'A Short Account of the Ancient British Bards'
(NLW 13097B, pp.239-76)
An Account of the British Bards and the Bardic or Druidic Mythology, and Theology.
Go to page:The genuine succession of the Ancient British Bards is not yet quite extinct in Wales, but nearly so. They maintain that their institution originated in Britain, and tho' it was imitated by other nations, as the Gauls, Irish, and others, yet it was not adopted by them in its primitive simplicity and purity, but that they blended with it their own absurd customs and superstitions, by which means it soon degenerated from its primitive excellence, and the Bards deemed it the most excellent institution that ever appeared in the world.
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The Bards were divided into five orders or classes. The first and highest was Prif-feirdd Ynys Prydain, Chief Bards of Britain or National Chief Bards. Of this order there were only three.
Secondly, Prif-Feirdd Gwlad a Chyfoeth, Chief Bards of Provinces or Provincial Bards. Of this Order there were twenty four.
Thirdly, Derwyddon or Drywiaid, Druids. The word signifies very wise men or the most learned. Of these there was an unlimited number. These had, with respect to learning, attained to the highest degree, and the national and provincial Chief Bards had only an official superiority over them. They are also called Beirdd Braint. (240)
Fourthly, in regular order, Bardd Trwydded or Trwyddedog, otherwise Trwyddedog Braint. i.e. the Bard under Discipline, or the Graduated Discipline. This was one that had with approbation passed thro' the first stage of discipline or probation.
The fifth was the Ofydd, an honorary degree, where one was admitted immediately to the order of Graduated Disciple, without the long delay of the probationary discipline, on the score of superior merit, and learning. To be admitted of this order, it was required that he should possess all the theoretic knowledge of the Druid, and even more in some cases, as a knowledge of the fifteen secondary metres or auxiliary metres. Whereas it [was] not necessary for the Druid to know any more than the nine primary metres, which, for their simplicity, were esteemed the best, and all that was necessary. It was necessary for the Ofydd also to be skilled in music and, some say, in writing. This was the most learned order in general, but, under this title, they ranked with the Beirdd Trwydded, and when they attained to the Druidic order, the title of Ofydd was no longer used.
There was another order of disciples which were not allowed the appellation of Bard. He was called Trwyddedog Nawdd. The Probationary Disciple or Disciple in tutelage. He was to undergo a severe discipline, deduced fundamentally from their great maxim of suffering with fortitude and cheerfulness. It was chiefly in this stage of discipline that he was to be instructed in all the theoretic knowledge of the Bards, as the rudiments of the language, rules of versification, maxims of poetry, and whatever else was deemed necessary to the accomplishment of a Bard. But this knowledge, tho' necessary, was not of itself sufficient, tho' attained to in the highest degree. The grand discipline (241) required a long time to go thro' it, tho' not under any particular limitation, it was to be a full proof of the goodness of his heart and the soundness of his intellects. Yet he knew not in what the severe trials he was to undergo consisted. General lessons of virtue and wisdom were given at the public meetings, but no application of them made to any one; the disciple was himself to do this, and his tutors in the meantime narrowly watched his conduct in life, scrutinized the powers of his understanding, the affections of his soul, observed the bent of his genius, and, it may be said, sifted every atom of his head and heart, of his body and soul. But he was not to know anything of this watchfulness over him. He never knew when, where, or on what occasion, those experiments were made on him. The eye of observation was over him in his most unguarded moments, in the most minute particulars of his conduct, when he least of all suspected it, or was aware of it. Instruction was, as by accident thrown in his way, temptations set before his eyes, hard tasks of suffering imposed on him. He was in every thing to be brought to a rigorous test, when at the same time he knew no more than that it was absolutely necessary for him to be, in good earnest, a good and virtuous man; to subdue and rectify his passions, to cultivate his understanding, and to suffer, with a willing fortitude, every thing painful, to body and mind, that befell him. He was often required to compose verses (write verses I must not say, for they allowed of no writing on those occasions), the subject never, or very seldom, given him, for in this his wisdom and virtue were to be tried. He was to learn orally a great number of didactic verses and maxims, which were often subjects of orations or discourses which he was to deliver, according to orders from any graduated Bard, and whether his verses or discourses were approved or disapproved of, he was seldom told for what reason. He was left to exercise his understanding in the discovery of it. At a proper time a Druid declared at a public meeting he could be admitted a Bard but never said for what reason. This first course of discipline was often continued for many years, and the disciple often rejected at last, by being publickly told that he could not be admitted. (242)
This simple declaration of admission publickly made by the Druid, constituted him a Bard of the lowest order or Bardd Trwydded, or Trwyddedog Braint, disciples were frequently examined by their superiors, were ordered to expound mystical verses, to hold colloquial discourses, in which they [were] strictly to avoid contention, and only merely to deliver opinions with their reasons for holding them in a cool dispassionate manner. They also held declamatory discourses, the sole intent of which was to impress maxims of wisdom and morality, and particularly the love of virtue and goodness, the necessity of suffering with fortitude &c.
