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- The Visions of the Sleeping Bard - 1/21 -

Transcribed from the 1897 Welsh National Press Company edition by David Price, email

THE VISIONS OF THE SLEEPING BARD BEING ELLIS WYNNE'S "Gweledigaetheu y Bardd Cwsc" Translated by Robert Gwyneddon Davies

Contents: Preface Introduction Author's Life The Text A Brief Summary Vision of The World The Vision of Death The Vision Of Hell The Visions of the Sleeping Bard


At the National Eisteddfod of 1893, a prize was offered by Mr. Lascelles Carr, of the Western Mail, for the best translation of Ellis Wynne's Vision of Hell. The Adjudicators (Dean Howell and the Rev. G. Hartwell Jones, M.A.), awarded the prize for the translation which is comprised in the present volume. The remaining Visions were subsequently rendered into English, and the complete work is now published in the hope that it may prove useful to those readers, who, being unacquainted with the Welsh language, yet desire to obtain some knowledge of its literature.

My best thanks are due to the Rev. J. W. Wynne Jones, M.A., Vicar of Carnarvon, for much help and valuable criticism; to the Rev. R Jones, MA., Rector of Llanfair-juxta-Harlech, through whose courtesy I am enabled to produce (from a photograph by Owen, Barmouth) a page of the register of that parish, containing entries in Ellis Wynne's handwriting; and to Mr. Isaac Foulkes, Liverpool, for the frontispiece, which appeared in his last edition of the Bardd Cwsc.

R. GWYNEDDON DAVIES. Caernarvon, 1st July, 1897.



Ellis Wynne was born in 1671 at Glasynys, near Harlech; his father, Edward Wynne, came of the family of Glyn Cywarch (mentioned in the second Vision), his mother, whose name is not known, was heiress of Glasynys. It will be seen from the accompanying table that he was descended from some of the best families in his native county, and through Osborn Wyddel, from the Desmonds of Ireland. His birth-place, which still stands, and is shown in the frontispiece hereto, is situate about a mile and a half from the town of Harlech, in the beautiful Vale of Ardudwy. The natural scenery amidst which he was brought up, cannot have failed to leave a deep impression upon his mind; and in the Visions we come across unmistakeable descriptions of scenes and places around his home. Mountain and sea furnished him with many a graphic picture; the precipitous heights and dark ravines of Hell, its caverns and its cliffs, are all evidently drawn from nature. The neighbourhood is also rich in romantic lore and historic associations; Harlech Castle, some twenty-five years before his birth, had been the scene of many a fray between Roundheads and Cavaliers, and of the last stand made by the Welsh for King Charles. These events were fresh in the memory of his elders, whom he had, no doubt, often heard speaking of those stirring times; members of his own family had, perhaps, fought in the ranks of the rival parties; his father's grand-uncle, Col. John Jones, was one of those who erstwhile drank of royal blood."

It is not known where he received his early education, and it has been generally stated by his biographers that he was not known to have entered either of the Universities; but, as the following notice proves, he at least matriculated at Oxford:-

WYNNE, ELLIS, s. Edw. of Lasypeys, co. Merioneth, pleb. Jesus Coll. matric. 1st March 1691-2, aged 21; rector of Llandanwg, 1705, & of Llanfair-juxta-Harlech (both) co. Merioneth, 1711. (Vide Foster's Index Eccles.)

Probably his stay at the University was brief, and that he left without taking his degree, for I have been unable to find anything further recorded of his academic career. {0a} The Rev. Edmund Prys, Vicar of Clynnog-Fawr, in a prefatory englyn to Ellis Wynne's translation of the "Holy Living" says that "in order to enrich his own, he had ventured upon the study of three other tongues." This fact, together with much that appears in the Visions, justifies the conclusion that his scholarly attainments were of no mean order. But how and where he spent the first thirty years of his life, with the possible exception of a period at Oxford, is quite unknown, the most probable surmise being that they were spent in the enjoyment of a simple rural life, and in the pursuit of his studies, of whatever nature they may have been.

