Obrazy na stronie

de was destined to be won at last. The spirit of justice was gaining I. But freedom's battle had begun, and though

bafiled often, it ground. Christianity, working like a living stream through impurest elements

, brought its cleansing influence to bear on society, slowly, but surely. In hours of grief and sickness,

ont anticipated shadows of death, revealing other "worlds of light, which the sun of earthly prosperity obscures

, men repented of their

property in man. This feeling often found expression during the 14th century, in deeds of manumission, couched in terms like the following: Seeing that in the beginning God made

all men by nature free, and that afterwards tilie law of nations placed certain of them under the yoke of servitude, we think it would be pious and meritorious in the sight of God to liberate such persons, to us subject in villanage, and to free them entirely from such services. Know then that we have freed and liberated from all yoke of servitude


our knaves of the manor of Tofa them, and all their children, born and to be born.

The current use, perpetuated to our own timnes, of these words, -knave” and “

“ villain," indicates clearly enough in what estimastion these poor labourers were held, though many of them were the offspring of wealthy nobles, and all of them descended from a race of conquering freemen, the bravest of the Teutonic stock -the richest outburst from the store-house of nations. The o work of emancipation, however, went steadily

forward, hastened sby the better appreciation of free labour. It was soon found better to have farmers, paying steady rents, than to have the ground occupied by slaves, doing, like all other slaves, as little

pork as possible, since they laboured without hope or reward, languisling under a degrading and demoralizing yoke." When interest chimes in with

freedom, they will soon ring the knell of tyranny and inonopoly,. Il brail -119 About this time Parliament divided into two houses.ro

dower, the feudal tenants of Norman race, and the petty pro- prietors were associated with the Saxon citizens- the represen

tatives of commerce. This tended greatly to do away with the distinctions of race, and to generate in the Commons a national s feeling, which was strengthened in the Normans by the fondness

of the king for the society of foreigners, whom he enriched and ennobled, to the great mortification of the older settlers. The b rapid extension of commercial affairs in the 15th century naturally increased the parliamentary importance of the burgesses, bwho were far more au fait in financial matters than the sporting knights of the shire in the

same House. The revolution thus wrought by the general progress of manufactures and commerce speedily led to another equally memorable, the triumph of the For the

goods and girliaa boe 1977 tot aistii

English language over the Norman French, which was banished from the House of Commons.

At the end of the 14th century French was still the official language of England—the language of all the higher classes.

It was spoken by the king, the bishops, the jndges, by all the aristocracy and gentils hommes. It was the language taught their children as soon as they could speak, while the Saxon tongue occupied the degraded position of the Gaelic of Ireland in more modern times. But this court language was bad French, vitiated by the peculiar dialect of Normandy, and tinctured with an English accent. These degenerating tendencies became stronger as they ceased to be counteracted by intercourse with the polite society of France, broken off by the wars, and the disannexing of Normandy from the English crown. At the same time the vigorous growth of a native literature favoured the English, which was permitted, not ordered, to be used in pleadings before the civil courts, by a statute of Edward III. But the lawyers continued to interlard their speech with French phrases for a long time after. From the year 1400, or thereabouts, the public acts were drawn up alternately and indifferently in French and English. The first bill of the Lower House of Parliament that was written in the English language bears the date of 1425. From the year 1450 no more French pieces are to be found in the printed collections of the public documents of England. Thus, four centuries after the conquest of England by the Normans, their language disappeared, together with the inequality of civil condition, which separated the families that had sprung from the two races, or rather two tribes of the same blood. The reign of Henry VII. may be considered as the period when the distribution of ranks ceased to correspond in a general manner with that of races, and as the commencement of the state of society now existing in England. It was COMMERCE that conquered the Conquest, and gave to English nationality the noblest of modern languages. It is true this victory has been slowly acquired, remaining for centuries incomplete, until its last decisive blows have been given in the Reform Bill of 1832, and the abolition of the Corn Laws in 1846.

“ When the Normans entered England,” says Mr. Wright,

although but a century and a half had elapsed since their settlement in France, they had entirely lost the language they had brought with them from the north, and had long adopted that of the people whom they had conquered, one of the dialects derived from the ancient Latin, called, from their origin, lingua Romana, or langue Romane, which has in the sequel been moulded down into the modern French. As early even as the

second of the Norman dukes, William I., only a few years after the death of Rollo, we are told by Dudo de St. Quentin, that the dluke was obliged to send his son to Bayeux to learn the Danish tongue, as the langue Romane was almost the only tongue spoken at Rouen, then the chief seat of the power of the Northmen in France." It is probable that with their language, they had lost most of their national traditions and poetry ; for the literature of Normandy, when it first becomes known to us, which is not earlier than the year 1100, is in this respect purely French. It first appears in poems of a religious and serious character, and, in pious legends.composed by the Trouvères, who were numerous in the 12th century.

Previous to the Conquest, the Latin language was sinking into neglect in England, knowledge of every kind being then spread abroad only in the Anglo-Saxon tongue, whose use, as a written language, was almost abolished by that calamitous event. " It was only preserved in the continuation for a time of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and in some productions, mostly of a religious or moral character, for which we are probably indebted to the few Anglo-Saxon monks who were permitted to retain their places in our monasteries.” The literature which prevailed in England for a century after the Conquest, was almost entirely Latin. This literature was chiefly devoted to theology. “The epigrams of Godfrey of Winchester stand alone amid a mass of writings which, with the exception of some valuable letters, and a few historical tracts, have little interest at the present day.” “ It may be observed that poetry in general was peculiarly the literature of the schools and of the secular clergy, and much of that of the 12th and 13th centuries is distinguished by its hostility to monachism."