When a disciple was examined, great care was taken that it should not be in the same manner, or with regard to the same particulars that another was examined before, that he might not be able from that to adduce any rule or theory of acting, thinking, reasoning &c. He had nothing to depend upon, but his own real, not affected, virtue and wisdom. He was never examined by his own tutors, not even by the Bards of his own province, but by those of another that were strangers to him.
When he had passed in both courses of discipline, thro' a very long and severe probation, and had, rather acquired experimentally from long habit, than been taught wisdom and virtue, he was, at last, after perhaps twenty years had probated him, admitted a Bard of the Druid order. And, as they expressed themselves, his soul delivered up to his own care and to the protection of God, and now initiated into all their mysteries, which were nothing but their modes of probating their disciples, and of retaining their traditions unaltered in continual perpetuation. He was strictly enjoined to avoid theory and system in discipline, as the bane of all wisdom and virtue, being nothing but the art of deceiving. (243)
He was exhorted to study the human heart by closely observing the operations and effects of the passions, on all occasions and in all possible circumstances. To observe nature as it presented itself to the senses, and to the eye of the understanding, and not as it might be represented in systems and theories drawn up by art and interest. He was reminded that the Bardic wisdom and virtue consisted in real goodness, in actual acquisitions of the head and heart that had, with fortitude, overcome all difficulties in the pursuit of it, and not in unexperimental system and empty formality which were the subterfuges of sordid self-interest, and fearful sensuality, that always invariably perverted the maxims of truth, wisdom and virtue to the most detestable purposes of villainy and evil-mindedness.
The great mystery of Bardism consisted in this very singular mode of discipline imposed on their pupils. They kept it as much a mystery as possible, and would not suffer the particulars of it to be committed to writing, not even to song or oral information; and by this means it was impossible to reduce it into a regular system. It was not confined to scientific regulations, for this it was believed would totally frustrate the intent and effect of it. Theoretic wisdom and morality was in their opinion the detestable art of hypocrisy, of skilfully imposing on the world what could be easily acquired, and when acquired, would instead of reforming infallibly, corrupt the heart and only teach a man to deceive, to affect to be what he was not in reality; to be a most detestable wretch and villain, everything that was bad, tho' exhibiting the specious appearances of all that was good and laudable. (244)
The Bards admitted into their order generally by election, tho', it is said that one of the Druid order could admit a Graduated Disciple, one of either of the orders admitted a Probationary Disciple. The form was for the Bard of either of the graduated orders, at a public meeting to name him to be so admitted, as a probationary disciple. None could object, it was only necessary that all should know it.
The Graduated Disciple, it is said, could be admitted by a Druid, but this was, in the opinion of many, a thing done of necessity rather than the regular mode, which was by election. In this case his degree was not confirmed to him til he had been publickly announced at a meeting.
The Ofydd, being an honorary degree, was without any delay admitted by one Druid, or might be elected by the Graduated Disciples, for in graduation he ranked with them. Persons of such avocations as could not be attained to without an implied probationary discipline, as a Clergyman, a Judge &c were allowed to claim this degree, but they were not confirmed in it before they had been publickly named as such at a meeting or convention of Bards.
The Druids elected into their own order, from amongst those of the Graduated Disciples, including the Ofyddion, that had passed their second course of discipline with greatest applause. Tho' the learning of the Ofydd entitled him to immediate admission into the order of Graduated Discipline, yet it was no manner of recommendation to him for the Druidic order, it (245) was impossible to be admitted into that, but by undergoing a long probationary discipline; as they were deemed the great guardians and preservators of religion, virtue, and wisdom, and all possible proofs of these qualifications were required before any one could be admitted a Druid.
The national and provincial Chief Bards were elected by the Druids from amongst themselves. The peculiar privileges of those were that they could within their own juristiction whether national or provincial assemble all or as many as necessary of the Bards of all orders immediately and without delay on great emergencies. In their own names as Prif-feirdd Ynys Prydain or Gwlad a Chyfoeth, Chief national or provincial Bards, to deliberate on whatever might be necessary.
The Druid could, on giving proper notice, assemble the Bards. He held his Gorsedd, Sessions or Congress, in his own name, in the privilege of the Bards of Britain, ym mraint Beirdd Ynys Prydain. He always termed himself Bardd wrth fraint a Defod Beirdd Ynys Prydain, Bard according to the privileges and customs of the British Bards. His Sessions, so held, was of equal authority with that of the chief Bard, otherwise not til after the expiration of a year and a day.
The congress, sessions, or meetings of the Bards were always held in the open air, in a conspicuous place, and in the eye of light and face of day, as they termed it, whilst the sun was up. The regular times were the equinoxes and solstices for their high meetings, the new and full moons for their subordinate assemblies, every quarter day for instructing their pupils and hearers; some say Sundays, possibly it might be so after they became Christians. (246)
It was necessary that there should be three, at least, to constitute an election. All were admitted into the druidic order by election, and it was esteemed the most regular way for them to admit in inferior degrees in the same. Tho' it was common for a single Druid to admit in those orders, and confirm his admission by annunciation at the next high meeting. The national and provincial Bards never elected themselves, none but the druids could do it. Two Druids could not elect into their own order, yet each could individually admit into inferior orders, and these could in this case elect from amongst themselves a Druid to supply the deficiency. One Druid could admit from lower orders into his own, but no more than two to supply the deficiency. The law of necessity taking place, three Druids could proceed regularly. When there were no Druids, the Graduated Disciples could elect three from amongst themselves to supply the deficiency, and admit also into their own order as many as were necessary to produce regularity, but no more. So that by these regulations, the order became not extinct as long as only one Graduated Disciple remained, who was allowed in that case to assume the degree of Druid, but no higher order, no more was necessary.
