Sir Thomas Browne (1683) Certain Miscellany Tracts. Tract VIII: Of Languages, and particularly of the Saxon Tongue, pp. 129-150.




And particularly of the



The last Discourse we had of the Saxon Tongue recalled to my mind some forgotten considerations [both of that and other languages].1 Though the Earth were widely peopled before the Flood, (as many learned men conceive) yet whether after a large dispersion, and the space of sixteen hundred years, men maintained so uniform a Language in all parts, as to be strictly of one Tongue, and readily to understand each other, may very well be doubted. For though the World preserved in the Family of Noah before the confusion of Tongues might be said to be of one Lip, yet even permitted to themselves their humours, inventions, necessities, and new objects, without the miracle of Confusion at first, in so long a tract of time, there had probably been a Babel. For whether America were first peopled by one or several Nations, yet cannot that number of different planting Nations, answer the multiplicity of their present different Languages, of no affinity unto each other; and even in their Northern Nations and incommunicating Angles [where they may be best conceived to have most single originals], their Languages are widely differing. A native Interpreter brought from California proved of no use unto the Spaniards upon the neighbour Shore. From Chiapa, to Guatemala, S. Salvador, Honduras, there are at least eighteen several Languages; and so numerous are they both in the Peruvian and Mexican Regions, that the great Princes are fain to have one common Language, which besides their vernaculous and Mother Tongues, may serve for commerce between them.

And since the confusion of Tongues at first fell onely upon those which were present in Sinaar at the work of Babel,2 whether the primitive Language from Noah were onely preserved in the Family of Heber, and not also in divers others, which might be absent at the same, whether all came away and many might not be left behind in their first Plantations about the foot of the Hills, whereabout the Ark rested and Noah became an Husbandman; [whether in that space of 150 years, according to common compute, before the conduct of Nimrod, many might not wander northward, eastward, or southward, and many of the posterity of Noah, might not disperse themselves before the great migration unto Sinaar, and many also afterward;] is not absurdly doubted.

For so the primitive Tongue might in time branch out into several parts of Europe and Asia, and thereby the first or Hebrew Tongue which seems to be ingredient into so many Languages, might have larger originals and grounds of its communication and traduction than from the Family of Abraham, the Country of Canaan and words contained in the Bible which come short of the full of that Language. And this would become more probable from the Septuagint or Greek Chronology strenuously asserted by Vossius;3 for making five hundred years between the Deluge and the days of Peleg, there ariseth a large latitude of multiplication and dispersion of People into several parts, before the descent of that Body which followed Nimrod unto Sinaar from the East.

They who derive the bulk of European Tongues from the Scythian and the Greek, though they may speak probably in many points, yet must needs allow vast difference or corruptions from so few originals, which however might be tolerably made out in the old Saxon, yet hath time much confounded the clearer derivations. And as the knowledge thereof now stands in reference unto our selves, I find many words totally lost, divers of harsh sound disused or refined in the pronunciation, and many words we have also in common use not to be found in that Tongue, or venially derivable from any other from whence we have largely borrowed, and yet so much still remaineth with us that it maketh the gross of our Language.

The religious obligation unto the Hebrew Language hath so notably continued the same, that it might still be understood by Abraham, whereas by the Mazorite Points and Chaldee Character the old Letter stands so transformed, that if Moses were alive again, he must be taught to reade his own Law. [Though this language be duly magnified, and always of high esteem, yet if, with Geropius Becanus, we admit that tongue to be most perfect which is most copious or expressive, most delucid and clear unto the understanding, most short or soon delivered, and best pronounced with most ease unto the organs of speech, the Hebrew now known unto us will hardly obtain the place; since it consisteth of fewer words than many others, and its words begin not with vowels, since it is so full of homonymies, and words which signify many things, and so ambiguous, that translations so little agree; and since, though the radices consist but of three letters, yet they make two syllables in speaking; and since the pronunciation is such, as St. Jerome, who was born in a barbarous country, thought the words anhelent, strident, and of very harsh sound.4]

The Chinoys, who live at the bounds of the Earth, who have admitted little communication, and suffered successive incursions from one Nation, may possibly give account of a very ancient Language; but consisting of many Nations and Tongues; confusion, admixtion and corruption in length of time might probably so have crept in as without the virtue of a common Character, and lasting Letter of things, they could never probably make out those strange memorials which they pretend, while they still make use of the Works of their great Confutius many hundred years before Christ, and in a series ascend as high as Poncuus, who is conceived our Noah.

