Obrazy na stronie
PDF
ePub

of a doe, as the epithet was no longer applicable, and therefore dropped.

Of the goat, derived from coed or coet, a mountain wood, that animal between the deer and the sheep, which is still sometimes seen to browse on our mountains, I recollect no legendary tale. I shall only observe, therefore, that the Welsh words Gafr, Afr, and Heifr, which designate this species of animals, have furnished the English language with gaffer, as signifying a greybeard; and with heifer, which means a young or little cow.

I have now to notice a tradition which, as it is of a sacred character, it becomes me to approach with reverential respect. I mean the report transmitted down to our days in Wales, that the great Apostle, St. Paul, visited the Principality, coming hither direct from Rome to preach the gospel.

It would be unsuitable, on the present occasion, to enter into any discussion of so grave a subject further than merely to observe, that some inscriptions which have been discovered are said to corroborate this tradition, which is further confirmed by the well known early independence of the see of Rome, manifested by the Welsh church. To this I will only add, that there is, or at least there was, a very ancient manuscript in the library of Merton College, Oxford, containing a series of letters purporting to be a correspondence between the Apostle Paul and Seneca, in which there are said to be some allusions to the former's supposed visit to Wales. These epistles, however, have been held to be spurious. They are mentioned in Pointer's Miscellanies, page 214.

In an essay on the Legends and Traditions of Wales, it would be inexcusable to omit those which relate to the alleged discovery of the new world by a Welsh prince several hundred years before the birth of Christopher Columbus.

A tradition of this memorable event has been regularly handed down to us from generation to generation; and is further supported, as well by the very striking resemblance between many words in the Welsh language and that spoken by the American Indians, as by the authority of numerous writers who have touched on this subject. Nor should it be forgotten that, in the reign of the last sovereign of the House of Tudor, it is said that a serious intention was manifested of asserting the title of the English queen to the Spanish colonies in South America, on the ground of this supposed prior discovery by Prince Madoc. Now, certainly, whatever could have furnished matter of grave and serious debate at the council table of Elizabeth, before such statesmen as Cecil and Walsingham, before such lawyers as Cook and Verulam, before the gallant and enlightened Raleigh,

and the all-accomplished Sydney, can never be considered as altogether chimerical and absurd.

So much, however, has been said on this historic doubt, that I must content myself with two or three observations only, and with one single quotation, an extract from a work in the Welsh language, printed at Oxford, in the year 1677, under the Imprimatur of the Vice-Chancellor, entitled Hanes y Fydd Gristianogol; or, a History of the Christian Religion,” by Charles Edwards.

In page 193 of the third edition of this work, in speaking of the memorable events which occurred between the years 1166 and 1170, the author thus expresses himself:

“ Yn amser y blinderau hyn mentrodd Madog, un o feibion Owen, Tywosog Gwynedd, i geisio gwlad arall an amcan hyd y mor mawr tua machlud hawd: a chwedi gweled gwledydd hyfryd heb drigolion, dychwelodd adrer, a llanwodd ddego longau ar cyfryw oi genedl ac ydoedd chwanog i fyned lle cant heddwch; a ihyhir iddyat wladychu yn Mecsico. Oherwydd pan ddat cuddwyd America ir Europeiad yn yr oes ddiweddaf aeth heibio, cafwyd yno Eirio Cymraeg; canys pan ymddiddanont ynghyd dywedant urth eu gilydd gwrando, ac y mae yno aderyn a chraig y Alwant Pengwyn, ac ynys a elwir Corroeso a Phen Briton, ac afon elwir, Gwyndor.

