English Dialects From the Eighth Century to the Present Day
by Walter W. Skeat
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From the Eighth Century to the Present Day

by the

REV. WALTER W. SKEAT, Litt.D., D.C.L., LL.D., Ph.D., F.B.A. Elrington and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon and Fel- low of Christ's College. Founder and formerly Director of the English Dialect Society

"English in the native garb;" K. Henry V. V. 1. 80

Cambridge at the University Press 1912

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With the exception of the coat of arms at the foot, the design on the title page is a reproduction of one used by the earliest known Cambridge printer, John Siberch, 1521

First Edition 1911. Reprinted 1912.

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The following brief sketch is an attempt to present, in a popular form, the history of our English dialects, from the eighth century to the present day. The evidence, which is necessarily somewhat imperfect, goes to show that the older dialects appear to have been few in number, each being tolerably uniform over a wide area; and that the rather numerous dialects of the present day were gradually developed by the breaking up of the older groups into subdialects. This is especially true of the old Northumbrian dialect, in which the speech of Aberdeen was hardly distinguishable from that of Yorkshire, down to the end of the fourteenth century; soon after which date, the use of it for literary purposes survived in Scotland only. The chief literary dialect, in the earliest period, was Northumbrian or "Anglian," down to the middle of the ninth century. After that time our literature was mostly in the Southern or Wessex dialect, commonly called "Anglo-Saxon," the dominion of which lasted down to the early years of the thirteenth century, when the East Midland dialect surely but gradually rose to pre-eminence, and has now become the speech of the empire. Towards this result the two great universities contributed not a little. I proceed to discuss the foreign elements found in our dialects, the chief being Scandinavian and French. The influence of the former has long been acknowledged; a due recognition of the importance of the latter has yet to come. In conclusion, I give some selected specimens of the use of the modern dialects.

I beg leave to thank my friend Mr P. Giles, M.A., Hon. LL.D. of Aberdeen, and University Reader in Comparative Philology, for a few hints and for kindly advice.

W. W. S.


3 March 1911



I. DIALECTS AND THEIR VALUE. The meaning of dialect. Phonetic decay and dialectic regeneration. The words twenty, madam, alms. Keats; use of awfully. Tennyson and Ben Jonson; use of flittermouse. Shakespeare; use of bolter and child. Sir W. Scott; use of eme. The English yon. Hrinde in Beowulf.

II. DIALECTS IN EARLY TIMES. The four old dialects. Meaning of "Anglo-Saxon." Documents in the Wessex dialect.

III. THE DIALECTS OF NORTHUMBRIA; TILL A.D. 1300. The Anglian period. Beda's History and "Death-song." The poet C{ae}dmon. C{ae}dmon's hymn. The Leyden Riddle. The Ruth well Cross. Liber Vit{ae}. The Durham Ritual. The Lindisfarne and Rushworth MSS. Meaning of a "gloss." Specimen.

IV. THE DIALECTS OF NORTHUMBRIA; A.D. 1300-1400. The Metrical Psalter; with an extract. Cursor Mundi. Homilies in Verse. Prick of Conscience. Minot's Poems. Barbour's Bruce; with an extract. Great extent of the Old Northern dialect; from Aberdeen to the Humber. Lowland Scotch identical with the Yorkshire dialect of Hampole. Lowland Scotch called "Inglis" by Barbour, Henry the Minstrel, Dunbar, and Lyndesay; first called "Scottis" by G. Douglas. Dr Murray's account of the Dialect of the Southern Counties of Scotland.

V. NORTHUMBRIAN IN THE FIFTEENTH CENTURY. Northumbrian of Scotland and of England in different circumstances. Literature of the fifteenth century; poems, romances, plays, and ballads. List of Romances. Caxton. Rise of the Midland dialect. "Scottish" and "English." Jamieson's Dictionary. "Middle Scots." Quotation from Dunbar.

VI. THE SOUTHERN DIALECT. Alfred the Great. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. Old English Homilies. The Brut. St Juliana. The Ancren Riwle. The Proverbs of Alfred. The Owl and the Nightingale. A Moral Ode. Robert of Gloucester. Early history of Britain. The South-English Legendary. The Harleian MS. 2253. The Vernon MS. John Trevisa. The Testament of Love.

VII. THE SOUTHERN DIALECT OF KENT. Quotation from Beda. Extract from an Old Kentish Charter. Kentish Glosses. Kentish Sermons. William of Shoreham; with an extract. The Ayenbite of Inwyt. The Apostles' Creed in Old Kentish. The use of e for A.S. y in Kentish. Use of Kentish by Gower and Chaucer. Kentish forms in modern English.

VIII. THE MERCIAN DIALECT. East Midland. Old Mercian Glossaries of the eighth century. The Lorica Prayer. The Vespasian Psalter. The Rushworth MS. Old Mercian and Wessex compared. Laud MS. of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The Ormulum. The English Proclamation of Henry III. (see the facsimile). Robert Mannyng of Brunne (Bourn). West Midland. The Prose Psalter. William of Palerne. The Pearl and Alliterative Poems. Sir Gawayne and the Grene Knight.

IX. FOREIGN ELEMENTS IN THE DIALECTS. Words from Norman, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, etc. Celtic. List of Celtic words. Examples of Latin words. Greek words. Hebrew words. List of Scandinavian words. French words. Anglo-French words; gauntree. Literary French words, as used in dialects.

X. LATER HISTORY OF THE DIALECTS. Spenser. John Fitzherbert. Thomas Tusser. Skinner's Etymologicon (Lincolnshire words). John Ray. Dialect glossaries. Dr Ellis on Early English Pronunciation. The English Dialect Society. The English Dialect Dictionary. The English Dialect Grammar.

XI. THE MODERN DIALECTS. Prof. Wright's account of the modern English Dialects.

XII. A FEW SPECIMENS. Some writers in dialect. Specimens: Scottish (Aberdeen, Ayrshire, Edinburgh). Northern England (Westmorland). Midland (Lincoln, S.E. Lancashire, Sheffield, Cheshire). Eastern (N. Essex, Norfolk). Western (S.W. Shropshire). Southern (Wiltshire, Isle of Wight, Sussex).



FACSIMILE. The only English Proclamation of Henry III. Oct. 18, 1258

*** For a transcription of the Facsimile see pp. 75-6.

{Transcriber's Note: The Facsimile is not included in this e-text.}



According to the New English Dictionary, the oldest sense, in English, of the word dialect was simply "a manner of speaking" or "phraseology," in accordance with its derivation from the Greek dialectos, a discourse or way of speaking; from the verb dialegesthai, to discourse or converse.

The modern meaning is somewhat more precise. In relation to a language such as English, it is used in a special sense to signify "a local variety of speech differing from the standard or literary language." When we talk of "speakers of dialect," we imply that they employ a provincial method of speech to which the man who has been educated to use the language of books is unaccustomed. Such a man finds that the dialect-speaker frequently uses words or modes of expression which he does not understand or which are at any rate strange to him; and he is sure to notice that such words as seem to be familiar to him are, for the most part, strangely pronounced. Such differences are especially noticeable in the use of vowels and diphthongs, and in the mode of intonation.

The speaker of the "standard" language is frequently tempted to consider himself as the dialect-speaker's superior, unless he has already acquired some elementary knowledge of the value of the science of language or has sufficient common sense to be desirous of learning to understand that which for the moment lies beyond him. I remember once hearing the remark made—"What is the good of dialects? Why not sweep them all away, and have done with them?" But the very form of the question betrays ignorance of the facts; for it is no more possible to do away with them than it is possible to suppress the waves of the sea. English, like every other literary language, has always had its dialects and will long continue to possess them in secluded districts, though they are at the present time losing much of that archaic character which gives them their chief value. The spread of education may profoundly modify them, but the spoken language of the people will ever continue to devise new variations and to initiate developments of its own. Even the "standard" language is continually losing old words and admitting new ones, as was noted long ago by Horace; and our so-called "standard" pronunciation is ever imperceptibly but surely changing, and never continues in one stay.

In the very valuable Lectures on the Science of Language by Professor F. Max Mueller, the second Lecture, which deserves careful study, is chiefly occupied by some account of the processes which he names respectively "phonetic decay" and "dialectic regeneration"; processes to which all languages have always been and ever will be subject.

By "phonetic decay" is meant that insidious and gradual alteration in the sounds of spoken words which, though it cannot be prevented, at last so corrupts a word that it becomes almost or wholly unmeaning. Such a word as twenty does not suggest its origin. Many might perhaps guess, from their observation of such numbers as thirty, forty, etc., that the suffix -ty may have something to do with ten, of the original of which it is in fact an extremely reduced form; but it is less obvious that twen- is a shortened form of twain. And perhaps none but scholars of Teutonic languages are aware that twain was once of the masculine gender only, while two was so restricted that it could only be applied to things that were feminine or neuter. As a somewhat hackneyed example of phonetic decay, we may take the case of the Latin mea domina, i.e. my mistress, which became in French ma dame, and in English madam; and the last of these has been further shortened to mam, and even to 'm, as in the phrase "Yes, 'm." This shows how nine letters may be reduced to one. Similarly, our monosyllable alms is all that is left of the Greek ele{-e}mosyn{-e}. Ten letters have here been reduced to four.

This irresistible tendency to indistinctness and loss is not, however, wholly bad; for it has at the same time largely contributed, especially in English, to such a simplification of grammatical inflexions as certainly has the practical convenience of giving us less to learn. But in addition to this decay in the forms of words, we have also to reckon with a depreciation or weakening of the ideas they express. Many words become so hackneyed as to be no longer impressive. As late as in 1820, Keats could say, in stanza 6 of his poem of Isabella, that "His heart beat awfully against his side"; but at the present day the word awfully is suggestive of schoolboys' slang. It is here that we may well have the benefit of the principle of "dialectic regeneration." We shall often do well to borrow from our dialects many terms that are still fresh and racy, and instinct with a full significance. Tennyson was well aware of this, and not only wrote several poems wholly in the Lincolnshire dialect, but introduced dialect words elsewhere. Thus in The Voyage of Maeldune, he has the striking line: "Our voices were thinner and fainter than any flittermouse-shriek." In at least sixteen dialects a flittermouse means "a bat."

