HotFreeBooks.com
Wild Wales - Its People, Language and Scenery
by George Borrow
1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Transcribed from the 1907 John Murray edition by David Price, email ccx074@pglaf.org. Second proof by Jane Gamie.



WILD WALES

ITS PEOPLE, LANGUAGE AND SCENERY

BY GEORGE BORROW

"Their Lord they shall praise, Their language they shall keep, Their land they shall lose, Except Wild Wales."

TALIESIN: Destiny of the Britons

* * * * *

LONDON JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET 1907

FIRST EDITION 1862 SECOND EDITION 1865 THIRD EDITION 1888 FOURTH EDITION 1896 FIFTH (DEFINITIVE) EDITION 6/- March, 1901 Reprinted Thin Paper July, 1905 Reprinted 6/- Sept., 1907 Reprinted 2/6 net. Sept., 1907

NOTE

This edition of Wild Wales has been carefully collated with the first edition, in order to ensure that the spelling of proper names shall be precisely as Borrow left it, and the running headings on the right-hand pages as nearly as possible those which Borrow himself wrote.

January 1901.



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS

All the Plates in this volumes are from drawings by Mr. A. S. HARTRICK {0}

Above Capel Curig on the road to Bangor Frontispiece (Photogravure) Llangollen and Dinas Bran to face page 32 The Wilds of Snowdown 200 In Anglessey. Redwharf Bay (Treath Coch), and 212 the Country of Gronwy Owen The Wondrous Valley of Gelert 312 Cascade on the Moor between Festiniog and Balla 328 Balla Lake in the Fifties, showing the Aran 346 Mountain and Cader Idris. (Drawn from an old print) Chirk (Castell y Waen) 366 Twilight after a Storm. Dinas Mawddwy 494 Eastern Street, Machynlleth, showing part of 512 Owen Glendower's Parliament House The Devil's Bridge 558 The Remains of Strata Florida Abbey from the 596 Churchyard "Pump Saint" 632

Map of Wales showing Borrow's Route to face page 1

INTRODUCTORY

Wales is a country interesting in many respects, and deserving of more attention than it has hitherto met with. Though not very extensive, it is one of the most picturesque countries in the world, a country in which Nature displays herself in her wildest, boldest, and occasionally loveliest forms. The inhabitants, who speak an ancient and peculiar language, do not call this region Wales, nor themselves Welsh. They call themselves Cymry or Cumry, and their country Cymru, or the land of the Cumry. Wales or Wallia, however, is the true, proper, and without doubt original name, as it relates not to any particular race, which at present inhabits it, or may have sojourned in it at any long bygone period, but to the country itself. Wales signifies a land of mountains, of vales, of dingles, chasms, and springs. It is connected with the Cumbric bal, a protuberance, a springing forth; with the Celtic beul or beal, a mouth; with the old English welle, a fountain; with the original name of Italy, still called by the Germans Welschland; with Balkan and Vulcan, both of which signify a casting out, an eruption; with Welint or Wayland, the name of the Anglo-Saxon god of the forge; with the Chaldee val, a forest, and the German wald; with the English bluff, and the Sanscrit palava—startling assertions, no doubt, at least to some; which are, however, quite true, and which at some future time will be universally acknowledged so to be.

But it is not for its scenery alone that Wales is deserving of being visited; scenery soon palls unless it is associated with remarkable events, and the names of remarkable men. Perhaps there is no country in the whole world which has been the scene of events more stirring and remarkable than those recorded in the history of Wales. What other country has been the scene of a struggle so deadly, so embittered, and protracted as that between the Cumro and the Saxon?—A struggle which did not terminate at Caernarvon, when Edward Longshanks foisted his young son upon the Welsh chieftains as Prince of Wales; but was kept up till the battle of Bosworth Field, when a prince of Cumric blood won the crown of fair Britain, verifying the olden word which had cheered the hearts of the Ancient Britons for at least a thousand years, even in times of the darkest distress and gloom:—

"But after long pain Repose we shall obtain, When sway barbaric has purg'd us clean; And Britons shall regain Their crown and their domain, And the foreign oppressor be no more seen."

Of remarkable men Wales has assuredly produced its full share. First, to speak of men of action:—there was Madoc, the son of Owain Gwynedd, who discovered America, centuries before Columbus was born; then there was "the irregular and wild Glendower," who turned rebel at the age of sixty, was crowned King of Wales at Machynlleth, and for fourteen years contrived to hold his own against the whole power of England; then there was Ryce Ap Thomas, the best soldier of his time, whose hands placed the British crown on the brow of Henry the Seventh, and whom bluff Henry the Eighth delighted to call Father Preece; then there was—who?—why Harry Morgan, who led those tremendous fellows the Buccaneers across the Isthmus of Darien to the sack and burning of Panama.

What, a buccaneer in the list? Ay! and why not? Morgan was a scourge, it is true, but he was a scourge of God on the cruel Spaniards of the New World, the merciless task-masters and butchers of the Indian race: on which account God favoured and prospered him, permitting him to attain the noble age of ninety, and to die peacefully and tranquilly at Jamaica, whilst smoking his pipe in his shady arbour, with his smiling plantation of sugar-canes full in view. How unlike the fate of Harry Morgan to that of Lolonois, a being as daring and enterprising as the Welshman, but a monster without ruth or discrimination, terrible to friend and foe, who perished by the hands, not of the Spaniards, but of the Indians, who tore him limb from limb, burning his members, yet quivering, in the fire—which very Indians Morgan contrived to make his own firm friends, and whose difficult language he spoke with the same facility as English, Spanish, and his own South Welsh.

For men of genius Wales during a long period was particularly celebrated.—Who has not heard of the Welsh Bards? though it is true that, beyond the borders of Wales, only a very few are acquainted with their songs, owing to the language, by no means an easy one, in which they were composed. Honour to them all! everlasting glory to the three greatest—Taliesin, Ab Gwilym and Gronwy Owen: the first a professed Christian, but in reality a Druid, whose poems fling great light on the doctrines of the primitive priesthood of Europe, which correspond remarkably with the philosophy of the Hindus, before the time of Brahma: the second the grand poet of Nature, the contemporary of Chaucer, but worth half a dozen of the accomplished word-master, the ingenious versifier of Norman and Italian tales: the third a learned and irreproachable minister of the Church of England, and one of the greatest poets of the last century, who after several narrow escapes from starvation both in England and Wales, died master of a paltry school at New Brunswick, in North America, sometime about the year 1780.

But Wales has something besides its wonderful scenery, its eventful history, and its illustrious men of yore to interest the visitor. Wales has a population, and a remarkable one. There are countries, besides Wales, abounding with noble scenery, rich in eventful histories, and which are not sparingly dotted with the birthplaces of heroes and poets, in which at the present day there is either no population at all, or one of a character which is anything but attractive. Of a country in the first predicament, the Scottish Highlands afford an example: What a country is that Highland region! What scenery! and what associations! If Wales has its Snowdon and Cader Idris, the Highlands have their Hill of the Water Dogs, and that of the Swarthy Swine: If Wales has a history, so have the Highlands—not indeed so remarkable as that of Wales, but eventful enough: If Wales has had its heroes, its Glendower and Father Pryce, the Highlands have had their Evan Cameron and Ranald of Moydart; If Wales has had its romantic characters, its Griffith Ap Nicholas and Harry Morgan, the Highlands have had Rob Roy and that strange fellow Donald Macleod, the man of the broadsword, the leader of the Freacadan Dhu, who at Fontenoy caused, the Lord only knows, how many Frenchmen's heads to fly off their shoulders, who lived to the age of one hundred and seven, and at seventy-one performed gallant service on the Heights of Abraham: wrapped in whose plaid the dying Wolfe was carried from the hill of victory.—If Wales has been a land of song, have not the Highlands also?—If Wales can boast of Ab Gwilym and Gronwy, the Highlands can boast of Ossian and MacIntyre. In many respects the two regions are equals or nearly so;—In one respect, however, a matter of the present day, and a very important matter too, they are anything but equals: Wales has a population—but where is that of the Highlands?—Plenty of noble scene; Plenty of delightful associations, historical, poetical, and romantic—but, but, where is the population?

The population of Wales has not departed across the Atlantic, like that of the Highlands; it remains at home, and a remarkable population it is—very different from the present inhabitants of several beautiful lands of olden fame, who have strangely degenerated from their forefathers. Wales has not only a population, but a highly interesting one—hardy and frugal, yet kind and hospitable—a bit crazed, it is true, on the subject of religion, but still retaining plenty of old Celtic peculiarities, and still speaking Diolch i Duw!—the language of Glendower and the Bards.

The present is a book about Wales and Welsh matters. He who does me the honour of perusing it will be conducted to many a spot not only remarkable for picturesqueness, but for having been the scene of some extraordinary event, or the birth-place or residence of a hero or a man of genius; he will likewise be not unfrequently introduced to the genuine Welsh, and made acquainted with what they have to say about Cumro and Saxon, buying and selling, fattening hogs and poultry, Methodism and baptism, and the poor, persecuted Church of England.

