On the Study of Words
Richard C Trench

Part 1 out of 4

Produced by Karl Hagen, Juliet Sutherland, Charles Franks,
and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.



'Language is the armoury of the human mind, and at once contains the
trophies of its past, and the weapons of its future, conquests'

'Out, idle words, servants to shallow fools!'--SHAKESPEARE



Joint Author of 'The Concise Middle English Dictionary'


In all essential points this edition of The Study of Words is the same
book as the last edition. The aim of the editor has been to alter as
little of Archbishop Trench's work as possible. In the arrangement of
the book, in the order of the chapters and paragraphs, in the style, in
the general presentation of the matter, no change has been made. On the
other hand, the work has been thoroughly revised and corrected. A great
deal of thought and labour has of late been bestowed on English
philology, and there has been a great advance in the knowledge of the
laws regulating the development of the sounds of English words, and the
result has been that many a derivation once generally accepted has had
to be given up as phonetically impossible. An attempt has been made to
purge the book of all erroneous etymologies, and to correct in the text
small matters of detail. There have also been added some footnotes, in
which difficult points are discussed and where reference is given to
recent authorities. All editorial additions, whether in the text or in
the notes, are enclosed in square brackets. It is hoped that the book
as it now stands does not contain in its etymological details anything
inconsistent with the latest discoveries of English scholars.




These lectures will not, I trust, be found anywhere to have left out of
sight seriously, or for long, the peculiar needs of those for whom they
were originally intended, and to whom they were primarily addressed. I
am conscious, indeed, here and there, of a certain departure from my
first intention, having been in part seduced to this by a circumstance
which I had not in the least contemplated when I obtained permission to
deliver them, by finding, namely, that I should have other hearers
besides the pupils of the Training-School. Some matter adapted for
those rather than for these I was thus led to introduce--which
afterwards I was unwilling, in preparing for the press, to remove; on
the contrary adding to it rather, in the hope of obtaining thus a
somewhat wider circle of readers than I could have hoped, had I more
rigidly restricted myself in the choice of my materials. Yet I should
greatly regret to have admitted so much of this as should deprive these
lectures of their fitness for those whose profit in writing and in
publishing I had mainly in view, namely schoolmasters, and those
preparing to be such.

Had I known any book entering with any fulness, and in a popular manner,
into the subject-matter of these pages, and making it its exclusive
theme, I might still have delivered these lectures, but should scarcely
have sought for them a wider audience than their first, gladly leaving
the matter in their hands, whose studies in language had been fuller
and riper than my own. But abundant and ready to hand as are the
materials for such a book, I did not; while yet it seems to me that the
subject is one to which it is beyond measure desirable that their
attention, who are teaching, or shall have hereafter to teach, others
should be directed; so that they shall learn to regard language as one
of the chiefest organs of their own education and that of others. For I
am persuaded that I have used no exaggeration in saying, that for many
a young man 'his first discovery that words are living powers, has been
like the dropping of scales from his eyes, like the acquiring of
another sense, or the introduction into a new world,'--while yet all
this may be indefinitely deferred, may, indeed, never find place at all,
unless there is some one at hand to help for him, and to hasten the
process; and he who so does, will ever after be esteemed by him as one
of his very foremost benefactors. Whatever may be Horne Tooke's
shortcomings (and they are great), whether in details of etymology, or
in the philosophy of grammar, or in matters more serious still, yet,
with all this, what an epoch in many a student's intellectual life has
been his first acquaintance with _The Diversions of Purley_. And they
were not among the least of the obligations which the young men of our
time owed to Coleridge, that he so often himself weighed words in the
balances, and so earnestly pressed upon all with whom his voice went
for anything, the profit which they would find in so doing. Nor, with
the certainty that I am anticipating much in my little volume, can I
refrain from quoting some words which were not present with me during
its composition, although I must have been familiar with them long ago;
words which express excellently well why it is that these studies
profit so much, and which will also explain the motives which induced
me to add my little contribution to their furtherance:

'A language will often be wiser, not merely than the vulgar, but even
than the wisest of those who speak it. Being like amber in its efficacy
to circulate the electric spirit of truth, it is also like amber in
embalming and preserving the relics of ancient wisdom, although one is
not seldom puzzled to decipher its contents. Sometimes it locks up
truths, which were once well known, but which, in the course of ages,
have passed out of sight and been forgotten. In other cases it holds
the germs of truths, of which, though they were never plainly discerned,
the genius of its framers caught a glimpse in a happy moment of
divination. A meditative man cannot refrain from wonder, when he digs
down to the deep thought lying at the root of many a metaphorical term,
employed for the designation of spiritual things, even of those with
regard to which professing philosophers have blundered grossly; and
often it would seem as though rays of truth, which were still below the
intellectual horizon, had dawned upon the imagination as it was looking
up to heaven. Hence they who feel an inward call to teach and enlighten
their countrymen, should deem it an important part of their duty to
draw out the stores of thought which are already latent in their native
language, to purify it from the corruptions which Time brings upon all
things, and from which language has no exemption, and to endeavour to
give distinctness and precision to whatever in it is confused, or
obscure, or dimly seen'--_Guesses at Truth, First Series_, p. 295.

ITCHENSTOKE: Oct. 9, 1851.












There are few who would not readily acknowledge that mainly in worthy
books are preserved and hoarded the treasures of wisdom and knowledge
which the world has accumulated; and that chiefly by aid of books they
are handed down from one generation to another. I shall urge on you in
these lectures something different from this; namely, that not in books
only, which all acknowledge, nor yet in connected oral discourse, but
often also in words contemplated singly, there are boundless stores of
moral and historic truth, and no less of passion and imagination, laid
up--that from these, lessons of infinite worth may be derived, if only
our attention is roused to their existence. I shall urge on you how
well it will repay you to study the words which you are in the habit of
using or of meeting, be they such as relate to highest spiritual things,
or our common words of the shop and the market, and of all the familiar
intercourse of daily life. It will indeed repay you far better than you
can easily believe. I am sure, at least, that for many a young man his
first discovery of the fact that words are living powers, are the
vesture, yea, even the body, which thoughts weave for themselves, has
been like the dropping of scales from his eyes, like the acquiring of
another sense, or the introduction into a new world; he is never able
to cease wondering at the moral marvels that surround him on every side,
and ever reveal themselves more and more to his gaze.

We indeed hear it not seldom said that ignorance is the mother of
admiration. No falser word was ever spoken, and hardly a more
mischievous one; implying, as it does, that this healthiest exercise of
the mind rests, for the most part, on a deceit and a delusion, and that
with larger knowledge it would cease; while, in truth, for once that
ignorance leads us to admire that which with fuller insight we should
perceive to be a common thing, one demanding no such tribute from us, a
hundred, nay, a thousand times, it prevents us from admiring that which
is admirable indeed. And this is so, whether we are moving in the
region of nature, which is the region of God's wonders, or in the
region of art, which is the region of man's wonders; and nowhere truer
than in this sphere and region of language, which is about to claim us
now. Oftentimes here we walk up and down in the midst of intellectual
and moral marvels with a vacant eye and a careless mind; even as some
traveller passes unmoved over fields of fame, or through cities of
ancient renown--unmoved, because utterly unconscious of the lofty deeds
which there have been wrought, of the great hearts which spent
themselves there. We, like him, wanting the knowledge and insight which
would have served to kindle admiration in us, are oftentimes deprived
of this pure and elevating excitement of the mind, and miss no less
that manifold instruction which ever lies about our path, and nowhere
more largely than in our daily words, if only we knew how to put forth
our hands and make it our own. 'What riches,' one exclaims, 'lie hidden
in the vulgar tongue of our poorest and most ignorant. What flowers of
paradise lie under our feet, with their beauties and their parts
undistinguished and undiscerned, from having been daily trodden on.'

And this subject upon which we are thus entering ought not to be a dull
or uninteresting one in the handling, or one to which only by an effort
you will yield the attention which I shall claim. If it shall prove so,
this I fear must be through the fault of my manner of treating it; for
certainly in itself there is no study which _may_ be made at once more
instructive and entertaining than the study of the use and abuse, the
origin and distinction of words, with an investigation, slight though
it may be, of the treasures contained in them; which is exactly that
which I now propose to myself and to you. I remember a very learned
scholar, to whom we owe one of our best Greek lexicons, a book which
must have cost him years, speaking in the preface of his completed work
with a just disdain of some, who complained of the irksome drudgery of
such toils as those which had engaged him so long,--toils irksome,
forsooth, because they only had to do with words. He disclaims any part
with those who asked pity for themselves, as so many galley-slaves
chained to the oar, or martyrs who had offered themselves for the good
of the literary world. He declares that the task of classing, sorting,
grouping, comparing, tracing the derivation and usage of words, had
been to him no drudgery, but a delight and labour of love. [Footnote:
It is well worth the while to read on this same subject the pleasant
_causerie_ of Littré 'Comment j'ai fait mon Dictionnaire.' It is to be
found pp. 390-442 of his _Glanures_.]

And if this may be true in regard of a foreign tongue, how much truer
ought it to be in regard of our own, of our 'mother tongue,' as we
affectionately call it. A great writer not very long departed from us
has borne witness at once to the pleasantness and profit of this study.
'In a language,' he says, 'like ours, where so many words are derived
from other languages, there are few modes of instruction more useful or
more amusing than that of accustoming young people to seek for the
etymology or primary meaning of the words they use. There are cases in
which more knowledge of more value may be conveyed by the history of a
word than by the history of a campaign.' So writes Coleridge; and
impressing the same truth, Emerson has somewhere characterized language
as 'fossil poetry.' He evidently means that just as in some fossil,
curious and beautiful shapes of vegetable or animal life, the graceful
fern or the finely vertebrated lizard, such as now, it may be, have
been extinct for thousands of years, are permanently bound up with the
stone, and rescued from that perishing which would else have been their
portion,--so in words are beautiful thoughts and images, the
imagination and the feeling of past ages, of men long since in their
graves, of men whose very names have perished, there are these, which
might so easily have perished too, preserved and made safe for ever.
The phrase is a striking one; the only fault one can find with it is
that it is too narrow. Language may be, and indeed is, this 'fossil
poetry'; but it may be affirmed of it with exactly the same truth that
it is fossil ethics, or fossil history. Words quite as often and as
effectually embody facts of history, or convictions of the moral sense,
as of the imagination or passion of men; even as, so far as that moral
sense may be perverted, they will bear witness and keep a record of
that perversion. On all these points I shall enter at full in after
lectures; but I may give by anticipation a specimen or two of what I
mean, to make from the first my purpose and plan more fully
intelligible to all.

Language then is 'fossil poetry'; in other words, we are not to look
for the poetry which a people may possess only in its poems, or its
poetical customs, traditions, and beliefs. Many a single word also is
itself a concentrated poem, having stores of poetical thought and
imagery laid up in it. Examine it, and it will be found to rest on some
deep analogy of things natural and things spiritual; bringing those to
illustrate and to give an abiding form and body to these. The image may
have grown trite and ordinary now: perhaps through the help of this
very word may have become so entirely the heritage of all, as to seem
little better than a commonplace; yet not the less he who first
discerned the relation, and devised the new word which should express
it, or gave to an old, never before but literally used, this new and
figurative sense, this man was in his degree a poet--a maker, that is,
of things which were not before, which would not have existed but for
him, or for some other gifted with equal powers. He who spake first of
a 'dilapidated' fortune, what an image must have risen up before his
mind's eye of some falling house or palace, stone detaching itself from
stone, till all had gradually sunk into desolation and ruin. Or he who
to that Greek word which signifies 'that which will endure to be held
up to and judged by the sunlight,' gave first its ethical signification
of 'sincere,' 'truthful,' or as we sometimes say, 'transparent,' can we
deny to him the poet's feeling and eye? Many a man had gazed, we are
sure, at the jagged and indented mountain ridges of Spain, before one
called them 'sierras' or 'saws,' the name by which now they are known,
as _Sierra_ Morena, _Sierra_ Nevada; but that man coined his
imagination into a word which will endure as long as the everlasting
hills which he named.

