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After the cessation of Jones's exertions, the old apathy returned, and continued till within a few years. Dr. Owen exerted himself to obtain support for the publication of the Mabinogeon or Prose Tales of the Welsh, but died without accomplishing his purpose, which has since been carried into execution by Lady Charlotte Guest. The legends which fill the remainder of this volume are taken from this work, of which we have already spoken more fully in the introductory chapter to the First Part.
THE WELSH BARDS.
The authors to whom the oldest Welsh poems are attributed are Aneurin, who is supposed to have lived A. D. 500 to 550, and Taliesin, Llywarch Hen (Llywarch the Aged), and Myrddin or Merlin, who were a few years later. The authenticity of the poems which bear their names has been assailed, and it is still an open question how many and which of them are authentic, though it is hardly to be. doubted that some are so. The poem of Aneurin entitled the “Gododin," bears very strong marks of authenticity. Aneurin was one of the Northern Britons of Strath-Clyde, who have left to that part of the district they inhabited the name of Cumberland, or Land of the Cymri. In this poem he laments the defeat of his countrymen by the Saxons at the battle of Cattraeth, in consequence of having partaken too freely of the mead before joining in
combat. The bard himself and two of his fellowwarriors were all who escaped from the field. A portion of this poem has been translated by Gray, of which the following is an extract:
“To Cattraeth’s vale, in glittering row,
Twice two hundred warriors go;
The works of Taliesin are of much more questionable authenticity. There is a story of the adventures of Taliesin so strongly marked with mythical traits as to cast suspicion on the writings attributed to him. This story will be found in the subsequent pages.
The Triads are a peculiar species of poetical composition, of which the Welsh bards have left numerous examples. They are enumerations of a triad of persons, or events, or observations, strung together in one short sentence. This form of composition, originally invented, in all likelihood, to assist the memory, has been raised by the Welsh to a degree of elegance of which it hardly at first sight appears susceptible. The Triads are of all ages, some of them probably as old as anything in the language. Short as they are individually, the collection in the Myvyrian Archæology occupies more than one hundred and seventy pages of double columns. We will give some specimens, beginning with personal triads, and giving the first place to one of King Arthur's own composition:
I have three heroes in battle :
“The three principal bards of the island of Britain :
“ The three golden-tongued knights of the court of Arthur:
Gawain, son of Gwyar,
“The three honorable feasts of the island of Britain :The feast of Caswallaun, after repelling Julius Cæsar from this isle; The feast of Aurelius Ambrosius, after he had conquered the Saxons; And the feast of King Arthur, at Carleon upon Usk.”
“Guenever, the daughter of Laodegan the giant,
Bad when little, worse when great."
Next follow some moral triads :
“Hast thou heard what Dremhidydd sung,
An ancient watchman on the castle walls?
“Hast thou heard what Llenleawg sung,
The noble chief wearing the golden torques ?
“ Hast thou heard what Garselit sung,
The Irishman whom it is safe to follow ?
“Hast thou heard what Avaon sung,
The son of Taliesin, of the recording verse ?
“Didst thou hear what Llywarch sung,
The intrepid and brave old man?
THE LADY OF THE FOUNTAIN.
KING ARTHUR was at Caerleon upon Usk; and one day he sat in his chamber, and with him were Owain the son of Urien, and Kynon the son of Clydno, and Kay the son of Kyner, and Guenever and her handmaidens at needlework by the window. In the centre of the chamber King Arthur sat, upon a seat of green rushes,* over which was spread a covering of flame-colored satin, and a cushion of red satin was under his elbow.
Then Arthur spoke. “If I thought you would not disparage me,” said he, “I would sleep while I wait for my repast; and you can entertain one another with relating tales, and can obtain a flagon of mead and some meat from Kay.” And the king
* The use of green rushes in apartments was by no means peculiar to the court of Caerleon upon Usk. Our ancestors had a great predilection for them, and they seem to have constituted an essential article, not only of comfort, but of luxury. The custom of strewing the floor with rushes is well known to have existed in England during the Middle Ages, and also in France.