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priest of the fourteenth century, prove the truth of his boast. Next gathered the recital from the mouths day Taliesin entered the palace, and, of the story-telling portion of his by a device similar to that of the illflock, and here it is in abstract. cut mantle of Arthur's court, he vin
A powerful British chief had a son dicated the superiority of Elfin's wife named Elfin, who inherited the gift to the great scandal of some court of ill-luck in all his undertakings. ladies, and promised soon to verify Once his father confided the care of the other assertion of his master. a fishing-pool to him for a year, ex- As the king's bards were entering pecting to find the produce at a mini- the hall next day, each observed an mum. A sluice admitted tide and urchin sitting at his ease in the pasfish, but let back nothing but the sage, tapping his under lip with his salt water. The first visit paid by finger, and uttering “blerom, blerom, Elfin was rewarded by nothing of blerom!" They took no notice of more value than what appeared to be the performance, but when each prean otter; but on examining it closely, sented himself 'in turn before the it proved a basket covered with an royal seat, and opened his mouth to otter-skin, and containing a beautiful chant his master's praises, and sought child. "Oh, the shining forehead to strike his harp-strings, he could do (Tal-iesin)!” cried out the sluice- no more than tap his under lip with keeper, and the name abode with the his finger and mutter“ blerom, blefuture poet.
rom, blerom !” Elfin, mounting his steed and At first the king laughed, then handling the cradle tenderly, returned he frowned, then he commanded home. Beginning to weep his ill. them to cease, then he ordered them luck, he ceased on hearing the child to leave the hall ; but as it was out burst into a song of encouragement, of their power to obey him, and as and the youth entered his father's the detestable refrain still continued, house with some comfort in his he made a sign to his officers, and breast. “What have you taken ?" they soon began to clear the hall "A bard.” “Of what use can he with their strong wands. At this be? A şalmon would be better.” point the chief bard, falling on his "He will be worth,” cried the child, knees, implored mercy for himself “more than your fishing-pool has and his comrades, and denounced the ‘ever brought you.” “How! An accursed urchin in the passage. infant able to speak !” “Yes; all the knowledge on the earth abides in “Calling the boy before him, the king me. I know all the past ; I know asked, "Who are you? Whence come the future also."
you?' 'I am,' said he, the chief of the In that house the child remained the stars of summer; my being is not of
bards of Elphin; my native place is among thirteen years, and during that time this world; my origin is unknown; I am good fortune dwelt beneath the roof. capable of instructing the wisest of the At the end of that period, Elfin, universe; I was at the creation of the visiting the court of the wicked king world; I have passed through all the of Gwened (North Wales), some one changes of the metem psychosis ; I have seen in full court asked of the assembled all the revolutions of the earth; I shall company if there was in the world a exist to the day of doom.”” fairer or more virtuous woman than the queen of their sovereign-any
Notwithstanding this revelation, hounds or horses better than his the king made his chief bard enter any warriors equal to his or any into competition with the weird being bards that could compete with the before him. But the lip-gibberish, four-and-twenty bards of the court and nothing better, still proceeded of Gwened. The unlucky Elfin mo- from the unfortunate minstrel till his destly answered that no woman in master ordered him to cease. The the world exceeded his own wife in turn coming to Taliesin, he thundered beauty and virtue, and that his bard out in a measure that held all mute exceeded all that then dwelt within with awe:the seas of Britain.
“ Neither rocks nor chains of iron can The king convinced him of his hold against me. I, Taliesin, chief of weswant of judgment by consigning him tern bards, order the gilded chains to fall to a loathsome prison till he could from the limbs of Ellin.
" From the ocean comes a dread thing, After this you need have no fears for the To punish the evil of Maelgoun, King of result."
Gwened. Yellow as bright gold shall become Count Villemarqué seldom loses an His face, his hair, his eyes, his teeth; opportunity of paying a compliment On him it shall bring death.
to Ireland. Wo quote him here :-From the awful breath of God it comes, " Ireland, that learned and wise inFormed separately from all creatures to structress of the Celtic race, was
work wrath On Maelgoun, King of Gwened.”+
either jealous of our bard being an
alien, or perhaps she was to bring to While he sung, a dread hurricane perfection the talent of the youth." swept in at the entrance and made So as he was fishing in the open sen, the circuit of the hall; so violent in an osier and skin coracle, some was the blast, that the king and pirates seized him and carried him to courtiers feared the palace would
be Erin. After some time he made his blown down on their heads. So the escape, and, using a wooden buckler king, in all haste, ordered Elfin to be instead of an oar, he succeeded in brought out of prison, and
led into reaching the coast of Wales. He the hall. So powerful was the was found by Elfin, nearly lifeless, on charned song then chanted by the the edge of his father's fishing-pool. bard, that the chains of themselves in the legendary life.