The appellation of Bards was common to all the five orders: all were Bards. They have in all ages made a remarkable claim, that is to a right of exercising the ministerial functions, and to be considered as a kind of priesthood. They were anciently, at least the Druidic order, the ancient priests of Britain, and their tradition says that they continued in possession of the priesthood for many ages after Christianity was introduced, and were not deprived of it til the Pope, to whom they were never friendly, imposed his clergy on Britain. So says their tradition. If Bardism was at the time of the first introduction of Christianity what it appears (247) to have actually been not long after, viz in the days of Taliesin, I see no reason why they should not continue the ministers of the religion of Christ, so congenial to their own, which is truly Patriarchal. The Bards affirm that their theology and mythology was ever, and still continues the same unaltered. If this is true they must have been the best qualified of any, for many ages, to officiate as ministers of the Gospel, which was only a confirmation, in almost every particular, of their own religion. Their principles have always been very pacific, and the fortitude which they almost adored was the true Christian fortitude. They considered themselves as the ministers of peace, not of discord and contention. They placed all merit in suffering, and all depravity and demerit in sensuality, indulgence, and selfishness. To this day they allow the degree of Ofydd of right to Gospel ministers of all sects.
The election or admission of a Druid was confirmed by its being publickly announced at the next general high meeting. So was that of Graduated Disciples and Ofyddion. It was often in another manner, viz to proclaim a congress of Bards at a certain time an place, to be held in his name where certain persons named, newly admitted undergraduates were to attend him, and to be assisted by such persons as were thus admitted to the honorary degree of Ofydd. This was termed rhoi gorsedd iddo, to give him presidency, or rhoi cadair iddo, of the same import.
The Bard professedly dedicated his life to the love of good, and to suffering with willingness and fortitude for its sake. And it was not consistent with those principles for him to make his profession of a thing of self-interest, as that superseded the idea of suffering, the grand characteristic of Bardism. (248)
The necessary qualifications of a Bard were unimpeached morality, fortitude in suffering, clear conceptions of truth, a sound understanding, skill in the language, in the laws of verse, maxims of poetry, laws of the land, principles of religion, a poetical genius, to be able to compose verses in the nine primary metres, which were all that were deemed absolutely necessary, as was observed before, for a Druid, being the most proper for didactic verse.
No Bard was allowed to bear arms. He was deemed the minister of peace and the victim of suffering, and wherever he appeared in his unicoloured robe (which for the Druidic order was white emblematic of truth) he was safe, his person deemed sacred, and it was unlawful for any one to take a weapon in his hand or to suffer one to be unsheathed or naked in his presence. He was called Trwyddedog Byd, i.e. Free of, or privileged, thro' the world.
The Bard's robe was unicoloured, emblematic of truth; the colour most peculiarly so, was white, the colour of light, and truth is light. It is impossible that it should not be seen, and carries in itself its own visible evidence and cannot be mistaken for darkness; admits of, and needs no evidence but itself. The white robe was peculiar to the Druidic order. Green in colour, emblematic of learning, was the colour of the Ofydd's robe, and sky blue, the emblem of peace (colour of the serene skies), was that of the Graduated Disciple. Unity of colour, whatever it might be, was deemed emblematic of truth, which is in every thing simply one and the same thing. These robes were worn only when the Bards appeared in their professional character. At all other times they might wear what they pleased. It was however not deemed essentially necessary on any occasion whatever but when they called for truces in war, as it was (249) by this only that they could immediately be known at sight, when all parties lay down their arms. The Bards bore a staff of the colour of the robe they wore. A staff of the colour of his order was usually put into the hand of a Bard on admission, tho' this was no necessary ceremony.
The Bard was not to side with any party in religion, politics, or anything else. As the minister of peace he was to be independent of all, indifferent to all, and in peace and amity with all. Whenever he might be asked of what party, religion, nation, country &c, or what his business was, employments, trusts, negotiations &c, he was to answer only "I am a Bard." After this it was not deemed proper for any one to put any further questions to him.
The Bards were entrusted with the secrets of Government, employed in embassies, and as arbitrators between contending parties. On such occasions they were to appear in their Bardic robes, that they might be known at sight and, of consequence, be safe. If a Bard divulged a secret with which he was entrusted it was certain Death, and the Carn.
No oaths were ever required of a Bard, as they were supposed to be arrived to such a pitch of wisdom and virtue that an oath was not necessary, and they were never admitted to the higher orders, or initiated into their mysteries till they were evidently so far advanced in wisdom and virtue as to be above the necessity of oaths. It was a peculiar privilege of a Bard that, Gair ei air ef ar bawb, his word was admitted before that of any other man whatever. (250)
Tho' a poetical genius was, in general, deemed a necessary qualification in a Bard, yet it was not indispensably so, for the term Bard does not necessarily imply a poet. Its litteral meaning is, a chief, a leader, a preceptor, a dignified person &c from bar, a head, a top, or summit. It is possible for one to be a very good poet (prydydd) or at least a very good versifier when, at the same time, he might be the most detestable villain living. A man that was no poet, if he possessed, in an eminent degree, all other qualifications might be admitted a Bard of any order on undergoing the discipline.
