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- The Visions of the Sleeping Bard - 20/21 -


{26a} We came to a barn.--The beginning of Nonconformity in Wales. In the Author's time there were already many adherents to the various dissenting bodies in North Wales. Walter Cradoc, Morgan Llwyd and others had been preaching the Gospel many years previously throughout the length and breadth of Gwynedd; and it was their followers that now fell under the Bard's lash.

{28a} Corruption of the best.--A Welsh adage; v. Myv. Arch. III. 185.

{28b} Some mocking.--Compare Bunyan's Christian starting from the City of Destruction: "So he looked not behind him, but fled towards the middle of the plain. The neighbours came out to see him run, and as he ran, some mocked, others threatened and some cried after him to return."

{29a} Who is content.--Cp.

Qui fit, Maecenas, ut nemo, quam sibi sortem Seu ratio dederit seu fors obiecerit, illa Contentus vivat, laudet diversa sequentes?

--Horace: Sat. I. i.

{34a} Increases his own penalty.--Cp.

--the will And high permission of all-ruling heaven Left him at large to his own dark designs, That with reiterated crimes he might Heap on himself damnation, while he sought Evil to others.

- Par. Lost: I. 211-6.

{36a} Royal blood--referring to the execution of Charles I.

{37a} The Pope and his other son.--The concluding lines of this Vision were evidently written amidst the rejoicings of the nation at the victories of Marlborough over the French and of Charles XII. over the Muscovites

{43a} Glyn Cywarch.--The ancestral home of the Author's father, situate in a lonely glen about three miles from Harlech.

{43b} Our brother Death.--This idea of the kinship of Death and Sleep is common to all poets, ancient and modern; cp. the "Consanguineus Leti Sopor" of Vergil (AEneid: VI. 278); and also:

Oh thou God of Quiet! Look like thy brother, Death, so still,--so stirless - For then we are happiest, as it may be, we Are happiest of all within the realm Of thy stern, silent, and unawakening twin.

- Byron: Sardanapulus, IV.

{44a} An extensive domain.--Compare what follows with Vergil's description (Dryden's trans.):

Just in the gate and in the jaws of Hell, Revengeful cares and sullen sorrows dwell, And pale diseases and repining age - Want, fear, and famine's unresisted rage; Here toils and death, and death's half-brother, Sleep, Forms terrible to view, their sentry keep.

--AEneid: VI. 273-8

{48a} Merlin.--A bard or seer who is supposed to have flourished about the middle of the fifth century, when Arthur was king. He figures largely in early tales and traditions, and many of his prophecies are to be found in later Cymric poetry, to one of which Tennyson refers in his Morte d'Arthur:

I think that we Shall never more, at any future time, Delight our souls with talks of knightly deeds Walking about the gardens and the halls Of Camelot, as in the days that were. I perish by this people which I made - Though Merlin sware that I should come again To rule once more--but let what will be, be.

{48b} Brutus, the son of Silvius.--According to the Chronicles of the Welsh Kings, Brwth (Brutus) was the son of Selys (Silvius), the son of Einion or AEneas who, tradition tells, was the first king of Prydain. In these ancient chronicles we find many tales recorded of Brutus and his renowned ancestors down to the fall of Troy and even earlier.

{48c} A huge, seething cauldron.--This was the mystical cauldron of Ceridwen which Taliesin considered to be the source of poetic inspiration. Three drops, he avers, of the seething decoction enabled him to forsee all the secrets of the future.

{48d} Upon the face of earth.--These lines occur in a poem of Taliesin where he gives an account of himself as existing in various places, and contemporary with various events in the early eras of the world's history--an echo of the teachings of Pythagoras:

Morte carent animae; semperque priore relicta Sede, novis habitant domibus vivuntque receptae.

--Ovid: Metam. XV. 158-9.

{48e} Taliesin.--Taliesin is one of the earliest Welsh bards whose works are still extant. He lived sometime in the sixth century, and was bard of the courts of Urien and King Arthur.

{49a} Maelgwn Gwynedd.--He became lord over the whole of Wales about the year 550 and regained much territory that had once been lost to the Saxons. Indeed Geoffrey of Monmouth asserts that at one time Ireland, Scotland, the Orkneys, Norway and Denmark acknowledged his supremacy. Whatever truth there be in this assertion, it is quite certain that he built a powerful navy whereby his name became a terror to the Vikings of the North. In his reign, however, the country was ravaged by a more direful enemy--the Yellow Plague; "whoever witnessed it, became doomed to certain death. Maelgwn himself, through Taliesin's curse, saw the Vad Velen through the keyhole in Rhos church and died in consequence." (Iolo MSS.)

{49b} Arthur's quoit.--The name given to several cromlechau in Wales; there is one so named, near the Bard's home, in the parish of Llanddwywe, "having the print of a large hand, dexterously carved by man or nature, on the side of it, as if sunk in from the weight of holding it." (v. Camb. Register, 1795.)

{54a} In the Pope's favor.--Clement XI. became Pope in 1700, his predecessor being Innocent XII.

{55a} Their hands to the bar.--Referring to the custom (now practically obsolete) whereby a prisoner on his arraignment was required to lift up his hands to the bar for the purpose of identification. Ellis Wynne was evidently quite conversant with the practice of the courts, though there is no proof of his ever having intended to enter the legal profession or taken a degree in law as one author asserts. (v. Llyfryddiaeth y Cymry, sub. tit. Ellis Wynne.)

{67a} "The Practice of Piety."--Its author was Dr. Bayley, Bishop of Bangor; a Welsh translation by Rowland Vaughan, of Caergai, appeared in 1630, "printed at the signe of the Bear, in Saint Paul's Churchyard, London."

{69a} At one time cold.--Cp.:

I come To take you to the other shore across, Into eternal darkness, there to dwell In fierce heat and in ice.

- Dante: Inf. c. III. (Cary's trans.).

{71a} Above the roar.--Cp.:

The stormy blast of Hell With restless fury drives the spirits on: When they arrive before the ruinous sweep There shrieks are heard, there lamentations, moans, And blasphemies.

- Dante: Inf. c. V. (Cary's trans.).

{73a} Amidst eternal ice.--Cp.:

Thither . . . all the damned are brought . . . and feel by turns the bitter change Of fierce extremes, extremes by change more fierce! From beds of raging fire to starve in ice Their soft ethereal warmth, and there to pine Immoveable, infix'd and frozen round Periods of time; thence hurried back to fire.

- Par. Lost, II. 597-603.

{85a} Better to reign.--This speech of Lucifer is very Miltonic; compare especially -

--in my choice To reign is worth ambition, though in hell; Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.

- Par. Lost, I. 261-3.

{85b} Revenge is sweet.--Cp.:

Revenge, at first though sweet Bitter ere long, back on itself recoils.

- Par. Lost, IX. 171-2.

{87a} This enterprize.--Cp.:

--this enterprize None shall partake with me.

- Par. Lost, II. 465.

{95a} Barristers.--The word cyfarthwyr, here rendered "barristers," really means "those who bark," which is probably only a pun of the Bard's on cyfarchwyr--"those who address (the court)."


The Visions of the Sleeping Bard - 20/21

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