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A History of English Romanticism in the Eighteenth

The supposed habitation of Druids


Celtic

antiquity shared with Gothic in this newly around interest. Here too, as in the phrase about "the stormy Hebrides," "Lycidas" seems to have furnished the spark that kindled the imaginations of the poets.

"Where were ye, nymphs, when the remorseless deep Closed o'er the head of your loved Lycidas? For neither were ye playing on the steep Where your old bards, the famous Druids lie, Nor on the shaggy top of Mona high, Nor yet where Deva spreads her wizard stream."

Joseph Warton quotes this passage twice in his "Essay on Pope" (Vol I., pp. 7 and 356, 5th ed.), once to assert its superiority to a passage in Pope's "Pastorals": "The mention of places remarkably romantic, the supposed habitation of Druids, bards and wizards, is far more pleasing to the imagination, than the obvious introduction of Cam and Isis." Another time, to illustrate the following suggestion: "I have frequently wondered that our modern writers have made so little use of the druidical times and the traditions of the old bards. . . Milton, we see, was sensible of the force of such imagery, as we may gather from this short but exquisite passage." As further illustrations of the poetic capabilities of similar themes, Warton gives a stanza from Gray's "Bard" and some lines from Gilbert West's "Institution of the Order of the Garter" which describe the ghosts of the Druids hovering about their ruined altars at Stonehenge:

style="text-align: justify;"> "--Mysterious rows Of rude enormous obelisks, that rise Orb within orb, stupendous monuments Of artless architecture, such as now Oft-times amaze the wandering traveler, By the pale moon discerned on Sarum's plain."

He then inserts two stanzas, in the Latin of Hickes' "Thesaurus," of an old Runic ode preserved by Olaus Wormius (Ole Worm) and adds an observation upon the Scandinavian heroes and their contempt of death. Druids and bards now begin to abound. Collins' "Ode on the Death of Mr. Thomson," _e.g._, commences with the line

"In yonder grave a Druid lies."

In his "Ode to Liberty," he alludes to the tradition that Mona, the druidic stronghold, was long covered with an enchantment of mist--work of an angry mermaid:

"Mona, once hid from those who search the main, Where thousand elfin shapes abide."

In Thomas Warton's "Pleasures of Melancholy," Contemplation is fabled to have been discovered, when a babe, by a Druid

"Far in a hollow glade of Mona's woods,"

and borne by him to his oaken bower, where she

"--loved to lie Oft deeply listening to the rapid roar Of wood-hung Menai, stream of druids old."

Mason's "Caractacus" (1759) was a dramatic poem on the Greek model, with a chorus of British bards, and a principal Druid for choragus. The scene is the sacred grove in Mona. Mason got up with much care the description of druidic rites, such as the preparation of the adder-stone and the cutting of the mistletoe with a gold sickle, from Latin authorities like Pliny, Tacitus, Lucan, Strabo, and Suetonius. Joseph Warton commends highly the chorus on "Death" in this piece, as well as the chorus of bards at the end of West's "Institution of the Garter." For the materials of his "Bard" Gray had to go no farther than historians and chroniclers such as Camden, Higden, and Matthew of Westminster, to all of whom he refers. Following a now discredited tradition, he represents the last survivor of the Welsh poetic guild, seated, harp in hand, upon a crag on the side of Snowdon, and denouncing judgment on Edward I, for the murder of his brothers in song.


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