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Magazine for 1792, to which he occasionally contributed, leaves little doubt about it. There you may read how some Welsh bards, resident in London, met on Primrose Hill at the autumnal equinox (Saturday, September 22nd) in a circle of stones. They carried a sword with them, which was laid naked on the centre stone; and all the bards present helped to sheathe it. If one carries the enquiry further into Iolo's history and his own writings, it becomes pretty clear what part of the machinery and queer terminology of the Gorsedd were owing to him. We need not for that reason make light of it, for we have in it a sort of Robin Hood proverbial reflection of much scattered folk-lore about the druids and their astronomical circles and the rest, with a genuine enough basis to it. For my part, I feel very grateful to the three Welsh artistic patriots who let their imaginations run away with them on Primrose Hill in the year 1792.
So much for the Gorsedd-a London re-creation of a Glamorgan bardic rite. The Eisteddfod itself has a much surer record at its back. We know of three at least that were held in the twelfth century, two of them at Cardigan Castle, and the last of these by a Prince of Dyved and the south country, Prince Rhys, in 1176. We read of others beginning earlier than that, and ranging on to Elizabeth's days, at Caerwys, in Flintshire; and though there were evil days and blank periods when the poets and harpers were under a cloud, we find the Eisteddfod reviving again before the end of the eighteenth century. It had. no doubt, some queer ups and downs in the nineteenth, and one speaker at its recent meetings spoke of a year when it was held in a tavern, and a glass of home-brewed was the prize-poet's reward.
A very interesting document that has to do with the Caerwys Eisteddfod
of 1568 is given by Sir John Rhys and Sir D. Brynmor Jones in "The Welsh People." From this it seems that a struggle between the true bards and poets and their beggarly imitators was going on at the time. It speaks of the vagrant and idle persons naming themselves "mynstrelles, rithmers and barthes," who are lately grown into an intolerable multitude "within the principalitee." So much so that not only are the gentlemen and others disquieted in their houses by their shameless disorders, but also the expert minstrels are much discouraged "to travail in the exercise and practize of their knowledges." Wherefore, it goes ou
to say, open proclamations are to be made in all fairs, markets, towns, etc., throughout North Wales, giving " year's warning of the Eisteddfod, according to custom. The document mentions the silver harp which was to be the chief prize, now in Lord Mostyn's possession; and in a petition for another Eisteddfod, which does not seem to have come off, we hear not only of a silver harp for harping, but a silver chair for poetry, a silver crowd (a kind of fiddle) for crowthing, and a silver tongue for singing.
From this we see that the "Chairing of the Bard," one of the recognized functions at every National Eisteddfod, is an old Welsh custom with a real history. Some details of the ceremony have been changed; others, like the symbolic business of the sword, have been grafted on to it from the curious ritual of the Gorsedd. It was carried out at the Albert Hall the other day with due state and under the eye of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who himself holds, I believe, a degree or a title from the bardic college. When the stage has been dressed, and the Archdruid and the bards are in place, with the chair for the unknown victor in the foreground, a trumpet is blown,
1st Edition. T. Fisher Unwin, 1900, pp. 518-20.
and the adjudicators are called up to deliver their verdict. This year it was, as I said, the severest critic the "Gorsedd" has had of its claims, Professor J. Morris-Jones, of Bangor University College, who was the chosen spokesman, which says much for its good sense and open-mindedness; and the subject of the poem-“Gwlad y Bryniau" (Land of the Hills). There were twenty-two poems to judge. The best of them proved to be by "Hiraethus," all the competing poets being disguised, for obvious reasons, under a "ffug-enw," or feigned name. When the secret victor's presence in the Eisteddfod is discovered, the heraldbard and another march off and arrest him, a lyric prisoner, and bear him off triumphantly to the platform. The victor in this case was Mr. T. Gwynn Jones, or Carnarvon, one of the younger poets and playwrights, who has won the "Chair" once before and who has undoubtedly a touch of the true spirit, the true "awen," in his writing. Before the new poet is installed the Archdruid calls out three times, the symbolic sword being unsheathed, "A oes Heddwch"-Is it Peace? (a cue which Mr. Lloyd George used afterwards very adroitly when he was attacked by the Suffragists during his brief speech). The multitude then replies, "Heddwch!" (Peace) with a shout that lends an impressive note to the function, and suggests a relic of the day when other and armed interrupters were abroad in the land. Finally, peace being assured, the poet is enthroned; and with the delivery of englyns, or Welsh quatrains, specially composed in his honor, this unique piece of pageantry comes to an end.