An account of the language of Wales will be found in the last chapter. It has many features and words in common with the Sanscrit, and many which seem peculiar to itself, or rather to the family of languages, generally called the Celtic, to which it belongs. Though not an original tongue, for indeed no original tongue, or anything approximating to one, at present exists, it is certainly of immense antiquity, indeed almost entitled in that respect to dispute the palm with the grand tongue of India, on which in some respects it flings nearly as much elucidation as it itself receives in others. Amongst the words quoted in the chapter alluded to I wish particularly to direct the reader's attention to gwr, a man, and gwres, heat; to which may be added gwreichionen, a spark. Does not the striking similarity between these words warrant the supposition that the ancient Cumry entertained the idea that man and fire were one and the same, even like the ancient Hindus, who believed that man sprang from fire, and whose word vira, {1} which signifies a strong man, a hero, signifies also fire?

There are of course faults and inaccuracies in the work; but I have reason to believe that they are neither numerous nor important: I may have occasionally given a wrong name to a hill or a brook; or may have overstated or understated, by a furlong, the distance between one hamlet and another; or even committed the blunder of saying that Mr Jones Ap Jenkins lived in this or that homestead, whereas in reality Mr Jenkins Ap Jones honoured it with his residence: I may be chargeable with such inaccuracies; in which case I beg to express due sorrow for them, and at the same time a hope that I have afforded information about matters relating to Wales which more than atones for them. It would be as well if those who exhibit eagerness to expose the faults of a book would occasionally have the candour to say a word or two about its merits; such a wish, however, is not likely to be gratified, unless indeed they wisely take a hint from the following lines, translated from a cywydd of the last of the great poets of Wales:

"All can perceive a fault, where there is one— A dirty scamp will find one, where there's none." {2}

[Picture: Map of Wales showing Borrow's route]



CHAPTER I

Proposed Excursion—Knowledge of Welsh—Singular Groom—Harmonious Distich—Welsh Pronunciation—Dafydd Ab Gwilym.

In the summer of the year 1854 myself, wife, and daughter determined upon going into Wales, to pass a few months there. We are country people of a corner of East Anglia, and, at the time of which I am speaking, had been residing so long on our own little estate, that we had become tired of the objects around us, and conceived that we should be all the better for changing the scene for a short period. We were undetermined for some time with respect to where we should go. I proposed Wales from the first, but my wife and daughter, who have always had rather a hankering after what is fashionable, said they thought it would be more advisable to go to Harrowgate, or Leamington. On my observing that those were terrible places for expense, they replied that, though the price of corn had of late been shamefully low, we had a spare hundred pounds or two in our pockets, and could afford to pay for a little insight into fashionable life. I told them that there was nothing I so much hated as fashionable life, but that, as I was anything but a selfish person, I would endeavour to stifle my abhorrence of it for a time, and attend them either to Leamington or Harrowgate. By this speech I obtained my wish, even as I knew I should, for my wife and daughter instantly observed, that, after all, they thought we had better go into Wales, which, though not so fashionable as either Leamington or Harrowgate, was a very nice picturesque country, where, they had no doubt, they should get on very well, more especially as I was acquainted with the Welsh language.

It was my knowledge of Welsh, such as it was, that made me desirous that we should go to Wales, where there was a chance that I might turn it to some little account. In my boyhood I had been something of a philologist; had picked up some Latin and Greek at school; some Irish in Ireland, where I had been with my father, who was in the army; and subsequently whilst an articled clerk to the first solicitor in East Anglia—indeed I may say the prince of all English solicitors—for he was a gentleman, had learnt some Welsh, partly from books and partly from a Welsh groom, whose acquaintance I made. A queer groom he was, and well deserving of having his portrait drawn. He might be about forty-seven years of age, and about five feet eight inches in height; his body was spare and wiry; his chest rather broad, and his arms remarkably long; his legs were of the kind generally known as spindle-shanks, but vigorous withal, for they carried his body with great agility; neck he had none, at least that I ever observed; and his head was anything but high, not measuring, I should think, more than four inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the forehead; his cheek-bones were high, his eyes grey and deeply sunken in his face, with an expression in them, partly sullen, and partly irascible; his complexion was indescribable; the little hair which he had, which was almost entirely on the sides and the back part of his head, was of an iron-grey hue. He wore a leather hat on ordinary days, low at the crown, and with the side eaves turned up. A dirty pepper and salt coat, a waistcoat which had once been red, but which had lost its pristine colour, and looked brown; dirty yellow leather breeches, grey worsted stockings, and high-lows. Surely I was right when I said he was a very different groom to those of the present day, whether Welsh or English? What say you, Sir Watkin? What say you, my Lord of Exeter? He looked after the horses, and occasionally assisted in the house of a person who lived at the end of an alley, in which the office of the gentleman to whom I was articled was situated, and having to pass by the door of the office half-a-dozen times in the day, he did not fail to attract the notice of the clerks, who, sometimes individually, sometimes by twos, sometimes by threes, or even more, not unfrequently stood at the door, bareheaded—mis-spending the time which was not legally their own. Sundry observations, none of them very flattering, did the clerks and, amongst them, myself, make upon the groom, as he passed and repassed, some of them direct, others somewhat oblique. To these he made no reply save by looks, which had in them something dangerous and menacing, and clenching without raising his fists, which looked singularly hard and horny. At length a whisper ran about the alley that the groom was a Welshman; this whisper much increased the malice of my brother clerks against him, who were now whenever he passed the door, and they happened to be there by twos or threes, in the habit of saying something, as if by accident, against Wales and Welshmen, and, individually or together, were in the habit of shouting out "Taffy," when he was at some distance from them, and his back was turned, or regaling his ears with the harmonious and well-known distich of "Taffy was a Welshman, Taffy was a thief: Taffy came to my house and stole a piece of beef." It had, however, a very different effect upon me. I was trying to learn Welsh, and the idea occurring to me that the groom might be able to assist me in my pursuit, I instantly lost all desire to torment him, and determined to do my best to scrape acquaintance with him, and persuade him to give me what assistance he could in Welsh. I succeeded; how I will not trouble the reader with describing: he and I became great friends, and he taught me what Welsh he could. In return for his instructions I persuaded my brother clerks to leave off holloing after him, and to do nothing further to hurt his feelings, which had been very deeply wounded, so much so, that after the first two or three lessons he told me in confidence that on the morning of the very day I first began to conciliate him he had come to the resolution of doing one of two things, namely, either to hang himself from the balk of the hayloft, or to give his master warning, both of which things he told me he should have been very unwilling to do, more particularly as he had a wife and family. He gave me lessons on Sunday afternoons, at my father's house, where he made his appearance very respectably dressed, in a beaver hat, blue surtout, whitish waistcoat, black trowsers and Wellingtons, all with a somewhat ancient look—the Wellingtons I remember were slightly pieced at the sides—but all upon the whole very respectable. I wished at first to persuade him to give me lessons in the office, but could not succeed: "No, no, lad;" said he, "catch me going in there: I would just as soon venture into a nest of porcupines." To translate from books I had already, to a certain degree, taught myself, and at his first visit I discovered, and he himself acknowledged, that at book Welsh I was stronger than himself, but I learnt Welsh pronunciation from him, and to discourse a little in the Welsh tongue. "Had you much difficulty in acquiring the sound of the ll?" I think I hear the reader inquire. None whatever: the double l of the Welsh is by no means the terrible guttural which English people generally suppose it to be, being in reality a pretty liquid, exactly resembling in sound the Spanish ll, the sound of which I had mastered before commencing Welsh, and which is equivalent to the English lh; so being able to pronounce llano I had of course no difficulty in pronouncing Lluyd, which by-the-bye was the name of the groom.

I remember that I found the pronunciation of the Welsh far less difficult than I had found the grammar, the most remarkable feature of which is the mutation, under certain circumstances, of particular consonants, when forming the initials of words. This feature I had observed in the Irish, which I had then only learnt by ear.

But to return to the groom. He was really a remarkable character, and taught me two or three things besides Welsh pronunciation; and to discourse a little in Cumraeg. He had been a soldier in his youth, and had served under Moore and Wellington in the Peninsular campaigns, and from him I learnt the details of many a bloody field and bloodier storm, of the sufferings of poor British soldiers, and the tyranny of haughty British officers; more especially of the two commanders just mentioned, the first of whom he swore was shot by his own soldiers, and the second more frequently shot at by British than French. But it is not deemed a matter of good taste to write about such low people as grooms, I shall therefore dismiss him with no observation further than that after he had visited me on Sunday afternoons for about a year he departed for his own country with his wife, who was an Englishwoman, and his children, in consequence of having been left a small freehold there by a distant relation, and that I neither saw nor heard of him again.

But though I had lost my oral instructor I had still my silent ones, namely, the Welsh books, and of these I made such use that before the expiration of my clerkship I was able to read not only Welsh prose, but, what was infinitely more difficult, Welsh poetry in any of the four-and-twenty measures, and was well versed in the compositions of various of the old Welsh bards, especially those of Dafydd ab Gwilym, whom, since the time when I first became acquainted with his works, I have always considered as the greatest poetical genius that has appeared in Europe since the revival of literature.

After this exordium I think I may proceed to narrate the journey of myself and family into Wales. As perhaps, however, it will be thought that, though I have said quite enough about myself and a certain groom, I have not said quite enough about my wife and daughter, I will add a little more about them. Of my wife I will merely say that she is a perfect paragon of wives—can make puddings and sweets and treacle posset, and is the best woman of business in Eastern Anglia—of my step-daughter—for such she is, though I generally call her daughter, and with good reason, seeing that she has always shown herself a daughter to me—that she has all kinds of good qualities, and several accomplishments, knowing something of conchology, more of botany, drawing capitally in the Dutch style, and playing remarkably well on the guitar—not the trumpery German thing so-called—but the real Spanish guitar.