I have mentioned Tennyson in this connexion because he was a careful student of English, not only in its dialectal but also in its older forms. But, as a matter of fact, nearly all our chief writers have recognised the value of dialectal words. Tennyson was not the first to use the above word. Near the end of the Second Act of his Sad Shepherd, Ben Jonson speaks of:

Green-bellied snakes, blue fire-drakes in the sky, And giddy flitter-mice with leather wings.

Similarly, there are plenty of "provincialisms" in Shakespeare. In an interesting book entitled Shakespeare, his Birthplace and its Neighbourhood, by J.R. Wise, there is a chapter on "The Provincialisms of Shakespeare," from which I beg leave to give a short extract by way of specimen.

"There is the expressive compound 'blood-boltered' in Macbeth (Act IV, Sc. 1), which the critics have all thought meant simply blood-stained. Miss Baker, in her Glossary of Northamptonshire Words, first pointed out that 'bolter' was peculiarly a Warwickshire word, signifying to clot, collect, or cake, as snow does in a horse's hoof, thus giving the phrase a far greater intensity of meaning. And Steevens, too, first noticed that in the expression in The Winter's Tale (Act III, Sc. 3), 'Is it a boy or a child?'—where, by the way, every actor tries to make a point, and the audience invariably laughs—the word 'child' is used, as is sometimes the case in the midland districts, as synonymous with girl; which is plainly its meaning in this passage, although the speaker has used it just before in its more common sense of either a boy or a girl."

In fact, the English Dialect Dictionary cites the phrase "is it a lad or a child?" as being still current in Shropshire; and duly states that, in Warwickshire, "dirt collected on the hairs of a horse's leg and forming into hard masses is said to bolter." Trench further points out that many of our pure Anglo-Saxon words which lived on into the formation of our early English, subsequently dropped out of our usual vocabulary, and are now to be found only in the dialects. A good example is the word eme, an uncle (A.S. {-e}am), which is rather common in Middle English, but has seldom appeared in our literature since the tune of Drayton. Yet it is well known in our Northern dialects, and Sir Walter Scott puts the expression "Didna his eme die" in the mouth of Davie Deans (Heart of Midlothian, ch. XII). In fact, few things are more extraordinary in the history of our language than the singularly capricious manner in which good and useful words emerge into or disappear from use in "standard" talk, for no very obvious reason. Such a word as yonder is common enough still; but its corresponding adjective yon, as in the phrase "yon man," is usually relegated to our dialects. Though it is common in Shakespeare, it is comparatively rare in the Middle English period, from the twelfth to the fifteenth century. It only occurs once in Chaucer, where it is introduced as being a Northern word; and it absolutely disappears from record in the tenth, eleventh, and twelfth centuries. Bosworth's Anglo-Saxon Dictionary gives no example of its use, and it was long supposed that it would be impossible to trace it in our early records. Nevertheless, when Dr Sweet printed, for the first time, an edition of King Alfred's translation of Pope Gregory's Pastoral Care, an example appeared in which it was employed in the most natural manner, as if it were in everyday use. At p. 443 of that treatise is the sentence—"Aris and gong to geonre byrg," i.e. Arise and go to yon city. Here the A.S. geon (pronounced like the modern yon) is actually declined after the regular manner, being duly provided with the suffix -re, which was the special suffix reserved only for the genitive or dative feminine. It is here a dative after the preposition to.

There is, in fact, no limit to the good use to which a reverent study of our dialects may be put by a diligent student. They abound with pearls which are worthy of a better fate than to be trampled under foot. I will content myself with giving one last example that is really too curious to be passed over in silence.

It so happens that in the Anglo-Saxon epic poem of Beowulf, one of the most remarkable and precious of our early poems, there is a splendid and graphic description of a lonely mere, such as would have delighted the heart of Edgar Allan Poe, the author of Ulalume. In Professor Earle's prose translation of this passage, given in his Deeds of Beowulf, at p. 44, is a description of two mysterious monsters, of whom it is said that "they inhabit unvisited land, wolf-crags, windy bluffs, the dread fen-track, where the mountain waterfall amid precipitous gloom vanisheth beneath—flood under earth. Not far hence it is, reckoning by miles, that the Mere standeth, and over it hang rimy groves; a wood with clenched roots overshrouds the water." The word to be noted here is the word rimy, i.e. covered with rime or hoar-frost. The original Anglo-Saxon text has the form hrinde, the meaning of which was long doubtful. Grein, the great German scholar, writing in 1864, acknowledged that he did not know what was intended, and it was not till 1880 that light was first thrown upon the passage. In that year Dr Morris edited, for the first time, some Anglo-Saxon homilies (commonly known as the Blickling Homilies, because the MS. is in the library of Blickling Hall, Norfolk); and he called attention to a passage (at p. 209) where the homilist was obviously referring to the lonely mere of the old poem, in which its overhanging groves were described as being hrimige, which is nothing but the true old spelling of rimy. He naturally concluded that the word hrinde (in the MS. of Beowulf) was miswritten, and that the scribe had inadvertently put down hrinde instead of hrimge, which is a legitimate contraction of hrimige. Many scholars accepted this solution; but a further light was yet to come, viz. in 1904. In that year, Dr Joseph Wright printed the fifth volume of the English Dialect Dictionary, showing that in the dialects of Scotland, Northumberland, Durham, and Yorkshire, the word for "hoarfrost" is not rime, but rind, with a derived adjective rindy, which has the same sense as rimy. At the same time, he called attention yet once more to the passage in Beowulf. It is established, accordingly, that the suspected mistake in the MS. is no mistake at all; that the form hrinde is correct, being a contraction of hrindge or hrindige, plural of the adjective hrindig, which is preserved in our dialects, in the form rindy, to this very day. In direct contradiction of a common popular error that regards our dialectal forms as being, for the most part, "corrupt," it will be found by experience that they are remarkably conservative and antique.



The history of our dialects in the earliest periods of which we have any record is necessarily somewhat obscure, owing to the scarcity of the documents that have come down to us. The earliest of these have been carefully collected and printed in one volume by Dr Sweet, entitled The Oldest English Texts, edited for the Early English Text Society in 1885. Here we already find the existence of no less than four dialects, which have been called by the names of Northumbrian, Mercian, Wessex (or Anglo-Saxon), and Kentish. These correspond, respectively, though not quite exactly, to what we may roughly call Northern, Midland, Southern, and Kentish. Whether the limits of these dialects were always the same from the earliest times, we cannot tell; probably not, when the unsettled state of the country is considered, in the days when repeated invasions of the Danes and Norsemen necessitated constant efforts to repel them. It is therefore sufficient to define the areas covered by these dialects in quite a rough way. We may regard the Northumbrian or Northern as the dialect or group of dialects spoken to the north of the river Humber, as the name implies; the Wessex or Southern, as the dialect or group of dialects spoken to the south of the river Thames; the Kentish as being peculiar to Kent; and the Mercian as in use in the Midland districts, chiefly to the south of the Humber and to the north of the Thames. The modern limits are somewhat different, but the above division of the three chief dialects (excluding Kentish) into Northern, Midland, and Southern is sufficient for taking a broad general view of the language in the days before the Norman Conquest.

The investigation of the differences of dialect in our early documents only dates from 1885, owing to the previous impossibility of obtaining access to these oldest texts. Before that date, it so happened that nearly all the manuscripts that had been printed or examined were in one and the same dialect, viz. the Southern (or Wessex). The language employed in these was (somewhat unhappily) named "Anglo-Saxon"; and the very natural mistake was made of supposing that this "Anglo-Saxon" was the sole language (or dialect) which served for all the "Angles" and "Saxons" to be found in the "land of the Angles" or England. This is the reason why it is desirable to give the more general name of "Old English" to the oldest forms of our language, because this term can be employed collectively, so as to include Northumbrian, Mercian, "Anglo-Saxon" and Kentish under one designation. The name "Anglo-Saxon" was certainly rather inappropriate, as the speakers of it were mostly Saxons and not Angles at all; which leads up to the paradox that they did not speak "English"; for that, in the extreme literal sense, was the language of the Angles only! But now that the true relationship of the old dialects is known, it is not uncommon for scholars to speak of the Wessex dialect as "Saxon," and of the Northumbrian and Mercian dialects as "Anglian"; for the latter are found to have some features in common that differ sharply from those found in "Saxon."

Manuscripts in the Southern dialect are fairly abundant, and contain poems, homilies, land-charters, laws, wills, translations of Latin treatises, glossaries, etc.; so that there is considerable variety. One of the most precious documents is the history known as the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was continued even after the Conquest till the year 1154, when the death and burial of King Stephen were duly recorded.

But specimens of the oldest forms of the Northern and Midland dialects are, on the other hand, very much fewer in number than students of our language desire, and are consequently deserving of special mention. They are duly enumerated in the chapters below, which discuss these dialects separately.

Having thus sketched out the broad divisions into which our dialects may be distributed, I shall proceed to enter upon a particular discussion of each group, beginning with the Northern or Northumbrian.



In Professor Earle's excellent manual on Anglo-Saxon Literature, chapter V is entirely occupied with "the Anglian Period," and begins thus:—"While Canterbury was so important a seminary of learning, there was, in the Anglian region of Northumbria, a development of religious and intellectual life which makes it natural to regard the whole brilliant period from the later seventh to the early ninth century as the Anglian Period.... Anglia became for a century the light-spot of European history; and we here recognise the first great stage in the revival of learning, and the first movement towards the establishment of public order in things temporal and spiritual."