The present Welch, and remnant of the old Britanes, hold so much of that ancient Language, that they make shift to understand the poems of Merlin, Enerin, Telesin, a thousand years ago, whereas the Herulian Pater Noster, set down by Wolfgangus Lazius, is not without much criticism made out, and but in some words; and the present Parisians can hardly hack out those few lines of the League between Charles and Lewis, the Sons of Ludovicus Pius, yet remaining in old French.5

The Spaniards, in their corruptive traduction and Romance, have so happily retained the terminations from the Latin, that notwithstanding Gothick and Moorish intrusions of words,6 they are able to make a discourse completely consisting of Grammatical Latin and Spanish, wherein the Italians and French will be much to seek.7

[The many mother tongues spoke in divers corners of Europe and quite different from one another, are not reconcileable to any one common original; whereas the great languages of Spain, France, and Italy, are derivatives from the Latin; that of Grecia and the islands from the old Greek; the rest are of the family and dialects of the Dutch or Schlavonian. As for the lingua Fullana, spoken in part of Friuli, and the lingua Curvallica in Rhætia, they seem to be corruptions of the Italian, as that of Sardinia is also of the Spanish.]

[Even the Latin itself, which hath embroiled so many languages of Europe, if it had been the speech of one country, and not continued by writers, and the consent and study of all ages since, it had found the same fate, and been swallowed like other languages; since in its ancient state, one age could scarce understand another, and that of some generations before must be read by a dictionary by a few successions after; as, beside the famous pillar of Quillius,8 may be illustrated in these few lines, Eundo omnibus honestitudo præterbitunda nemo escit. Quianam itaque istuc effexis hauscio, temperi et toppertutemet tam hibus insegne, quod ningribus potestur aut ruspare nevolt. Sapsam saperdæ senesciones sardare nequinunt cuoi siemps et socienum quissis sperit? Some derive the bulk of European languages from the Scythian and the Greek. If we had as good a knowledge of the old Scythian as of the Greek much more might be said thereon.]

The learned Casaubon conceiveth that a Dialogue might be composed in Saxon onely of such words as are derivable from the Greek, which surely might be effected, and so as the learned might not uneasily find it out. Verstegan made no doubt that he could contrive a Letter which might be understood by the English, Dutch and East Frieslander, which, as the present confusion standeth, might have proved no very clear Piece, and hardly to be hammer’d out: yet so much of the Saxon still remaineth in our English, as may admit an orderly discourse and series of good sense, such as not onely the present English, but Ælfric, Bede and Alured might understand after so many hundred years.

Nations that live promiscuously, under the Power and Laws of Conquest, do seldom escape the loss of their Language with their Liberties, wherein the Romans were so strict that the Grecians were fain to conform [and make use of Latine] in their judicial Processes; which made the Jews loose more in seventy years dispersion in the Provinces of Babylon, than in many hundred9 in their distinct habitation in Ægypt; and the English which dwelt dispersedly to loose their Language in Ireland, whereas more tolerable reliques there are thereof in Fingall, where they were closely and almost solely planted; and the Moors which were most huddled together and united about Granada, have yet left their Arvirage among the Granadian Spaniards.

But shut up in Angles and inaccessible corners, divided by Laws and Manners, they often continue long with little mixture, which hath afforded the lasting life unto the Cantabrian and British Tongue, wherein the Britanes are remarkable, who, having lived four hundred years together with the Romanes, retained so much of the British as it may be esteemed a Language; which either they resolutely maintained in their cohabitation with them in Britane, or retiring after in the time of the Saxons into Countries and parts less civiliz’d and conversant with the Romans, they found the People distinct, the Language more intire, and so fell into it again.

But surely no Languages have been so straitly lock’d up as not to admit of commixture. The Irish, although they retain a kind of a Saxon Character, yet have admitted many words of Latin and English. In the Welch are found many words from Latin, some from Greek and Saxon. In what parity and incommixture the Language of that People stood which were casually discovered in the heart of Spain, between the Mountains of Castile, no longer ago than in the time of Duke D’Alva, we have not met with a good account any farther than that their words were Basquish or Cantabrian: but the present Basquensa one of the minor Mother Tongues of Europe, is not without commixture of Latin and Castilian, while we meet with Santifica, tentationeten, Glaria, puissança, and four more in the short Form of the Lord’s Prayer, set down by Paulus Merula: but although in this brief Form we may find some commixture, yet the bulk of their Language seems more distinct, consisting of words of no affinity unto others, of numerals totally different, of differing Grammatical Rule, as may be observed in the Dictionary and short Basquensa Grammar, composed by Raphael Nicoleta, a Priest of Bilboa.

