Skip to main content
Hide Articles List

5 articles on this Page

AN OLD RELIGION.

News
Cite
Share

AN OLD RELIGION. [THE ANCIENT BARDS OF BRITAIN. By D. Delta Evans. Price 5s. Welsh Educational Publishing Co., Merthyr Tydfil.] To give an approximately accurate statement of an apparently extinct religion is well nigh impossible-and it should be attempted only by one who possesses the two rare qualifiations of scholarship and sympathy, or more correctly perhaps, scholarship and enthusiasm. For that very reason there are but very few persons who have attempted to give an account of Druidism, the old religion of the Iberian and Kelt; and, consequently, it is not to be wondered at that we heartily welcome any' contribution to the study of that subject. We had been looking forward for-some time to the appearance of Mr. Delta Evans's book on The Ancient Bards of Britain," and the advertisements had taught us to expect something new and startling in its pages. How far, then, have our hopes and expectations been realised now that the book is the property of the public ? In answer, we must frankly confess that we have been greatly disappointed by this work. Not that the book is by any means worthless. On the contrary, it contains some very bold and occasionally brilliant suggestions, as well as a fair mass of fresh information and the transla- tions and extracts, so adroitly put together, must always prove interesting and occasionally valuable, especially for those who have neither the knowledge nor the inclination to consult originals. On the other hand, the book sadly lacks both scholarship and literary taste. In a short note of this nature we can only point out just one or two of the most glaring deficiencies of the book. To our mind, the author dismisses altogether too peremptorily the theory that the Druids were polytheists. We do not blame him in the least for believing the contrary, but we do unhesitatingly say that the polytheistic theory, so generally accepted by scholars of renown, demands a far more exhaustive treatment than this author deems it worthy of. He has not even condescended to give us his explanation of Lludd Llaw Arian, Myrddin, Math Hen, Ceridwen, Dwynwen, personalities one and all of them, judging from Bardic Mythology and 0 oy Celtic Folklore, bearing the unmistakable characteristics of Gods. The manner in which he explains away the existence of Solar worship among the Druids (or Bards ?) is exceedingly ingenious. We could have believed it bad Druidism been a religion formulated some time in the eighteenth or nineteenth century. His argument, to our mind, is simply an instance of argument in a circle." We are none the wiser after three or four pages of philosophical rhetoric than we were at the start. We expect facts, and a mild sermon on symbolism is given us, and the author must not be surprised if such treatment is resented by all thoughtful readers. Before speaking so dogmatically on this and other subjects, the writer should have taken the trouble to become acquainted with at least the text baoks of the subject-such books as Frazer's Golden Bough Rhys' Hibbert Lectures and some of Professor's Anwyl's, Mr. Nutt's, and Mr. Squire's writings. There is not as much as one line in the whole book indicating any acquaintance with recent research. Less D'lsraeli and more Rhys would have consider- ably improved the book. The writer does not even suggest the existence of the Iberian and Celtic elements of Druidism. In a word, every page lacks historical perspec- tive and method. We never know to what historical period the writer is referring and what is true of Druidism (like all other religions) at one period is decidedly untrue of it at another period. It is quite in vain that we have turned to this book for any deductions as to Bardic philosophy and religion drawn from the Mabinogion, and the old Folk-tales of Wales and Cornwall. The author does not even mention the connection between the Bards and the Mabinogion, nor is there any really serious treatment in the volume of that most interesting of all questions, viz., the influence of Druidism on British Christianity. Surely in a book on The Ancient Bards of Britain — being a critical inquiry into traditions concerning their history, philosophy, religion, ethics, and rites, in the light of science and modern thought," there should be a fair summary of the views of scholars on such subjects as The Holy Grail," and its relations to Druidic lore but there is not a word to be found in the whole book on that important question, and still the author maintains that this work is the result of twenty years patient research and investigation. What a pity that an author with such enthusiasm and perseverance had not the proper guidance when setting out to his congenial task. The book also contains many instances of the lack of literary taste. Whatever may be the exact meaning of such paragraphs as the following The bilingual reader will doubtless notice the absence from these pages of many 0 y current alleoed 11 Bardic maxims and 0 prophecies" which find great favour in much of the oratory of the popular Welsh pdlpits in these days. The inference is obvious. (Preface pp. xi). "And the dead lions of British Bardism have come in for their share of the recurrent kicks of so-called religious orthodoxy ever since the latter gained its proud ascendancy. Pp. 18." they indicate a sad lack of literary taste. Philosophical or heterodox bigotry is even more offensive than that of the so-called religious orthodoxy," because it savours more of snobbery. Every chapter contains instances of this kind of cheap rant, and they materially affect an interesting work, and must inevitably prujudice a great number of readers against an interesting 0 0 and well-written book. The volume is published at the Welsh Educa- tional Publishing Co., Merthyr, and is a very creditable press production.

Gohebiaethau.

[No title]

Y DYFODOL.

PUBLISHERS' NOTE.