Unfortunately for the student of English, though perhaps fortunately for the historian, the most important book belonging to this period was written in Latin. This was the Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, or the Church History of the Anglian People. The writer was Beda, better known as "the Venerable Bede," who was born near Wearmouth (Durham) in 672, and lived for the greater part of his life at Jarrow, where he died in 735. He wrote several other works, also in Latin, most of which Professor Earle enumerates. It is said of Beda himself that he was "learned in our native songs," and it is probable that he wrote many things in his native Northumbrian or Durham dialect; but they have all perished, with the exception of one precious fragment of five lines, printed by Dr Sweet (at p. 149) from the St Gall MS. No. 254, of the ninth century. It is usually called Beda's Death-song, and is here given:

Fore there neidfaerae naenig uuiurthit thonc-snotturra than him thar[f] sie, to ymbhycggannae, aer his hin-iong[a]e, huaet his gastae, godaes aeththa yflaes, aefter deoth-daege doemid uueorth[a]e.

Literally translated, this runs as follows:

Before the need-journey no one becomes more wise in thought than he ought to be, (in order) to contemplate, ere his going hence, what for his spirit, (either) of good or of evil, after (his) death-day, will be adjudged.

It is from Beda's Church History, Book IV, chap. 24 (or 22), that we learn the story of C{ae}dmon, the famous Northumbrian poet, who was a herdsman and lay brother in the abbey of Whitby, in the days of the abbess Hild, who died in 680, near the close of the seventh century. He received the gift of divine song in a vision of the night; and after the recognition by the abbess and others of his heavenly call, became a member of the religious fraternity, and devoted the rest of his life to the composition of sacred poetry.

He sang (says Beda) the Creation of the world, the origin of the human race, and all the history of Genesis; the departure of Israel out of Egypt and their entrance into the land of promise, with many other histories from holy writ; the incarnation, passion, and resurrection of our Lord, and His ascension into heaven; the coming of the Holy Spirit and the teaching of the Apostles. Likewise of the terror of the future judgement, the horror of punishment in hell, and the bliss of the heavenly kingdom he made many poems; and moreover, many others concerning divine benefits and judgements; in all which he sought to wean men from the love of sin, and to stimulate them to the enjoyment and pursuit of good action.

It happens that we still possess some poems which answer more or less to this description; but they are all of later date and are only known from copies written in the Southern dialect of Wessex; and, as the original Northumbrian text has unfortunately perished, we have no means of knowing to what extent they represent C{ae}dmon's work. It is possible that they preserve some of it in a more or less close form of translation, but we cannot verify this possibility. It has been ascertained, on the other hand, that a certain portion (but by no means all) of these poems is adapted, with but slight change, from an original poem written in the Old Saxon of the continent.

Nevertheless, it so happens that a short hymn of nine lines has been preserved nearly in the original form, as C{ae}dmon dictated it; and it corresponds closely with Beda's Latin version. It is found at the end of the Cambridge MS. of Beda's Historia Ecclesiastica in the following form:

Nu scylun hergan hefaenricaes uard, metud{ae}s maecti end his modgidanc, uerc uuldurfadur; sue he uundra gihuaes, eci Dryctin, or astelid{ae}. He aerist scop aelda barnum heben til hrofe, haleg scepen[d]. Tha middungeard moncynn{ae}s uard, eci Dryctin, {ae}fter tiad{ae} firum fold[u], frea allmectig.

I here subjoin a literal translation.

Now ought we to praise the warden of heaven's realm, the Creator's might and His mind's thought, the works of the Father of glory; (even) as He, of every wonder, (being) eternal Ruler, established the beginning. He first (of all) shaped, for the sons of men, heaven as (their) roof, (He) the holy Creator. The middle world (He), mankind's warden, eternal Ruler, afterwards prepared, the world for men—(being the) Almighty Lord.

The locality of these lines is easily settled, as we may assign them to Whitby. Similarly, Beda's Death-song may be assigned to the county of Durham.

A third poem, extending to fourteen lines, may be called the "Northumbrian Riddle." It is called by Dr Sweet the "Leiden Riddle," because the MS. that contains it is now at Leyden, in Holland. The locality is unknown, but we may assign it to Yorkshire or Durham without going far wrong. There is another copy in a Southern dialect. These three brief poems, viz. Beda's Death-song, C{ae}dmon's Hymn, and the Riddle, are all printed, accessibly, in Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Reader.

There is another relic of Old Northumbrian, apparently belonging to the middle of the eighth century, which is too remarkable to be passed over. I refer to the famous Ruthwell cross, situate not far to the west of Annan, near the southern coast of Dumfriesshire, and near the English border. On each of its four faces it bears inscriptions; on two opposite faces in Latin, and on the other two in runic characters. Each of the latter pair contains a few lines of Northern poetry, selected from a poem (doubtless by the poet Cynewulf) which is preserved in full in a much later Southern (or Wessex) copy in a MS. at Vercelli in Piedmont (Italy). On the side which Professor Stephens calls the front of the cross, the runic inscriptions give us two quotations, both imperfect at the end; and the same is true of the opposite side or back. The MS. helps us to restore letters that are missing or broken, and in this way we can be tolerably sure of the correct readings.

The two quotations in front are as follows: it will be seen that the cross itself is supposed to be the speaker.

1. [on]gered{ae} hin{ae} god almechttig tha he walde on galgu gistiga, modig fore all{ae} men; buga [ic ni darst{ae}.]

2. [ahof] ic riicn{ae} kyningc, heafun{ae}s hlafard; h{ae}lda ic ni darst{ae}. bism{ae}radu ungket men ba {ae}t-gadre. ic w{ae}s mith blod{ae} bistemid bigoten of [his sidan.]

The two quotations at the back are these:

3. Crist w{ae}s on rodi; hwethr{ae} ther fus{ae} fearran cwomu {ae}ththil{ae} til anum; ic th{ae}t al biheald. sare ic w{ae}s mith sorgum gidr{oe}fid; hnag [ic hwethr{ae} tham secgum til handa.]

4. mith strelum giwundad alegdun hi{ae} hin{ae} limw{oe}rign{ae}; gistoddum him {ae}t his lic{ae}s heafdum, bihealdun hi{ae} ther heafun[{ae}s hlafard.]

The literal meaning of the lines is as follows:

1. God almighty stripped Himself when He would mount upon the gallows (the cross), courageous before all men; I (the cross) durst not bow down

2. I (the cross) reared up the royal King, the Lord of heaven; I durst not bend down. men reviled us two (the cross and Christ) both together. I was moistened with the blood poured forth from His side.

3. Christ was upon the cross; howbeit, thither came eagerly from afar princes to (see) that One; I beheld all that. sorely was I afflicted with sorrows; I submitted however to the men's hands.

4. wounded with arrows, they laid Him down, weary in His limbs. they stood beside Him, at the head of His corpse. they beheld there the Lord of heaven.

In the late MS. it is the cross that is wounded by arrows; whereas in the runic inscription it seems to be implied that it was Christ Himself that was so wounded. The allusion is in any case very obscure; but the latter notion makes the better sense, and is capable of being explained by the Norse legend of Balder, who was frequently shot at by the other gods in sport, as he was supposed to be invulnerable; but he was slain thus one day by a shaft made of mistletoe, which alone had power to harm him.

There is also extant a considerable number of very brief inscriptions, such as that on a column at Bewcastle, in Cumberland; but they contribute little to our knowledge except the forms of proper names. The Liber Vit{ae} of Durham, written in the ninth century, contains between three and four thousand such names, but nothing else.

Coming down to the tenth century, we meet with three valuable documents, all of which are connected with Durham, generally known as the Durham Ritual and the Northumbrian Gospels.

The Durham Ritual was edited for the Surtees Society in 1840 by the Rev. J. Stevenson. The MS. is in the Cathedral library at Durham, and contains three distinct Latin service-books, with Northumbrian glosses in various later hands, besides a number of unglossed Latin additions. A small portion of the MS. has been misplaced by the binder; the Latin prose on pp. 138-145 should follow that on p. 162. Mr Stevenson's edition exhibits a rather large number of misreadings, most of which (I fear not quite all) are noted in my "Collation of the Durham Ritual" printed in the Philological Society's Transactions, 1877-9, Appendix II. I give, by way of specimen, a curious passage (at p. 192), which tells us all about the eight pounds of material that went to make up the body of Adam.

aehto pundo of th{ae}m aworden is Adam pund lames of thon Octo pondera de quibus factus est Adam. Pondus limi, inde

aworden is fl{ae}sc pund fyres of thon read is blod factus est caro; pondus ignis, inde rubeus est sanguis

and hat et calidus;

pund saltes of thon sindon salto tehero pund deawes of thon pondus salis, inde sunt salsae lacrimae; pondus roris, unde

aworden is swat pund blostmes of thon is fagung egena factus est sudor; pondus floris, inde est uarietas oculorum;

pund wolcnes of thon is unstydfullnisse vel unstatholf{ae}stnisse pondus nubis, inde est instabilitas

thohta mentium;

pund windes of thon is oroth cald pund gefe of thon is pondus uenti, inde est anhela frigida: pondus gratiae, id est

thoht monnes sensus hominis.

We thus learn that Adam's flesh was made of a pound of loam; his red and hot blood, of fire; his salt tears, of salt; his sweat, of dew; the colour of his eyes, of flowers; the instability of his thoughts, of cloud; his cold breath, of wind; and his intelligence, of grace.

