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THE HISTORY

OF

ENGLISH POETRY.

THE HISTORY

OF

ENGLISH POETRY.

SECTION 1.

THE Saxon language spoken in England, is distinguished by three several epochs, and may therefore be divided into three dialects. The first of these is that which the Saxons used, from their entrance into this island till the irruption of the Danes, for the space of three hundred and thirty years *. This has been called the British Saxon: and no monument of it remains, except a small metrical fragment of the genuine Cædmon, inserted in Alfred's version of the Venerable Bede's Ecclesiastical Historyb. The second is the Danish Saxon, which

a The Saxons came into England Reinwald, an able and intelligent philoA.D. 450.

loger, has very clearly shown, that its • Lib. iv. cap. 24. Some have impro- language is not Francic, but a Low perly referred to this dialect the Har- German dialect. Mr. Reinwald conMONY OF THE FOUR Gospels, in the Cotton ceives the author to have been a native library; the style of which approaches of the district afterwards called Westin purity and antiquity to that of the Co- phalia (Münster, Paderborn, Berg), DEX ARGENTEUS. It is Frankish. See and that he lived in the early part of the Brit. Mus. MSS. Cotton. CALIG. A 7. ninth century. membran. octavo. This book is supposed [The Bamberg Codex is now preserved to have belonged to king Canute. Eight in the Royal Library at Munich, and richly illuminated historical pictures are à transcript from it, collated with the bound up with it, evidently taken from Cotton MS., has for several years occuanother manuscript, but probably of the pied the leisure of Mr. Scherer, with a age of king Stephen.

view to publication. Independently of [The recent discovery of another copy the value of this production as a rich of this “Harmony," at Bamberg, has repository of philological lore, from the gained for it the attention of several extreme antiquity and purity of its lanGerman antiquaries; and of these, Mr. guage; it possesses a strong and pecu

VOL. I.

B

prevailed from the Danish to the Norman invasion; and of which many considerable specimens, both in versed and prose, are still preserved; particularly two literal versions of the four gospels, and the spurious Cædmon's beautiful poetical paraphrase of the Book of Genesis, and the Prophet Daniel. The third may be properly styled the Norman Saxon ; which began about the time of the Norman accession, and continued beyond the reign of Henry the Seconds.

The last of these three dialects, with which these Annals of English Poetry commence, formed a language extremely barbarous, irregular, and intractable; and consequently promises no very striking specimens in any species of composition. Its substance was the Danish Saxon, adulterated with French. The Saxon indeed, a language subsisting on uniform principles, and polished by poets and theologists, however corrupted by the Danes, had much perspicuity, strength, and harmony: but the French imported by the Conqueror and his people, was a confused jargon of Teutonic, Gaulish, and vitiated Latin. liar interest for the student in English [The poem of Beowulf has since been archæology, from the light it throws published by the Chevalier Thorkelin, upon the laws and structure of Anglo- under the title of “ De Danorum rebus Saxon metre.- The arbitrary classifica- gestis, secul. iii. et iv. Poema Danicum tion of the Anglo-Saxon language ante- dialecto Anglo-Saxonica: edidit versione rior to the Conquest, given in the text, Lat. et indicibus auxit Grim Johnson bas been adopted from Hickes, an exami- Thorkelin Eques Ord. Danebrogici aunation of whose opinions on the subject ratus &c. Havniæ 1815." An analysis will be found in the Preface to this edi. of its contents will be found in the last tion.-Edit.]

volume of Mr. Turner's “History of the C A.D. 1066.

Anglo-Saxons," with occasional extracts See Hickes. Thes. Ling. Vett. Sept. from the work itself; and an English P. i. cap. xxi. pag. 177. and Præfat. translation of the specimens. The fragfol. xiv. The curious reader is also re ment of Brithnoth has been published ferred to a Danish Saxon poem, cele- by Hearne, but without a translation.brating the wars which Beowulf, a noble Edır.) Dane descended from the royal stem of e MSS. Bibl. Bodi. Oxon. Cod. memScyldinge, waged against the kings of bran. in Pyxid. 4to grand. quadrat. and Swedeland. MSS. Cotton. ut supr. MSS. Cotton. ut supr. Orio. Nor. D 4. VITELL A 15. Cod. membran. ix. Both these manuscripts were written and fol. 130. Compare, written in the style of ornamented in the Saxon times, and are Cædmon, a fragment of an ode in praise of the highest curiosity and antiquity. of the exploits of Brithnoth, Offa's eal f Prinied by Junius, Amst.' 1655. dorman, or general, in a battle fought The greatest part of the Bodleian msagainst the Danes. Ibid. Oth. A 12. nuscript of this book is believed to base Cod. membran. 4to. iii. Brithnoth the heen written about A. D. 1000.-Cod. hero of this piece, a Northumbrian, died Jun. xi. membran. fol. in the year 991.

He died 1189.

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