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81

CHAPTER VI.
THOMAS WILLIAMS--CHARLES O'R BALA--DAVID CHARLES.

With the close of the eighteenth century the Golden Age of Welsh hymnody began to decline. There has been a succession of great national poets since; but they are bards of the Eisteddvod rather than singers of the sanctuary. At the same time it deserves to be noted that the chief Eisteddvod poems of the present century have nearly all some sacred subject. The great poets have failed, as usual, to write great hymns. Still, the period is not void of interesting illustrations of the songs of the Church.

THOMAS WILLIAMS, of Bethesda, in the Vale of Glamorgan, was originally a well-to-do farmer; but, owing to a bitter controversy concerning the alleged heresy of an eminent Methodist divine of the time--the Rev. Peter Williams--he, with a number of sympathizers, organized an Independent church, of which he afterwards became minister. Religiously, he was a child of the eighteenth century; and his hymns have a close spiritual affinity to the hymns of David Jones and 82 Morgan Rhys and William Williams. But here and there we find traces of the natural reaction which followed the fervour of the Great Revival. A chill melancholy steals sometimes over his faith--like the sound of an autumn breeze shuddering among the brown leaves after sunset. But it passes, and be rejoices again. His volume of hymns, entitled Waters of Bethesda, was published in 1823. It takes its name from its first, and one of his best-known hymns.

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