Page:Historical characteristics of the Celtic race.djvu/26

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.


Boadicea (Gaelic Buaidh, victory) is their Victoria the First, and our present queen is in Welsh, "Buddug yr Ail" i.e., Boadicea Altera or Secunda.

It was from the legends of this people that the romance of chivalry proceeded, and all the associations that cling around the Knights of the Round Table. That was a fascination that went the round of Western Europe, subduing, as in Spenser's Faery Queen, even the Saxon genius; and though Cervantes in Don Quixote smiled the last breath of it away, extinguishing also the national esprit of his own country, the spell has since revived in the legends of Arthur under the muse of Tennyson. Those legends attracted Milton, himself also of Welsh blood on the mother's side, and for a time it was doubtful whether the author of "Comus" was to choose between Arthur and the patriarch Adam as the hero of his crowning poem. And here we may remark regarding the Cymric people how notably the great Saxon dramatist, growing up and flourishing on the Welsh border, has paid them a certain respectful and most honourable homage. Not only has he founded two of his noblest plays on legends of the ancient British foretime—King Lear, perhaps the most perfect of (his tragedies, and also Cymbeline—but he has pourtrayed the Welsh character with the interest of a discoverer who lights upon a special vein of sentiment and feeling. Shakspere has seized for us the strong as well as the weak points of that character—Bravery and Sentiment — Bravery to the edge of rashness, and high-soaring Sentiment, disdaining the fetters of pedestrian logic. He makes us laugh, no doubt, at the gallant Fluellen (who is only Llewellyn in another form), and endless has been the mirth over that soldier's resolute determination to make of Henry V. another Alexander the Great, or, as he calls him, "Alexander the Pig"; reasoning from Macedon to Monmouth, because both begin with an M; but for all that, Shakspere has a genuine respect for the choleric Fluellen, and though he makes mirth of his words and his utterance, he compliments him by the mouth of the king, who has these words regarding him—

"Though it appear a little out of fashion,
 There is much care and valour in this Welshman."

With what fine insight likewise have we pourtrayed to us the com-