CHAPTER II

The Starting—Peterborough Cathedral—Anglo-Saxon Names—Kaempe Viser—Steam—Norman Barons—Chester Ale—Sion Tudor—Pretty Welsh Tongue.

So our little family, consisting of myself, my wife Mary, and my daughter Henrietta, for daughter I shall persist in calling her, started for Wales in the afternoon of the 27th July, 1854. We flew through part of Norfolk and Cambridgeshire in a train which we left at Ely, and getting into another, which did not fly quite so fast as the one we had quieted, reached the Peterborough station at about six o'clock of a delightful evening. We proceeded no farther on our journey that day, in order that we might have an opportunity of seeing the cathedral.

Sallying arm in arm from the Station Hotel, where we had determined to take up our quarters for the night, we crossed a bridge over the deep quiet Nen, on the southern bank of which stands the station, and soon arrived at the cathedral—unfortunately we were too late to procure admission into the interior, and had to content ourselves with walking round it and surveying its outside.

It is named after, and occupies the site, or part of the site of an immense monastery, founded by the Mercian King Peda, in the year 665, and destroyed by fire in the year 1116, which monastery, though originally termed Medeshamsted, or the homestead on the meads, was subsequently termed Peterborough, from the circumstance of its having been reared by the old Saxon monarch for the love of God and the honour of Saint Peter, as the Saxon Chronicle says, a book which I went through carefully in my younger days, when I studied Saxon, for, as I have already told the reader, I was in those days a bit of a philologist. Like the first, the second edifice was originally a monastery, and continued so till the time of the Reformation; both were abodes of learning; for if the Saxon Chronicle was commenced in the monkish cells of the first, it was completed in those of the second. What is at present called Peterborough Cathedral is a noble venerable pile, equal upon the whole in external appearance to the cathedrals of Toledo, Burgos and Leon, all of which I have seen. Nothing in architecture can be conceived more beautiful than the principal entrance, which fronts the west, and which, at the time we saw it, was gilded with the rays of the setting sun.

After having strolled about the edifice surveying it until we were weary, we returned to our inn, and after taking an excellent supper retired to rest.

At ten o'clock next morning we left the capital of the meads. With dragon speed, and dragon noise, fire, smoke, and fury, the train dashed along its road through beautiful meadows, garnished here and there with pollard sallows; over pretty streams, whose waters stole along imperceptibly; by venerable old churches, which I vowed I would take the first opportunity of visiting: stopping now and then to recruit its energies at places, whose old Anglo-Saxon names stared me in the eyes from station boards, as specimens of which, let me only dot down Willy Thorpe, Ringsted, and Yrthling Boro. Quite forgetting everything Welsh, I was enthusiastically Saxon the whole way from Medeshamsted to Blissworth, so thoroughly Saxon was the country, with its rich meads, its old churches and its names. After leaving Blissworth, a thoroughly Saxon place by-the-bye, as its name shows, signifying the stronghold or possession of Bligh or Blee, I became less Saxon; the country was rather less Saxon, and I caught occasionally the word "by" on a board, the Danish for a town; which "by" waked in me a considerable portion of Danish enthusiasm, of which I have plenty, and with reason, having translated the glorious Kaempe Viser over the desk of my ancient master, the gentleman solicitor of East Anglia. At length we drew near the great workshop of England, called by some, Brummagem or Bromwicham, by others Birmingham, and I fell into a philological reverie, wondering which was the right name. Before, however, we came to the station, I decided that both names were right enough, but that Bromwicham was the original name; signifying the home on the broomie moor, which name it lost in polite parlance for Birmingham, or the home of the son of Biarmer, when a certain man of Danish blood, called Biarming, or the son of Biarmer, got possession of it, whether by force, fraud, or marriage—the latter, by-the-bye, is by far the best way of getting possession of an estate—this deponent neither knoweth nor careth. At Birmingham station I became a modern Englishman, enthusiastically proud of modern England's science and energy; that station alone is enough to make one proud of being a modern Englishman. Oh, what an idea does that station, with its thousand trains dashing off in all directions, or arriving from all quarters, give of modern English science and energy. My modern English pride accompanied me all the way to Tipton; for all along the route there were wonderful evidences of English skill and enterprise; in chimneys high as cathedral spires, vomiting forth smoke, furnaces emitting flame and lava, and in the sound of gigantic hammers, wielded by steam, the Englishman's slave. After passing Tipton, at which place one leaves the great working district behind; I became for a considerable time a yawning, listless Englishman, without pride, enthusiasm, or feeling of any kind, from which state I was suddenly roused by the sight of ruined edifices on the tops of hills. They were remains of castles built by Norman Barons. Here, perhaps, the reader will expect from me a burst of Norman enthusiasm: if so he will be mistaken; I have no Norman enthusiasm, and hate and abominate the name of Norman, for I have always associated that name with the deflowering of helpless Englishwomen, the plundering of English homesteads, and the tearing out of poor Englishmen's eyes. The sight of those edifices, now in ruins, but which were once the strongholds of plunder, violence, and lust, made me almost ashamed of being an Englishman, for they brought to my mind the indignities to which poor English blood has been subjected. I sat silent and melancholy, till looking from the window I caught sight of a long line of hills, which I guessed to be the Welsh hills, as indeed they proved, which sight causing me to remember that I was bound for Wales, the land of the bard, made me cast all gloomy thoughts aside and glow with all the Welsh enthusiasm with which I glowed when I first started in the direction of Wales.

On arriving at Chester, at which place we intended to spend two or three days, we put up at an old-fashioned inn in Northgate Street, to which we had been recommended; my wife and daughter ordered tea and its accompaniments, and I ordered ale, and that which always should accompany it, cheese. "The ale I shall find bad," said I; Chester ale had a villainous character in the time of old Sion Tudor, who made a first-rate englyn upon it, and it has scarcely improved since; "but I shall have a treat in the cheese, Cheshire cheese has always been reckoned excellent, and now that I am in the capital of the cheese country, of course I shall have some of the very prime." Well, the tea, loaf and butter made their appearance, and with them my cheese and ale. To my horror the cheese had much the appearance of soap of the commonest kind, which indeed I found it much resembled in taste, on putting a small portion into my mouth. "Ah," said I, after I had opened the window and ejected the half-masticated morsel into the street, "those who wish to regale on good Cheshire cheese must not come to Chester, no more than those who wish to drink first-rate coffee must go to Mocha. I'll now see whether the ale is drinkable;" so I took a little of the ale into my mouth, and instantly going to the window, spirted it out after the cheese. "Of a surety," said I, "Chester ale must be of much the same quality as it was in the time of Sion Tudor, who spoke of it to the following effect:—

"Chester ale, Chester ale! I could ne'er get it down, 'Tis made of ground-ivy, of dirt, and of bran, 'Tis as thick as a river below a huge town! 'Tis not lap for a dog, far less drink for a man.'

Well! if I have been deceived in the cheese, I have at any rate not been deceived in the ale, which I expected to find execrable. Patience! I shall not fall into a passion, more especially as there are things I can fall back upon. Wife! I will trouble you for a cup of tea. Henrietta! have the kindness to cut me a slice of bread and butter."

Upon the whole we found ourselves very comfortable in the old-fashioned inn, which was kept by a nice old-fashioned gentlewoman, with the assistance of three servants, namely, a "boots" and two strapping chambermaids, one of which was a Welsh girl, with whom I soon scraped acquaintance, not, I assure the reader, for the sake of the pretty Welsh eyes which she carried in her head, but for the sake of the pretty Welsh tongue which she carried in her mouth, from which I confess occasionally proceeded sounds which, however pretty, I was quite unable to understand.



CHAPTER III

Chester—The Rows—Lewis Glyn Cothi—Tragedy of Mold—Native of Antigua—Slavery and the Americans—The Tents—Saturday Night.

On the morning after our arrival we went out together, and walked up and down several streets; my wife and daughter, however, soon leaving me to go into a shop, I strolled about by myself. Chester is an ancient town with walls and gates, a prison called a castle, built on the site of an ancient keep, an unpretending-looking red sandstone cathedral, two or three handsome churches, several good streets, and certain curious places called rows. The Chester row is a broad arched stone gallery running parallel with the street within the facades of the houses; it is partly open on the side of the street, and just one story above it. Within the rows, of which there are three or four, are shops, every shop being on that side which is farthest from the street. All the best shops in Chester are to be found in the rows. These rows, to which you ascend by stairs up narrow passages, were originally built for the security of the wares of the principal merchants against the Welsh. Should the mountaineers break into the town, as they frequently did, they might rifle some of the common shops, where their booty would be slight, but those which contained the more costly articles would be beyond their reach; for at the first alarm the doors of the passages, up which the stairs led, would be closed, and all access to the upper streets cut off, from the open arches of which missiles of all kinds, kept ready for such occasions, could be discharged upon the intruders, who would be soon glad to beat a retreat. These rows and the walls are certainly the most remarkable memorials of old times which Chester has to boast of.

Upon the walls it is possible to make the whole compass of the city, there being a good but narrow walk upon them. The northern wall abuts upon a frightful ravine, at the bottom of which is a canal. From the western one there is a noble view of the Welsh hills.

As I stood gazing upon the hills from the wall a ragged man came up and asked for charity.

