The origin and history of the English language — страница 5

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manner did the Germans, a hundred and fifty years after, receive it in their tongue from the hands of Luther; who says, that at twenty years of age, he himself had not seen it in any language. Wickliffe's English style is elegant for the age in which he lived, yet very different from what is elegant now. This first English translation of the Bible, being made about a hundred years before the introduction of printing into England, could not have been very extensively circulated. A large specimen of it may be seen in Dr. Johnson's History of the English Language. Wickliffe died in 1384. The art of printing was invented about 1440, and first introduced into England, in 1468; but the first printed edition of the Bible in English, was executed in Germany. It was completed, October

5th, 1535. "Martin Luther, about the year 1517, first introduced metrical psalmody into the service of the church, which not only kept alive the enthusiasm of the reformers, but formed a rallying point for his followers. This practice spread in all directions; and it was not long ere six thousand persons were heard singing together at St. Paul's Cross in London. Luther was a poet and musician; but the same talent existed not in his followers. Thirty years afterwards, Sternhold versified fifty-one of the Psalms; and in 1562, with the help of Hopkins, he completed the Psalter. These poetical effusions were chiefly sung to German melodies, which the good taste of Luther supplied: but the Puritans, in a subsequent age, nearly destroyed these germs of melody, assigning as a

reason, that music should be so simplified as to suit all persons, and that all may join."-_Dr. Gardiner's Music of Nature_, p. 283. "The schools and colleges of England in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries were not governed by a system of education which would render their students very eminent either as scholars or as gentlemen: and the monasteries, which were used as seminaries, even until the reformation, taught only the corrupt Latin used by the ecclesiastics. The time however was approaching, when the united efforts of Stanbridge, Linacre, Sir John Cheke, Dean Colet, Erasmus, William Lily, Roger Ascham, &c., were successful in reviving the Latin tongue in all its purity; and even in exciting a taste for Greek in a nation the clergy of which opposed its

introduction with the same vehemence which characterized their enmity to a reformation in religion. The very learned Erasmus, the first who undertook the teaching of the Greek language at Oxford, met with few friends to support him; notwithstanding Oxford was the seat of nearly all the learning in England."-Constable's Miscellany, Vol. xx, p. 146. "The priests preached against it, as a very recent invention of the arch-enemy; and confounding in their misguided zeal, the very foundation of their faith, with the object of their resentment, they represented the New Testament itself as 'an impious and dangerous book,' because it was written in that heretical language. Even after the accession of Henry VIII, when Erasmus, who had quitted Oxford in disgust, returned under his

especial patronage, with the support of several eminent scholars and powerful persons, his progress was still impeded, and the language opposed. The University was divided into parties, called Greeks and Trojans, the latter being the strongest, from being favoured by the monks; and the Greeks were driven from the streets, with hisses and other expressions of contempt. It was not therefore until Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey gave it their positive and powerful protection, that this persecuted language was allowed to be quietly studied, even in the institutions dedicated to learning."-Ib., p. 147. These curious extracts are adduced to show the spirit of the times, and the obstacles then to be surmounted in the cause of learning. This popular opposition to Greek, did not

spring from a patriotic design to prefer and encourage English literature; for the improvement of this was still later, and the great promoters of it were all of them classical scholars. They wrote in English, not because they preferred it, but because none but those who were bred in colleges, could read any thing else; and, even to this very day, the grammatical study of the English language is shamefully neglected in what are called the higher institutions of learning. In alleging this neglect, I speak comparatively. Every student, on entering upon the practical business of life, will find it of far more importance to him, to be skillful in the language of his own country than to be distinguished for any knowledge which the learned only can appreciate. "Will the greatest