The Northumbrian glosses on the four Gospels are contained in two MSS., both of remarkable interest and value. The former of these, sometimes known as the Lindisfarne MS., and sometimes as the Durham Book, is now MS. Cotton, Nero D. 4 in the British Museum, and is one of the chief treasures in our national collection. It contains a beautifully executed Latin text of the four Gospels, written in the isle of Lindisfarne, by Eadfrith (bishop of Lindisfarne in 698-721), probably before 700. The interlinear Northumbrian gloss is two and a half centuries later, and was made by Aldred, a priest, about 950, at a time when the MS. was kept at Chester-le-Street, near Durham, whither it had been removed for greater safety. Somewhat later it was again removed to Durham, where it remained for several centuries.

The second MS. is called the Rushworth MS., as it was presented to the Bodleian Library (Oxford) by John Rushworth, who was deputy-clerk to the House of Commons during the Long Parliament. The Latin text was written, probably in the eighth century, by a scribe named Macregol. The gloss, written in the latter half of the tenth century, is in two hands, those of Farman and Owun, whose names are given. Farman was a priest of Harewood, on the river Wharfe, in the West Riding of Yorkshire. He glossed the whole of St Matthew's Gospel, and a very small portion of St Mark. It is worthy of especial notice, that his gloss, throughout St Matthew, is not in the Northumbrian dialect, but in a form of Mercian. But it is clear that when he had completed this first Gospel, he borrowed the Lindisfarne MS. as a guide to help him, and kept it before him when he began to gloss St Mark. He at once began to copy the glosses in the older MS., with slight occasional variations in the grammar; but he soon tired of his task, and turned it over to Owun, who continued it to the end. The result is that the Northumbrian glosses in this MS., throughout the three last Gospels, are of no great value, as they tell us little more than can be better learnt from the Durham book; on the other hand, Farman's Mercian gloss to St Matthew is of high value, but need not be considered at present. Hence it is best in this case to rely, for our knowledge of Old Northumbrian, on the Durham book alone.

It must be remembered that a gloss is not quite the same thing as a free translation that observes the rules of grammar. A gloss translates the Latin text word by word, in the order of that text; so that the glossator can neither observe the natural English order nor in all cases preserve the English grammar; a fact which somewhat lessens its value, and must always be allowed for. It is therefore necessary, in all cases, to ascertain the Latin text. I subjoin a specimen, from Matt, v 11-15.

eadge aron ge mith thy yfle hia gecuoethas iuh and mith thy 11. Beati estis cum maledixerunt uobis et cum

oehtas iuih and cuoethas eghwelc yfel with iuih persecuti uos fuerint et dixerint omne malum aduersum uos

gesuicas vel w{ae}ges fore mec gefeath and wynnsumiath forthon mentientes propter me. 12. gaudete et exultate quoniam

mearda iuere monigfalde is vel sint merces uestra copiosa est

in heofnum su{ae} vel suelce ec forthon in caelis sic enim

ge-oehton tha witgo tha the weron {ae}r iuih gee persecuti sunt prophetas qui fuerunt ante uos. 13. Uos

sint salt eorthes th{ae}t gif salt forworthes in thon estis sal terrae quod si sal euanuerit in quo

ges{ae}lted bith to sallietur ad

nowihte vel n{ae}nihte m{ae}ge ofer th{ae}t nihilum ualet ultra

buta th{ae}t gesended bith vel geworpen {'u}t nisi ut mittatur foras

and getreden bith from monnum et conculcetur ab hominibus

gie aron vel sint leht middangeardes 14. Uos estis lux mundi

ne m{ae}g burug vel ceastra gehyda vel gedeigla ofer mor non potest ciuitas abscondi supra monte

geseted ne ec bernas th{ae}ccille vel leht-f{ae}t posita. 15. neque accendunt lucernam

and settas tha vel hia unther mitte et ponunt eam sub

vel under sestre ah ofer leht-isern and lihteth allum tha the in modio sed super candelabrum et luceat omnibus qui in

hus bithon vel sint domo sunt.

The history of the Northern dialect during the next three centuries, from the year 1000 to nearly 1300, with a few insignificant exceptions, is a total blank.



A little before 1300, we come to a Metrical English Psalter, published by the Surtees Society in 1843-7. The language is supposed to represent the speech of Yorkshire. It is translated (rather closely) from the Latin Vulgate version. I give a specimen from Psalm xviii, 14-20.

14. He sent his arwes, and skatered tha; Felefalded levening, and dreved tham swa. 15. And schewed welles of watres ware, And groundes of ertheli world unhiled are, For thi snibbing, Laverd myne; For onesprute of gast of wreth thine. 16. He sent fra hegh, and uptoke me; Fra many watres me nam he. 17. He out-toke me thare amang Fra my faas that war sa strang, And fra tha me that hated ai; For samen strenghthed over me war thai 18. Thai forcome me in daie of twinging, And made es Layered mi forhiling. 19. And he led me in brede to be; Sauf made he me, for he wald me; 20. And foryhelde to me Laverd sal After mi rightwisenes al. And after clensing of mi hende Sal he yhelde to me at ende.

The literal sense is:—"He sent His arrows and scattered them; multiplied (His) lightning and so afflicted them. And the wells of waters were shown, and the foundations of the earthly world are uncovered because of Thy snubbing (rebuke), O my Lord! because of the blast (Lat. inspiratio) of the breath of Thy wrath. He sent from on high, and took me up; from many waters He took me. He took me out there-among from my foes that were so strong, and from those that alway hated me; for they were strengthened together over me. They came before me in the day of affliction, and the Lord is made my protection. And He led me (so as) to be in a broad place; He made me safe, because He desired (lit. would) me; and the Lord shall requite me according to all my righteousness, and according to the cleanness of my hands shall He repay me in the end."

In this specimen we can already discern some of the chief characteristics which are so conspicuous in Lowland Scotch MSS. of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The most striking is the almost total loss of the final -e which is so frequently required to form an extra syllable when we try to scan the poetry of Chaucer. Even where a final -e is written in the above extract, it is wholly silent. The words ware (were), are (are), myne, thine, toke, made, brede, hende, ende, are all monosyllabic; and in fact the large number of monosyllabic words is very striking. The words onesprute, forcome, foryhelde are, in like manner, dissyllabic. The only suffixes that count in the scansion are -en, -ed, and -es; as in sam-en, skat'r-{'e}d, drev-{'e}d, hat-{'e}d, etc., and arw-{'e}s, well-{'e}s, watr-{'e}s, etc. The curious form sal, for "shall," is a Northern characteristic. So also is the form hende as the plural of "hand"; the Southern plural was often hond-en, and the Midland form was hond-{'e}s or hand-{'e}s. Note also the characteristic long a; as in swa for swo, so; gast, ghost; fra, fro; faas, foes. It was pronounced like the a in father.

A much longer specimen of the Metrical English Psalter will be found in Specimens of Early English, ed. Morris and Skeat, Part II, pp. 23-34, and is easily accessible. In the same volume, the Specimens numbered VII, VIII, X, XI, and XVI are also in Northumbrian, and can easily be examined. It will therefore suffice to give a very brief account of each.

VII. Cursor Mundi, or Cursor o Werld, i.e. Over-runner of the World; so called because it rehearses a great part of the world's history, from the creation onwards. It is a poem of portentous length, extending to 29,655 lines, and recounts many of the events found in the Old and New Testaments, with the addition of legends from many other sources, one of them, for example, being the Historia Scholastica of Peter Comestor. Dr Murray thinks it may have been written in the neighbourhood of Durham. The specimen given (pp. 69-82) corresponds to lines 11373-11796.

VIII. Sunday Homilies in Verse; about 1330. The extracts are taken from English Metrical Homilies, edited by J. Small (Edinburgh, 1862) from a MS. in Edinburgh. The Northern dialect is well marked, but I do not know to what locality to assign it.

X. Richard Rolle, of Hampole, near Doncaster, wrote a poem called The Prick of Conscience, about 1340. It extends to 9624 lines, and was edited by Dr Morris for the Philological Society in 1863. The Preface to this edition is of especial value, as it carefully describes the characteristics of Northumbrian, and practically laid the foundation of our knowledge of the old dialects as exhibited in MSS. Lists are given of orthographical differences between the Northern dialect and others, and an analysis is added giving the grammatical details which determine its Northern character. Much of this information is repeated in the Introduction to the Specimens of English, Part II, pp. xviii-xxxviii.

XI. The Poems of Laurence Minot belong to the middle of the fourteenth century. He composed eleven poems in celebration of events that occurred between the years 1333 and 1352. They were first printed by Ritson in 1795; and subsequently by T. Wright, in his Political Poems and Songs (London, 1859); and are now very accessible in the excellent and cheap (second) edition by Joseph Hall (Oxford University Press). There is also a German edition by Dr Wilhelm Scholle. The poet seems to have been connected with Yorkshire, and the dialect is not purely Northern, as it shows a slight admixture of Midland forms.

XVI. The Bruce; by John Barbour; partly written in 1375. It has been frequently printed, viz. in 1616, 1620, 1670, 1672, 1715, 1737, and 1758; and was edited by Pinkerton in 1790, by Jamieson in 1820, and by Cosmo Innes in 1866; also by myself (for the Early English Text Society) in 1870-89; and again (for the Scottish Text Society) in 1893-5. Unfortunately, the two extant MSS. were both written out about a century after the date of composition. Nevertheless, we have the text of more than 260 lines as it existed in 1440, as this portion was quoted by Andro of Wyntown, in his Cronykil of Scotland, written at that date. I quote some lines from this portion, taken from The Bruce, Book i, 37-56, 91-110; with a few explanations in the footnotes.

Qwhen Alysandyre oure kyng wes dede, That Scotland had to stere{1} and lede, The land sex yhere and mayr perfay{2} Wes desolate efftyr his day. The barnage{3} off Scotland, at the last, Assemblyd thame, and fandyt{4} fast To chess{5} a kyng, thare land to stere, That off awncestry cummyn were Off kyngis that aucht{6} that reawt{'e}{7}, And mast{8} had rycht thare kyng to be.