This circumstance coincides with that fell from the limbs of his patron. So far the legend.
Having become one of Crien's fir Taliesin was born in the early part
vourite bards, he never quitted his of the sixth century, year and birth side till his death. He marched in place uncertain, some claiming the the front rank to battle, rousing the honour for Wales, some for Cumber- ardour of his people by his martial land. The father's name was Henoug odes; and when the battle roar or Henis . He was educated at the was deep,” he secured the
best posicollege of Lanearvan (so often men fortunes of the fight. Even the rough tioned), under the devout and gentle Saxons let Aneurin depart scatheless St. Kadok, and had for fellow-disciple St. Gildas. From this seminary his sacred character of bard. He
from the fight at Caltračn, owing to issued seven of the greatest and wisest of the bards of Britain. One and Lywarch often wielded the day St. Kadok asked, " who was the sword, but it is probable that they richest man ?" Gildas answered, never sung and fought on the same "He who does not covet the goods occasion. We do not hear of any of of his neighbour.” Again, “who is
Taliesin's strokes with glaive or the poorest ? Answer by Taliesin, Owen, about 562, he retired to Car
heavy mace. After the death of the goods in his possession.”
narvon, and lived privately, but not His studies being
completed, Talie- so wretched in mind and in circumsin about to depart, humbly requested stances as Lywarch. It is supposed bis master to give him his blessing. The saint, after embracing him, gave of Rhys, in Brittany.
schoolfellow, Gildas, in the peninsula him this page advice :
**My son, before you speak, consider, first, what you are going to say: secondly, in
THE SUBJECTS AND CHARACTER OF EARLY what manner you will say it: tharlly, to
CYNRIC POETRY. whom you are going to speak; fourthly, what may result from your words ; fifthaly, that the subjects selected by the three
On examination it will be found say; sixthly, who be is to whom you ad- great bards were confined to the foldress yourself
. Above all, put what you lowing the destiny of their country, are about to say on your finger's end, and its victories, its disasters, its hopes, turn it over seven times before you utter it. the praises of its patriotic chiefs
• The Plague.
Wherever the quotations are not specified, they are taken from "La Bardes Bretonnes fore mentioned
conquering or conquered, hatred of, native tongue, the three chief organs and resistance to, the stranger, the of the human voice—the lips, the joys of the heady fight, the carnage, tongue, and the throat, produce the the booty, incantations, imprecations, three essential articulations—the soft, laments for slain patriots, a few sa- the strong, and the aspirated; and tires, some didactic pieces, and hardly maintain that their early poetry and a vestige of sacred poesy.
music are as intimately wedded as Viscount Villemarqué considers thought to language; and that the that the title lay* has been given to bard united in himself the best gifts these effusions on account of their of the poet and the musician. prevailing melancholy character. One virtue pervades old Gaelic and However the Gaelic laoi evidently Cymric poetry--the total absence of the same word, simply means poem. words or expressions borrowed from In the original there is a certain bar- the classic languages. The weakness baric grandeur. Images of enjoy- and incompactness that necessarily ment are frequently contrasted with hangs about such expressions as corsavage ideas,--an arrangement not nes de boeuf, or bateaux à vapeur, or unusual in poems having a pagan le chat qui fume, was unknown to foundation. We find wine and mead the Celtic tongues. They possessed in one goblet, blood flowing from an- within themselves abundant facilities other. The wolf tracks the warrior for expressing complex ideas concisely in expectation of a human feast, even and compactly, without resorting to a as the dog follows his master;-the foreign vocabulary. If a Welsh or black ravens sit on the white breasts Irish perfumer was desirous of anof the dead. Aneurin dallies with nouncing to his patrons that he had ferocious images more than either of a soap on sale which would render the other two. There is more splen- the relations between the razor and dour and life in the lays of Taliesin. the chin of an agreeable character, Lywarch is distinguished by melan- he needed not to fabricate from the choly and deep feeling. In some re- lexicon the horrid word Eukeirogespects they resemble the great Greek neion. Triad - Æschylus, Sophocles, and This happy condition did not reEuripides.
