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this, however, as an universal position ; but that it is the
general case, every candid mind must admit. Even with those of the most liberal attainments, whatever knowledge they possess of the Welsh tongue, is, in most cases, devoted rather to the objects we have briefly alluded to, than to the more classical purpose of illustrating those valuable treasures which antiquity has to reveal. Whatever be the grounds upon which this peculiarity in the character of the Welsh is to be defended, it is no less true that it is the main cause of their general disrelish for those literary pursuits, in which other nations are known to excel,
But, while Welshmen in general are thus inattentive to the interests and encouragement of literature, there are a few liberal-minded and spirited individuals, whose utmost efforts have been exercised to counteract the effects of this reproachful indifference; and these are the patriotic members of the different societies, which have been established by Welshmen for the purpose of rescuing their country from the disgraceful gloom in which it has hitherto been shrouded. Of these societies, the principal are the Gwyneddigion, or North-Wales men; and the Cymmrodorion, or Fellow-Countrymen ; each being particularly devoted to the purpose above-mentioned. The first of these institutions was founded in the year 1771, by Owen Jones, the collector of the Archaiology, whose life was dedicated to the preservation of the literary treasures of his country. This excellent man, with a perseverance as ardent as it was inflexible, employed his time and his purse in the collection of all the ancient manuscripts relating to the history, the poetry, and the antiquities of Wales; and in addition to those of which the Archaiology consists, he succeeded in obtaining nearly one hundred quarto volumes of Welsh poetry, which have been lately published by the Cymmrodorion Society.
There is one event relating to the beneficence of this generous Welshman, which cannot be too highly estimated. A few years after the establishment of the Gwyneddigion society, the author of a celebrated Welsh essay, to which one of the society's prizes had been awarded, attracted, in consequence, the notice of its liberal founder. A correspondence between them was the result, in the course of which this Cambrian Mecænas urged his new friend to give his talents the benefit of an academical education, using, in his letter on this occasion, these characteristic words. “I will bear your expenses; draw upon me for any sum of money you may be in need of whilst at College. And the condition of the obligation is this; that if, by any reverse of fortune, I should become poor, and you in a state of affluence, then you must maintain me." No stronger
proof of his generosity can be required. It is proper to add, that the person here alluded to was only once under the necessity of trespassing upon his pátron's munificence, and he then found him true to his promise: yet it detracts nothing from the merit of his intention that it was not more fully executed. It must, also, be remembered, that by his discernment in this instance, and by his encouraging instigation, he was the means of bringing into public notice an individual, moving in the lowest paths of life, who has since proved himself a distinguished ornament to the national literature of his country, and filled a station in the church with great credit to himself, and extensive utility to his flock.
The Cymnirodorian Society, of which we are happy to observe Sir Walter Scott and Dr. Southey are members, has been established little more than three years.* It was founded by some of the leading members of the Gwyneddigion, and is more likely to prove beneficial to the literary interests of the Principality, than any other society with which we are acquainted! Its avowed object is “ to preserve and illustrate the remains of ancient British literature, and to promote its future cultivation by every means in its power.” If the members will be active and vigilant, much good will undoubtedly accrue from their proceedings; and we rejoice to find that the preparations for their second volume of Transactions evince such good and tangible proofs of their exertions. But they must not relax in their efforts; the utmost activity and perseverance must be exercised, if they wish to achieve those ends which their society is so well calculated to accomplish; and if they will exert themselves, we shall not be without bope, that
Learning once more shall round high Snowdon rise,
But the existence of this and of other institutions does not by any means invalidate the strength of our assertion, respecting the indolence and inattention of the Welsh. On the contrary, it renders our position the more obvious ; for, although
* Properly speaking, this institution was originally formed in the year 1751 ; but during the late long-protracted war it sunk into inaction, and, in fact, ceased to exist. Its present revival, under the sanction and patronage of his present majesty, may be considered, in every respect, as an original formation.
this society has been established somewhat more than three years, yet we regret to say, that a very small proportion only of the gentlemen of Wales have condescended to afford it support by becoming members; for, out of the whole population of the Principality, there are not two hundred individuals belonging to the Cymmrodorion! This apathy is, indeed, a sad reproach to a people so ancient and generous as the Welsh ; and happy should we be, if the censure, which we have thus ventured to apply, should have the effect of awakening in their bosoms some sparks of that patriotic fire, which is so congenial to the manners of an honourable nation. But this we confess, and we confess it with sorrow, is nearly hopeless; and we have prefaced our article with these remarks, more for the purpose of offering some apology for the apparent idleness of the Welsh scholar, than with the hope of stimulating the Welsh in general to exertion. And having, to the best of our power, accomplished our purpose in this respect, we will now proceed to the more immediate object of our paper; namely, a brief consideration of the popular superstitions of the Welsh.
