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to them except as alms, or on condition of tribute, or by taking the oath of homage. Here a free Saxon proprietor is made a body-slave on his own estate. Here a noble and rich Saxon lady feels on her shoulder the weight of the hand of a Norman valet, who is become by force her husband or her lover. There were Saxons of one sou, or of two sous, according to the sum which they brought to their masters; they sold them, hired them, worked them on joint account, like an ox or an ass. One Norman abbot has his Saxon predecessors dug up, and their bones thrown without the gates. Another keeps men-at-arms, who reduce the recalcitrant monks to reason by blows of their swords. Imagine, if you can, the pride of these new lords, conquerors, strangers, masters, nourished by habits of violent activity, and by the savagery, ignorance, and passions of feudal life. They thought they might do whatsoever they pleased,' say the old chroniclers. “They shed blood indiscriminately, snatched the morsel of bread from the mouth of the wretched, and seized upon all the money, the goods, the land. Thus
all the folk in the low country were at great pains to seem humble before Ives Taillebois, and only to address him with one knee on the ground; but although they made a point of paying him every honour, and giving him all and more than all which they owed him in the way of rent and service, he harassed, tormented, tortured, imprisoned them, set his dogs upon their cattle, ... broke the legs and backbones of their beasts of burden, ... and sent men to attack their servants on the road with sticks and swords.' The Normans would not and could not borrow any idea or custom from such boors ;: they despised them as coarse and stupid. They stood amongst them, as the Spaniards amongst the Americans in the sixteenth century, superior in force and culture, more versed in letters, more expert in the arts of luxury. They preserved their manners and their speech. England, to all outward appearance—the court of the king, the castles of the nobles, the palaces of the bishops, the houses of the wealthy-was French; and the Scandinavian people, of whom sixty years ago the Saxon kings used to have poems sung to them, thought that the nation had forgotten its language, and treated it in their laws as though it were no longer their sister.
It was then a French literature which was at this time domiciled across the Channel,* and the conquerors tried to make it purely French, purged from all Saxon alloy. They made such a point of this, that the nobles in the reign of Henry II, sent their sons to France, to preserve them from barbarisms. “For two hundred years,' says Higden,
1 A. Thierry, Histoire de la Conquête de l'Angleterre, ii. 2 William of Malmesbury, A. Thierry, ii. 20, 122-203.
3 • In the year 652,' says Warton, i. 3, it was the common practice of the Anglo-Saxons to send their youth to the monasteries of France for education ; and not only the language but the manners of the French were esteemed the most polite accomplishments.'
4 Warton, i. 5.
children in scole, agenst the usage and manir of all other nations beeth compelled for to leve hire own langage, and for to construe hir lessons and hire thynges in Frensche.' The statutes of the universities obliged the students to converse either in French or Latin. "Gentilmen children beeth taught to speke Frensche from the tyme that they bith rokked in hire cradell; and uplondissche men will likne himself to gentylmen, and fondeth with greet besynesse for to speke Frensche.' Of course the poetry is French. The Norman brought his minstrel with him; there was Taillefer, the jongleur, who sang the Song of Roland at the battle of Hastings; there was Adeline, the jongleuse, who received an estate in the partition which followed the Conquest. The Norman who ridiculed the Saxon kings, who dug up the Saxon saints, and cast them without the walls of the church, loved none but French ideas and verses. It was into French verse that Robert Wace rendered the legendary history of the England which was conquered, and the actual history of the Normandy in which he continued to live. · Enter one of the abbeys where the minstrels come to sing, where the clerks after dinner and supper read poems, the chronicles of kingdoms, the wonders of the world, you will only find Latin or French verses, Latin or French prose. What becomes of English? Obscure, despised, we hear it no more, except in the mouths of degraded franklins, outlaws of the forest, swineherds, peasants, the lowest orders. It is no longer, or scarcely written ; gradually we find in the Saxon chronicle that the idiom alters, is extinguished; the chronicle itself ceases within a century after the Conquest. The people who have leisure or security enough to read or write are French; for them authors devise and compose; literature always adapts itself to the taste of those who can appreciate and pay for it. Even the English* endeavour to write in French: thus Robert Grostête, in his allegorical poem on Christ; Peter Langtoft, in his Chronicle of England, and in his Life of Thomas à Becket; Hugh de Rotheland, in his poem of Hippomedon ; John Hoveden, and many others. Several write the first half of the verse in English, and the second in French; a strange sign of the ascendency which is moulding and oppressing them. Still, in the fifteenth century,' many of these poor folk are employed in this task; French is the language of the court, from it arose all poetry and elegance; he is
i Trevisa's translation of the Polycronycon.
Statutes of foundation of New College, Oxford. In the abbey of Glastonbury, in 1247 : Liber de excidio Troja, gesta Ricardi regis, gesta Alexandri Magni, etc. In the abbey of Peterborough : Amys et Amelion, Sir Tristam, Guy de Bourgogne, gesta Otuclis, les prophéties de Merlin, le Charlemagne de Turpin, la destruction de Troie, etc. Warton, ibidem. 3 In 1154.
4 Warton, i. 72-78. 5 In 1400. Warton, ii. 248. Gower died in 1408; his French ballads belong to the end of the fourteenth century,
but a clodhopper who is inapt at that style. They apply themselves to it as our old writers did to Latin verses; they are gallicised as those were latinised, by constraint, with a sort of fear, knowing well that they are but scholars and provincials. Gower, one of their best poets, at the end of his French works, excuses himself humbly for not having
de Français la faconde. Pardonnez moi,' he says, 'que de ce je forsvoie ; je suis Anglais.'