main always attached to the Welsh. In the Cymric code of criticism, In the tenth century modifications poesy consisted of three elements were remarked, and a distinction perlanguage, invention, and art.
ceptible between the ancient and the Three excellent qualities distin- modern tongue. King Cormac, in the guished perfect poetry-simplicity of ninth century, wrote a glossary for language, simplicity of subject, sim- the Gaelic MSS. then extant, and plicity of invention. The language proficients in modern Irish would should be pure, rich, correct: it should require a glossary for words vulgar in be natural, varied, and elegant: order, his day. Our best Irish scholars find strength, and the happy choice of patience, and judgment, and research, words, were essential supports of necessary when translating from the good language. Good style, depended “Book of the Dun Cow,"11th century, on correct construction, correct phra- or the Book of Leinster, 12th century, seology, and correct pronunciation. or other early MSS. preserved. So The three indispensable attributes of the best Welsh philologists find the a good writer are judgment, appre- fullest exercise of their faculties and hension, and arrangement.
acquired knowledge needful, when Dear as is the Cymric tongue, they grapple with the lays of the whether spoken in Wales or Brit- old poets, in copies from the 11th to tany,to Count Villemarqué, he frankly the 13th century. acknowledges that it has not the per
"To the obsolete condition of many exfection of the Irish Gaelic, through pressions, or to an uncertainty in their sigwhich the orientalsap circulates much nifications, as the cause of obscurity in more abundantly
these poems, must be added the extreme Carrying out the triad idea, Welsh laconism and concision of their style. Freand Bretons observe how, in their quently the words lie side by side without
• Lee or le, Breton, lai, lament or weeping.
a grammatical tie. Prepositions, adverbs, either in adjoining or in alternate possessive pronouns, conjunctions, even lines, will soon feel his wonder enlarge, verbs are understood. Whirled along by and his confusion increase, whenhis fiery inspiration, the panting bard springs out of himself , confounding persons
" He finds at the end of the first line in subjects, times, and places, rattling, dash- a regular triplet, an isolated word which ing, whirling along like the Celtic chariot appears to rhyme with no other His of birch, of which neither axle, pole, nor wonder redoubles when he discovers rhymes wheels, seem to be secured by leather, not only at the end of every line, but also wood, or iron, and which nevertheless brings within it
, and this arrangement continually with surety the victorious athlete to the repeated. Finally, his astonishment is at goal
its height, when to those difficulties are "The bard also arrives in safety, but for added a repetition, a balancing of the same the most part exhausted by a drive without consonants in the same line, known by the check, without rule, without guide, and name of alliteration. He then pushes all without rest.. . The deficiency of away as an assemblage of rude, hartling, plan, of order, and of method, in many of shocking sounds, of points and puerile plays these poems; the evil habits of the makers on words, of detestable conceits." in exhausting the poetic vein when they discover it, and of injuring by infinite vari- These peculiarities are found someations the theme from which they have times abated, sometimes exaggerated first produced happy effects, cannot in our in Gaelic poetry. But they are as fredays find grace in the eyes of taste."
quent in the early Scandinavian and
Ånglo-Saxon poetry, as was exempliSome of the same defects are found fied in the lay of Beowulf, in our in our Gaelic remains, especially notice of Mr. Morley's work. that of never letting a happy idea These peculiarities of the verse pass without presenting it under seemed suitably wedded to those of various aspects, and torturing it to the square fiddle-the h’rote or crota, the utmost limit of endurance. As and the pedal-less harp. to repetitions it is unreasonable to It is a suitable task for archæoquarrel with them. The reciter fre- logists not incumbered with domestic quently made use of them to afford cares or political duties, to endeavour rest to his own seething brain for a to find out why the early poets bung little, and allow him time to collect such a number and such a weight of new ideas.
metrical chains on their limbs when " The less critical contemporaries of the performing their poetic corantos beburds judged differently: the long
reaches fore admiring audiences. Could it be and the repetitions which annoy
us were a that, as they gained their livelihood charm to them. The audience to wborn by their public recitations, they hoped, the poem was recited, loved to see produced by means of these gratuitous impein all its phases, the idea which occupied diments, to dismay young aspirants
by their own minds, and which the poet re- the difficulty of acquiring proficiency produced. They loved to hear repeated to in the abstruse science ? All these satiety, the verse which had so pleased knottings and lacings could not prethem, in order that they might retain it. vent the limbs of the mighty giants Such is the origin of the refrain in ballade: of song from agile, graceful, and Hebrew poet has repeated
twenty times in majestic movements. the same lyrical piece-Confide in the "If a thousand rhythmic difficulties did Lord for he is good, and his merey endureth not prevent Taliesin from producing works for ever.'
