Part 11 out of 14
We had some further discourse. I mentioned to him the adventure
which I had on the hill with the fellow with the donkey. The young
man said that he had no doubt that he was some prowling thief.
"The dogs of the shepherd's house," said I, "didn't seem to like
him, and dogs generally know an evil customer. A long time ago I
chanced to be in a posada, or inn, at Valladolid in Spain. One hot
summer's afternoon I was seated in a corridor which ran round a
large open court in the middle of the inn; a fine yellow, three-
parts-grown bloodhound was lying on the ground beside me with whom
I had been playing, a little time before. I was just about to fall
asleep, when I heard a 'hem' at the outward door of the posada,
which was a long way below at the end of a passage which
communicated with the court. Instantly the hound started upon his
legs, and with a loud yell, and with eyes flashing fire, ran nearly
round the corridor, down a flight of steps, and through the passage
to the gate. There was then a dreadful noise, in which the cries
of a human being and the yells of the hound were blended. I
forthwith started up and ran down, followed by several other
guests, who came rushing out of their chambers round the corridor.
At the gate we saw a man on the ground and the hound trying to
strangle him. It was with the greatest difficulty, and chiefly
through the intervention of the master of the dog, who happened to
be present, that the animal could be made to quit his hold. The
assailed person was a very powerful man, but had an evil
countenance, was badly dressed, and had neither hat, shoes nor
stockings. We raised him up and gave him wine, which he drank
greedily, and presently, without saying a word, disappeared. The
guests said they had no doubt that he was a murderer flying from
justice, and that the dog by his instinct, even at a distance, knew
him to be such. The master said that it was the first time that
the dog had ever attacked any one or shown the slightest symptom of
ferocity. Not the least singular part of the matter was, that the
dog did not belong to the house, but to one of the guests from a
distant village; the creature therefore could not consider itself
the house's guardian."
I had scarcely finished my tale when the other man came in and said
that he had found a guide, a young man from Pont Erwyd, who would
be glad of such an opportunity to go and see his parents, that he
was then dressing himself, and would shortly make his appearance.
In about twenty minutes he did so. He was a stout young fellow
with a coarse blue coat, and coarse white felt hat; he held a stick
in his hand. The kind young book-keeper now advised us to set out
without delay, as the day was drawing to a close and the way was
long. I shook him by the hand, told him that I should never forget
his civility, and departed with the guide.
The fine young girl, whom I have already mentioned, and another
about two years younger, departed with us. They were dressed in
the graceful female attire of old Wales.
We bore to the south down a descent, and came to some moory, quaggy
ground intersected with water-courses. The agility of the young
girls surprised me; they sprang over the water-courses, some of
which were at least four feet wide, with the ease and alacrity of
lawns. After a short time we came to a road, which, however, we
did not long reap the benefit of, as it only led to a mine. Seeing
a house on the top of a hill, I asked my guide whose it was.
"Ty powdr," said he, "a powder house," by which I supposed he meant
a magazine of powder used for blasting in the mines. He had not a
word of English. . If the young girls were nimble with their feet,
they were not less so with their tongues, as they kept up an
incessant gabble with each other and with the guide. I understood
little of what they said, their volubility preventing me from
catching more than a few words. After we had gone about two miles
and a half, they darted away with surprising swiftness down a hill
towards a distant house, where, as I learned from my guide, the
father of the eldest lived. We ascended a hill, passed between two
craggy elevations, and then wended to the south-east over a
strange, miry place, in which I thought any one at night not
acquainted with every inch of the way would run imminent risk of
perishing. I entered into conversation with my guide. After a
little time he asked me if I was a Welshman. I told him no.
"You could teach many a Welshman," said he.
"Why do you think so?" said I.
"Because many of your words are quite above my comprehension," said
"No great compliment," thought I to myself; but putting a good face
upon the matter I told him that I knew a great many old Welsh
"Is Potosi an old Welsh word?" said he.
"No," said I; "it is the name of a mine in the Deheubarth of
"Is it a lead mine?"
"No!" said I, "it is a silver mine."
"Then why do they call our mine, which is a lead mine, by the name
of a silver mine?"