"Can you tell me the name of that tall hill?" said I, pointing in the direction of the south-west. "That hill, sir," said the beggar, "is called Moel Vamagh; I ought to know something about it as I was born at its foot." "Moel," said I, "a bald hill; Vamagh, maternal or motherly. Moel Vamagh, the Mother Moel." "Just so, sir," said the beggar; "I see you are a Welshman, like myself, though I suppose you come from the South—Moel Vamagh is the Mother Moel, and is called so because it is the highest of all the Moels." "Did you ever hear of a place called Mold?" said I. "Oh, yes, your honour," said the beggar; "many a time; and many's the time I have been there." "In which direction does it lie?" said I. "Towards Moel Vamagh, your honour," said the beggar, "which is a few miles beyond it; you can't see it from here, but look towards Moel Vamagh and you will see over it." "Thank you," said I, and gave something to the beggar, who departed, after first taking off his hat. Long and fixedly did I gaze in the direction of Mold. The reason which induced me to do so was the knowledge of an appalling tragedy transacted there in the old time, in which there is every reason to suppose a certain Welsh bard, called Lewis Glyn Cothi, had a share.

This man, who was a native of South Wales, flourished during the wars of the Roses. Besides being a poetical he was something of a military genius, and had a command of foot in the army of the Lancastrian Jasper Earl of Pembroke, the son of Owen Tudor, and half-brother of Henry the Sixth. After the battle of Mortimer's Cross, in which the Earl's forces were defeated, the warrior bard found his way to Chester, where he married the widow of a citizen and opened a shop, without asking the permission of the mayor, who with the officers of justice came and seized all his goods, which, according to his own account, filled nine sacks, and then drove him out of the town. The bard in a great fury indited an awdl, in which he invites Reinallt ap Grufydd ap Bleddyn, a kind of predatory chieftain, who resided a little way off in Flintshire, to come and set the town on fire, and slaughter the inhabitants, in revenge for the wrongs he had suffered, and then proceeds to vent all kinds of imprecations against the mayor and people of Chester, wishing, amongst other things, that they might soon hear that the Dee had become too shallow to bear their ships—that a certain cutaneous disorder might attack the wrists of great and small, old and young, laity and clergy—that grass might grow in their streets—that Ilar and Cyveilach, Welsh saints, might slay them—that dogs might snarl at them—and that the king of heaven, with the saints Brynach and Non, might afflict them with blindness—which piece, however ineffectual in inducing God and the saints to visit the Chester people with the curses with which the furious bard wished them to be afflicted, seems to have produced somewhat of its intended effect on the chieftain, who shortly afterwards, on learning that the mayor and many of the Chester people were present at the fair of Mold, near which place he resided, set upon them at the head of his forces, and after a desperate combat, in which many lives were lost, took the mayor prisoner, and drove those of his people who survived into a tower, which he set on fire and burnt, with all the unhappy wretches which it contained, completing the horrors of the day by hanging the unfortunate mayor.

Conversant as I was with all this strange history, is it wonderful that I looked with great interest from the wall of Chester in the direction of Mold?

Once did I make the compass of the city upon the walls, and was beginning to do the same a second time, when I stumbled against a black, who, with his arms leaning upon the wall, was spitting over it, in the direction of the river. I apologised, and contrived to enter into conversation with him. He was tolerably well dressed, had a hairy cap on his head, was about forty years of age, and brutishly ugly, his features scarcely resembling those of a human being. He told me he was a native of Antigua, a blacksmith by trade, and had been a slave. I asked him if he could speak any language besides English, and received for answer that besides English, he could speak Spanish and French. Forthwith I spoke to him in Spanish, but he did not understand me. I then asked him to speak to me in Spanish, but he could not. "Surely you can tell me the word for water in Spanish," said I; he, however, was not able. "How is it," said I, "that, pretending to be acquainted with Spanish, you do not even know the word for water?" He said he could not tell, but supposed that he had forgotten the Spanish language, adding however, that he could speak French perfectly. I spoke to him in French—he did not understand me: I told him to speak to me in French, but he did not. I then asked him the word for bread in French, but he could not tell me. I made no observations on his ignorance, but inquired how he liked being a slave? He said not at all; that it was very bad to be a slave, as a slave was forced to work. I asked him if he did not work now that he was free? He said very seldom; that he did not like work, and that it did not agree with him. I asked how he came into England, and he said that wishing to see England, he had come over with a gentleman as his servant, but that as soon as he got there, he had left his master, as he did not like work. I asked him how he contrived to live in England without working? He said that any black might live in England without working; that all he had to do was to attend religious meetings, and speak against slavery and the Americans. I asked him if he had done so. He said he had, and that the religious people were very kind to him, and gave him money, and that a religious lady was going to marry him. I asked him if he knew anything about the Americans? He said he did, and that they were very bad people, who kept slaves and flogged them. "And quite right too," said I, "if they are lazy rascals like yourself, who want to eat without working. What a pretty set of knaves or fools must they be, who encourage a fellow like you to speak against negro slavery, of the necessity for which you yourself are a living instance, and against a people of whom you know as much as of French or Spanish." Then leaving the black, who made no other answer to what I said, than by spitting with considerable force in the direction of the river, I continued making my second compass of the city upon the wall.

Having walked round the city for the second time, I returned to the inn. In the evening I went out again, passed over the bridge, and then turned to the right in the direction of the hills. Near the river, on my right, on a kind of green, I observed two or three tents resembling those of gypsies. Some ragged children were playing near them, who, however, had nothing of the appearance of the children of the Egyptian race, their locks being not dark, but either of a flaxen or red hue, and their features not delicate and regular, but coarse and uncouth, and their complexions not olive, but rather inclining to be fair. I did not go up to them, but continued my course till I arrived near a large factory. I then turned and retraced my steps into the town. It was Saturday night, and the streets were crowded with people, many of whom must have been Welsh, as I heard the Cambrian language spoken on every side.



CHAPTER IV

Sunday Morning—Tares and Wheat—Teetotalism—Hearsay—Irish Family—What Profession?—Sabbath Evening—Priest or Minister—Give us God.

On the Sunday morning, as we sat at breakfast, we heard the noise of singing in the street; running to the window, we saw a number of people, bareheaded, from whose mouths the singing or psalmody proceeded. These, on inquiry, we were informed, were Methodists, going about to raise recruits for a grand camp-meeting, which was to be held a little way out of the town. We finished our breakfast, and at eleven attended divine service at the Cathedral. The interior of this holy edifice was smooth and neat, strangely contrasting with its exterior, which was rough and weather-beaten. We had decent places found us by a civil verger, who probably took us for what we were—decent country people. We heard much fine chanting by the choir, and an admirable sermon, preached by a venerable prebend, on "Tares and Wheat." The congregation was numerous and attentive. After service we returned to our inn, and at two o'clock dined. During dinner our conversation ran almost entirely on the sermon, which we all agreed was one of the best sermons we had ever heard, and most singularly adapted to country people like ourselves, being on "Wheat and Tares." When dinner was over my wife and daughter repaired to the neighbouring church, and I went in quest of the camp-meeting, having a mighty desire to know what kind of a thing Methodism at Chester was.

I found about two thousand people gathered together in a field near the railroad station; a waggon stood under some green elms at one end of the field, in which were ten or a dozen men with the look of Methodist preachers; one of these was holding forth to the multitude when I arrived, but he presently sat down, I having, as I suppose, only come in time to hear the fag-end of his sermon. Another succeeded him, who, after speaking for about half an hour, was succeeded by another. All the discourses were vulgar and fanatical, and in some instances unintelligible at least to my ears. There was plenty of vociferation, but not one single burst of eloquence. Some of the assembly appeared to take considerable interest in what was said, and every now and then showed they did by devout hums and groans; but the generality evidently took little or none, staring about listlessly, or talking to one another. Sometimes, when anything particularly low escaped from the mouth of the speaker, I heard exclamations of "how low! well, I think I could preach better than that," and the like. At length a man of about fifty, pock-broken and somewhat bald, began to speak: unlike the others who screamed, shouted, and seemed in earnest, he spoke in a dry, waggish style, which had all the coarseness and nothing of the cleverness of that of old Rowland Hill, whom I once heard. After a great many jokes, some of them very poor, and others exceedingly thread-bare, on the folly of those who sell themselves to the Devil for a little temporary enjoyment, he introduced the subject of drunkenness, or rather drinking fermented liquors, which he seemed to consider the same thing; and many a sorry joke on the folly of drinking them did he crack, which some half-dozen amidst the concourse applauded. At length he said:—

"After all, brethren, such drinking is no joking matter, for it is the root of all evil. Now, brethren, if you would all get to heaven, and cheat the enemy of your souls, never go into a public-house to drink, and never fetch any drink from a public-house. Let nothing pass your lips, in the shape of drink, stronger than water or tea. Brethren, if you would cheat the Devil, take the pledge and become teetotalers. I am a teetotaller myself, thank God—though once I was a regular lushington."

Here ensued a burst of laughter in which I joined, though not at the wretched joke, but at the absurdity of the argument; for, according to that argument, I thought my old friends the Spaniards and Portuguese must be the most moral people in the world, being almost all water-drinkers. As the speaker was proceeding with his nonsense, I heard some one say behind me—"a pretty fellow that, to speak against drinking and public-houses: he pretends to be reformed, but he is still as fond of the lush as ever. It was only the other day I saw him reeling out of a gin-shop."

Now that speech I did not like, for I saw at once that it could not be true, so I turned quickly round and said—"Old chap, I can scarcely credit that!"

