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Welsh Music

Davydd Ddu of Hiraddug, who flourished in the Fifteenth century, produced a metrical version of 12 the Officium B. Mariae and of several psalms. Whether any of these were brought into the service of the Welsh Church of that age, or not, we have no means of discovering. In any case they could not have touched a nation's heart. They are correct and refined, but they have no native warmth. However, before another hundred years had passed, the nation had a Welsh Bible; and with the native Bible appeared the firstfruits of a native bymnody.

If the translations included in this volume have to any extent reproduced the tone of the original, scarcely will any one fail to perceive their national characteristics. They are hymns of the heart everywhere touched by a light and pleasant fancy. From first to last they preserve a general feature of picturesqueness. Almost every verse is a transcript from Nature--spiritualized and illuminated. We walk in a song-land of rocks and mountains; of valleys and running brooks; of beautiful dawns struggling into day on mist-covered hills, and calm sunsets of gold breathing peace on land and sea after a storm of thunder and lightning and rain; of long winter nights with every song hushed under the starless skies, and happy spring mornings when every leaf is a murmur of resurrection. The verses which are borne in the hearts of Welshmen wherever they go, and are sung on Western prairie or beneath the Southern Cross--they are verses with a picture of some well-remembered scene changed into a spiritual idea.


English hymnody has become far more picturesque than it used to be. Some of the most popular of modern hymns are set round with pleasant hints of Nature. Verses moving drearily without any light of fancy have had to give place to a brighter poesy. This little collection may not, therefore, be considered out of season.

But it is impossible not to feel that only one half of the story is given. However characteristically Welsh the words and sentiments of these hymns may be, the native melodies to which they have been wedded are perhaps even more so. The minor tunes of the Welsh sanctuary are as much a part of the people's religion as Snowdon is of the county of Arvon. Strangers have been much impressed with their sweet melancholy--as if they had come down through the funerals of the centuries, and rose heavenward from beneath a yew-tree. Why they have been so studiously kept out of English tune-books is a question worth asking. Possibly the harmony would have to be modified: otherwise I can see nothing to keep them out. Some of these melodies have of recent years been introduced locally, and with agreeable success.

As to the inner meaning of these hymns, it will be unfolded in the course of the story. They form a biography in outline of the devotion of the Christian Church in Wales from the close of the sixteenth century. Especially do they reflect the lights and shades of the National Revival of 14 the last century. Many of them are born of fire and storm: they are cries of unknown distress--the cries of those who awoke 'in the region and shadow of death,'--and remembered where they were. But through and above all the pain and joy, the sorrow and relief, the anxiety and trust of these hymns, there shines one light with even ray--the light of the Cross and the Lamb of God.

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