But it was said just now that words often contain a witness for great
moral truths--God having pressed such a seal of truth upon language,
that men are continually uttering deeper things than they know,
asserting mighty principles, it may be asserting them against
themselves, in words that to them may seem nothing more than the
current coin of society. Thus to what grand moral purposes Bishop
Butler turns the word 'pastime'; how solemn the testimony which he
compels the world, out of its own use of this word, to render against
itself--obliging it to own that its amusements and pleasures do not
really satisfy the mind and fill it with the sense of an abiding and
satisfying joy: [Footnote: _Sermon_ xiv. _Upon the Love of God_.
Curiously enough, Montaigne has, in his Essays, drawn the same
testimony out of the word: 'This ordinary phrase of Pass-time, and
passing away the time, represents the custom of those wise sort of
people, who think they cannot have a better account of their lives,
than to let them run out and slide away, to pass them over and to baulk
them, and as much as they can, to take no notice of them and to shun
them, as a thing of troublesome and contemptible quality. But I know it
to be another kind of thing, and find it both valuable and commodious
even in its latest decay, wherein I now enjoy it, and nature has
delivered it into our hands in such and so favourable circumstances
that we commonly complain of ourselves, if it be troublesome to us or
slide unprofitably away.'] they are only 'pastime'; they serve only, as
this word confesses, to _pass_ away the _time_, to prevent it from
hanging, an intolerable burden, on men's hands: all which they can do
at the best is to prevent men from discovering and attending to their
own internal poverty and dissatisfaction and want. He might have added
that there is the same acknowledgment in the word 'diversion' which
means no more than that which _diverts_ or turns us aside from
ourselves, and in this way helps us to forget ourselves for a little.
And thus it would appear that, even according to the world's own
confession, all which it proposes is--not to make us happy, but a
little to prevent us from remembering that we are unhappy, to _pass_
away our time, to _divert_ us from ourselves. While on the other hand
we declare that the good which will really fill our souls and satisfy
them to the uttermost, is not in us, but without us and above us, in
the words which we use to set forth any transcending delight. Take
three or four of these words--'transport,' 'rapture,' 'ravishment,'
'ecstasy,'--'transport,' that which _carries_ us, as 'rapture,' or
'ravishment,' that which _snatches_ us out of and above ourselves; and
'ecstasy' is very nearly the same, only drawn from the Greek. And not
less, where a perversion of the moral sense has found place, words
preserve oftentimes a record of this perversion. We have a signal
example of this in the use, or rather misuse, of the words 'religion'
and 'religious' during the Middle Ages, and indeed in many parts of
Christendom still. A 'religious' person did not then mean any one who
felt and owned the bonds that bound him to God and to his fellow-men,
but one who had taken peculiar vows upon him, the member of a monastic
Order, of a 'religion' as it was called. As little did a 'religious'
house then mean, nor does it now mean in the Church of Rome, a
Christian household, ordered in the fear of God, but a house in which
these persons were gathered together according to the rule of some man.
What a light does this one word so used throw on the entire state of
mind and habits of thought in those ages! That then was 'religion,' and
alone deserved the name! And 'religious' was a title which might not be
given to parents and children, husbands and wives, men and women
fulfilling faithfully and holily in the world the duties of their
several stations, but only to those who had devised a self-chosen
service for themselves. [Footnote: A reviewer in Fraser's Magazine, Dec.
1851, doubts whether I have not here pushed my assertion too far. So
far from this, it was not merely the 'popular language' which this
corruption had invaded, but a decree of the great Fourth Lateran
Council (A.D. 1215), forbidding the further multiplication of monastic
Orders, runs thus: Ne nimia _religionum_ diversitas gravem in Ecclesia
Dei confusionem inducat, firmiter prohibemus, ne quis de cetero novam
_religionem_ inveniat, sed quicunque voluerit ad _religionem_ converti,
unam de approbatis assumat.]

But language is fossil history as well. What a record of great social
revolutions, revolutions in nations and in the feelings of nations, the
one word 'frank' contains, which is used, as we all know, to express
aught that is generous, straightforward, and free. The Franks, I need
not remind you, were a powerful German tribe, or association of tribes,
who gave themselves [Footnote: This explanation of the name _Franks_ is
now generally given up. The name is probably a derivative from a lost
O.H.G. _francho_, a spear or javelin: compare A.S. _franca_, Icel.
_frakka_; similarly the Saxons are supposed to have derived their name
from a weapon--_seax_, a knife; see Kluge's _Dict_. (s.v. _frank_).]
this proud name of the 'franks' or the free; and who, at the breaking
up of the Roman Empire, possessed themselves of Gaul, to which they
gave their own name. They were the ruling conquering people, honourably
distinguished from the Gauls and degenerate Romans among whom they
established themselves by their independence, their love of freedom,
their scorn of a lie; they had, in short, the virtues which belong to a
conquering and dominant race in the midst of an inferior and conquered
one. And thus it came to pass that by degrees the name 'frank'
indicated not merely a national, but involved a moral, distinction as
well; and a 'frank' man was synonymous not merely with a man of the
conquering German race, but was an epithet applied to any man possessed
of certain high moral qualities, which for the most part appertained to,
and were found only in, men of that stock; and thus in men's daily
discourse, when they speak of a person as being 'frank,' or when they
use the words 'franchise,' 'enfranchisement,' to express civil
liberties and immunities, their language here is the outgrowth, the
record, and the result of great historic changes, bears testimony to
facts of history, whereof it may well happen that the speakers have
never heard. [Footnote: 'Frank,' though thus originally a German word,
only came back to Germany from France in the seventeenth century. With
us it is found in the sixteenth; but scarcely earlier.] The word
'slave' has undergone a process entirely analogous, although in an
opposite direction. 'The martial superiority of the Teutonic races
enabled them to keep their slave markets supplied with captives taken
from the Sclavonic tribes. Hence, in all the languages of Western
Europe, the once glorious name of Slave has come to express the most
degraded condition of men. What centuries of violence and warfare does
the history of this word disclose.' [Footnote: Gibbon, _Decline and
Fall_, c. 55. [It is very doubtful whether the idea of 'glory' was
implied originally in the national name of _Slav_. It is generally held
now that the Slavs gave themselves the name as being 'the
intelligible,' or 'the intelligibly speaking' people; as in the case of
many other races, they regarded their strange-speaking neighbours as
'barbarian,' that is 'stammering,' or even as 'dumb.' So the Russians
call their neighbours the Germans _njemets_, connected with _njemo_,
indistinct. The old name _Slovene_, Slavonians, is probably a
derivative from the substantive which appears in Church Slavonic in the
form _slovo_, a word; see Thomsen's _Russia and Scandinavia_, p. 8.
_Slovo_ is closely connected with the old Slavonic word for 'fame'--
_slava_, hence, no doubt, the explanation of _Slave_ favoured by

Having given by anticipation this handful of examples in illustration
of what in these lectures I propose, I will, before proceeding further,
make a few observations on a subject, which, if we would go at all to
the root of the matter, we can scarcely leave altogether untouched,--I
mean the origin of language, in which however we will not entangle
ourselves deeper than we need. There are, or rather there have been,
two theories about this. One, and that which rather has been than now
is, for few maintain it still, would put language on the same level
with the various arts and inventions with which man has gradually
adorned and enriched his life. It would make him by degrees to have
invented it, just as he might have invented any of these, for himself;
and from rude imperfect beginnings, the inarticulate cries by which he
expressed his natural wants, the sounds by which he sought to imitate
the impression of natural objects upon him, little by little to have
arrived at that wondrous organ of thought and feeling, which his
language is often to him now.

It might, I think, be sufficient to object to this explanation, that
language would then be an _accident_ of human nature; and, this being
the case, that we certainly should somewhere encounter tribes sunken so
low as not to possess it; even as there is almost no human art or
invention so obvious, and as it seems to us so indispensable, but there
are those who have fallen below its knowledge and its exercise. But
with language it is not so. There have never yet been found human
beings, not the most degraded horde of South African bushmen, or Papuan
cannibals, who did not employ this means of intercourse with one
another. But the more decisive objection to this view of the matter is,
that it hangs together with, and is indeed an essential part of, that
theory of society, which is contradicted alike by every page of Genesis,
and every notice of our actual experience--the 'urang-utang theory,' as
it has been so happily termed--that, I mean, according to which the
primitive condition of man was the savage one, and the savage himself
the seed out of which in due time the civilized man was unfolded;
whereas, in fact, so far from being this living seed, he might more
justly be considered as a dead withered leaf, torn violently away from
the great trunk of humanity, and with no more power to produce anything
nobler than himself out of himself, than that dead withered leaf to
unfold itself into the oak of the forest. So far from being the child
with the latent capabilities of manhood, he is himself rather the man
prematurely aged, and decrepit, and outworn.

But the truer answer to the inquiry how language arose, is this: God
gave man language, just as He gave him reason, and just because He gave
him reason; for what is man's _word_ but his reason, coming forth that
it may behold itself? They are indeed so essentially one and the same
that the Greek language has one word for them both. He gave it to him,
because he could not be man, that is, a social being, without it. Yet
this must not be taken to affirm that man started at the first
furnished with a full-formed vocabulary of words, and as it were with
his first dictionary and first grammar ready-made to his hands. He did
not thus begin the world _with names_, but _with the power of naming_:
for man is not a mere speaking machine; God did not teach him words, as
one of us teaches a parrot, from without; but gave him a capacity, and
then evoked the capacity which He gave. Here, as in everything else
that concerns the primitive constitution, the great original institutes,
of humanity, our best and truest lights are to be gotten from the study
of the first three chapters of Genesis; and you will observe that there
it is not God who imposed the first names on the creatures, but Adam--
Adam, however, at the direct suggestion of his Creator. _He_ brought
them all, we are told, to Adam, 'to see what he would call them; and
whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name
thereof' (Gen. ii. 19). Here we have the clearest intimation of the
origin, at once divine and human, of speech; while yet neither is so
brought forward as to exclude or obscure the other.

And so far we may concede a limited amount of right to those who have
held a progressive acquisition, on man's part, of the power of
embodying thought in words. I believe that we should conceive the
actual case most truly, if we conceived this power of naming things and
expressing their relations, as one laid up in the depths of man's being,
one of the divine capabilities with which he was created: but one (and
in this differing from those which have produced in various people
various arts of life) which could not remain dormant in him, for man
could be only man through its exercise; which therefore did rapidly bud
and blossom out from within him at every solicitation from the world
without and from his fellow-man; as each object to be named appeared
before his eyes, each relation of things to one another arose before
his mind. It was not merely the possible, but the necessary, emanation
of the spirit with which he had been endowed. Man makes his own
language, but he makes it as the bee makes its cells, as the bird its
nest; he cannot do otherwise. [Footnote: Renan has much of interest on
this matter, both in his work _De l'Origine du Langage_, and in his
_Hist. des Langues Semitiques_. I quote from the latter, p. 445: Sans
doute les langues, comme tout ce qui est organisé, sont sujettes à la
loi du développement graduel. En soutenant que le langage primitif
possédait les éléments nécessaires à son intégrité, nous sommes loin de
dire que les mécanismes d'un âge plus avancé y fussent arrivés a leur
pleine existence. Tout y était, mais confusément et sans distinction.
Le temps seul et les progrès de l'esprit humain pouvaient opérer un
discernement dans cette obscure synthèse, et assigner à chaque élément
son rôle spécial. La vie, en un mot, n'était ici, comme partout, qu'à
la condition de l'évolution du germe primitif, de la distribution des
rôles et de la séparation des organes. Mais ces organes eux-mêmes
furent détermines dès le premier jour, et depuis l'acte générateur qui
le fit être, le langage ne s'est enrichi d'aucune fonction vraiment
nouvelle. Un germe est posé, renfermant en puissance tout ce que l'être
sera un jour; le germe se développe, les formes se constituent dans
leurs proportions régulières, ce qui était en puissance devient en
acte; mais rien ne se crée, rien ne s'ajoute: telle est la loi commune
des êtres soumis aux conditions de la vie. Telle fut aussi la loi du

_How_ this latent power evolved itself first, how this spontaneous
generation of language came to pass, is a mystery; even as every act of
creation is of necessity such; and as a mystery all the deepest
inquirers into the subject are content to leave it. Yet we may perhaps
a little help ourselves to the realizing of what the process was, and
what it was not, if we liken it to the growth of a tree springing out
of, and unfolding itself from, a root, and according to a necessary
law--that root being the divine capacity of language with which man was
created, that law being the law of highest reason with which he was
endowed: if we liken it to this rather than to the rearing of a house,
which a man should slowly and painfully fashion for himself with dead
timbers combined after his own fancy and caprice; and which little by
little improved in shape, material, and size, being first but a log
house, answering his barest needs, and only after centuries of toil and
pain growing for his sons' sons into a stately palace for pleasure and

Were it otherwise, were the savage the primitive man, we should then
find savage tribes, furnished scantily enough, it might be, with the
elements of speech, yet at the same time with its fruitful beginnings,
its vigorous and healthful germs. But what does their language on close
inspection prove? In every case what they are themselves, the remnant
and ruin of a better and a nobler past. Fearful indeed is the impress
of degradation which is stamped on the language of the savage, more
fearful perhaps even than that which is stamped upon his form. When
wholly letting go the truth, when long and greatly sinning against
light and conscience, a people has thus gone the downward way, has been
scattered off by some violent catastrophe from those regions of the
world which are the seats of advance and progress, and driven to its
remote isles and further corners, then as one nobler thought, one
spiritual idea after another has perished from it, the words also that
expressed these have perished too. As one habit of civilization has
been let go after another, the words which those habits demanded have
dropped as well, first out of use, and then out of memory and thus
after a while have been wholly lost.

