This problem vexed John Price, the most capable of Geoffrey's defenders, who also made use of the three bards. Price, like Leland, Lhuyd, Powel, and Churchyard, made the argument of "privileged information," that only British scholars skilled in the British language could have access to British monuments, which had been, says Price, preserved in both written and oral records.
In Song 4, Drayton, preparing to sing Wales, "Nurse of all the British race" (108), identifies himself with the power of Taliesin: "Fill me a bowie of Meath, my working spirit to raise: / And ere seven Bookes have end, I'le strike so high a string, / Thy Bards shall stand amaz'd with wonder, whilst I sing; / That Taliessen, once which made the Rivers dance, / And in his rapture raiz'd the Mountaines from their trance, / Shall tremble at my Verse, rebounding from the skies; / Which like an earth-quake shakes the Tomb wherein he lies" (112-18).
With Taliesin and Merlin, as with bards in general, Drayton finally proves unable to contend with antiquarianism.
As far as establishing continuity was concerned, Drayton faced a different problem with druids than he faced with bards. On the one hand, thanks to the classics he knew more specific facts about druids as they existed in the ancient world.
In the invocation (to the bards, as we recall), when Drayton speaks of metempsychosis, "as those Druides taught, which kept the British rites," he is careful to remind us that this is a heathen doctrine: "But their opinions faild, by error led awry, / As since cleere truth hath shew'd to their posteritie" (1.35-38).
Drayton acknowledged the antiquarians and many were his friends, but their notion of anachronism was hateful to him and he struggled against it, using the best tools at his command: bards and druids.
13 The most important classical references to the Celtic bards come from Strabo, 2:245; Diodorus Siculus, 3:179; Lucan, 37.
15 Attacks on the reliability of the bards were common; see for example Twyne, 130; Buchanan, 14-45; Harrison, 1:23; Spenser, 5:341-42.
18 Bale, 27-28, 30-31, 33; Leland, 49-50, 55, 58, 83-85; for Leland's borrowings from the Vita, see Vita, 83-85; see Powel, 3-5, 15; Lhuyd, 7 (Lhuyd treats bards in general, not Taliesin or Merlin); Churchyard, 22-27, 46.
23 For the connection of bards and mead, see Skene, Boole of Taliesin poem #3, 2:115-16, trans.
27 The only significant fact from out of the classics pertaining to bards is their ability to soothe, with their music, both their own and enemy warriors, thus preventing them from fighting; see Diodorus, 3:179.