And if they use the auxiliary Verbs of Equin and Ysan, answerable unto Hazer and Ser, to Have, and Be, in the Spanish, which Forms came in with the Northern Nations into the Italian, Spanish and French, and if that form were used by them before, and crept not in from imitation of their neighbours, it may shew some ancienter traduction from Northern Nations, or else must seem very strange; since the Southern Nations had it not of old, and I know not whether any such mode be found in the Languages of any part of America.

The Romans, who made the great commixture and alteration of Languages in the World, effected the same, not onely by their proper Language, but those also of their military Forces, employed in several Provinces, as holding a standing Militia in all Countries, and commonly of strange Nations, so while the cohorts and Forces of the Britanes were quartered in Ægypt, Armenia, Spain, Illyria, &c. the Stablæsians and Dalmatians here, the Gauls, Spaniards and Germans in other Countries, and other Nations in theirs, they could not but leave many words behind them, and carry away many with them, which might make that in many words of very distinct Nations some may still remain of very unknown and doubtfull Genealogy.

And if, as the learned Buxhornius contendeth, the Scythian Language as the Mother Tongue runs through the Nations of Europe, and even as far as Persia, the community in many words between so many Nations, hath a more reasonable original traduction, and were rather derivable from the common Tongue diffused through them all, than from any particular Nation, which hath also borrowed and holdeth but at second hand.

The Saxons settling over all England, maintained an uniform Language, onely diversified in Dialect, Idioms, and minor differences, according to their different Nations which came in to the common Conquest, which may yet be a cause of the variation in the speech and words of several parts of England, where different Nations most abode or settled, and having expelled the Britanes, their Wars were chiefly among themselves, with little action with foreign Nations untill the union of the Heptarchy under Egbert; after which time although the Danes infested this Land and scarce left any part free, yet their incursions made more havock in Buildings, Churches and Cities, than the Language of the Country, because their Language was in effect the same, and such as whereby they might easily understand one another.

And if the Normans, which came into Neustria or Normandy with Rollo the Dane, had preserved their Language in their new acquist, the succeeding Conquest of England, by Duke William of his race, had not begot among us such notable alterations; but having lost their Language in their abode in Normandy before they adventured upon England, they confounded the English with their French, and made the grand mutation, which was successively encreased by our possessions in Normandy, Guien and Aquitain, by our long Wars in France, by frequent resort of the French, who to the number of some thousands came over with Isabel Queen to Edward the Second, and the several Matches of England with the Daughters of France before and since that time.

But this commixture, though sufficient to confuse, proved not of ability to abolish the Saxon words; for from the French we have borrowed many Substantives, Adjectives and some Verbs, but the great Body of Numerals, auxiliary Verbs, Articles, Pronouns, Adverbs, Conjunctions and Prepositions, which are the distinguishing and lasting part of a Language, remain with us from the Saxon, which, having suffered no great alteration for many hundred years, may probably still remain, though the English swell with the inmates of Italian, French and Latin. An example whereof may be observ'd in this following,10


The first and formost step to all good Works is the dread and fear of the Lord of Heaven and Earth, which thorough the Holy Ghost enlightneth the blindness of our sinfull hearts to tread the ways of wisedom, and then leads our feet into the Land of Blessing.


The erst and fyrmost stæp to eal gode Weorka is the dræd and feurt of the Lauord of Heofan and Eorth, while thurh the Heilig Gast onlihtneth the blindnese of ure sinfull heorte to træd the wæg of wisdome, and thone læd ure fet into the Land of Blessung.


For to forget his Law is the Door, the Gate and Key to let in all unrighteousness, making our Eyes, Ears and Mouths to answer the lust of Sin, our Brains dull to good Thoughts, our Lips dumb to his Praise, our Ears deaf to his Gospel, and our Eyes dim to behold his Wonders, which witness against us that we have not well learned the word of God, that we are the Children of wrath, unworthy of the love and manifold gifts of God, greedily following after the ways of the Devil and witchcraft of the World, doing nothing to free and keep ourselves from the burning fire of Hell, till we be buried in Sin and swallowed in Death, not to arise again in any hope of Christ's Kingdom.


