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The Poetry of Wales   By: (1821-1896)

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"I offer you a bouquet of culled flowers, I did not grow, only collect and arrange them." PAR LE SEIGNEUR DE MONTAIGNE.



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The Editor of this little Collection ventures to think it may in some measure supply a want which he has heard mentioned, not only in the Principality, but in England also. Some of the Editor's English friends themselves being eminent in literature have said to him, "We have often heard that there is much of value in your literature and of beauty in your poetry. Why does not some one of your literati translate them into English, and furnish us with the means of judging for ourselves? We possess translated specimens of the literature, and especially the poetry of almost every other nation and people, and should feel greater interest in reading those of the aborigines of this country, with whom we have so much in common." It was to gratify this wish that the Editor was induced to give his services in the present undertaking, from which he has received and will receive no pecuniary benefit; and his sole recompense will be the satisfaction of having attempted to extend and perpetuate some of the treasures and beauties of the literature of his native country.


The literature of a people always reflects their character. You may discover in the prose and poetry of a nation its social condition, and in their different phases its political progress. The age of Homer was the heroic, in which the Greeks excelled in martial exploits; that of Virgil found the Romans an intellectual and gallant race; the genius of Chaucer, Spencer and Sidney revelled in the feudal halls and enchanted vistas of the middle ages; Shakespeare delineated the British mind in its grave and comic moods; Milton reflected the sober aspect and spiritual aspirations of the Puritanical era; while at later periods Pope, Goldsmith and Cowper pourtrayed the softer features of an advanced civilization and milder times.

Following the same rule, the history of Wales is its literature. First came the odes and triads, in which the bards recited the valour, conquests and hospitality of their chieftains, and the gentleness, beauty and virtue of their brides. This was the age of Aneurin, of Taliesin and Llywarch Hen. Next came the period of love and romance, wherein were celebrated the refined courtship and gay bridals of gallant knights and lovely maids. This was the age of Dafydd ap Gwilym, of Hywel ap Einion and Rhys Goch. In later times appeared the moral songs and religious hymns of the Welsh Puritans, wherein was conspicuous above all others William Williams of Pantycelyn, aptly denominated "The Sweet Psalmist of Wales."

The Principality, like every other country, has had and has its orators, its philosophers and historians; and, much as they are prized by its native race, we venture to predict that the productions of none will outlive the language in which their prose is spoken and writ. Not that there is wanting either eloquence or grandeur or force in their orations and essays, depth or originality in their philosophical theories, or truthfulness, research or learning in their historic lore; but that neither the graces of the first, the novelty of the next, or the fidelity of the last will in our opinion justify a translation into more widely spoken tongues, and be read with profit and interest by a people whose libraries are filled with all that is most charming in literature, most profound in philosophy and most new and advanced in science and art.

Our evil prophecy of its prose does not however extend to the poetry of Wales, for like all other branches of the Celtic race, the ancient Britons have cultivated national song and music with a love, skill and devotion which have produced poems and airs well deserving of extensive circulation, long life and lasting fame... Continue reading book >>

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