"Because they wish to give people to understand," said I, "that it
is very rich - as rich in lead as Potosi in silver. Potosi is, or
was, the richest silver mine in the world, and from it has come at
least one half of the silver which we use in the shape of money and
"Well," said he, "I have frequently asked, but could never learn
before why our mine was called Potosi."
"You did not ask at the right quarter," said I; "the young man with
the glazed hat could have told you as well as I." I inquired why
the place where the mine was bore the name of Esgyrn Hirion or Long
Bones. He told me that he did not know, but believed that the
bones of a cawr or giant had been found there in ancient times. I
asked him if the mine was deep.
"Very deep," he replied.
"Do you like the life of a miner?" said I.
"Very much," said he, "and should like it more, but for the noises
of the hill."
"Do you mean the powder blasts?" said I.
"Oh no!" said he, "I care nothing for them; I mean the noises made
by the spirits of the hill in the mine. Sometimes they make such
noises as frighten the poor fellow who works underground out of his
senses. Once on a time I was working by myself very deep
underground, in a little chamber to which a very deep shaft led. I
had just taken up my light to survey my work, when all of a sudden
I heard a dreadful rushing noise, as if an immense quantity of
earth had come tumbling down. 'Oh God!' said I, and fell
backwards, letting the light fall, which instantly went out. I
thought the whole shaft had given way, and that I was buried alive.
I lay for several hours half stupefied, thinking now and then what
a dreadful thing it was to be buried alive. At length I thought I
would get up, go to the mouth of the shaft, feel the mould, with
which it was choked up, and then come back, lie down, and die. So
I got up and tottered to the mouth of the shaft, put out my hand
and felt - nothing; all was clear. I went forward, and presently
felt the ladder. Nothing had fallen; all was just the same as when
I came down. I was dreadfully afraid that I should never be able
to get up in the dark without breaking my neck; however, I tried,
and at last, with a great deal of toil and danger, got to a place
where other men were working. The noise was caused by the spirits
of the hill in the hope of driving the miner out of his senses.
They very nearly succeeded. I shall never forget how I felt when I
thought I was buried alive. If it were not for those noises in the
hill, the life of a miner would be quite heaven below."
We came to a cottage standing under a hillock, down the side of
which tumbled a streamlet close by the northern side of the
building. The door was open, and inside were two or three females
and some children. "Have you any enwyn?" said the lad, peeping in.
"Oh yes!" said a voice - "digon! digon!" Presently a buxom,
laughing girl brought out two dishes of buttermilk, one of which
she handed to me and the other to the guide. I asked her the name
of the place.
"Gwen Frwd - the 'Fair Rivulet,'" said she.
"Who lives here?"
"Have you any English?"
"Nagos!" said she, bursting into a loud laugh. "What should we do
with English here?" After we had drunk the buttermilk I offered the
girl some money, but she drew back her hand angrily, and said: "We
don't take money from tired strangers for two drops of buttermilk;
there's plenty within, and there are a thousand ewes on the hill.
"Dear me!" thought I to myself as I walked away; "that I should
once in my days have found shepherd life something as poets have
I saw a mighty mountain at a considerable distance on the right,
the same I believe which I had noted some hours before. I inquired
of my guide whether it was Plynlimmon.
"Oh no!" said he, "that is Gaverse; Pumlimmon is to the left."
"Plynlimmon is a famed hill," said I; "I suppose it is very high."
"Yes!" said he, "it is high; but it is not famed because it is
high, but because the three grand rivers of the world issue from
its breast, the Hafren, the Rheidol, and the Gwy."
Night was now coming rapidly on, attended with a drizzling rain. I
inquired if we were far from Pont Erwyd. "About a mile," said my
guide; "we shall soon be there." We quickened our pace. After a
little time he asked me if I was going farther than Pont Erwyd.
"I am bound for the bridge of the evil man," said I; "but I daresay
I shall stop at Pont Erwyd to-night."
"You will do right," said he; "it is only three miles from Pont
Erwyd to the bridge of the evil man, but I think we shall have a
"When I get to Pont Erwyd," said I, "how far shall I be from South
"From South Wales!" said he; "you are in South Wales now; you
passed the Terfyn of North Wales a quarter of an hour ago."
The rain now fell fast and there was so thick a mist that I could
only see a few yards before me. We descended into a valley, at the
bottom of which I heard a river roaring.