For to fuorgytan his Laga is the Dure, the Gat and Cæg to let in eal unrightwisnysse, makend ure Eyge, Eore and Muth to answare the lust of Sin, ure Brægan dole to gode Theoht, ure Lippan dumb to his Preys, ure Earen deaf to his Gospel, and ure Eyge dim to behealden his Wundra, while gewitnysse ongen us that we hoef noht wel gelæred the weord of God, that we are the Cilda of ured, unwyrthe of the lufe and mænigfeald gift of God, grediglice felygend æfter the wægen of the Deoful and wiccraft of the Weorld, doend nothing to fry and cæp ure saula from the byrnend fyr of Hell, till we be geburied in Synne and swolgen in Death not to arise agen in ænig hope of Christes Kynedome.


Which draw from above the bitter doom of the Almighty of Hunger, Sword, Sickness, and brings more sad plagues than those of Hail, Storms, Thunder, Bloud, Frogs, swarms of Gnats and Grashoppers, which are the Corn, Grass and Leaves of the Trees in Ægypt.


Whilc drag from buf the bitter dome of the Almagan of Hunger, Sweorde, Seoknesse, and bring mere sad plag, thone they of Hagal, Storme, Thunner, Blode, Frog, swearme of Gnæt and Gærsupper, while eaten the Corn, Gærs and Leaf of the Treowen in Ægypt.


If we reade his Book and holy Writ, these among many others, we shall find to be the tokens of his hate, which gathered together might mind us of his will, and teach us when his wrath beginneth, which sometimes comes in open strength and full sail, oft steals like a Thief in the night, like Shafts shot from a Bow at midnight, before we think upon them.


Gyf we ræd his Boc and heilig Gewrit, these gemong mænig othern, we sceall findan the tacna of his hatung whilc gegatherod together miht gemind us of his willan, and teac us whone his ured onginneth, whilc sometima comein open strength and fil sele, oft stæl gelyc a Theof in the niht, gelyc Sceaft scoten fram a Boge at midneoht, beforan we thinck uppen them.


And though they were a deal less, and rather short than beyond our sins, yet do we not a whit withstand or forbear them, we are wedded to, not weary of our misdeeds, we seldom look upward, and are not ashamed under sin, we cleanse not ourselves from the blackness and deep hue of our guilt; we want tears and sorrow, we weep not, fast not, we crave not forgiveness from the mildness, sweetness and goodness of God, and with all livelihood and steadfastness to our uttermost will hunt after the evil of guile, pride, cursing, swearing, drunkenness, overeating, uncleanness, all idle lust of the flesh, yes many uncouth and nameless sins, hid in our inmost Breast and Bosomes, which stand betwixt our forgiveness, and keep God and Man asunder.


And theow they wære a dæl lesse, and reither scort thone begond oure sinnan, get do we naht a whit withstand or forbeare them, we eare bewudded to, noht werig of ure agen misdeed, we seldom loc upweard, and ear not offehæmod under sinne, we cleans noht ure selvan from the blacnesse and dæp hue of ure guilt; we wan teare and sara, we weope noht, fæst noht, we craf noht foregyfnesse fram the mildnesse, sweetnesse and goodnesse of God, and mit eal lifelyhood and stedfastnesse to ure uttermost witt hunt æfter the ufel of guile, pride, cursung, swearung, druncennesse, overeat, uncleannesse and eal idle lust of the flæsc, yis mæanig uncuth and nameleas sinnan, hid in ure inmæst Brist and Bosome, whilc stand betwixt ure foregyfnesse, and cæp God and Man asynder.


Thus are we far beneath and also worse than the rest of God’s Works; for the Sun and Moon, the King and Queen of Stars, Snow, Ice, Rain, Frost, Dew, Mist, Wind, fourfooted and creeping things, Fishes and feathered Birds, and Fowls either of Sea or Land do all hold the laws of his will.


Thus eare we far beneoth and ealso wyrse thone the rest of Gods Weorka; for the Sun and Mone, the Cyng and Cquen 11 of Stearran, Snaw, Ise, Ren, Frost, Deaw, Miste, Wind, feower fet and crypend dinga, Fix and yefethrod Brid, and Fælan auther in Sæ or Land do eal heold the Lag of his willan.

