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been privately celebrated at an early hour, the signal to the friends of the bridegroom was given by the piper, who was always present on these occasions, and mounted on a horse trained for the purpose; and the cavalcade, being all mounted, set off at full speed, with the piper playing in the midst of them, for the house of the bride. The friends of the bride in the meantime raised various obstructions to prevent their access to the house of the bride, such as ropes of straw across the road, blocking up the regular one, etc., and the Gwyntyn (literally, "the vane"), corrupted in English into Quintain. When the difficulties of the Gwyntyn were over, or the bridegroom's friends had anticipated the arrangement, they hastened to the bride's abode, and if the door was shut against them, assailed it with music and poetry, particularly the latter, in strains of raillery. If the latter could not be retorted from within, the door was opened, and by a little management the bridegroom's friends contrived to draw the bride out of the company, and bear her off as in triumph. Her friends, at a convenient time, discovered her flight and pursued, and if they overtook the other party a mock encounter took place, in which the pursuers acknowledged their own inferiority, and the bride was brought safely to the bridegroom's house, the whole party being received with the greatest kindness and welcome. The remainder of the day was passed in festivity. Lord Kames, in his Sketches of the History of Man, describes the custom, though in a less minutely detailed manner."
tenacious survival was sometimes known as Helen's Hunt, in allusion to the traditional elopement of Helen of Troy with Paris, which originated the Trojan war, and probably-i.e., the term-a relic of the once credited story of the Trojan-British Kings contained in the Armorican
1 Ibid. This consisted of an upright post, on the top of which a spar turned freely. At one end of this spar hung a sandbag, and the other presented a flat side. The rider in passing struck the flat side, and if not dexterous in passing was overtaken, and perhaps dismounted by the sandbag, and became a fair object of laughter. The Gwyntyn was also guarded by the champion of the other part, who, if it was passed successfully, challenged the adventurers to a trial of skill at one of the twenty-four games; a challenge which could not be declined, and hence to guard the Gwyntyn was a service of high adven
2 Book i, sec. 6, p. 449, el. 1807.
Chronicle of Geoffrey of Monmouth. Mr. Roberts, the author of the valuable Cambrian Antiquities, seeks an origin for the custom of "capture" in Wales, I think unnecessarily, in its introduction by the Romans, because a similar custom, very probably, is described on the authority of Apuleius in Rosini's Roman Antiquities, though the Quintain is acknowledged to be decisively of Welsh origin.
Whilst the rights of the British women were probably held sacred, and the position generally of the IndoEuropean woman is assumed to have been a relatively high one, it was a position, there is much to show, which was surrounded by facilities for divorce, with which it would be inadequate to compare, either numerically or as to commodiousness, the exits of a modern safety theatre. Even as late as the tenth century' the laws of Howel Dda permitted divorce on the most trivial pretexts, and the fact that these laws were those of a Christian prince shows how deeply rooted had been the belief in the laxity with which the marriage tie might be regarded, since it was with such difficulty that it was shaken by Christian dogma. In Ireland, also, whilst the rights of women were protected, as in Wales, by special laws, the facilities for the separation of husband and wife were similarly numerous. And we have in the poems of Ossian notable instances of the ease with which a divorce could be effected, at all events, in the northern parts of Britain. In the second canto of Fingal, Deugala had but to divide the herd with Cairbar, her husband, to obtain immediate separation from him, that she might marry "that sunbeam of youth', the noble son of Danman, for whom "half of the herd" was probably a marriage portion, the surrendering of which was, in this instance, all the marriage ceremony that was performed. In the fourth canto of
1 It was not until the eighth or ninth century that our marriagecustoms appear to have been reduced into a well-defined institution, with fixed laws, ceremonies, and consequent rights. For this advance in jurisprudence the Saxons were indebted to the Christian clergy; and for the form it took, to the teachings of the Mosaic law, to the civil law of Rome, and to the canons of the Church. (See Thrupp's Anglo-Saxon Home, p. 27.)
2 See O'Curry's Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, Introd., p. clxxv.
the same poem is an illustration of the matrimonial rite having consisted in the father simply giving up his daughter, the "snow - bosomed" Evir Allin, to Ossian her suitor, sealing the contract by the act of "opening the hall of the maid", i.e., the apartment in which the women generally sat retired from the men of the family. The shortness of the period of courtship, of which we have an instance in that of Isaac and Rebecca, seems to have been common to the patriarchal conditions of society. The survival of the French dot, or marriage portion, may be traced to the custom among the Gauls, as described by Cæsar,' of the husband receiving a portion in money with his wife for which he made a suitable settlement of his goods."
