Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

TALIESIN'S POEMS.

To the Editor. Sir, I STAND committed by a former communication to say a few words more, though if I subjoined my signature it was by mistake ; for, as that communication related to the Welsh and Sanscrit languages, which I do not understand, prudence would have suggested, at least, some caution; and no expectation should have been raised where there was so little to say.

But, be these matters as they may, the pledge must now in some sort be redeemed; for though no particular observations were made at the time, nor intended to be made in that letter, yet a reserve was left for a few which might possibly follow.

Indeed, what was there said was offered with a particular, professed design, distinct from any intention or profession of my own, and the design was two-fold ; first, to excite some one of the Cambrian friends of the late Mr. Williams, better acquainted with the history and character of that Druidbard, to pay

the

proper tribute of respect to his memory; and, secondly, to induce some one well acquainted with the Welsh language, and (if it might be) any ways conversant with the Sanscrit, to consider the difficulties expressed by Mr. Williams on the appearance of some supposed Sanscrit lines among

the

poems of the old British bard Taliesin. But, as I have since heard that a friend of Mr. Williams' is preparing a Memoir of his Life and Writings, and that he himself has left in MS. a regular piece of auto-biography, there is the less reason for solicitude on the former account, and the less for discussion on the latter : for the lines quoted by Mr. Williams from Taliesin, are, after all, not Sanscrit ; Mr. Williams was misled by his learned friend. There are many persons in the country instructed in the Persian, and some in some of the East-Indian languages,

but
very

few indeed who know much, or indeed any thing, of the Sanscrit. I, too, misconceived the meaning of the gentleman whom I consulted on the matter, in a very short and rapid interview, many years ago; he took down the words, I remember, somewhat cautiously at the time, and I thought seemed to concede them to be Sanscrit. I put Mr. Williams's letter by, and never thought of it again till lately, on hearing of his death. I then consulted more deliberately a gentleman in London eminently distinguished for his knowledge of the Sanscrit, and I am positively assured by him, that the said lines are certainly not in that language : few thoughts which were floating on my mind on a persuasion that they were, must of course be suppressed. The words, however, as quoted in a former letter, may still be left for the consideration of any one who may be curious about such matters.

But I shall beg leave to add a word or two on what Mr. Williams observes about the Welsh : he

says, “ there is not a word of Welsh in these lines." I am little prepared or qualified to dispute that point properly with one who was so conversant with his own language. I will suppose that there are no entire words of pure modern Welsh, and that the whole passage might not, in prosodical construction, be agreeable to the present idiom of the Welsh language; still, when our bard adds, “ there is nothing like Welsh in them," I am disposed, though with due deference, to demur. On shewing those verses to a gentleman who knows a little of old Irish, he said, I remember, that the first word was old Irish, and related to prayer. Now, as

so that the

the Irish and Welsh are in a manner the same language-like the Saxon and English-both being of the same family, the Celtic, I was induced to consult Richards's Antiquæ Linguæ Britannicæ Thesaurus, where I find Orian and Oriain, vide Gawri, Goriain, Heb. Np, to cry (in the sense of praying or crying to the Lord); and on turning to Dr. Davies's Linguæ Britannicæ Rudimenta, 1621, I see that the third person plural of the præterfect tense ends in ant ; Brith, too, according to Richards, is speckled or spotted ; and the additional vowel i is one of the three ways by which the Welsh forin a plural substantive, and Pluralia adjectiva formantur a singularibus masculinis eadem fere vocalium et dipthongorum mutatione, qua plurales substantivorum: I must suppose that Brith or Brithanai means Britons; Syched, according to Richards, means thirst (from the Heb.), and may give, perhaps, Sychedi as a plural ; euroi is a Greek word, but euro in Welsh is gold; and what appear to be nominative cases in the passage quoted, are formed partly according to the Latin, and partly according to the Greek idiom. And it will be noticed, that not only the Irish and Welsh, but the Greek and Latin, as well as the Sanscrit, are all of Celtic origin. Though, therefore, Mr. Williams may, for aught I know, have been correct in saying there was not a word of Welsh (meaning thereby, pure modern Welsh), I think that he goes too far at least in saying, there is nothing like Welsh in them.

Dr. Davies, in his Grammar, which I have had occasion to consult, seems to speak as if the language of the Welsh had never undergone any alteration, but was, like the Hebrew, simple, and in its simplicity had been fixed and permanent; and Mr. Williams seems to think that the Welsh was a primitive, original language, and that the Welsh were like the Athenians in their country, the native, myeveis, inhabitants of the place.

Neither of these opinions, however, is capable of proof, nor indeed appears to be true. And, in reality, Dr. Davies seems to bear testimony against himself in his Preface to his own Grammar: and Mr. Williams speaks somewhere of the Welsh having been corrupted by the Irish.

