Picture of Gerald of Wales

Gerald of Wales

places mentioned

Book 1, Ch. 15: Their boldness and confidence

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Their boldness and confidence in speaking

Nature hath given not only to the highest, but also to the inferior, classes of the people of this nation, a boldness and confidence in speaking and answering, even in the presence of their princes and chieftains. The Romans and Franks had the same faculty; but neither the English, nor the Saxons and Germans, from whom they are descended, had it. It is in vain urged, that this defect may arise from the state of servitude which the English endured; for the Saxons and Germans, who enjoy their liberty, have the same failing, and derive this natural coldness of disposition from the frozen region they inhabit; the English also, although placed in a distant climate, still retain the exterior fairness of complexion and inward coldness of disposition, as inseparable from their original and natural character. The Britons, on the contrary, transplanted from the hot and parched regions of Dardania into these more temperate districts, as

"Coelum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt,"

still retain their brown complexion and that natural warmth of temper from which their confidence is derived. For three nations, remnants of the Greeks after the destruction of Troy, fled from Asia into different parts of Europe, the Romans under AEneas, the Franks under Antenor, and the Britons under Brutus; and from thence arose that courage, that nobleness of mind, that ancient dignity, that acuteness of understanding, and confidence of speech, for which these three nations are so highly distinguished. But the Britons, from having been detained longer in Greece than the other two nations, after the destruction of their country, and having migrated at a later period into the western parts of Europe, retained in a greater degree the primitive words and phrases of their native language. You will find amongst them the names Oenus, Resus, AEneas, Hector, Achilles, Heliodorus, Theodorus, Ajax, Evander, Uliex, Anianus, Elisa, Guendolena, and many others, bearing marks of their antiquity. It is also to be observed, that almost all words in the British language correspond either with the Greek or Latin, as [Greek text which cannot be reproduced], water, is called in British, dwr; [Greek text], salt, in British, halen; [Greek text], eno, a name; [Greek text], pump, five; [Greek text], deg, ten. The Latins also use the words fraenum, tripos, gladius, lorica; the Britons, froyn (ffrwyn), trepet (tribedd), cleddyf, and lluric (llurig); unicus is made unic (unig); canis, can (cwn); and belua, beleu.

Gerald of Wales, The Description of Wales (Oxford, Mississippi, 1997)

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