cides exactly with the time of England's greatest loss in a philologer's eyes.'
Robert of Brunne began his Handlyng Synne, as he tells us, in 1303; he must have taken some years to complete it. We possess it, not as he wrote it, but in a Southern transcript of 1360 or thereabouts; even in this short interval many old terms had been dropped, and some of the bard's Norse words could never have been understood on the Thames. The transcriber writes more modern equivalents above those terms of Robert's, which seemed strange in 1360. I give a few specimens, to show the change that went on all through the Fourteenth Century:
about 1360. Gros
Dred wlatys lopep wede (insanus) made wrygtes. carponters were
. kepe mote (curia) plete ferly
godly byrde (decet). moste estre.
slow mayn. . strenk harnes
brayn grete. wepte whyle
he toke tyme haste teche wenche
| Happy had it been for Spain if her begging friars, about the year 1470, had been as sluggish and tolerant as their English brethren.
Robert of Brunne, in 1303.
lowe. lay} fyn parmys mone warryng : mysse wonde dere teyl tyne
rape flytes. y-dyt. syde.
chyde stoppyd long drede suffie steyn
Some of Robert's words, that needed explanation in 1360, are as well known to us in 1873 as those wherewith his transcriber corrected what seemed obsolete. Words will sometimes fall out of written speech, and crop up again long afterwards. Language is full of these odd tricks. It is mournful to trace the gradual loss of old words. This cannot be better done than by comparing three English versions of the Eleven Pains of Hell: one of these seems to belong to the year 1250, another to 1340, another to 1420.2 Each successive loss was of course made good by fresh shoals of French words. Steady indeed was the flow of these into English prose and poetry all through the Fourteenth Century, as may
Multa renascentur quæ jam cecidere, cadentque
Quæ jam sunt in honore vocabula, si volet usus. ? Old English Miscellany (Early English Text Society), pp. 147, 210, 223.
be seen by the following Table. I take from each author a passage (in his usual style) containing fifty substantives, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs; and this is the proportion in which the words are employed :
now Obsolete Old English Poetry, before 1066
9 Genesis and Exodus, Bestiary, about 1230. 8 Owl and Nightingale, about 1240
7 Northern Psalter, about 1250
6 Proverbs of Hending, about 1260
5 Love song (page 156), about 1270
1 Havelok, Harrowing Hell, about 1280
2 Robert of Gloucester, about 1300
4 Robert Manning, in 1303.
6 Shoreham, about 1320
3 Auchinleck Romances, about 1330
4 Hampole, about 1340.
5 Minot, about 1350
6 Langland, in 1362
7 Chaucer (Pardoner's Tale), in 1390
8 Pecock in 1450 .
10 Tyndale, in 1530
12 Addison, in 1710
17 Macaulay, in 1850
25 Gibbon (sometimes)
44 Morris (sometimes)?
3 1 I give specimens of the two last in my Seventh Chapter. They seem to be writing in two languages that have little in common.
THE NEW ENGLISH.
None of the great European literatures, as Hallam has said, was of such slow growth as the English; the reason is not far to seek. The French, Spanish, Provençal, Italian, Norse, and German literatures were fostered by high-born patrons. Foremost stand the great Hohenstaufens, Emperors of the Romans, ever August; then come Kings of England, of Norway, of Sicily, of Castile ; Dukes of Austria, Landgraves of Thuringia, Counts of Champagne; together with a host of knights from Suabia, Tuscany, Provence, and Aragon. A far other lot fell to the English Muse; for almost three hundred years after 1066, she basked not in the smiles of King or Earl; her chosen home was far away from Court, in the cloister and the parsonage ;
her ntterance was by the mouths of lowly priests, monks, and friars. Too long was she content to translate from the lordly French; in that language her own old legends, such as those of Havelok and Horn, had been enshrined for more than a hundred years. It was in French, not in English, that Stephen of Canterbury had preached and Robert of Lincoln had rimed, good home-born patriots though they might be. In our island there was no acknowledged Standard of national speech; ever since 1120, each shire had spoken that which was right in its own eyes. We have seen how widely the Northern, the Midland, and the Southern dialects differed from each other; and this was remarked by Giraldus Cambrensis almost seven hundred years ago. But not long after that keen-eyed Welshman's death, it might be seen that some great change was at hand. Of course, any dialect that was to hold the position once enjoyed by the Winchester speech, would have to win its way into London, Oxford, and Cambridge—towns that, after the year 1000, had become the heart and the eyes of England. Of these three, Cambridge lay within the bounds of the East Midland speech ; her clerks, drawn to her from all quarters of the land, may have helped to spread abroad her dialect, such as we (it may be) see it in the Bestiary of 1230. To Cambridge came young Robert Manning, as he says himself.2 That University, thronged as it must have been with lads from the North, West, and South, may have had her influence on his great work of 1303.
Had the most renowned of all Lincoln's Bishops been a writer of English, I should have given him a great share of credit for the Southern conquest achieved a hundred years after his death by the speech of his flock. But we must go much further back than his time, when
He says that Devonshire best preserved King Alfred's speech. ? He there saw the future King Robert I. of Scotland, and his brother. See page 202 of this book.