In addition to the very remarkable resemblance between the words here cited and the Welsh, it may be further urged that it is not impossible but the word America itself may be of Welsh origin. We know that Armorica is composed of three Welsh words, latinized into one by the Romans, ar, mor, isa, on the lower sea, as descriptive of its geographical position. For this etymology we have the authority of Menage. Now, if the derivation of Armorica be admitted, why may not America also be composed of the three Welsh words, ar myr uchel, or a myr ycha, on the high seas, or on the farthest seas, as an appropriate description of this newly-discovered continent beyond the Atlantic ocean? In this supposition, Vesputius must have assumed the prænomen of Americus from the already well known name of the country, as the Romans assumed the names of Africanus, Germanicus, Britannicus, &c. from their having visited or distinguished themselves in those respective countries. Of this, at least, we are certain, that he who thus assumed the name is not entitled to the honour of the discovery.

If it be true, as is asserted by a learned writer in the Asiatic Researches, * that there existed in very early times an intercourse between ancient Britain and ancient India, and that our island was well known to the oldest Hindu historians under the name of Bretashtan, “ the Sacred Island of the West;" this would certainly tend very much to strengthen the probability of Prince

* Mr. Wilson's Dissertation on Egypt and the Nile.:- Asiatic Res. vol. 3.

Madoc's discovery of America. Since, in navigating so widely extensive a traject as that between Britain and Ben-Gal, (still a Welsh composite word,) a vessel may very easily be supposed to have deviated from her course, and thus have accidentally discovered the new continent.

In further corroboration of this tradition, we know that, in the very earliest periods of history, the ancient Britons were celebrated for their wonderful perfection in the art of navigation; for Avienus, as cited in Camden's Cassiteridos, informs us, that,

Turbidum latè fretum
Et belluosi gurgitem oceani secant-

Rei ad miraculum."

á Far and wide they plough the rough sea,
And the gulf of the raging ocean-

In a most wonderful manner.”

I shall now proceed to consider some of those legends and traditions which have a reference to the arts and sciences.

Whoever has perambulated the mountains of the Principality must have noticed, with astonishment, very evident traces of the plough on their highest summits, where, at present, it would be absolute madness to make any attempt to introduce tillage. The frequent occurrence of these ancient furrows cannot, I think, be accounted for, but by the conclusion that our ancestors must have been acquainted with some peculiar method of mountain aratory husbandry which is now lost to us, but which enabled them to raise crops of corn from such soils and in such localities, as would now baffle all the boasted superiority of our modern agricultural science to procure even a return of the seed.

It is clear we cannot solve this difficulty by resorting to the alleged hypothesis of a change of climate. For the subsequent clearing away of the immense woods and forests with which the Principality was formerly covered, must necessarily have tended rather to soften the climate than to increase its rigour, as we find to have been invariably the case in America, and in all other newly-cleared countries.

The ravages of the Lowlands, by successive savage hordes of invaders, in driving the ancient Britons to their fastnesses in the mountains, necessarily put their ingenuity to the task to discover means of procuring subsistence within their reach by cultivating these elevated spots.

On this subject the Legends of the Triads inform us, that, though Hu Gadarn first instructed the Cymry in the art of cultivating the earth, yet the knowledge communicated by him went no further than the use of the spade and the mattock; but

that it was Elldud, the knight, a holy man of Côr Dewdws, who improved the manner of tilling the ground, and taught them to raise wheat-corn by the plough in places where it grew not before. In all probability, therefore, it is to this ancient chivalric agriculturist that Wales was indebted for the now lost art of growing corn on the mountain tops.

A noble attempt is now making in Brecknockshire to bring these mountainous spots again into a state of artificial culture, by planting them with a hardier species of the tea plant. If these efforts shall succeed in liberating Great Britain from the tribute she pays to the celestial empire, from the punic faith of the Hong merchants, and the insolence of the mandarins, our future bards will address this spirited planter * with the well known line,

“ Te veniente die te decedente canemus." This novel species of arboriculture has already been recorded in the pages of the Cambrian Quarterly peculiarly appropriated to the history and interests of the Principality, and which is interspersed with notices of our Welsh legends and traditions.

