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insisted on as essential to orthodoxy, not a few will renounce it altogether. The Christ who died for us, they will say, was a man like ourselves, and his death had no more atoning efficacy than that of any other martyr.
It was undoubtedly the design of those who originated this discussion to magnify the atonement, and exalt the grace of God in our redemption. What more likely to have this effect, than to represent God himself as suffering, bleeding, dying for us? But there is reason to fear that the doctrine, if persisted in, will have, with many, directly the opposite effect. It will lead them to reject the atonement altogether, and trust to the work of their own hands for salvation.
It is always safe to follow the Bible, honestly, faithfully, reasonably interpreted; but specious theories and startling novelties are to be suspected and avoided.
THE ANCIENT POETS AND POETRY OF WALES.
By Edward D. Morris, New Haven, Conn.
THE ancient literature of Wales has for a long period been concealed, almost entirely, from the view of men of learning. It would be difficult to find, in the whole range of literary history, so signal an instance of remarkable intellectual treasures, neglected and apparently forgotten. A silence as profound as that which brooded for ages over the buried cities of central Italy, seems to have rested upon these last and only relics of a once great and flourishing people. Time, which has done so much elsewhere to bring the rich Past into light, has only added to that obscurity which has so long enshrouded them. While toil and effort have been lavishly expended in surveying and examining almost every other field of literary or scientific study, the mountain fastnesses of Wales, rich in mental as in natural resources, have been wholly unexplored.
The country within whose borders this intellectual mine is hidden, has for three centuries past figured but slightly in the history of Britain; and is now scarcely known except as a retired province of comparatively little value or importance. From the time of the first assault made by Saxon power upon the liberties of the Welsh nation, to that in which they were finally annexed to the British empire-a period of
Merging of Welsh Literature in English.
nearly seven centuries the entire principality was a scene of the most terrible confusion and lawlessness. The daring chieftains who inhabited those portions bordering on England, secured both by the inaccessible nature of their mountain homes and by the unflinching loyalty of their vassals, carried on a ceaseless war against the English forces —– a war stained, on both sides, by all the brutality and recklessness of that semi-barbarous age. The merciless conflicts of Edward I. of England with the last Llewelyn evince, in a most striking manner, the spirit which actuated both parties during the entire contest. The passage, in 1535, of the celebrated Act of Union, which put an end to this protracted struggle, and secured to the Welsh those privileges for which they had been contending, led both nations into more close and amiable intercourse; and was shortly followed by a gradual and finally intimate connection and commingling of interests and sympathies. Since that memorable period, the inhabitants of Wales have been swept onward in the current of English affairs, losing by degrees their national peculiarities, and gradually blending their private interests with those of their Saxon neighbors, till they are now nearly lost in the overshadowing importance of English interests and English feelings.
These general causes have operated with peculiar effect upon the language and literature of Wales. English laws and English courts of justice have been established throughout the principality. The language of the common schools and of instruction generally, as well as that of nearly all the transactions of commerce and exchange, is the modern Anglo-Saxon. The original language of the people, on the other hand, is retained for the most part only in their private intercourse, in the pulpit, and in a large proportion of their weekly and monthly publications. It is a general law that wherever two nations come into close and lasting contact with each other, whether that contact be peaceable or hostile, the less must ultimately fall and fade away before the greater. In strict accordance with this law has been the result of the intimate connection which the inhabitants of Wales have been compelled by their extensive commercial and mining operations, by the introduction and establishment of the Episcopal church, and by the constant influx of English interests and English customs, to maintain with their more enterprizing neighbors. They have been unable to keep pace with the advance of science and of many kinds of learning; and in this particular are falling, year by year, slowly but steadily and surely, behind other nations who are more enlightened and less burdened by oppressive legislation. Comparatively uneducated, they are also without the power of educating themselves in any other way than by abandoning their native language, and employing in its stead the vastly greater resources
of the Anglo-Saxon tongue. To this point very many of their efforts in behalf of education have, of late years, been directed; and with great promise of success.1
As a natural consequence, however, of this condition of affairs, the ancient literature of Wales has been rapidly passing out of notice. This literature, extending from the sixth to the sixteenth century, and comprising a large variety of published and manuscript volumes, consists almost entirely of poetry. The many intricacies of the language and of the peculiar metrical system according to which most of it is written, prove an effectual barrier to its extensive study among the mass of the community. The language of poetry is always more or less distinct from that of common life, and consequently more or less above the apprehension of the common people. But if there be added to this great source of difficulty, the numberless modifications to which, in a long course of ages, every language is liable, this barrier becomes almost insurmountable. More especially is this the case where the stern and resistless wants of daily life are incessantly driving the people to the more practical studies and pursuits of modern times.
