text size

Top comments

{{ annotation.praises_count }} Likes
{{ annotation.creator_alias }}
{{ annotation.creator_score }}

There are no comments yet. Be the first to start comment or request an explanation.

AS there were musicians among the Levites, and priests among the Phœnicians who chanted bare-foot and in white surplices the sacred hymns, so there were bards among the Druids. Who were divided into three classes. I. The Fer-Laoi, or Hymnists, who sang the essence and immortality of the soul; the works of nature; the course of the celestial bodies; with the order and harmony of the spheres. II. The Senachies who sang the fabulous histories of their ancestors in rude stanzas, and who with letters cut from the bark of trees inscribed passing events and became the historians of their nation. The Fer-Dan who were accustomed to wander through the country, or to be numbered in the retinues of kings and nobles, who not only sang enconiums upon the great warriors of the age, but who wrote satires upon the prevailing vices, worthy of a Juvenal or a Horace. I can best give the reader some idea of the style and power of their conceptions, by quoting some of their axioms which have descended to us traditionally. They are in the form of Triads, of which the subjects are, language-fancy and invention-the design of poetry-the nature of just thinking-rules of arrangement-method of description--e.g. The three qualifications of poetry--endowment of genius, judgment from experience, and happiness of mind. The three foundations of judgment--bold design, frequent practice, and frequent mistakes. The three foundations of learning--seeing much, studying much, and suffering much. The three foundations of happiness--a suffering with contentment, a hope that it will come, and a belief that it will be. The three foundations of thought--perspicuity, amplitude, and preciseness. The three canons of perspicuity--the word that is necessary, the quantity that is necessary, and the manner that is necessary. The three canons of amplitude--appropriate thought, variety of thought and requisite thought. How full of wisdom and experience! what sublime ideas in a few brief words! These poets were held in high honor by the Britons, for among a barbarous people musicians are angels who bring to them a language from the other world, and who alone can soften their iron hearts and fill their bold blue eyes with gentle tears. There is an old British law commanding that all should be made freedmen of slaves who were of these three professions. A scholar learned. in the languages--a bard--or a smith. When once the smith had entered a smithy, or the scholar had been polled, or the bard had composed a song, they could never more be deprived of their freedom. Their ordinary dress was brown, but in religious ceremonies they wore ecclesiastical ornaments called Bardd-gwewll, which was an azure robe with a cowl to it-a costume afterwards adopted by the lay monks of Bardsey Island (the burial-place of Myrrddin or Merlin) and was by them called Cyliau Duorn, or black cowls; it was then borrowed by the Gauls and is still worn by the Capuchin friars. Blue which is an emblem of the high heavens and the beautiful sea had always been a favorite color with the ancient Britons, and is still used as a toilet paint by the ladies of Egypt and Tartary. Blue rosettes are the insignia of our students in the twin universities, and for the old Welsh proverb. Y gwer las ni chyll mói liu, -True blue keeps its hue," one of our proverbial expressions may be traced. The harp, or lyre, invented by the Celts had four or five strings, or thongs made of an ox's hide, and was usually played upon with a plectrum made of the jaw-bone of a goat. But we have reason to believe that it was the instrument invented by Tubal which formed the model of the Welsh harps. Although the Greeks (whom the learned Egyptians nicknamed "children," and who were the most vain-glorious people upon the earth) claimed the harp as, an invention of their ancient poets, Juvenal in his third satire acknowledges that both the Romans and the Greeks received it from the Hebrews. This queen of instruments is hallowed to our remembrance by many passages in the Bible. It was from the harp that David before Saul drew such enchanting strains that the monarch's heart was melted and the dark frown left his brow. It was on their harps that the poor Jewish captives were desired to play, on their harps which swayed above them on the branches of the willow trees while the waters of Babylon sobbed past beneath their feet. And it was the harp which St. John beheld in the white hands of the angels as they stood upon the sea of glass mingled with fire, singing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the lamb. The trunks of these harps were polished and in the shape of a heart; they were embraced between the breast and the arm; their strings were of glossy hair. In Palestine they were made from the wood of the Cedars of Lebanon; in Britain of Pren-masarn, or the sycamore. In their construction, the same mysterious regard was paid to the number three. Their shape was triangular; their strings were three in number, and their turning keys had three arms. In later times the Irish, who believe that they are descended from David, obtained an European fame for their skill in the making of this instrument. Dante mentions the circumstance, and the harp is still a mint-mark upon Irish coin. The Bards from what we can learn of them, neither debased their art to calumny nor to adulation, but were in every way as worthy of our admiration as those profound philosophers to whom alone they were inferior. We learn that, (unlike the artists of later times) they were peculiarly temperate, and that in order to inure themselves to habits of abstinence they would have all kinds of delicacies spread out as if for a banquet, and upon which having feasted their eyes for some time they would order to be removed. Also that they did their utmost to stay those civil wars which were the bane of Britain, and that often when two fierce armies had stood fronting each other in array of battle, their swords drawn, their spears pointing to the foe and waiting but for the signal from their chieftains to begin the conflict, the Bards had stepped in between and had touched their harps with such harmony, and so persuaded them with sweet thrilling verses, that suddenly, on either side soldiers had dropped their arms and forgotten the fierce resentment which had been raging in their breasts.

read all comments

1 Sara Di Diego = "Senachies, or seannachie, were basically musical genealogists.  They told the story of their ancestors through songs."
2 Sara Di Diego = "A few of the songs by the Fer-Dan are still present in archives."
3 Sara Di Diego = "Given the Capuchin friars' dress, we can assume Bardd-gwewll had the same form yet a light blue instead of dark brown.Source:http://www.capgb.org/uploads/images/8z7h8619.jpg"