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caprice of every writer who adapted the appearance to the sound as best he might, spelling a word at one time in one way, and at another differently. But yet study will convince us that, in the best authors, there was a system pervading the whole. This we see in the Ormulum, and this we believe to be the case in Chaucer, though through want of a good text the key has not been discovered. A diligent and minute inquiry into these subjects might perhaps give the solution of the puzzling question, how the vowels a and e, when long, came to get the sound of e and i, and how oo became changed from a long o sound to a u sound.

There is one more book belonging to this period which deserves notice, not on account of its literary merits, but as showing perhaps a stage of the language between Layamon and the Ormulum. The "Ancren Riwle," or Anchoresses' Rule, is a book for the instruction of convents. The vocabulary has a larger infusion of French than Layamon's, but the language, as respects form, is nearly in the same state. The final 8 is s sometimes dropped in the genitive, and the n from the infinitive in a few cases.

What Mr. Marsh calls the First Period of English-that which is truly and properly English-extends from the middle of the thirteenth to the middle of the fourteenth century. It contains no work of preeminent interest or value. The metrical version of the Psalms, published by the Surtees Society, is perhaps the most important fragment.

The next epoch, which terminates, according to the author's arrangement, with the third quarter of the sixteenth century, is one of much greater brilliancy, and is illustrated by the most eminent of English writers.

Up to this time, although the English had lost nearly all the inflections which characterized the Anglo-Saxons, it had gained little in any way.

"The whole number of Greek, Latin, and French words found in the printed English authors of the thirteenth century, even including those which AngloSaxon had borrowed from the nomenclature of theology and ethics, scarcely exceeds one thousand, or one-eighth part of the total vocabulary of that era; and in the actual diction of any one English writer of the period in question, not above one word in twenty or twenty-five is of Latin or Romance derivation."

But now, when the English became the national language and French ceased to be used, a great influx of foreign words took place. The revival of literature and the new feeling of life showed the poverty of the old language, and enlarged the demand for an increased vocabulary. The poets, and especially the translators, brought in words to express the higher ideas which had been wanting to the lower-minded Saxon peasantry. The introduction of arts and sciences made the employment of new terms necessary, and the trade and commerce with other countries brought in many words-some of them not immediately connected with trade, but gained by intercourse with foreigners. Many of these words soon lost their technical sense and were transferred into the common speech. The proportion of words introduced in this way was much larger than of words used merely by the poets. Sir John Mandeville, for instance, devoted the greater part of his life to travel, and on his return wrote the story of his pilgrimages. In his short book he uses about fourteen hundred words of foreign origin-mostly Latin-which do not occur previously, at least in the printed literature. His work was widely circulated and extremely popular; and there are few of his new words which are not now considered necessary, and used in common conversation.

One of the earlier minor writers of this era, and perhaps the earliest English poet, was Lawrence Minot. Only a few short ballad-like poems of his remain, but they are of some interest as combining the characteristics both of Anglo-Saxon and Romance verse.

The Anglo-Saxon system of versification was founded upon accent, both of the word and of the line. It was rhythmical rather than metrical. Alliteration, and subsequently assonance, took the place of rhyme. Romance poetry, on the other hand, was written in regular measures, with syllabic quantity. Rhyme was always employed,―blank verse being unknown to French literature.

These poems of Minot share in the peculiarities of each kind. They are written in the rhymed stanzas belonging to romance literature, and yet are very alliterative. Mr. Marsh

considers this as an attempt to compromise between the two systems. But is it not rather an evidence of their conflict? Certain phrases and combinations of words from being often used and repeated in poetry, carry with them a poetical sig nificance. There is a dialect of poetry which will invest even the most prosaic thoughts with a seemingly poetical dress. Now the poet would find it hard to leave off at once these old modes of poetical expression which clung to his memory, and would retain them, almost unconsciously, even while attempting to mould his verses into French forms. Most other English poets of that day were translators, writing for the upper classes. With them there was no such difficulty, as they in most cases followed the words as well as the spirit of the original. Minot was telling the achievements of Edward to the people, and naturally used language and expressions to which they were accustomed. Examples of the same thing are seen in Layamon, in the Debate between the Body and the Soul, and the Early English Bestiary. Here allitera tion and rhyme are mixed, and we have some lines purely alliterative, and sometimes a couplet or two of rhymes. Those are of the twelfth century. After the middle of the thirteenth century, alliteration by couplets fell in disuse, and it was used only occasionally and irregularly. But it has always clung to English poetry, and been regarded as one of its distinctive beauties.