But inwy{9}, that is sa fellowne{10}, Amang thame mad dissensiown: For sum wald have the Ballyolle kyng, For he wes cumyn off that ofspryng That off the eldest systere was; And other sum nyt{11} all that cas, And sayd, that he thare kyng suld be, That wes in als nere{12} degre, And cummyn wes off the nerrast male In thai{13} brawnchys collateralle...

{Footnotes: 1: govern 2: more, by my faith 3: nobility 4: endeavoured 5: choose 6: possessed 7: royalty 8: most 9: envy 10: wicked 11: others denied 12: as near 13: those }

A! blynd folk, fulle off all foly, Had yhe wmbethowcht{14} yowe inkkyrly{15} Quhat peryle to yowe mycht appere, Yhe had noucht wroucht on this man{'e}r. Had yhe tane kepe{16}, how that that kyng Off Walys, forowtyn sudiowrnyng{17}, Trawaylyd{18} to wyn the senyhowry{19}, And throw his mycht till occupy Landys, that ware till hym marchand{20}, As Walys was, and als Irland, That he put till sic threllage{21}, That thai, that ware off hey parage{22}, Suld ryn on fwte, as rybalddale{23}, Quhen ony folk he wald assale. Durst nane of Walis in batale ryd, Na yhit, fra evyn fell{24}, abyde Castell or wallyd towne within, Than{25} he suld lyff and lymmys tyne{26}. Into swylk thryllage{27} thame held he That he owre-come with his powst{e'}{28}.

{Footnotes: 14: bethought 15: especially 16: taken heed 17: without delay 18: laboured 19: sovereignty 20: bordering 21: such subjection 22: high rank 23: rabble 24: after evening fell 25: but 26: lose 27: thraldom 28: power }

In this extract, as in that from the Metrical Psalter above, there is a striking preponderance of monosyllables, and, as in that case also, the final -e is invariably silent in such words as oure, stere, lede, yhere, thare, were, etc., just as in modern English. The grammar is, for the most part, extremely simple, as at the present day. The chief difficulty lies in the vocabulary, which contains some words that are either obsolete or provincial. Many of the obsolete words are found in other dialects; thus stere, to control, perfay, fonden (for fanden), chesen, to choose, feloun, adj. meaning "angry," take kepe, soiourne, to tarry, travaile, to labour, parage, rank, all occur in Chaucer; barnage, reaut{'e}, in William of Palerne (in the Midland dialect, possibly Shropshire); oughte, owned, possessed, tyne, to lose, in Piers the Plowman; umbethinken, in the Ormulum; enkerly (for inkkyrly), in the alliterative Morte Arthure; march, to border upon, in Mandeville; seignorie, in Robert of Gloucester. Barbour is rather fond of introducing French words; rybalddale occurs in no other author. Threllage or thryllage may have been coined from threll (English thrall), by adding a French suffix. As to the difficult word nyt, see Nite in the N.E.D.

In addition to the poems, etc., already mentioned, further material may be found in the prose works of Richard Rolle of Hampole, especially his translation and exposition of the Psalter, edited by the Rev. H.R. Bramley (Oxford, 1884), and the Prose Treatises edited by the Rev. G.G. Perry for the Early English Text Society. Dr Murray further calls attention to the Early Scottish Laws, of which the vernacular translations partly belong to the fourteenth century.

I have now mentioned the chief authorities for the study of the Northern dialect from early times down to 1400. Examination of them leads directly to a result but little known, and one that is in direct contradiction to general uninstructed opinion; namely that, down to this date, the varieties of Northumbrian are much fewer and slighter than they afterwards became, and that the written documents are practically all in one and the same dialect, or very nearly so, from the Humber as far north as Aberdeen. The irrefragable results noted by Dr Murray will probably come as a surprise to many, though they have now been before the public for more than forty years. The Durham dialect of the Cursor Mundi and the Aberdeen Scotch of Barbour are hardly distinguishable by grammatical or orthographical tests; and both bear a remarkable resemblance to the Yorkshire dialect as found in Hampole. What is now called Lowland Scotch is so nearly descended from the Old Northumbrian that the latter was invariably called "Ingliss" by the writers who employed it; and they reserved the name of "Scottish" to designate Gaelic or Erse, the tongue of the original "Scots," who gave their name to the country. Barbour (Bruce, IV 253) calls his own language "Ynglis." Andro of Wyntown does the same, near the beginning of the Prologue to his Cronykil. The most striking case is that of Harry the Minstrel, who was so opposed to all Englanders, from a political point of view, that his whole poem breathes fury and hatred against them; and yet, in describing Wallace's French friend, Longueville, who knew no tongue but his own, he says of him (Wallace, IX 295-7):

Lykly he was, manlik of contenance, Lik to the Scottis be mekill governance Saiff off his tong, for Inglis had he nane.

Later still, Dunbar, near the conclusion of his Golden Targe, apostrophises Chaucer as being "in oure Tong ane flouir imperiall," and says that he was "of oure Inglisch all the lycht." It was not till 1513 that Gawain Douglas, in the Prologue to the first book of his translation of Virgil, claimed to have "writtin in the langage of Scottis natioun"; though Sir David Lyndesay, writing twenty-two years later, still gives the name of the "Inglisch toung" to the vulgar tongue of Scotland, in his Satyre of the three Estaitis.

We should particularly notice Dr Murray's statement, in his essay on The Dialect of the Southern Counties of Scotland, at p. 29, that "Barbour at Aberdeen, and Richard Rolle de Hampole near Doncaster, wrote for their several countrymen in the same identical dialect." The division between the English of the Scottish Lowlands and the English of Yorkshire was purely political, having no reference to race or speech, but solely to locality; and yet, as Dr Murray remarks, the struggle for supremacy "made every one either an Englishman or a Scotchman, and made English and Scotch names of division and bitter enmity." So strong, indeed, was the division thus created that it has continued to the present day; and it would be very difficult even now to convince a native of the Scottish Lowlands—unless he is a philologist—that he is likely to be of Anglian descent, and to have a better title to be called an "Englishman" than a native of Hampshire or Devon, who, after all, may be only a Saxon. And of course it is easy enough to show how widely the old "Northern" dialect varies from the difficult Southern English found in the Kentish Ayenbite of Inwyt, or even from the Midland of Chaucer's poems.

To quote from Dr Murray once more (p. 41):

"the facts are still far from being generally known, and I have repeatedly been amused, on reading passages from Cursor Mundi and Hampole to men of education, both English and Scotch, to hear them all pronounce the dialect 'Old Scotch.' Great has been the surprise of the latter especially on being told that Richard the Hermit [i.e. of Hampole] wrote in the extreme south of Yorkshire, within a few miles of a locality so thoroughly English as Sherwood Forest, with its memories of Robin Hood. Such is the difficulty which people have in separating the natural and ethnological relations in which national names originate from the accidental values which they acquire through political complications and the fortunes of crowns and dynasties, that oftener than once the protest has been made— 'Then he must have been a Scotchman settled there!'"

The retort is obvious enough, that Barbour and Henry the Minstrel and Dunbar and Lyndesay have all recorded that their native language was "Inglis" or "Inglisch"; and it is interesting to note that, having regard to the pronunciation, they seem to have known, better than we do, how that name ought to be spelt.



The subject of the last chapter was one of great importance. When it is once understood that, down to 1400 or a little later, the men of the Scottish Lowlands and the men of the northern part of England spoke not only the same language, but the same dialect of that language, it becomes easy to explain what happened afterwards.

There was, nevertheless, one profound difference between the circumstances of the language spoken to the north of the Tweed and that spoken to the south of it. In Scotland, the Northumbrian dialect was spoken by all but the Celts, without much variety; the minor differences need not be here considered. And this dialect, called Inglis (as we have seen) by the Lowlanders themselves, had no rival, as the difference between it and the Erse or Gaelic was obvious and immutable.

To the South of the Tweed, the case was different. England already possessed three dialects at least, viz. Northumbrian, Mercian, and Saxon, i.e. Northern, Midland, and Southern; besides which, Midland had at the least two main varieties, viz. Eastern and Western. Between all these there was a long contention for supremacy. In very early days, the Northern took the lead, but its literature was practically destroyed by the Danes, and it never afterwards attained to anything higher than a second place. From the time of Alfred, the standard language of literature was the Southern, and it kept the lead till long after the Conquest, well down to 1200 and even later, as will be explained hereafter. But the Midland dialect, which is not without witness to its value in the ninth century, began in the thirteenth to assume an important position, which in the fourteenth became dominant and supreme, exalted as it was by the genius of Chaucer. Its use was really founded on practical convenience. It was intermediate between the other two, and could be more or less comprehended both by the Northerner and the Southerner, though these could hardly understand each other. The result was, naturally, that whilst the Northumbrian to the north of the Tweed was practically supreme, the Northumbrian to the south of it soon lost its position as a literary medium. It thus becomes clear that we must, during the fifteenth century, treat the Northumbrian of England and that of Scotland separately. Let us first investigate its position in England.

But before this can be appreciated, it is necessary to draw attention to the fact that the literature of the fifteenth century, in nearly all the text-books that treat of the subject, has been most unjustly underrated. The critics, nearly all with one accord, repeat the remark that it is a "barren" period, with nothing admirable about it, at any rate in England; that it shows us the works of Hoccleve and Lydgate near the beginning, The Flower and the Leaf near the middle (about 1460), and the ballad of The Nut-brown Maid at the end of it, and nothing else that is remarkable. In other words, they neglect its most important characteristic, that it was the chief period of the lengthy popular romances and of the popular plays out of which the great dramas of the succeeding century took their rise. To which it deserves to be added that it contains many short poems of a fugitive character, whilst a vast number of very popular ballads were in constant vogue, sometimes handed down without much change by a faithful tradition, but more frequently varied by the fancy of the more competent among the numerous wandering minstrels. To omit from the fifteenth century nearly all account of its romances and plays and ballads is like omitting the part of Hamlet the Dane from Shakespeare's greatest tragedy.