Moffat, in his _Missionary Labours and Scenes in South Africa_, gives
us a very remarkable example of the disappearing of one of the most
significant words from the language of a tribe sinking ever deeper in
savagery; and with the disappearing of the word, of course, the
disappearing as well of the great spiritual fact and truth whereof that
word was at once the vehicle and the guardian. The Bechuanas, a Caffre
tribe, employed formerly the word 'Morimo,' to designate 'Him that is
above' or 'Him that is in heaven' and attached to the word the notion
of a supreme Divine Being. This word, with the spiritual idea
corresponding to it, Moffat found to have vanished from the language of
the present generation, although here and there he could meet with an
old man, scarcely one or two in a thousand, who remembered in his youth
to have heard speak of 'Morimo'; and this word, once so deeply
significant, only survived now in the spells and charms of the so-
called rainmakers and sorcerers, who misused it to designate a fabulous
ghost, of whom they told the absurdest and most contradictory things.

And as there is no such witness to the degradation of the savage as the
brutal poverty of his language, so is there nothing that so effectually
tends to keep him in the depths to which he has fallen. You cannot
impart to any man more than the words which he understands either now
contain, or can be made, intelligibly to him, to contain. Language is
as truly on one side the limit and restraint of thought, as on the
other side that which feeds and unfolds thought. Thus it is the ever-
repeated complaint of the missionary that the very terms are well-nigh
or wholly wanting in the dialect of the savage whereby to impart to him
heavenly truths; and not these only; but that there are equally wanting
those which should express the nobler emotions of the human heart.
Dobrizhoffer, the Jesuit missionary, in his curious _History of the
Abipones,_ tells us that neither these nor the Guarinies, two of the
principal native tribes of Brazil, possessed any word in the least
corresponding to our 'thanks.' But what wonder, if the feeling of
gratitude was entirely absent from their hearts, that they should not
have possessed the corresponding word in their vocabularies? Nay, how
should they have had it there? And that in this absence lies the true
explanation is plain from a fact which the same writer records, that,
although inveterate askers, they never showed the slightest sense of
obligation or of gratitude when they obtained what they sought; never
saying more than, 'This will be useful to me,' or, 'This is what I
wanted.' Dr. Krapf, after laborious researches in some widely extended
dialects of East Africa, has remarked in them the same absence of any
words expressing the idea of gratitude.

Nor is it only in what they have forfeited and lost, but also in what
they have retained or invented, that these languages proclaim their
degradation and debasement, and how deeply they and those that speak
them have fallen. For indeed the strange wealth and the strange poverty,
I know not which the strangest and the saddest, of the languages of
savage tribes, rich in words which proclaim their shame, poor in those
which should attest the workings of any nobler life among them, not
seldom absolutely destitute of these last, are a mournful and ever-
recurring surprise, even to those who were more or less prepared to
expect nothing else. Thus I have read of a tribe in New Holland, which
has no word to signify God, but has one to designate a process by which
an unborn child may be destroyed in the bosom of its mother. [Footnote:
A Wesleyan missionary, communicating with me from Fiji, assures me I
have here understated the case. He says: 'I could write down several
words, which express as many different ways of killing an unborn
child.' He has at the same time done me the favour to send me dreadful
confirmation of all which I have here asserted. It is a list of some
Fiji words, with the hideous meanings which they bear, or facts which
they imply. He has naturally confined himself to those in one domain of
human wickedness--that, namely, of cruelty; leaving another domain,
which borders close on this, and which, he assures me, would yield
proofs quite as terrible, altogether untouched. It is impossible to
imagine a record more hideous of what the works of the arch-murderer
are, or one more fitted to stir up missionary zeal in behalf of those
dark places of the earth which are full of the habitations of cruelty.
A very few specimens must suffice. The language of Fiji has a word for
a club which has killed a man; for a dead body which is to be eaten;
for the first of such bodies brought in at the beginning of a war; for
the flesh on each side of the backbone. It has a name of honour given
to those who have taken life; it need not have been the life of an
enemy; if only they have shed blood--it may have been the life of a
woman or a child--the title has been earned. It has a hideous word to
express the torturing and insulting of an enemy, as by cutting off any
part of his body--his nose or tongue, for instance--cooking and eating
it before his face, and taunting him the while; the [Greek:
hakrotaeriazein] of the Greeks, with the cannibalism added. But of this
enough.] And I have been informed, on the authority of one excellently
capable of knowing, an English scholar long resident in Van Diemen's
Land, that in the native language of that island there are [Footnote:
This was written in 1851. Now, in 1888, Van Diemen's Land is called
Tasmania, and the native language of that island is a thing of the
past.] four words to express the taking of human life--one to express a
father's killing of a son, another a son's killing of a father, with
other varieties of murder; and that in no one of these lies the
slightest moral reprobation, or sense of the deep-lying distinction
between to 'kill' and to 'murder'; while at the same time, of that
language so richly and so fearfully provided with expressions for this
extreme utterance of hate, he also reports that a word for 'love' is
wanting in it altogether. Yet with all this, ever and anon in the midst
of this wreck and ruin, there is that in the language of the savage,
some subtle distinction, some curious allusion to a perished
civilization, now utterly unintelligible to the speaker; or some other
note, which proclaims his language to be the remains of a dissipated
inheritance, the rags and remnants of a robe which was a royal one once.
The fragments of a broken sceptre are in his hand, a sceptre wherewith
once he held dominion (he, that is, in his progenitors) over large
kingdoms of thought, which now have escaped wholly from his sway.
[Footnote: See on this matter Tylor, _Early History of Mankind_, pp.
150-190; and, still better, the Duke of Argyll, _On Primeval Man_; and
on this same survival of the fragments of an elder civilization, Ebrard,
_Apologetik_, vol. ii. p. 382. Among some of the Papuans the faintest
rudiments of the family survive; of the tribe no trace whatever; while
yet of these one has lately written:--'Sie haben religiöse Gebräuche
und Uebungen, welche, mit einigen anderen Erscheinungen in ihrem Leben,
mit ihrem jetzigen Culturzustande ganz unvereinbar erscheinen, wenn man
darin nicht die Spuren einer früher höhern Bildung erkennen will.'
Sayce agrees with this.]

But while it is thus with him, while this is the downward course of all
those that have chosen the downward path, while with every
impoverishing and debasing of personal and national life there goes
hand in hand a corresponding impoverishment and debasement of language;
so on the contrary, where there is advance and progress, where a divine
idea is in any measure realizing itself in a people, where they are
learning more accurately to define and distinguish, more truly to know,
where they are ruling, as men ought to rule, over nature, and
compelling her to give up her secrets to them, where new thoughts are
rising up over the horizon of a nation's mind, new feelings are
stirring at a nation's heart, new facts coming within the sphere of its
knowledge, there will language be growing and advancing too. It cannot
lag behind; for man feels that nothing is properly his own, that he has
not secured any new thought, or entered upon any new spiritual
inheritance, till he has fixed it in language, till he can contemplate
it, not as himself, but as his word; he is conscious that he must
express truth, if he is to preserve it, and still more if he would
propagate it among others. 'Names,' as it has been excellently said,
'are impressions of sense, and as such take the strongest hold upon the
mind, and of all other impressions can be most easily recalled and
retained in view. They therefore serve to give a point of attachment to
all the more volatile objects of thought and feeling. Impressions that
when past might be dissipated for ever, are by their connexion with
language always within reach. Thoughts, of themselves are perpetually
slipping out of the field of immediate mental vision; but the name
abides with us, and the utterance of it restores them in a moment.'

Men sometimes complain of the number of new theological terms which the
great controversies in which the Church from time to time has been
engaged, have left behind them. But this could not have been otherwise,
unless the gains through those controversies made, were presently to be
lost again; for as has lately been well said: 'The success and enduring
influence of any systematic construction of truth, be it secular or
sacred, depends as much upon an exact terminology, as upon close and
deep thinking itself. Indeed, unless the results to which the human
mind arrives are plainly stated, and firmly fixed in an exact
phraseology, its thinking is to very little purpose in the end.
"Terms," says Whewell, "record discoveries." That which was seen, it
may be with crystal clearness, and in bold outline, in the
consciousness of an individual thinker, may fail to become the property
and possession of mankind at large, because it is not transferred from
the individual to the general mind, by means of a precise phraseology
and a rigorous terminology. Nothing is in its own nature more fugacious
and shifting than thought; and particularly thoughts upon the mysteries
of Christianity. A conception that is plain and accurate in the
understanding of the first man becomes obscure and false in that of the
second, because it was not grasped and firmly held in the form and
proportions with which it first came up, and then handed over to other
minds, a fixed and scientific quantity.' [Footnote: Shedd, _History of
Christian Doctrine_, vol. i. p. 362; compare _Guesses at Truth_, 1866,
p. 217; and Gerber, _Sprache als Kunst_, vol. i. p. 145.] And on the
necessity of names at once for the preservation and the propagation of
truth it has been justly observed: 'Hardly any original thoughts on
mental or social subjects ever make their way among mankind, or assume
their proper importance in the minds even of their inventors, until
aptly selected words or phrases have as it were nailed them down and
held them fast.' [Footnote: Mill, _System of Logic_, vol. ii. p. 291.]
And this holds good alike of the false and of the true. I think we may
observe very often the way in which controversies, after long eddying
backward and forward, hither and thither, concentrate themselves at
last in some single word which is felt to contain all that the one
party would affirm and the other would deny. After a desultory swaying
of the battle hither and thither 'the high places of the field' the
critical position, on the winning of which everything turns, is
discovered at last. Thus the whole controversy of the Catholic Church
with the Arians finally gathers itself up in a single word,
'homoousion;' that with the Nestorians in another, 'theotokos.' One
might be bold to affirm that the entire secret of Buddhism is found in
'Nirvana'; for take away the word, and it is not too much to say that
the keystone to the whole arch is gone. So too when the medieval Church
allowed and then adopted the word 'transubstantiation' (and we know the
exact date of this), it committed itself to a doctrine from which
henceforward it was impossible to recede. The floating error had become
a fixed one, and exercised a far mightier influence on the minds of all
who received it, than except for this it would have ever done. It is
sometimes not a word, but a phrase, which proves thus mighty in
operation. 'Reformation in the head and in the members 'was the
watchword, for more than a century before an actual Reformation came,
of all who were conscious of the deeper needs of the Church. What
intelligent acquaintance with Darwin's speculations would the world in
general have made, except for two or three happy and comprehensive
terms, as 'the survival of the fittest,' 'the struggle for existence,'
'the process of natural selection'? Multitudes who else would have
known nothing about Comte's system, know something about it when they
know that he called it 'the positive philosophy.'

We have been tempted to depart a little, though a very little, from the
subject immediately before us. What was just now said of the manner in
which language enriches itself does not contradict a prior assertion,
that man starts with language as God's perfect gift, which he only
impairs and forfeits by sloth and sin, according to the same law which
holds good in respect of each other of the gifts of heaven. For it was
not meant, as indeed was then observed, that men would possess words to
set forth feelings which were not yet stirring in them, combinations
which they had not yet made, objects which they had not yet seen,
relations of which they were not yet conscious; but that up to man's
needs, (those needs including not merely his animal wants, but all his
higher spiritual cravings,) he would find utterance freely. The great
logical, or grammatical, framework of language, (for grammar is the
logic of speech, even as logic is the grammar of reason,) he would
possess, he knew not how; and certainly not as the final result of
gradual acquisitions, and of reflexion setting these in order, and
drawing general rules from them; but as that rather which alone had
made those acquisitions possible; as that according to which he
unconsciously worked, filled in this framework by degrees with these
later acquisitions of thought, feeling, and experience, as one by one
they arrayed themselves in the garment and vesture of words.

Here then is the explanation of the fact that language should be thus
instructive for us, that it should yield us so much, when we come to
analyse and probe it; and yield us the more, the more deeply and
accurately we do so. It is full of instruction, because it is the
embodiment, the incarnation, if I may so speak, of the feelings and
thoughts and experiences of a nation, yea, often of many nations, and
of all which through long centuries they have attained to and won. It
stands like the Pillars of Hercules, to mark how far the moral and
intellectual conquests of mankind have advanced, only not like those
pillars, fixed and immovable, but ever itself advancing with the
progress of these. The mighty moral instincts which have been working
in the popular mind have found therein their unconscious voice; and the
single kinglier spirits that have looked deeper into the heart of
things have oftentimes gathered up all they have seen into some one
word, which they have launched upon the world, and with which they have
enriched it for ever--making in that new word a new region of thought to
be henceforward in some sort the common heritage of all. Language is
the amber in which a thousand precious and subtle thoughts have been
safely embedded and preserved. It has arrested ten thousand lightning
flashes of genius, which, unless thus fixed and arrested, might have
been as bright, but would have also been as quickly passing and
perishing, as the lightning. 'Words convey the mental treasures of one
period to the generations that follow; and laden with this, their
precious freight, they sail safely across gulfs of time in which
empires have suffered shipwreck, and the languages of common life have
sunk into oblivion.' And for all these reasons far more and mightier in
every way is a language than any one of the works which may have been
composed in it. For that work, great as it may be, at best embodies
what was in the heart and mind of a single man, but this of a nation.
The _Iliad_ is great, yet not so great in strength or power or beauty
as the Greek language. [Footnote: On the Greek language and its merits,
as compared with the other Indo-European languages, see Curtius,
_History of Greece,_ English translation, vol. i. pp. 18-28.] _Paradise
Lost_ is a noble possession for a people to have inherited, but the
English tongue is a nobler heritage yet. [Footnote: Gerber (_Sprache
als Kunst,_ vol. i. p. 274): Es ist ein bedeutender Fortschritt in der
Erkenntniss des Menschen dass man jetzt Sprachen lernt nicht bloss, um
sich den Gedankeninhalt, den sie offenbaren, anzueignen, sondern
zugleich um sie selbst als herrliche, architektonische Geisteswerke
kennen zu lernen, und sich an ihrer Kunstschönheit zu erfreuen.]