Thus have you seen in few words how near the Saxon and English meet.

Now of this account the French will be able to make nothing; the modern Danes and Germans, though from several words they may conjecture at the meaning, yet will they be much to seek in the orderly sense and continued construction thereof; whether the Danes can continue such a series of sense out of their present Language and the old Runick, as to be intelligible unto present and ancient times, some doubt may well be made; and if the present French would attempt a Discourse in words common unto their present Tongue and the old Romana Rustica spoken in Elder times, or in the old Language of the Francks, which came to be in use some successions after Pharamond,12 it might prove a Work of some trouble to effect.

It were not impossible to make an Original reduction of many words of no general reception in England but of common use in Norfolk, or peculiar to the East Angle Countries; as, Bawnd, Bunny, Thurck, Enemmis, Sammodithee, Mawther, Kedge, Seele, Straft, Clever, Matchly, Dere, Nicked, Stingy, Noneare, Feft, Thepes, Gosgood, Kamp, Sibrit, Fangast, Sap, Cothish, Thokish, Bide owe, Paxwax:13 of these and some others of no easie originals, when time will permit, the resolution may be attempted; which to effect, the Danish Language new and more ancient may prove of good advantage:14 which Nation remained here fifty years upon agreement, and have left many Families in it, and the Language of these parts had surely been more commixed and perplex, if the Fleet of Hugo de Bones had not been cast away, wherein threescore thousand Souldiers out of Britany and Flanders were to be wafted over, and were by King John’s appointment to have a settled habitation in the Counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.

But beside your laudable endeavours in the Saxon, you are not like to repent you of your studies in the other European and Western Languages, for therein are delivered many excellent Historical, Moral and Philosophical Discourses, wherein men merely versed in the learned Languages are often at a loss: but although you are so well accomplished in the French, you will not surely conceive that you are master of all the Languages in France, for to omit the Briton, Britonant or old British, yet attained in some parts of Brittany, I shall onely propose this unto your construction.

Chavalisco d’aquestes Boemes chems an freitado lou cap cun taules Jargonades, ero necy chi voluiget bouta sin tens embè aquelles. Anin à lous occells, che dizen tat prou ben en ein voz. L’ome nosap comochodochi yen ay jes de plazer, d’ausir la mitat da paraulles en el mon.

This is a part of that Language which Scaliger nameth Idiotismus Tectosagicus, or Langue d’oc, counter-distinguishing it unto the Idiotismus Francicus, or Langue d’ouy, not understood in a petty corner or between a few Mountains, but in parts of early civility, in Languedoc, Provence and Catalonia, which put together will make little less then England.

Without some knowledge herein you cannot exactly understand the Works of Rablais:15 by this the French themselves are fain to make out that preserved relique of old French, containing the League between Charles and Lewis the Sons of Ludovicus Pius.16 Hereby may tolerably be understood the several Tracts written in the Catalonian Tongue; and in this is published the Tract of Falconry written by Theodosius and Symmachus; in this is yet conserved the Poem of Vilharduine concerning the French expedition in the Holy War, and the taking of Constantinople, among the Works of Marius Æquicola an Italian Poet. You may find, in this Language, a pleasant Dialogue of Love: this, about an hundred years ago, was in high esteem, when many Italian Wits flocked into Provence; and the famous Petrarcha wrote many of his Poems in Vaucluse in that Country.

[Now having wearied you with old languages or little understood, I shall put an end unto your trouble in modern French, by a short letter composed by me for your sake, though not concerning yourself; wherein, though the words be plain and genuine, yet the sense may afford some trouble unto the apprehension:

[Monsieur,— Ne vous laisses plus manger la laine sur le dors. Regardes bien ce gros magot et malitorne de maigre mine, lequel vous voyes de si bon oeil. Assurement il pappelarde et fait le mitou. Monsieur, vous chausses les lunettes a travers, ne voyant poynt comme il practique vos dependants. Il s’est desïa gueri de mal St. Francois, et bride sa mule a vostre despens. Croyes moi, il ne s’amuse a la moustarde; mais, vous ayant miné et massacré vos affaires, au dernier coup il vos rendra Monsieur sans queue.

