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THE ELEMENTS OF ENGLISH
1. Britons and Englishmen. The people who lived in our island fifteen hundred years ago were not Englishmen, nor did they speak the English language. When, in our flights of rhetoric or poetry, we declare that we glory in the name of Britons, or sing that Britons never shall be slaves, our intentions are patriotic, but our language is apt to be misleading. Britons we may indeed call ourselves, if in doing so we mean nothing more than this, that we are inhabitants of Britain. But when we speak of ourselves as Britons, or as a British race, let us bear in mind such facts as these that we are in the main of English origin; that our English forefathers conquered the Britons, deprived them of their lands, and made many of them slaves; that the English settled in the country belonging to the Britons, and that their descendants have remained here ever since. Firmly grasping these truths, we may, if we like, apply the name of Britons to our fellow-countrymen, just as we apply the name of Great Britain to our country. No danger of misconception lurks in the use of the word
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'Britain' as the geographical name of our island, for our island remains the same: it is the population which has changed.
2. The Roman Conquest. As the result of his invasions in B.C. 55 and the following year, Julius Caesar exacted from the British tribes the payment of an annual tribute to Rome. His advance into the country reached only as far as St Albans, and nearly a century passed before the Romans returned. In the year A.D. 43, the Roman legions were sent to Britain again, and in the course of the next forty years the country was reduced to subjection as far as the Tyne. Half a century later, the limit of Roman conquest was pushed further north to the Clyde. The Romans held the country as we hold India to-day. They did not intermarry with the Britons as they intermarried with the natives of Gaul or of Spain. Their occupation of Britain was a military occupation, and the Britons preserved their own language, though it was not until A.D. 410 that the Romans, after a tenure of nearly four hundred years, finally left the island.
3. The Britons were a Keltic race, and in some parts of our islands a Keltic language is still spoken. Welsh is a Keltic dialect; so is Manx; so is the native Irish, or Erse; so is the dialect of the Highlands of Scotland'. If we wish to have a notion of the sort of language which an ancient Briton spoke, we must remember that it was like the Welsh of to-day and therefore very different from English. The people of South Britain called themselves Cymry, as the Welsh call themselves now. Cambria and Cumbria preserve for us this name 'Cymry' in a Latin form.
4. The English Conquest. In the year A.D. 449, a generation after the departure of the Romans, Hengist
1 Lowland Scotch is an English dialect.
the Jute settled in Kent, and in the course of a century the conquest of the country was for a second time fairly complete. The account of the successive invasions,-first of Jutes, then of Saxons, and then of Angles, all closely allied tribes,—must be looked for in a history of the English people, not in a book on the English speech. But to these two questions an answer ought to be given here :
(1) Who were these settlers?
(2) Where did they come from?
(1) They were Teutonic tribes. The people, whom we call Germans, call themselves Deutsch. The word is familiar to us in the form Dutch. The Romans, getting as near as they could to the name by which these German tribes called themselves, made the word Teutoni and gave it a Latin declension. From this we derive the convenient term Teutonic. If we pronounce the stems of Teut-oni and of Deut-scher with their proper vowel sounds, the resemblance is close. We disguise this resemblance by giving to the vowel of the word Teutonic the sound of the eu in feud. We use the word Teutonic to signify 'belonging to the German race,' but if we said that English, or Dutch, or Flemish, was a 'German' language, the term might be misleading, as we commonly employ the word German in a narrower sense, to signify the language spoken to-day in Berlin and taught at school to English boys and girls who are said to be 'learning German.' This German which is spoken at the present day in Germany is itself one of the Teutonic dialects.
Thus the Jutes and Saxons and Angles were very different people from the Britons. The Jutes, Saxons, and Angles,—or to call them by a collective name, the English, --were Teutonic tribes. Their speech was akin to Dutch, and it was the parent of our own. The Britons were a Keltic race, and their language was as different from the
language of their Saxon conquerors as the Welsh language of to-day is different from our modern English.
(2) To find the district from which these tribes came, we must turn to the map of North Germany and Denmark.
The Angles are believed to have come from the duchy of Schleswig.
Crossing its northern border we pass into Jutland, which is part of Denmark. The south of Jut-land was probably the home of the Jutes.
If we move southwards again into Holstein, we find on the west coast two rivers forming respectively its northern and southern boundaries, the Eider and the Elbe. From this neighbourhood it is supposed that the Saxons came.
Neglecting these details, we may remember that the English people came from Schleswig-Holstein, or that the English people came from the country to the north of the mouth of the Elbe; that they came between the years A.D. 450 and 550; and that having come they stayed.
As the district from which these invaders came is a low-lying, flat part of the continent, we call them Low Germans, to distinguish them from their Teutonic kinsmen living in the interior of the country, where the ground is higher. What we call to-day the 'German' language is High German. Dutch, Flemish, spoken in parts of Belgium, and Frisian, still spoken in the districts from which our ancestors came, are Low German dialects. Thus the terms High and Low, as applied to German, have a geographical origin. No stigma of inferiority is attached to us when we are described as a 'Low German' race.
5. What became of the Keltic race, the Britons?
They were driven into the west and the north of the island,-into Devon and Cornwall, into Wales, into West