And imperfectly as we may apprehend all this, there is an obscure sense,
or instinct I might call it, in every one of us, of this truth. We all,
whether we have given a distinct account of the matter to ourselves or
not, believe that words which we use are not arbitrary and capricious
signs, affixed at random to the things which they designate, for which
any other might have been substituted as well, but that they stand in a
real relation to these. And this sense of the significance of names,
that they are, or ought to be,--that in a world of absolute truth they
ever would be,--the expression of the innermost character and qualities
of the things or persons that bear them, speaks out in various ways, It
is reported of Boiardo, author of a poem without which we should
probably have never seen the _Orlando Furioso_ of Ariosto, that he was
out hunting, when the name Rodomonte presented itself to him as exactly
fitting a foremost person of the epic he was composing; and that
instantly returning home, he caused all the joy-bells of the village to
be rung, to celebrate the happy invention. This story may remind us of
another which is told of the greatest French novelist of modern times.
A friend of Balzac's, who has written some _Recollections_ of him,
tells us that he would sometimes wander for days through the streets of
Paris, studying the names over the shops, as being sure that there was
a name more appropriate than any other to some character which he had
conceived, and hoping to light on it there.

You must all have remarked the amusement and interest which children
find in any notable agreement between a name and the person who owns
that name, as, for instance, if Mr. Long is tall--or, which naturally
takes a still stronger hold upon them, in any manifest contradiction
between the name and the name-bearer; if Mr. Strongitharm is a weakling,
or Mr. Black an albino: the former striking from a sense of fitness,
the latter from one of incongruity. Nor is this a mere childish
entertainment. It continues with us through life; and that its roots
lie deep is attested by the earnest use which is often made, and that
at the most earnest moments of men's lives, of such agreements or
disagreements as these. Such use is not un-frequent in Scripture,
though it is seldom possible to reproduce it in English, as for
instance in the comment of Abigail on her husband Nabal's name: 'As his
name is, so is he; Nabal is his name, and folly is with him' (i Sam.
xxv. 25). And again, 'Call me not Naomi,' exclaims the desolate widow--
'call me not Naomi [or _pleasantness_]; call me Marah [or _bitterness_],
for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.' She cannot endure
that the name she bears should so strangely contradict the thing she is.
Shakespeare, in like manner, reveals his own profound knowledge of the
human heart, when he makes old John of Gaunt, worn with long sickness,
and now ready to depart, play with his name, and dwell upon the consent
between it and his condition; so that when his royal nephew asks him,
'How is it with aged Gaunt?' he answers,

'Oh, how that name befits my composition,
Old _Gaunt_ indeed, and _gaunt_ in being old--
_Gaunt_ am I for the grave, _gaunt_ as the grave--' [Footnote:
Ajax, or [Greek: Aias], in the play of Sophocles, which bears his name,
does the same with the [Greek: aiai] which lies in that name (422,
423); just as in the _Bacchae_ of Euripides, not Pentheus himself, but
others for him, indicate the prophecy of a mighty [Greek: penthos] or
grief, which is shut up in his name (367). A tragic writer, less known
than Euripides, does the same: [Greek: Pentheus, esomenes sumphoras
eponymos]. Eteocles in the _Phoenissae_ of Euripides makes a play of
the same kind on the name of Polynices.] with much more in the same
fashion; while it is into the mouth of the slight and frivolous king
that Shakespeare puts the exclamation of wonder,

'Can sick men play so nicely with their names?' [Footnote: 'Hus' is
Bohemian for 'goose' [the two words being in fact cognate forms]; and
here we have the explanation of the prophetic utterance of Hus, namely,
that in place of one goose, tame and weak of wing, God would send
falcons and eagles before long.]

Mark too how, if one is engaged in a controversy or quarrel, and his
name imports something good, his adversary will lay hold of the name,
will seek to bring out a real contradiction between the name and the
bearer of the name, so that he shall appear as one presenting himself
under false colours, affecting a merit which he does not really possess.
Examples of this abound. There was one Vigilantius in the early
Church;--his name might be interpreted 'The Watchful.' He was at issue
with St. Jerome about certain vigils; these he thought perilous to
Christian morality, while Jerome was a very eager promoter of them; who
instantly gave a turn to his name, and proclaimed that he, the enemy of
these watches, the partisan of slumber and sloth, should have been not
Vigilantius or The Watcher, but 'Dormitantius' or The Sleeper rather.
Felix, Bishop of Urgel, a chief champion in the eighth century of the
Adoptianist heresy, is constantly 'Infelix' in the writings of his
adversary Alcuin. The Spanish peasantry during the Peninsular War would
not hear of Bonaparte, but changed the name to 'Malaparte,' as
designating far better the perfidious kidnapper of their king and enemy
of their independence. It will be seen then that Aeschylus is most true
to nature, when in his _Prometheus Bound_ he makes Strength tauntingly
to remind Prometheus, or The Prudent, how ill his name and the lot
which he has made for himself agreed, bound as he is with adamantine
chains to his rock, and bound, as it might seem, for ever. When
Napoleon said of Count Lobau, whose proper name was Mouton, 'Mon mouton
c'est un lion,' it was the same instinct at work, though working from
an opposite point. It made itself felt no less in the bitter irony
which gave to the second of the Ptolemies, the brother-murdering king,
the title of Philadelphus.

But more frequent still is this hostile use of names, this attempt to
place them and their owners in the most intimate connexion, to make, so
to speak, the man answerable for his name, where the name does not thus
need to be reversed; but may be made as it now is, or with very
slightest change, to contain a confession of the ignorance,
worthlessness, or futility of the bearer. If it implies, or can be made
to imply, anything bad, it is instantly laid hold of as expressing the
very truth about him. You know the story of Helen of Greece, whom in
two of his 'mighty lines' Marlowe's Faust so magnificently

'Is this the face that launched a thousand ships,
And burned the topless towers of Ilium?'

It is no frigid conceit of the Greek poet, when one passionately
denouncing the ruin which she wrought, finds that ruin couched and
fore-announced in her name; [Footnote: [Greek: Helenas [=helenaos],
helandros, heleptolis], Aeschylus, _Agamemnon_, 636.] as in English it
might be, and has been, reproduced--

'_Hell_ in her name, and heaven in her looks.'

Or take other illustrations. Pope Hildebrand in one of our _Homilies_
is styled 'Brand of Hell,' as setting the world in a blaze; as
'Höllenbrand' he appears constantly in German. Tott and Teuffel were
two officers of high rank in the army which Gustavus Adolphus brought
with him into Germany. You may imagine how soon those of the other side
declared that he had brought 'death' and 'hell' in his train. There
were two not inconsiderable persons in the time of our Civil Wars, Vane
(not the 'young Vane' of Milton's and Wordsworth's sonnets), and
Sterry; and one of these, Sterry, was chaplain to the other. Baxter,
having occasion to mention them in his profoundly instructive
_Narrative of his Life and Times_, and liking neither, cannot forbear
to observe, that '_vanity_ and _sterility_ were never more fitly joined
together;' and speaks elsewhere of 'the vanity of Vane, and the
sterility of Sterry.' This last, let me observe, is an eminently unjust
charge, as Baxter himself in a later volume [Footnote: Catholic
Theology, pt, 3, p. 107.] has very handsomely acknowledged. [Footnote:
A few more examples, in a note, of this contumely of names. Antiochus
Epiphanes, or 'the Illustrious,' is for the Jews, whom he so madly
attempted to hellenize, Antiochus Epimanes, or 'the Insane.' Cicero,
denouncing Verres, the infamous praetor of Sicily, is too skilful a
master of the passions to allow the name of the arch-criminal to escape
unused. He was indeed Verres, for he _swept_ the province; he was a
_sweep-net_ for it (everriculum in provincia); and then presently,
giving altogether another turn to his name, Others, he says, might be
partial to 'jus verrinum' (which might mean either Verrine law or boar-
sauce), but not he. Tiberius Claudius Nero, charged with being a
drunkard, becomes in the popular language 'Biberius Caldius Mero.' The
controversies of the Church with heretics yield only too abundant a
supply, and that upon both sides, of examples of this kind. The 'royal-
hearted' Athanasius is 'Satanasius' for the Arians; and some of St.
Cyprian's adversaries did not shrink from so foul a perversion of his
name as to call him Koprianos, or 'the Dungy.' But then how often is
Pelagius declared by the Church Fathers to be a pelagus, a very _ocean_
of wickedness. It was in vain that the Manichaeans changed their
master's name from Manes to Manichaeus, that so it might not so nearly
resemble the word signifying madness in the Greek (devitantes nomen
insaniae, Augustine, _De Haer_. 46); it did not thereby escape. The
Waldenses, or Wallenses, were declared by Roman controversialists to be
justly so called, as dwelling 'in valle densa,' in the thick valley of
darkness and ignorance. Cardinal Clesel was active in setting forward
the Roman Catholic reaction in Bohemia with which the dismal tragedy of
the Thirty Years' War began. It was a far-fetched and not very happy
piece of revenge, when they of the other side took pleasure in spelling
his name 'CLesel,' as much as to say, He of the 150 ass-power. Berengar
of Tours calls a Pope who had taken sides against him not pontifex, but
'pompifex.' Metrophanes, Patriarch of Constantinople, being counted to
have betrayed the interests of the Greek Church, his spiritual mother,
at the Council of Florence, saw his name changed by popular hate into
'Metrophonos,' or the 'Matricide.' In the same way of more than one
Pope Urbanus it was declared that he would have been better named
'Turbanus' (quasi _turbans_ Ecclesiam). Mahomet appears as 'Bafomet,'
influenced perhaps by 'bafa,' a lie, in Provençal. Shechem, a chief
city of the heretical Samaritans, becomes 'Sychar,' or city of lies
(see John iv. 5), so at least some will have it, on the lips of the
hostile Jews; while Toulouse, a very seedplot of heresies, Albigensian
and other, in the Middle Ages, is declared by writers of those times to
have prophesied no less by its name (Tolosa = tota dolosa). In the same
way adversaries of Wiclif traced in his name an abridgement of 'wicked-
belief.' Metternich was 'Mitternacht,' or Midnight, for the political
reformers of Germany in the last generation. It would be curious to
know how often the Sorbonne has been likened to a 'Serbonian' bog; some
'privilegium' declared to be not such indeed, but a 'pravilegium'
rather. Baxter complains that the Independents called presbyters
'priestbiters,' Presbyterian ministers not 'divines' but 'dry vines,'
and their Assembly men 'Dissembly men.']

Where, on the other hand, it is desired to do a man honour, how gladly,
in like manner, is his name seized on, if it in any way bears an
honourable significance, or is capable of an honourable interpretation
--men finding in that name a presage and prophecy of that which was
actually in its bearer. A multitude of examples, many of them very
beautiful, might be brought together in this kind. How often, for
instance, and with what effect, the name of Stephen, the proto-martyr,
that name signifying in Greek 'the Crown,' was taken as a prophetic
intimation of the martyr-crown, which it should be given to him, the
first in that noble army, to wear. [Footnote: Thus in a sublime Latin
hymn by Adam of St. Victor:

Nomen habes _Coronati_;
Te tormenta decet pati
Pro _corona_ gloriae.

Elsewhere the same illustrious hymnologist plays in like manner on the
name of St. Vincentius:

Qui _vincentis_ habet nomen
Ex re probat dignum omen
Sui fore nominis;
_Vincens_ terra, _vincens_ mari
Quidquid potest irrogari
Poenae vel formidinis.

In the Bull for the canonization of Sta. Clara, the canonizing Pope
does not disdain a similar play upon her name: Clara Claris praeclara
meritis, magnae in caelo claritate gloriae, ac in terrâ miraculorum
sublimium, clare claret. On these 'prophetic' names in the heathen
world see Pott, _Wurzel-Wörterbuch_, vol. ii. part 2, p. 522.]

Irenaeus means in Greek 'the Peaceable'; and early Church writers love
to remark how fitly the illustrious Bishop of Lyons bore this name,
setting forward as he so earnestly did the peace of the Church,
resolved as he was, so far as in him lay, to preserve the unity of the
Spirit in the bond of peace. [Footnote: We cannot adduce St. Columba as
another example in the same kind, seeing that this name was not his
birthright, but one given to him by his scholars for the dove-like
gentleness of his character. So indeed we are told; though it must be
owned that some of the traits recorded of him in _The Monks of the
West_ are not _columbine_ at all.] The Dominicans were well pleased
when their name was resolved into 'Domini canes'--the Lord's watchdogs;
who, as such, allowed no heresy to appear without at once giving the
alarm, and seeking to chase it away. When Ben Jonson praises
Shakespeare's 'well-filed lines'--

'In each of which he seems to _shake a lance_
As brandished in the eyes of ignorance'

--he is manifestly playing with his name. Fuller, too, our own Church
historian, who played so often upon the names of others, has a play
made upon his own in some commendatory verses prefixed to one of his

'Thy style is clear and white; thy very name
Speaks pureness, and adds lustre to the frame.'