The passion for long romances or romantic poems had already arisen in the fourteenth century, and, to some extent, in the thirteenth. Even just before 1300, we meet with the lays of Havelok and Horn. In the fourteenth century, it is sufficient to mention the romances of Sir Guy of Warwick (the earlier version), Sir Bevis of Hamtoun, and Libeaus Desconus, all mentioned by Chaucer; Sir Launfal, The Seven Sages (earlier version, as edited by Weber); Lai le Freine, Richard Coer de Lion, Amis and Amiloun, The King of Tars, William of Palerne, Joseph of Arimathea (a fragment), Sir Gawain and the Grene Knight, Alisaunder of Macedoine and Alexander and Dindimus (two fragments of one very long poem), Sir Ferumbras, and Sir Isumbras. The spirited romance generally known as the alliterative Morte Arthure must also belong here, though the MS. itself is of later date.

The series was actively continued during the fifteenth century, when we find, besides others, the romances of Iwain and Gawain, Sir Percival, and Sir Cleges; The Sowdon (Sultan) of Babylon; The Aunturs (Adventures) of Arthur, Sir Amadas, The Avowing of Arthur, and The Life of Ipomidoun; The Wars of Alexander, The Seven Sages (later version, edited by Wright); Torrent of Portugal, Sir Gowther, Sir Degrevant, Sir Eglamour, Le Bone Florence of Rome, and Partonope of Blois; the prose version of Merlin, the later version of Sir Guy of Warwick, and the verse Romance, of immense length, of The Holy Grail; Emare, The Erl of Tolous, and The Squire of Low Degree. Towards the end of the century, when the printing-press was already at work, we find Caxton greatly busying himself to continue the list. Not only did he give us the whole of Sir Thomas Malory's Morte D'Arthur, "enprynted and fynysshed in thabbey Westmestre the last day of Iuyl, the yere of our lord MCCCCLXXXV"; but he actually translated several romances into very good English prose on his own account, viz. Godefroy of Boloyne (1481), Charles the Grete (1485), The Knight Paris and the fair Vyene (1485), Blanchardyn and Eglantine (about 1489), and The Four Sons of Aymon (about 1490). We must further put to the credit of the fifteenth century the remarkable English version of the Gesta Romanorum, and many more versions by Caxton, such as The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, The Life of Jason, Eneydos (which is Virgil's Aeneid in the form of a prose romance), The Golden Legend or Lives of Saints, and Reynard the Fox. When all these works are considered, the fifteenth century emerges with considerable credit.

It remains to look at some of the above-named romances a little more closely, in order to see if any of them are in the dialect of Northern England. Some of them are written by scribes belonging to other parts, but there seems to be little doubt that the following were in that dialect originally, viz. (1) Iwain and Gawain, printed in Ritson's Ancient Metrical Romances, and belonging to the very beginning of the century, extant in the same MS. as that which contains Minot's Poems: (2) The Wars of Alexander (Early English Text Society, 1886), edited by myself; see the Preface, pp. xv, xix, for proofs that it was originally written in a pure Northumbrian dialect, which the better of the two MSS. very fairly preserves. Others exhibit strong traces of a Northern dialect, such as The Aunturs of Arthur, Sir Amadas, and The Avowing of Arthur, but they may be in a West Midland dialect, not far removed from the North. In the preface to The Sege of Melayne (Milan) and Roland and Otuel, edited for the Early English Text Society by S.J. Herrtage, it is suggested that both these poems were by the author of Sir Percival, and that all three were originally in the dialect of the North of England.

Iwain and Gawain and The Wars of Alexander belong to quite the beginning of the fifteenth century, and they appear to be among the latest examples of the literary use of dialect in the North of England considered as a vehicle for romances; but we must not forget the "miracle plays," and in particular The Towneley Mysteries or plays acted at or near Wakefield in Yorkshire, and The York Plays, lately edited by Miss Toulmin Smith. Examples of Southern English likewise come to an end about the same time; it is most remarkable how very soon, after the death of Chaucer, the Midland dialect not only assumed a leading position, but enjoyed that proud position almost alone. The rapid loss of numerous inflexions, soon after 1400, made that dialect, which was already in possession of such important centres as London, Oxford, and Cambridge, much easier to learn, and brought its grammar much nearer to that in use in the North. It even compromised, as it were, with that dialect by accepting from it the general use of such important words as they, their, them, the plural verb are, and the preposition till. There can be little doubt that one of the causes of the cessation of varying forms of words in literary use was the civil strife known as the Wars of the Roses, which must for a brief period have been hostile to all literary activity; and very shortly afterwards the printing-presses of London all combined to recognise, in general, one dialect only.

Hence it came about, by a natural but somewhat rapid process, that the only dialect which remained unaffected by the triumph of the Midland variety was that portion of the Northern dialect which still held its own in Scotland, where it was spoken by subjects of another king. As far as literature was concerned, only two dialects were available, the Northumbrian of Scotland and the East Midland in England. It is obvious that the readiest way of distinguishing between the two is to call the one "Scottish" and the other "English," ignoring accuracy for the sake of practical convenience. This is precisely what happened in course of time, and the new nomenclature would have done no harm if the study of Middle English had been at all general. But such was not the case, and the history of our literature was so much neglected that even those who should have been well informed knew no better than others. The chief modern example is the well-known case of that most important and valuable book entitled An Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, by John Jamieson, D.D., first published in Edinburgh in 1808. There is no great harm in the title, if for "Language" we read "Dialect"; but this great and monumental work was unluckily preceded by a "Dissertation on the Origin of the Scottish Language," in which wholly mistaken and wrongheaded views are supported with great ingenuity and much show of learning. In the admirable new edition of "Jamieson" by Longmuir and Donaldson, published at Paisley in 1879, this matter is set right. They quite rightly reprint this "Dissertation," which affords valuable testimony as to the study of English in 1808, but accompany it with most judicious remarks, which are well worthy of full repetition.

"That once famous Dissertation can now be considered only a notable feat of literary card-building; more remarkable for the skill and ingenuity of its construction than for its architectural correctness, strength and durability, or practical usefulness. That the language of the Scottish Lowlands is in all important particulars the same as that of the northern counties of England, will be evident to any unbiassed reader who takes the trouble to compare the Scottish Dictionary with the Glossaries of Brockett, Atkinson, and Peacock. And the similarity is attested in another way by the simple but important fact, that regarding some of our Northern Metrical Romances it is still disputed whether they were composed to the north or the south of the Tweed.... And to this conclusion all competent scholars have given their consent."

For those who really understand the situation there is no harm in accepting the distinction between "Scottish" and "English," as explained above. Hence it is that the name of "Middle Scots" has been suggested for "the literary language of Scotland written between the latter half of the fifteenth century and the early decades of the seventeenth." Most of this literature is highly interesting, at any rate much more so than the "English" literature of the same period, as has been repeatedly remarked. Indeed, this is so well known that special examples are needless; I content myself with referring to the Specimens of Middle Scots, by G. Gregory Smith, Edinburgh and London, 1902. These specimens include extracts from such famous authors as Henryson, Dunbar, Gawain (or Gavin) Douglas, Sir David Lyndesay, John Knox, and George Buchanan. Perhaps it is well to add that "Scottis" or "Scots" is the Northern form of "Scottish" or "Scotch"; just as "Inglis" is the Northern form of "English."

"Middle Scots" implies both "Old Scots" and "Modern Scots." "Old Scots" is, of course, the same thing as Northumbrian or Northern English of the Middle English Period, which may be roughly dated as extant from 1300 to 1400 or 1450. "Modern Scots" is the dialect (when they employ dialect) illustrated by Allan Ramsay, Alexander Ross, Robert Tannahill, John Galt, James Hogg (the Ettrick Shepherd), Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and very many others.

I conclude this chapter with a characteristic example of Middle Scots. The following well-known passage is from the conclusion to Dunbar's Golden Targe.

And as I did awake of my sweving{1}, The ioyfull birdis merily did syng For myrth of Phebus tendir bem{e}s schene{2}; Swete war the vapouris, soft the morowing{3}, Halesum the vale, depaynt wyth flouris ying{4}; The air attemperit, sobir, and amene{5}; In quhite and rede was all the feld besene{6} Throu Naturis nobil fresch anamalyng{7}, In mirthfull May, of eviry moneth Quene.

O reverend Chaucere, rose of rethoris{8} all, As in oure tong ane flour{9} imperiall, That raise{10} in Britane evir, quho redis rycht, Thou beris of makaris{11} the try{'u}mph riall; Thy fresch anamalit term{e}s celicall{12} This mater coud illumynit have full brycht; Was thou noucht of oure Inglisch all the lycht, Surmounting eviry tong terrestriall Als fer as Mayis morow dois mydnycht?

O morall Gower, and Ludgate laureate, Your sugurit lippis and tongis aureate{13} Bene to oure eris cause of grete delyte; Your angel mouthis most mellifluate{14} Oure rude langage has clere illumynate, And faire our-gilt{15} oure speche, that imperf{'y}te Stude, or{16} your goldyn pennis schupe{17} to wryte; This ile before was bare, and desolate Of rethorike, or lusty{18} fresch endyte{19}.

{Footnotes: 1: dream 2: bright 3: morn 4: young 5: pleasant 6: arrayed 7: enamelling 8: orators 9: flower 10: didst rise 11: poets 12: heavenly 13: golden 14: honeyed 15: overgilt 16: ere 17: undertook 18: pleasant 19: composition}



We have seen that the earliest dialect to assume literary supremacy was the Northern, and that at a very early date, namely, in the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries; but its early documents have nearly all perished. If, with the exception of one short fragment, any of C{ae}dmon's poems have survived, they only exist in Southern versions of a much later date.

