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Newport St Helent
JULY 1, 1841.
ON THE POEMS, OF THE POOR OF LYONS.-No. IV.
The language of the Waldensian poetry will not be found to afford proofs adverse to the possible antiquity* above conceded to it.
It has been observed that the remains ascribed to the sect are composed in a dialect very little different from that now used in the valleys. And that argument has been thought to affect their credit. But it is one of which the value differs under variety of circumstances.
It is usual to meet with changes in the mode of speaking, after a length of time. But those changes are not wrought by time. Time is not an agent; but only a medium, in which finite beings have their existence and perceptions. Causes operate in time; but it is itself no cause. For, if it were, the summits of the everlasting hills would be as fugitive as the snow that hangs upon their sides in winter. Years alone, without the application of adequate commuting causes to mutable subjects, bring in no change.
The causes of innovation in language are chiefly two. 1. Intermixture of foreign nations by trade, colonization, or conquest. 2. The accumulation and increasing inequality of wealth, and consequent progress of civilization. These latter bring with them all the varying whims of fashion and refinement, the formation of different literary styles, and the technical vocabularies of art, science, and learning.
Countries that have witnessed a great influx of strangers, and have risen from humble beginnings to be populous and wealthy, will always be found to express themselves in neological forms. England has been the resort of very many nations, both in war and peace; and every cause of change in manners and discourse has operated to the utmost possible extent. The strong stream of events, not the lapse of ages, has converted the language of Alfred and the Confessor into one of the least known and studied of the dead languages.
So far as that antiquity rests on the age of the one forthcoming Leger Codex, which would be certain and positive ground, the judgment recently pronounced by the Rev. Dr. Todd (vol. xix p.512) sbakes it completely. It no longer has external evidence,
Vol. XX.-July, 1811.