Languages And Literatnre Of The Celts. The various families of the race described in the preceding article termed themselves Celts (pronounced Kelts, for in all their languages and dialects the letter C was always hard, and K was absent from their alphabets). Omitting Spain and the north of Italy (the so-called Celtic plain, whose inhabitants became thoroughly Romanized, and of whose ancient literary remains in their own tongue there are no specimens existing), it may be stated generally that two distinct languages were spoken and written by these people, each divided into several dialects. These two languages are still living, spoken and written. They are: 1, the Breton (Breizad), including the Welsh, the Cornish, which has become extinct only within the memory of men, and the Bas Breton, now spoken in the western half of Brittany in France-, and 2, the Gaedhilic (Gaelic), which includes the speech of the Scottish highlanders, of the aboriginal Irish, and of the Manx. To avoid confusion, it must be understood that the Welsh call their own language, not Welsh, but Cymraeg (a term perhaps related to the ancient Cimmerian and Cimbric); and it is only in speaking English that they ever accept the name of Welsh at all.
Their language is still to be heard commonly spoken throughout the principality, having held its ground better than any of the other Celtic tongues. The other Cymric language, the Bas Breton, is retiring by degrees before the French, and now exists as a living tongue only in that western region of Brittany which the French call la Bretagne hretonnante. As for the other family of Celtic Languages, it is properly termed the Gaelic; but the Scottish highlanders call it the Erse (pronounced Erish), that is, Irish. The Irish themselves, however, speak of it only as the Gaelic. This is one and the same language, only varying slightly from Caithness to Kerry. The course of ages has introduced some dialectic differences; but even at the present day the speech of the highlanders of Argyle is as readily understood in Donegal as that of Kerry or Cork. The language of the Isle of Man differs slightly from all these, but in its roots and general structure it is the same. The Celtic languages, then, distribute themselves into the Cymric and the Gaelic. - The Bas Breton, even within its limited range, has four distinct dialects, those of Tre-guier, Leon, Vannes, and Cornouaille; in each of these there are remains existing, in the shape of ballads and romantic or fairy legends.
Modern scholars connected with that portion of France, especially the count de la Villemarque, have done much for the preservation of these singular literary relics of a bygone civilization. There are also dictionaries and grammars: students may consult Le Gonidec, Dictionnaire breton-frangais et francais-breton, with a valuable introduction by La Villemarque' (2 vols. 4to, St. Brieuc, 1850); also the dictionary of the dialect of Vannes, by M. Leide, published in 1774. Rostrenen published both a dictionary and a grammar of his native tongue, so far back as 1734. But the most indispensable aid to investigation, not only as to the Breton but as to all other Celtic tongues, is the work of J. C. Zeuss, Grammatica Celtica, e Monuments veteribus tarn Hibernicee Linguae quam Britannicae, necnon e Gallicae priscae Reli-quiis (2 vols. 8vo, Leipsic, 1853). For the general character of the literary remains of Brittany, see La Villemarque, Barzaz-Breiz (popular songs printed in the original, with a French translation). All the four dialects of the Bas Breton have been more modified by the Latin than other Celtic tongues, owing to the length of Roman domination.
It employs Roman letters, some of which (a, b, d, e, f, a, f ,h, i, l, m, n, o, p, r, s, t, u, v) sound as in the ancient Latin, others (k, w, z) as in English, two (j and the combination eft) as in French, and the combination c'h like the German ch (strongly guttural); I and n are sometimes what the French call mouille, and n is sometimes nasal; w is also used as a vowel; the diphthongs are genuine and distinct. Some initials of nouns and of verbs are altered after the finals of the preceding words, viz.: b to v and p, as baz (Lat. ba cuius), ar vaz, the stick; h to g, c'h, as ki (canis), ar c'hi, the dog; cur (curia), eur ger, a city; d to t, z; gw to kw, w; m to v, as mamm (mater), ar vamm, the mother; p to b, f, as penn, head, tri fen, three heads; t to d, z; s to z. The definite article has three forms, ann before vowels and before d, n, t, al before I, ar everywhere else; the indefinite article also varies, eunn, eul, eur, in the same positions as the definite. Both are thus used in the singular and plural sense. The genitive is denoted by euz, the dative by V, in both numbers.
