Morris, Huw (DNB00)

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MORRIS or MORUS, HUW (1622–1709), Welsh poet, was born at Pont y Meibion, which, though lying in the valley of the Ceiriog, is within the parish of Llansilin, Denbighshire. Being a younger (the third) son, he was apprenticed to a tanner, who lived at Gwaliau, near Overton, Flintshire, but he did not complete his term of apprenticeship. For the rest of his life he lived at Pont y Meibion, helping on the farm his father, his eldest brother, and his nephew in succession, and gradually winning a great reputation as a composer of ballads, carols, and occasional verse. He wrote much in the 'strict' metres, but is better known as a writer in the free ballad metres of the English type, which became popular in Wales with the decline of the older poetry in the seventeenth century. Next to the love poems the most familiar are those on political subjects. Huw Morus, like most of his countrymen, was a staunch royalist and supporter of the church of England. He satirised freely the roundhead preachers and soldiers, sometimes in allegory, and sometimes without any disguise. In 1660 he wrote an ironical 'Elegy upon Oliver's Men,' and a 'Welcome to General Monk.' Under Charles II he was still attached to the same interest, and vigorously denounced the Rye House plot in 1683. But his churchmanship was deeply protestant, and the trial of the seven bishops, of whom William Lloyd of St. Asaph had expressed admiration of his poetry, forced him to transfer his allegiance from James II to William of Orange, whose cause he warmly supported from 1688 onwards.

In his old age Huw Morus was revered by the countryside as a kind of oracle, and tradition says that in the customary procession out of Llansilin parish church after service the first place was always yielded to him by the vicar. He died unmarried on 31 Aug. 1709, and was buried at Llansilin, where a slab to his memory bears 'englynion,' by the Rev. Robert Wynne, Gwyddelwern. In appearance he was tall, sallow, and marked with small-pox. 'Cadair Huw Morus' (Huw Morus's chair), with the initials H. M. B. (Huw Morus, Bardd) upon the back, is still shown near Pont y Meibion. It is a stone seat fixed in a wall, and forms the subject of an engraving prefixed to the 1823 edition of the poet's works.

Poems by Huw Morus appear in the collection of songs printed for Foulk Owens in 1686, and reprinted (as 'Carolau a Dyriau Duwiol') in 1696 and 1729. He is represented also in 'Blodeugerdd Cymru' (1759). But no collected edition of his verse appeared until 1823, when the Rev. Walter Davies (Gwallter Mechain) published 'Eos Ceiriog' in two volumes, the former containing a prefatory sketch of the poet's life and character. This edition contains 147 poems, besides some two hundred 'englynion,' or single stanzas. Of seventy other poems the titles only are given. The author of the life in the 4 Cambrian Register' (i. 436) tells us that one manuscript collection of Huw Morus's poems contained as many as three hundred pieces, and this is rendered likely by the fact that in a manuscript volume of seventeenth-century poetry Richard Williams of Newtown found twenty-two poems not even mentioned by Gwallter Mechain (Geninen, xi. 303).

[Life in the Cambrian Eegister, vol. i. by David Samwell (d. 1798); Eos Ceiriog (1823); Rowlands's Cambrian Bibl.; Borrow's Wild Wales chaps, xx. and lxviii.; Williams's Eminent Welshmen, p. 347.]

J. E. L.