The most common belief with the learned (and it seems the most probable opinion) is, that Wales was colonized from the East; to this their name, Cymri, the name of their language, Cymraeg, and some of their ancient religious opinions, particularly that of the metempsychosis, seem to bear the clearest testimony. Old Taliesin, called the Prince of the Welsh Bards, asserts the oriental descent of his countrymen.*

I therefore was not so startled, I confess, as Mr. Williams was, at the supposed Sanscrit lines which were found among Taliesin's Poems; and, indeed, had got together a few facts, and conjured up a few fancies, to account for the phenomenon. But as the matter turns out, no room is left either for fancies or facts.

The only way, then, left to solve Mr. Williams's difficulty, (for I at least know no other,) is to admit that the aforesaid supposed Sanscrit is indeed Welsh in some very corrupted or very antiquated state: for it is difficult to believe, with Dr. Davies, that the old British language never underwent any change; and it is clear, I think, that our bard brings out a conclusion too direct and general, that “there is nothing like Welsh in the above-mentioned lines :" the rule of Horace will probably apply to one part of the language of this island, the English, as it did to the other :

• A remarkable passage from Taliesin's Poems (with an English version of it) Biay be seen in a very curious work, lately published. I have only had an opportunity, as yet, of just looking into it: it is entitled Celtic Researches.

Multa renascentur, quæ jam cecedere, cadentque
Quæ nunc sunt in honore vocabula, si volet usus,

Quem penes arbitrium est et jus, et norma loquendi. We all know how the proper English has varied; from the time of Alfred (and much higher still

) even to that of Chaucer ; from the time of Chaucer to that of Har. VIII.; from the time of Har. VIII. to the present ; so that if we step backward to a very remote period we shall appear to be hardly in possession of the same language. Mr. Williams talks of having perused Welsh MSS. of the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries, and I have perused MSS. perhaps much older still in the ancient Irish character, and containing some Greek, in the large Uncial letters. Taliesin must have had writings or records, long since lost, which went back hundreds and hundreds of years from his time; and what varieties the British language may have gone through during that period, or what variations there may have been in the style of particular bards, it would be difficult to say. Though the people might be in a manner what we call barbarous, yet the Druids had much literature among them, for the acquisition of which the Gauls, as Cæsar tells us, came to Britain ; he also tells us, among other particulars, that the Druids had among them the Greek characters.

But as most probably some of your Cambrian readers may think what is thus advanced a mere theory of possibilities, or rather impossibilities, as fickle as what it was intended to bring forward on the Sanscrit, and may urge the unchanged, unchangeable state of his native language, he may turn back to the lines quoted in the former number of the Repository, and account for the appearance of those foreign lines in Taliesin's poems, and be able to account for it, with due allowances for one who understands neither Sanscrit nor Welsh, in some more probable, clearer way.

GEORGE DYER, P.S. Since forwarding the above communication to the New Series of the Monthly Repository, I have had an opportunity of referring to the Welsh Archæology, as pointed out to me in a note to the former letter.

The Welsh Archæology is a work in three thick volumes, large octavo, consisting of Welsh poetry and Welsh prose. The poetry is placed chronologically, and the lines under consideration, as quoted in my last communication from Mr. Williams's letter, appear under the division 520–570, with Taliesin's name added to the date. But his name does not accompany the

poem under consideration, as it does under some others in that series. Hence, I should infer, that though the poem may not be written by Taliesin, yet that it must be either obsolete Welsh, or erroneous Welsh, introduced by some blundering copyist : for, as it appears, the lines are not Sanscrit.

I must further observe, that the lines occur in a poem of about eighty lines in length, and not as a quotation, but as a regular part of the poem, entitled, Gwawd Ludd-y-Mawr, the Praise of Ludd the Great.

If the lines under consideration and the poem itself are not Welsh, how could the three responsible editors insert them in a collection of Welsh poems? And why do they not explain the circumstance in a note, or in the preface, which is sufficiently ample, minute, and judicious, and written in English? But what puzzles me most, is, that Edward Williams's own name appears as one of these three responsible Editors.

I have fallen on this subject, as you may perceive, without design: but as two or three foreign ideas have obtruded themselves into my mind, I may perhaps endeavour to relieve myself of them by forwarding them to you ou some future occasion.

REVIEW.

ART. I.-The Doctrine of the Trinity founded neither on Scripture nor on

Reason and Common Sense, but on Tradition and the Infallible Church, &c. By William Hamilton Drummond, D.D. 2d Edit. Dublin, 1827.