The chief fosterer of our rather extensive Wessex (or Southern) literature, commonly called Anglo-Saxon, was the great Alfred, born at Wantage in Berkshire, to the south of the Thames. We may roughly define the limits of the Old Southern dialect by saying that it formerly included all the counties to the south of the Thames and to the west and south-west of Berkshire, including Wiltshire, Dorsetshire, Somersetshire, and Devonshire, but excluding Cornwall, in which the Cornish dialect of Celtic prevailed. It was at Athelney in Somersetshire, near the junction of the rivers Tone and Parrett, that Alfred, in the memorable year 878, when his dominions were reduced to a precarious sway over two or three counties, established his famous stronghold; from which he issued to inflict upon the foes of the future British empire a crushing and decisive defeat. And it was near Athelney, in the year 1693, that the ornament of gold and enamel was found, with its famous legend—{AE}LFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN—"{AE}lfred commanded (men) to make me."

From his date to the Norman Conquest, the MSS. in the Anglo-Saxon or Southern dialect are fairly numerous, and it is mainly to them that we owe our knowledge of the grammar, the metre, and the pronunciation of the older forms of English. Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Primer will enable any one to begin the study of this dialect, and to learn something valuable about it in the course of a month or two.

The famous Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, beginning with a note concerning the year 1, when Augustus was emperor of Rome, not only continues our history down to the Conquest, but for nearly a century beyond it, to the year 1154. The language of the latter part, as extant in the (Midland) Laud MS., belongs to the twelfth century, and shows considerable changes in the spelling and grammar as compared with the Parker MS., which (not counting in a few later entries) ends with the year 1001.

After the Conquest, the Southern dialect continued to be the literary language, and we have several examples of it. Extracts from some of the chief works are given in Part I of Morris's Specimens of Early English. They are selected from the following: (1) Old English Homilies, 1150-1200, as printed for the Early English Text Society, and edited by Dr Morris, 1867-8. (2) Old English Homilies, Second Series, before 1200, ed. Morris (E.E.T.S.), 1873. (3) The Brut, being a versified chronicle of the legendary history of Britain, compiled by Layamon, a Worcestershire priest, and extending to 32,240 (short) lines; in two versions, the date of the earlier being about 1205. (4) A Life of St Juliana, in two versions, about 1210; ed. Cockayne and Brock (E.E.T.S.), 1872. (5) The Ancren Riwle, or Rule of anchorite nuns (Camden Society), ed. Morton, 1853; the date of composition is about 1210. (6) The Proverbs of Alfred, about 1250; printed in Dr Morris's Old English Miscellany (E.E.T.S.), 1872. A later edition, by myself, was printed at Oxford in 1907. (7) A poem by Nicholas de Guildford, entitled The Owl and the Nightingale, about 1250; ed. Rev. J. Stevenson, 1838; ed. T. Wright, 1843; ed. F.H. Stratmann, of Krefeld, 1868. (8) A curious poem of nearly 400 long lines, usually known as A Moral Ode, which seems to have been originally written at Christchurch, Hampshire, and frequently printed; one version is in Morris's Old English Homilies, and another in the Second Series of the same. (9) The Romance of King Horn; before 1300, here printed in full.

Just at the very end of the century we meet with two Southern poems of vast length. The Metrical Chronicle of Robert of Gloucester, comprising the History of Britain from the Siege of Troy to the year 1272, the date of the accession of Edward I, and written in the dialect of Gloucester, was completed in 1298. It must seem strange to many to find that our history is thus connected with the Siege of Troy; but it must be remembered that our old histories, including Layamon's poem of The Brut mentioned above, usually included the fabulous history of very early Britain as narrated by Geoffrey of Monmouth; and it is useful to remember that we owe to this circumstance such important works as Shakespeare's King Lear and Cymbeline, as well as the old play of Locrine, once attributed to Shakespeare. According to Robert's version of Geoffrey's story, Britain was originally called Brutain, after Brut or Brutus, the son of Aeneas. Locrin was the eldest son of Brutus and his wife Innogen, and defeated Humber, king of Hungary, in a great battle; after which Humber was drowned in the river which still bears his name. Locrin's daughter Averne (or Sabre in Geoffrey) was drowned likewise, in the river which was consequently called Severn. The British king Bathulf (or, in Geoffrey, Bladud) was the builder of Bath; and the son of Bladud was Leir, who had three daughters, named Gornorille, Began, and Cordeille. Kymbel (in Geoffrey, Kymbelinus), who had been brought up by Augustus C{ae}sar, was king of Britain at the time of the birth of Christ; his sons were Guider and Arvirag (Guiderius and Arviragus). Another king of Britain was King Cole, who gave name (says Geoffrey falsely) to Colchester. We come into touch with authentic history with the reign of Vortigern, when Hengist and Horsa sailed over to Britain. An extract from Robert of Gloucester is given in Specimens of Early English, Part II.

The other great work of the same date is the vast collection edited for the Early English Text Society by Dr Horstmann in 1887, entitled, The Early South-English Legendary, or Lives of Saints. It is extant in several MSS., of which the oldest (MS. Laud 108) originally contained 67 Lives; with an Appendix, in a later hand, containing two more. The eleventh Life is that of St Dunstan, which is printed in Specimens of Early English, Part II, from another MS.

Soon after the year 1300 the use of the Southern dialect becomes much less frequent, with the exception of such pieces as belong particularly to the county of Kent and will be considered by themselves. There are two immense manuscript collections of various poems, originally in various dialects, which are worth notice. One of these is the Harleian MS. No. 2253, in the British Museum, the scribe of which has reduced everything into the South-Western dialect, though it is plain that, in many cases, it is not the dialect in which the pieces were originally composed; this famous manuscript belongs to the beginning of the fourteenth century. Many poems were printed from it, with the title of Altenglische Dichtungen, by Dr K. Boeddeker, in 1878. Another similar collection is contained in the Vernon MS. at Oxford, and belongs to the very end of the same century; the poems in it are all in a Southern dialect, which is that of the scribe. It contains, e.g., a copy of the earliest version of Piers the Plowman, which would have been far more valuable if the scribe had retained the spelling of his copy. This may help us to realise one of the great difficulties which beset the study of dialects, namely, that we usually find copies of old poems reduced to the scribe's own dialect; and it may easily happen that such a copy varies considerably from the correct form.

It has already been shown that the rapid rise and spread of the Midland dialect during the fourteenth century practically put an end to the literary use of Northern not long after 1400, except in Scotland. It affected Southern in the same way, but at a somewhat earlier date; so that (even in Kent) it is very difficult to find a Southern work after 1350. There is, however, one remarkable exception in the case of a work which may be dated in 1387, written by John Trevisa. Trevisa (as the prefix Tre- suggests) was a native of Cornwall, but he resided chiefly in Gloucestershire, where he was vicar of Berkeley, and chaplain to Thomas Lord Berkeley. The work to which I here refer is known as his translation of Higden. Ralph Higden, a Benedictine monk in the Abbey of St Werburg at Chester, wrote in Latin a long history of the world in general, and of Britain in particular, with the title of the Polychronicon, which achieved considerable popularity. The first book of this history contains 60 chapters, the first of which begins with P, the second with R, and so on. If all these initials are copied out in their actual order, we obtain a complete sentence, as follows:—"Presentem cronicam compilavit Frater Ranulphus Cestrensis monachus"; i.e. Brother Ralph, monk of Chester, compiled the present chronicle. I mention this curious device on the part of Higden because another similar acrostic occurs elsewhere. It so happens that Higden's Polychronicon was continued, after his death, by John Malverne, who brought down the history to a later date, and included in it an account of a certain Thomas Usk, with whom he seems to have been acquainted. Now, in a lengthy prose work of about 1387, called The Testament of Love, I one day discovered that its author had adopted a similar device—no doubt imitating Higden—and had so arranged that the initial letters of his chapters should form a sentence, as follows:—"Margarete of virtw, have merci on Thsknvi." There is no difficulty about the expression "Margarete of virtw," because the treatise itself explains that it means Holy Church, but I could make nothing of Thsknvi, as the letters evidently require rearrangement. But Mr Henry Bradley, one of the editors of the New English Dictionary, discovered that the chapters near the end of the treatise are out of order; and when he had restored sense by putting them as they should be, the new reading of the last seven letters came out as "thin vsk," i.e. "thine Usk"; and the attribution of this treatise to Thomas Usk clears up every difficulty and fits in with all that John Malverne says. This, in fact, is the happy solution of the authorship of The Testament of Love, which was once attributed to Chaucer, though it is obviously not his at all.

But it is time to return to John Trevisa, Higden's translator. This long translation is all in the Southern dialect, originally that of Gloucestershire, though there are several MSS. that do not always agree. A fair copy of it, from a MS. in the library of St John's College, Cambridge, is given side by side with the original Latin in the edition already noticed. It is worth adding that Caxton printed Trevisa's version, altering the spelling to suit that of his own time, and giving several variations of reading.

Trevisa was also the author of some other works, of which the most important is his translation into English, from the original Latin, of Bartholom{ae}us de Proprietatibus Rerum.

I am not aware of any important work in the Southern dialect later than these translations by Trevisa. But in quite modern times, an excellent example of it has appeared, viz. in the Poems of Rural Life, in the Dorset Dialect, by William Barnes.



Though the Kentish dialect properly belongs to Southern English, from its position to the south of the Thames, yet it shows certain peculiarities which make it desirable to consider it apart from the rest.

