The earliest records that we possess of the Celtic race, whether Gaelic or Cymric, give the harp a prominent place and harpists peculiar veneration and distinction. The names for the harp are, however, quite different from the Teutonic. The Irish “clairseach,” the Highland Scottish “clarsach,” the Welsh, Cornish, Breton “telyn,” “telein,” “télen,” show no etymological kinship to the other European names. The first syllable in clairseach or clarsach is derived from the Gaelic “clar,” a board or table (soundboard), while the first syllable of telyn is distinctly Old Welsh, and has a tensile meaning; thus resonance supplies the one idea, tension the other. […]
The Welsh like the Irish harp was often an hereditary instrument to be preserved with great care and veneration, and used by the bards of the family, who were alike the poet-musicians and historians. A slave was not allowed to touch a harp, and it was exempted by the Welsh laws from seizure for debt.