You may wonder what the standard of this prize poetry may be, and what is the claim of the poets who win the bardic chair or the crown-another of the recognized prizes to-day-at these
Welsh fêtes? Both have increased very markedly in our own time, and there is less setting of didactic and uninspiring themes, and more feeling for the art as contrasted with the artifice of verse. It must be remembered that Welsh prosody is far more intricate than English, and that in the writing of what are called the "closemeasures," where the verbal reverberations and assonances are definitely prescribed, as well as the stanzaic mould, the writers require a deal of science, beside their play of motherwit and imagination, to make good such poems as the awdl, or ode-elaborate, and the cywydd, or ode-simple. There is a danger, in the extreme complicacy of the metrical machinery, that the pedant should thrive at the expense of the poet; and so it has sometimes proved. But a fresh and healthy breath of lyric poetry has blown over the Welsh Academe latterly, and the winners at this London Eisteddfod count among them three or four poets at least who, I should say, are equal to any three or four of at all similar genre who are writing in English.
Poetry and its special cult, however, are only one of the aims of the Eisteddfod. Music counts popularly for much more in the feast. There indeed is an art which, as Mr. Balfour said when presiding at the first day's meeting, is not subject to "the tragedy of art" by which the true accent in literature and poetry of any one language is shut off from any other. It is an art, needless to say, that is a national passion with the Welsh people. The battles of the choirs, the battle especially in "Y Brif Gystadleuaeth Gorawl" (a title which reads meanly enough in English the "Chief Choral Competition," the last being a word to suggest economics and melancholy), and the lesser struggles of the singing men and women. are things that must be witnessed and heard to be appreciated. This year
the revival of the interest in Welsh folk-song, thanks to the stimulus of the new Welsh Folk-Song Society, added a store of fresh lyric moments to the programme. And the Pennillion-singing to the harp, a deliciously simple fireside art, which calls at its best for the tuneful wit of an improvisator, and which has been threatened of late by the tyrannous piano, certainly appeared in better sort than for some time before. This was the verdict of Eos Dar, who was the adjudicator, and who is the most masterly Penillion-singer I have ever had the fortune to hear. There is no fear of the Welsh harp falling out of favor while he can stir the oak-leaves (his name, "Eos Dar," means Nightingale of the Oaks).
The complaint has often been made of late years that Welsh singing as a fine art does not advance, and that its choirs do not hold their own with their English rivals. But to my prejudiced ear there is always a particular emotional quality in Welsh singing at its best which is a thing apart, and which I would walk miles to hear. The musical men and adjudicators who choose the music and decide the prizes at the National Eisteddfod have seemed latThe Contemporary Review.
terly to discount this emotional warmth and color. It is not refined, according to the ordinary concert-room standard. Neither is Pennillion-singing refined, judged by the art of the drawingroom. But the qualities I mean are born of true Welsh characteristics, and these are the things an Eisteddfod lives to maintain.
A word should be said about the development of the elements in the literary side of the festival, which have helped to make it an itinerant university of the people. The London programme offered serious prizes in history and folk-lore, in the prose essay, in romance, in the drama too, most of which were worked hard for, and the results of which in some cases at least will prove, I believe, to be solid, regenerative and lasting. They all speak to the refrain which Mr. Lloyd George phrased as a "nation going forwardyes, a nation going forward." But he was wise in saying the Eisteddfod should not often come to London: "It would be too much like an eagle in the Zoological Gardens." Yes, even Eos Dar, nightingale of the oaks, might lose his music at last in the oaks of Kensington.
Sheba came back from the hospital an hour later, and encountered Stephen at the end of the lane. After his parting with Kitty, the remembrance of Sheba and his obligations towards her had returned to him, and he was the more resolved to fulfil these last named to the letter, because of an underlying sense of remorse.
LIVING AGE. VOL. XLIV. 2306
"I was just going to meet you," he said; "I thought it would be about your time for coming home."
"I don't know that I ought to go to your place," returned Sheba, in a dull voice. "I think I must ha' been mad to think you and me could ever get married. There, I scarce know how to tell you. I feel so wicked! I did ought to be cryin' for joy, and here
I be nigh cryin' for grief. The folks at the hospital think father 'ull very like get well, Stephen."
"Oh, and do they?" said Stephen, blankly. It was a little difficult to adjust his ideas to a prospect so utterly unlooked-for, and so completely undesirable. So the old reprobate was going to cheat death! Many a good man would have been laid low by half the injuries he had received, yet here was Richard Baverstock recovering, to resume his former life no doubt, to be a drag upon his daughter for an indefinite number of years, and a discredit to all who were connected with her.
Though Sheba did not look at him, she guessed what was passing in his mind.
"Ye needn't say anything," she murmured, presently. "I know, without your tellin' me. And, anyhow, I wouldn't be your wife now, not if ye was to beg me on your knees. I'll not disgrace any man by marryin' him while father's alive."
"Nay, now," said Stephen, "don't be in such a hurry my maid. You've given me your word, and you can't go back on it. I'll take care of your father. He shan't want for anything as long as he lives."