The author of Piers Ploughman, on the other hand, evidently intended to revive the old style of poetry. His verses are not metrical and do not rhyme. Each of the short lines, as given by Wright, is marked by two strongly accented syllables. But in the first line of the couplet each accented syllable is preceded by one or two unaccented syllables, while only one of those in the second line is so preceded. Alliteration is here found in its strictest form as used by the Anglo-Saxon poets. In the first line both the accented or emphatic syllables, which should be the first of their words, commence with the same letter. The first accented syllable in the second line, also, begins with this letter. This is the general law of his versification, although the exceptions are frequent. The

diction of the poet is not so archaic, for he uses as many foreign words as Chaucer, and the language otherwise shows an advance; but there are many words which were even then growing obsolete, and some whose meaning cannot now be ascertained. With regard to any grammatical changes, Mr. Marsh says:

"The moods and tenses of the verb had acquired very nearly their present force, and the past and future auxiliaries were used substantially as in modern English. I mention this point particularly, because it has been said that the curious and intricate distinction we now make between the two auxiliaries, shall and will, is of recent origin. Cases may indeed be found in Piers Ploughman, where shall is used in a connection that would, in modern usage, require will, but these are few, and some of them doubtful; and I have observed no case where will is put for the modern shall.

"The verbs are inflected much according to the Anglo-Saxon fashion, the ending th characterizing not only the third person singular, present indicative, but all the persons of the plural of that mood and tense, as well as the imperative. The infinitive generally ends in en, as does also the plural of the past tense, and both the weak and strong form of conjugation are employed. To all these rules there are exceptions, and the poet seems to have been influenced much by rhythm in the conjugation of his verbs.

"The nouns, with few exceptions, form the plural in s, and the adjective plural usually terminates in e, but the declension of this part of speech is irregular.”

This book was extremely popular for a long time among the lower and middle classes of England, for whom especially it was written. It is an attack on the abuses of state, and in some measure of church, and represents the true Christian statesman under the guise of a common ploughman. Such grumbling at their rulers always pleased the English people. During the Commonwealth the book was revived, because it was supposed to be of a reformatory and puritanical character. But this is not so; for Piers Ploughman is not as far advanced in his ideas of religious progress as Wycliffe. The Vision of Piers Ploughman is a work which deserves to be read more than it is. It is filled with useful information about the domestic history of those times, and is also written in a lively and entertaining manner, some parts being truly humorous.

John Wycliffe would be remarkable as a writer, were it for nothing else than that he executed the first complete translation of the Bible. This, it would seem, should exert the

greatest influence on the language. Newly felt spiritual wants would demand new words and combinations. These would conform to the language of the Bible, and being always in use would be a strong conservative power.

We cannot say that the influence which flowed from Wycliffe's translation was as extensive as would be expected-as it would under other circumstances have been. The Reformation had not yet begun; and anything tending that way was carefully repressed. The English Bible was forbidden, and could only be read with difficulty and by stealth. Besides, printing was not yet invented, and the cost of copying was too great to allow of its extended circulation among the lower classes; while the higher orders had too much interest in the present state of affairs to allow or connive at it. The power which it exerted was therefore much less than that of Luther's German translation, when circumstances were more propitious. It, however, had one effect; it moulded a peculiar religious dialect, which, for a long time, was far in advance of the other prose of the day. All the translations of the Bible are founded on this. The beautiful language of the Book of Common Prayer is substantially the same as this. And now the language of prayer and devotion everywhere differs in little from that used by Wycliffe.

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This is the most obvious in the verbal forms. Chaucer, and other secular writers contemporary with Wycliffe, very generally use the Anglo-Saxon th as the ending of the third person singular present indicative of the verb, and frequently, though not constantly, in all the persons of the plural and in the imperative, and they also very often employ the plural pronoun you, in addressing a single person. Wycliffe constantly, I believe, confines the th to the singular verb, and never employs it for the imperative; he makes the plural ending in en ; and never employs ye or you in the singular number. All this is modern usage, except that en as the plural sign of the verb has been dropped. In short, the conjugation of Wycliffe's verbs corresponds in all points very nearly to our own, with this difference, that in modern times the strong verbs are constantly inclining more and more to the weak conjugations."

Among other things may be noticed the introduction of the French feminine form of the noun in -ess or -esse, instead of the Saxon in -ster, as dwelleresse for dwelstere, and the change of the termination of the present participle from -end to -ing.

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