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David Jones

A century passed away from the death of Edmund Prys before Providence in its own strange wayfound another sacred poet; this time in the person of a cattle-dealer. DAVID JONES, of Cayo, Caermarthenshire, was accustomed to buy cattle from the fairs about his home, and take them over to Barnet and Maidstone to sell. He had 24 received a fair education in his youth, and being quick-witted and sociable, he soon obtained a considerable command of the English language and so he must have been a rara avis in his native district, when 'no English' was the order of the day. During his travels he picked up many a marvellous tale and choice bit of gossip: this made him a charming and valued guest in the country inns far and near. His ready verse also was 'violin and harp' for merry comrades during the long evenings of winter; or even on the Sabbath day when some festival of devilry was to be held, as was not unfrequently the case. But an unexpected change came over him--came in a simple but wondrous fashion. One Sunday morning, when he was returning from an expedition into England, he caught the sound of singing in the old Independent chapel of Troedrhiwdalar, Breconshire, and was attracted thereby to enter. A message from God was there for him that morning. He left the chapel with the old life of vanity and sin for ever judged; and before him rose the hope of Jesus Christ, like a summer dawn on the hills which sheltered his Vale of Towy. His heart once changed, his poetic talents were soon touched. by the fire from the seraph's hand. The minstrel of the public-house became the sweet singer of Zion. The religion of the day was becoming so profoundly Christ-conscious, that the classical Psalter of Archdeacon Prys was inadequate to express its emotion. But the evangelical Psalter 25 of Dr. Watts had in England largely satisfied this religious fervency. So David Jones gave himself with eager sympathy to the work of translating Dr. Watts' Psalms and Hymns; and in this he achieved decided success.

Many of his verses remain the most popular and homely of all versions of Israel's national songs, and are household treasures of Welsh piety. But he was not satisfied with merely doing the work of a translator: he composed several hymns of permanent merit, touched with the spirit of the Great Revival of the eighteenth century. It was the day when the living gospel had to be preached in some humble cottage or on the public street. Once, when a service was being held near Lampeter, where David Jones had gone, according to his wont, to accompany the evangelist, a band of hired ruffians set on the house and dragged the worshippers out to the street with great violence. There the poet knelt down on the ground, and began to pray. He was a man of prayer; and in that hour of trial every word seemed to find the Almighty God. The persecutors stood still; they were startled; they became terrified. Without waiting further they escaped for their lives, lest they should be smitten by the God of the man who prayed in the street.

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