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to share in the great movements of the day, it is a consolation to know that if we may happily be permitted to spread a knowledge, and widen an appreciation, of the songs of Wales we shall have done some slight service to the land we love so well.




Ir was during the third and fourth and fifth centuries that Christianity established itself in these islands, planting itself nowhere more firmly, and nowhere throwing out more vigorous roots than in Wales and Cornwall and Ireland. Already, in an age antecedent to St. Patrick's, we hear of many Scotti or Irishmen who were famous for their piety or learning in lands remote from their island home. Among such, Mr. F. E. Warren, the learned editor of the Stowe Missal, mentions the names of Mansuetus, the first Bishop of Toul, in France, in the fourth century, Caelestius the Pelagian at the end of the third and the beginning of the fourth century, Eliphius and Eucharius, who were martyred in France in the fourth.2 In those ages the religion seems in no way to have owed its advancement in these islands to the arms and prestige of the Roman Government, nor could it be otherwise. For the fourth century was well advanced before Constantine, from motives of policy, cast in his lot with the Church; and even after he had done so, he still remained in parts of the west, the

Read before the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion at 20, Hanover Square, on Wednesday, May 11th, 1898. Chairman Mr. Alfred Nutt.

2 The Rev. F. E. Warren, p. 35; R. Brash, Eccl. Archit. of Ireland, p. 110; H. and S., ii, p. 291.

open and avowed patron of the classic gods and goddesses. Moreover it required generations to pass away before the memory of the persecutions of the Roman Government could fade, and its power and authority be presented in the popular imagination as favourable to the Christian religion. These considerations explain how it is that Christianity took the firmest hold of parts of our islands where the Roman authority the least penetrated.

Like the dew upon Gideon's fleece the grace of the new religion fell silently and refreshingly upon our land, and made a gentle conquest of the wild clans that held the inaccessible Highlands of Wales and the lofty Moorlands of Cornwall. The early Missionaries had to tell of a God who was single and supreme, unlike the petty Deities who were many, so many that, as you traversed the country, you passed rapidly from the province of one into that of another. He could not be confined in images of wood and stone, he could not be stolen by enemies, and therefore needed not bars and bolts to guard Him. He was merciful and forgiving, not liable to be born or to die, and his rites were neither cruel nor obscene. Daniel, the Bishop of Winchester, a man in whom the spirit of the early British missionary was not quite extinct, though he lived as late as the eighth century, wrote in the year 724 a letter to Boniface of Maintz, full of common sense about the best way of overcoming the obstinacy of the country people of Thuringia, who still clung to the old Pagan Cults.

"You should not, he says, flatly deny the genealogy of their gods, false though they be. Rather agree with them, and let them assert that any of their gods they like have been engendered by others in actual marriage relations. This is your best way of proving to them that their gods and goddesses, having been born after the manner of mere men, were rather men than gods; and that they had a beginning, as they did not exist previously. When, however, you have compelled them to learn that their gods had a beginning,

as having been generated the one by the other, then you must ask them whether they think that this world had a beginning, or whether it always existed without any beginning. If it had a beginning, then who created it? for it is pretty clear that before the construction of the world they could hardly find a place for gods so born to subsist in and inhabit. If they argue that the world has always existed and never had any beginning, you must be careful to refute and overthrow them on this point with many proofs and arguments. If they are still not satisfied, ask them who governed and ruled the world before their gods were born? Ask them also how their gods managed to subject to their own power and authority a world which for ever had existed before they were born? Ask them whence, and by whom, and when the first god or goddess was constructed or engendered? whether in their opinion the gods and goddesses are still busy engendering other gods and goddesses? or if not, when and why did they give up having sexual relations with one another and bearing children? If, however, they still continue to generate others, point out that by now the number of gods must have reached infinity, and that mortals can nevertheless not be sure among deities so many and so important which is the most powerful; so that extreme caution is necessary, lest you should offend the stronger one. ... Ask what advantage the Pagans suppose they confer upon their gods by their sacrifices, when the latter already have every thing at their disposal?"

I will not trouble you with all the arguments which the good Daniel desires Boniface to fire off against the Pagans. The value of the passage lies in the anxiety it reveals on the part of Daniel, that Boniface should devote himself a little more to convincing the intelligence of the Pagan Agrestes and from the style of argument advocated by Daniel we gather that they had plenty of intelligence— and that he should trust rather less to the forcible methods of conversion on which he was too inclined to pride himself, such as the sacking and burning of the Pagan shrines, the triumphant hewing down, under the armed protection of Frankish soldiery, of their sacred oaks, the wholesale cutting of throats in the name of Christ, the baptism by force of the conquered residue of tribes so subdued. Therefore the good Daniel, having sketched out the


dialectical methods to be pursued, adds the following exhortation to his too fiery co-religionist :

"These and many similar arguments, which I have no time now to enumerate, are those which you should oppose to them; not by way of insulting and irritating them, but quietly and with the greatest moderation. And every now and again you must point the contrast between such superstitious opinions as theirs and our own, that is to say, Christian dogmas; and so touch them as it were on the flank, in such a way that they will blush with confusion rather than with exasperation, at the idea of their entertaining such absurd opinions, and because they realise that we know all about their harmful rites and fables."

It was because the Celtic missionaries never leaned, like Boniface, on the secular arm, because they trusted to persuasion and not to force, to quiet rivalry in well-doing and not to violence, that the work they did, not only in these islands, but all over the continent, never had to be done over again, for they did not limit their horizon to men of their own blood and speech; but, as St. Bernard' said at a later day, their bands of missionaries and saints poured themselves like a flood over foreign lands; and the old British writer Gildas' says that the British priests, far from shrinking from travel, found their best pastime in sailing over the seas and in wandering over distant lands. And wherever they penetrated, since they made their appeal simply to the heart and intelligence of their converts, they founded, as the Irish saint Aileran (sub voce Aminadab) says, a spontaneus domini populus, a willing and self-offering people of the Lord, sons of God and co-heirs with Christ, as he elsewhere expresses it.

Those who desire a record of the work achieved by the early British church will find, in the pages of Mr. Warren and of others who have written about it, lists of the monasteries which they founded both in these islands and

'Vita S. Malachi, ch. 6.


Haddan & Stubbs, ii, 1, 70.

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