Sheba glanced up at him with a sudden softness in her dark eyes:
"It's terr'ble good o' ye, Stephen, and I'll never forget it, but ye'll not make me change my mind. Father and me must shift for ourselves so long as he be livin'. The doctors bain't sure how long that may be they bain't even sure whether he will get over this, but they say there's a chance. Oh, Stephen, isn't it awful wicked of me not to be glad there's a chance? My own father?"
"My dear," said Stephen, "he hasn't been much of a father to you-there's no use pretending. And I'm not going 'to give you up, so don't think it. What's settled is settled."
He spoke very gravely, and looking straight before him; and drew a long breath after the last words.
"No need to make plans yet," he went on, after a pause. "We must see what's best to do when your father comes out of the hospital. But come in now, and have a cup of tea and · rest a bit-you look very tired."
She glanced up at him hesitating. "There's one thing I'd like to ax ye," she said, falteringly. "There! I've been a-thinkin' of it all the way along. It bain't late yet-not so very. If ye didn't mind, Stephen, you and me mid go up-along to the Lovers' Walk yonder just for a little bit. I'm not so very tired. It 'ud rest me."
Probably no request could have been more unwelcome to Stephen; he stood gazing at the girl with a perplexed expression.
"I know you must think it terr'ble foolish of me," she went on, hastily; "it's just a fancy-but I would like it."
"I don't understand-why," returned he. His voice was harsh, but she was so intent on her own thoughts that she did not perceive it.
"Ye haven't forgot," she said, "how you and me used to play there long ago? When we did use to play at being sweethearts, we did always go a-courtin' in the Lovers' Walk. Now we be real sweethearts-but God knows how long it will last! I'd like to go up there wi' you this once, just to find it had all come true, what we did pretend, and what I have so often-"
She broke off quickly, her natural reticence reasserting itself, and forbidding her to finish the phrase. "Longed for," had been the words which had risen to her lips. Stephen pulled himself together. The Lovers' Walk had hateful associations for him, but that was no reason why he should balk the girl to whom he was pledged of her very natural desire.
"Come," he said, "we'll step up there then, and try to fancy we are children again."
"Not children," murmured she, and, though she spoke softly, that wonderful new tone which had of late come into her voice made itself heard.
"Not children, Stephen! No, no, we be man and woman! I be thinkin' o' now-now! Oh! how I wish it could always be now, wi' no looking forrard, no fear of anythin' comin' between us!"
He drew her hand through his arm without speaking, but with great tenderness. Nevertheless, as they rounded the corner of the lane and passed the Little Farm, he averted his face, dreading to see Kitty's form, or hear Kitty's voice.
Though he was silent, and preserved an outward appearance of composure, a turmoil was raging within him. He was cursing himself for a coward. Reproaching himself, even, with treachery towards the trusting creature by his side. Why should the turn of Kitty's head, the tone of her voice, have haunted him all day, when it was Sheba's head which was so near his own, Sheba's voice which but now had assumed a tenderness that should have thrilled his heart?
They did not speak to each other as they mounted the rough track between the hedges which led to the wood, but as they followed in that the custom of rustic lovers, the silence did not strike Sheba as peculiar. Her face, indeed, wore an expression of such bliss that Stephen's heart smote him when he glanced at it.
Here was their goal at last, the Lovers' Walk, the lovers' hour, sunset; and here they were, they two, man and woman, as Sheba had said, full of youth, and health and vigor-yet only one heart sang to itself the lovers' pæan of joy.
The wood was very still, with that
intense stillness which comes only in midsummer and in midwinter. On either side of the path the trees were scattered, and it seemed a very hall of light, every motionless leaf a little point of fire, every tree-trunk a pillar of pale or ruddy flame as birch or beech alternated with sturdy fir. As the couple advanced, they snapped lush stalks of bluebells, the sweet scent of which weighted the air about them; other flowers in the place, raggedrobins and orchises, made little glowing filters for the sun's rays. Further on, all was mystery, gentle twilight, with here and there a sombré shape looming forth.
"Stephen," said Sheba, "I'm going to have my way for once. Who knows what may happen to-morrow? what I do keep a-sayin' to myself. But we be here now, you an' me, an' I be a-goin' to have a proper lovers' walk. You'll not think me bold-faced, will ye?"
He looked down at the face which was upturned to his, upturned a very little way, for Sheba was a tall woman, and saw that it was glowing with feeling, wistfully tender, expectant. With an effort he concentrated his whole thought upon her.
"A proper lovers' walk?" he said. "Yes sure, Sheba, love."
He put his arm round her waist and kissed her; and Sheba, with that innocent trustful ardor of hers, clasped both her hands about his neck and kissed him back. But as she loosed him again she uttered an exclamation, and withdrew quickly from his embrace; her face was startled, angry. Stephen, turning, glanced in the same direction, and there, just emerging from one of the more secret recesses of the wood, stood Kitty Leslie. She was gazing at them with an expression of shocked, horrified amazement, such as Stephen had never seen on her face.