The man, whom I addressed, a rough-and-ready-looking fellow of the lower class, seemed half disposed to return me a savage answer; but an Englishman of the lower class, though you call his word in question, is never savage with you, provided you call him old chap, and he considers you by your dress to be his superior in station. Now I, who had called the word of this man in question, had called him old chap, and was considerably better dressed than himself; so, after a little hesitation, he became quite gentle, and something more, for he said in a half-apologetic tone—"Well, sir, I did not exactly see him myself, but a particular friend of mine heer'd a man say, that he heer'd another man say, that he was told that a man heer'd that that fellow—"

"Come, come!" said I, "a man must not be convicted on evidence like that; no man has more contempt for the doctrine which that man endeavours to inculcate than myself, for I consider it to have been got up partly for fanatical, partly for political purposes; but I will never believe that he was lately seen coming out of a gin-shop; he is too wise, or rather too cunning, for that."

I stayed listening to these people till evening was at hand. I then left them, and without returning to the inn strolled over the bridge to the green, where the tents stood. I went up to them: two women sat at the entrance of one; a man stood by them, and the children, whom I had before seen, were gambolling near at hand. One of the women was about forty, the other some twenty years younger; both were ugly. The younger was a rude, stupid-looking creature, with red cheeks and redder hair, but there was a dash of intelligence and likewise of wildness in the countenance of the elder female, whose complexion and hair were rather dark. The man was about the same age as the elder woman; he had rather a sharp look, and was dressed in hat, white frock-coat, corduroy breeches, long stockings and shoes. I gave them the seal of the evening.

"Good evening to your haner," said the man—"Good evening to you, sir," said the woman; whilst the younger mumbled something, probably to the same effect, but which I did not catch.

"Fine weather," said I.

"Very, sir," said the elder female. "Won't you please to sit down?" and reaching back into the tent, she pulled out a stool which she placed near me.

I sat down on the stool. "You are not from these parts?" said I, addressing myself to the man.

"We are not, your haner," said the man; "we are from Ireland."

"And this lady," said I, motioning with my head to the elder female, "is, I suppose, your wife."

"She is, your haner, and the children which your haner sees are my children."

"And who is this young lady?" said I, motioning to the uncouth-looking girl.

"The young lady, as your haner is pleased to call her, is a daughter of a sister of mine who is now dead, along with her husband. We have her with us, your haner, because if we did not she would be alone in the world."

"And what trade or profession do you follow?" said I.

"We do a bit in the tinkering line, your haner."

"Do you find tinkering a very profitable profession?" said I.

"Not very, your haner; but we contrive to get a crust and a drink by it."

"That's more than I ever could," said I.

"Has your haner then ever followed tinkering?" said the man.

"Yes," said I, "but I soon left off."

"And became a minister," said the elder female, "Well, your honour is not the first indifferent tinker that's turned out a shining minister."

"Why do you think me a minister?"

"Because your honour has the very look and voice of one. Oh, it was kind in your honour to come to us here in the Sabbath evening, in order that you might bring us God."

"What do you mean by bringing you God?" said I.

"Talking to us about good things, sir, and instructing us out of the Holy Book."

"I am no minister," said I.

"Then you are a priest; I am sure you are either a minister or a priest; and now that I look on you, sir, I think you look more like a priest than a minister. Yes, I see you are a priest. Oh, your Reverence, give us God! Pull out the crucifix from your bosom, and let us kiss the face of God!"

"Of what religion are you?" said I.

"Catholics, your Reverence, Catholics are we all."

"I am no priest."

"Then you are a minister; I am sure you are either a priest or a minister. Oh sir, pull out the Holy Book, and instruct us from it this blessed Sabbath evening. Give us God, sir, give us God!"

"And would you, who are Catholics, listen to the voice of a minister?"

"That would we, sir; at least I would. If you are a minister, and a good minister, I would as soon listen to your words as those of Father Toban himself."

"And who is Father Toban?"

"A powerful priest in these parts, sir, who has more than once eased me of my sins, and given me God upon the cross. Oh, a powerful and comfortable priest is Father Toban."

"And what would he say if he were to know that you asked for God from a minister?"

"I do not know, and do not much care; if I get God, I do not care whether I get Him from a minister or a priest; both have Him, no doubt, only give Him in different ways. Oh sir, do give us God; we need Him sir, for we are sinful people; we call ourselves tinkers, but many is the sinful thing—"

"Bi-do-hosd;" said the man: Irish words tantamount to "Be silent!"

"I will not be hushed," said the woman, speaking English. "The man is a good man, and he will do us no harm. We are tinkers, sir; but we do many things besides tinkering, many sinful things, especially in Wales, whither we are soon going again. Oh, I want to be eased of some of my sins before I go into Wales again, and so do you, Tourlough, for you know how you are sometimes haunted by devils at night in those dreary Welsh hills. Oh sir, give us comfort in some shape or other, either as priest or minister; give us God! Give us God!"

"I am neither priest nor minister," said, I, "and can only say: Lord have mercy upon you!" Then getting up I flung the children some money and departed.

"We do not want your money, sir," screamed the woman after me; "we have plenty of money. Give us God! Give us God!"

"Yes, your haner," said the man, "give us God! we do not want money;" and the uncouth girl said something, which sounded much like Give us God! but I hastened across the meadow, which was now quite dusky, and was presently in the inn with my wife and daughter.



CHAPTER V

Welsh Book Stall—Wit and Poetry—Welsh of Chester—Beautiful Morning—Noble Fellow—The Coiling Serpent—Wrexham Church—Welsh or English?—Codiad yr Ehedydd.

On the afternoon of Monday I sent my family off by the train to Llangollen, which place we had determined to make our head-quarters during our stay in Wales. I intended to follow them next day, not in train, but on foot, as by walking I should be better able to see the country, between Chester and Llangollen, than by making the journey by the flying vehicle. As I returned to the inn from the train I took refuge from a shower in one of the rows or covered streets, to which, as I have already said, one ascends by flights of steps; stopping at a book-stall I took up a book which chanced to be a Welsh one. The proprietor, a short red-faced man, observing me reading the book, asked me if I could understand it. I told him that I could.

"If so," said he, "let me hear you translate the two lines on the title-page."

"Are you a Welshman?" said I.

"I am!" he replied.

"Good!" said I, and I translated into English the two lines which were a couplet by Edmund Price, an old archdeacon of Merion, celebrated in his day for wit and poetry.

The man then asked me from what part of Wales I came, and when I told him that I was an Englishman was evidently offended, either because he did not believe me, or, as I more incline to think, did not approve of an Englishman's understanding Welsh.

The book was the life of the Rev. Richards, and was published at Caerlleon, or the city of the legion, the appropriate ancient British name for the place now called Chester, a legion having been kept stationed there during the occupation of Britain by the Romans.

I returned to the inn and dined, and then yearning for society, descended into the kitchen and had some conversation with the Welsh maid. She told me that there were a great many Welsh in Chester from all parts of Wales, but chiefly from Denbighshire and Flintshire, which latter was her own country. That a great many children were born in Chester of Welsh parents, and brought up in the fear of God and love of the Welsh tongue. That there were some who had never been in Wales, who spoke as good Welsh as herself, or better. That the Welsh of Chester were of various religious persuasions; that some were Baptists, some Independents, but that the greater part were Calvinistic-Methodists; that she herself was a Calvinistic-Methodist; that the different persuasions had their different chapels, in which God was prayed to in Welsh; that there were very few Welsh in Chester who belonged to the Church of England, and that the Welsh in general do not like Church of England worship, as I should soon find if I went into Wales.

Late in the evening I directed my steps across the bridge to the green, where I had discoursed with the Irish itinerants. I wished to have some more conversation with them respecting their way of life, and, likewise, as they had so strongly desired it, to give them a little Christian comfort, for my conscience reproached me for my abrupt departure on the preceding evening. On arriving at the green, however, I found them gone, and no traces of them but the mark of their fire and a little dirty straw. I returned, disappointed and vexed, to my inn.

Early the next morning I departed from Chester for Llangollen, distant about twenty miles; I passed over the noble bridge and proceeded along a broad and excellent road, leading in a direction almost due south through pleasant meadows. I felt very happy—and no wonder; the morning was beautiful, the birds sang merrily, and a sweet smell proceeded from the new-cut hay in the fields, and I was bound for Wales. I passed over the river Allan and through two villages called, as I was told, Pulford and Marford, and ascended a hill; from the top of this hill the view is very fine. To the east are the high lands of Cheshire, to the west the bold hills of Wales, and below, on all sides a fair variety of wood and water, green meads and arable fields.

"You may well look around, Measter," said a waggoner, who, coming from the direction in which I was bound, stopped to breathe his team on the top of the hill; "you may well look around—there isn't such a place to see the country from, far and near, as where we stand. Many come to this place to look about them."

I looked at the man, and thought I had never seen a more powerful-looking fellow; he was about six feet two inches high, immensely broad in the shoulders, and could hardly have weighed less than sixteen stone. I gave him the seal of the morning, and asked whether he was Welsh or English.

"English, Measter, English; born t'other side of Beeston, pure Cheshire, Measter."

"I suppose," said I, "there are few Welshmen such big fellows as yourself."

"No, Measter," said the fellow, with a grin, "there are few Welshmen so big as I, or yourself either; they are small men mostly, Measter, them Welshers, very small men—and yet the fellows can use their hands. I am a bit of a fighter, Measter, at least I was before my wife made me join the Methodist connection, and I once fit with a Welshman at Wrexham, he came from the hills, and was a real Welshman, and shorter than myself by a whole head and shoulder, but he stood up against me, and gave me more than play for my money, till I gripped him, flung him down and myself upon him, and then of course t'was all over with him."

