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Welsh Topics.


Welsh Topics. The Age of Owain Gwynedd (1135-1170). The above is the title of a volume written by Paul Barbier, fils (Einil Ddu o Lydaw), Professor of Romance Philology at the University of Leeds. The work is a prize essay of the Newport National Eisteddfod, and is published exactly as it was written eleven years ago. The author holdisij and rightly, too, that a com- plete history of Wales is impossible until each particular period has been traversed, and until each successive age has found its true interpreter. Much of Welsh his- tory, as yet, is a tangled maze full of legends, and traditions—accretions which have to be removed and passed through the sieve of historical criticism. The author has subjected the authorities of the time to the minutest searching, and has given us an undiluted account of the grandest period of Welsh history. WHO WAS OWAIN GWYNEDD P This prince of Gwynedd flourished between 1135 (or 1137) to 1170, and forms the greatest Welsh figure of the middle of the twelfth century. He was the son of Gruffydd ap Cynan, a. prince who did so much to consolidate Wales against the steady, ever-increasing Norman power. His skill and policy he bequeathed to Owain, who steadfastly pursued the course planned out by his. aged father., Owain, and he alone., forms the central figure of the times. There were other leaders but Owain, by his diplomacy, his skilful generalship, his tact, his scholar- ship, served to unite all classes against the greedy, cruel Norman foe. A FEW PASSAGES. The writer has concentrated the chrono- logical entries of the chief manuscripts and chronicles, and has given us ai con- nected and continuous history of the period. Though the work is, in one sense, by a foreigner, there is here and there a. dash and brilliancy worthy of a Celt. The book is marked with clear passages, especially so where he summarises the characteristics of Owain Gwynedd. For example: —" If Gruffydd ap Cynan was the hero of Welsh defensive warfare, Owain was the hero of victory. The son he left was worthy to guide his nation. Had not the inherent weaknesses of the Welsh system of hereditary succession prevented him from uniting the whole race under his banner and leading the C'ymry in peace and war. the work which he did would have had more scope and been more lasting" (p. 15). And again :—" But Owain Gwynedd had all the characteristics of a great ruler. He was a brilliant soldier, and there is no record of his having been defeated in battle. He was a sagacious diplomat, and knew well how, by negotiation, to gather together all his resources in the hour of danger, and to conciliate the opposing interests of the many chiefs against a. common foe. He was a, prudent governor, working for his people. His policy, was one of peace within and union with Deheubarth without, and its success is well seen in the fact that outsiders looked ulpon him as king of all Wales, as the prince of the whole Welsh people. He was the greatest patron of the bards, and thus, like all the members of his family, identified himself with the encouragement of purity of language and excellency of literature. The succeeding gene- ration called him the Great; either in memory of his mighty deeds, or- startled by the contrast his single fame presented to the comparative nonentity of hisi many sons.' Professor Barbier does not affect to write a detailed history of this pregnant period, knowing! full well that the materials for such an undertaking are inadequate. His treatment is conspicuous for its broadness, and a capacity to generalise the salient features of the period. Notably so is the sixth chapter —perhaps the best in the book—wherein he, deals with the literary activity and social condition of the people. And the wish to give a clear, broad outline may account for the paucity of the poetical .quotations, though references to the chief poets and their works are abundant in the footnotes, indicating that the author is well acquainted with our literature in the vernacular. The sixth chapter embodies the follow- ing points: —The political1 literature of Wales, the social standing of the bards, the chief bards of the twelfth century, the tendency towards the production of a drama, the Mabinogion, the historians of the time, the musical proclivities of the Welsh people, their religious feeling, and life in all the varied forms incidental to a people in the midst of a great mili- tary and literary activity. The book, on the whole.. is marked by good arrangement, clear, scholarly, and a praiseworthy attempt at a scientific historical treatise of this period. It is moderate in tone, cilitical and well- balanced in its judgment. It is pre- eminently a student's book, and is well worthy of a. thorough perusal. The printing, binding:, paper, together with its general appearance, reflect ranch credit on Mr. Southall, a publisher who has done so much for Wales. "The Age of Owain Gwynedd." By Paul Barbier, Fife, University, Leeds, pp. 182. Cloth, 5/6; 'Gilt Tops, 6/ Students' Edition, 3/6. J. E'. Southall, Newport, Mon.

Y Parch. O. R. Owen, Lerpwl.




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