Page images
PDF
EPUB

him that still pursueth, upon pain of death. Neither shall there be any ransoming of persons, spoiling, pillaging, parting of prey, or wasting or burning by fire, or disbanding from their charges, or officers, but as the Lord General shall give order upon the same pain of death.

XVI.

Every man's carriage shall be diligently observed, and he, according to his merit, rewarded or punished: And whatsoever officer or soldier shall take commanders, or the colours of the enemy, or in the siege of towns, shall first enter a breach, or scale the walls, and shall carry himself dutifully in his station, and doth his part valiantly, in skirmish or battle, shall, after the laudable example of the wisest and worthiest kingdoms and estates, have his honour and reward, according to his worth and deserving, whether hereafter we have peace or war.

Matters, that are clear by the light and law of nature, are presupposed: Things unnecessary are passed over in silence: And other things may be judged by the common customs and constitutions of war; or may, upon new emergents, be expressed afterward.

VINDEX ANGLICUS;

OR, THE

PERFECTIONS OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE

DEFENDED AND ASSERTED.

Printed Anno Dom. MDCXLIV. Quarto, containing six pages.

1644

MONGST all things requisite to noble actions, I never saw fear recounted, neither can I acknowledge it due from so excelling a creature as man to any but the eternal majesty of his Creator. Which consideration makes me adventure the hazard of many censures, resolving to account those slender scars, they shall be able to inflict upon me in this attempt, as characters of honour, decyphering to every ingenuous eye my love to my country. Whatever ensue, it will suffice me with content enough, if my honest endeavour serve as an incitement to some more able pen, to handle such a worthy, though almost neglected subject, as is the patronage of our truly excellent language.

I seek not to compass any such miracle as to convince the prepossessed judgments of foreigners, but shall think to retreat with victory enough, if I can but foil those unnatural domesticks, who degenerately do either with a certain fond affected idolatry adore the language of other nations, contemning their own; or else imperiously (as if censors in this

particular) do add, detect, mangle, and transform her, according to their weak fancies; vainly spoiling the best of vulgar languages. I will not stick to avouch it a language, though that very affirmation be a received paradox; nor will I blush to parallel it with the best of the minor languages.

And, to make it good, I will not deduce it, from Babel's confusion, for truly I believe it had a nobler beginning; neither will I traffick with Scaliger so far for it as Persia, or Chersonesus: Seeing I look upon such deductions, as learned fancies conducting little to prove our antiquity, neither needful; since we together with our language are extracted from the Germans, whose title is so glorious in that kind, that the rest of Europe gives place unto them. There are two main objections which seem to exclude us from the title of a language, our mutability and mixture, happy faults, and so universal, that I presume the best of our opponents are hardly free from: Though (it may be) not equally guilty of, for I confess our mutability to be more frequent, yet choicer than theirs; and our composed mixture consisting of greater variety, yet accompanied with more purity and felicity. The Italian is compounded of Latin, barbarous Greek, and Gothish: The French of Latin, Dutch, and the old Gallick; the Spanish of Latin, Gothish, and Morisco; Germany hath a taste of the Roman empire, and her bordering neighbours; if I be not deceived, in us you may discover all these with advantage; yet their purest expression fitly seated, and separated from their barbarisms, which by others are swallowed together with the rest. All of them are so mutable, that our frequency is excusable: Nay, mixture and mutability are things so natural to languages, that none but the Hebrew (if that) are free from them.

What is become of the ancient Latin, used in the reigns of Latium and Carmenta; or in the times of the Tarquinii, or Decemviri; nay, or under the very consuls or emperors, if books did not conserve it? The same question may we make unto the French, Spanish, the latter Italians, and Germans also: Though Becanus would make us believe wonders of their antiquity, immutability, and the hidden Cabala or mysteries contained in their language, like as, in the Hebrew, to which, by his account it is not inferior in age, he deriving it even from the days of Adam: which perfection, supposed true, we also might partly lay hold of, as a branch of the same tree. But,

Credat Judæus Apella, non ego:

Let him that please, believe the same,
For I the fable quite disclaim.

For my part I believe, that what the learned physicians pronounce of human bodies, that they are by time often renewed, excretions, cold, heat, sickness, wounds, and sweat consuming the present, and giving place to new substance, may be said of languages, altered by every age; and as antiquity hath given place to us, so we shall yield to our posterity, not only in our lives and fortunes, but our language also.

By this time, I hope you will grant us the name of a language, and

stay us no more upon the simple term of speech; wherefore now will I direct myself against those admirers of foreign tongues, slighting their own, inferior to none of them in true excellency: None, I presume, will deny the perfection of a language to consist in facility, copiousness, sweetness, and significance; in all which, if I can make good that our language is equal, if not superior to the rest, I hope he must be very far transported with passion, and deeply factious, that will not assent

unto me.

The great facility of our language is evident by a double demonstration, the ease wherewith others commit ours to memory, and the singular help which it affords us to the attaining of others. Our monosyllables, and the exemption we have from flexions (whereunto most others are incident) do greatly facilitate ours; which though some may reckon as a defect, I will esteem a blessing, accounting that multiplicity of cases, genders, moods and tenses (which puts us to school to learn our mother-tongue) the emblems of Babel's curse, and confusion. For our facility in learning others, let us renew but the old observation : Turn an ingenious Englishman into what country soever, and quickly you shall for the most part see him profit so well, that his speech will little or nothing differ from the genuine dialect, of what language soever is there used by the natives; no common privilege.

