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12, and Bodl. 42]. Soon after this time also were composed the earlier Songs in Ritson and Percy (1264), with a few more pieces which it is unnecessary to particularize. This will bring us to the close of Henry lll.'s reign and beginning of his successor's, the period assigned by our poetical antiquaries to the romances of Sir Tristrem, Kyng Horn, and Kyng Alesaunder." *
ORIGIN OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE.
As has been already stated, almost the only Saxon prose we have of a date subsequent to the Conquest is the concluding portion of the Saxon Chronicle, which extends to the end of the reign of Stephen. And we have nothing more in prose to which is given the name either of Saxon or English till we get to the middle of the fourteenth century. But was our modern English, after all, really in its origin the successor of the AngloSaxon, the mere new form into which the latter gradually passed or degenerated? If we may trust to the genuineness of some of the earliest specimens that have just been referred to, a suspicion will arise that the English as distinguished from the Saxon is of earlier birth than is commonly supposed, that the one language is not the metamorphosis of the other, but only its daughter, and that, like mother and daughter in other cases, the two for a time existed together. The same thing seems to have taken place as in France and other continental countries when the Latin or proper Roman first became corrupted into the Ramana Rustica; the
* The Ancient English Romance of Havelok the Dane; Introduction, p. xlix. We have transferred the references, inclosed in brackets, from the bottom of the page to the text. former long continued to be the language of writing, and probably even of the educated classes in oral communication, while the latter was the popular speech, from which it gradually rose to be the dialect first of popular, then of all literature. So in this country there was probably in use a sort of English, or broken Saxon, even in the Saxon times; and the two forms of the language, the regular and the irregular, the learned and the vulgar, the old and the new, the mother and the daughter, seem to have maintained a rivalry for perhaps a century or two, till the rude vigour, the rough and ready character, of the one prevailed, in a time of much ignorance and general convulsion and change, over the refinement and comparative difficulty of the other. The completion of this revolution may be dated about the middle of the twelfth century; it is commonly stated that then the AngloSaxon passed away and the English took its place; and it is true that after that time we have no more AngloSaxon. But it can hardly be affirmed that we had no English long before.
SONG OF CANUTE.—ST. G0DRIC—OTHER EARLY VERSIFIERS IN ENGLISH.
The verse that has been preserved of the song composed by Canute as he was one day rowing on the Nen, while the holy music came floating on the air and along the water from the choir of the neighbouring minster of Ely—a song which we are told by the historian continued to his day, after the lapse of a century and a half, to be a universal popular favourite*—is very nearly such
"* Qua? usque hodie in choris publice cantantur, et in pvoverbiis memorantur.
English as was written in the fourteenth century. This interesting fragment properly falls to be given as the first of our specimens:—
Merie sungen the muneches binnen Ely
That is, literally,—
Merrily (sweetly) sung the monks within Ely
Being in verse and in rhyme, it is probable that the
words are reported in their original form; they cannot,
at any rate, be much altered.
The not very clerical address of Archbishop Aldred
to Ursus Earl of Worcester, who refused to take down
one of his castles the ditch of which encroached upon a
monastic churchyard, consists, as reported by William of
Malmesbury (who by the bye praises its elegance) of
only two short lines:—
Hatest thou* Urse?
but they are also very good English, as distinguished from Anglo-Saxon.
The hymn of St. Godric, again, has more of a Saxon character. It is thus given by Ritson, who professes to have collated the Royal MS. 5 F. vii., and the Harleian MS. 322, and refers also to Mat. Parisiensis His
* That is, hightest thou (art thou called) —Malmesbury's Latin translation is, "Vocaris Ursus: habeas Dei maledictionem." Rut the first line seems to be interrogative.
toria, pp. 119, 120, edit. 1640, and to (MS. Cott.) Nero D. v.:—
Sainte Marie [clane j Virgine,
Moder Jhesu Cristes Nazarene,
On fo [or fong], schild, help their Godric,
On fang bring hegilich -with the in Godes riche.
Sainte Marie, Christe's bur,
Maidens clenhad, modcres flur,
Dilie min sinne [or sennen], rix in min mod,
Bring me to winne with the selfd God.
"By the assistance of the Latin versions," adds Ritson, "one is enabled to give it literally in English, as follows :—Saint Mary [chaste] virgin, mother of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, take, shield, help thy Godric; take, bring him quickly with thee into God's kingdom. Saint Mary, Christ's chamber, purity of a maiden, flower of a mother, destroy my sin, reign in my mind, bring me to dwell with the only God."
Two other short compositions of the same poetical eremite are much in the same style. One is a couplet said to have been sung to him by the spirit or ghost of his sister, who appeared to him after her death and thus assured him of her happiness:—
Crist and Sainte Marie swa on scamel me iledde
That ic on this erde ne silde with mine bare fote itredde.
Which Ritson translates:—" Christ and Mary, thus supported, have roe brought, that I on earth should not with my bare foot tread."
The other is a hymn to St. Nicholas :—
Sainte Nicholaes, Godes druth,
Tymbre us fairc scone hus.
At thi burth, at thi bare,
Sainte Nicholaes, bring us wel there.
"That is," says Ritson, "Saint Nicholas, God's lover,
build us a fair beautiful house. At thy birth, at thy
bier, Saint Nicholas, bring us safely thither."
As for the rhymes given by Lambarde and Camden as
of the twelfth century, they can hardly in the shape in
which we have them be of any thing like that antiquity:
they are, in fact, in the common English of the sixteenth
century. Lambarde (in his Dictionary of England, p.
36) tells us that a rabble of Flemings and Normans
brought over in 1173 by Robert Earl of Leicester, when
they were assembled on a heath near St. Edmonds Bury,
"fell to dance and sing,
Hoppe Wylikin, hoppe Wyllykin,
Camden's story is that Hugh Bigott, Earl of Norfolk, in
the reign of Stephen used to boast of the impregnable
strength of his castle of Bungey after this fashion:—
"Were I in my castle of Bungey,
THE HERE PROPHECY.
What Sir Frederick Madden describes as "the prophecy said to have been set up at Here in the year 1189" is given by Ritson as follows:—
Whan thu sees in Here hert yneret,
Than sulen Engles in three be ydelet:
That an into Yrland al to late waie,
That other into Puille mid prude bileve,
The thridde into Airhahen herd all wreken drechegen.
* The passages are quoted by Ritson at pp. xl. and xli. of the 1st vol. of the 2nd and much enlarged edition of his Ancient Songs and Ballads, 2 vols. 8vo. Lond. 1829.