Symud i'r prif gynnwys

ANCIENT NATIONAL AIRS OF GWENT AND MORGANWG THE collection of songs brought out in 1844 by Maria Jane Williams of Aberpergwm under the title Ancient National Airs of Gwent and Morganwg was the first collection of Welsh folk-songs to be published; until this century the only one. Not that folk-song was the word in Jane Williams's day; but, to quote from her introduction to the volume: 'The songs are given as she ['the collector'] obtained them, in their wild and original state; no embellishments of the melody have been attempted, and the accompanying words are those sung to the airs.' There is little more we could ask of an editor of folk-songs. In fact, however, the editing of Ancient National Airs was far from being based on the principles implicit in the above statement; and demonstration of this is the main concern of this article. Not that it is surprising to discover that in a volume dedicated to Queen Victoria and privately published, for a very genteel list of subscribers,1 Jane Williams found reasons for replacing and bowdlerising the words of some of her songs. Few, probably, of her subscribers would have regarded such liberty with anything but approval. To put into perspective the criticism of details that constitutes the greater part of this article I should make two observations. When Ancient National Airs eventually appeared, Jane Williams wrote: 'I may say as it is not my composition, that in no one volume of a collection is there to be found so many pretty airs together.'2 Of original collections of Welsh airs this is surely true even today. Secondly, it is fair to emphasise how much we owe her collection for being the first by so lamentable an interval to honour the opinion that: 'in a musical point of view, words the unstudied production of the peasantry are infinitely more suitable [than the 'finished compositions of acknowledged Welsh poets'] as stamping upon the melody with which they are associated a popular national character that cannot be disputed.'3 Though, as will be seen, we owe the application of this opinion more perhaps to Lady Augusta Hall (later the famous Lady Llanover) than to Jane Williams herself. And though respect for 'the unstudied production of the peasantry' had somewhat limited bounds. The evidence around which this article grew is to be found in the following sources, all in the National Library: N.L.W. MS 1160: a copy of Ancient National Airs with which are bound a) a proof- copy of a rejected version of the introduction, b) Jane Williams's draft of her final introduction and of the printed notes to the songs, c) a list of some of the songs