The Bards deem poetry the noblest of all arts and sciences, because it is a certain oral method of communicating knowledge and memorials of events, to distant places and times, without the aid of any other art whatever, and that the most useful manner in general of instructing mankind is that which can with the greatest facility reach all sorts of people independent of all mechanical aid in a certain manner. Verse is such a method of arranging words and ideas, that they admit not of a change of order or any kind of alteration, without loss of sense and versification. A word misplaced will so affect the sound and sense as instantly to discover itself. Besides, a person absolutely illiterate may in a few days learn a song or poem, and afterwards remember it for life and learn it to others; whereas he could neither learn himself, or teach others, to read without a long application, generally of many years, and a prose oral discourse could never or very seldom be retained by the memory. But song is easily retained and remembered, by even the most ignorant; and in it may be taught the principles of truth, morality, (251) science, the memorials of events, and so conveyed to the most distant parts of the world, and to the remotest futurity, and that by the most illiterate. And it was in song that the doctrines of truth, the elements of science, and memorials of occurrences were preserved when, and before, the world was acquainted with any other mode of conveying instruction; before letters were known, and still where they are now unknown, it is the most expeditious way of widely diffusing knowledge amongst mankind.
It was an unpardonable crime in a Bard to admit falsehood into his verses. So sacred was truth held, that the least fiction or immorality was enough to ruin the character and fortune of a Bard. He was, for the most minute deviation from truth, to be publickly degraded at a congress by ordering a sword to be unsheathed and blood drawn from his forehead and breast, and he could never afterwards be readmitted but was shunned by all as if he had the pestilence.
Music was deemed useful, especially vocal music, as tunes added to verses rendered them easier to be remembered and more pleasant; consequently would, in general, be learned with more avidity.
Whatever opinions might formerly have been entertained of the oa[k], mistletoe &c, all that Bardic tradition says of it is that the oak is the emblem of fortitude; the mistletoe, an evergreen, flourishing most in the severest winter, of knowledge; sprung from the perseverance of fortitude, its bright white fruit of truth, the fruit of knowledge, its viscidity of the nature of truth, adhering close to the mind that comes in contact with it.
The Bards, in general, have always entertained a strong prejudice against letters, and say that, by reducing wisdom and virtue to theory, they have done more harm than good, by enabling men to be hypocrites. Yet as the use of them has obtained they deem it (252) not improper to commit anything to writing, but the mysteries of the discipline, which, once understood by the disciple would render it ineffectual and frustrate its intentions. But religion, history, verses, and other sciences may be committed to writing; so may the general institutes of the Bards, as far as discipline is not materially concerned.
Those of the genuine succession of the ancient Welsh Bards have in all ages considered themselves a priesthood, and claim a right of exercising its functions. This, claim they, probably derived from the ancient Druidic Bards, who were the priests of Ancient Britain, and probably continued to be the ministers of religion after they became Christians. If Bardism (Barddas) was always the same as it appears to have been in the Middle Ages and down to the present time, it was so truly Patriarchal, that its professors could not object to Christianity, which assimilated so well with their own, as to appear nothing but a true exemplification of it. The fundamental principles of both religions are strictly the same, at least with regard to practice, and the metaphysical maxims of each, when duly considered, are not very different.
The Bards that entertain those opinions do it not to the prejudice of Christianity which they deem a very valuable accession of divine knowledge, and a noble exemplification of their ancient religion in the person and doctrines of Jesus Christ, and his apostles and martyrs. (253)
The Bards held religious and philosophical opinions that were singular, and it was their opinion that all knowledge was of supernal origin, communicated to such men as had from a love of good and aversion to evil attained to such a pitch of holiness as to partake, in intellectual virtue, of the nature of superior orders of beings, and, by that means, of having communications and intercourse with them in dreams, mental ecstasies, sudden occurrences of knowledge, darting on the mind. When, at the same time, the thought was not on the search for such knowledge, by such means, they said, God, and, influenced by him, heavenly beings, enlightened the soul of man so as to enable him to perceive the origin of things and the principles of wisdom and virtue. Their principal maxims were as follows.
God dwells in the centre of the brightest light, sees, feels and hears all things, is positive or absolute life which is nothing but a total privation of evil. That life in its nature is active and good in every thing that can be conceived, but in evil which in its positive nature is positive and absolute death, consequently cannot be active.