He plays himself upon it in an epigram which takes the form of a

'My soul is stainèd with a dusky colour:
Let thy Son be the soap; I'll be the fuller.'

John Careless, whose letters are among the most beautiful in Foxe's
_Book of Martyrs_, writing to Philpot, exclaims, 'Oh good master
Philpot, which art a principal pot indeed, filled with much precious
liquor,--oh pot most happy! of the High Potter ordained to honour.'

Herein, in this faith that men's names were true and would come true,
in this, and not in any altogether unreasoning superstition, lay the
root of the carefulness of the Romans that in the enlisting of soldiers
names of good omen, such as Valerius, Salvius, Secundus, should be the
first called. Scipio Africanus, reproaching his soldiers after a mutiny,
finds an aggravation of their crime in the fact that one with so ill-
omened a name as Atrius Umber should have seduced them, and persuaded
them to take him for their leader. So strong is the conviction of men
that names are powers. Nay, it must have been sometimes thought that
the good name might so react on the evil nature that it should not
remain evil altogether, but might be induced, in part at least, to
conform itself to the designation which it bore. Here we have an
explanation of the title Eumenides, or the Well-minded, given to the
Furies; of Euxine, or the kind to strangers, to the inhospitable Black
Sea, 'stepmother of ships,' as the Greek poet called it; the
explanation too of other similar transformations, of the Greek Egesta
transformed by the Romans into 'Segesta,' that it might not suggest
'egestas' or penury; [Footnote: [But the form _Segesta_ is probably
older than _Egesta_, the Romans here, as in other cases, retaining the
original initial _s_, which in Greek is represented generally by the
rough, sometimes by the smooth breathing.]] of Epidamnus, which, in
like manner seeming too suggestive of 'damnum,' or loss, was changed
into 'Dyrrachium'; of Maleventum, which became 'Beneventum'; of Cape
Tormentoso, or Stormy Cape, changed into 'Cape of Good Hope'; of the
fairies being always respectfully spoken of as 'the good people' in
Ireland, even while they are accredited with any amount of mischief; of
the dead spoken of alike in Greek and in Latin simply as 'the
majority'; of the dying, in Greek liturgies remembered as 'those about
to set forward upon a journey'[Footnote: [Greek: oi exodeuontes]]; of
the slain in battle designated in German as 'those who remain,' that is,
on the field of battle; of [Greek: eulogia], or 'the blessing,' as a
name given in modern Greek to the smallpox! We may compare as an
example of this same euphemism the famous 'Vixerunt' with which Cicero
announced that the conspirators against the Roman State had paid the
full penalty of their treason.

Let me observe, before leaving this subject, that not in one passage
only, but in passages innumerable, Scripture sets its seal to this
significance of names, to the fact that the seeking and the finding of
this significance is not a mere play upon the surface of things: it
everywhere recognizes the inner band, which ought to connect, and in a
world of truth would connect, together the name and the person or thing
bearing the name. Scripture sets its seal to this by the weight and
solemnity which it everywhere attaches to the imposing of names; this
in many instances not being left to hazard, but assumed by God as his
own peculiar care. 'Thou shalt call his name Jesus' (Matt. i. 21; Luke
i. 31) is of course the most illustrious instance of all; but there is
a multitude of other cases in point; names given by God, as that of
John to the Baptist; or changed by Him, as Abram's to Abraham (Gen.
xvii. 3), Sarai's to Sarah, Hoshea's to Joshua; or new names added by
Him to the old, when by some mighty act of faith the man had been
lifted out of his old life into a new; as Israel added to Jacob, and
Peter to Simon, and Boanerges or Sons of thunder to the two sons of
Zebedee (Mark iii. 17). The same feeling is at work elsewhere. A Pope
on his election always takes a new name. Or when it is intended to make,
for good or for ill, an entire breach with the past, this is one of the
means by which it is sought to effect as much (2 Chr. xxxvi. 4; Dan. i.
7). How far this custom reaches, how deep the roots which it casts, is
exemplified well in the fact that the West Indian buccaneer makes a
like change of name on entering that society of blood. It is in both
cases a sort of token that old things have passed away, that all have
become new to him.

But we must draw to a close. Enough has been said to attest and to
justify the wide-spread faith of men that names are significant, and
that things and persons correspond, or ought to correspond, to them.
You will not, then, find it a laborious task to persuade your pupils to
admit as much. They are prepared to accept, they will be prompt to
believe it. And great indeed will be our gains, their gains and ours,--
for teacher and taught will for the most part enrich themselves
together,--if, having these treasures of wisdom and knowledge lying
round about us, so far more precious than mines of Californian gold, we
determine that we will make what portion of them we can our own, that
we will ask the words which we use to give an account of themselves, to
say whence they are, and whither they tend. Then shall we often rub off
the dust and rust from what seemed to us but a common token, which as
such we had taken and given a thousand times; but which now we shall
perceive to be a precious coin, bearing the 'image and superscription'
of the great King: then shall we often stand in surprise and in
something of shame, while we behold the great spiritual realities which
underlie our common speech, the marvellous truths which we have been
witnessing _for_ in our words, but, it may be, witnessing _against_ in
our lives. And as you will not find, for so I venture to promise, that
this study of words will be a dull one when you undertake it yourselves,
as little need you fear that it will prove dull and unattractive, when
you seek to make your own gains herein the gains also of those who may
be hereafter committed to your charge. Only try your pupils, and mark
the kindling of the eye, the lighting up of the countenance, the revival
of the flagging attention, with which the humblest lecture upon words,
and on the words especially which they are daily using, which are
familiar to them in their play or at their church, will be welcomed by
them. There is a sense of reality about children which makes them rejoice
to discover that there is also a reality about words, that they are not
merely arbitrary signs, but living powers; that, to reverse the saying
of one of England's 'false prophets,' they may be the fool's counters,
but are the wise man's money; not, like the sands of the sea,
innumerable disconnected atoms, but growing out of roots, clustering in
families, connecting and intertwining themselves with all that men have
been doing and thinking and feeling from the beginning of the world
till now.

And it is of course our English tongue, out of which mainly we should
seek to draw some of the hid treasures which it contains, from which we
should endeavour to remove the veil which custom and familiarity have
thrown over it. We cannot employ ourselves better. There is nothing
that will more help than will this to form an English heart in
ourselves and in others. We could scarcely have a single lesson on the
growth of our English tongue, we could scarcely follow up one of its
significant words, without having unawares a lesson in English history
as well, without not merely falling on some curious fact illustrative
of our national life, but learning also how the great heart which is
beating at the centre of that life was gradually shaped and moulded. We
should thus grow too in our sense of connexion with the past, of
gratitude and reverence to it; we should rate more highly and thus more
truly all which it has bequeathed to us, all that it has made ready to
our hands. It was not a small matter for the children of Israel, when
they came into Canaan, to enter upon wells which they digged not, and
vineyards which they had not planted, and houses which they had not
built; but how much vaster a boon, how much more glorious a prerogative,
for any one generation to enter upon the inheritance of a language
which other generations by their truth and toil have made already a
receptacle of choicest treasures, a storehouse of so much unconscious
wisdom, a fit organ for expressing the subtlest distinctions, the
tenderest sentiments, the largest thoughts, and the loftiest
imaginations, which the heart of man has at any time conceived. And
that those who have preceded us have gone far to accomplish this for us,
I shall rejoice if I am able in any degree to make you feel in the
lectures which will follow the present.



I said in my last lecture, or rather I quoted another who had said,
that language is fossil poetry. It is true that for us very often this
poetry which is bound up in words has in great part or altogether
disappeared. We fail to recognize it, partly from long familiarity with
it, partly from insufficient knowledge, partly, it may be, from never
having had our attention called to it. None have pointed it out to us;
we may not ourselves have possessed the means of detecting it; and thus
it has come to pass that we have been in close vicinity to this wealth,
which yet has not been ours. Margaret has not been for us 'the Pearl,'
nor Esther 'the Star,' nor Susanna 'the Lily,' [Footnote: See Jacob
Grimm, _Ueber Frauennamen aus Blumen_, in his _Kleinere Schriften_, vol.
ii. pp. 366-401; and on the subject of this paragraph more generally,
Schleicher, _Die Deutsche Sprache_, p. 115 sqq.] nor Stephen 'the
Crown,' nor Albert 'the illustrious in birth.' 'In our ordinary
language,' as Montaigne has said, 'there are several excellent phrases
and metaphors to be met with, of which the beauty is withered by age,
and the colour is sullied by too common handling; but that takes
nothing from the relish to an understanding man, neither does it
derogate from the glory of those ancient authors, who, 'tis likely,
first brought those words into that lustre.' We read in one of
Molière's most famous comedies of one who was surprised to discover
that he had been talking prose all his life without being aware of it.
If we knew all, we might be much more surprised to find that we had
been talking poetry, without ever having so much as suspected this. For
indeed poetry and passion seek to insinuate, and do insinuate
themselves everywhere in language; they preside continually at the
giving of names; they enshrine and incarnate themselves in these: for
'poetry is the mother tongue of the human race,' as a great German
writer has said. My present lecture shall contain a few examples and
illustrations, by which I would make the truth of this appear.

'Iliads without a Homer,' some one has called, with a little
exaggeration, the beautiful but anonymous ballad poetry of Spain. One
may be permitted, perhaps, to push the exaggeration a little further in
the same direction, and to apply the same language not merely to a
ballad but to a word. For poetry, which is passion and imagination
embodying themselves in words, does not necessarily demand a
_combination_ of words for this. Of this passion and imagination a
single word may be the vehicle. As the sun can image itself alike in a
tiny dew-drop or in the mighty ocean, and can do it, though on a
different scale, as perfectly in the one as in the other, so the spirit
of poetry can dwell in and glorify alike a word and an Iliad. Nothing
in language is too small, as nothing is too great, for it to fill with
its presence. Everywhere it can find, or, not finding, can make, a
shrine for itself, which afterwards it can render translucent and
transparent with its own indwelling glory. On every side we are beset
with poetry. Popular language is full of it, of words used in an
imaginative sense, of things called--and not merely in transient
moments of high passion, and in the transfer which at such moments
finds place of the image to the thing imaged, but permanently,--by
names having immediate reference not to what they are, but to what they
are like. All language is in some sort, as one has said, a collection
of faded metaphors. [Footnote: Jean Paul: Ist jede Sprache in Rücksicht
geistiger Beziehungen ein Wörterbuch erblasster Metaphern. We regret
this, while yet it is not wholly matter of regret. Gerber (_Sprache als
Kunst_, vol. i. p. 387) urges that language would be quite unmanageable,
that the words which we use would be continually clashing with and
contradicting one another, if every one of them retained a lively
impress of the image on which it originally rested, and recalled this
to our mind. His words, somewhat too strongly put, are these: Für den
Usus der Sprache, für ihren Verstand und ihre Verständlichkeit ist
allerdings das Erblassen ihrer Lautbilder, so dass sie allmählig als
blosse Zeichen für Begriffe fungiren, nothwendig. Die Ueberzahl der
Bilder würde, wenn sie alle als solche wirkten, nur verwirren und jede
klarere Auffassung, wie sie die praktischen Zwecke der Gegenwart
fordern, unmöglich machen. Die Bilder würden ausserdem einander zum
Theil zerstören, indem sie die Farben verschiedener Sphären
zusammenfliessenlassen, und damit für den Verstand nur Unsinn

Sometimes, indeed, they have not faded at all. Thus at Naples it is the
ordinary language to call the lesser storm-waves 'pecore,' or sheep;
the larger 'cavalloni,' or big horses. Who that has watched the foaming
crests, the white manes, as it were, of the larger billows as they
advance in measured order, and rank on rank, into the bay, but will own
not merely the fitness, but the grandeur, of this last image? Let me
illustrate my meaning more at length by the word 'tribulation.' We all
know in a general way that this word, which occurs not seldom in
Scripture and in the Liturgy, means affliction, sorrow, anguish; but it
is quite worth our while to know _how_ it means this, and to question
'tribulation' a little closer. It is derived from the Latin 'tribulum,'
which was the threshing instrument or harrow, whereby the Roman
husbandman separated the corn from the husks; and 'tribulatio' in its
primary signification was the act of this separation. But some Latin
writer of the Christian Church appropriated the word and image for the
setting forth of a higher truth; and sorrow, distress, and adversity
being the appointed means for the separating in men of whatever in them
was light, trivial, and poor from the solid and the true, their chaff
from their wheat, [Footnote: Triticum itself may be connected with tero,
tritus; [so Curtius, _Greek Etym._ No. 239].] he therefore called these
sorrows and trials 'tribulations,' threshings, that is, of the inner
spiritual man, without which there could be no fitting him for the
heavenly garner. Now in proof of my assertion that a single word is
often a concentrated poem, a little grain of pure gold capable of being
beaten out into a broad extent of gold-leaf, I will quote, in reference
to this very word 'tribulation,' a graceful composition by George
Wither, a prolific versifier, and occasionally a poet, of the
seventeenth century. You will at once perceive that it is all wrapped
up in this word, being from first to last only the explicit unfolding
of the image and thought which this word has implicitly given; it is as

'Till from the straw the flail the corn doth beat,
Until the chaff be purgèd from the wheat,
Yea, till the mill the grains in pieces tear,
The richness of the flour will scarce appear.
So, till men's persons great afflictions touch,
If worth be found, their worth is not so much,
Because, like wheat in straw, they have not yet
That value which in threshing they may get.
For till the bruising flails of God's corrections
Have threshèd out of us our vain affections;
Till those corruptions which do misbecome us
Are by Thy sacred Spirit winnowed from us;
Until from us the straw of worldly treasures,
Till all the dusty chaff of empty pleasures,
Yea, till His flail upon us He doth lay,
To thresh the husk of this our flesh away;
And leave the soul uncovered; nay, yet more,
Till God shall make our very spirit poor,
We shall not up to highest wealth aspire;
But then we shall; and that is my desire.'

