Early Britain eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 175 pages of information about Early Britain.
and all the chief men of London, came out to meet William, and “bowed to him for need.”  The Chronicler can only say that it was very foolish they had not done so before.  A people so helpless, so utterly anarchic, so incapable of united action, deserved to undergo a severe training from the hard taskmasters of Romance civilisation.  The nation remained, but it remained as a conquered race, to be drilled in the stern school of the conquerors.  For awhile, it is true, William governed England like an English king; but the constant rebellion and faithlessness of his new subjects drove him soon to severer measures; and the great insurrection of 1068, with its results, put the whole country at his feet in a very different sense from the battle of Senlac.  For a hundred and fifty years, the English people remained a mere race of chapmen and serfs; and the English language died down meanwhile into a servile dialect.  When the native stock emerges again into the full light of history, by the absorption of the Norman conquerors in the reign of John, it reappears with all the super-added culture and organisation of the Romance nationalities.  The Conquest was an inevitable step in the work of severing England from the barbarous North, and binding it once more in bonds of union with the civilised South.  It was the necessary undoing of the Danish conquest; more still, it was an inevitable step in the process whereby England itself was to begin its unified existence by the final breaking down of the barriers which divided Wessex from Mercia, and Mercia from Northumbria.

CHAPTER XVIII.

THE ANGLO-SAXON LANGUAGE.

A description of Anglo-Saxon Britain, however brief, would not be complete without some account of the English language in its earliest and purest form.  But it would be impossible within reasonable limits to give anything more than a short general statement of the relation which the old English tongue bears to the kindred Teutonic dialects, and of the main differences which mark it off from our modern simplified and modified speech.  All that can be attempted here is such a broad outline as may enable the general reader to grasp the true connexion between modern English and so-called Anglo-Saxon, on the one hand, as well as between Anglo-Saxon itself and the parent Teutonic language on the other.  Any full investigation of grammatical or etymological details would be beyond the scope of this little volume.

The tongue spoken by the English and Saxons at the period of their invasion of Britain was an almost unmixed Low Dutch dialect.  Originally derived, of course, from the primitive Aryan language, it had already undergone those changes which are summed up in what is known as Grimm’s Law.  The principal consonants in the old Aryan tongue had been regularly and slightly altered in certain directions; and these alterations have been carried still further in the

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Early Britain from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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