1789
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ode, imitated from the Godolin of Anfurin Gwawdrydd.

Gentleman's Magazine 59 (November 1789) 1035-36.

Edward Williams


A Pindaric ode in ten twelve-line Spenserians signed "Edw. Williams." Williams, who later adopted the bardic name Iolo Morganwg, was a journey-mason attempting to revive bardic poetry in Wales. Godolin, we are told, was "a Welsh Bard that flourished about the Year 550." In this poem Bradwen, daughter of Eudaf, is slain while leading the Britons into battle against the Saxons; a tremendous conflict ensues in which the Welsh forces prove victorious: "Ere noon proclaims the dire event, | Destruction's fury marks their way; | The Saxons fall! we view their mingled blood | Stream down the crimson'd brink, and swell the foamy flood." Whatever Gwawdrydd may have thought, Williams was a pacifist, as the closing stanzas make clear.

The ode was one of several poems by Williams submitted to the Gentleman's Magazine by a person signing himself "J. D." whose biographical sketch of the new poet appears earlier in the November issue: "Besides Edward Williams, there is, I believe, now remaining only one regular Bard in Glamorgan, or in the world: this is the Rev. Mr. Edward Evans, of Aberdare, a Dissenting Minister. These two persons are the only legitimate descendants of the so long-celebrated Ancient British Bards; at least they will allow no others this honourable title" p. 976.

Williams, a respected antiquary, was like Macpherson and Chatterton before him given to passing off some of his own productions as ancient poetry. Such may be the case here. While no single poem is imitated, Williams's sentimental ode appears to be about equally (if only indirectly) indebted to three of the most popular "ancient" poems of the ear: Gray's The Bard, Macpherson's Ossian, and Chatterton's Elinoure and Juga. While Williams criticized Gray for introducing Scandinavian mythology into The Bard, his own knowledge of sixth-century Wales could not but have been strictly limited. Possibly Williams inspired Oxford's George Richards to compose The Aboriginal Britons (1791) a more sophisticated attempt at historical reconstruction.

Elijah Waring: "The knowledge of local antiquities, possessed by Edward Williams, and his store of traditional illustrations, qualified him for writing some papers adapted to that venerable periodical The Gentleman's Magazine, and the Editor cheerfully remunerated him for his contributions. He also corresponded with the Monthly, and one or two other magazines, on similar terms. These small literary earnings extended his resources for the purchase of books, and he determined to acquire the English language in its purity, by all the means he could command" Recollections and Anecdotes of Edward Williams (1850) 25.

Edward D. Snyder: "Throughout the two volumes of his Poems, Edward Williams strove to put into practice the theory he had expressed so strongly. Being a thorough master of both Welsh and English, and having in addition some slight knack of handling English forms of verse, he translated from Welsh poetry into English poetry without any deadening intermediate step. What Evan Evans translated into English and Latin prose, Gray and others had put into poetry which represented the spirit of the original only in a reflected light; but what Williams took from the Welsh, he reproduced with a direct simplicity. As a result, his translations both in quantity and in fidelity to the originals are among the most important of the Celtic Revival, while his original poems 'in the Welsh manner' are by no means negligible. It must be understood, however, that though his ideas may have been 'ration, sublime, and congenial to Human Nature,' he never produced a poetic masterpiece in English" The Celtic Revival in English Literature 1760-1800 (1923) 170-71.



War's rapid havock roll'd along,
Impell'd by Valour's ardent flame;
She led the death-denouncing throng,
Daughter of EUDAF, glorious name!
Her breast more white than driven snow,—
That breast receives the deadly blow;
Well-aim'd the Saxon flung his dart:
The peerless BRADWEN breathes no more;
Behold her bosom drench'd in gore!
The last warm drop forsakes her heart.
Madden'd, we view the rage-inspiring sight,
Her eyes untimely clos'd in Death's eternal night.

Fair leader of th' undaunted host,
Of all the warrior's worth possest,
In youth's high bloom for ever lost,
With tears we drench thy lovely breast!
Whilst stamping wild we tear the ground,
And bid the trump of Slaughter sound.
The briny streams of Anguish flow,
Thy bands by deep resentment fir'd,
By fierce indignant rage inspir'd,
Hurl vengeance on thy ruthless foe.—
Soon shall th' avenging lance, th' unerring dart,
In search of sweet revenge pervade that Saxon's heart.

