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109

CHAPTER IX.
HIRAETHOG-EMRYS-ISLWYN.

In some respects the Rev. Dr. William Rees (Hiraethog) ranks as the greatest Welshman of the nineteenth century. Preacher and lecturer, journalist and reformer, poet and essayist, there are whole pages in the national history of Wales covered with his broad and sturdy handwriting. But his poetical genius was too massive to produce hymns of the first order. Most of them lack the smoothness of expression and neatness of form so necessary in the making of a good hymn.

One of the gifts of his muse is a new poetical version of the Psalms. How the ministry of affliction helped him to accomplish this undertaking is told in his own words:

'Failing health kept me almost wholly at home during the winter and spring of 1872-3, even as late as the middle of the month of April scarcely venturing out of the house, except on the Sabbath. I consecrated every hour of every day that my weary nature could endure, through the space of the time mentioned, to the task of completing what remained of this work, together with attending 110 to the calls of the pulpit:--and when the clock was striking four, in the afternoon of Friday, March 21, 1873, I was letting the pen out of my hand, having written the last line of the versification. It would not be easy for me to forget how I felt that moment. I gave thanks from my heart, I believe, to the Father of all mercies for having suffered me to live to see this labour completed; and I tried to dedicate it to the blessing of Him who had supported and strengthened me to carry it through, with a degree of confidence that some might derive benefit and pleasure from its perusal through that blessing. Many a time when, suffering and afflicted, I was at the task, I thought of the words of the Psalmist--"Unless Thy law had been my delights, I should then have perished in mine affliction." So I said:--Had the Psalms not been my delights, I would have perished, from suffering of body and depression of spirit, many a day during that season when I was like Paul, to some extent as it were a prisoner in my own hired house.'

Of the two Psalters of the present century that of Nicander is more marked for smoothness; but that of Hiraethog possesses more originality, and makes, a very useful companion of the Psalms in the study.

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