The plural is made by suffixing ou or iou (avel-ou, winds; brezel-ioa, wars), or ien, ed, en (kaneri-en. singers; loen-ed, animals; stered-en, stars). Irregular are: Breizad, plural Breiziz; askourn, bone, askern, bones; mab, son. plural mipien. There are two genders, masculine and feminine. The comparative degree is formed by oc'h, thus, kaeroc'h, more beautiful; the superlative by prefixing the article, thus, ar c'haera, most beautiful. The numerals are: unan, 1; daou, 2; tri, 3; pevar, 4; pemp, 5; c'houec'h, 6; seiz, 7; eiz, 8; ndo, 9; dek:, 10. The ordinals are made by suffixing ved (trived, third, etc.); these are irregular: kenta, first; eil, second. The personal pronouns are me, I; te, thou; hen, he; hi, she. The terminations of the verbs are: ami for I, ez for thou, the radical for he, she, it, omp for we, it for you, out for they; thus, ro-ann, ro-ez, ro, ro-omp, ro-it, ro-ont - l give, thou givest, he, she, it gives, we, you, they give. The past tense is formed by iz, the future by inn, etc. Each verb is preceded by the particle a before nouns and pronouns, by e (or ez, ec'h) before adverbs. There are three auxiliary verbs, viz.: beza, to be; kaout, to have; ober, to do. There are some specific prefixes.
The syntax is free, with some anomalies; thus, the third person singular of a verb may be joined to the first and second personal pronouns, as me aro, which is I gives, instead of give. The structure of Breton poetry is generally in tercets or triads, as in the kindred language of Wales. The principal supernatural agents in the popular poetry of Brittany are the dwarfs and the fairies. The common appellation of these elfish beings is korrigan, whether masculine or feminine, from korr, little (diminutive, korrik), and gan or gwen, genius. The goddess Koridgwen is said by the Welsh bards to have had nine attendant virgins, called the nine Korrigan. This also was the name of the nine priestesses of the isle of Sein. We may refer here, as characteristic examples, to several of the ancient poems collected and translated by La Villemarque, especiallv "The Prophecy of Gwenchlan," "The Submersion of the City of Is," "The Changeling," and "The March of Arthur." "The Plague of Elliant" and the "Tale of Lord Nann and the Fay," as preserved until this time, retain the technical bardic form, which was alliterated and arranged in strophes of three lines.
This "Lord Nann," which is said to date from the 5th or 6th century, commences thus:
Lord Nann and his bride, both plighted In youthful days, soon blighted, Were early disunited.
Of snow-white twins a pah-Yestreen the lady bare, A son and daughter fair.
" What cheer shall I got for thee, Who givest a son to me? Say, sweet, what shall it be?
"From the forest preen a roe. Or a woodcock from where. I trow, The pond in the vale lies low?"
"For venison am I fain. But would not give thee pain For me the wood to gain."
But while the lady spoke, Lord Nann took his lance of oak. And mounting his jet-black steed Rode forth to the wood with speed.
When he gained the greenwood shade, A white hind from the glade Fled, of his lance afraid.
Swift after the hind he flew; The ground shook 'neath the two, So swiitly on they flew, And late the evening grew.
It ends in this gallant huntsman coming "under the ban of a Korrigan," and the death of himself and his wife, from whose grave sprang forth "two spreading oaks." As a specimen of the Bas Breton tongue itself, we give the following from the tale of Koadalan (dialect of Treguier): "Neuze a krogas ann aotro en-han hag a savas gant-han en er, uhel, uhel. Diskenn a eure gant-han e-kichenn ur cTiastell-kaer, en un ale vraz, lec'h ma oe souezet o welet skrivet war delio ar gwez: Ann him a antre aman, na sorti ken. Ma teuas c'hoant d'ehan mont-kuit, met penoz? Antren a reont ho daou bars ar c'hastell; debri hag eva a reont, ha goude koan, a kousk mad en ur gwele-plun." Which is thus translated: "The knight then took him up, and lifted him very high into the air. He descended near to a fine castle, in a grand avenue, where Koadalan was much surprised to see written on the leaves of the trees, 'He who enters here never goes away again.' Which gave him a desire to go at once; but how? They enter together into the castle; they eat together; and after supper Koadalan sleeps well in a bed of feathers." On the whole it may be said that the relics of Bas Breton literature are entirely confined to childish fairy tales and stories of romance, offering little or nothing of the antiquarian historic interest which is found in the remains of the Cymric tongues of Wales and in the Gaelic of Ireland. - The Welsh (Cymraeg). The alphabet of this language consists of thirteen simple and seven double consonants and seven vowels, with numerous diphthongs and triphthongs.
The letter c always has the sound of k; ch is sounded gutturally, as in the Scottish word loch; dd is equivalent to th in English; f has the sound of the English v, ff of the English f, 11 a peculiar sound similar to that of the Erench I mouille, u and y that of the Italian i or English ee, and w of oo in fool. The accent is always on the ultimate or penultimate syllable. Initial consonants are changed by declension and by the effect of preceding words; e. g.: tad, a father; ei dad, his father; ei thdd, her father; vy nhad, my father. Thus p is changed into b, mh, and ph; t into d, nh, and th; b into fand m; d into dd and n, etc. There is one article, which is not declined, but varies according to the initial letter of the following word. Substantives are declined by prepositions, by terminations, and by changes in their radical vowels; e. g.: perth, bush, plural perthi; owa, bow, plur. bwaau; tyrfa, throng, troop, plur. tyrfaoedd; march, horse, plur. meirch; ffordd, road, plur. ffyrdd; alarcli, swan, plur. elyrch; mab, son, plur. meibion; nant, brook, plur. nentydd; maen, stone, plur. meini. There are but two genders, masculine and feminine. Adjectives are formed from substantives, and verbs by means of the terminations aid, gar, ig, in, lyd, og, and us.