According to Rowlands's Cambrian Bibliography his first venture into the fields of literature was a small volume entitled, Help i ddarllen yr Yscrythur Gyssegr-Lan ("Aids to reading Holy Writ"), being a translation of the Whole Duty of Man "by E. W., a clergyman of the Church of England," published at Shrewsbury in 1700. But as Ellis Wynne was not ordained until 1704, this work must be ascribed to some other author who, both as to name and calling, answered to the description on the title- page quoted above. But in 1701 an accredited work of his appeared, namely, a translation into Welsh of Jeremy Taylor's Rules and Exercises of Holy Living, a 12mo. volume published in London. It was dedicated to the Rev. Humphrey Humphreys, D.D., Bishop of Bangor, who was a native of the same district of Merionethshire as Ellis Wynne, and, as is shown in the genealogical table hereto {0}, was connected by marriage with his family.

In 1702 {0b} he was married to Lowri Llwyd--anglice, Laura Lloyd--of Hafod-lwyfog, Beddgelert, and had issue by her, two daughters and three sons; one of the daughters, Catherine, died young, and the second son, Ellis, predeceased his father by two years. {0c} His eldest son, Gwilym, became rector of Llanaber, near Barmouth, and inherited his ancestral home; his youngest son, Edward, also entered the Church and became rector of Dolbenmaen and Penmorfa, Carnarvonshire. Edward Wynne's son was the rector of Llanferres, Denbighshire, and his son again was the Rev. John Wynne, of Llandrillo in Edeyrnion, who died only a few years ago.

The following year (1703), he published the present work--his magnum opus--which has secured him a place among the greatest names in Welsh Literature. It will be noticed that on the title-page to the first edition the words "Y Rhann Gyntaf" ("The First Part") appear; the explanation given of this is that Ellis Wynne did actually write a second part, entitled, The Vision of Heaven, but that on hearing that he was charged with plagiarism in respect of his other Visions, he threw the manuscript into the fire, and so destroyed what, judging from the title, might have proved a greater success than the first part, as affording scope for lighter and more pleasing flights of the imagination.

It is said by his biographers that he was induced to abandon the pursuit of the law, to which he was educated, and to take holy orders, by Bishop Humphreys, who had recognised in his translation of the Holy Living marked ability and piety, and that he was ordained deacon and priest the same day by the Bishop, at Bangor, in 1701, and presented on the following day to the living of Llanfair-juxta-Harlech and subsequently to Llandanwg.

All these statements appear to be incorrect. To deal with them categorically: I find no record at the Diocesan Registry of his having been ordained at Bangor at all; the following entry in the parish register of Llanfair shows that he was not in holy orders in July, 1704: "Gulielmus filius Elizaei Wynne generosi de Las ynys et uxoris suis baptizatus fuit quindecimo die Julii, 1704.--W. Wynne Rr., O. Edwards, Rector." His first living was Llandanwg, and not Llanfair, to which he was collated on January 1st, 1705. Moreover, the above-named Owen Edwards was the rector of Llanfair until his death which took place in 1711. {0d} From that date on to 1734, the entries in the register at Llanfair church are all in Ellis Wynne's handwriting; these facts prove conclusively that it was in 1711 he became rector of the latter parish.

In 1710 he edited a new and revised edition of the Book of Common Prayer, at the request of his patron, the Bishop of Hereford (Dr. Humphreys) and the four Welsh bishops,--a clear proof of the confidence reposed in him by the dignitaries of his church as a man of learning and undoubted piety. He himself published nothing more, but A Short Commentary on the Catechism and a few hymns and carols were written by him and published posthumously by his son, Edward, being included in a volume of his own, entitled Prif Addysc y Cristion, issued in 1755.

The latter part of his life is as completely obscure as the earlier; he lapsed again into the silence from which he had only just emerged with such signal success, and confined his efforts as a Christian worker within the narrow limits of his own native parts, exercising, doubtlessly, an influence for good upon his immediate neighbourhood through force of character and noble personality, as upon his fellow- countrymen at large by means of his published works. His wife died in 1720, and his son, Ellis, in 1732; two years later he himself died and was buried under the communion table in Llanfair church, on the 17th day of July, 1734. {0e} There is no marble or "perennial brass" to mark the last resting-place of the Bard, nor was there, until recent years, any memorial of him in either of his parish churches, when the late Rev. John Wynne set up a fine stained-glass window at Llanfair church in memory of his illustrious ancestor.

Ellis Wynne appeared at a time when his country had sore need of him, when the appointed teachers of the nation were steeped in apathy and corruption, when ignorance and immorality overspread the land--the darkest hour before the dawn. He was one of the early precursors of the

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