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or justice. The figures are often, especially in later writings, reduced to their principal parts, or even to lines, the latter being the first step toward the formation of an alphabet. For instance, a combat is represented by two arms, one bearing a shield, the other a pike; Upper and Lower Egypt are denoted by single stems topped with a blossom or a plume, representing respectively the lotus and the papyrus. The colouring of the hieroglyphics is not in imitation of nature, as is the case with the earlier picture-writing, but follows a conventional system seldom departed from. The upper part of a canopy in blue stood for the heavens ; a thick waving line of the same, or a greenish hue, represented the sea. The sun is red with a yellow rim. Men's flesh is red; women's, yellow. Parts of the body are painted deep red; wooden instruments are pale orange or buff; bronze utensils, green. The effect of a hieroglyphic writing as it strikes the eye is very brilliant, the primary colours-red, yellow, and blue-being the prevailing hues.
A hieroglyphic painting taken from the wall of an excavated temple in Nubia is before us. It represents the introduction of ambassadors to the great Sesostris, whose figure, seated on a throne, fills all the left side of the record. He bears as sceptre a red wand with yellow top; his white robe is embroidered with blue and gold; a square blue cap, rimmed with gold and adorned with a symbolic bird, covers his head ; his arms, his face, and lower legs are bare, and painted of a deep red. Two coloured ovals above his head express by figures and signs the names of the king. Four or five upright columns of hieroglyphic symbols tell the story of the ambassadors; and, crossing two of these from the right, there comes a red arm to announce the introduction to the royal presence. To attempt a description of the symbols here would be absurd. No fewer than twenty-three figures of birds with spread or folded wings are there. The sign for water is frequently repeated. Figures of men kneel and sit and stand. There are fish, and arms and legs and eyes, crowns and flowers, a crocodile and a horse,—all in red, or blue, or yellow, or green. No other colour appears in the painting, except the grey used to shade the great figure of the king.
ORIGIN OF OUR ALPHABET.
Then by slow, yet very sure degrees, the hieroglyphic system altered until certain signs became phonetic; that is, expressive of sounds, not things. The Phænicians, who had much to do with early Egypt, in adopting the art of writing probably abandoned the pictorial part of the hieroglyphic system, and retaining only the phonetics, formed out of these the first pure alphabet ; and so from Phænicia through Greece and Rome we, in all likelihood, got the ground-work of those twenty-six letters of which our thirty-eight thousand words are made.
Much of this opening chapter deals with countries far from Britain, and an age anterior, in the Old World at least, to the birth of British literature. But it is not a rash conjecture, that, among the ancestors of those blue-limbed Celts who dashed so bravely into the surf near Sandwich on that old September day, to meet the brass-mailed legions of Cæsar, there were some untutored attempts at picture-writing on such materials as the country could supply. For savage man must, in every age and clime, travel on to civilization by much the same pathway. And, in any case, it is well, when beginning to record the great victories of the British pen, to trace a few of those faltering steps which were taken, as the world grew from morning into prime, towards the production of that grand triumph of human thought and skill we call a modern book.
AMONG every people the earliest form of literature is the Ballad. The History and the Poetry of a nation are, in their infant forms, identical. When the old Greeks taught, in their mythology, that Memory was the mother of the Muses, they embodied in a striking personification the fact that the rude language, in which men emerging froin savagery used to chant the story of their deeds to their children, was couched in rough metre, in order that the ring of the lines might help the memory to retain the tale.
Oldest of all British literature, or, indeed, of all literature in modern Europe, of which any specimens remain, are some scraps of Irish verse, found in the Annalists and ascribed to the fifth century. The Psalter of Cashel, the oldest existing manuscript of the Irish literature, is a collection of metrical legends, sung by the bards, which was compiled towards the end of the ninth century, by a man who seems to have held the offices of Bishop of Cashel and King of Munster. More important, however, as giving in careful prose a calm account of early Irish history, are the Annals of Tigernach and of the Four Masters of Ulster.
The very scanty remains of the Scottish Gaelic are of much later date than the earliest Irish ballads. The poems of OssianFingal and Temora—which were published in 1762 and 1763 by James Macpherson, as translations from Gaelic manuscripts as old as the fourth century, are now generally looked on as literary forgeries, executed by their clever but not very scrupulous editor. The ancient manuscripts, from which he professed to have translated these graphic pictures of old Celtic life, have never been produced. A narrative in verse, called the Albanic Duan, is thought to have been composed in the eleventh century.
LATIN AUTHORS AMONG THE CELTS,
In Wales, which was the stronghold of Druidism, the profession of the bard was held in high honour. The poems of Taliesin, Merlin, and other bards of the sixth century, still remain. The Welsh Triads, some of which are ascribed to writers of the thirteenth century, are sets of historical events and moral proverbs, arranged in groups of three. Both in these and in the ballads of the bards, one of the leading herves is the great Prince Arthur, whose prowess against the Saxons was so noted in those dim days.
Besides those who wrote and sang in their native Celtic tongue, there were also among the ancient British people a few Latin authors. Three may be named. First on the long and brilliant roll of British historians stands Gildas, born at Alcluyd (Dumbarton) about the beginning of the sixth century. He is known to us as the author of a History of the Britons, and an Epistle to his countrymen, both in Latin, and both containing fiery assaults upon the Saxon invaders. Nennius, thought to have been a monk of Bangor, is said also to have written a History of the Britons. The Latin poems of St. Columbanus, an Irish missionary to the Gauls, are spoken of by Moore as “shining out in this twilight period of Latin literature with no ordinary distinction.”
The Gleeman or Minstrel of the Anglo-Saxons was a most important person.
When the evening shadows fell, and the “meadbench was filled, his scene of triumph came. His touch on the “wood of joy” had power alike to rouse the fiery passions of the warriors or soothe their ruffled moods. He related the deeds of dead heroes, or sung the praise of their living descendants; stung the coward with his sweet-voiced scorn, or exulted in his proudest tones over the beaten foe. From earliest days his training was directed to the storing of his memory with the poetic legends of his country; and when, grown more skilful, he learned to string into rude verses the story of his own day, it went, without his name to mark it, into the common stock of his craft. Hence the Anglo-Saxon poetry is anonymous.
The structure of the verse in which these gleemen sang is thus described by Wright:-"The poetry of the Anglo-Saxons was neither modulated according to foot-measure, like that of the Greeks and Romans, nor written with rhymes, like that of many modern languages. Its chief and universal characteristic was a very regular alliteration, so arranged that in every couplet there should be two principal words in the first line beginning with the same letter, which letter must also be the initial of the first word, on which the stress of the voice falls in the second line. The only approach to a metrical system yet discovered is, that two risings and two fallings of the voice seem necessary to each perfect line. Two distinct measures are met with, a shorter and a longer, both commonly mixed together in the same poem; the former being used for the ordinary narrative, and the latter adopted when the