It has been acknowledged by ancient authors that the druids professed astronomy. There are some reasons for supposing them to have been acquainted with the science of optics, and that the use of the telescope was not unknown to them. An ancient historian thus speaks of Britain: “ It is also said, that in this island the moon appears very near the earth, and that certain eminences of a terrestrial nature are descried in that planet,” &c. And the triads I have already cited, mention the the Drych ab cibddar, or cilidawr, the speculum or “ lookingglass of the son of the pervading glance," or of “the searcher of mystery,” as one of the secrets of the island of Britain. I

The same exhaustless stores of legendary information further acquaint us that Stone-henge, on Salisbury Plain, that stupendous monument of druidical architecture, was called the Gwaith Emrys, or the work of Emrys, or of the revolution, and was considered one of the three mighty labours-one of the three wonderful works of Britain. This is also mentioned by Geoffrey of Monmouth, and celebrated in the Latin poem of Alexander Mecham, “ De Divinæ Sapientiæ laudibus.” In our earliest legends, the massacre on Salisbury Plain is called “ Brad y Cyllyll hirion,” the treachery of the long knives.

* Mr. Samuel Rootsey, a celebrated chemist of Bristol. + Vol. 3, p. 522.

See Welsh Archæology, vol. 2; and Davies's Celtic Researches, p. 192. This legendary tale, therefore, enables us to vindicate for Wales the honour of the first discovery of the telescope, long before the period usually ascribed to this invention.

K k

NO. XVI.

In the mechanical arts an ancient legend informs us, that Coll, the son of Cyllin, the son of Caradawc, the son of Bran, was the first who taught the Cymry the use of a mill with a wheel. It should seem that, afterwards, the Welsh arrived at a degree of perfection in works of machinery, which has never been surpassed, even in modern times ;* for we find it asserted in Dr. Davies's Latin-Welsh Dictionary, printed in the reign of Charles the First, that a mill was found, in the year 1574, buried in the ground at a place called Bryn y Castell, in Eidernyon, which appeared to have been worked by some species of extraordinary machinery, and turned swiftly round when once set going, without the impulsion of wind or water, or the labour of any animal. A full description of this piece of machinery is given in this dictionary, under the word Breuan, or molendinum.

It is here, also, that I should introduce some notice of those Cambro-Britannic traditions and legends which make allusion to the invention of letters, of arithmetic, and the art of divination by trees. But as this part of my subject has been so very ably discussed by the late Mr. Edward Davies in his “ Celtic Researches,” and by Mr. Owen, in his essay on the “ Celtic Roots," I feel myself dispensed from entering so fully into these investigations as I should otherwise have done.

The letters of all the earliest alphabets, more particularly the Welsh, present a strong resemblance to the springs of certain trees, which appear to have been the first symbols for communicating ideas, somewhat in the style of the Egyptian hieroglyphies. The druidical alphabet was called “ Coelbren y Beirdd," the billet of signs of the bards, or the bardic alphabet; and these signs or letters were not written on paper or on parchment, as in modern usage, but cut out on a square piece of wood; each letter resembled the sprig of some particular tree. The yew, for instance, as well from its longevity as from being an evergreen, served as the type of existence, and was represented by the letter 1. Thus yw, the Welsh for the yew tree, signifies is or are in that language; and by converting the w, as usual, into v, is radix of the Latin vivo, &c.

In arithmetic, the Welsh word Rhygn, a notch or incision, is a legendary memento, which reminds us of the simple manner in which our ancestors kept their accounts, by notches on a stick, which was called the Rhygnbren, the scoring-stick or tally. And it is from Rhygn we have derived the modern English word

We hope, in a future number, to present our readers with some remarks respecting the extraordinary improvements recently made by a gentleman, residing near London, in water-mills; improvements incalculably valuable to a country so interspersed with streams as Wales : we are confident that, in many situations, they will entirely supersede the expensive application of steam.---EpRs.

« PoprzedniaDalej »