And yet, after all, neither the race nor the tongue has perished. It is necessary that the Norman should learn English, in order to command his serfs; his Saxon wife speaks it to him, and his sons receive it from the lips of their nurse; the contagion is strong, for. he is obliged to send them to France, to preserve them from the jargon which on his domain threatens to overwhelm and spoil them. From generation to generation the contagion spreads; they breathe it in the air, with the foresters in the chase, the farmers in the field, the sailors on the ships: for these rough people, shut in by their animal existence, are not the kind to learn a foreign language; by the simple weight of their dulness they impose their idiom, at all events such as pertains to living terms. Scholarly speech, the language of law, abstract and philosophical expressions,-in short, all words depending on reflection and culture may be French, since there is nothing to prevent it. This is just what happens; these kind of ideas and this kind of speech are not understood by the commonalty, who, not being able to touch them, cannot change them. This produces a French, a colonial French, doubtless perverted, pronounced with closed mouth, with a contortion of the organs of speech, after the school of Stratford-atte-Bow;' yet it is still French. On the other hand, as regards the speech employed about common actions and sensible objects, it is the people, the Saxons, who fix it; these living words are too firmly rooted in his experience to allow of his removing them, and thus the whole substance of the language comes from him. Here, then, we have the Norman who, slowly and constrainedly, speaks and understands English, a deformed, gallicised English, yet English, vigorous and original; but he has taken his time about it, for it has required two centuries. It was only under Henry III. that the new tongue is complete, with the new constitution, and that, after the like fashion, by alliance and intermixture; the burgesses come to take their seats in Parliament with the nobles, at the same time that Saxon words settle down in the language side by side with French words.
V. So was modern English formed, by compromise, and the necessity of being understood. But one can well imagine that these nobles, even while speaking the growing dialect, have their hearts full of French tastes and ideas; France remains the land of their genius, and the literature which now begins, is but translation. Translators, copyists, imitators—there is nothing else. England is a distant province, which is to France what the United States were, thirty years ago, to Europe: she exports her wool, and imports her ideas. Open the Voyage and Travaile of Sir John Maundeville, the oldest prose-writer, the Villehardouin of the country: his book is but the translation of a translation. He writes first in Latin, the language of scholars; then in French, the language of society; finally he reflects, and discovers that the barons, his compatriots, by governing the rustic Saxons, have ceased to speak their own Norman, and that the rest of the nation never knew it; he translates his book into English, and, in addition, takes care to make it plain, feeling that he speaks to less expanded understandings. He says in French :
'Il advint une fois que Mahomet allait dans une chapelle où il y avait un saint ermite. Il entra en la chapelle où il y avait une petite huisserie et basse, et était bien petite la chapelle; et alors devint la porte si grande qu'il semblait que ce fut la porte d'un palais.'
He stops, recollects himself, wishes to explain himself better for his readers across the Channel, and says in English:
"And at the Desertes of Arabye, he wente in to a Chapelle where a Eremyte duelte. And whan he entred in to the Chapelle that was but a lytille and a low thing, and had but a lytill Dore and a low, than the Entree began to wexe so gret and so large, and so highe, as though it had ben of a gret Mynstre, or the Zate of & Paleys.' 3 You perceive that he amplifies, and thinks himself bound to clinch and drive in three or four times in succession the same idea, in order to get it into an English brain ; his thought is drawn out, dulled, spoiled in the process. So that, being all a copy, the new literature is mediocre, and repeats that which went before, with fewer merits and greater faults.
Let us see, then, what our Norman baron gets translated for him : first, the chronicles of Geoffroy Gaimar and Robert Wace, which con
1 He wrote in 1356, and died in 1372.
3. And for als moche as it is longe time passed that ther was no generalle Passage ne Vyage over the See, and many Men desiren for to here speke of the holy Lond, and han thereof gret Solace and Comfort, I, John Maundevylle, Knyght, alle be it I be not worthi, that was born in Englond, in the town of Seynt-Albones, passed the See in the Zeer of our Lord Jesu-Crist 1322, in the Day of Seynt Michelle, and hidreto have been longe tyme over the See, and have seyn and gon thorghe manye dyverse londes, and many Provynces, and Kingdomes, and Iles.
And zee shulle undirstonde that I have put this Boke out of Latyn into Frensche, and translated it azen out of Frensche into Englyssche, that every Man of my Nacioun may undirstonde it.'-Sir John Maundeville's Voyage and Travaile, ed. Halliwell, 1866, prologue, p. 4.
3 Ibid. xii. p. 139. It is confessed that the original on which Wace depended for his ancient History of England is the Latin compilation of Geoffrey of Monmouth,
sist of the fabulous history of England continued up to their day, a dull-rhymed rhapsody, turned into English in a rhapsody no less dull. The first Englishman who attempts it is Layamon,' a monk of Ernely, still fettered in the old idiom, who sometimes happens to rhyme, sometimes fails, altogether barbarous and childish, unable to develop a continuous idea, babbling in little confused and incomplete phrases, after the fashion of the ancient Saxon; after him a monk, Robert of Gloucester, and a canon, Robert of Brunne, both as insipid and clear as their French models, having become gallicised, and adopted the significant characteristic of the race, namely, the faculty and habit of easy narration, and seeing moving spectacles without deep emotion, of writing prosaic poetry, of discoursing and developing, of believing that phrases ending in the same sounds form real poetry. Our honest English versifiers, like their preceptors in Normandy and Ile-de-France, garnished with rhymes their dissertations and histories, and called them poems. At this epoch, in fact, on the Continent, the whole learning of the schools descends into the street; and Jean de Meung, in his poem
1 Extract from the account of the proceedings at Arthur's coronation given by Layamon, in his translation of Wace, executed about 1180. Madden's Layamon, 1847, ü. p. 625, et passim :
Tha the king igeten hafde