The comparative is formed by the ending ach, the superlative by qf; e. g.: du, black; duach, blacker; duaf, blackest. The feminine adjective is formed from the masculine by softening the initial letter, and also by changing the radical vowel. The verb has no present tense, to express which the future is used, or the substantive verb wyv (I am) with the infinitive. There are, however, imperfect, perfect, pluperfect, and future tenses, which are formed, both in the optative and indicative moods, by endings and changes of vowels without auxiliary verbs; e. g.: canon, I loved; cerais, I have loved; caraswn, I had loved; earaf, I shall love. Each tense has three persons both in the singular and plural; e.g.: carton, carit, carai, cavern, carech, carent. The passive voice is wanting, and is expressed by a peculiar circumlocution. There are several irregular verbs besides wyv. The adjective is usually placed after the substantive, but is often placed before. The numerals are: un, dau or dwy, tri or tair, pedioar or pedair, pump, chwech, saith, wyth, naw, deg. The personal pronouns are: mi, I; ti, thou; ev, he; hi, she; ni, we; chwi, you; liwy or Jiwynt, they. "The language," says Ferdinand Walther, "has great power, simplicity, and precision.
It is very rich especially in roots, and has a remarkable capacity to express an entire abstraction in a single word." - The literature of the Cymri has laid claim to a very ancient origin, but modern criticism shows that even the earliest Welsh writings are subsequent to the Christian era. The first eminent bard of whose period of existence we have a distinct record was Myrddin, the bard of Prince Emrys, the first Merlin of romance, who flourished about 450. Aneurin, identified by some with the Gihlas of ecclesiastical history, Talie-sin, prince of bards, Llewarch Hen, and Myrddin Wvllt or Merlin the Wild, belong to the 5th and 6th centuries; of them all numerous poems remain. The most gifted among more modern bards was perhaps Dafydd ap Gwylem (1298-1356), sometimes called the Ovid of Wales, the poet of love and nature. A volume of translations from his writings has been published in London (1834). Huw Morris (1622-1709) wrote songs, carols, and elegies, and sometimes violent political satires.
The last remarkable poet of Wales, Goronwy Owen (1722-1780), died poor in New Brunswick, and his productions, including the Gwydd y Farn ("Day of Judgment"), regarded as the finest work of genius in the language, were first printed in 1810. The earliest Welsh prose literature is the triads, said to be of druidic origin, a sort of maxims in triplets, each setting forth a historical event or a moral principle. Next is the "Chronicle of the Kings of the Isle of Britain," supposed to have been written by Tysilio in the 7th century, and said to be the original of the chronicle of Geoffrey of Monmouth. It was continued to the year 1152 by Caradwg of Llancarvan, whose work is also in existence. The "Code of llowel Da," of the 12th century, is also an important literary monument, as is the "Biography of Grutfydd ap Cynan," of the 15th century. The Mabino-gion ("Juvenile Diversions"), made accessible to English readers by the translations of Owen Pugh and Lady Charlotte Guest, is a collection of Cymric legends and fairy stories of unknown antiquity, but committed to writing in the 14th century. "The Sleeping Bard," written about 1700 by Elis Wyn, a moral and religious allegory, divided into the " Vision of the World," "Vision of Death," and "Vision of Hell," is a work of great originality and power; it has been translated into English by George Borrow (London, 1860). The first translation of the New Testament into Welsh was made by William Salesbury (1597), and the first translation of the whole Bible was completed by William Morgan and published in 1588. Considerable bodies of Welsh emigrants have brought their native language to the United States, and there are communities in which it is the prevailing tongue.