Soon shall thy legion's dreadful ire
Shower on thy foes the hail of Death,
Fierce as the storm-excited fire,
That desolates the blazing heath.
Lost in Distraction's wild amaze,
We on thy blood-stain'd beauty gaze;
Whilst thy great soul ascends the sky.
True to thy worth, we grasp the lance,
Bid Slaughter's hurried powers advance,
And in thy death their thousands die:
They fall! they load th' obstructed fields of War,
Where Triumph mounts for thee the blood-bespangled car.

Tuesday, that sad, that woeful day,
Gave BRADWEN to the trophy'd urn:
In sable robe, dumb Grief's array,
Thrice lovely fair, thy heroes mourn.
Long shall the glories of thy name
Stand foremost on the rolls of fame,
The Bard's high strain for ever grace.—
This view relieves each aching breast;
We, with this chearing thought impress'd,
Kiss thy dead lips, our last embrace.—
Till Time expires, thro' distant ages far,
Thy tale shall rouse to life th' avenging soul of War.

Wednesday's clear dawn illum'd the skies;
Their task the sons of Death resume:
Britons! dead BRADWEN calls! arise!
Revenge! revenge her hapless doom!
The gore-dash'd mead's inflaming horn
Employ'd black Thursday's deathful morn;
Loud rang the warrior's wonted lay,
Now rushing wild on carnage bent,
Ere noon proclaims the dire event,
Destruction's fury marks their way;
The Saxons fall! we view their mingled blood
Stream down the crimson'd brink, and swell the foamy flood.

Nature compell'd, we sought repose;
Sleep chain'd us to th' unfeeling dead;
'Till Friday's frighten'd morn arose,
And rous'd us from the bloody bed:
O'er Cattraeth's field we wander far,
Explore the gory track of war,
In search of our much honour'd slain.
Lost in th' astonishment of life,
We view the dreadful scene of strife,
The slaughter'd legions heap the plain;
Sole monarch of the blood-enamel'd place,
Exulting Horror shews his heart-benumbing face.

Saturday's peaceful morn appears;
No battle treads the mangled ground;
Afar no weeping mother hears
Of clashing steel the dreadful sound.
Sunday we grasp the blade again,
Death stalks a giant o'er the plain,
Hurries huge havock far and wide.
Thro' dreadful Monday's heart-sprung flood
The battle wades, thro' Saxon blood
Augmenting still the purple tide.
Abhorring Nature, struck with wild affright,
Flies from the reeking field, and shudders at the sight.

At Madoc's tent the clarion sounds,
With rending clangor hurry'd far:
From Echo's caves each note rebounds;
But when return the Sons of War?
Thou, sprung from dire Necessity,
Dumb Peace, the desart yields to thee,
Owns now thy melancholy sway.
Loud sounds the trump, and loud again:
What trump can wake th' unheeding slain?
What call revive the breathless clay?
One, only one, hears the continued blast,
And, bleeding, crawls along the slaughter-mantled waste.

One tent contains our living few,
Each by the fangs of battle torn;
Unchear'd we taste, with pain we view,
Sad Victory's replenish'd horn.
See, traversing the track of Death,
With wilder'd look, with panting breath,
Yon throng possest of wretched life!
What doleful moans, what woeful cries,
Of weeping mothers rend the skies,
Of orphan'd babe, and widow'd wife,
Shrieking aghast! they view the trampled host,
Where all their joys expir'd, where all their hopes are lost.

Struck dumb with grief, yon drooping Fair
Over her clay-cold lover weeps:
Sweet Nymph, thy sighs are spent in air,
On Death's eternal bed he sleeps:
He wakes no more to glad thy sight,
Thy charms can him no more delight:
In his loved arms no longer prest,
Thy hopes are all forever fled,
Joyless reclines th' unconscious head
On that once dear, that lovely breast;
Yet sympathetic Pity feels thy grief,
Can mingle tears with thine; but what can yield relief!

[pp. 1035-36]