[Mais pour l’autre goulafie et beauveur a tire larigot, qui vous a si rognement fait la barbe, l’envoyes vous a Pampelune. Mais auparavant, a mon advis, il auroit a miserere jusques a vitulos, et je le ferois un moutton de Berry. En le traittant bellement et de bon conseil, vous assayes de rompre un anguille sur les genoux. Ne lui fies point: il ne rabaissera le menton, et mourra dans sa peau. Il scait bien que les belles parolles n’escorchent pas la gueule, lesquelles il payera a sepmaine de deux Jeudies. Chasses le de chez vous a bon heure, car il a esté a Naples sans passer les monts; et ancore que parle en maistre, est patient de St. Cosme.

[Soucies vous aussi de la garcionaire, chez vous, qu’elle n’ayst le mal de neuf moys. Assurement elle a le nez tourné a la friandise, et les talons bien courts. Elle joue voluntiers à l’Home; et si le hault ne defend le bas, avant la venue des cicoignes, lui s’enlevera la juppe.

[Mais, pour le petit Gymnosophiste chez vous, caresses le vous aux bras ouverts. Voyes vous pas comme a toutes les menaces de fortune il branle comme la Bastille? Vrayment il est Stoic a vingt-quatre carrats, et de mesme calibre avec les vieux Ascetiques. Alloran17 lui vault autant que l’isle de France, et la tour de Cordan18 lui revint le mesme avec la Louvre.

Serviteur très-humble,

Thomas Broune.19]

For the word [Dread] in the Royal Title [Dread Sovereign] of which you desire to know the meaning, I return answer unto your question briefly thus.

Most men do vulgarly understand this word Dread after the common and English acception, as implying Fear, Awe or Dread.

Others may think to expound it from the French word Droit or Droyt. For, whereas in elder times, the Presidents and Supremes of Courts were termed Sovereigns, men might conceive this a distinctive Title and proper unto the King as eminently and by right the Sovereign.

A third exposition may be made from some Saxon Original, particularly from Driht, Domine, or Drihten, Dominus, in the Saxon Language, the word for Dominus throughout the Saxon Psalms, and used in the expression of the year of our Lord in the Decretal Epistle of Pope Agatho unto Athelred of the Mercians, Anno, 680.

Verstegan would have this term Drihten appropriate unto God. Yet, in the Constitutions of Withred King of Kent,20 we find the same word used for a Lord or Master, Si in vesperâ præcedente solem servus ex mandato Domini aliquod opus servile egerit, Dominus (Drihten) 80 solidis luito. However therefore, though Driht, Domine, might be most eminently applied unto the Lord of Heaven, yet might it be also transferred unto Potentates and Gods on Earth, unto whom fealty is given or due, according unto the Feudist term Ligeus à Ligando unto whom they were bound in fealty. And therefore from Driht, Domine, Dread Sovereign, may, probably, owe its Original.

I have not time to enlarge upon this Subject: Pray let this pass, as it is, for a Letter and not for a Treatise. I am,

Yours, &c.


Original marginalia are in green.

1 Text in brackets is supplied from Sloane manuscript(s) reproduced in the Wilkin edition.

2 Gen. 11

3 In his Dissertatio de vera mundi ætate.

4 St Jerome, according to one of the older of many legends attached to him, filed his teeth because their irregularity interfered with the proper pronunciation of Hebrew.

5 The famous “Serments de Strasbourg” of 842, commonly cited as the earliest surviving example of French, or Roman, Romane, Romance, etc. This site in Luxembourg presents a thorough coverage of its two paragraphs in manuscript, transcription, and translation into modern French.

6 The number of surviving loan-words from Gothic is astonishing small. Arabic is better represented, though still hardly in proportion to the time of occupation and the general level of cultural influence.

7 Dr. Johnson remarks that “this will appear very unlikely to a man that considers the Spanish terminations; and Howel, who was eminently skilful in the three provincial languages, declares, that after many essays he never could effect it” (as pointed by the comma-happy Wilkin).