Evil is the privation of intellect and agency, for evil being positive privation of life could not be possessed of any of the properties of life. The properties (254) of life are intellect and agency, which could never be produced out of an absolute privation of them. And life and intellect could never begin, for if they had a beginning, there must have been a time when they were not prior to such a beginning, which cannot possibly have been ever, because, before such a beginning there was nothing existing that could have produced them. Therefore these properties of life, necessarily implying life itself, must either never have existed at all or existed from eternity; limited by nothing but something that in its nature contained necessarily the absolute privation of life and intellect which is positive evil, and must exist in the vast infinitude of time and space somewhere and some time. Thus positive good, which is positive life, occupies the highest point of existence, and positive evil and death, the opposite extreme, the lowest point of existence. Both being positive, one could not possibly partake of the property of the other of necessity. It was not possible for positive good to assume or take to itself any portion of evil in the least imaginable degree. Nor was it possible that it should not from its necessary nature, be disposed to extend its benefits to that which was deprived of them. Consequently the first agency of good occurred on the evil by beginning to convert it from its original evil nature, thus a beginning took place which, necessarily implying an end, must in its nature have a middle for two ends, or extremes cannot exist without a middle. Of course, graduation is a necessary property and consequence of creation. Thus the first beings originated at the lowest point of existence, from whence, in a regular progression, the necessary benevolence of positive good is always advancing it towards the highest point of existence that created beings can possibly attain to. Thus all created beings pass thro' all possible modes of existence before (255) they can pass, in the course of justice, arrive at the highest point of created existence.
Unlimited goodness, possessing in its positive life an infinitude of power acting with impartial justice on the whole aggregate of evil, imparted to the whole of it such equal portions of life as produced the lowest degree of intellectual existence, and brought into its being at one and the same instant the whole number of animated beings that possibility admitted of. Thus springing into life out of positive death in the lowest point of existence (annwn), they began their progress towards God and goodness, drawn by the principle of life, of which they partook, which naturally and necessarily tended to its original source. Possessed of liberty, the essential property of life, in exact proportion to the degree or portion of life that actuated it, but in this state the principle of evil, being far greater in its proportion, prevailed over the good to such a degree that those beings were naturally and necessarily very weak, very unintelligent, and very malevolent. Hence, of course, they were necessarily at enmity with good (Annynad), and so little of love did they feel, even to themselves, that they were perpetually wearing each other out, actuated by the continual principle of destruction (Cythraul) that their periods of existence soon terminated in destruction, in loss of modification (diwedd) the principle of life, disengaged from evil, connected in a different manner with body or evil so as to acquire an additional agency and an accession of intellect, but the discordancy occasioned by (256) the evil principle (Andras) produced a speedy end to this period of existence. But God the life, still acting with the benevolent intention of converting evil into good ordained those individualized beings to pass in a regular progression for period to period always improving with the benevolent intent of bringing them finally into the utmost point of perfection and happiness that finite beings were susceptible of. The principle of life, still increasing with every progressive mode of existence from which obtaining liberation (angau), they in every new state successively advanced nearer nad nearer towards good, participating more and more of life they arrive at last at the state of humanity.
In every state below humanity, evil preponderates so that all beings in those several states have necessarily more evil than good in their natures. Malignancy prevails in their nature and they are, according to the state they are in, more or less at enmity with good, continually attempting to subvert it. God resists them, out of benevolence towards them, to prevent their increase in evil, but does not punish them, as they are of necessity malignant, more prone in their several degrees to evil than to good, not having power and liberty to be otherwise. For that reason it would be unjust to punish them for what they cannot avoid doing, as evil preponderates in their nature. and this is the case with every mode of existence below the state of humanity. And they must arrive at a state of liberty before they can obey any law, or justly be punished for disobedience. A probationary state must be a state of liberty. (257)
God loves all beings, even those of the lowest existence whose natures partake the most of all of evil; are the most malignant and at enmity with good and, tho' he, from motives of benevolence towards them, resists them, yet he never punishes them, and only resists them to conquer the evil gradually that prevails in their nature, which cannot be done but in gradual order, as finite beings admit of nothing positive or absolute, but only of the highest or lowest gradation of good or evil, and of necessity of various middle or intermediate gradations, and one gradation implies all others of necessity. God will bring thro' all these gradations till they arrive at the highest point of good that created beings are capable of, from whence they cannot possibly recede, for good is so prevalent in their nature that they have necessarily the utmost abhorrence of evil and the most exalted love towards God and goodness. Beings below the state of humanity naturally hate God and all goodness necessarily from the prevalence of evil in their nature, and would, if they could, dethrone him and destroy him and usurp his power. But they cannot hurt God or any being superior to themselves in goodness it is impossible for a being in whose nature good prevails to wish to attain to the throne of God by dethroning him or usurping his power as it would for a man to wish to destroy the sun and his own eyes that supply him with light, or to be entirely that sun and eyes and nothing else or to be the spring that supplies them with water, or the fire that warms them instead of being what they are. And it is impossible for any one to wish to be the object beloved instead of being the lover. (258)
God, from motives of benevolence acting on evil and death converting it to good and life, even to his own nature as far as is possible for limited intellect to partake of his nature, has given existence, life and intellect to what was before an absolute privation of all this good, and the beginning being that state of existence where every thing is in its nature and of necessity the most minute in every thing, must of course be the lowest point of existence, fom whence God is bringing towards good and life all beings necessarily originating there, thro' gradually improving modes of existence in a continual progression, from death towards life from weakness to strength, from misery to hapinness, from malignancy to benevolence, til they arrive at the state of liberty where they are to be probated, and to be rewarded or punished as their deserts require.