In the course of the religious controversy, which has, for some time past, occupied the public attention in Ireland, it has been usual with both the contending parties to abuse the Unitarians; the Roman Catholics, however, admitting, that without the authority of an infallible church the doctrine of the Trinity cannot be maintained; whilst the Protestants urge, that it is defensible on the principles of private judgment and “rests on a scriptural foundation.” Dr. Drummond, one of the ministers of Strand-Street Meeting-house, in Dublin, a gentleman well known by several poetical publications, and generally considered to be an Arian, has come forward, in a pamphlet, which has in a very short time reached a second edition, to maintain, in opposition to some of the disputants, that “the doctrine of the Trinity is founded neither on Scripture nor on reason and common sense, but on tradition and the infallible church ;” and this work he has, with great propriety, dedicated to Rammohun Roy and Dr. Channing. In a short address to the reader, Dr. Drummond - divides all Christians into two denominations, Unitarians and Trinitarians. With their various subdivisions he does not interfere, deeming it enough, at present, to contend for the Supreme Deity of God alone, and believing that every departure from that doctrine leads to a perversion of the Scriptures, and the adoption of opinions hostile to the religion of the gospel.” We wish that this course were more generally adopted, because, though we attach importance to our own peculiar views of Christian doctrine, we consider the distinction between the worshipers of a Trinity in Unity, and those who maintain the Supreme Deity of One God, to be a much more important one, as it regards practice, than that between those called Arians and Socinians. “ The more simple,” says Dr. Drummond, “the creed of Christians, the more chance of harmony. In proportion as the chords of a musical instrument are multiplied, the difficulty of preserving concord is increased. A belief in the one living and true God, and that he is a rich rewarder of those who diligently seek him; and in Jesus Christ, bis well-beloved Son, that he is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey him, commingled with that charity which the inspired apostle declares to be superior to faith and hope, and without which there is no Christianity, should be a sufficient bond of fraternity and affection among all who would be followers of Christ, not in name only, but in deed and in truth.” Agreeably to this opinion, Dr. Drummond confines his attention to the defence of those common tenets which, under the name of Socinianism, are "stigmatized as leprosies and soul-destroying heresies by those who see them only with a mind diseased and a jaundiced eye, and through the distorting and discolouring medium of human creeds.”

In our opinion, Dr. Drummond has performed well the task he has undertaken, and has proved himself a worthy successor of EMLYN, who was minister of the congregation to which that new Meeting in Strand-Street has regularly succeeded, at the time when he became the abject of an unholy persecution for teaching the same doctrine of the Unity of God. The

pamphlet is at the same time argumentative and eloquent, calculated both to correct the judgment and to rouse the feelings of the reader ; and we anticipate that it will produce a considerable effect, and that, in connexion with the sermons of Dr. Bruce, and the persecuting spirit shewn in the Synod of Ulster, it will contribute to spread the influence of true and undefiled religion in Ireland. We shall proceed to give our readers some short extracts, in the hope that they may be induced to procure and peruse the work itself.

After shewing what Unitarianism is, by an enumeration of the various aricles of the belief of Unitarians, he proceeds,

“ Such is a brief summary of the Unitarians' creed, derived not 'from à priori speculations on the incomprehensible nature of the Deity,' but from a clear interpretation of the two great volumes of the Almighty, Nature and Revelation. The one corroborates the language of the other. What nature teaches, revelation does not contradict, but confirm. The visible frame of the universe has been well denominated the elder Scripture,' and it is a work to which the book of inspiration does not disdain to refer. The eternal power and godhead of the one Supreme Intelligence are clearly seen in the things that are made. “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord, the heavens declare bis glory, and the firmament sheweth forth the work of his hand;' so that they are without excuse who do not read the volume of nature, and learn from the unity of design apparent in the creation, the unity of the great First Cause. This is the grand and fundamental principle of all religion. It corresponds with the conclusions of the most sublime philosophy, and the plainest dictates of inspiration. It was taught by Moses and the prophets, hy Christ and his apostles. It has been adopted by many of the wisest. and best of our species-by men who devoted their lives to the study of the Scriptures, and whose early prejudices, éducation, profession, and worldly interest were all arrayed against its reception-by men who have honoured it by the most heroic sacrifices of fortune and ambition-by the greatest philanthropists, poets, and metaphysicians-by Newton, Milton, and Locke: yet Mr. Pope and the theologians of his school" [soi-disant evangelical Churchmen

have no scruple to class those who profess Unitarianism with Deists and Infidels, (why not with Atheists ?) and to brand their faith with the name of leprosy, and a soul-destroying heresy! How simple and how grand is the Unitarian's faith compared with the I'rinitarian's! When we turn from the one to the other, it is like turning from the contemplation of a beautiful world, when the sun is in the firmament, “ rejoicing in his strength, to the view of a rough and dismal region, covered with continual clouds.”—P. 4.

“ The Unitarian turns with delight from the Trinitarian hypothesis to the contemplation of his own simple and sublime faith. He rejoices to escape from the dark fogs of a dungeon to view the ethereal vault, and respire the pure breeze of heaven. His soul feels emancipated from bondage ; and he comes forth rejoicing in the benignant smile of the Father of all. His heart expands and thrills with emotions of love to the Almighty One, his everlasting benefactor and friend. In the scheme of man's redemption, he beholds a scheme of ineffable love, planned by the great Author of good, and executed by the ministry of his Divine Son. He drinks of the waters of salvation flowing from the living rock, as an emanation from the free grace of God unmerited and unbought; not as the purchase of a bloody sacrifice, or as a right extorted, by an infinite price, from inexorable wrath. The supreme exaltation of the Father does not diminish the honour and glory which are gratefully acknowledged to be due to the Son. But he believes that he lores and honours the Son most, when he acts most conformably to his precepts. He honours the Son even as he honours the Father, in receiving his dictates as the dictates of God himself."-P. 53.

“ As Unitarianism possesses so many incontestible claims to preference,

« ПредишнаНапред »