Skip to main content
Hide Articles List

4 articles on this Page



LITERARY AND OTHER NOTES. BY NORICK. PROF. LEWIS JONES AT THE CYMMRODORION. Wales has never produced a literary critic of any importance. Dr. Lewis Edwards was the only Welsh author of the last hundred years who realised what the true function of literary criticism is, and even he, though possessing the true spirit of the critic, lacked that catholicity of acquaintance with the literatures of the world to perform the functions of the critic to any degree of per- fection. The great majority of those who have assumed the cloak of the critic in. Wales have been polemical, controversial, and self-interested, with the result that what Matthew Arnold said of English literature forty years ago is far truer of Welsh litera- ture to-day-that it lacks the very thing it is most in need of-criticisrn. Still, there are signs of change, of which a fine example is afforded by a lecture on The Literary Relationships of Dafydd ap Gwilym," de- livered, last Thursday, before the Cym- mrodorion Society, by Prof. Lewis Jones, of Bangor, and shortly to be published in their Proceedings. Mr. Lewis Jones is Professor of English Literature at the University College of North Wales, Bangor, and is necessarily acquainted with the great European literatures, which is the most important qualification for the critic in Welsh literature. In addition to this, he is honest, accurate and enthusiastic. In some way or other, we had been led to expect a critical work on Dafydd ap Gwilym from his pen some day, but the period of waiting seemed to be indefinite. At last, the premier Welsh Society, the Cymmrodor- ion, through the happy persistency of Mr. Vincent Evans, demanded the payment of first fruits; and their demands Prof. Jones wisely met by delivering a lecture which, when published, must prove an invaluable addition to Welsh literature. The main theme of the lecture was Ap Gwilym's indebtedness to the Troubadours. Prof. Jones, in spite of his ability and scholarship, did not convince me of the fact that Dafydd was in any way influenced by their poetry; nor, indeed, did he convince me of that other and less important fact that Dafydd was even acquainted with it. It is quite true that Prof. Jones gave a score of quotations from his poetry similar in poetic sentiment to the Chansons, but one instance of a similarity in literary form would be of far more value than the whole of the others. In literature, the influenced, be he poet or prose writer, is always at first an unconscious imitator of outward form; but this Ap Gwilym never was, as the Professor admitted. Indeed the very opposite is true, for it can be asserted with some degree of truth that Dafydd's literary form was of his own creation—Y Cywydd. Prof. Jones did not say that Dafydd was an imitator, but he did imply that Dafydd was to some extent a debtor. But these are spots in the sun. What is of far more importance is that Prof. Jones proved to the hilt the truth (though he did not formally state it in so many words), that Dafydd ap Gwilym was a poet of such out- standing greatness that he was actually touched by the higher currents of a world- naovement. This lecture of Professor Jpnes gives to D. ap G. his own place in the great movement of the Earlier Renaissance-the movement that produced the Troubadour poetry, the Matin Songs, and the in- comparable lyrics of which Professor Jones gave such choice examples. His poetry bears all the characteristics of this litera- ture-its note of revolt, its lyric levity, its love of bright colour, and passionate song, its sensitiveness to nature moods, and its delight in the music of sweet words. When one reads some passages in Ancassin and Nicolette, or in Amis and Amile, one listens to the same voice as he hears in Dafydd's love songs. Even in our literature, we are not isolated. What has moved human hearts beneath the warm sun of the South, has also moved human hearts in the mists and rains of mountainous Wales. All this is true, not only of the past, but also of the present. I live in the hope that some day the tale of Welsh song and story will be fully told. When that is done, we shall realise that, even at the beginning of the twentieth century, Wales is so much alive as to be able to produce poetry in tune with that of the inspired poets of other lands. The Symbolist Movement has found nowhere such fruitful soil as in Wales. It may be difficult to convince Saxon pedants that Eifion Wyn and W. J. Gruffydd bear a decided relationship to Gerard du Nerval, and other French Symbolists; to Bjornson and Ibsen-but they do, and more, the whole truth can never be told of Symbolism until Welsh poetry is studied by the tellers. That is a hint to Arthur Symons. Some very interesting facts were brought out in the discussion following the lecture. Machreth mentioned the fact that the Cywydd is an easy metre. The truth, though spoken by a prophet of Cynghanedd, fell on un- believing ears. Still, it was a very forcible argument in favour of the pre-renaissance character of Dafydd ap Gwilym's poetry, and is a subject worthy of far more serious notice. Mr. S R. John called attention to the intellectual and spiritual sterility which characterises the Celtic and Saxon contact everywhere but this is such a wide subject, that we must give it a day of its own, when the spirit moves again.


Bwrdd y Gol.