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ing to become the bride of a mere mortal, was to consist of as many sheep, cattle, goats, and horses, as she could count of each without heaving or drawing in her breath. She immediately adopted the mode of counting by fives. Thus, one, two, three, four, five-one, two, three, four, five, as many times as possible in rapid succession, till her breath was exhausted. The same process of reckoning had to determine the number of goats, cattle, and horses respectively, and in an instant the full number of each came up out of the lake, when called upon by the father of the fairy. I sing Clychau Aberdyfi, as a fairy song, and omit the number after five.
The distinctiveness of Welsh music is not in structure but in meaning, not in form but in expression. The characteristic of Welsh folk-songs is their simplicity. This sums up the quality which distinguishes them from the folk-songs of other countries. They are peculiar in that they are natural.
This characteristic is attributable to two causes. The character of the people and the peculiarity of the harp. Wales was a sparsely populated country; centralised art was unknown. It was a country-bred people without access to town life. It was isolated, and its music was kept intact against alien influences. Then the harp was a perfect instrument. Its diatonic scale impressed itself on the music of the country. Hence dignity rather than piquancy, and simple results rather than strange effects. Thus the character of the people and the cadence of the harp made for sweetness, simplicity, and beauty.
Heartiness, wit, and ruggedness, mark the old songs of England, Ireland, and Scotland, but Wales has a melodious rhythm denied to the sister nationalities. Welsh music is more harmonised, more naturally flowing. It strains after no effects, it makes no pretensions, it is neither
artificial, nor conventional, nor crude, nor noisy, nor vulgar, but there is about it a sweet and delicate refinement, which is the more wonderful in that it grew in an isolated and mountainous country, far from the current of artistic thought and culture.
Further than this, Welsh folk-songs have lost nothing by their purity and refinement. The tragic meaning of Morva Rhuddlan lives to this day. The melody is simple, there is no strange striving after the unexpected, there is no attention-calling dissonance-but the air sets out with a purpose and expresses in terse intense tones the terrible woe of a desperate people that had staked and lost their all. There is no hysterical affectation of grief, the calmness and dignity of despair breathe through the melody. And yet the air has a history of eleven centuries.
In addition to this simplicity, we have also a sympathy, a mystery, and an earnestness, which stand out prominently as characteristics of the early music of Wales. The plaintive note is also a prominent feature. But it is more than probable that the minor key and the melancholy note have been superimposed on many Welsh songs during the last hundred years. Thus Mentra Gwen is invariably sung in Wales in the minor key, though it appears in every collection in the major key. John Parry (Bardd Alaw) stated that Welsh melodies can be set in either the major or the minor key, according as the base is altered. I do not think that our ancestors were sad and mournful, as they are sometimes supposed to have been. Though the untoward fate of their country accounts for the note of sadness, I believe the Welsh were a merry and a vivacious people. All this has changed now, and how far the religious revival in Wales had this effect it is difficult to determine. The Puritan fathers, though they admitted that "musicke was lawfull, usefull and commendable,"
set their faces against many of the means, or at least, the associations of the means, whereby Welsh music was kept alive in village fairs and hostelries.
From what has been said it follows that Welsh folksongs do not lend themselves to analysis. Their simplicity is such that they must be described negatively rather than positively. And it must be remembered, too, that true music, like nature, does not initially or primarily make us think. It makes us feel. And while the feeling is maintained the positive activity of the mind is suspended in pure emotion. It is only afterwards, when the emotion has gone, that the critical faculty is called in to give an account of how and why the emotion was caused.
But this is a point at which there is little to be added beyond the ultimate fact that certain successions of sounds embodied in scales are pleasing. To proceed further would be to lengthen an argument without elucidating it.
It may be permissible to say, in parenthesis, that though the folk-songs are simple, there is no reason why those who sing them should think they have the right to abandon the rules of correct time and good taste. It is unnecessary and inaccurate to violate these beautiful melodies with sham passion, which is out of all proportion to the sentiment contained in so many of them. The melody may not afford the singer the opportunity desired of showing off to the best advantage the singer's best note, but the audience will not be content without that note being violently inserted or unduly prolonged. There are certain musicians, too, who think that to modernise is to improve, and thus, with the best intentions in the world, they improve an old air out of existence and lose entirely the sturdy, straightforward character of the original theme.
Besides the airs which appear in the ordinary collections,
I ought to refer to the most remarkable feature of Welsh music, I mean the penillion singing. This practice is found nowhere out of Wales, and dates back to the Druids, whose learning was embodied in the form of triads and penillion. The singing of epigrammatic stanzas to the accompaniment of an old Welsh melody (with well-marked time) depends not on the quality of voice, but upon a keen sense of rhythm and ability to enunciate, in fact speaking on a tune in harmony with the melody played upon the harp. There were two kinds of penillion singing. The simpler consisted in the singer extemporizing his words to the melody, and at the end of each line of the stanza there is a chorus as in Nos Galan.
The more difficult form was difficult indeed. The singer must not begin with the melody, but he must join in it at such a point that he may be able to end with it. He recites the lines on any note that may be in keeping with the fundamental harmony of the melody which accompanies. The best known example of these is Pen Rhaw, which was composed, or at least obtained its present name, about the beginning of the fifteenth century.
I wish to add a few words as to the place of folksongs in the preservation of nationality. The language of Wales has preserved the nationality of Wales. It is true that people who have lost their language, except its brogue or its accent, have maintained their national identity, but language is the greatest and surest sign and proof of separate national existence. The Welsh language owes its vitality to poetry, music, and the religious revival. It would be impossible to apportion the result between the varying causes, but it is admitted by all that Welsh music is not only a symbol of Welsh nationality, but also a living
factor in the maintenance and recognition of that nationality. It appeals not only to the understanding, but also to the ear and heart.
The songs of a people are as important as its laws, for laws may be, and often are, imposed upon the unwilling; songs cannot survive except by the glad assent of those amongst whom they grew and lived. The songs of a country therefore reflect the unmistakable bias of a country and the bent of its genius. And the songs of Wales are the voice of the people as interpreted by the national instrument.
Goethe said that "the special value of national songs and ballads is that their inspiration comes fresh from nature, they are never got up, they flow from a pure spring."
It is well that we should be taken back to this natural and pure spring, and renew our energies by the inspiration we can and ought to draw from such a source. Should patriotic effort grow weak and uncertain, there is no better incentive than the graceful, melodious and pure music of our country.
Ceiriog, than whom no one was more stirred by the inspiration of poetry or the breath of patriotism, refers to this in one of his beautiful poems. In spite of inevitable changes that take place from generation to generation, and though leaders of the people are lost, yet the old tongue and the ancient airs remain to preserve and maintain the national life of Wales.
We women may well be proud to remember that it was Lady Charlotte Guest who translated the Mabinogion and opened up a great literary treasure; and that it was Miss Williams of Aberpergwm, by her careful collection and publication of the ancient national airs of Gwent and Morganny, who enriched the musical inheritance of the Welsh people. And for those of us who cannot hope