« 前へ次へ »
ject would at first easily believe, are Saxon. Of sixty-nine words which make up the Lord's Prayer, there are only five not Saxon; the best example of the natural bent of our language, and of the words apt to be chosen by those who speak and write it without design. Of eighty-one words in the soliloquy of Hamlet, thirteen only are of Latin origin. Even in a passage of ninety words in Milton, whose diction is more learned than that of any other poet, there are only sixteen Latin words. In four verses of the authorized version of Genesis, which contain about a hundred and thirty words, there are no more than five Latin. In seventy-nine words of Addison, whose perfect taste pre
served him from a pedantic or constrained preference for any portion of the language, we find only fifteen Latin. In later times the language has rebelled against the bad taste of those otherwise vigorous writers who, instead of ennobling their style like Milton, by the position and combination of words, have tried to raise it by unusual and far-fetched expressions. Doctor Johnson himself, from whose corruptions English style is only recovering, in eighty-seven words of his fine parallel between Dryden and Pope, has found means to introduce no more than twenty-one of Latin derivation. The language of familiarintercourse, the terms of jest and pleasantry, and those of necessary
business, the idioms or peculiar phrases into which words naturally run, the proverbs, which are the condensed and pointed sense of the people, the particles, on which our syntax depends, and which are of perpetual recurrence; all these foundations of a language are more decisive proofs of the Saxon origin of ours than even the great majority of Saxon words in writing, and the still greater majority in speaking.
In all cases where we have preserved a whole family of words, the superior significancy of a Saxon over a Latin term is most remarkable.
« Wellbeing arises from well-doing,” is a Saxon phrase, which may be thus rendered into the Latin part of the language,-“Felicity attends virtue :" but how inferior in force is the latter! In the Saxon phrase the parts or roots of words being significant in our language, and familiar to our eyes and ears, throw their whole meaning into the compounds and derivations; while the Latin words of the same import, having their roots and elements in a foreign language, carry only a cold and conventional signification to an English ear. It must not be a subject of wonder that language should have many closer connections with the thoughts and feelings which it denotes, than our philosophy can always explain. As words convey these elements of the character of each particular mind, so the structure and idioms of a language, those properties of it, which being known to us only by their effect, we are obliged to call its spirit and genius, seem to represent the characters or assemblage of qualities which distinguish one people from others.