Lanfranc had revived, or rather created the study of the ancient classics in Normandy, in whose schools it was afterwards cultivated with great success.

Some of the most distinguished ornaments of those schools were brought over to this island by the Conqueror, and from that time the Anglo-Latin writers took a respectable position in the literature of Europe. This, however, was essentially owing to the importation of learned men; for during the first half of the Anglo-Norman period, the distinguished writers in our island were, with very few exceptions, foreigners, who were brought over by the Norman monarchs to be dignitaries of the English Church.

• The Latin of the earlier writers is characterized by considerable vigour of style, arising from clearness and simplicity of diction, which subsequently gave way to an affectation of florid ornament, which made the style of the later writers very confused, and often unintel

higible. We meet with good Latin poetry throughout the 12th century; the writings of Laurence of Durham, Henry of Huntingdon, John of Salisbury, John de Hautville, Nigellus Wirreker, Alexander Neckam and others, contain passages of great beauty, and almost classic elegance; whilst a new style of Latin versification, in which rhymes took the place of the ancient metres, beginning with Hilarius, and brought to perfection in the satirical poems attributed to Walter Mapes, possesses a certain energy and sprightliness which are not without considerable attraction. This class of poetry became extremely popular, and continued to exist in its original vigour, long after the style of the most serious Latin writers became hopelessly debased. Indeed the period at which it appears to have fourished most, is the middle of the 13th century, under the troubled reign of Henry III. Very little Latin prose that is tolerable, was written after the middle of the 13th century. Norman and English bad then, to a certain extent, driven the Latin out of the field, or at least bad thrown it into the hands of a school of heavy theologians. A new era of Anglo-Norman literature opens with the reign of Richard I. The lion-hearted king prided himself on his poetic talents; and be was the patron of jongleurs and trouvères, whose works, as far as we are now acquainted with them, became more numerous at this period. These writers were not properly minstrels; they did not recite their own works, but committed them to writing, which is the cause of their being preserved in early manuscripts. They were monks; and some of them appear to have embraced the monastic life after having been professed poets, and to have made atonement for the profane productions of their earlier years, by dedicating their talents to saered subjects." WRIGHT's Biographia, Introduction, passim. tilida

19 fEven so late as the early part of the 14th centnry, an im

mense distance continued to exist between the Normans and the English people. A Poitevin who was prime minister in the time of Henry III., being asked to observe the great charter and the laws of the land, answered—“I am no Englishman that I should know these charters and these laws.". Robert Grosse-tête, bishop of Lincoln, principal chaplain to the army of the barons, then reckoned only two languages in England, Latin for men of I letters, and French for the uneducated, in which language ihe

himself, -in his old age, wrote pious books for the use of the laity, making no account of the English language or of those who spoke it. This neglect of the mass of the people, of the villains in town and country, pervades all the literature of the Anglo-Norman period. Concerning them and their social condition, preachers and poets seem to have been alike silent. The poets, even those of English birth, composed all their versés in French, whenever they wished to derive from them either profit or honour. There was indeed a class of ballad-makers and

writers of extravagant romances, who employed either pure Saxon-which was now revived or a dialect mixed up of Saxon and French, which served for the habitual communication between the higher and lower classes. This was the origin of our present language, which arose out of the necessities of society. In order to be understood by the people, the Normans Saxonized their speech as well as they could; and, on the other hand, in order to be understood by the upper classes, the people Normanized theirs. This intermediate idiom first became current in the cities, where the population of the two races had become more intermingled, and where the inequality of conditions was Jess marked than in the rural districts. There it insensibly took the place of the Anglo-Saxon tongue, which was left to the rudest and poorest of the people, while the more cultivated, and those who pretended to gentility, studied by refining and Gallicizing their speech, to imitate the nobles, and draw ncarer to then in the relations of society. About the middle of the 14th century, a great many poetical and imaginative works appeared in this new language; sometimes the two tongues, out of which it grew, were used in every alternate couplet, or in every second Jine. At length, owing to the powerful social causes to which we have already adverted, the French language was entirely laid aside, not only in the courts of justice, but also in the high court of Parliament, as well as by all the writers who addressed themselves to the middle classes and the town populations. We still, indeed, retain a venerable relic of the old Norman, in the custom, equally absurd and harmless, of giving the royal assent in that, language :--the formula is--Le Roy le veult--le Roy

s'adrisera;- not even, we believe, modernizing the orthography. m': On the domestic manners and morals of the Anglo-Normans, the work before us does not throw as much light as we could wish, though highly valuable to the students of literary history and philology, on account of the great learning and research which it displays, and for which the fact, that it is published under the auspices of the Royal Society of Literature, is a sufficient guarantee. Had it, however, been made to convey livelier pictures of society, and had the Norman French and Mediaeval Latin been translated, the Jabours of the accomplished author would have been much more acceptable to the general reader. But the volume of Letters illustrating the Anglo-Norman period, promised, in the same series, by Dr. Giles, is likely to supply this deficiency. i' In such a state of society, it was to be expected that the manners of those ages would be very corrupt. Something must be allowed for the exaggerations and poetical license of satirists.

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