Rev. of Chapter from Allchin. Praise Above All: Discovering the Welsh Tradition

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Mar 7 13:39:54 UTC 2007

In this chapter, Allchin uses two religious metaphors to represent two
kinds of attitudes towards poetry and language; the story of Babel is
associated with a negative feeling about language and the difficulty of
communication, while Pentecost celebrates a multiplicity of tongues.
Allchin is aware that Pentecost is the more progressive metaphor, since:
The unity which the Spirit brings is thus seen as a unity in difference, a
unity in freedom, which brings out rather than suppresses the
multiplicity, the richness of the universe which God has made (126). This
vision occurs in the hymns and sermons of N.F.S. Grundtvig (1783 -1872), a
Danish theologian who had a great effect on the early leaders of Welsh
nationalism. According to Allchin, Grundtvigs Pentecost is, not [] an
isolated wonder, nor [] something altogether without precedent in human
history, but rather [it is] the totally unmerited fulfilment of a divine
activity which despite the fall has never ceased throughout creation

But can different languages co-exist and if so, how? Allchin recommends an
appreciation of different languages which emerges from, a vision of the
world as made by God in diversity as well as unity, from a vision of a
qualitative catholicity of life, which respects and does not destroy human
differences and variety (138). One answer, according to Allchin, might be
to extend a multilingual language policy not only in Wales, but in
Scotland, Northern Ireland and England. The fact that English people have
ignored minor languages to a great extent signal to Allchin, a degree of
blindness which is disabling indeed, an unwillingness to recognize the
existence of the other and to let him speak in his own terms, which, while
it is universal in our fallen humanity, is yet a special affliction of
peoples with an imperial past (139).

A.M. Allchin. Praise Above All: Discovering the Welsh Tradition. Cardiff:
University of Wales Press, 1991.


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