« PoprzedniaDalej »
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. General Aim of the Study
II. Studies in Vocabulary and Syntax
PARALLEL TEXTS: LATER WYCLIFFITE, PAUES FRAG
MENT, AND VULGATE
TABLE OF ABBREVIATIONS
LATIN-ENGLISH GLOSSARIAL INDEX
I. GENERAL AIM OF THE STUDY
The field of Middle English language and literature is at last receiving the attention that it deserves for its importance in English literary history. Long a tangled wilderness, dreaded and shunned by scholars, who realized the difficulties and labor involved in clearing so vast a tract, and how little could be accomplished by any one person, it is now invaded by scores of busy workers. The first tract to be cultivated was naturally that which promised the readiest and richest returns, the works of Chaucer. Many eminent scholars have put their best efforts upon this great poet, so that to-day more people perhaps than ever before wander with delight through his pages,
As it were a meede,
Al ful of fresshe floures, whyte and reede.
From Chaucer, interest gradually broadened to include writers of lesser magnitude, of whose works critical editions have been published. Investigations into the language and literary history of the period are going rapidly forward.
No worker in the Middle English field could, of course, entirely neglect the two Wycliffite versions of the Bible, and some have given them rather careful study. It has usually, however, been for the purpose of ascertaining the authorship, or of determining the exact relations of the Wycliffite to later versions. There have been a few German dissertations on the 'Sprache und Syntax' of various
portions or forms, discussed in purely technical fashion. But thus far there has been little effort to evaluate the language of the Wycliffite versions as a living medium for the expression of thought, and to establish it in its place in the development of the English language. In order to accomplish this result, a very careful study must be made, both of the semantics and the syntax, in their relation to current usage, so far as that may be discovered. There are many difficulties in the way, if one would discover the power of a language at any given period, among them the difficulty of knowing just what thought the writer intended to express, and what facilities the language offered him. These difficulties are, however, partially overcome when the passage under consideration is a translation, and still further if it is a translation of a standard text. For such an investigation of the language, the Wycliffite versions are ideal. They are the translation of a text which had been sacred and standard for centuries; a text, portions of which had been translated again and again, from early Old English times, and which is still, in new translations, the intimate possession of every modern nation.
It is my purpose, then, to make a small beginning in the study of the Wycliffite versions, with a view to discovering the resources and capacities of the English language in the last quarter of the 14th century. I have chosen the Epistle to the Romans as the basis of my investigation, on the ground that its philosophy and logic make larger demands upon the translator than does simple narrative like the greater part of the Gospels, without entangling him in the abstruse and highly imaginative writing of such a book as the Apocalypse. Of the two versions, the one which, since the edition of Forshall and Madden, is admittedly the earlier, is far more crude and slavishly literal in translation than the later, so-called