"You are a noble fellow," said I, "and a credit to Cheshire. Will you have sixpence to drink?"

"Thank you, Measter, I shall stop at Pulford, and shall be glad to drink your health in a jug of ale."

I gave him sixpence, and descended the hill on one side, while he, with his team, descended it on the other.

"A genuine Saxon," said I; "I daresay just like many of those who, under Hengist, subdued the plains of Lloegr and Britain. Taliesin called the Saxon race the Coiling Serpent. He had better have called it the Big Bull. He was a noble poet, however: what wonderful lines, upon the whole, are those in his prophecy, in which he speaks of the Saxons and Britons, and of the result of their struggle—

"A serpent which coils, And with fury boils, From Germany coming with arm'd wings spread, Shall subdue and shall enthrall The broad Britain all, From the Lochlin ocean to Severn's bed.

"And British men Shall be captives then To strangers from Saxonia's strand; They shall praise their God, and hold Their language as of old, But except wild Wales they shall lose their land."

I arrived at Wrexham, and having taken a very hearty breakfast at the principal inn, for I felt rather hungry after a morning's walk of ten miles, I walked about the town. The town is reckoned a Welsh town, but its appearance is not Welsh—its inhabitants have neither the look nor language of Welshmen, and its name shows that it was founded by some Saxon adventurer, Wrexham being a Saxon compound, signifying the home or habitation of Rex or Rag, and identical, or nearly so, with the Wroxham of East Anglia. It is a stirring bustling place, of much traffic, and of several thousand inhabitants. Its most remarkable object is its church, which stands at the south-western side. To this church, after wandering for some time about the streets, I repaired. The tower is quadrangular, and is at least one hundred feet high; it has on its summit four little turrets, one at each corner, between each of which are three spirelets, the middlemost of the three the highest. The nave of the church is to the east; it is of two stories, both crenulated at the top. I wished to see the interior of the church, but found the gate locked. Observing a group of idlers close at hand with their backs against a wall, I went up to them, and, addressing myself to one, inquired whether I could see the church. "Oh yes, sir," said the man; "the clerk who has the key lives close at hand; one of us shall go and fetch him—by-the-bye, I may as well go myself." He moved slowly away. He was a large bulky man of about the middle age, and his companions were about the same age and size as himself. I asked them if they were Welsh. "Yes, sir," said one, "I suppose we are, for they call us Welsh." I asked if any of them could speak Welsh. "No, sir," said the man, "all the Welsh that any of us know, or indeed wish to know, is 'Cwrw da.'" Here there was a general laugh. Cwrw da signifies good ale. I at first thought that the words might be intended as a hint for a treat, but was soon convinced of the contrary. There was no greedy expectation in his eyes, nor, indeed, in those of his companions, though they all looked as if they were fond of good ale. I inquired whether much Welsh was spoken in the town, and was told very little. When the man returned with the clerk I thanked him. He told me I was welcome, and then went and leaned with his back against the wall. He and his mates were probably a set of boon companions enjoying the air after a night's bout at drinking. I was subsequently told that all the people of Wrexham are fond of good ale. The clerk unlocked the church door, and conducted me in. The interior was modern, but in no respects remarkable. The clerk informed me that there was a Welsh service every Sunday afternoon in the church, but that few people attended, and those few were almost entirely from the country. He said that neither he nor the clergyman were natives of Wrexham. He showed me the Welsh Church Bible, and at my request read a few verses from the sacred volume. He seemed a highly intelligent man. I gave him something, which appeared to be more than he expected, and departed, after inquiring of him the road to Llangollen.

I crossed a bridge, for there is a bridge and a stream too at Wrexham. The road at first bore due west, but speedily took a southerly direction. I moved rapidly over an undulating country; a region of hills, or rather of mountains lay on my right hand. At the entrance of a small village a poor, sickly-looking woman asked me for charity.

"Are you Welsh or English?" said I.

"Welsh," she replied; "but I speak both languages, as do all the people here."

I gave her a halfpenny; she wished me luck, and I proceeded. I passed some huge black buildings which a man told me were collieries, and several carts laden with coal, and soon came to Rhiwabon—a large village about half way between Wrexham and Llangollen. I observed in this place nothing remarkable, but an ancient church. My way from hence lay nearly west. I ascended a hill, from the top of which I looked down into a smoky valley. I descended, passing by a great many collieries, in which I observed grimy men working amidst smoke and flame. At the bottom of the hill near a bridge I turned round. A ridge to the east particularly struck my attention; it was covered with dusky edifices, from which proceeded thundering sounds, and puffs of smoke. A woman passed me going towards Rhiwabon; I pointed to the ridge and asked its name; I spoke English. The woman shook her head and replied "Dim Saesneg."

"This is as it should be," said I to myself; "I now feel I am in Wales." I repeated the question in Welsh.

"Cefn Bach," she replied—which signifies the little ridge.

"Diolch iti," I replied, and proceeded on my way.

I was now in a wild valley—enormous hills were on my right. The road was good, and above it, in the side of a steep bank, was a causeway intended for foot passengers. It was overhung with hazel bushes. I walked along it to its termination which was at Llangollen. I found my wife and daughter at the principal inn. They had already taken a house. We dined together at the inn; during the dinner we had music, for a Welsh harper stationed in the passage played upon his instrument "Codiad yr ehedydd." "Of a surety," said I, "I am in Wales!"



CHAPTER VI

Llangollen—Wyn Ab Nudd—The Dee—Dinas Bran.

The northern side of the vale of Llangollen is formed by certain enormous rocks called the Eglwysig rocks, which extend from east to west, a distance of about two miles. The southern side is formed by the Berwyn hills. The valley is intersected by the River Dee, the origin of which is a deep lake near Bala, about twenty miles to the west. Between the Dee and the Eglwysig rises a lofty hill, on the top of which are the ruins of Dinas Bran, which bear no slight resemblance to a crown. The upper part of the hill is bare with the exception of what is covered by the ruins; on the lower part there are inclosures and trees, with, here and there, a grove or farm-house. On the other side of the valley, to the east of Llangollen, is a hill called Pen y Coed, beautifully covered with trees of various kinds; it stands between the river and the Berwyn, even as the hill of Dinas Bran stands between the river and the Eglwysig rocks—it does not, however, confront Dinas Bran, which stands more to the west.

Llangollen is a small town or large village of white houses with slate roofs, it contains about two thousand inhabitants, and is situated principally on the southern side of the Dee. At its western end it has an ancient bridge and a modest unpretending church nearly in its centre, in the chancel of which rest the mortal remains of an old bard called Gryffydd Hiraethog. From some of the houses on the southern side there is a noble view—Dinas Bran and its mighty hill forming the principal objects. The view from the northern part of the town, which is indeed little more than a suburb, is not quite so grand, but is nevertheless highly interesting. The eastern entrance of the vale of Llangollen is much wider than the western, which is overhung by bulky hills. There are many pleasant villas on both sides of the river, some of which stand a considerable way up the hill; of the villas the most noted is Plas Newydd at the foot of the Berwyn, built by two Irish ladies of high rank, who resided in it for nearly half a century, and were celebrated throughout Europe by the name of the Ladies of Llangollen.

The view of the hill of Dinas Bran, from the southern side of Llangollen, would be much more complete were it not for a bulky excrescence, towards its base, which prevents the gazer from obtaining a complete view. The name of Llangollen signifies the church of Collen, and the vale and village take their name from the church, which was originally dedicated to Saint Collen, though some, especially the neighbouring peasantry, suppose that Llangollen is a compound of Llan, a church, and Collen, a hazel-wood, and that the church was called the church of the hazel-wood from the number of hazels in the neighbourhood. Collen, according to a legendary life, which exists of him in Welsh, was a Briton by birth, and of illustrious ancestry. He served for some time abroad as a soldier against Julian the Apostate, and slew a Pagan champion who challenged the best man amongst the Christians. Returning to his own country he devoted himself to religion, and became Abbot of Glastonbury, but subsequently retired to a cave on the side of a mountain, where he lived a life of great austerity. Once as he was lying in his cell he heard two men out abroad discoursing about Wyn Ab Nudd, and saying that he was king of the Tylwyth or Teg Fairies, and lord of Unknown, whereupon Collen thrusting his head out of his cave told them to hold their tongues, for that Wyn Ab Nudd and his host were merely devils. At dead of night he heard a knocking at the door, and on his asking who was there, a voice said: "I am a messenger from Wyn Ab Nudd, king of Unknown, and I am come to summon thee to appear before my master to-morrow, at mid-day, on the top of the hill."

Collen did not go—the next night there was the same knocking and the same message. Still Collen did not go. The third night the messenger came again and repeated his summons, adding that if he did not go it would be the worse for him. The next day Collen made some holy water, put it into a pitcher and repaired to the top of the hill, where he saw a wonderfully fine castle, attendants in magnificent liveries, youths and damsels dancing with nimble feet, and a man of honourable presence before the gate, who told him that the king was expecting him to dinner. Collen followed the man into the castle, and beheld the king on a throne of gold, and a table magnificently spread before him. The king welcomed Collen, and begged him to taste of the dainties on the table, adding that he hoped that in future he would reside with him. "I will not eat of the leaves of the forest," said Collen.

"Did you ever see men better dressed?" said the king, "than my attendants here in red and blue?"

"Their dress is good enough," said Collen, "considering what kind of dress it is."

