It is difficult to describe my fondness for Anglo-Saxon, the language also known as Old English (and indeed, a more accurate designation, for the language itself was called by its speakers Englisc, with 'sc' pronounced as modern English spelling 'sh'). Spoken in the time prior to the Norman Conquest, the language reflects English's genetics in the Germanic family of Indo-European much more deeply than its modern descendant, both in terms of grammar and vocabulary. Many Old English words and forms that have since dropped out from the language can easily be matched with German cognates. To give a few cases-in-point:
|se weald||der wald||the forest|
|se here||das heer||the army|
|sind||sind||are ('to be', present plural)|
Old English is for the most part not mutually intelligible with Modern English, though many words become recognisable on noting basic orthography and pronunciation differences: scip vs.ship, īs vs. ice, hūs vs. house. Some words are completely identical: land, hand etc. Grammatically, the most obvious difference that emerges is the former's greater complexity, declining nouns according to four cases (nominative, accusative, genitive and dative), together with more terminations in the verbal conjugation, some of which will be recognisable by comparison with Early Modern English (King James Bible). From the alternative 2nd and 3rd person singular forms, we can recognize the origin of the phenomenon of contraction in Modern English orthography in forms such as don't from 'do not.'
e.g. drīfan ('drive') in present tense.
ic [pronounced 'ich' w/ ch as in 'choose'] drīfe
wē/ģē [pronounced ye]/hīe drīfaþ
Of particular interest in Old English are the 'strong' verbs (a term used for verb conjugation in Germanic languages) based on shifts in the vowel of verbal root, a phenomenon known as 'ablaut' that ultimately goes further back in the history of the Indo-European language family with the Proto Indo-European e/o/zero grade ablaut alternation. Unlike Modern English, where such verbs are much reduced in number and have had patterns confused, there are multiple regular classes of strong verbs based on root vowel. For instance, Class I verbs follow a pattern of ī (present), ā (preterite), i (preterite 2nd person singular and preterite plural), i (past participle). To this class belong verbs such as drīfan ('drive') and bītan ('bite'), which thus have preterite ic drāf and ic bāt, but in Modern English they diverge: drove and bit respectively, even as the past participle forms (driven and bitten) are recognisable. Other pattern forms are preserved in Modern English: swimman, swāmm, swummon, swummen (i, ā, u, u: Class III a): cf. swim (present), swam (preterite), swum (past participle).
What is the use of Old English? For those of us interested in the modern Satanist movements, the language can help us understand some of the terminology used, especially by the Order of Nine Angles (ONA), founded by one 'Anton Long' (most likely used as a pseudonym at some point by David Myatt). For example, one key concept of the ONA is the Tree of Wyrd, 'wyrd' being the Old English word for destiny/fate. The connection with Myatt becomes clear as Myatt's own autobiography- Myngath- is a self-proclaimed recollection of a 'wyrdful life', 'wyrdful' being a word of Myatt's idiolect.
Combining the realm of modern fantasy fiction writing with Old English, one need look no further than the works of Tolkien, popularised in the film versions of the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit.
More generally, the learning of Old English may be a key way in which the Labour Party can acquire a distinctly English flavour. Writing in the Spectator, Nick Cohen lamented seemingly widespread contempt for England and the English in left-wing discourse, not based on consistent standards of criticism of failings in economic justice and civil liberties but rather on disparaging one's own country. Cohen proposed that in order for Labour/the wider left to have future viability, some kind of love for England must be demonstrated, without necessarily having to fall in love with contemporary popular culture, which, on many grounds in my view, can be seen as quite decadent. I would suggest that Labour could propose the teaching of Old English in schools so as to connect the English youth of today with England's Anglo-Saxon history and identity and instill pride in it. What better way to promote more refined culture and English patriotism?
Below is my translation of a sample Old English text: medicinal recipes dating towards the end of the Anglo-Saxon period.*
"The plant Deos, which man calls betony, is produced in meadows, pure downlands and sheltered places. The use is for both the soul of man and his body. It protects him against monstrous nightprowlers, terrible visions and dreams. And the plant is very sacred. Thus you should take [pluck] it in the month of August without iron. When you have taken it, shake the earth off of it, such that nothing should adhere to it, and then dry it very thoroughly in shade, and with root and all, make it to powder. Then partake of it, and taste it when you need.
If man's head is broken apart, take the same betony plant, then cut it to shreds and pound it to very small powder. Then take two drachm weights, and then drink it in hot beer. The head should heal very quickly after the drink.
To counter affliction** of the eyes, take the root of the same plant, boil to third part in water, and foment the eyes from the water. And take the leaf of the same plant and pound it, and lay it over the eyes on the face.
To counter affliction of the ears, take the leaf of the same plant when it is greenest, boil it in water and wring the juice, and then let it stand. Warm it up again and through wool drip it on the ear."
*- Taken from Henry Sweet's Anglo-Saxon Primer (ninth edition revised by Norman Davis), which takes a 'purist' approach of standardising Old English texts to the earliest West Saxon dialect that is the focus of his grammar book. That said, as noted above and in the commentary appended to this text, these recipes are of the late period of Anglo-Saxon history. Indicative of this fact are orthography changes like 'y' for 'ie' in 'hyre' (original 'hiere' in Early West Saxon, a genitive/dative third person feminine singular pronoun).