WALES. Vol. II.] FEBRUARY, 1895. [No. 10. THE ARTHURIAN LEGEND. By Meta Williams, F.R.H.S. I.—THE INFLUENCE OF WELSH ON EUROPEAN LITERATURE. ILENTLY and all unconsciously, the Celtic element in the population has moulded the genius of the races with which it has mingled; and without it, English literature and French art could not have been. It was moreover from the islands of the west, chiefly from Ireland, that the first mission¬ aries went forth to plant the cross upon the site of every heathen altar on the main¬ land ; and from the Alps to the northern fiords their labours may be traced in the conversion of wild tribes to Christianity. They carried with them learning and the arts; and many a holy bell and many a gorgeous manuscript remain to show that the saints of Ireland have passed that way. But the saints went to their rest, and Irish art and learning waned ; and the Wave of Celtic influence seemed to recede before the advance of Roman domination. A great thinker like Erigena might stand out, forerunner of the schoolmen ; but it Was not by the force of reasoning, but through the charm of poetry ; not through the learning of the schools, but through songs and tales, which were the pastime of home, that the Celtic mind was to leave a new and lasting impress upon the thought and literature of Europe. Told by Irish peat-fires, chanted in the princely halls of Wales, sung and recited among the hills of Scotland and on the heaths of Brittany and Cornwall, the tales em¬ bodied the wildest flights of Celtic fancy, the noblest Celtic ideals of life. What these tales were like can be gathered from such collections as Campbell's " Tales of the West Highlands," Douglas Hyde's " Beside the Fire," or better still in some respects 4 49 perhaps, from the Welsh romances known as the " Mabinogion." It would be im¬ possible to gain any just idea of these stories, as a whole, without a wide acquaintance with them and great know¬ ledge of folklore in general. The modern collections, made from the lips of the peasantry, often contain materials in an older and ruder form than that in which they appear in the " Mabinogion," of which the manuscript has remained unchanged since the fourteenth century. Though preserved by peoples who had long forgotten their heathenism, the stories are essentially heathen. They all teem with mythological allusions ; yet, owing to the early influence of Christianity among the Celts, it requires the most scholarly research to make even an attempt at a reconstruction of the Celtic pantheon ; and in this respect, there is a great difference between Celtic and Teutonic folklore. WTith Odin and Thor, with Baldur and Freya, we are familiar; but how many of us know even the names of Mider the king of the Irish fairies, or of Gwyn the son of Nudd, king of the Cymric elfland ? It is significant that, though we speak of Odin and Thor as gods, Mider and Gwyn are talked of only as fairy kings; for Christianity had dethroned these ancient gods, and sent them to hold their courts in the hills and burial mounds, long before Odin and Thor laid down the symbols of their power at the feet of the " White Christ." It is, however, only natural that, as portions of Irish legends survive in manuscripts older than any to be had in Welsh, the personages in Irish myth should approach more nearly to the old gods than