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we may observe, nor. any other Welsh manuscript, appears to be much older than the twelfth century.
As the forms of the Saxon alphabetical characters are the same with those of the Irish, it is probable that it was from Ireland the Saxons derived their first knowledge of letters. There was certainly, however, very little literature in the country bafore the arrival of Augustin, in the end of the sixth century. Augustin is supposed to have established school#at Canterbury; and, about a quarter of a century afterwards, Sigebert, king of the East Angles, who had spent part of his early life in France, is stated by Bede to have, upon his coming to the throne, founded an institution for the instruction of the youth of his dominions similar to those he had seen abroad. The schools planted by Augustin at Canterbury were afterwards greatly extended and improved by his successor, Archbishop Theodore, who obtained the see in 668. Theodore and his learned friend Adrian, Bede informs us, delivered instructions to crowds of pupils, not only in divinity, but also in astronomy, medicine, arithmetic, and the Greek and Latin languages. Bede states that some of the scholars of these accomplished foreigners were alive in his time, to whom the Greek and Latin were as familiar as their mother tongue. Schools now began to multiply in other parts, and were generally to be found in all the monasteries and at the bishops' seats. Of these episcopal and monastic schools, that founded by Bishop Benedict in his abbey at Wearmouth, where Bede was educated, and that which Archbishop Egbert established at York, where Alcuin studied, were among the most famous. Others of great reputation were superintended by learned teachers from Ireland.
We have already mentioned that of Maildulf at Malmesbury, to which Aldhelm repaired after having studied for some time under Adrian. At Glastonbury also, it is related in one of the ancient lives of St. Dunstan, some Irish ecclesiastics had settled, the books belonging to whom Dunstan is recorded to have diligently studied. The northern parts of the kingdom were indebted for the first light of learning as well as of religion to the missionaries from Iona. %
The remains of Anglo-Saxon literature which have come down to us are valuable as monuments of the language on which our existing English is principally formed, and some of them also are of great historical importance, or otherwise interesting for the facts they record. But in an artistic or poetical point of view it is perhaps the poorest literature known. The Metrical Paraphrase of certain parts of Scripture attributed to a writer of the name of Caedmon, and the poem of Beowulf, are almost the only considerable poetical works which the Anglo-Saxons have bequeathed to us; the others are all fragments or short pieces, such as the song of the elder Caedmon in Alfred's Bede, supposed to be of the latter part of the seventh century, and to be the oldest specimen of the language that has been preserved; the Ode on the Victory obtained by King Athelstan over the Danes at Brunanburgh in 938; the Traveller's Song, and a few more. One romance in prose has been discovered, on the famous middle age story of Apollonius of Tyre (the same subject with that of the play of Pericles attributed to Shakspere), which has been lately printed under the care of Mr. Benjamin Thorpe. Of the other prose remains the most valuable are the fragments of the laws, among which are some of those of Ethelbert, King of Kent, who reigned in the latter part of the sixth and the early part of the seventh century, but evidently reduced to the language of a later era; the Saxon Chronicle, the earlier portion of which is chiefly a compilation from Bede, and which appears to be afterwards a contemporary register of public events down to its termination at the close of the reign of Stephen in 1154; and the various works of King Alfred, which, however, are all only in the main translations from the Latin, though occasionally interspersed with original matter: his Pastorale of Pope Gregory, his Boethius de Consolatione Philosophies (with the verse in some of the copies rendered in metre), his Ecclesiastical History of Bede, and his General History of Orosius. There are also translations of the Pentateuch, the Psalms, the Gospels, and other parts of Scripture; numerous homilies and lives of saints, some grammatical treatises, some works on medicine and botany, and various wills arid other legal instruments. Most of what is of much value or curiosity in Anglo-Saxon has probably now been committed to the press, considerable attention having been attracted to the language for the last twenty or thirty years, both in this country and in Germany and the North of Europe; whatever remains to be done is likely to be well performed by the recently established Aelfric Society. The Anglo-Saxon language layalmost universally neglected and forgotten even in the country where it had formerly been the speech of the people, till the latter half of the sixteenth century, four hundred years after it had ceased to be spoken, when the study of it was taken up by some of the church reformers, who endeavoured thereby to make out that cer-feoria tain of their so-called novel opinions were held by the fetli, national church in the times before the Conquest. Never-JtaalV theless, and notwithstanding the labours of the learned^ Hickes and others in the next century, it was reserved* that for the scholars of the present day to institute the first 4e $ accurate examination of the language in its vocabulary, iiti,. its dialects, its grammar, its syntax, and its versification. > What we call the Anglo-Saxon, it may be observed, appears to have been commonly called by those who & « spoke it the English language, even from the age of W Bede, before whose time the various dialects spoken, if I when they first came over, by the Angles, the Saxons, V and the Jutes, had become completely fused together *k into what was substantially one tongue, although it *i was certainly not only spoken but written with dialectic ftdifferences in the various parts of the country.
It should seem not to be altogether correct to attribute ft the decline and extinction of the earliest literary civiliza- $ tion of the Anglo-Saxons wholly to the Danish invasions. I The Northmen did not make their appearance till towards i the close of the eighth century, nor did their ravages occasion any considerable public alarm till long after the commencement of the ninth; but for a whole century preceding this date, learning in England appears to have been falling into decay. Bede, who died in 735, exactly ninety-seven years before that landing of the Danes in the Isle of Sheppey, in the reign of Egbert, which was followed by incessant attacks of a similar kind, until the fierce marauders at last won for themselves a settlement in the country, is the last name eminent for scholarship that occurs in this portion of the English annals. The
historian William of Malmesbury, indeed, affirms that the I death of Bede was fatal to learning in England, and esi pecially to history; "insomuch that it may be said," he adds, writing in the early part of the twelfth century, "that almost all knowledge of past events was buried in the same grave with him, and hath.continued in that condition even to our times." "There was not so much as one Englishman," Malmesbury declares, "left behind Bede, who emulated the glory which he had acquired by his studies, imitated his example, or pursued the path to knowledge which he had pointed out. A few, indeed, of his successors were good men, and not unlearned, but they generally spent their lives in an inglorious silence; while the far greater number sunk into sloth and ignorance, until by degrees the love of learning was quite extinguished in this island for a long time."
The devastations of the Danes completed what had probably been begun by the confusion of the internal dissensions that attended the breaking up of the original system of the heptarchy, and perhaps also by the natural decay of the national spirit among a race long habituated to a stirring and adventurous life, and now left in undisturbed ease and quiet before the spirit of a new and superior activity had been sufficiently diffused among them. Nearly all the monasteries and the schools connected with them throughout the kingdom were either actually laid in ashes by the northern invaders, or were deserted in the general terror and distraction occasioned by their attacks. When Alfred was a young man, about the middle of the ninth century, he could find no masters to instruct him in any of the higher branches of learning; there were at that time, according to his biographer Asser, few or VW.. I. c