"That's the Rheidol," said my guide, "coming from Pumlimmon,
swollen with rain."
Without descending to the river, we turned aside up a hill, and,
after passing by a few huts, came to a large house, which my guide
told me was the inn of Pont Erwyd.
Consequential Landlord - Cheek - Darfel Gatherel - Dafydd Nanmor -
Sheep Farms - Wholesome Advice - The Old Postman - The Plant de Bat
- The Robber's Cavern.
MY guide went to a side door, and opening it without ceremony went
in. I followed and found myself in a spacious and comfortable-
looking kitchen: a large fire blazed in a huge grate, on one side
of which was a settle; plenty of culinary utensils, both pewter and
copper, hung around on the walls, and several goodly rows of hams
and sides of bacon were suspended from the roof. There were
several people present, some on the settle and others on chairs in
the vicinity of the fire. As I advanced, a man arose from a chair
and came towards me. He was about thirty-five years of age, well
and strongly made, with a fresh complexion, a hawk nose, and a keen
grey eye. He wore top-boots and breeches, a half jockey coat, and
had a round cap made of the skin of some animal on his head.
"Servant, sir!" said he in rather a sharp tone, and surveying me
with something of a supercilious air.
"Your most obedient humble servant!" said I; "I presume you are the
landlord of this house."
"Landlord!" said he, "landlord! It is true I receive guests
sometimes into my house, but I do so solely with the view of
accommodating them; I do not depend upon innkeeping for a
livelihood. I hire the principal part of the land in this
"If that be the case," said I, "I had better continue my way to the
Devil's Bridge; I am not at all tired, and I believe it is not very
"Oh, as you are here," said the farmer-landlord, "I hope you will
stay. I should be very sorry if any gentleman should leave my
house at night after coming with an intention of staying, more
especially in a night like this. Martha!" said he, turning to a
female between thirty and forty - who I subsequently learned was
the mistress - "prepare the parlour instantly for this gentleman,
and don't fail to make up a good fire."
Martha forthwith hurried away, attended by a much younger female.
"Till your room is prepared, sir," said he, "perhaps you will have
no objection to sit down before our fire?"
"Not the least," said I; "nothing gives me greater pleasure than to
sit before a kitchen fire. First of all, however, I must settle
with my guide, and likewise see that he has something to eat and
"Shall I interpret for you?" said the landlord; "the lad has not a
word of English; I know him well."
"I have not been under his guidance for the last three hours," said
I, "without knowing that he cannot speak English; but I want no
"You do not mean to say, sir," said the landlord, with a surprised
and dissatisfied air, "that you understand Welsh?"
I made no answer, but turning to the guide thanked him for his
kindness, and giving him some money asked him if it was enough.
"More than enough, sir," said the lad; "I did not expect half as
He was then about to depart, but I prevented him saying:
"You must not go till you have eaten and drunk. What will you
"Merely a cup of ale, sir," said the lad.
"That won't do," said I; "you shall have bread and cheese and as
much ale as you can drink. Pray," said I to the landlord, "let
this young man have some bread and cheese and a large quart of
The landlord looked at me for a moment, then turning to the lad he
"What do you think of that, Shon? It is some time since you had a
quart of ale to your own cheek."
"Cheek," said I - "cheek! Is that a Welsh word? Surely it is an
importation from the English, and not a very genteel one."
"Oh come, sir!" said the landlord, "we can dispense with your
criticisms. A pretty thing indeed for you, on the strength of
knowing half-a-dozen words of Welsh, to set up for a Welsh critic
in the house of a person who knows the ancient British language
"Dear me!" said I, "how fortunate I am! a person thoroughly versed
in the ancient British language is what I have long wished to see.
Pray what is the meaning of Darfel Gatherel?"
"Oh sir!" said the landlord, "you must answer that question
yourself; I don't pretend to understand gibberish!"
"Darfel Gatherel," said I, "is not gibberish; it was the name of
the great wooden image at Ty Dewi, or Saint David's, in
Pembrokeshire, to which thousands of pilgrims in the days of popery
used to repair for the purpose of adoring it, and which at the time
of the Reformation was sent up to London as a curiosity, where it
eventually served as firewood to burn the monk Forrest upon, who
was sentenced to the stake by Henry the Eighth for denying his
supremacy. What I want to know is, the meaning of the name, which
I could never get explained, but which you who know the ancient
British language perfectly can doubtless interpret."