The Welsh peasantry are highly superstitious; living, as they do, in so rude and secluded a country, and amidst scenery so wild and imposing, their very being is incorporated with divers strange phantasies, handed down from father to son, and influencing their imagination, more or less, according to the intensity of the impression produced upon their minds. The inhabitants, indeed, of all pastoral and mountainous countries are more generally affected with superstition, than those who dwell in plains, and well-cultivated regions. That the scenery of a country has a considerable influence upon the habits of the natives, is indisputable; hence the dispositions and general character of mountaineers are more hardy, robust, hospitable, and impetuous than those of lowlanders; and their imaginations
Darken’d by their native scenes,
This is particularly exemplified in the mountain inhabitants of our own island; and more especially in the Scottish highlander and the Welsh mountaineer, to both of whom certain superstitious customs and opinions are peculiar, although resembling each other very considerably in their general outline.
In the retired and pastoral counties of Caernarvon and Merioneth, there is scarcely a glen, a wood, or a mountain, that hath not its due quota of fairies and spirits ; and every district in North Wales, which has been but little accessible to
the innovating approaches of civilization, can boast of no scanty number of supernatural inhabitants. It would be an amusing and instructive employment, that is, if such an employment were practicable, to trace all the various superstitious notions to their origin, in that department of history, which regards more especially the origin of nations. Such an inquiry, when devoted to popular customs and traditions, is infinitely of more importance than would, upon a mere cursory glance, appear probable; for it is very observable, that whatsoever be the variation in the manners and customs of any nation, which possesses a tolerably distinct existence, certain traditions, superstitions, forms, and pastimes will be maintained hereditarily from one generation to another, without even a knowledge of, or a respect to, their origin, but merely as a matter of custom or convenience. For such a pertinacious and general adherence to many of these it would not be very easy to account, unless we imagine that they were first impressed upon the minds of the people, when they became organized into a regular society, with an established form of religion and government. Others must be referred to later periods, and some, undoubtedly, to the imperfect relics of a confused and mysterious mythology, In those, which are of the greatest antiquity, there is much that, when lucidly developed, may help to ascertain, what were the very principles of religion and policy, which constituted the character of the nation, and what was the actual state of the nation itself at different periods ;-both important points, although, at first sight, they may appear trivial and unworthy of notice in the annals of the historian.
This is more especially the case with regard to the superstitious forms and customs of the Welsh ; and many an interesting historical hypothesis might be satisfactorily elucidated by a diligent and careful investigation of the ancient traditions of the Cymry. Something, it is true, has been done to this effect; but the result has shewn how very necessary it is to be cautious, candid, and vigilant in the pursuit; and when we see that such a man as Peter Roberts, to whom Cymric literature stands so greatly indebted, has permitted his judgment to be led astray by the most fanciful and extravagant opinions, we naturally feel discouraged from the attempt. But the object of the present article is not so much to trace to their origin the superstitious phantasies of the Cambro-British, as to take a summary view of their general characters ; and to this latter point it is our intention mainly to confine ourselves.
Of all the popular superstitions prevalent among the Welsh, their idea of fairies is, perhaps, the most poetical; at all events, it is the most ancient. In Wales there appear to have been two distinct species of fairies; the one sort, of gentle
manners, and well disposed toward the whole human race; the other, maliciously inclined, and full of mischievous sportiveness. The former is denominated Tylwyth Tég; or, the Fair Family; the latter, Ellyllon, Elves, or Goblins, The Tylwyth Têg are a mild and diminutive race, leading a life completely pastoral, and befriending fond and youthful lovers, pretty dairymaids, and hospitable and industrious housewives. They are the inspirers of pleasing dreams, and the assiduous encouragers of virtue and benevolence; and never fail to reward the faithful servant, or the affectionate child. But the most prominent attributes and pastimes of this gentle race are sweetly set forth in the following stanzas—the production of a gentleman, whose muse has frequently been rendered subservient to the best interests of the Principality :
Can y Tylwyth Tég; or, The Fairies' Song.
My happy comrades hie ;
And night invades the sky.
To Dolydd's dome repair,
And mortals cannot share.
The light-latch'd door, the well-swept floor,
The hearth so trim and neat,
The pleasant circling seat.
Ere we shall cease to sing.
But first I'll creep where mortals sleep,
And form the blissful dream;
That keeps this hearth so clean :
So rich in manly charms,
Shall bless her longing arms.
Your little sheaves, or primrose leaves,
Your acorns, berries-spread;