Page images
PDF
EPUB

Greek inscriptions, of the purest taste, have been found near Marseilles. One, for instance, upon the tomb of an unknown pair, runs thus : 'Here are two bodies, but one spirit.' Another is more remarkable for its allusion to the Pythagorean opin. ions which were revived at the date of this inscription. It is an epitaph upon a young sailor, who addresses the passer-by in these words :

O thou, who wanderest along this shore, and listenest to the wave of the sea, hear my words. Like thee I was a wanderer ; and young as the protectors of the sailor-the young gods of Amycles. I was not blessed by the ties of marriage—so dear to the immortals. A sailor, I roamed upon the waters ; and now in the tomb, which I owe to my employers' piety, I am for ever free from toil and disease, from fatigue and from care-evils to which the living body only is subject. Among the dead, a portion come again upon earth, others are enrolled among the dancing stars of heaven. I belong to the latter choir, as my reward for following the will of the gods.

So zealously did the early Massilians cultivate their national literature, that their Homer was celebrated among the ancients, who had adopted the plan of Solon, for multiplying extensively popular editions of his two poems. Thus the gloomy ideas of the Druids were shaken in Gaul by the livelier usages of the Greeks, long before the Roman conquest introduced great political changes, and gradually led the way to new manners, of which those of the Greeks continued to form an essential part, to a late period in the middle ages.

How long the Greeks of Gaul influenced even the manners of the Romans, may be inferred from the fact recorded by Tacitus concerning Agricola, that he had acquired both a taste for literature and a purity of character, at Marseilles, where he was educated, and where Greek refinement was combined with the simple manners of a province.

Besides Marseilles, and its immediate Greek dependencies, the Romans founded in Narbonne, as early as one hundred and eighteen years before our era, a purely Roman colony, which was the source of a most influential Roman civilization in southwestern Gaul, and concurred with the subsequent conquest of the whole country, to establish in it new manners, new learning, and a new religion, all of which were intimately moulded with those of Greece, as well as with the remains of the old religion, and with the manners of the aboriginal tribes.

M. Fauriel is quite aware that the influence of the Greeks in Gaul, however important, was inferior in power and consequences to that of the Romans; and he takes some pains to distinguish the respective characters and consequences of both of those influ

ences, attributing the inferior progress of the Greeks to their inferior degree of sympathy with their barbarian neighbours ; and the superiority of the Romans, as much to their greater humanity as to the predominance of their arms. The inquiry on these heads would have been carried further with advantage. It is capable of demonstration, that the hostile spirit which prevailed between the Greeks and the native Gauls was a mere effect of the prejudice and oppressive conduct of the former, and that it led necessarily to their isolation and helplessness, when in after times they needed native allies in their last fatal war against Julius Cæsar. The very same evil was experienced by the Romans in another form. Their system of universal conquest was defeated by its exciting feelings of deadly hostility on every frontier, when principles of humanity would have given permanence to a more extensive empire. All the victorious barbarians, says M. Fauriel, with truth, had no design to destroy Roman civilization. Many of them, on the contrary, respected the religion of the conquered, their mode of worship, their language, their laws, their municipal system, their arts, and usages of all kinds. For a century, at least, after their successful inroads, the literature of Gaul preserved its previously distinguished character; and, as he shows convincingly, whole nations of these barbarians, such as Visigoths and Burgundians, were strongly disposed to adopt that civilization; and whole lines of their kings were its zealous partisans. The ruin of the empire, and especially that of Gaul, came later. It was inflicted by the more barbarous Franks, whose violence might have been kept in check, if the prejudices of the Romans had not really alienated the tribes which they were unable to crush. M. Fauriel has examined too slightly his important subject in this point of view, which nevertheless seems to be its key-stone, and it could not have failed to produce instructive reflections in his hands. It is one of his defects to accept conquest as inevitable, and perhaps useful, in the progress of mankind.

Christianity was early introduced among the older complex elements of society in Gaul. But pure religious doctrines, and good usages, formed a portion only of the influences which prevailed after its establishment. Its corruptions even added to the previously existing causes of discord. New principles also were prevalent among the northern barbarians; and the ambition showed by their chiefs, in common with all conquerors, led to the frightful struggles between them and the people of Southern Gaul; which crisis was aggravated by the wars of both populations of Gaul with the invading Arabs. Towards the close of these sanguinary events, there grew up in the south new manners and a new literature; of which, especially

Fauriel, is the critic and historian; and which at length produced substantially the system of the times in which we live.

It is the able display of those struggles of races, and revolutions of manners, with their causes and consequences, until the fourteenth century, which constitute M. Fauriel's great merit. He has faults, but they are not numerous. His very intellectual riches lead to one of them-a defect in style. His mind is so full of his subject-so intensely alive to its multitudinous details, that he never seems to have completed his work. After all has been said by him that would give others the idea of completeness, M. Fauriel perceives that some important points are not thoroughly settled ; and then, yielding to superior claims upon his attention, he merely notices the omitted points as he proceeds, and promises to take them up at a more suitable opportunity. The frequent occurrence of this practice raises a feeling of the imperfection of his labours, which would not belong to them but for his own habit of composition; and which, if removed by his vast resources being fully worked out as his topics arose, would have elevated him to the very highest rank as a writer.

The language of the inhabitants of the South of France is traced by M. Fauriel very distinctly to eight originals: the Gaulish or Belgian, the Celtic and its branches, the Aquitanian or Basque, the Greek, the Latin, the several branches of the German, the Arabic, and the Hebrew. He possessed a deep knowledge of all these languages, and of several others, as the Sanscrit, English, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and of course French. In fact, except Anglo-Saxon, to the value of which he seems to have been scarcely alive, he was unquestionably the most universal linguist of his time. But to him languages were merely instruments of inquiry into the various forms of civilization. His account of the disappearance of some of the above-mentioned languages as popular tongues; and that of the transit of the whole to the French and Provençal, with the formation of the last from all its elements, are framed with the greatest skill and logic.