This deeper religious use of the word 'tribulation' was unknown to
classical antiquity, belonging exclusively to the Christian writers;
and the fact that the same deepening and elevating of the use of words
recurs in a multitude of other, and many of them far more signal,
instances, is one well deserving to be followed up. Nothing, I am
persuaded, would more mightily convince us of the new power which
Christianity proved in the world than to compare the meaning which so
many words possessed before its rise, and the deeper meaning which they
obtained, so soon as they were assumed as the vehicles of its life, the
new thought and feeling enlarging, purifying, and ennobling the very
words which they employed. This is a subject which I shall have
occasion to touch on more than once in these lectures, but is itself
well worthy of, as it would afford ample material for, a volume.

On the suggestion of this word 'tribulation', I will quote two or three
words from Coleridge, bearing on the matter in hand. He has said, 'In
order to get the full sense of a word, we should first present to our
minds the visual image that forms its primary meaning.' What admirable
counsel is here! If we would but accustom ourselves to the doing of
this, what a vast increase of precision and force would all the
language which we speak, and which others speak to us, obtain; how
often would that which is now obscure at once become clear; how
distinct the limits and boundaries of that which is often now confused
and confounded! It is difficult to measure the amount of food for the
imagination, as well as gains for the intellect, which the observing of
this single rule would afford us. Let me illustrate this by one or two
examples. We say of such a man that he is 'desultory.' Do we attach any
very distinct meaning to the word? Perhaps not. But get at the image on
which 'desultory' rests; take the word to pieces; learn that it is from
'desultor,' [Footnote: Lat. _desultor_ is from _desult_-, the stem of
_desultus_, past part, of _desilire_, to leap down.] one who rides two
or three horses at once, leaps from one to the other, being never on
the back of any one of them long; take, I say, the word thus to pieces,
and put it together again, and what a firm and vigorous grasp will you
have now of its meaning! A 'desultory' man is one who jumps from one
study to another, and never continues for any length of time in one.
Again, you speak of a person as 'capricious,' or as full of 'caprices.'
But what exactly are caprices? 'Caprice' is from _capra_, a goat.
[Footnote: The etymology of _caprice_ has not been discovered yet; the
derivation from _capra_ is unsatisfactory, as it does not account for
the latter part of the word.] If ever you have watched a goat, you will
have observed how sudden, how unexpected, how unaccountable, are the
leaps and springs, now forward, now sideward, now upward, in which it
indulges. A 'caprice' then is a movement of the mind as unaccountable,
as little to be calculated on beforehand, as the springs and bounds of
a goat. Is not the word so understood a far more picturesque one than
it was before? and is there not some real gain in the vigour and
vividness of impression which is in this way obtained? 'Pavaner' is the
French equivalent for our verb 'to strut,' 'fourmiller' for our verb
'to swarm.' But is it not a real gain to know further that the one is
to strut _as the peacock does_, the other to swarm _as do ants_? There
are at the same time, as must be freely owned, investigations, moral no
less than material, in which the nearer the words employed approach to
an algebraic notation, and the less disturbed or coloured they are by
any reminiscences of the ultimate grounds on which they rest, the
better they are likely to fulfil the duties assigned to them; but these
are exceptions. [Footnote: A French writer, Adanson, in his _Natural
History of Senegal_ complains of the misleading character which names
so often have, and urges that the only safety is to give to things
names which have and can have no meaning at all. His words are worth
quoting as a curiosity, if nothing else: L'expérience nous apprend, que
la plupart des noms significatifs qu'on a voulu donner à différens
objets d'histoire naturelle, sont devenus faux à mesure qu'on a
découvert des qualités, des propriétés nouvelles ou contraires à celles
qui avaient fait donner ces noms: il faut donc, pour se mettre à l'abri
des contradictions, éviter les termes figurés, et même faire en sorte
qu'on ne puisse les rapporter à quelque étymologie, a fin que ceux, qui
ont la fureur des étymologies, ne soient pas tenus de leur attribuer
une idée fausse. II en doit être des noms, comme des coups des jeux de
hazard, qui n'ont pour l'ordinaire aucune liaison entre eux: ils
seraient d'autant meilleurs qu'ils seraient moins significatifs, moins
relatifs à d'autres noms, ou à des choses connues, par ce que l'idée ne
se fixant qu'à un seul objet, le saisit beaucoup plus nettement, que
lorsqu'elle se lie avec d'autres objets qui y ont du rapport. There is
truth in what he says, but the remedy he proposes is worse than the

The poetry which has been embodied in the names of places, in those
names which designate the leading features of outward nature,
promontories, mountains, capes, and the like, is very worthy of being
elicited and evoked anew, latent as it now has oftentimes become.
Nowhere do we so easily forget that names had once a peculiar fitness,
which was the occasion of their giving. Colour has often suggested the
name, as in the well-known instance of our own 'Albion,'--'the silver-
coasted isle,' as Tennyson so beautifully has called it,--which had
this name from the white line of cliffs presented by it to those
approaching it by the narrow seas. [Footnote: The derivation of the
name _Albion_ has not been discovered yet; it is even uncertain whether
the word is Indo-European; see Rhys, _Celtic Britain_, p. 200.]
'Himalaya' is 'the abode of snow.' Often, too, shape and configuiation
are incorporated in the name, as in 'Trinacria' or 'the three-
promontoried land,' which was the Greek name of Sicily; in 'Drepanum'
or 'the sickle,' the name which a town on the north-west promontory of
the island bore, from the sickle-shaped tongue of land on which it was
built. But more striking, as the embodiment of a poetical feeling, is
the modern name of the great southern peninsula of Greece. We are all
aware that it is called the 'Morea'; but we may not be so well aware
from whence that name is derived. It had long been the fashion among
ancient geographers to compare the shape of this region to a platane
leaf; [Footnote: Strabo, viii. 2; Pliny, H.N. iv. 5; Agathemerus, I.i.
p. 15; echein de omoion schaema phullps platanan] and a glance at the
map will show that the general outline of that leaf, with its sharply-
incised edges, justified the comparison. This, however, had remained
merely as a comparison; but at the shifting and changing of names, that
went with the breaking up of the old Greek and Roman civilization, the
resemblance of this region to a leaf, not now any longer a platane, but
a mulberry leaf, appeared so strong, that it exchanged its classic name
of Peloponnesus for 'Morea' which embodied men's sense of this
resemblance, _morus_ being a mulberry tree in Latin, and _morea_ in
Greek. This etymology of 'Morea' has been called in question;
[Footnote: By Fallmerayer, _Gesck. der Halbinsel Morea,_ p. 240, sqq.
The island of Ceylon, known to the Greeks as Taprobane, and to Milton
as well (_P. L._ iv. 75), owed this name to a resemblance which in
outline it bore to the leaf of the betel tree. [This is very
doubtful.]] but, as it seems to me, on no sufficient grounds. Deducing,
as one objector does, 'Morea' from a Slavonic word 'more,' the sea, he
finds in this derivation a support for his favourite notion that the
modern population of Greece is not descended from the ancient, but
consists in far the larger proportion of intrusive Slavonic races. Two
mountains near Dublin, which we, keeping in the grocery line, have
called the Great and the Little Sugarloaf, are named in Irish 'the
Golden Spears.'

In other ways also the names of places will oftentimes embody some
poetical aspect under which now or at some former period men learned to
regard them. Oftentimes when discoverers come upon a new land they will
seize with a firm grasp of the imagination the most striking feature
which it presents to their eyes, and permanently embody this in a word.
Thus the island of Madeira is now, I believe, nearly bare of wood; but
its sides were covered with forests at the time when it was first
discovered, and hence the name, 'madeira' in Portuguese having this
meaning of wood. [Footnote: [Port. _madeira,_ 'wood,' is the same word
as the Lat. _materia_.]] Some have said that the first Spanish
discoverers of Florida gave it this name from the rich carpeting of
flowers which, at the time when first their eyes beheld it, everywhere
covered the soil. [Footnote: The Spanish historian Herrera says that
Juan Ponce de Leon, the discoverer of Florida, gave that name to the
country for two reasons: first, because it was a land of flowers,
secondly, because it was discovered by him on March 27, 1513, Easter
Day, which festival was called by the Spaniards, 'Pascua Florida,' or
'Pascua de Flores,' see Herrera's _History_, tr. by Stevens, ii. p. 33,
and the _Discovery of Florida_ by R. Hakluyt, ed. by W. B. Rye for the
Hakluyt Soc., 1851, introd. p. x.; cp. Larousse (s.v.), and Pierer's
_Conversations Lexicon_. It is stated by some authorities that Florida
was so called because it was discovered on Palm Sunday; this is due to
a mistaken inference from the names for that Sunday--Pascha Florum,
Pascha Floridum (Ducange), Pasque Fleurie (Cotgrave); see _Dict. Géog.
Univ_., 1884, and Brockhaus.] Surely Florida, as the name passes under
our eye, or from our lips, is something more than it was before, when
we may thus think of it as the land of flowers. [Footnote: An Italian
poet, Fazio degli Uberti, tells us that Florence has its appellation
from the same cause:

Poichè era posta in un prato di fiori,
Le denno il nome bello, oude s' ingloria.

It would be instructive to draw together a collection of etymologies
which have been woven into verse. These are so little felt to be alien
to the spirit of poetry, that they exist in large numbers, and often
lend to the poem in which they find a place a charm and interest of
their own. In five lines of _Paradise Lost_ Milton introduces four such
etymologies, namely, those of the four fabled rivers of hell, though
this will sometimes escape the notice of the English reader:

'Abhorred Styx, the flood of deadly _hate_,
Sad Acheron of _sorrow_, black and deep,
Cocytus, named of _lamentation_ loud
Heard on the rueful stream; fierce Phlegethon,
Whose waves of torrent _fire_ inflame with rage.'

'Virgil, that great master of the proprieties,' as Bishop Pearson has
so happily called him, does not shun, but rather loves to introduce
them, as witness his etymology of 'Byrsa,' _Aen_. i. 367, 368; v. 59,
63 [but the etymology here is imaginative, the name _Byrsa_ being of
Punic, that is of Semitic, origin, and meaning 'a fortress'; compare
Heb. _Bozrah_]; of 'Silvius,' _Aen_. vi. 763, 765; of 'Argiletum,'
where he is certainly wrong (_Aen_. viii. 345); of 'Latium,' with
reference to Saturn having remained _latent_ there (_Aen_. viii. 322;
of. Ovid, _Fasti_, i. 238); of 'Laurens' (_Aen_. vii. 63):

Latiumque vocari
Maluit, his quoniam _latuisset_ tutus in oris:

and again of 'Avernus' (=[Greek: aornos], _Aen_. vi. 243); being indeed
in this anticipated by Lucretius (vi. 741):

quia sunt avibus contraria cunctis.

Ovid's taste is far from faultless, and his example cannot go for much;
but he is always a graceful versifier, and his _Fasti_ swarms with
etymologies, correct and incorrect; as of 'Agonalis' (i. 322), of
'Aprilis' (iv. 89), of 'Augustus' (i. 609-614), of 'Februarius' (ii.
19-22), of 'hostia' (i. 336), of 'Janus' (i. 120-127), of 'Junius' (vi.
26), of 'Lemures' (v. 479-484), of 'Lucina' (ii. 449), of 'majestas' (v.
26), of 'Orion' (v. 535), of 'pecunia' (v. 280, 281), of 'senatus' (v.
64), of 'Sulmo'(iv. 79; cf. Silius Italicus, ix. 70); of 'Vesta' (vi.
299), of 'victima' (i. 335); of 'Trinacris' (iv. 420). He has them also
elsewhere, as of 'Tomi' (_Trist._ iii. 9, 33). Lucilius, in like manner,
gives us the etymology of 'iners':
Ut perhibetur iners, _ars_ in quo non erit ulla; Propertius (iv. 2,
3) of 'Vertumnus'; and Lucretius of 'Magnes' (vi. 909).]

