Welsh Journals

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WALES. Vol. IT.] JUNE, 1895. [No. 14. THE WOMEN OF WALES -OUR TWO GllEAT POETESSES. ALES has seen two great poetesses, one a typical product of the Revival of Letters during the sixteenth century and the other a typical product of the revival of religious thought at the beginning of the nineteen t h . The awakening of thought at the one period found its most graceful and seductive expression in Gwervil Vychan ; the awakening of thought at the other period lost all its gloom and austerity in the lovable form given to it by Anne Griffiths. But the greatest contrast in the history of Welsh literature is the contrast between its two great poetesses. The genius of Gwervil delighted in impurity, in her mind artistic sensuousness and strong sensuality seem to struggle for the mastery. The two forces, that of sensuousness and of sensu¬ ality, colour and poison each other. Her sensuousness has always a kernel of im¬ pure thought; her sensuality is so clothed by genius and woman's reserve that it becomes more suggestive of impurity by its exquisite form and allusiveness. It is the smile and the blush of maidenhood, in all the exquisiteness of its beauty ; but ever expressing, with a modesty that is meant to defeat its own purpose, a desire to be tempted. Gwervil's poetry makes one believe that the spirit of poetry rouses and intensities an impure imagination, that it is the essence of lust giving its living hues of white and crimson to what is ever of the earth earthly. The same power is seen in Anne Griffiths' poetry, but working for holiness. It has not lost its sensuousness, but it is a sensuousness permeated by holiness. It has not ceased to be intensely human, but it is the human ennobled by the divine. The grandeur of eternity, the yearning of a pure soul for fellowship with God, the song of one satisfied with visiors of pure beauty and of perfect Sabbath rest, —that is what we find in Anne Griffiths' hymns. Strangely enough, the two have been buried in the same place. The churchyard of Llanfihangel yng Ngwynfe.—a lonely ^pot on the crown of an isolated Mont¬ gomeryshire hill which rises from the country watered by many little tributaries of the Vyrnwy,—contains the remains of Gwervil Vychan and of Anne Griffiths, of the sinner and of the saint. Anne Griffiths' grave is well known, the love which the children of Wales feel towards her hymns has caused them to raise a monument on her resting place, and the mountains sur¬ round the wooded hill. Gwervil's grave is not known; but, as she was one of the Llvvydiarth family, it is probably within the church. The sinner is nearer the altar than the saint. The homes of the two poetesses are far apart, separated by the Berwyn. Caer Gai, the home of Gwervil, lies in the valley of the Dee ; Dolwar Fechan, the home of Anne Griffiths, lies among the undulating hills which skirt the western border of the valley of the upper Severn. Caer Gai is an old Roman villa/standing on a sunny eminence above the waters of 16 241