"Oh, sir," said the landlord, "when I said I knew the British
language perfectly, I perhaps went too far there are, of course,
some obsolete terms in the British tongue, which I don't
understand. Dar, Dar - what is it? Darmod Cotterel amongst the
rest; but to a general knowledge of the Welsh language I think I
may lay some pretensions; were I not well acquainted with it, I
should not have carried off the prize at various eisteddfodau, as I
have done. I am a poet, sir - a prydydd."
"It is singular enough," said I, "that the only two Welsh poets I
have seen have been innkeepers - one is yourself, the other a
person I met in Anglesey. I suppose the Muse is fond of cwrw da."
"You would fain be pleasant, sir," said the landlord; "but I beg
leave to inform you that I am not fond of pleasantries; and now, as
my wife and the servant are returned, I will have the pleasure of
conducting you to the parlour."
"Before I go," said I, "I should like to see my guide provided with
what I ordered." I stayed till the lad was accommodated with bread
and cheese and a foaming tankard of ale, and then bidding him
farewell, I followed the landlord into the parlour, where I found a
fire kindled, which, however, smoked exceedingly. I asked my host
what I could have for supper, and was told that he did not know,
but that if I would leave the matter to him he would send the best
he could. As he was going away, I said: "So you are a poet?
Well, I am very glad to hear it, for I have been fond of Welsh
poetry from my boyhood. What kind of verse do you employ in
general? Did you ever write an awdl in the four-and-twenty
measures? What are the themes of your songs? The deeds of the
ancient heroes of South Wales, I suppose, and the hospitality of
the great men of the neighbourhood who receive you as an honoured
guest at their tables. I'll bet a guinea that however clever a
fellow you may be you never sang anything in praise of your
landlord's housekeeping equal to what Dafydd Nanmor sang in praise
of that of Ryce of Twyn four hundred years ago:
'For Ryce if hundred thousands plough'd
The lands around his fair abode;
Did vines of thousand vineyards bleed,
Still corn and wine great Ryce would need;
If all the earth had bread's sweet savour,
And water all had cyder's flavour,
Three roaring feasts in Ryce's hall
Would swallow earth and ocean all.'
"Really, sir," said the landlord, "I don't know how to reply to
you, for the greater part of your discourse is utterly
unintelligible to me. Perhaps you are a better Welshman than
myself; but however that may be, I shall take the liberty of
retiring in order to give orders about your supper."
In about half-an-hour the supper made its appearance in the shape
of some bacon and eggs. On tasting them I found them very good,
and calling for some ale I made a very tolerable supper. After the
things had been removed I drew near to the fire, but as it still
smoked, I soon betook myself to the kitchen. My guide had taken
his departure, but the others whom I had left were still there.
The landlord was talking in Welsh to a man in a rough great-coat,
about sheep. Setting himself down near the fire I called for a
glass of whiskey and water, and then observing that the landlord
and his friend had suddenly become silent, I said: "Pray go on
with your discourse; don't let me be any hindrance to you."
"Yes, sir!" said the landlord snappishly, "go on with our discourse
for your edification, I suppose?"
"Well," said I, "suppose it is for my edification; surely you don't
grudge a stranger a little edification which will cost you
"I don't know that, sir," said the landlord; "I don't know that.
Really, sir, the kitchen is not the place for a gentleman."
"Yes, it is," said I, "provided the parlour smokes. Come, come, I
am going to have a glass of whiskey and water; perhaps you will
take one with me."
"Well, sir!" said the landlord, in rather a softened tone, "I have
no objection to take a glass with you."
Two glasses of whiskey and water were presently brought, and the
landlord and I drank to each other's health.
"Is this a sheep district?" said I, after a pause of a minute or
"Yes, sir," said the landlord; "it may to a certain extent be
called a sheep district."
"I suppose the Southdown and Norfolk breeds would not do for these
here parts," said I, with a regular Norfolk whine.
"No, sir, I don't think they would exactly," said the landlord,
staring at me. "Do you know anything about sheep?"