The name of Port Natal also embodies a fact which must be of interest
to its inhabitants, namely, that this port was discovered on Christmas
Day, the _dies natalis_ of our Lord.

Then again what poetry is there, as indeed there ought to be, in the
names of flowers! I do not speak of those, the exquisite grace and
beauty of whose names is so forced on us that we cannot miss it, such
as 'Aaron's rod,' 'angel's eyes,' 'bloody warrior,' 'blue-bell, 'crown
imperial,' 'cuckoo-flower,' blossoming as this orchis does when the
cuckoo is first heard, [Footnote: In a catalogue of _English Plant
Names_ I count thirty in which 'cuckoo' formed a component part.] 'eye-
bright,' 'forget-me-not,' 'gilt-cup' (a local name for the butter-cup,
drawn from the golden gloss of its petals), 'hearts-ease,' 'herb-of-
grace,' 'Jacob's ladder,' 'king-cup,' 'lady's fingers,' 'Lady's smock,'
'Lady's tresses,' 'larkspur,' 'Lent lily,' 'loose-strife,' 'love-in-
idleness,' 'Love lies bleeding,' 'maiden-blush,' 'maiden-hair,'
'meadow-sweet,' 'Our Lady's mantle,' 'Our Lady's slipper,' 'queen-of-
the-meadows,' 'reine-marguerite,' 'rosemary,' 'snow-flake,' 'Solomon's
seal,' 'star of Bethlehem,' 'sun-dew,' 'sweet Alison,' 'sweet Cicely,'
'sweet William,' 'Traveller's joy,' 'Venus' looking-glass,' 'Virgin's
bower,' and the like; but take 'daisy'; surely this charming little
English flower, which has stirred the peculiar affection of English
poets from Chaucer to Wordsworth, and received the tribute of their
song, [Footnote:
'Fair fall that gentle flower,
A golden tuft set in a silver crown,' as Brown exclaims, whose
singularly graceful _Pastorals_ should not be suffered to fall
altogether to oblivion. In Ward's recent _English Poets_, vol. ii. p.
65, justice has been done to them, and to their rare beauty.] becomes
more charming yet, when we know, as Chaucer long ago has told us, that
'daisy' is day's eye, or in its early spelling 'daieseighe,' the eye of
day; these are his words:

'That men by reson well it calle may
The _daisie_, or elles the ye of day.'
_Chaucer_, ed. Morris, vol. v. p. 281.

For only consider how much is implied here. To the sun in the heavens
this name, eye of day, was naturally first given, and those who
transferred the title to our little field flower meant no doubt to
liken its inner yellow disk, or shield, to the great golden orb of the
sun, and the white florets which encircle this disk to the rays which
the sun spreads on all sides around him. What imagination was here, to
suggest a comparison such as this, binding together as this does the
smallest and the greatest! what a travelling of the poet's eye, with
the power which is the privilege of that eye, from earth to heaven, and
from heaven to earth, and of linking both together. So too, call up
before your mind's eye the 'lavish gold' of the drooping laburnum when
in flower, and you will recognize the poetry of the title, 'the golden
rain,' which in German it bears. 'Celandine' does not so clearly tell
its own tale; and it is only when you have followed up the [Greek:
chelidonion], (swallow-wort), of which 'celandin' is the English
representative, that the word will yield up the poetry which is
concealed in it.

And then again, what poetry is there often in the names of birds and
beasts and fishes, and indeed of all the animated world around us; how
marvellously are these names adapted often to bring out the most
striking and characteristic features of the objects to which they are
given. Thus when the Romans became acquainted with the stately giraffe,
long concealed from them in the interior deserts of Africa, (which we
learn from Pliny they first did in the shows exhibited by Julius
Caesar,) it was happily imagined to designate a creature combining,
though with infinitely more grace, something of the height and even the
proportions of the _camel_ with the spotted skin of the _pard_, by a
name which should incorporate both these its most prominent
features, [Footnote: Varro: Quod erat figura ut camelus, maculis ut
panthera; and Horace (Ep. ii. I, 196): Diversum confusa genus panthera
camelo.] calling it the 'camelopard.' Nor can we, I think, hesitate to
accept that account as the true one, which describes the word as no
artificial creation of scientific naturalists, but as bursting
extempore from the lips of the common people, who after all are the
truest namers, at the first moment when the novel creature was
presented to their gaze. 'Cerf-volant,' a name which the French have so
happily given to the horned scarabeus, the same which we somewhat less
poetically call the 'stag-beetle,' is another example of what may be
effected with the old materials, by merely bringing them into new and
happy combinations.

You know the appearance of the lizard, and the _star_-like shape of the
spots which are sown over its back. Well, in Latin it is called
'stellio,' from _stella_, a star; just as the basilisk had in Greek
this name of 'little king' because of the shape as of a _kingly_ crown
which the spots on its head might be made by the fancy to assume.
Follow up the etymology of 'squirrel,' and you will find that the
graceful creature which bears this name has obtained it as being wont
to sit under the shadow of its own tail. [Footnote: [The word
_squirrel_ is a diminutive of the Greek word for squirrel, [Greek:
skiouros], literally 'shadow-tail.']] Need I remind you of our
'goldfinch,' evidently so called from that bright patch of yellow on
its wing; our 'kingfisher,' having its name from the royal beauty, the
kingly splendour of the plumage with which it is adorned? Some might
ask why the stormy petrel, a bird which just skims and floats on the
topmost wave, should bear this name? No doubt we have here the French
'pétrel,' or little Peter, and the bird has in its name an allusion to
the Apostle Peter, who at his Master's bidding walked for a while on
the unquiet surface of an agitated sea. The 'lady-bird' or 'lady-cow'
is prettily named, as indeed the whole legend about it is full of grace
and fancy [Footnote: [For other names for the 'lady-bird,' and the
reference in many of them to God and the Virgin Mary, see Grimm,
_Teutonic Mythology_, p. 694.]]; but a common name which in many of our
country parts this creature bears, the 'golden knob,' is prettier still.
And indeed in our country dialects there is a wide poetical
nomenclature which is well worthy of recognition; thus the shooting
lights of the Aurora Borealis are in Lancashire 'the Merry Dancers';
clouds piled up in a particular fashion are in many parts of England
styled 'Noah's Ark'; the puff-ball is 'the Devil's snuff-box'; the
dragon-fly 'the Devil's darning-needle'; a large black beetle 'the
Devil's coach-horse.' Any one who has watched the kestrel hanging
poised in the air, before it swoops upon its prey, will acknowledge the
felicity of the name 'windhover,' or sometimes 'windfanner,' which it
popularly bears. [Footnote: In Wallace's _Tropical Nature_ there is a
beautiful chapter on humming birds, and the names which in various
languages these exquisite little creatures bear.] The amount is very
large of curious legendary lore which is everywhere bound up in words,
and which they, if duly solicited, will give back to us again. For
example, the Greek 'halcyon,' which we have adopted without change, has
reference, and wraps up in itself an allusion, to one of the most
beautiful and significant legends of heathen antiquity; according to
which the sea preserved a perfect calmness for all the period, the
fourteen 'halcyon days,' during which this bird was brooding over her
nest. The poetry of the name survives, whether the name suggested the
legend, or the legend the name. Take again the names of some of our
precious stones, as of the topaz, so called, as some said, because men
were only able to _conjecture_ ([Greek: topazein]) the position of the
cloud-concealed island from which it was brought. [Footnote: Pliny, _H.
N._ xxxvii. 32. [But this is only popular etymology: the word can
hardly be of Greek origin; see A. S. Palmer, _Folk-Etymology_, p.

Very curious is the determination which some words, indeed many, seem
to manifest, that their poetry shall not die; or, if it dies in one
form, that it shall revive in another. Thus if there is danger that,
transferred from one language to another, they shall no longer speak to
the imagination of men as they did of old, they will make to themselves
a new life, they will acquire a new soul in the room of that which has
ceased to quicken and inform them any more. Let me make clear what I
mean by two or three examples. The Germans, knowing nothing of
carbuncles, had naturally no word of their own for them; and when they
first found it necessary to name them, as naturally borrowed the Latin
'carbunculus,' which originally had meant 'a little live coal,' to
designate these precious stones of a fiery red. But 'carbunculus,' word
full of poetry and life for Latin-speaking men, would have been only an
arbitrary sign for as many as were ignorant of that language. What then
did these, or what, rather, did the working genius of the language, do?
It adopted, but, in adopting, modified slightly yet effectually the
word, changing it into 'Karfunkel,' thus retaining the framework of the
original, yet at the same time, inasmuch as 'funkeln' signifies 'to
sparkle,' reproducing now in an entirely novel manner the image of the
bright sparkling of the stone, for every knower of the German tongue.
'Margarita,' or pearl, belongs to the earliest group of Latin words
adopted into English. The word, however, told nothing about itself to
those who adopted it. But the pearl might be poetically contemplated as
the sea-stone; and so our fathers presently transformed 'margarita'
into 'mere-grot,' which means nothing less. [Footnote: Such is the A.S.
form of _margarita_ in three versions of the parable of the Pearl of
Great Price, St. Matt. xiii. 45; _see Anglo-Saxon Gospels_, ed. Skeat,
1887.] Take another illustration of this from another quarter. The
French 'rossignol,' a nightingale, is undoubtedly the Latin
'lusciniola,' the diminutive of 'luscinia,' with the alteration, so
frequent in the Romance languages, of the commencing 'l' into 'r.'
Whatever may be the etymology of 'luscinia,' it is plain that for
Frenchmen in general the word would no longer suggest any meaning at
all, hardly even for French scholars, after the serious transformations
which it had undergone; while yet, at the same time, in the exquisitely
musical 'rossignol,' and still more perhaps in the Italian 'usignuolo,'
there is an evident intention and endeavour to express something of the
music of the bird's song in the liquid melody of the imitative name
which it bears; and thus to put a new soul into the word, in lieu of
that other which had escaped. Or again--whatever may be the meaning of
Senlac, the name of that field where the ever-memorable battle, now
better known as the Battle of Hastings, was fought, it certainly was
not 'Sanglac,' or Lake of Blood; the word only shaping itself into this
significant form subsequently to the battle, and in consequence of it.

One or two examples more of the perishing of the old life in a word,
and the birth of a new in its stead, may be added. The old name of
Athens, 'Athaevai,' was closely linked with the fact that the goddess
Pallas Athêne was the guardian deity of the city. The reason of the
name, with other facts of the old mythology, faded away from the memory
of the peasantry of modern Greece; but Athens is a name which must
still mean something for them. Accordingly it is not 'Athaevai now, but
'Avthaevai, or the Blooming, on the lips of the peasantry round about;
so Mr. Sayce assures us. The same process everywhere meets us. Thus no
one who has visited Lucerne can fail to remember the rugged mountain
called 'Pilatus' or 'Mont Pilate,' which stands opposite to him; while
if he has been among the few who have cared to climb it, he will have
been shown by his guide the lake at its summit in which Pontius Pilate
in his despair drowned himself, with an assurance that from this
suicide of his the mountain obtained its name. Nothing of the kind.
'Mont Pilate' stands for 'Mons _Pileatus_,' the '_capped_ hill'; the
clouds, as one so often sees, gathering round its summit, and forming
the shape or appearance of a cap or hat. When this true derivation was
forgotten or misunderstood, the other explanation was invented and
imposed. [Footnote: [The old name of Pilatus was _Fractus Mons_,
'broken mountain' from its rugged cliffs and precipices. _Pilatus_ did
not become general till the close of the last century.]] An instructive
example this, let me observe by the way, of that which has happened
continually in the case of far older legends; I mean that the name has
suggested the legend, and not the legend the name. We have an apt
illustration of this in the old notion that the crocodile ([Greek:
krokodeilos]) could not endure saffron.

I have said that poetry and imagination seek to penetrate everywhere;
and this is literally true; for even the hardest, austerest studies
cannot escape their influence; they will put something of their own
life into the dry bones of a nomenclature which seems the remotest from
them, the most opposed to them. Thus in Danish the male and female
lines of descent and inheritance are called respectively the sword-side
and the spindle-side. [Footnote: [In the same way the Germans used to
employ _schwert_ and _kunkel_; compare the use of the phrases _on ða
sperehealfe_, and _on ða spinlhealfe_ in King Alfred's will; see Kemble,
_Codex Diplomaticus_, No. 314 (ii. 116), Pauli's _Life of Alfred_, p.
225, Lappenberg's _Anglo-Saxon Kings_, ii. 99 (1881).]] He who in
prosody called a metrical foot consisting of one long syllable followed
by two short (-..) a 'dactyle' or a finger, with allusion to the long
first joint of the finger, and the two shorter which follow, whoever he
may have been, and some one was the first to do it, must be allowed to
have brought a certain amount of imagination into a study so alien to
it as prosody very well might appear.

