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“it," educated Englishmen and Americans alike are as thoroughly “Cockney," from an etymological standpoint, as the veriest ignoramus born within hearing of Bow-church Bell?
It is the same in matters of pronunciation. Most of the peculiarities of modern English speech in this respect, which at first seem to court the criticism of those who are not of English birth, belong legitimately to the English nation as heirlooms of its Anglo-Saxon ancestry, and can be shown to be correct on strict philological lines.
At times too, a modern word, traced back to the Anglo-Saxon, will throw a perfectly electric light upon a point of language or of history or of national character. We call a sullen, dogged, obstinate boor a “churl.” Whence this epithet? In Saxon times, the thanes, the ceorls, and the théows formed the three classes of society, corresponding to the nobility, the yeomanry, and the domestic slaves of a later age. The ceorl or yeoman was the ancestor of that sturdy race of freemen which has grown into the powerful “middle class" of our own day; the lineal ancestors of the men who, from the time of King John to the present hour, have fought the great battle for civil liberty, till to-day they form the bone and sinew of England and, in spite of the clamour of the demagogue, are more truly the "ruling classes"
than the mightiest peers of the realm. Such was the Saxon ceorl or churl. How, then, has this word of true nobility become degraded from its high meaning? The history of the Norman period in England supplies the true answer. The haughty barons, holding their lands, however small, by military tenure, looked down upon and despised, as beneath contempt, these sturdy Saxon tillers of the soil, and treated them as low-born. The ceorl, in turn, hated with bitter hatred the insolent foreigner whose iron arm was crushing him to the earth. Helpless, yet high-spirited, he repaid hauteur with blunt words and sullen looks, till the Norman, in deep disdain, exclaimed “Churl,"-and the word has lived.
Seclusiveness of character and love of privacy are often laid to the charge of those of Anglo-Saxon descent; and in England, where these characteristics are very distinctly marked, they are invariably attributed by foreigners to national vanity or personal affectation. The most elementary knowledge of Anglo-Saxon social life would show that the English come rightfully by this characteristic, and that it is no mark of mere pride or affectation, but was a characteristic of the whole of the Teutonic race, which did not escape the keen notice of Tacitus. Speaking of the Germans, before the Saxon invasion of England, this writer says: “They dwell in villages,
not according to our custom, formed of houses one adjoining the other, but each man surrounds his own home with an open space.” And this seclusiveness of character the Saxons carried with them to Britain. Anyone who has travelled in England must have noticed that it is pre-eminently the land of hedges and enclosures
“Little lines of sportive wood run wild ”
whereas, on the Continent, almost the first thing that one notices is the absence of the hedge-rows of England. If, now, we examine English local names, (one of the surest tests by which to arrive at the national characteristics of a by-gone age,) we shall find that for more than a thousand years England has been distinctively the land of hedges or enclosures. The termination ton, which so frequently occurs on both sides of the Atlantic, proves how eager every Anglo-Saxon was to possess some spot which he could call his own, and guard from the intrusion of his neighbour. The primary meaning of this suffix ton * is an enclosure, or that which is bounded by a hedge; and originally signified the single homestead or farm which the owner or occupant desired to mark out as his húm or home or sacred spot. This restricted meaning of the word ton or town was
* Anglo-Saxon týnan to enclose, hedge in, etc.
current even in the time of Wycliffe for he translates the passage in the Gospel according to St. Matthew c. xxii., v. 5: “But thei dispisiden, and wenten oon to his toun, another to his marchaundise”; where the modern Anglican translation has, “ They made light of it, and went one to his farm, and another to his merchandise.” Even at the present day, there are single farm houses in England the names of which end in ton, still pointing to this Anglo-Saxon seclusiveness. In many cases, however, the isolated ton became the nucleus of a village, and the village grew into a town; and last stage of all, the word ton or town has come to signify, not the one small farm, enclosed from the forest by the Saxon settler, but the dwelling-place of a vast population greater than that of which the whole of Saxon England could boast. Still, though Botolph's ton has grown into Bo'ston, yet the love of seclusion and impatience of intrusiveness characteristic of the first settlers have descended as an heirloom to each inhabitant of the modern Boston, and, carried across the Atlantic, by the first Puritan settlers in this country, are to this day the characteristics of its American namesake.
In the study of the origin of national social customs, a knowledge of Anglo-Saxon literature often discloses points of especial interest. It is well known
that Anglo-Saxon notions of hospitality, though well intentioned, were inimical to sobriety. It was considered the duty of the host to offer mead or wine to every guest of distinction who might be journeying past his home. The kings and nobles, on their journeys of state or pleasure, stopped to drink at every house on their sparsely settled route; and as, at such times, they were exposed to the danger of assassination by secret foes, a system was introduced, the rememberance of which, has permeated the whole of our literature, and the vestiges of which remain in many of the pleasant amenities of the English social life of to-day.
Spenser, in the Faerie Queene, speaking of the mariner, says:
Soone as the port from far he has espide,
Similarly, Ben Jonson sings in his often quoted lines :
Drink to me only with thine eyes
Here the word "pledge,” to a modern reader, would convey but a very small amount of meaning; but to the Anglo-Saxon student this word is full of signifi