"What kind of dress is it?" said the king.

Collen replied: "The red on the one side denotes burning, and the blue on the other side denotes freezing." Then drawing forth his sprinkler, he flung the holy water in the faces of the king and his people, whereupon the whole vision disappeared, so that there was neither castle nor attendants, nor youth nor damsel, nor musician with his music, nor banquet, nor anything to be seen save the green bushes.

The valley of the Dee, of which the Llangollen district forms part, is called in the British tongue Glyndyfrdwy—that is, the valley of the Dwy or Dee. The celebrated Welsh chieftain, generally known as Owen Glendower, was surnamed after this valley, the whole of which belonged to him, and in which he had two or three places of strength, though his general abode was a castle in Sycharth, a valley to the south-east of the Berwyn, and distant about twelve miles from Llangollen.

Connected with the Dee there is a wonderful Druidical legend to the following effect. The Dee springs from two fountains, high up in Merionethshire, called Dwy Fawr and Dwy Fach, or the great and little Dwy, whose waters pass through those of the lake of Bala without mingling with them, and come out at its northern extremity. These fountains had their names from two individuals, Dwy Fawr and Dwy Fach, who escaped from the Deluge, when all the rest of the human race were drowned, and the passing of the waters of the two fountains through the lake, without being confounded with its flood, is emblematic of the salvation of the two individuals from the Deluge, of which the lake is a type.

Dinas Bran, which crowns the top of the mighty hill on the northern side of the valley, is a ruined stronghold of unknown antiquity. The name is generally supposed to signify Crow Castle, bran being the British word for crow, and flocks of crows being frequently seen hovering over it. It may, however, mean the castle of Bran or Brennus, or the castle above the Bran, a brook which flows at its foot.

Dinas Bran was a place quite impregnable in the old time, and served as a retreat to Gruffydd, son of Madawg from the rage of his countrymen, who were incensed against him because, having married Emma, the daughter of James Lord Audley, he had, at the instigation of his wife and father-in-law, sided with Edward the First against his own native sovereign. But though it could shield him from his foes, it could not preserve him from remorse and the stings of conscience, of which he speedily died.

At present the place consists only of a few ruined walls, and probably consisted of little more two or three hundred years ago: Roger Cyffyn a Welsh bard, who flourished at the beginning of the seventeenth century, wrote an englyn upon it, of which the following is a translation:—

"Gone, gone are thy gates, Dinas Bran on the height! Thy warders are blood-crows and ravens, I trow; Now no one will wend from the field of the fight To the fortress on high, save the raven and crow."



CHAPTER VII

Poor Black Cat—Dissenters—Persecution—What Impudence!

The house or cottage, for it was called a cottage though it consisted of two stories, in which my wife had procured lodgings for us, was situated in the Northern suburb. Its front was towards a large perllan or orchard, which sloped down gently to the banks of the Dee; its back was towards the road leading from Wrexham, behind which was a high bank, on the top of which was a canal called in Welsh the Camlas, whose commencement was up the valley about two miles west. A little way up the road, towards Wrexham, was the vicarage and a little way down was a flannel factory, beyond which was a small inn, with pleasure grounds, kept by an individual who had once been a gentleman's servant. The mistress of the house was a highly respectable widow, who, with a servant maid was to wait upon us. It was as agreeable a place in all respects as people like ourselves could desire.

As I and my family sat at tea in our parlour, an hour or two after we had taken possession of our lodgings, the door of the room and that of the entrance to the house being open, on account of the fineness of the weather, a poor black cat entered hastily, sat down on the carpet by the table, looked up towards us, and mewed piteously. I never had seen so wretched a looking creature. It was dreadfully attenuated, being little more than skin and bone, and was sorely afflicted with an eruptive malady. And here I may as well relate the history of this cat previous to our arrival which I subsequently learned by bits and snatches. It had belonged to a previous vicar of Llangollen, and had been left behind at his departure. His successor brought with him dogs and cats, who, conceiving that the late vicar's cat had no business at the vicarage, drove it forth to seek another home, which, however, it could not find. Almost all the people of the suburb were dissenters, as indeed were the generality of the people of Llangollen, and knowing the cat to be a church cat, not only would not harbour it, but did all they could to make it miserable; whilst the few who were not dissenters, would not receive it into their houses, either because they had cats of their own, or dogs, or did not want a cat, so that the cat had no home and was dreadfully persecuted by nine-tenths of the suburb. Oh, there never was a cat so persecuted as that poor Church of England animal, and solely on account of the opinions which it was supposed to have imbibed in the house of its late master, for I never could learn that the dissenters of the suburb, nor indeed of Llangollen in general, were in the habit of persecuting other cats; the cat was a Church of England cat, and that was enough: stone it, hang it, drown it! were the cries of almost everybody. If the workmen of the flannel factory, all of whom were Calvinistic-Methodists, chanced to get a glimpse of it in the road from the windows of the building, they would sally forth in a body, and with sticks, stones, or for want of other weapons, with clots of horse dung, of which there was always plenty on the road, would chase it up the high bank or perhaps over the Camlas; the inhabitants of a small street between our house and the factory leading from the road to the river, all of whom were dissenters, if they saw it moving about the perllan, into which their back windows looked, would shriek and hoot at it, and fling anything of no value, which came easily to hand, at the head or body of the ecclesiastical cat. The good woman of the house, who though a very excellent person, was a bitter dissenter, whenever she saw it upon her ground or heard it was there, would make after it, frequently attended by her maid Margaret, and her young son, a boy about nine years of age, both of whom hated the cat, and were always ready to attack it, either alone or in company, and no wonder, the maid being not only a dissenter, but a class teacher, and the boy not only a dissenter, but intended for the dissenting ministry. Where it got its food, and food it sometimes must have got, for even a cat, an animal known to have nine lives, cannot live without food, was only known to itself, as was the place where it lay, for even a cat must lie down sometimes; though a labouring man who occasionally dug in the garden told me he believed that in the springtime it ate freshets, and the woman of the house once said that she believed it sometimes slept in the hedge, which hedge, by-the-bye, divided our perllan from the vicarage grounds, which were very extensive. Well might the cat after having led this kind of life for better than two years look mere skin and bone when it made its appearance in our apartment, and have an eruptive malady, and also a bronchitic cough, for I remember it had both. How it came to make its appearance there is a mystery, for it had never entered the house before, even when there were lodgers; that it should not visit the woman, who was its declared enemy, was natural enough, but why if it did not visit her other lodgers, did it visit us? Did instinct keep it aloof from them? Did instinct draw it towards us? We gave it some bread-and-butter, and a little tea with milk and sugar. It ate and drank and soon began to purr. The good woman of the house was horrified when on coming in to remove the things she saw the church cat on her carpet. "What impudence!" she exclaimed, and made towards it, but on our telling her that we did not expect that it should be disturbed, she let it alone. A very remarkable circumstance was, that though the cat had hitherto been in the habit of flying, not only from her face, but the very echo of her voice, it now looked her in the face with perfect composure, as much as to say, "I don't fear you, for I know that I am now safe and with my own people." It stayed with us two hours and then went away. The next morning it returned. To be short, though it went away every night, it became our own cat, and one of our family. I gave it something which cured it of its eruption, and through good treatment it soon lost its other ailments and began to look sleek and bonny.



CHAPTER VIII

The Mowers—Deep Welsh—Extensive View—Old Celtic Hatred—Fish Preserving—Smollet's Morgan.

Next morning I set out to ascend Dinas Bran, a number of children, almost entirely girls, followed me. I asked them why they came after me. "In the hope that you will give us something," said one in very good English. I told them that I should give them nothing, but they still followed me. A little way up the hill I saw some men cutting hay. I made an observation to one of them respecting the fineness of the weather; he answered civilly, and rested on his scythe, whilst the others pursued their work. I asked him whether he was a farming man; he told me that he was not; that he generally worked at the flannel manufactory, but that for some days past he had not been employed there, work being slack, and had on that account joined the mowers in order to earn a few shillings. I asked him how it was he knew how to handle a scythe, not being bred up a farming man; he smiled, and said that, somehow or other, he had learnt to do so.

"You speak very good English," said I, "have you much Welsh?"

"Plenty," said he; "I am a real Welshman."

"Can you read Welsh?" said I.

"Oh, yes!" he replied.

"What books have you read?" said I.

"I have read the Bible, sir, and one or two other books."

"Did you ever read the Bardd Cwsg?" said I.

He looked at me with some surprise. "No," said he, after a moment or two, "I have never read it. I have seen it, but it was far too deep Welsh for me."

"I have read it," said I.

"Are you a Welshman?" said he.

"No," said I; "I am an Englishman."

"And how is it," said he, "that you can read Welsh without being a Welshman?"

"I learned to do so," said I, "even as you learned to mow, without being bred up to farming work."

"Ah!" said he, "but it is easier to learn to mow than to read the Bardd Cwsg."

"I don't think that," said I; "I have taken up a scythe a hundred times but I cannot mow."

"Will your honour take mine now, and try again?" said he.

"No," said I, "for if I take your scythe in hand I must give you a shilling, you know, by mowers' law."

He gave a broad grin, and I proceeded up the hill. When he rejoined his companions he said something to them in Welsh, at which they all laughed. I reached the top of the hill, the children still attending me.