Welsh periodicals, newspapers, and religious tracts and books are also published in the United States for the use of citizens of Welsh origin. A convenient Welsh grammar for students is that of William Spurrell (London, 1848; 2d ed., 1853). - Of the Cornish branch of the Cymraeg, now extinct as a spoken language, the indefatigable Zeuss, in the Vocabularium Corni-cum of his Grammatlca Celtica, has given almost all that is now known. There is also the "Ancient Cornish Drama," edited and translated by Edwin Norris. - The Gaelic. For this language, spoken in Scotland and Ireland, there are many grammars and dictionaries. Among these may be mentioned the dictionary of Edward O'Reilly (4to, Dublin, 1817), a book which has lately acquired much additional value by a new edition and supplement prepared by the eminent Gaelic scholar John O'Donovan, editor of the "Four Masters." This work may be taken for the present as the nearest approach to a standard dictionary of the language. Of grammars there are also several; of which we name that of Neilson, that of Owen Con-nellan (Dublin, 1844), and the "College Irish Grammar," by the Rev. Ulick J. Burke, of St. Patrick's college, Maynooth (Dublin, 1856). The literary and historic remains of this language are very voluminous, and have been industriously collected, translated, and annotated by modern scholars, both in Scotland and in Ireland. They consist mainly of annals, laws, and genealogies, hut with a large infusion of romantic and fairy tales like those of Brittany. The Gaelic speech has varied considerably from age to age; and a great portion of the industry of its professors has been expended upon the "glosses," that is. partial translations of sentences and phrases, from the Latin, or into the Latin, made by monks in all the monasteries of Europe for many ages.
The spoken language of Connaught or of Inverness gives but little help in these researches; for the speakers of this language could not understand an ancient manuscript of the 12th century if read to them. The alphabet of the language consists of 18 letters, named from trees (ailm, elm; beithe, birch; coll, hazel, &c). The letters k, q, v, x, y, and z are wanting. Many consonants are not pronounced. The pronunciation varies in different periods and localities. The indefinite article, the neuter gender, and a special form for the present tense of the verbs are wanting in Gaelic. There are two declensions and two conjugations. A peculiar metaphony is much used, as: fear, a man; fir, of a man; fliir, O man! The system of prefixes and suffixes resembles that of the Semitic tongues. The numerals are: aon, a h-aon, 1; dha, a dha, 2; tri, 3; ceithir, 4; cuig, coig, 5; se, sia, 6; seachd, 7; oclid, 8; naoi, naoth, 9; deich, 10; aon deity, 11, etc.; fichead, 20; deich ar fhichead, 30 '(10 + 20); da fhichead 40 (2x20), etc.; ceud, ciad, 1,000, etc. The nominative plural is formed by adding ean, as clar sairean, harpers. The sexes are distinguished by three methods: by different words, by prefixing dan or bain for feminines, and by an adjective.
The personal pronouns are: mi, mhi, I; tu, tint, thou; e, se, he; i, si, she; sinn, we; sibli, you; iad, siad, they. The relative pronouns are: a, who, which; an, whose, and to whom; na, that which; nach, who not. The possessives are: mo, my; do, thy; a, his, her; ar, our; bhur, ur, your; anjam, their. The interroga-tives are: co, who; cia, which; ciod, what. The indefinite pronouns are: cach, the rest; cuid, some; eile, other. Among the verbs are: phaisg mi, I wrapped; phaisg thu, phaisg e, etc.; negatively, do phaisg mi, etc. Abair, to say; thubhairt mi, I have said; air radii, said; ag radh, saying. Verb to be: ta mi, I am; ta thu, thou art; ta e, he is; ta sinn, we are, etc.; am bheil mi, am I; cha'n eil mi, I am not. Among the prepositions are: a, as, of; ag, at; air, on; an, in; blidrr, off; car, during; do, to, of; eadar, between; git, till; mar, as, like; o, from; re, during; re, ri, ris, to; trid, through, etc. - The best authorities to be consulted as to the actual literary remains which now exist in the Gaelic are the Grammatica, Celtica of Zeuss, before cited, and the works of the late Eugene O'Currvand John O'Donovan, both members of the royal Irish academy.
O'Curry has left a specially valuable book of reference for Gaelic students, "Lectures on the MS. Materials of Ancient Irish History" (Dublin, 1861). This elaborate work contains almost all that is now accessible concerning the writings still existing in the Gaelic tongue, with catalogues and descriptions of the "lost books," which appear to have been very numerous. But still many works have not been lost; and the zeal of antiquarian societies, the archaeological, the Celtic society, and others, has presented to the public a whole library of Gaelic lore, generally with translations and careful notes by John O'Donovan. The most voluminous of these is the "Annals of the Four Masters," in 7 vols. 4to, a book which was compiled in its present form so late as the beginning of the 17th century, but which was necessarilv founded upon chronicles of very remote times. This book, with its notes, together with the publications of the Celtic and Ossianic societies and the series of volumes put forth by the archaeological society, may be said to furnish all the information which is extant on the subject. The chevalier Nigra, late Italian minister at Paris, is one of the most zealous Celtic students.
His Glossae Hibernicae Veteres Codi-cis Taitrinensis (Paris, 1869), from Gaelic MSS. and glosses found in the monastic libraries of Milan and Turin, has been highly praised by Celtic scholars. It ought to be mentioned that the work of Zeuss was revised and almost reconstructed after his death by II. Ebel; and it is now the most authoritative book of reference for students either of Gaelic or Cvmrie.