He did the same in another not very poetical region who invented the
Latin law-term, 'stellionatus.' The word includes all such legally
punishable acts of swindling or injurious fraud committed on the
property of another as are not specified in any more precise enactment;
being drawn and derived from a practice attributed, I suppose without
any foundation, to the lizard or 'stellio' we spoke of just now. Having
cast its winter skin, it is reported to swallow it at once, and this
out of a malignant grudge lest any should profit by that which, if not
now, was of old accounted a specific in certain diseases. The term was
then transferred to any malicious wrong whatever done by one person to

In other regions it was only to be expected that we should find poetry.
Thus it is nothing strange that architecture, which has been called
frozen music, and which is poetry embodied in material forms, should
have a language of its own, not dry nor hard, not of the mere intellect
alone, but one in the forming of which it is evident that the
imaginative faculties were at work. To take only one example--this,
however, from Gothic art, which naturally yields the most remarkable--
what exquisite poetry in the name of 'the rose window' or better still,
'the rose,' given to the rich circular aperture of stained glass, with
its leaf-like compartments, in the transepts of a Gothic cathedral!
Here indeed we may note an exception from that which usually finds
place; for usually art borrows beauty from nature, and very faintly, if
at all, reflects back beauty upon her. In this present instance,
however, art is so beautiful, has reached so glorious and perfect a
development, that if the associations which the rose supplies lend to
that window some hues of beauty and a glory which otherwise it would
not have, the latter abundantly repays the obligation; and even the
rose itself may become lovelier still, associated with those shapes of
grace, those rich gorgeous tints, and all the religious symbolism of
that in art which has borrowed and bears its name. After this it were
little to note the imagination, although that was most real, which
dictated the term 'flamboyant' to express the wavy flame-like outline,
which, at a particular period of art, the tracery in the Gothic window

'Godsacre' or 'Godsfield,' is the German name for a burial-ground, and
once was our own, though we unfortunately have nearly, if not quite,
let it go. What a hope full of immortality does this little word
proclaim! how rich is it in all the highest elements of poetry, and of
poetry in its noblest alliance, that is, in its alliance with faith--
able as it is to cause all loathsome images of death and decay to
disappear, not denying them, but suspending, losing, absorbing them in
the sublimer thought of the victory over death, of that harvest of life
which God shall one day so gloriously reap even there where now seems
the very triumphing place of death. Many will not need to be reminded
how fine a poem in Longfellow's hands unfolds itself out of this word.

Lastly let me note the pathos of poetry which lies often in the mere
tracing of the succession of changes in meaning which certain words
have undergone. Thus 'elend' in German, a beautiful word, now signifies
wretchedness, but at first it signified exile or banishment. [Footnote:
On this word there is an interesting discussion in Weigand's _Etym.
Dict._, and compare Pott, _Etym. Forsch._ i. 302. _Ellinge_, an English
provincial word of infinite pathos, still common in the south of
England, and signifying at once lonely and sad, is not connected, as
has been sometimes supposed, with the German _elend_, but represents
Anglo-Saxon _ae-lenge_, protracted, tedious; see the _New English
Dictionary_ (s.v. _alange_)] The sense of this separation from the
native land and from all home delights, as being the woe of all woes,
the crown of all sorrows, little by little so penetrated the word, that
what at first expressed only one form of misery, has ended by
signifying all. It is not a little notable, as showing the same feeling
elsewhere at work, that 'essil' (= exilium) in old French signified,
not only banishment, but ruin, destruction, misery. In the same manner
[Greek: nostimos] meaning at first no more than having to do with a
return, comes in the end to signify almost anything which is favourable
and auspicious.

Let us then acknowledge man a born poet; if not every man himself a
'maker' yet every one able to rejoice in what others have made,
adopting it freely, moving gladly in it as his own most congenial
element and sphere. For indeed, as man does not live by bread alone, as
little is he content to find in language merely the instrument which
shall enable him to buy and sell and get gain, or otherwise make
provision for the lower necessities of his animal life. He demands to
find in it as well what shall stand in a real relation and
correspondence to the higher faculties of his being, shall feed,
nourish, and sustain these, shall stir him with images of beauty and
suggestions of greatness. Neither here nor anywhere else could he
become the mere utilitarian, even if he would. Despite his utmost
efforts, were he so far at enmity with his own good as to put them
forth, he could not succeed in exhausting his language of the poetical
element with which it is penetrated through and through; he could not
succeed in stripping it of blossom, flower, and fruit, and leaving it
nothing but a bare and naked stem. He may fancy for a moment that he
has succeeded in doing this; but it will only need for him to become a
little better philologer, to go a little deeper into the story of the
words which he is using, and he will discover that he is as remote as
ever from such an unhappy consummation, from so disastrous a success.

For ourselves, let us desire and attempt nothing of the kind. Our life
is not in other ways so full of imagination and poetry that we need
give any diligence to empty it of that which it may possess of these.
It will always have for us all enough of dull and prosaic and
commonplace. What profit can there be in seeking to extend the region
of these? Profit there will be none, but on the contrary infinite loss.
It is _stagnant_ waters which corrupt themselves; not those in
agitation and on which the winds are freely blowing. Words of passion
and imagination are, as one so grandly called them of old, 'winds of
the soul' ([Greek: psyches anemoi]), to keep it in healthful motion and
agitation, to lift it upward and to drive it onward, to preserve it
from that unwholesome stagnation which constitutes the fatal
preparedness for so many other and worse evils.



Is man of a divine birth and of the stock of heaven? coming from God,
and, when he fulfils the law of his being, and the intention of his
creation, returning to Him again? We need no more than the words he
speaks to prove it; so much is there in them which could never have
existed on any other supposition. How else could all those words which
testify of his relation to God, and of his consciousness of this
relation, and which ground themselves thereon, have found their way
into his language, being as that is the veritable transcript of his
innermost life, the genuine utterance of the faith and hope which is in
him? In what other way can we explain that vast and preponderating
weight thrown into the scale of goodness and truth, which, despite of
all in the other scale, we must thankfully acknowledge that his
language never is without? How else shall we account for that sympathy
with the right, that testimony against the wrong, which, despite of all
aberrations and perversions, is yet the prevailing ground-tone of all?

But has man fallen, and deeply fallen, from the heights of his original
creation? We need no more than his language to prove it. Like
everything else about him, it bears at once the stamp of his greatness
and of his degradation, of his glory and of his shame. What dark and
sombre threads he must have woven into the tissue of his life, before
we could trace those threads of darkness which run through the tissue
of his language! What facts of wickedness and woe must have existed in
the one, ere such words could exist to designate these as are found in
the other! There have never wanted those who would make light of the
moral hurts which man has inflicted on himself, of the sickness with
which he is sick; who would persuade themselves and others that
moralists and divines, if they have not quite invented, have yet
enormously exaggerated, these. But are statements of the depth of his
fall, the malignity of the disease with which he is sick, found only in
Scripture and in sermons? Are those who bring forward these statements
libellers of human nature? Or are not mournful corroborations of the
truth of these assertions imprinted deeply upon every province of man's
natural and spiritual life, and on none more deeply than on his
language? It needs but to open a dictionary, and to cast our eye
thoughtfully down a few columns, and we shall find abundant
confirmation of this sadder and sterner estimate of man's moral and
spiritual condition. How else shall we explain this long catalogue of
words, having all to do with sin or with sorrow, or with both? How came
they there? We may be quite sure that they were not invented without
being needed, and they have each a correlative in the world of
realities. I open the first letter of the alphabet; what means this
'Ah,' this 'Alas,' these deep and long-drawn sighs of humanity, which
at once encounter me there? And then presently there meet me such words
as these, 'Affliction,' 'Agony,' 'Anguish,' 'Assassin,' 'Atheist,'
'Avarice,' and a hundred more--words, you will observe, not laid up in
the recesses of the language, to be drawn forth on rare occasions, but
many of them such as must be continually on the lips of men. And indeed,
in the matter of abundance, it is sad to note how much richer our
vocabularies are in words that set forth sins, than in those that set
forth graces. When St. Paul (Gal. v. 19-23) would range these over
against those, 'the works of the flesh' against 'the fruit of the
Spirit,' those are seventeen, these only nine; and where do we find in
Scripture such lists of graces, as we do at 2 Tim. iii. 2, Rom. i. 29-
31, of their contraries? [Footnote: Of these last the most exhaustive
collection which I know is in Philo, _De Merced. Meret._ Section 4.
There are here one hundred and forty-six epithets brought together,
each of them indicating a sinful moral habit of mind. It was not
without reason that Aristotle wrote: 'It is possible to err in many
ways, for evil belongs to the infinite; but to do right is possible
only in one way' (_Ethic. Nic._ ii. 6. 14).] Nor can I help noting, in
the oversight and muster from this point of view of the words which
constitute a language, the manner in which its utmost resources have
been taxed to express the infinite varieties, now of human suffering,
now of human sin. Thus, what a fearful thing is it that any language
should possess a word to express the pleasure which men feel at the
calamities of others; for the existence of the word bears testimony to
the existence of the thing. And yet such in more languages than one may
be found. [Footnote: In the Greek, [Greek: epichairekakia], in the
German, 'schadenfreude.' Cicero so strongly feels the want of such a
word, that he _gives_ to 'malevolentia' the significance, 'voluptas ex
malo alterius,' which lies not of necessity in it.] Nor are there
wanting, I suppose, in any language, words which are the mournful
record of the strange wickednesses which the genius of man, so fertile
in evil, has invented. What whole processes of cruelty are sometimes
wrapped up in a single word! Thus I have not travelled down the first
column of an Italian dictionary before I light upon the verb
'abbacinare' meaning to deprive of sight by holding a red-hot metal
basin close to the eyeballs. Travelling a little further in a Greek
lexicon, I should reach [Greek: akroteriazein] mutilate by cutting off
all the extremities, as hands, feet, nose, ears; or take our English
'to ganch.' And our dictionaries, while they tell us much, cannot tell
us all. How shamefully rich is everywhere the language of the vulgar in
words and phrases which, seldom allowed to find their way into books,
yet live as a sinful oral tradition on the lips of men, for the setting
forth of things unholy and impure. And of these words, as no less of
those dealing with the kindred sins of revelling and excess, how many
set the evil forth with an evident sympathy and approbation of it, and
as themselves taking part with the sin against Him who has forbidden it
under pain of his highest displeasure. How much ability, how much wit,
yes, and how much imagination must have stood in the service of sin,
before it could possess a nomenclature so rich, so varied, and often so
heaven-defying, as that which it actually owns.

Then further I would bid you to note the many words which men have
dragged downward with themselves, and made more or less partakers of
their own fall. Having once an honourable meaning, they have yet with
the deterioration and degeneration of those that used them, or of those
about whom they were used, deteriorated and degenerated too. How many,
harmless once, have assumed a harmful as their secondary meaning; how
many worthy have acquired an unworthy. Thus 'knave' meant once no more
than lad (nor does 'knabe' now in German mean more); 'villain' than
peasant; a 'boor' was a farmer, a 'varlet' a serving-man, which meaning
still survives in 'valet,' the other form of this word; [Footnote: Yet
this itself was an immense fall for the word (see _Ampère, La Langue
Française_, p. 219, and Littré, _Dict. de la Langue Française_, preface,
p. xxv.).] a 'menial' was one of the household; a 'paramour' was a
lover, an honourable one it might be; a 'leman' in like manner might be
a lover, and be used of either sex in a good sense; a 'beldam' was a
fair lady, and is used in this sense by Spenser; [Footnote: _F. Q._ iii.
2. 43.] a 'minion' was a favourite (man in Sylvester is 'God's dearest
_minion_'); a 'pedant' in the Italian from which we borrowed the word,
and for a while too with ourselves, was simply a tutor; a 'proser' was
one who wrote in prose; an 'adventurer' one who set before himself
perilous, but very often noble ventures, what the Germans call a
glücksritter; a 'swindler,' in the German from which we got it, one who
entered into dangerous mercantile speculations, without implying that
this was done with any intention to defraud others. Christ, according
to Bishop Hall, was the 'ringleader' of our salvation. 'Time-server'
two hundred years ago quite as often designated one in an honourable as
in a dishonourable sense 'serving the time.' [Footnote: See in proof
Fuller, _Holy State_, b. iii. c. 19.] 'Conceits' had once nothing
conceited in them. An 'officious' man was one prompt in offices of
kindness, and not, as now, an uninvited meddler in things that concern
him not; something indeed of the older meaning still survives in the
diplomatic use of the word.

'Demure' conveyed no hint, as it does now, of an overdoing of the
outward demonstrations of modesty; a 'leer' was once a look with
nothing amiss in it (_Piers Plowman_). 'Daft' was modest or retiring;
'orgies' were religious ceremonies; the Blessed Virgin speaks of
herself in an early poem as 'God's wench.' In 'crafty' and 'cunning' no
_crooked wisdom_ was implied, but only knowledge and skill; 'craft,'
indeed, still retains very often its more honourable use, a man's
'craft' being his skill, and then the trade in which he is skilled.
'Artful' was skilful, and not tricky as now. [Footnote: Not otherwise
'leichtsinnig' in German meant cheerful once; it is frivolous now;
while in French a 'rapporteur' is now a bringer back of _malicious_
reports, the malicious having little by little found its way into the


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