Welsh literary renaissance


Welsh literary renaissance
Literary activity in Wales and England in the mid-18th century that attempted to stimulate interest in the Welsh language and in the classical bardic verse forms of Wales.

It was centred on the Morris family of Welsh scholars, who preserved ancient texts and encouraged contemporary poets to use the strict metres of the ancient Welsh bards. The movement gave rise to many publications and helped reestablish local eisteddfods and, in the early 19th century, the National Eisteddfod. A second revival began with the establishment of the University of Wales at the end of the 19th century.

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      literary activity centring in Wales and England in the mid-18th century that attempted to stimulate interest in the Welsh language and in the classical bardic verse forms of Wales. The movement centred on Lewis, Richard, and William Morris, Welsh scholars who preserved ancient texts and encouraged contemporary poets to use strict metres of the ancient Welsh bards such as the cywydd and awdl. Other scholars also collected and copied bardic manuscripts, laying the groundwork for later scholarly research. A new classical school of poetry was led by Goronwy Owen, a poet who wrote verse modeled after the bards of the Middle Ages. The Cymmrodorion Society, established by the Welsh community in London as a centre for Welsh literary studies, combined with other such scholarly groups (e.g., the Gwyneddigion and Cymreigyddion societies) to encourage the reestablishment of local eisteddfods (poetic assemblies or contests). As a result, the National Eisteddfod was revived in the early 19th century.

      A great number of publications, popular as well as scholarly, were a product of the revival, which also produced religious verse in free metres, lyrical hymns, popular ballads employing cynghanedd (a complex system of accentuation, alliteration, and internal rhyme), and verse dramas based on historical tales, incidents from the Bible, and Welsh mythology and legend.

      By the 19th century the arts in Wales had become almost totally dominated by England, and the revival subsided. A second revival, based on the scholarly groundwork of the first, occurred at the end of the 19th century, centred in the newly established University of Wales. Careful scholarship was applied to the study of ancient texts. Some poets, stimulated by the renaissance, wrote experimental verse that reflects an awareness of the past (especially in the use of cynghanedd) and a solicitude for the survival of the Welsh language.

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Universalium. 2010.

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