Life is the father and death the mother of all beings. Life impregnating death by imparting a portion of itself to it, gave existence eto all beings. God if life and evil is death.
Whatever degree of good a being may in any higher mode of existence be possessed of, he must have possessed it in a lower degree, and in another lower than that till the gradation ends in the lowest. Of course all finite beings originate in the lowest mode of existence, for all gradation implies two positive degrees, first and last, with relative or intermediate degrees. (259) If God had given existence to beings originally in the highest point of existence, and suffered them to fall from thence, that would have proved him either malevolent, impotent, or ignorant, which can never be. Or, if they had never fallen from this point of goodness and life, what we experience of evil and death could never have occurred in the nature of things.
Beings in their progress from the lowest to the highest point of finite existence must necessarily arrive at a point where good and evil are equally balanced. In such a state, liberty takes place of necessity, for good and evil being equally ponderate, there of course can be no bias on the nature of such a mode of existence to one side or the other, to good or to evil. In a state of liberty beings (Bywydolion) have a power of choosing, of making experiments on one and the other, good and evil, of obeying or disobeying laws, of comparing the sensations derived from life or intellectual things with those derived from Death or unanimated things. From this power of comparison, free love is derived or love of an object for its excellence, as meriting the love of all that beholds it. After a proper comparison of it with its oposite, in this estate of liberty the intellect exerts itself in examining, comparing, probating, judging, and determining, and the natural consequence is love or hatred, approbation or disapprobation. Man in such a state is neither good or bad of necessity, but free to be one or the other as, after proper information, (260) instruction, injuction, or experience, appears best to him after proper comparisons of one with the other, no other state of existence but such as this could possibly be a state of probation. Laws can be of no effect where there is no possibility of obedience, where a being, impelled by an overruling necessity derived from a preponderation of evil, cannot possibly obey; where in such circumstances the intellect is not free. so that such a state cannot, consistent with justice, be a state of probation, and free love cannot exist but where it is equally divided between, or rather independent of, good or evil, life or death. Man in such a state is a subject of laws, and an object of rewards or punishments. Love, tho' incidental in various degrees to all states of animated existences, is not free but in a state of liberty. For these reasons laws are given and knowledge communicated to man, otherwise no probation could take place, the pleas of impulse and unrestrained liberty must have been allowed. No transgression could have been imputed, nor any merit or demerit whatever.
Free love of good, evinced by suffering, is the only real and positive merit. All beings necessarily love their own nature and likeness, but this is necessary love, and not of free choice. The vilest being loves itself, its own nature, and the proportionate degree of evil that is incidental to its own state of existence. That kind of love, that arises from concurrent enjoyment of coincidental things, is not free but impelled, and a necessary consequence of concurring incidents, so it can have no merit, for all are necessarily prone to enjoyment, and a sense of present happiness. Hence suffering is the only thing that can possibly evince the freedom and willingness of the love of good, as the lover is not actuated by present conincidental enjoyment, (261) and as suffering is the only thing that can evince free love, so fortitude is the only thing that can evince free suffering, and hence fortitude is the only visible virtue, and free suffering is meritorious, tho' a man may be mistaken in his object for which he suffers. No one suffers for what is evil unattended with concurrent pleasure adequate to the suffering, knowing it to be evil, for all free suffering is necessarily out of love to what is understood to be good.
Man by avoiding sufferings adheres to what yields immediate enjoyment, and falls under temptations that must necessarily be incidental to probation, if there were no temptations on one hand, as well as dehortations on the other, there could be no probation. We can not be said to avoid what we never meet with, or to combat an evil which never confronts us. Thus by giving way to desires (pechod) we naturally attach our intellects to things utterly devoid of intellect, as wealth, any kind of sensuality, empty objects of mere imagination &c are. By so doing, attach ourselves to evil and death, and so become so connected with evil, attain to such accession of it as turns the balance against good, and we become necessarily evil; for evil preponderates and we then lose our liberty, and act from unavoidable impulse. Thus connected with evil, we pass in death in such a state inferior to humanity as is exactly adapted, with respect to its evil, to our accessions of it, so that we are there neither more nor less than what we have made ourselves having, had it in our power to avoid it. From hence we again proceed as before to a higher state. (262)
Some men fall into such a degree of depravity as to connect themselves with the greatest degree of evil. Such are those that, having attained to a high pitch of virtue in human life, give way afterwards to temptations, and aim at sensual enjoyment in addition to intellectual, so far as to endeavour to acquire all the sensual enjoyments possible fixing their affections on them so far as to aim at the acquisition of them at the expense of all that is good, virtuous, and just; and to obtain their ends deprive others of their just portion of the necessaries of those things necessary to human existence. They even become so depraved as to feel enjoyment in the misery of other animated beings of even their own species. This is the lowest point of depravity, malevolence for its own sake. Passing thro' death they find themselves at the lowest point of existence, and connected with the greatest degree of evil that animated beings possibly can be. And possessed of but the least and lowest degree of animation, just as much as is necessary to be fully sensible of the greatest degree of evil, and to suffer it with pain and all misery.