Our copiousness I need not use much art, to demonstrate, for, besides the treasures of the ancient Dutch, which we retain in our Saxon monosyllables, the choicer wits of our nation have fetched hither the very quintessence of those other languages, and by their excellent industry so happily improved our English soil, that I dare safely affirm many of those foreign scions bear better, and more plentifully than in their former climate. The Latin and French are defective in the expression of many words, which we utter with ease, and they have none, whereunto our ability extendeth not; our abundance ends not here. We have court and country English, northern and southern dialects, which differ not only in pronunciation, but also in words and terms. There is no language can deliver a matter with more variety than ours, plainly by synonyma's, or by circumlocution with metaphors; which any mean judgment will instance with sundry examples. We almost equalise the Greeks, and even exceed the Latins in a peculiar grace of compounding many words together, which is one of the greatest beauties can be in a language.

Our

Our significancy and abilities in expression, in the several parts both letters, words, and phrases, is very eminent; in number and use of letters we exceed both Greeks, Latins, French, and Italians: words are incomparably significant, insomuch that many of them have four or five several significations. Our interjections are so fit for the expression of our passions, that they seem to be derived from the very nature of our several affections; when many of those of other tongues are almost ridiculous. What variety doth any other nation brag of, that we have not almost with equal felicity made our own? The Italian courtier, the French Salust, the Spanish Guzman, the Latin Naso, and the Greek Polybius; who would read that matchless essay of Mr. Sandys, upon the Æneids, and, would not think it writ so by the peerless Mare

himself? How properly hath the renowned Lord Bacon taught us to speak the terms of art, in our own language: We judged it impossible, till we saw it performed; which difficulty when I see overcome, makes me despair of nothing. What matchless and incomparable pieces of eloquence hath this time of civil war afforded? Came there ever from a prince's pen such exact pieces as are his Majesty's declarations? Were there ever speeches uttered in better language, or sweeter expressions, than those of the noble and learned Lord Digby, and some other worthy personages? Did ever nation expose choicer, more honourable or eloquent discourses, than ours hath done in our sovereign's behalf, since these unhappy divisions? There is no sort of verse either ancient, or modern, which we are not able to equal by imitation; we have our English Virgil, Ovid, Seneca, Lucan, Juvenal, Martial, and Catullus: in the Earl of Surry, Daniel, Johnson, Spencer, Don, Shakespear, and the glory of the rest, Sandys and Sydney. We have eminent advantages of all other vulgar languages in poetry. The Italian is so full of vowels, that he is ever cumbered with elisions; the Dutch with consonants, that his verse is sick of the sciatica; the French cannot afford you four words, whose accents are in the antepenultima, and therefore unfit for dactyls, which the accent and metre do so naturally square with us, that in both we deservedly bear the prize from all the rest. The Spanish and Italian want our Cæsura in the midst of the verses; the Italian cannot afford you a masculine rhyme: Nor, the French make metre of the antepenultima, and yet there is not any of the three syllables, whereunto our ability extendeth not.

The sweetness of our language I doubt not to compare with any vulgar whatsoever; let us put it to the trial and compare it with others. The Italian I confess is an excellent, princely, and pleasant language, upon which the best judgments look with great respect; yet it wants sinews, and passes as a silent water. The French are truly delicate, but too affected and effeminate. The Spanish majestical, but terrible and boisterous. The Dutch manly, but very harsh. Now we, in borrowing from each of them, give the strength of consonants to the Italian, the full sound of syllables to the French, the variety of termination with milder accents to the Spaniard, and dissolve with more facility the Dutch vowels; like bees, gathering their perfections, leave their dross to themselves: So, when substance combineth with delight, plenty with delicacy, beauty with majesty, and expedition with gravity what can want to the perfection of such a language?

[ocr errors]

Omitte mirari beatæ

Fumum, et opes, strepitumque Roma,

1

Admire not then the smoaky fume,

The wealth and train of mighty Rome,

For one of our great wits (who understood most languages in Europe) affirms, That in uttering sweetly and properly the conceit of the mind, which is the end of speech, we parallel any other tongue in the world;

and that our language is such, that foreigners, looking upon it now, may deservedly say,

Ipsa, suis pollens opibus, nihil indiga nostri.

She now abounds in proper store,

And stands in need of us no more.

Certainly the mixture of our extractions from others, joined with our own monosyllables, make up such a perfect harmony; that so you may frame your speech majestical, pleasant, delicate, or manly according to your subject, and exactly represent, in ours, whatsoever grace any other language carrieth. Yet let none think that I stand in any competition with the sacred Hebrew, learned Greeks, or fluent Latins, or claim a superiority over the rest; my ambition extends not so high, though you see I want not pretence for it. Let us look upon our own as a language, equal to the best of vulgar; and, for my own part,

Let others retain their ancient dignity and esteem.

Upon fair terms I have ended the controversy, and must now begin a fiercer combate against a second enemy.

Moths and cankers, who, with their shallow inventions and silly fancies, must still be engrafting new coined words in our English nursery, without either art or judgment. I seek not to discredit their worthy and immortal labours, who, with unmatchable industry, have fetched hither the best inhabitants of other climates, and made them' denizens in our colonies: These who with a skilful felicity have bought, brought, or borrowed the richest ornaments of other languages, to make ours abound with plenty and variety; but those I disclaim, who, when the work is excellently performed already, must still be fingering; and, when the quintessence and life of other tongues are ours already, must now traffick for the dregs, to the end they may be said to have done somewhat.

Languages, as all other mortal things, have their infancy and age; their wax and wane; the states where they are used, are the load

stars:

Ad cujus numen motumque moveri.

At whose motion or command,

They climb, decline, or make a stand.

With their prosperity and adversity they for the most part rise and fall, which the best of languages can largely testify, who, had they not, even miraculously by providence, been hitherto conserved in books, had long since perished, and been buried in the dust of oblivion; they being now as strange to their own birth-places, as to us. Our language. hath long been in the ascendent together with our monarchy, and at last, by excellent artists, is even brought to the height, which already

« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »