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we venture to predict it will not suffer another relapse. As the revival of classical learning in the fifteenth century has resulted in a masterly investigation of the history, the laws, the politics, and the social institutions of Greece and Rome, not to mention the accurate scholarship of the day which has produced these results, so, we believe, the time is not very far distant when there will arise many a fine Anglo-Saxonist to carry on the work begun by Turner, Thorpe, and Kemble, until at length every branch of the literature of Anglo-Saxon England will be understood as thoroughly as are those of ancient Greece and Rome.

CHAPTER I.

Advantages of the Study of Anglo-Saxon.

NOTWITHSTANDING all that has been ac

complished during the past fifty years, especially in England and Germany, to facilitate and popularise the study of Anglo-Saxon, it is, nevertheless, a fact that, even at the present day, the subject has not the same fascination to the majority of students, (and we refer especially to University men,) as the study of the Classics, or even as the study of modern European languages; while by the masses of ordinarily well-educated people it is but too often regarded as a mere virtuoso affair, worthy only to amuse the idler hours of the antiquary.

We do not contend that a thorough knowledge of Anglo-Saxon literature is indispensable if one would attain to eminence in Letters, at the Bar, in the Senate, or in the Church ; but we do hold that the advantages of the study to those who speak the English tongue can hardly be overrated.

The Anglo-Saxon literature, considering the state of civilisation to which Europe had attained at the time when it appeared, will bear comparison with any literature of the same age, and with a great deal that has appeared in later times. We must not compare it with the classic literature of Greece and Rome, which was produced after these nations had reached maturity and were in the very zenith of their intellectual greatness.

This literature corresponds more exactly with the writings of that brilliant period in England, the dawn of which illumined the later years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and the full splendour of which is felt even at the present day. The Anglo-Saxon literature, though far from being so highly polished or showing so high a degree of intellectual culture as this, yet has charms of its own of a very marked character.

It is undeniable that it possesses intrinsic merit of a high order, and is therefore capable of affording pleasure to those who can look beneath the antique style, and seize upon the poetic and other treasures which lie embedded in the obsolete language and verse-systems of a by-gone age.

One fact concerning the writings of the AngloSaxon period does not seem to be generally appreciated, namely, that judging from the extant relics,

which have already been discovered, they must originally have extended over a very wide field. They show the class of poetry that gave pleasure to the warrior in the Mead-hall, to the family in the ton, and to the religious in the monastery; they bring to light the quaint catechetical system of education generally adopted in the monastic schools, and disclose the extent of the scientific attainments of the literati of that day; and they comprise historic documents of high value, though but too frequently coloured by clerical bias or monastic prejudice. There are charters which explain many a point and unravel many a difficulty in constitutional history; there are codes of laws, civil and ecclesiastical, that, in many instances, show the basis of our modern canon and common law; there are Anglo-Saxon translations of the Gospels, the Psalter and other parts of the Holy Scriptures; there are renderings of the Decalogue, the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, the Ave Maria and of other parts of the Anglican service books; and finally, there are treatises on theology, and writings on philosophy, besides manuals of piety, and homilies of illustrious prelates. These works, considered simply as relics of an important past, might well excite curiosity, apart from their value to the littérateur, the historian, the divine, the lawyer and the general student, for the simple

reason, before expressed, that they are works of intrinsic merit.

Among the poetry of the Mead-hall, the Saxons possessed, at least, one remarkable epic poem, a Christianised - pagan epic, or narrative of singlehanded warfare, where “love is never introduced as a motive of action or intrigue as an instrument"; a graphic picture of early Anglian warrior life, commemorating noble deeds. We refer to the Beowulf. This grand relic of the heroic age in England, possesses especial claims upon the attention of the English-speaking nations, not only as being the first vernacular outburst of English song which has come down to us, but as opening up many a curious point, and shedding a new lustre on many modern peculiarities of language, character and customs, which otherwise might seem inexplicable. This monument, moreover, of the language and poetry of our ancestors is one of which any nation might well be proud. It is the oldest epic poem of which mediæval Europe can boast. It antedates the Niebelungen-Lied, the oldest epic of Germany, by several hundred years; and there is nothing in the early literature, whether of Scandinavia or of Germany, which can for a moment compare with this English poem, whether it be in power of imagination, in skill of construction, or in weirdness of detail.

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