As fortitude is the proper evidence of free suffering, so timidity and repining are proofs of unwillingness to suffer, and aversion to it; of consequently of the suffering being necessary, which is the kind of suffering evil beings necessarily undergo, as being incident to their nature and mode of existence, and evinces that man is fallen into such an inferior state as is necessarily consequent on such a degree of evil. But man being in a state wherein he is informed of his evil state, and dehorted from evil ways (263) is still in a degree possessed of liberty, and may return to the good. And in whatever state his affections and intellects may be when death occurs, it is what he is then affects his next stage of existence, not what he was, good or bad; for former affections have been done away by the present, and what at the time of death he is, will necessarily be in his ensuing state: good or bad, in a degree exactly proportionate.
The state of humanity is such that a man being free cannot be limited in his affections and intellects to any particular gradations of good or evil but the two extremes, so that they are free to expatiate in all, and thro' all, intermediate gradations; may in affection and intellect attain to the highest pitch of goodness, or to the lowest of evil and depravity. If it was otherwise, he would be only partially free, not as absolutely so as the nature of finite existence admits of, and his accessions of good or evil could only be to a degree adequate to that of the mode of existence to which he was limited, above or below humanity, and consequently could only be partially good or bad. Such a state could not possibly be a state of positive and unrestrained probation, so that man would be but partially probated. But being in a state of unrestrained and positive probation, he may either advance himself to the highest point of finite good, or debase himself to the lowest point of it - which is the utmost point of animated evil, or lowest point of existence - make himself the most happy or most miserable of finite beings.
(264-266 - gwag)
(267) Cylch Cyngrair, or Conventional Circle,
The stones forming the circle are termed White stones or stones of testimony. The circle itself is sometimes called the white circle.
The middle stone, or altar, is termed Maen Gorsedd, i.e. Presidial Stone.
The stones pointing at the equinoxes and solstices are called stones of the Sun.
The Bards stand unshod and uncovered within the circle. The Presiding Bard, who must be of the Primitive order, stands by the presidial stone & all the other Bards attend around, standing near the white stones or periphery of the circle. (267)
The Bard of the Primitive order, wears sky blue, emblematic of peace, his wand of the same colour.
The Bard of the Druidic order's robe is white, the symbol of purity, and peculiarly of truth, which is said to be of the colour of light or the sun. His wand also white.
The Bard of the Ovatioan order wears green, symbolical of learning, and his wand green.
The robes of each order must be indiv[id]ually unicoloured (i.e. not particoloured), emblematic of truth.
These three orders are each of them equal in the general estimation, with respect to honour and official rank, tho' when officiating in his own peculiar character, each has a peculiar superiority, being at the same time inferior in other respects to those of the other orders.
The Primitive Bard is the Regulator or Ruler, i.e. it is he possesses the power of admitting to degrees, seeing that all things are managed according to the true principles of the institution, that the maxims of oral tradition are properly observed &c. His meetings are in the Conventional Circle.
The Druid, as minister of religion, has in that respect a superiority over others, and holds his meetings in places (such as Groves) that are properly retired from noise and other disturbances and, if necessary, under cover. (269)
The Ovate or Bard of the Ovatian order, is esteemed the most learned or philosophical, and as such presides in meetings where new and yet unadmitted principles are discussed. He may hold his meetings under cover and by night.
The circle where the Primitive Bard or Ruling Bard holds his meetings must be in a conspicuous place, in the eye of public observation and whilst the sun is above the horizon. Everything there should on its genuine primitive principle be recited orally and not read.
The Druid in his religious assemblies harangues and recites orally using no books or writings.
The Ovates use books and writings of any kind, generally requiring however that something should be produced at every meeting inscribed on wood in the ancient manner, to perpetuate the knowledge of it, as the first mode of writing or use of letters known to the Ancient Britons.
The equinoxial and solsticial meetings of the Bards in their primitive character and functions are opened by the ceremony of sheathing a sword, at which all attend and assist, making a short speech on the occasion of the following purport. (270)
"Truth against the World. In the protection of the Bards of the Island of Britain are all who repair to this place . Where no naked weapon is born against them, and all who solicit admission to degrees or Bardic discipline, are to demand it of Iolo Morganwg, Howel the Black Bard of Snowdon, Morgan of Cardigan, Madoc of Glamorgan, Llewellyn of Anglesey, and Owen of Meirion. All Bards according to the rights and institutes of the Bards of the Island of Britain. Truth against the World."
All the Bards of Britain are deemed to be virtually or representatively present, and three names of absent Bards, representing the whole, are named as present, amongst those that are actually so.
The meeting thus opened, they proceed to business, to admit to degrees, to discipline, to recite new pieces in verse, the Bardic traditions, maxims of Bardic polity, mythology, theology, morality, criticism &c. Then they propose new subjects for the next meeting, and close the convention in the following manner. (271)
The presiding Bards taking the sheathed sword by its point, names all that are actually present. If one of them is to be rejected or degraded, or to be suspended, the form of the short speech is thus:
"At the Convention [=Gorsedd] of Bards of the Island of Britain on Primrose Hill (or any other place) the summer solstice of the year 1794, were present I.M., M.I., G.R., W.M., I.H., (William Jones, Bard claimant, Howel Morgan, a man lawless and depredatory, against whom the sword was unsheathed, as it was also against Owen the Red Bard of Brecknock, a man lawless and depredatory. According to the rights and institutes of the Bards of the province of Dimetia. Heart in union with Heart.)"
