The Bible and English Prose Style: Selections and Comments

The Bible and English Prose Style: Selections and Comments

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The Bible and English Prose Style: Selections and Comments

The Bible and English Prose Style: Selections and Comments

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Excerpt

To enrich and ennoble the language of a race is to enrich and ennoble the sentiments of every man who has the command of that language. This process of enrichment and ennoblement has been going on in English for nearly thirteen hundred years, and one of the chief agencies by which it has been effected is the influence, direct and indirect, of the Bible. The first coherent words of English speech which have been transmitted to us are in a species of verse which suggests, though somewhat remotely, the rhythms and parallelisms of Hebrew poetry; they constitute a hymn of praise

I subjoin this most ancient specimen of English:

Nu scylun hergan hefaenricaes uard,
metudæs maecti end his modgidanc,
uerc uuldurfadur; sue he uundra gihuaes,
eci dryctin, or astelidæ.
He aerist scop aelda barnum
heben til hrofe, haleg scepen.
Tha middungeard, moncynnæs uard,
eci dryctin, æfter tiadæ,
firum foldu, frea allmectig.

Which may be literally translated (case-signs in Italics):

Now [we] shall glorify heaven-kingdom's Warden,
Creator's might and his mood-thought [sc. counsel]
Work [or, works] of the Glory-father; as he of wonders of each [sc. of each of wonders, of every wonder],
Eternal Lord, [the] beginning established.
He erst shaped of men for the children [sc. for the children of men]
Heaven to [sc. for] roof, holy Shaper [sc. Creator].
Then Midgard [sc. the earth], mankind's Warden,
Eternal Lord, after prepared,
For men [the] earth, Lord almighty.

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