It is evident that there were no matrimonial rites, such as we understand them to have existed in the contemporary history of Rome, much less were any performed, as Foxbrooke conjectures, at a cromlech, seeing that, as I have endeavoured to show, the matter concerned more closely the social life of each clan, or house-community, rather than the tribe at large; and in the stone age, with which the building of monuments and temples of stone may be identified, there is still less probability of marriage rites having existed other than those of the simplest kind. Rather was the contract effected by the mutual will and assent of the contracting parties, and the agreement sealed by the gift or exchange of useful presents, such as the presenting, by the father of the bride, of his own arms to his son-in-law, as described by Ossian; or such as Tacitus describes as having been customary amongst the ancient Germans, when he says that "the contract was confirmed by the exchange of presents, an act which they considered an indissoluble bond of union".3
1 De Bello Gall., lib. vi, c. 18.
A writer has remarked, in explanation of the woman giving instead of the man, that it is more reasonable for the woman thus to pay for protection than that her lover should pay for the privilege of maiutaining her. This, says Sir Henry Maine, is the favourite form of settling the property of married women all over the continent of Europe. It is a contribution of the wife's family, or by the wife hetself, intended to assist the husband in bearing the expenses of the conjugal household.
De Morib. German., c. xviii.
Again, illustrations of the contract having been sealed by the simple act of "handfasting" are given on sculptured monuments of the Anglo and Gallo-Roman period,1 which may be seen in Aringhus's Roma Subterranea, Montfalcon's Antiquity Explained, and in Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (Marriage). The Persians and Assyrians were in the habit of contracting marriage by joining their right hands and giving a ring, and Mr. Lysons assumes this to have been also the British habit from the earliest times.1
So that finally we are reduced to the conclusion that monogamy amongst the Britons was the rule, and polygamy the exception. The light of the evidence which Tacitus alone throws upon the subject is sufficiently convincing as to this being so, and more than sufficient to annul the pernicious statement of Cæsar's. It has been shown how great were the facilities for divorce, and whilst we find in bardic poetry and song no reflection of any more irregular relationship than that which existed among the ancient Germans, to whom, with the Celts, may even be attributed the rough-hewn origin of the chivalry which flowered during the Middle Ages, one would not wish to place their morality at such an altitude as to elicit the approval of the Christian sociologist; for whilst the clan system admitted so easily of divorce, a powerful chieftain (as was the case with the Scandinavians until they came under the influence of Christianity) often attached to his household a plurality of wives. A passage in Cæsar describes how among the Gauls," when the father of a family born in a more than commonly distinguished station had died, his relations assemble, and if the circumstances of his death are suspicious, hold an investigation upon the wives, in the manner adopted towards slaves." "Uxoribus" here has been understood by
1 Even the Gaulish inscriptions are very scanty; the interpretation as yet given to them imperfect, and by no means adequate as data for conclusions. They may be safely taken as handing down remains of a tongue clearly Celtic, but showing inflections which it would be hazardous to say are identified with any now found in Irish, or dissimilar to any at one time found in Cymric. (See The Pedigree of the English, by Thomas Nicholas, p. 43, ed. 1878.)
2 Ed. 1651.
3 Vol. iii.
See illustrations, lib. ii, c. x, pp. 283-291.
5 De Bell. Gall., vi, 19.
4 Our British Ancestors.
many, and among these is Dr. Schrader, to imply that polygamy was therefore the rule; but the context, wherein it is seen that Cæsar is speaking of pater familiæ in lustriore loci natus, "a father of a family born in a more than commonly distinguished station", at once destroys this assumption. Hence, in conclusion, it may be asserted that the elaborate edifice of Western civilisation, with Christianity for its corner-stone, has been built upon no such sandy foundations with regard to marriage-so far, at least, as Britain is concerned-as some historians and ethnologists would have us believe, and to writers from the latter point of view Cæsar's libel is especially a stumbling block. Why should "the heavenly island of Britain", if one may repeat the epithet which the prince of bards has applied with more grace than a modern poet to his native country, be especially selected for exclusion from the virtues with which Dr. Schrader, in agreement with Benfey, Whitney, Taylor, and Müller, has credited the whole Indo-European race; "a people", he says, "possessing a well-regulated family and national life, familiar with cattle-breeding and agriculture, owning nearly all the domesticated animals which at the present day are in the service of man, experienced in mining, and working the most important if not all of the metals? Such a people seemed to be the fitting representatives of a race which was destined to play so important a part in the development of civilisation."2
1 Britain seems to have become the "heavenly Island", and the Paradise of the Celts, simply because it was the safest place to guard their religion, their greatest treasure; just as in the case of a siege, valuables would be placed in the remotest place of safety, or where it would the least occur to the besiegers to look for it. Hence the Holy Island appears to have shifted from one place to another: first Britain, then Mona, then Ireland, according to the encroachments of "the stranger" upon their territory. This, doubtless, accounts for the preservation in such numbers of the Irish MSS.; and would not this also explain the hitherto unaccounted for circumstance of the Gauls sending their children to Britain for Druidic education?
2 Prehist. Antiq. of the Aryan Peoples (Jevons' trans.), p. 29.