He that is termed Bard claimant is suspended. He that is pronounced lawless and depredatory is degraded or rejected. These decisions are always given as of a provincial Convention. That an appeal may lie to the grand triennial national meeting, where redress for good reason may be obtained, but if the sentence of the provincial Convention be here confirmed, it is final and no (272) one thus finally degraded can be ever re-admitted a Bard of any order whatever.
The Welsh Bards retain, as curiosities of antiquity, several ancient customs that were peculiar to their institution, such as the ceremony of the sword, the circle, Bard's Book &c &c and, amongst other things, the Ancient British ceremony of proclaiming war and peace.
When any neighbouring nation had committed depredations on the community, the Prince informed the Bards at their next meeting of it. Or, if necessary summoned a meeting or Covention extraordinary, before whom he laid his complaint. The Bards then deputed proper persons of their own order to remonstrate with the offending party and to make peace if possible, but if after all honourable means to obtain this had been tried without effect, the Prince appeared on behalf of his people at the Bardic Convention, and after giving a proper represcutation of the offence, and the depredations committed upon his territories and people, the Bards, by their President, made the following speech or declaration:
"The complaints of the King of Great Britain on behalf of himself and people, the complaints of the People of Great Britain in behalf of themselves (273) and their King. The complaints of all that love peace and justice, the complaints the Bards of the Island of Britain on behalf of their country, their King and the whole world, against M.N. the King of O.P. and his people, men lawless and depredatory, who on the fourth day of the third moon after the last summer solstice did with a fleet of ships manned and armed for war, and intent upon lawless depredation, enter the river Humber and sailing up to the town of Hull set fire to it, burning the houses, plundering and killing the inhabitants thereof. The Bards of the Island of Britain, having been informed of this by their Prince on behalf of his people, remonstrated with the King of O.P. and his people, commanding them to desist and to render just retribution. But this he and his people refused to do and, render, wherefore the Bards of the Island of Britain are, with their institutional reluctance, under the necessity of proclaiming M.N. King of O.P. and his adherents men lawless and depredatory, against whom they are, with great reluctance, obliged to unsheath the sword, til Bardic protection is claimed by M.N., the said King of O.P., and his adherents, when they shall [be] heard where no naked weapon will be born against [th]em. Truth against the World.
When peace was by either party requested, the Bard who was always the Messenger or Herald on this (274) occasion, proclaimed that on an appointed day the protection of the Bards of the Island of Britain was demanded by, and would be granted to, the parties at war (naming them) and that meeting at an appointed place (named), no naked weapon would be borne in their presence. The following proclamation was on this occasion made at the Convention.
"Truth against the World.
In the protection of &c &c, I.M., H.W., S.T., R.G. &c, Bards according to the &c, tThe Kings of &c and their adherents attend, claiming Bardic protection and Peace. Whereupon the sword is sheathed, the lawless and depredatory desist and war is no more.
In the name of God and all that is Good."
This ceremony being over, they proceeded to confer on the terms of peace, which if settled on conditions of mutual satisfaction, it was proclaimed in a speech the same as, or similar to, the foregoing, with the necessary alterations of tense &c, concluding with the national motto of 'Truth against the World', instead of 'In the name &c'.
The mode of demanding parleys or conference was by claiming Bard protect all sheathing their sw[...] but the oral claimant, who held his by the point. The (275) The Bard, as before observed, was the herald of peace, always unarmed, and his person held sacred wherever he went.
The solstices and equinoxes were termed as follows:
Alban Arthan: Winter Solstice.
Alban Eilir: Vernal Equinox.
Alban Hefin: Summer Solstice.
Alban Elfed: Autumnal Equinox.
These are called Pedwar Bann Haul, i.e. The four cardinal points of the sun.
The four quarters of the moon were solemn or Bardic days, or open days, as they were otherwise called, wheron the Bards of the Druidical or Ovatian orders met to perform the offices of religious worship, instruct pupils &c. These are called pedwar bann lleuad, i.e. the four cardinal points or quarters of the moon:
Bann (or lleuad) newydd: new moon.
Bann hanner cynnydd or bann cynnydd: first quarter.
Bann llawn: full moon.
Bann hanner trai or bann trai: last quarter.
The first and last quarters were also commonly called bann hanner, hanner cyntaf, hanner ail, hanner cynnydd, (276) hanner trai, &c, i.e. The half moons, first half, second half, half increase, half wane. &c., these terms are obviously indigenous and not borrowed from any other nation.
The solar and lunar quarters are open days, as they are called, or solemn days; times well known by all, whereon meetings were held, which must be also in a known and open place. It was necessary to issue proclamations for extraordinary meetings, whether of time, or of place, for the Bardic institution in all its principles guards against every thing of a clandestine nature. Every thing must be done in the eye of light and of public observation, (yn llygad haul ac wyneb goleuni, ac yngolwg a chlyw Gwlad ac Arlwydd), literally thus: in the eye of the sun and face of light, and in the view and hearing of People and Prince.