Within the past half century, however, great efforts have been made to disentomb these buried treasures. Most of these efforts have been made by private individuals, who have nobly given themselves to this great work. They have been mostly men of cultivated minds, led on by a feeling of patriotism on the one hand, and on the other by an ardent love for the rich field of study which has opened before them. They have been aided in these laudable efforts by national associations, existing in various portions of the principality, and formed mainly for the purpose of carrying on this important enterprize. Through the unwearied exertion of these combined agencies, a considerable number of volumes, containing the most valuable writings of nearly all the earlier poets, accompanied by translations, and also a complete and definite view of the peculiar system of Bardism, which has existed among the Welsh from the earliest ages to the present day, has been published and circulated both at home and abroad. These volumes, written partly in Welsh and partly in English, have won the attention of many throughout England, France, and Germany; and have thrown around the language and the system they disclose, a strong and constantly increasing interest. In a few of the English universities, the language of Wales has become to some extent a branch of scientific study; and the notice which it has attracted in a philological point of view, has served greatly
1 Reports of the Commissioners of Inquiry into the State of Education in Wales, appointed by the Committee of Council on Education. 1847.
Value of the Poetry.
to heighten the value of its literary treasures. And while philologists have been occupied in tracing out its marked peculiarities, others have been as actively employed in exploring the mine whose rich veins have been, up to a comparatively recent period, covered by the rubbish and ruins of the past.
Those who are for the most part unacquainted with the early history of the Welsh nation, and who notice only their present unimportance, may be led to presume that the ancient literature of Wales must be of comparatively little value. But it should be distinctly kept in view that, although now narrowed down by Saxon power to the scanty limits of their mountain home, the Welsh once occupied by far the greatest portion of the British Isles. Though now obscured and overshadowed by the dominant influence of British interests, they once held supreme sway over the whole of England proper, from the Firth of Solway to the cliffs of Dover, and from Yarmouth Bay to the western limits of Land's End. At that time, everything tended to call out the intellectual spirit of the nation. It was the peculiar age of poetry the peculiar period in the progress of mankind, when the sober influence of exacter studies, and the stern tendencies of science and philosophy had not, as yet, unfitted men to take delight in the creations of a warm and active imagination. Their princes ruled over wide tracts of country, and extended their influence and power even to the northern seas. The deficiencies of the soil on which they dwelt, compelled the people to devote much of their time to agriculture instead of following those less profitable pursuits in which barbarous tribes are accustomed to engage. Systems of law, the wrecks of which are still visible, soon rose to great perfection, and held a controlling power throughout the land. Druidism that remarkable institution, of which the Bardic system was merely an offshoot-gave to all, great means of mental as well as moral culture. In every feature essential to making up that nascent state which is the immediate forerunner of civilization, they were probably far superior to their German or Gallic neighbors.
The effect of this state of things upon the poetry of Wales is obvious. The bard held a prominent position in the castle of his lord. He was a leading member of the State, often holding great political as well as social power. His art was one of the three sister arts recognized by the law, and was consequently everywhere established. His life was devoted to the interests of his profession; and all that royal patronage or careful study could effect to render poetry in the highest and largest sense an art, was lavishly expended. Aided by such auspicious influences, poetry grew and flourished everywhere. But in the fearful revolutions brought about at a later day by Saxon inroads, and in the sub
VOL. VII. No. 26.
sequent influx of Saxon principles and feelings, it declined and almost perished. Many of the productions of the preceding ages were unquestionably lost during the confusion and anarchy of that protracted struggle. But happily an ample number still remains to excite the interest and admiration of the literary student, and to give evidence of a state of society and a Bardic system as peculiar in many of its features as any the world has ever seen.
It is a trite saying that some estimate of the general character and customs of any people is essential to an accurate acquaintance with their poetry. And this opinion rests upon the fact, that the poetry of every nation is generally found to be a clear reflector and expositor of its distinctive characteristics. The student is sometimes able to grasp at once these two separate classes of knowledge, and by comparing them in the mutual light which they shed upon each other, to obtain a closer and clearer view of both. Sometimes, however, he is compelled to trace out the one by the often dim and doubtful radiance of the other. This is peculiarly the case in relation to the poetry and national character of the inhabitants of Wales. The general features of Welsh society, from the first inroad of Caesar to the times of Hywel the Good, have been rarely recorded excepting in such fragments of poetry as had their origin during that dark period; and subsequently up to the reign of Queen Elizabeth, they are found to be most vividly and forcibly portrayed in the writings of the bards. These writings are, therefore, doubly valuable both as a source of intellectual gratification, and as the chief means of obtaining acquaintance with a national character in many respects as worthy of study as any in the early history of our race.
It is also a well known fact that poetry and language have a close and important relation to each other. The true poet is necessarily a maker of language. Burning with exalted and exciting thoughts, he must find, or make if he cannot find, a language in which he can give his living fancies utterance. Yet his brightest and noblest thoughts are of necessity moulded and colored by the language which he is compelled by incidental circumstances to employ. Thought and expression are, in this sense, correlative each necessarily strengthens or weakens the other. It is therefore essential that he who would study with success the works of men of genius, should first become acquainted with the powers and deficiencies of the language which they have, from choice or necessity, employed as a medium of expression.
This is preeminently the case in relation to the poetry and language of Wales. The metrical system adopted by the ancient Welsh bards is so peculiar, and depends so much upon the inherent peculiarities of their language, that any comprehension of its force and value requires a