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HYMNS OF WALES.
In writing this chapter the task of identifying the tune, and its author, in the case of every hymn, would have required more time and labor than, perhaps, the importance of the facts would justify.
Peculiar interest, however, attaches to Welsh hymns, even apart from the airs which accompany them, and a general idea of Welsh music may be gathered from the tone and metre of the lyrics introduced. More particular information would necessitate printing the music itself.
From the days of the Druids, Wales has been a land of song. From the later but yet ancient time when the people learned the Christian faith, it has had its Christian psalms. The “March of the White Monks of Bangor" (7th century) is an epic of bravery and death celebrating the advance of Christian martyrs to their bloody fate at the hands of the Saxon savages. “Its very rhythm pictures the long procession of white-cowled patriots bearing peaceful banners and in faith taking their way to Chester to stimulate the valor of their country
men." And ever since the “Battle of the Hallelujahs”-near Chirk on the border, nine miles from Wrexham—when the invading Danes were driven from the field in fright by the rush of the Cymric army shouting that mighty cry, every Christian poet in Wales has had a hallelujah in his verse.
Through the centuries, while chased and hunted by their conquerors among the Cambrian hills, but clinging to their independent faith, or even when paralyzed into spiritual apathy under tribute to a foreign church, the heavenly song still murmured in a few true hearts amidst the vain and vicious !ays of carnal mirth. It survived even when people and priest alike seemed utterly degenerate and godless. The voice of Walter Bute (1372) rang true for the religion of Jesus in its purity. Brave John Oldcastle, the martyr, (1417,) clung to the gospel he learned at the foot of the cross. William Wroth, clergyman, saved from fiddling at a drunken dance by a disaster that turned a house of revelry into a house of death, confessed his sins to God and became the “Apostle of South Wales.” The young vicar, Rhys Pritchard (1579) rose from the sunken level of his profession, rescued through an incident less tragic. Accustomed to drink himself to inebriety at a public-house—a socially winked-at indulgence then-he one day took his pet goat with him, and poured liquor down the creature's throat. The refusal of the poor goat to go there again forced the reckless priest to reflect on his own ways. He forsook the ale-house and became a changed man. Among his writings-later than thismis found the following plain, blunt statement of what continued long to be true of Welsh society, as represented in the common use of Sunday time.
Of all the days throughout the rolling year
Such is the Sabbath in most parts of Wales. Meantime some who could read the languageand the better educated (like the author of the above rhymes) knew English as well as Welshhad seen a rescued copy of Wycliff's New Testament, a precious publication seized and burnt (like the bones of its translator) by hostile ecclesiastics, and suppressed for nearly two hundred years. Walter Bute, like Obadiah who hid the hundred prophets, may well be credited with such secret salvage out of the general destruction. And there were doubtless others equally alert for the same quiet service. We can imagine how far the stealthy taste of that priceless book would help to strengthen a better religion than the one doled out professionally to the multitude by a Civil church; and how
it kept the hallelujah alive in silent but constant souls; and in how many cases it awoke a conscience long hypnotized under corrupt custom, and showed a renegade Christian how morally untuned he was.
Daylight came slowly after the morning star, but when the dawn reddened it was in welcome to Pritchard's and Penry's gospel song; and sunrise hastened at the call of Caradoc, and Powell, and Erbury, and Maurice, the holy men who followed them, some with the trumpet of Sinai and some with the harp of Calvary.
Cambria was being prepared for its first great revival of religion.
There was no rich portfolio of Christian hymns such as exists to-day, but surely there were not wanting pious words to the old chants of Bangor and the airs of “Wild Wales.” When time brought Howell Harris and Daniel Rowland, and the great “Reformation” of the eighteenth century, the renowned William Williams, “the Watts of Wales," appeared, and began his tuneful work. The province soon became a land of hymns. The candles lit and left burning here and there by Penry, Maurice, and the Owens, blazed up to beacon-fires through all the twelve counties when Harris, at the head of the mighty movement, carried with him the sacred songs of Williams, kindling more lights everywhere between the Dee and the British Channel.
William Williams of Pantycelyn was born in 1717, at Cefncoed Farm, near Llandovery. Three years younger than Harris, (an Oxford graduate,) and educated only at a village school and an academy at Llwynllwyd, he was the song protagonist of the holy campaign as the other was its champion preacher. From first to last Williams wrote nine hundred and sixteen hymns, some of which are still heard throughout the church militant, and others survive in local use and affection. He died Jan. II, 1791, at Pantycelyn, where he had made his home after his marriage. One of the hymns in his Gloria, his second publication, may well have been his last. It was dear to him above others, and has been dear to devout souls in many lands.
My God, my portion and my love;
My all within the tomb;
Thy bosom is my home. It was fitting that Williams should name the first collection of his hymns (all in his native Welsh) The Hallelujah. Its lyrics are full of adoration for the Redeemer, and thanksgivings for His work.
“ONWARD RIDE IN TRIUMPH, JESUS,"
Marchog, Jesu, yn llwyddiannus, Has been sung in Wales for a century and a half, and is still a favorite.
Onward ride in triumph, Jesus,