online: 15 march 2005
modified: 15 march 2005

14 march 2005 end of winter, Roman antecedents

16:29 In a small wood... i can hear sirens from several emergency vehicles in the distance... and a wood pigeon cooing, a robin chirping, a plane high overhead... The gorse here has been in bloom all winter... the trees and brambles are still bare, the air is about 10 degrees warmer than it was a few days ago...

Within a few more days i expect everything to come alive...

As i write a small insect with reddish wings is struggling to move over the minute fibres of my woollen glove - it is within 2 or 3 centimetres of these words about itself and of which it is surely unaware - and now it's gone... and i go too...

21:32 History, of all things, has been taking my attention for a year or so - and today some fragments of the history of Wales:

While reading the English edition of John Davies, A History of Wales, Penguin. London 1990 (in Welsh), 1993 (in English) i wrote these notes on the blank page inside the cover:

page 49: 'The natural inheritors of the power of Rome were the Romano-British ... the ruling class in Britain considered themselves to be Roman.'
As i read that my picture of post-Roman Britain changed and i felt the correctness of David Jones' approving view of what he called 'the Roman deposits'* and i felt the loss of that more international tradition...

page 50: 'Ireland ... the island was never part of the Roman Empire, there was no break in the development of its native institutions as there was in Wales.'
Again, as i read that, i felt touched by something deeper and more prolonged than the more local conflicts since the Roman period in Britain.

page 69: In 400 the inhabitants of Wales spoke Brittonic; in 700 they spoke Welsh.'

...hence Welsh is a modern language (like Italian, French or Spanish) - an amalgam of the once-imperial Latin with a pre-Roman language such as Brittonic or Gaulish.

page 71: 'it would appear that 'Welsh' meant not so much foreigners as people who had been Romanised; other versions of the word may be found along the borders of the Empire - the Walloons in Belgium, the Welsch in the Italian Tyrol, Vlaches in Romania...'

And now, as i think about these quotations and my comments, i again feel a peace, an affinity, and a sadness with regard to all that, the Roman history to which most of western Europe owes half of its doubled languages (with their large and hybrid vocabularies) and, despite the brutalities of Roman conquest, a still evident civilisation (such a Roman word!).

Europe acquired an external calm that is still evident in the dying form of English gentlemen, and ladies, and their aristocratic but polite Italian, French or Spanish equivalents! The ones whom we, the present day Welsh, still tend to oppose, deride and to regret as the ones who so often have dismissed the Brittonic or Welsh as uncivilised!... Today in these brief but deeply felt notes i am i hope unlearning some of that racial prejudice (against things Roman and things English) that i was born to! And i keep realising that i am still illiterate in my mother tongue and much enjoy writing in English!

*David Jones, Epoch and Artist, Faber and Faber, London 1959. In this book, or perhaps in one of his others, i recall (but cannot find today) his idea that things British owe more the wide variety of our antecedent cultures than to any one of them.

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