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English language. The Normans belonged to the same stock as the English themselves. They were Northmen, Danish and Norwegian rovers, who had, in the beginning of the tenth century, obtained possession of a part of the north-west of France, which came to be called after them Nor(th)mannia or Normandy. Instead of exterminating the previous inhabitants, the Northmen amalgamated with them, adopting their religion and language, and in the course of a century and a half had become virtually Frenchmen. These NormanFrench were now the ruling class in England; the native population were reduced to the condition of hewers of wood and drawers of water, and their language shared in their degradation. Norman-French was the language of the ruling class and of the law-courts. The only writers of books in those days were the clergy, who used the Latin tongue. English was thus left to the uneducated peasantry, and being no longer held fixed by writing, rapidly diverged into numerous provincial dialects. For a century and a half after the Conquest, nothing, we may say, was added to English literature.
At length the Norman yoke began to press less heavily on the necks of the English, and several books appeared in the native tongue. The chief are the legendary poem of the monk Layamon, and a religious poem called the Ormulum, from the name of the author, Ormin or Orm. The groundwork of Layamon's poem was the History of the Britons, written in Latin about 1150, by Geoffrey of Monmouth. It is chiefly a tissue of wild fables, and contains the stories of King Arthur, and other legends of the Britons, which have been copiously used in subsequent English literature. It was translated into NormanFrench, with embellishments, by Wace (1155), under the title of Le Brut d'Angleterre. (The first king of the Britons is made to be a Trojan prince of the name of Brutus.) The Brut of Layamon (about 1205) is a still farther expansion of these legends. The Ormulum (about 1215) is a series of homilies and lessons from the New Testament. The language of this period differs from the English of King Alfred's time, chiefly in peculiarities of dialect and in the loss of many of the inflections. For the earliest English was nearly as rich in distinct endings for case, gender, person, and the like, as Latin or Greek. The infiltration of Norman-French words into the vocabulary, which went to a great length afterwards, had not yet begun to any extent.
At length the two hostile nations that had been living together on the same soil began to coalesce. The descendants of the Norman conquerors, through long residence, began to imbibe English feelings, a process that was helped by the political hostility to France. But complete union could not be, so long as the two peoples were divided in speech. The native tongue had refused to be exterminated by oppression or neglect, and now it was again asserting itself in literature and life. About 1350, Latin began to be taught in the schools through the medium of English instead of French ; and in 1362, parliament enacted that all pleadings in the law-courts should henceforth be conducted in English. The Normans had to adopt the language of the majority. In doing this, however, they still further broke down the inflections of English, and introduced a large infusion of French words, The result might be called a mixed language so far as the vocabulary was concerned ; but the whole was cast in the mould of the native grammar, and thus the language of the united nation remained essentially English.
One of the earliest and most striking books written in this mixed vocabulary is Sir John Mandeville's account of his Eastern travels (1356). Somewhat later, Wicliffe began his translation of the Bible into English. William Langley (or Langland) wrote and re-wrote (1362–77–90) a religious and didactic poem called the Vision of William concerning Piers the Plowman, full of earnestness and rough vigour, and reflecting the opinions and feelings of the middle classes of society at that period. But the writer who did most to make the composite language a graceful and efficient vehicle of expression was the poet Chaucer. In his Canterbury Tales (about 1387), he has given us pictures of every phase of English life, which for vividness, pathos, and power are unsurpassed. Contemporary with Chaucer were a number of rhyming chroniclers and romancers, and other writers in verse of considerable merit-Robert of Gloucester, Richard Rolle, Gower, and Barbour.
Tales of English life, w. Contemporary
THE REVIVAL OF LEARNING AND THE REFORMATION
(1400–1558). The century and a half that followed the age of Chaucer contributed but little to English literature. The poetry of King James I. of Scotland and the constitutional writings of Sir John Fortescue are the only notable works of our fifteenth century. William Dunbar, whose best activity was displayed about the beginning of the sixteenth century, was avowedly an admiring follower of Chaucer. But agencies were fast coming into operation which prepared the soil for a new and more vigorous outburst. Of primary importance was the introduction of the printing-press by William Caxton in 1476. Another agency was what has been called the “Revival of Learning,' the “Renaissance’or · New Birth.' On the taking of Constantinople by the Turks (1453), numbers of Greek scholars sought refuge in Italy, where they taught the Greek language, then unknown in Western Europe, and awakened a passion for Greek literature and philosophy. Some English scholars, having studied Greek at Florence, returned to Oxford, which thus became a centre of the New Learning,' as it was then called. The aspirations and hopes of human perfection thus engendered are embodied in Sir Thomas More's Utopia, or Land of Nowhere, in which he pictures his ideal of a commonwealth. It was written in Latin in 1516. The chief effect produced upon the English language by the Revival of Learning was the introduction of a greatmany words directly borrowed from the Latin and Greek languages, in addition to the large store of Latin words that had already come in through the Norman-French.
Contemporaneously with these intellectual movements, the arena of man's activity was virtually doubled by the discovery of America (1492), and of the way to India by the Cape of Good Hope (1497), and by the circumnavi-, gation of the globe; events that could not fail to stimulate men's curiosity and widen their views.
The mental stir thus produced early took a religious direction, resulting in what is known as the Reformation, The most remarkable religious writings of this period are the sermons of Bishop Latimer, who died at the stake in 1555; and John Fox's Book of Martyrs (1563), which soon became familiar to every reader in the country,
ELIZABETHAN PERIOD (1558–1648). Literature properly so called began its fresh career with the opening of the Elizabethan age. The language had now attained the form in which, with comparatively slight changes, it remains to this day. The course of love poetry may be traced from Sir Thomas Wyatt and the Earl of Surrey, through and beyond the sonnets and other poems of the greatest poets of this period. In 1579, Spenser (1552 or 1553-99) at once took the poetic lead with his Shepherd's Calendar; and in the last decade of the cen
tury immortalised his name by the Faery Queen, a great poem in which a set of allegorical personages are made to shadow forth historical characters and events of the time. Spenser is the most luxuriant and melodious of all descriptive poets; but he has never been extensively popular, except with his tuneful brethren. He has been called 'the poets' poet.'
To this period belong the rise and the culmination of the drama. In early times dramatic representation helped to instruct the common people in the facts of religious history. Miracle Plays, Mysteries, Moralities, and Interludes grew step by step into the regular drama. The first English comedy, Ralph Roister Doister, was written before 1553; and the first English tragedy was acted in 1562. Then followed a great succession of dramatists. Prominent among the first names are Peele, Greene, and Marlowe. The marvellous advance made by Marlowe (1564-93), who introduced blank verse into the drama, may be regarded as almost a new creation. The unequalled genius of Shakspeare (1564–1616) raised the
com as amoso e creation drama to the highest perfection it has ever reached, pruning the extravagances of earlier writers, and delineating every condition of human life with the masterly ease and accuracy of consummate art. His greatest later contemporary, Ben Jonson (1573–1637), succeeded to dramatic supremacy; a supremacy, however, not undisputed by Beaumont and Fletcher, Massinger, Ford, Webster, Chapman, and others. The Elizabethan drama continued its green and vigorous decline till past the middle of the seventeenth century.
In Elizabethan prose, good service was done by Roger Ascham (1515–68). John Lyly or Lilly (1553 1-1606) produced the famous Euphữēs (1579-80), whose peculiar style, hence called 'Euphuism,' had immense influence on his contemporaries, and became for a time a fashionable
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