of real merit, in which labour allies itself to ** If these Celtic lays offer some charm simplicity, to precision, to correctness of to the heart and the intellect, they offer style-where certain savour excites, a many more to the ear. But perhapsite certain undefinable sense of originality, of one may sımıle, and say to me, as was mad surprise, and of admiration, selles on youth to Sir Walter Scott, when he was vaunting where the fiery inspiration datrys tee the the excellence of the Highland bagpipes natural order--what works might he ut • Begging your panba, one must be have produced, freed from the book, rases of a Celt to enjoy this skirling and whicla be had the happy audarity to stap droning."
more frequently than the other bards!
** It Lywarch Hes, raid to gigantic A person merely bearing without proportions through force of misfortunek understanding some verses, and re-exhibita profound thoughts
, sentimenta the ordinary properties of delusately rendered if he is not more diffuse,
as rhythin, and rhymo more prolis, more gooriping, to use his own
expression, it is because he was less occu- Of the three hundred and sixty pied with words—children of the earth, stanzas of the original there are prethan ideas-daughters of the sky.
served only about a sixth part. The “ Aneurin, on the contrary, who was more enamoured of form and art than any to Owen :
poem opens abruptly with an address of his contemporaries-whose style is laboured, obscure, involved, filled with incidental phrases, parentheses, laborious in
“Young, he owned the perfections of a
man; versions, common-places, impertinences, and dreadful circumlocutions, such as
In battles he was most valiant. affected by his brother Gildas-Aneurin,
A long-haired steed (bounded]* beneath
him; whose works passed for being the most laboured of all ancient Breton poetry
Young and famous was the chief.t whose poem of Gododyn was valued at a cow per strophe-Aneurin, who perhaps
“The smooth croupe of the swift steed possessed more skill and showed more
Was covered by his buckler light and acuteness of perception than Lywarch Hen
broad; -as much capability to awake and sustain
His broad blue glaive sparkled in the the attention as Taliesin--does not equal
light; either in genius, though sometimes he ex
Of gold were his glittering spurs. hibits traits of a style sombre and grand, and at other times sublime in its warlike
“Sooner shall the earth (drink) thy
blood impetuosity. Why this? Simply because he was a poet by profession."
Than thou (the wine of) the banquet.
“Owen, sweet companion, THE GODODYN OF ANEURIN.
Thy body shall be covered by the
ravens. Archæologists are divided as to the
Desolation hovers on the land locality of Caltraez, where the cele- Where perished a son of Marc'ho." brated battle sung by Aneurin took place. Mr. Morley thinks that Catterick, in Yorkshire, justly claims the
In the combats of the Fians of honour. Viscount Villemarqué, as
Erin the terrible Merdach, of the has been already said, settles on a
Green-bladed spears, or Osgur the fortress on the Pict's wall, not far magnanimous, would slay to his own from Loch Lomond. The subject and share two or three hundred of the treatment of the poem is simple. enemy in one day; but the might of The Cymric chiefs of the south of Owen was still more to be dreaded:Scotland and north of England meet
* This chief, crowned, armed for fight, to hold an annual festival at Caltraez,
Eager in the tide of rushing blood, Aneurin coming in the suite of Owen,
Before he grew weary in the front of son of Urien. The British chiefs battle, keep no discipline, and employ them- Had, under the blows of his heavy selves at emptying mighty medhers lance, of ale and mead. They are treacher
Laid five times five battalions on the
field. ously beset by the Saxons of Deira
Of the Deirian and Bernician warriors and Bernicia, assisted by Picts and
men terrible to behold. Gael. Several sallies are made by
In one hour perished two thousand. the Cymry, many Saxons, both chiefs
Sooner shall the wolf have his feast of and thralls, bite the dust; but at the
flesh end of every petty triumph the in
Than thou the wine of the feast, o fatuated Cymry return to the cups. hero !" At last the noble Owen and all his chiefs, three excepted, are slain ; the
But the treacherous Saxons take seven days' battle is at an end ; and the Britons proceeding to the assem the British power in the north is bly at base odds, and were valiantly crushed.
* Words in brackets are understood in the original.
+ Grezev gour oez gwas:
Adan mirzoued meger gwas.