Chapter 11


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Continued Survival

The Welsh Bible arrived just in time, so rapidly had the influence of continental literature and the anglicization process been achieved in certain areas of Wales by 1592 that Sion Dafydd Rhys lamented:
For our part, we Welsh are sometimes so disgusting and so frippish, ...that we affect a shame about uttering our own language; yes, and how fortunate some of us can be that we can snobbishly pretend that we have utterly lost our ability to speak Welsh, and must now put up with speaking English, or French, or Italian or absolutely any other tongue as long as it is not Welsh.
Yet all was not lost, for in spite of the above damning protest, the poetic tradition managed to continue in the Welsh language. Despite the frenzy of the rush to London, the time had not yet arrived when the majority of Welsh literary figures were to write in English. In his "An Apology for Poetry" of 1595, the English poet and courtier Sir Philip Sydney had praised the continuance of the poetic tradition:
In Wales, the true remnant of the ancient Britons, there are good authorities to show the long time they had poets, which they called bards: so through all the conquests of Romans, Saxons, Danes, and Normans some of who did seek to ruin all memory of learning among them, yet do their poets to this day, last; so as it is not more notable in soon beginning than in long continuing.
Modern historians have commented favorably on the fact that the essentials of the poetic craft did not entirely disappear during the latter part of the Tudor dynasty, but were handed down to amateurs who continued to play a central role in Welsh society. Even today, the craft of medieval poetry remains an inspiration to the nation's poets, whose influence is widely felt in literary circles. A reading of some of the prize-winning entries at the National Eisteddfod, for example, would show their strong link with the verbal artistry displayed in the poetry of the past.

One influential poet was the prolific Edmund Prys (1543-1623), a kinsman of William Salesbury, and who had mastered eight languages while studying and teaching at Cambridge. Much of his work, showing his familiarity with both the humanistic learning of the Renaissance and of the traditional culture of Wales consists of debate with William Cynwal (d. 1587?), in which he urges the poets of his country to adopt humanistic standards. Prys also composed lively secular poems including one describing a game of football and another over the controversial cutting of the forests of Snowdonia by the English, a topic that concerned many amateur poets at the time.

Chapter 11 Continued
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