8 Sc. Duilius. The famous Parian marble rostral column that celebrates the naval victory of C. Duilius at Mylæ over the Carthaginians (260 B.C.) was unearthed in an excavation near the arch of Septimius Severus in the Roman forum in June of 1565 and first published by Aldus Manutius in 1566. It now resides in the Capitoline museum.
     The inscription was recarved in the early imperial period and many modern scholars believe that the restorer went beyond restoration, archaizing some words and inventing "archaic" forms of others. Some scholars (notably Mommsen) believe the entire inscription to be an imperial fake, while others (Niedermann (1936) Revue des études latines XIV, 276) believe it to be a genuine copy or restoration. See Platner & Ashby Column of Duilius and notes therein. CIL, I.2 and Fasc. III (1943) 831. Browne probably knew: Gauges de Gozze (1635) Iscrittione della base della colonna rostrata; Pliny NH xxxiv.20; Quintillian Inst. 1.7.12; the publication of Panvinus (1571) ("non ex lapide"); and the Lipsius 1573 publication.

9 About 430 years.

10 In which it will be noticed that the words are more or less Anglo-Saxon, but the grammar, including lack of inflection, is that of modern English. (Note, however, the use of “they” and “them”, which are not native Anglo-Saxon and are rare instances of a language borrowing pronouns from other languages.) Dr. Johnson observes “the words are, indeed, Saxon, but the phraseology is English; and I think, would not have been understood by Bede and Ælfric, notwithstanding the confidence of our author. He has, however, sufficiently proved his position, that the English resembles its parental language more than any modern European dialect.” This opinion, continues Wilkin, “coincides with that of a still higher authority, Miss Gurney, of Northrepps Cottage, the translator of the Saxon Chronicle, on whose recommendation I have preferred to reprint the Saxon passages as they stand, rather than to adopt any additions or variations from … the British Museum and Bodleian”.

11 Cquen: Presumably a misprint for “cwen”. “Cyning” is more common for king. It’s hard to tell what period Browne is aiming at reproducing: late, in any case.

12 Pharamond: Legendary Frankish king or chief. He was a descendant of King Priam of Troy. He is mentioned in Chapter II of Hydriotaphia.

13 See the separate note on the meaning and etymolgy of this list of Anglian words.

14 The indefatigable Miss Gurney notes:
     I do not see the Danish original of most of the Norfolk words which here given; but there are several which can be traced to no other, and I have found several which are, I suspect, peculiar to the coast:—
     Hefty: stormy. Dan. heftig, angry.
     Swale: shade. Dan. or Ice. svala, cold.
     Willock: a guillemot, or any sea bird of the awk or diver kind.
     Roke: fog or sea haze. Rak, wet, Ice., “With cloudy gun and rak ouerquhelmst the are.” (Gawin Douglas)
     To shrepe: used by the fishermen in the sense of “to clear”. “The fog begins to shrepe yonder.” Ice. skreppa. Dilabi, se subducere.
     Lum: the handle of an oar. Icel. hulmmr. In other parts of England, however, it is called the loom of an oar.
     To go driving: to go fishing: chiefly applied to the herring fishers, I think.
     Wilkin adds: from a list of Norfolk words furnished me by the same correspondent, the following, which are either new to Forby, or with different derivations. [On Forby, see the note referred to above.]
     “Wips and strays,” not waifs and strays, but “wipper and straae” Dan. “Heads and straws of corn”, odds and ends. I found this expression in a list of provincialisms of the Danish island of Zealand.
     To lope: to stride along. Ger. hlaupen, to run.
     Unstowly: applied to children; unruly.
     Car: a low marshy grove. Alder car, osier car. Kior, Ice., marsh.
     Skep or skip: a basket; a toad’s skep (not cap, I think). Skieppe is a Danish half bushel measure.
     Pottens: crutches.
     Hobby: small horse. Dan. hoppe, a mare.
     Wunt: to sit as a hen. Sax. wunian, to abide.
     Shacking: In German yechen is to club - and “zur yeche gehen”, literally, “to go to shack” is an expression in use, meaning to take a common share. The essence of our shacking is that the pigs and geese run in common over the fields to pick up the remains of the harvest.

15 Even with some knowledge thereof this is no mean feat.

16 As in note 5 above.

17 Alloran, Allusama, or Insula Erroris; a small desolate barren island, whereon nothing liveth but coneys, in the Mediterranean sea, between Carthagena and Calo-de-tres-furcus, in Barbary.

18 A small island or rock, in the mouth of the river Garonne, with one tower in it, where a man liveth, to take care of lights for such as go to, or come from, Bordeaux.

19 This letter is supplies from Sloane MS 1827 in Wilkin, who notes that, respecting this passage, “the author’s assertion is incontrovertible, that ‘the sense may afford some trouble.’ ”

20 V. Cl. Spelmanni Concil.

This page is by James Eason.