When different languages are brought into contact casually, they naturally combine, change their several characters, and extinguish each other. Representing, as they do, the several moral and political powers of the people who speak them, they necessarily partake of the degrees of those powers, and share the fate of those people respectively. All the foregoing languages were spoken in various parts of Gaul from the end of the fifth to the middle of the eighth century; but they had not all equal prospects of duration. Before the end of the tenth century they had almost all disappeared from the face of that country. One of the three oldest of them, the Gallic, had disappeared the first, if the curious anecdote in the life of St. Martin by Sulpicius Severus be correctly referred to the end of the fourth century. A Gaul is narrating the Saint's life and miracles to two men of Aquitaine ; and shows some hesitation at expressing himself in Latin, of which he understands little. Tell your story,' says one of his impatient hearers, in any language that pleases you ; speak Celtic, or Gallic, if you prefer it, only speak of St. Martin,' and from that time no trace is anywhere to be met with of the Gallic tongue.

'So, after the sixth century, the Greek is quite lost as a spoken language, and before the end of the eighth century the Arabic was expelled beyond the Pyrenees with the repulsed Mussulman.

In like manner, at the beginning of the ninth century, Latin was confined to the offices of the church, to the law, and to the public records ; as about the same time the Visigoths and Burgundians had abandoned their German dialects.

'In the tenth century, therefore, four several languages only were spoken in all Gaul; the Frankish to the left of the Rhine ; the Celtic or Breton in Bretagne; the Aquitaine, or Basque in the West Pyrenees, and in all other parts the Romane mainly derived from the Latin, of which the Romane of the North was French ; and that of the South, Provençal.

• The Latin, however, forms by no means the great bulk of the Provençal. I have collected from writings in it three thousand words entirely foreign to the Latin; and they are not half which probably belong to the same class. The greater number of these three thousand words, do not belong to any other language now known. The rest may be clearly recognized in languages still existing

• The Arabic came latest into use in Southern Gaul; and its contributions to the Provençal language can easily be traced.

The Greek survives extensively in the Provençal ; more especially to the left of the Rhone. Bread is there to this day often called harto, from aptos; and the Troubadours often call the sea, pelek, pelech, palagre, evidently from melayos; they say dipnar, deltovas, for eating, or the principal meal, whence the French word diner, to dine; they said pilo, for a dart ; mela, or mella, for an apple ; stilo, for a pillar; grafi, for a pen, or graver ; ydria, for a water jug.

A remark may be made upon the peculiar character of the Greek of Marseilles. It was a dialect of the Ionic spoken at Phocea, and the Isle of Samos, now lost; and certainly bad words to be met with in no other dialect. Consequently some of them may exist in the Provençal without being recognisable. Some very curious speculations might be made on that point; but they would lead me too far from my main purpose. I will only remark on it, that if history had not recorded the existence of the Greek race in the South of Gaul, their presence there might have been inferred from the Greek character of the Provençal language.

• That language contains still more ancient materials in its words spoken to this day by the Welsh and Bas-Bretons, who unquestionably were among the primitive people of Gaul, and whom I call Celts. A complete analysis of the Provençal language in this respect would require more space than I can here afford. I will only, therefore, affirm such Celtic words to be numerous, and I select a few as specimens; such as ruska, the bark of a tree; comba, a valley; maboul, infantine; cueno, gracious, kind; prim, thin; truan, vagrant; fell, malignant.'*

So traces of the Basque, or old Iberian, in form and sound, are clearly distinguishable in the Provençal. They could not have been borrowed from the mountains where the Basque is now spoken; as there the people are not sufficiently refined to have a rich language to impart to their neighbours. They must have been adopted in the very country once inhabited by a race who spoke Iberian.

The third primitive language of Gaul, the Gallic, is still more distinctly traceable in the Provençal. That the Gael of Scotland, and the Gaihil of Ireland are identical with the old Gauls, and that they all spoke an analogous language, are facts supported by the existence of the same proper names in the several countries in question, and the light wanting in history on the subject, is supplied by the Provençal dictionary. It contains many words found no where else except in the Irish, and the Gaelic of the highlands of Scotland. The adjective certain, certana, is such a word. It occurs in passages in which it cannot be translated certain : but it is expressive enough, if beld to be the same as the Gaelic word keart, which means justice, uprightness, loyalty. A considerable list might be given of similar words; and it is very remarkable that the only primitive tongue of Gaul which has disappeared, should be precisely that language of which the Provençal has preserved the most nume. rous, the most distinguishable, and most characteristic remnants.

The literature formed with this new language, grew up under circumstances, of which the beginning may be marked very distinctly. About the end of the eighth century, when the Latin, used by the church, was no longer understood by the people, Charlemagne, iu his great ecclesiastical and civil reforms, included popular instruction in the popular dialects. This promoted the study of those popular dialects, already favoured by the habits of the southern people, who had not shared in the revival of classical studies by Charlemagne.

The only original literature of the ruder nations of the west

* M. Fauriel gives twelve words as Celtic, of which, for brevity, seven only are here selected; but their striking identity with the British words now in use among us in the south of England, will not escape the reader. This identity illustrates a very interesting inquiry not only as to the connection of the ancient Britons with the primitive people of the south of France, but also as to the obscure point of the supposed extinction of the British language by the Saxons ;-in Sussex, for instance.

« PreviousContinue »