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12. I therefore purpose not, or dream,
Descanting on his fate,
A more enduring date;
Its semblance in another's case.
No light propitious shone,
We perished, each alone:
William Cowper (1731–1800).
FROISSART AND HIS CHRONICLESI
1. Hitherto chronicles had for the most part consisted of the record of such wandering rumours as reached a monastery, or were gathered in the religious pilgrimages of holy men. But at this time there came into notice the most inquiring, enterprising, picturesque, and entertaining chronicler that had ever appeared since Herodotus read the result of his personal travels and sagacious inquiries to the assembled multitudes of Greece.
2. John Froissart, called by the courtesy of the time Sir John, in honour of his being priest and chaplain, devoted a long life to the collection of the fullest and most trustworthy accounts of all the events and personages characistic of his time. From 1326, when his labours commence, to 1400, when his active pen stood still, nothing happened in any part of Europe that the Paul Pry of the period did not rush off to verify on the spot.
1 From White's Christian Centuries, inserted by permission of Messrs. Blackwood & Sons.
3. If he heard of an assemblage of knights going on at the extremities of France, or in the centre of Germany; of a tournament at Bordeaux, a court gala in Scotland, or a marriage festival at Milan, his travels began-whether in the humble guise of a solitary horseman, with his portmanteau 'behind his saddle, and a single greyhound at his heels, as he jogged wearily across the Border till he finally arrived at Edinburgh; or in his grander style of equipment, gallant steed, with hackney led beside him, and four dogs of high race gambolling round his horse, as he made his dignified journey from Ferrara to Rome. Wherever life was to be seen and painted, the indefatigable Froissart was to be found.
4. Whatever he had gathered up on former expeditions, whatever he learned on his present tour, down it went in his own exquisite language, with his own poetical innpressions of the pomps and pageantries he beheld; and when at the end of his journey he reached the court of prince or potentate, no higher treat could be offered to the “noble lords and ladies bright” than to form a glittering circle round the enchanting chronicler and listen to what he had written.
5. From palace to palace, from castle to castle, the unwearied “picker-up of unconsidered trifles” (which, however, were neither trifles nor unconsidered, when their true value became known, as giving life and reality to the annals of a whole period), pursued his happy way, certain of a friendly reception when he arrived, and certain of not losing his time by negligence or blindness on the road. If he overtakes a stately cavalier, attended by squires and men-at-arms, he enters into conversation, drawing out the experiences of the venerable warrior by relating to him all he knew of things and persons in which he took an interest. And when they put up at some hostelry on the road, and while the gallant knight was sound asleep on his straw-stuffed couch, and his followers were wallowing amid the rushes on the parlour floor, Froissart was busy with pen and note-book, scoring down all the old gentleman had told him, all the fights he had been present at, and the secret history (if any) of the councils of priests and kings.- Rev. Jas. White (1785–1862).
Questions on the lesson :—Of what had chronicles mostly consisted before Froissart's time? Where were the rumours which formed them heard? The chronicler's name? Called by courtesy? Why? During what period was he active? How did he gain his information? What things interested him? In what different ways did he travel? What was done with the information which he accumulated? How did he improve the time during which he was on the road?
Herodotus. See notes to lesson on Babylon.
Bordeaux (on the margin of the waters, au bord des eaux), one of the most important cities of France, on the river Garonne.
Milan, a famous city in Lombardy in the north of Italy.
Ferrara, a city in the north of Italy near the right bank of the Po.
OUR ENGLISH TONGUE.
1. No living language yet possesses a dictionary so complete as to give all the words in use at any one period, still less all those that have belonged to it during the whole extent of its literary history. We cannot, therefore, arrive at any precise results as to the comparative copiousness of our own and other languages, but there is a reason to think that the vocabulary of English is among the most extensive now employed by man.
2. The number of English words not yet obsolete, but found in good authors, or in approved usage by correct speakers, including the nomenclature of science and the arts, does not probably fall short of one hundred thousand. Now there are persons who know this vocabulary in nearly its whole extent, but they understand a large proportion of it much as they are acquainted with Greek or Latin, that is, as the dialect of books or of special arts or professions, and not as a living speech, the common language of daily and hourly thought.
3. Or if, like some celebrated English and American orators, living and dead, they are able upon occasion to bring into the field in the war of words even the half of this vast array of light and heavy troops, yet they habitually content themselves with a much less imposing display of verbal force, and use for ordinary purposes but a very small proportion of the words they have at their command. Out of our immense magazine of words and their combinations every man selects his own implements and weapons, and we should find in the verbal repertory of each individual, were it once fairly laid open to us, a key that would unlock many mysteries of his particular humanity, many secrets of his private history.
4. Few writers or speakers use as many as ten thousand words; ordinary persons of fair intelligence not above three or four thousand. If a scholar were to be required to name without examination the authors whose English vocabularly was the largest, he would probably specify the all-embracing Shakespeare and the all-knowing Milton. And yet in all the works of the great dramatist there occur not more than fifteen thousand words, in the poems of Milton not above eight thousand. The whole number of Egyptian hieroglyphic symbols does not exceed eight hundred, and the entire Italian operatic vocabulary is said to be scarcely more extensive.
5. To those whose attention has not been turned to the subject, these are surprising facts; but if we run over a few pages of a dictionary and observe how great a proportion of the words are such as we do not ourselves individually use, we shall be forced to conclude that we each find a very limited vocabulary sufficient for our own purposes. Although we have few words absolutely synonymous, yet every important thought, image, and feeling has numerous allied, if not equivalent, forms of expression, and out of these every man appropriates, and almost exclusively employs, those which most closely accord with his own mental constitution, his tastes and opinions, the style of his favourite authors, or which best accommodate themselves to the rest of his habitual phraseology
6. One man will say a thankful heart, another a grateful spirit; one usually employs fancy where another would say imagination, one describes a friend as a person of sanguine temperament, another speaks of him as a man of a hopeful spirit; one regards a winter passage around Cape Horn as a very hazardous voyage, another considers it a peculiarly dangerous trip; one man begins to build, another commences building.