1792 ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Edward Williams

Anonymous, "Domestic Occurences: Meeting of the Welsh Bards" Gentleman's Magazine 62 (October 1792) 956-57.



Saturday, Sept. 22.

This being the day on which the autumnal equinox occurred, some Welsh Bards, resident in London, assembled in congress on Primrose Hill, according to ancient usage, which requires that it should be in the eye of public observation, in the open air, in a conspicuous place, and whilst the sun is above the horizon. The wonted ceremonies were observed. A circle of stones formed, in the middle of which was the "Maon Gorfedd," or altar, on which a naked sword being placed, all the Bards assisted to sheathe it. This ceremony was attended with a proclamation, the substance of which was, that the Bards of the Island of Britain (for such is their ancient title) were the heralds and ministers of peace, and never bore a naked weapon in the presence of any one: nor was it lawful for any person to bear one, on any pretence, in their presence. On this occasion the Bards appeared in the insignia of their various orders. The presiding Bards were David Samwell, of the primitive, and claimant of the ovation order; Edward Jones, of the ovation, and claimant of the primitive order; and Edward Williams, of the primitive and druidic orders. The Bardic traditions, and several odes, were recited. Two of the odes, one by David Samwell, on the Bardic discipline, the other by Edward Williams, on the Bardic mythology, were in English; and the first that were ever in this language recited at a congress of Ancient British Bards. This was with an intention to give the English reader an idea of what, though very common in Wales, has never yet been properly known in England. The Bardic Institution of the Ancient Britons, which is the same as the Druidic, has been from the earliest times, through all ages to the present day, retained by the Welch. Foreign writers, ancient and modern, have fallen into a great mistake, in considering the Bards and Druids as different orders; or, at least, as one subordinate to the other. This is very wrong: for the three orders are, and always have been, by the Welsh and the Bards themselves, considered as being on the most perfect equality with each other. Druidism, which the Welsh rightly call Bardism, has been sought for in vain by Historians, in Greek, Roman, and other foreign authors. They are now informed, if they will attend to it, that any regular Welsh Bard can in a few minutes give them a much better account of it than all the books in the world; and at the same time the most convincing proofs, that it is now exactly the same that it was two thousand years ago. The English language is now for the first time opened (as we phrase it), and proclaimed a Bardic language, to be used in future, for ever, as well as the Ancient British, or Welsh, by the Bards of the Island of Britain. The next meeting is to be held in the same place on the day when the next Winter solstice occurs. Their four grand solemn days are those on which the solstices and equinoxes occur. The new and full moons are also Bardic or solemn days. The subject proposed for an English Ode for the next meeting is the resurrection of Rhitta Gawr. Rhitta Gawr was a famous Chief of the Ancient Britons, who exterminated so many despots, that he made himself a robe of their beards.

The following (an Apostrophe to Liberty) is extracted from EDWARD WILLIAMS'S Ode.

Join here thy Bards with mournful note,
They weep for Afric's injur'd race,
Long has thy Muse, in worlds remote,
Sung loud of Britain's foul disgrace;
Thy Muse can see where Pity waits
In tears at Heaven's wide-open'd gates,
At Mercy's throne those tears prevail,
Almighty Justice hears the tale,
Indignant hears, bids venging thunders roll;
The flaming bolt is brandish'd high,
See, Britain, see, with Reason's eye,
'Tis level'd at thy flinty breast,
Oh! hear in chains yon captiv'd soul distress'd,
His groans, that call to thee, resound from Pole to Pole.

Another extract in a prophetic Strain.

Now glancing o'er the rolls of Heav'n,
I see, with transport see, the day
When from this world, Oppression driv'n
With gnashing fangs flies far away;
Long banish'd Virtue now returns,
Benevolence, thy fervour burns,
Peace, dove-ey'd Peace, with sunny smile,
High lifts her wand in Britain's Isle.
Wide-gaping Hell receive the Despot Pride.
The Bardic Song, shall now resound,
Trill through these templed hills around;
Come, Sons of Truth, your paths are clear,
In robes of light, in heavenly forms appear,
For Justice wears her crown, reigns now th' eternal guide.