The view over the vale is very beautiful; but on no side, except in the direction of the west, is it very extensive; Dinas Bran being on all other sides overtopped by other hills: in that direction, indeed, the view is extensive enough, reaching on a fine day even to the Wyddfa or peak of Snowdon, a distance of sixty miles, at least as some say, who perhaps ought to add to very good eyes, which mine are not. The day that I made my first ascent of Dinas Bran was very clear, but I do not think I saw the Wyddfa then from the top of Dinas Bran. It is true I might see it without knowing it, being utterly unacquainted with it, except by name; but I repeat I do not think I saw it, and I am quite sure that I did not see it from the top of Dinas Bran on a subsequent ascent, on a day equally clear, when if I had seen the Wyddfa I must have recognised it, having been at its top. As I stood gazing around, the children danced about upon the grass, and sang a song. The song was English. I descended the hill; they followed me to its foot, and then left me. The children of the lower class of Llangollen are great pests to visitors. The best way to get rid of them is to give them nothing: I followed that plan, and was not long troubled with them.

Arrived at the foot of the hill, I walked along the bank of the canal to the west. Presently I came to a barge lying by the bank; the boatman was in it. I entered into conversation with him. He told me that the canal and its branches extended over a great part of England. That the boats carried slates—that he had frequently gone as far as Paddington by the canal—that he was generally three weeks on the journey—that the boatmen and their families lived in the little cabins aft—that the boatmen were all Welsh—that they could read English, but little or no Welsh—that English was a much more easy language to read than Welsh—that they passed by many towns, among others Northampton, and that he liked no place so much as Llangollen. I proceeded till I came to a place where some people were putting huge slates into a canal boat. It was near a bridge which crossed the Dee, which was on the left. I stopped and entered into conversation with one, who appeared to be the principal man. He told me amongst other things that he was a blacksmith from the neighbourhood of Rhiwabon, and that the flags were intended for the flooring of his premises. In the boat was an old bareheaded, bare-armed fellow, who presently joined in the conversation in very broken English. He told me that his name was Joseph Hughes, and that he was a real Welshman and was proud of being so; he expressed a great dislike for the English, who he said were in the habit of making fun of him and ridiculing his language; he said that all the fools that he had known were Englishmen. I told him that all Englishmen were not fools; "but the greater part are," said he. "Look how they work," said I. "Yes," said he, "some of them are good at breaking stones for the road, but not more than one in a hundred." "There seems to be something of the old Celtic hatred to the Saxon in this old fellow," said I to myself, as I walked away.

I proceeded till I came to the head of the canal, where the navigation first commences. It is close to a weir over which the Dee falls. Here there is a little floodgate, through which water rushes from an oblong pond or reservoir, fed by water from a corner of the upper part of the weir. On the left, or south-west side, is a mound of earth fenced with stones which is the commencement of the bank of the canal. The pond or reservoir above the floodgate is separated from the weir by a stone wall on the left, or south-west side. This pond has two floodgates, the one already mentioned, which opens into the canal, and another, on the other side of the stone mound, opening to the lower part of the weir. Whenever, as a man told me who was standing near, it is necessary to lay the bed of the canal dry, in the immediate neighbourhood for the purpose of making repairs, the floodgate to the canal is closed, and the one to the lower part of the weir is opened, and then the water from the pond flows into the Dee, whilst a sluice, near the first lock, lets out the water of the canal into the river. The head of the canal is situated in a very beautiful spot. To the left or south is a lofty hill covered with wood. To the right is a beautiful slope or lawn on the top of which is a pretty villa, to which you can get by a little wooden bridge over the floodgate of the canal, and indeed forming part of it. Few things are so beautiful in their origin as this canal, which, be it known, with its locks and its aqueducts, the grandest of which last is the stupendous erection near Stockport, which by-the-bye filled my mind when a boy with wonder, constitutes the grand work of England, and yields to nothing in the world of the kind, with the exception of the great canal of China.

Retracing my steps some way I got upon the river's bank and then again proceeded in the direction of the west. I soon came to a cottage nearly opposite a bridge, which led over the river, not the bridge which I have already mentioned, but one much smaller, and considerably higher up the valley. The cottage had several dusky outbuildings attached to it, and a paling before it. Leaning over the paling in his shirt-sleeves was a dark-faced, short, thickset man, who saluted me in English. I returned his salutation, stopped, and was soon in conversation with him. I praised the beauty of the river and its banks: he said that both were beautiful and delightful in summer, but not at all in winter, for then the trees and bushes on the banks were stripped of their leaves, and the river was a frightful torrent. He asked me if I had been to see the place called the Robber's Leap, as strangers generally went to see it. I inquired where it was.

"Yonder," said he, pointing to some distance down the river.

"Why is it called the Robber's Leap?" said I.

"It is called the Robber's Leap, or Llam y Lleidyr," said he, "because a thief pursued by justice once leaped across the river there and escaped. It was an awful leap, and he well deserved to escape after taking it." I told him that I should go and look at it on some future opportunity, and then asked if there were many fish in the river. He said there were plenty of salmon and trout, and that owing to the river being tolerably high, a good many had been caught during the last few days. I asked him who enjoyed the right of fishing in the river. He said that in these parts the fishing belonged to two or three proprietors, who either preserved the fishing for themselves, as they best could by means of keepers, or let it out to other people; and that many individuals came not only from England, but from France and Germany and even Russia for the purpose of fishing, and that the keepers of the proprietors from whom they purchased permission to fish, went with them, to show them the best places, and to teach them how to fish. He added that there was a report that the river would shortly be rhydd or free and open to any one. I said that it would be a bad thing to fling the river open, as in that event the fish would be killed at all times and seasons, and eventually all destroyed. He replied that he questioned whether more fish would be taken then than now, and that I must not imagine that the fish were much protected by what was called preserving; that the people to whom the lands in the neighbourhood belonged, and those who paid for fishing did not catch a hundredth part of the fish which were caught in the river: that the proprietors went with their keepers, and perhaps caught two or three stone of fish, or that strangers went with the keepers, whom they paid for teaching them how to fish, and perhaps caught half-a-dozen fish, and that shortly after the keepers would return and catch on their own account sixty stone of fish from the very spot where the proprietors or strangers had great difficulty in catching two or three stone or the half-dozen fish, or the poachers would go and catch a yet greater quantity. He added that gentry did not understand how to catch fish, and that to attempt to preserve was nonsense. I told him that if the river was flung open everybody would fish; he said that I was much mistaken, that hundreds who were now poachers, would then keep at home, mind their proper trades, and never use line or spear; that folks always longed to do what they were forbidden, and that Shimei would never have crossed the brook provided he had not been told he should be hanged if he did. That he himself had permission to fish in the river whenever he pleased, but never availed himself of it, though in his young time, when he had no leave, he had been an arrant poacher.

The manners and way of speaking of this old personage put me very much in mind of those of Morgan, described by Smollett in his immortal novel of "Roderick Random." I had more discourse with him: I asked him in what line of business he was, he told me that he sold coals. From his complexion, and the hue of his shirt, I had already concluded that he was in some grimy trade. I then inquired of what religion he was, and received for answer that he was a Baptist. I thought that both himself and part of his apparel would look all the better for a good immersion. We talked of the war then raging—he said it was between the false prophet and the Dragon. I asked him who the Dragon was—he said the Turk. I told him that the Pope was far worse than either the Turk or the Russian, that his religion was the vilest idolatry, and that he would let no one alone. That it was the Pope who drove his fellow religionists the Anabaptists out of the Netherlands. He asked me how long ago that was. Between two and three hundred years I replied. He asked me the meaning of the word Anabaptist; I told him; whereupon he expressed great admiration for my understanding, and said that he hoped he should see me again.

I inquired of him to what place the bridge led; he told me that if I passed over it, and ascended a high bank beyond, I should find myself on the road from Llangollen to Corwen and that if I wanted to go to Llangollen I must turn to the left. I thanked him, and passing over the bridge, and ascending the bank, found myself upon a broad road. I turned to the left, and walking briskly in about half an hour reached our cottage in the northern suburb, where I found my family and dinner awaiting me.



CHAPTER IX

The Dinner—English Foibles—Pengwern—The Yew-Tree—Carn-Lleidyr—Applications of a Term.

For dinner we had salmon and leg of mutton; the salmon from the Dee, the leg from the neighbouring Berwyn. The salmon was good enough, but I had eaten better; and here it will not be amiss to say, that the best salmon in the world is caught in the Suir, a river that flows past the beautiful town of Clonmel in Ireland. As for the leg of mutton it was truly wonderful; nothing so good had I ever tasted in the shape of a leg of mutton. The leg of mutton of Wales beats the leg of mutton of any other country, and I had never tasted a Welsh leg of mutton before. Certainly I shall never forget that first Welsh leg of mutton which I tasted, rich but delicate, replete with juices derived from the aromatic herbs of the noble Berwyn, cooked to a turn, and weighing just four pounds.

"O its savoury smell was great, Such as well might tempt, I trow, One that's dead to lift his brow."

Let any one who wishes to eat leg of mutton in perfection go to Wales, but mind you to eat leg of mutton only. Welsh leg of mutton is superlative; but with the exception of the leg, the mutton of Wales is decidedly inferior to that of many other parts of Britain.

Here, perhaps, as I have told the reader what we ate for dinner, it will be as well to tell him what we drank at dinner. Let him know then, that with our salmon we drank water, and with our mutton ale, even ale of Llangollen; but not the best ale of Llangollen; it was very fair; but I subsequently drank far better Llangollen ale than that which I drank at our first dinner in our cottage at Llangollen.

1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12  13  14     Next Part
Home - Random Browse