Most notable is the use of letter forms. There is no “ae” present in this passage, though there are a few defining characters left of the Old English font. For example, lines 1, 2, 3, and 5 make ample use of the letter “þ,” while line 1 uses the letter “h,” and lines 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 use plenty of “ ð.” Interestingly, this passage still uses only “ ð” and “þ,” instead of “th.” In contrast, The Peterborough Chronicle uses all of these forms, including the “th,” which can be found in Millesimo CXXXV on the third and sixth lines, and even in Final Continuation on the second line. So, to compare the differences between Old English and Middle English, even looking at other transitional texts, it is difficult to make an exact distinction on when things such as font choices actually made the shift to Middle English.
Inflectional endings are infinitely significant and Millward spends a great deal of chapter six explaining how things changed; Middle English mainly losing nearly all of Old English’s inflectional forms found on nouns, verbs, and even adjectives, most significantly, “um,” “an,” “on,” and “en” to “un,” or just “en.” Examples of this can be seen in lines 1, 4, 5, and 6 in words like “ehnen,” and “draken.” In this passage, none of these: “um,” “an,” “on,” and “en” can be found. So in this, Old English has shifted over. Some inflections are still being used to classify nouns, like “ham” in lines 1 and 3 and 6, “ha” in line 3, and “heo” in line 7. Middle English does make the same classifications for personal nouns, even using the same words as Old English, except maybe using “heom” instead of “heo.”
Spelling is also a large indicator, though is harder to see in this particular passage than in The Peterborough Chronicle because it still used “ae,” whereas Sawles has already dropped it. The simple word, “as,” can be found in lines 3, 5, and 7 and are spelled “as,” “ase,” and “as,” consecutively. Also, and this may be part of losing the inflections of Old English, the word “them” is found in line 7 as both “heo” and “ha,” almost within ten words of each other. It can also be found in line 3 as just “ha.” This passage’s writer almost seemed confused about which spelling should be used for both “they” and “as.” The Peterborough Chronicle actually had this problem too, which can be seen in Millesimo CXXXV with the word “day.” First it is spelled “dei” in line 2, and then it is spelled “daei” in line 7.
Sawles does stick to a spelling standard with both “devils” or “deoflen” in lines 3 and 5, and “swarthy” or “swarte” in both lines 2 and 3. Moreover, the “e” added in line 5 may have been a leftover inflection of sorts, but it seems strange to write the same word within three lines of itself and change back and forth. Millward commented that Middle English took Old English’s “hw” and turned it into a “wh,” so “hwat” becomes “what,” though this does not occur in the passage. Instead, it is still a bit Old English in line 6 with the “hwile.” Also, this passage makes use of both “w” and “u,” sometimes even using them right next to each other, for example, in line 7, “swuch.”
Finally, word formation is useful in describing the differences between Old English and Middle English. Making a list as Millward describes things is often the only way to proceed, and was helpful in comparing how letter changes influenced the word formations as Old English changed to Middle English. So, here goes:
Old English Middle English
sc sh, ssh, sch, ss
cg gg, dge (bridge)
no letter j add a j, same as i
h gh (right)
hw wh (what)
gy gu (guest)
plus addition of double vowels
A “ch” can be found in lines 2, 4, and 7, a double vowel, “aa” can be found in line 4, and an “ss” can be found on line 3 in “þeosternesse.” Some words are getting closer to modern English in spelling and pronunciation, like “swarte” in lines 2 and 3, “smoke” in line 2, “bale” in line 7, and even “euch” in line 7. Using Millward’s rules, this passage does seem an even mix between Old English and Middle English spellings and letter choices.
Overall, the passage is a good indicator of a transition text between Old English and Middle English because it is truly neither one nor the other. Some characteristics are easy to point out and distinguish as purely Middle English, like the “ss,” or the completely missing “ae,” while others are easy to point out as Old English, like the “hw” in “hwile.” This passage as a whole; however, is difficult to classify as more one than the other based on the characteristics Millward suggesting looking for.