In Beda's Ecclesiastical History, Bk I, ch. 15, he says of the Teutonic invaders: "Those who came over were of the three most powerful nations of Germany—Saxons, Angles, and Jutes. From the Jutes are descended the people of Kent, and of the Isle of Wight, and those also in the province of the West-Saxons who are to this day called Jutes, seated opposite to the Isle of Wight"; a remark which obviously implies the southern part of Hampshire. This suggests that the speech of Kent, from the very first, had peculiarities of its own. Dr Sweet, in his Second Anglo-Saxon Reader, Archaic and Dialectal, gives five very brief Kentish charters of the seventh and eighth centuries, but the texts are in Latin, and only the names of persons and places appear in Kentish forms. In the ninth century, however, there are seven Kentish charters, of a fuller description, from the year 805 to 837. In one of these, dated 835, a few lines occur that may be quoted:

Ic bidde and bebeode sw{ae}lc monn se th{ae}t min lond hebbe th{ae}t he {ae}lce gere agefe them higum {ae}t Folcanstane l. ambra maltes, and vi. ambra gruta, and iii. wega spices and ceses, and cccc. hlafa, and an hrithr, and vi. scep.... Th{ae}m higum et Cristes cirican of th{ae}m londe et Cealflocan: th{ae}t is thonne thritig ombra alath, and threo hund hlafa, theara bith fiftig hwitehlafa, an weg spices and ceses, an ald hrithr, feower wedras, an suin oththe sex wedras, sex gosfuglas, ten hennfuglas, thritig teapera, gif hit wintres deg sie, sester fulne huniges, sester fulne butran, sester fulne saltes.

That is to say:

I ask and command, whosoever may have my land, that he every year give to the domestics at Folkestone fifty measures of malt, and six measures of meal, and three weys [heavy weights] of bacon and cheese, and four hundred loaves, and one rother [ox], and six sheep.... To the domestics at Christ's church, from the land at Challock: that is, then, thirty vessels of ale, and three hundred loaves, of which fifty shall be white loaves, one wey of bacon and cheese, one old rother, four wethers, one swine or six wethers, six goose-fowls, ten hen-fowls, thirty tapers, if it be a day in winter, a jar full of honey, a jar full of butter, and a jar full of salt.

At pp. 152-175 of the same volume, Dr Sweet gives 1204 Kentish glosses of a very early date. No. 268 is: "Cardines, hearran"; and in several modern dialects, including Hampshire, the upright part of a gate to which the hinges are fastened is called a harr.

Several years ago, M. Paul Mayer found five short sermons in a Kentish dialect in MS. Laud 471, in the Bodleian Library, along with their French originals. They are printed in Morris's Old English Miscellany, and two of them will be found in Specimens of Early English, Part I, p. 141. The former of these is for the Epiphany, the text being taken from Matt. ii 1. The date is just before 1250. I give an extract.

The kinges hem wenten and hi seghen the sterre thet yede bifore hem, alwat hi kam over tho huse war ure loverd was; and alswo hi hedden i-fonden ure loverd, swo hin an-urede, and him offrede hire offrendes, gold, and stor, and mirre. Tho nicht efter thet aperede an ongel of hevene in here slepe ine metinge, and hem seide and het, thet hi ne solde ayen wende be herodes, ac be an other weye wende into hire londes.

That is:

The kings went (them), and they saw the star that went before them until it came over the house where our Lord was; and as-soon-as they had found our Lord, so (they) honoured him, and offered him their offerings, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. The night after that (there) appeared an angel from heaven in their sleep, in a dream, and said to-them and commanded, that they should not wend again near Herod, but by another way wend to their lands.

In the days of Edward II (1307-27) flourished William of Shoreham, named from Shoreham (Kent), near Otford and Sevenoaks, who was appointed vicar of Chart-Sutton in 1320. He translated the Psalter into English prose, and wrote some religious poems, chiefly relating to church-services, which were edited by T. Wright for the Percy Society in 1849. His poem "On Baptism" is printed in Specimens of Early English, Part II. I give an extract:

In water ich wel the cristny her{1} As Gode him-self hyt dight{e}{2}; For mide to wessch{e}{3} nis{4} nothynge That man cometh to so light{e}{5} In lond{e}{6}; Nis non that habben hit ne may{7} That habbe hit wil{e} found{e}{8}.

This bethe{9} the word{e}s of cristning By thyse Engl{'i}ssch{e} cost{e}s{10}— "Ich{11} cristni the{12} ine the Vader{13} name And Sone and Holy Gostes"— And more, "Amen!" wane hit{14} is ised{15} thertoe, Confermeth thet ther-to-fore{16}.

{Footnotes: 1: I desire thee to christen here 2: ordaine it 3: to wash with 4: is not 5: easily 6: in (the) land 7: there is noe that may not have it 8: that will try to have it 9: these are 10: coasts, regions 11: I 12: thee 13: Father's 14: when it 15: said 16: that which precedes }

In the year 1340, Dan Michel of Northgate (Kent) translated into English a French treatise on Vices and Virtues, under the title The Ayenbite of Inwyt, literally, "The Again-biting of In-wit," i.e. Remorse of Conscience. This is the best specimen of the Kentish dialect of the fourteenth century, and is remarkable for being much more difficult to make out than other pieces of the same period. The whole work was edited by Dr Morris for the Early English Text Society in 1866. A sermon of the same date and in the same dialect, and probably by the same author, is given in Specimens of Early English, Part II. The sermon is followed by the Lord's Prayer, the Ave Maria, and the "Credo" or Apostles' Creed, all in the same dialect; and I here give the last of these, as being not difficult to follow:

Ich leve ine God, Vader almighti, makere of hevene and of erthe. And ine Iesu Crist, His zone onlepi [only son], oure lhord, thet y-kend [conceived] is of the Holy Gost, y-bore of Marie mayde, y-pyned [was crucified, lit. made to suffer] onder Pouns Pilate, y-nayled a rode [on a cross], dyad, and be-bered; yede [went] doun to helle; thane thridde day aros vram the dyade; steay [rose, ascended] to hevenes; zit [sitteth] athe [on the] right half of God the Vader almighti; thannes to comene He is, to deme the quike and the dyade. Ich y-leve ine the Holy Gost; holy cherche generalliche; Mennesse of halyen [communion of holy-ones]; Lesnesse of zennes [remission of sins]; of vlesse [flesh, body] arizinge; and lyf evrelestinde. Zuo by hyt [so be it].

A few remarks may well be made here on some of the peculiarities of Southern English that appear here. The use of v for f (as in vader, vram, vlesshe), and of z for s (as in zone, zit, zennes) are common to this day, especially in Somersetshire. The spelling lhord reminds us that many Anglo-Saxon words began with hl, one of them being hl{-a}fweard, later hl{-a}ford, a lord; and this hl is a symbol denoting the so-called "whispered l," sounded much as if an aspirate were prefixed to the l, and still common in Welsh, where it is denoted by ll, as in llyn, a lake. In every case, modern English substitutes for it the ordinary l, though lh (= hl) was in use in 1340 in Southern. The prefix y-, representing the extremely common A.S. (Anglo-Saxon) prefix ge-, was kept up in Southern much longer than in the other dialects, but has now disappeared; the form y-clept being archaic. The plural suffix -en, as in haly-en, holy ones, saints, is due to the fact that Southern admitted the use of that suffix very freely, as in cherch-en, churches, sterr-en, stars, etc.; whilst Northern only admitted five such plurals, viz. egh-en, ey-en, eyes (Shakespeare's eyne), hos-en, stockings, ox-en, shoo-n, shoes, and f{-a}-n, foes; ox-en being the sole survivor, since shoon (as in Hamlet, IV iv 26) is archaic. The modern child-r-en, breth-r-en, are really double plurals; Northern employed the more original forms childer and brether, both of which, and especially the former, are still in dialectal use. Evrelest-inde exhibits the Southern -inde for present participles.

But the word zennes, sins, exhibits a peculiarity that is almost solely Kentish, and seldom found elsewhere, viz. the use of e for i. The explanation of this rests on an elementary lesson in Old English phonology, which it will do the reader no harm to acquire. The modern symbol i (when denoting the short sound, as in pit) really does double duty. It sometimes represents the A.S. short i, as in it (A.S. hit), sit (A.S. sittan), bitten (A.S. b{)i}ten), etc.; and sometimes the A.S. short y, as in pyt, a pit. The sound of the A.S. short i was much the same as in modern English; but that of the short y was different, as it denoted the "mutated" form of short u for which German has a special symbol, viz. {ue}, the sound intended being that of the German ue in schuetzen, to protect. In the latter case, Kentish usually has the vowel e, as in the modern Kentish pet, a pit, and in the surname Petman (at Margate), which means pitman; and as the A.S. for "sin" was synn (dat. synne), the Kentish form was zenne, since Middle English substantives often represent the A.S. dative case. The Kentish plural had the double form, zennes and zennen, both of which occur in the Ayenbite, as might have been expected.

The poet Gower, who completed what may be called the first edition of his poem named the Confessio Amantis (or Confession of a Lover) in 1390, was a Kentish man, and well acquainted with the Kentish dialect. He took advantage of this to introduce, occasionally, Kentish forms into his verse; apparently for the sake of securing a rime more easily. See this discussed at p. ci of vol. II of Macaulay's edition of Gower. I may illustrate this by noting that in Conf. Amant. i 1908, we find pitt riming with witt, whereas in the same, v 4945, pet rimes with let.

We know that, in 1386, the poet Chaucer was elected a knight of the shire for Kent, and in 1392-3 he was residing at Greenwich. He evidently knew something of the Kentish dialect; and he took advantage of the circumstance, precisely as Gower did, for varying his rimes. The earliest example of this is in his Book of the Duchess, l. 438, where he uses the Kentish ken instead of kin (A.S. cynn) in order to secure a rime for ten. In the Canterbury Tales, E 1057, he has kesse, to kiss (A.S. cyssan), to rime with stedfastnesse. In the same, A 1318, he has fulfille, to fulfil (cf. A.S. fyllan, to fill), to rime with wille; but in Troilus, iii 510, he changes it to fulfelle, to rime with telle; with several other instances of a like kind.

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