"Plenty, plenty," said I; "quite as much indeed as about Welsh
words and poetry." Then in a yet more whining tone than before, I
said: "Do you think that a body with money in his pocket could
hire a nice comfortable sheep farm hereabouts?"
"Oh, sir!" said the landlord in a furious tone, "you have come to
look out for a farm, I see, and to outbid us poor Welshmen: it is
on that account you have studied Welsh; but, sir, I would have you
know - "
"Come!" said I, "don't be afraid; I wouldn't have all the farms in
your country, provided you would tie them in a string and offer
them to me. If I talked about a farm, it was because I am in the
habit of talking about everything, being versed in all matters, do
you see, or affecting to be so, which comes much to the same thing.
My real business in this neighbourhood is to see the Devil's Bridge
and the scenery about it."
"Very good, sir," said the landlord; "I thought so at first. A
great many English go to see the Devil's Bridge and the scenery
near it, though I really don't know why, for there is nothing so
very particular in either. We have a bridge here too, quite as
good as the Devil's Bridge; and as for scenery, I'll back the
scenery about this house against anything of the kind in the
neighbourhood of the Devil's Bridge. Yet everybody goes to the
Devil's Bridge and nobody comes here!"
"You might easily bring everybody here," said I, "if you would but
employ your talent. You should celebrate the wonders of your
neighbourhood in cowydds, and you would soon have plenty of
visitors; but you don't want them, you know, and prefer to be
The landlord looked at me for a moment, then taking sip of his
whiskey and water he turned to the man with whom he had previously
been talking and recommenced the discourse about sheep. I make no
doubt, however, that I was a restraint upon them; they frequently
glanced at me, and soon fell to whispering. At last both got up
and left the room, the landlord finishing his glass of whiskey and
water before he went away.
"So you are going to the Devil's Bridge, sir!" said an elderly man,
dressed in a grey coat, with a broad-brimmed hat, who sat on the
settle smoking a pipe in company with another elderly man with a
leather hat, with whom I had heard him discourse sometimes in
Welsh, sometimes in English, the Welsh which he spoke being rather
"Yes," said I, "I am going to have a sight of the bridge and the
"Well, sir, I don't think you will be disappointed, for both are
"Are you a Welshman?" said I.
"No, sir, I am not; I am an Englishman from Durham, which is the
best county in England."
"So it is," said I - "for some things at any rate. For example,
where do you find such beef as in Durham?"
"Ah, where indeed, sir? I have always said that neither the
Devonshire nor the Lincolnshire beef is to be named in the same day
with that of Durham."
"Well," said I, "what business do you follow in these parts? I
suppose you farm?"
"No, sir, I do not; I am what they call a mining captain."
"I suppose that gentleman," said I, motioning to the man in the
leather hat, "is not from Durham?"
"No, sir, he is not; he is from this neighbourhood."
"And does he follow mining?"
"No, sir, he does not; he carries about the letters."
"Is your mine near this place?"
"Not very, sir; it is nearer the Devil's Bridge."
"Why is the bridge called the Devil's Bridge?" said
"Because, sir, 'tis said that the Devil built it in the old time,
though that I can hardly believe; for the Devil, do ye see,
delights in nothing but mischief, and it is not likely that such
being the case he would have built a thing which must have been of
wonderful service to people by enabling them to pass in safety over
a dreadful gulf."
"I have heard," said the old postman with the leather hat, "that
the Devil had no hand in de work at all, but that it was built by a
Mynach, or monk, on which account de river over which de bridge is
built is called Afon y Mynach - dat is de Monk's River."
"Did you ever hear," said I, "of three creatures who lived a long
time ago near the Devil's Bridge, called the Plant de Bat?"
"Ah, master!" said the old postman, "I do see that you have been in
these parts before; had you not, you would not know of the Plant de
"No," said I, "I have never been here before; but I heard of them
when I was a boy, from a Cumro who taught me Welsh, and had lived
for some time in these parts. Well, what do they say here about
the Plant de Bat? for he who mentioned them to me could give me no
further information about them than that they were horrid creatures
who lived in a cave near the Devil's Bridge several hundred years
"Well, master," said the old postman, thrusting his forefinger
twice or thrice into the bowl of his pipe, "I will tell you what
they says here about the Plant de Bat. In de old time - two, three
hundred year ago - a man lived somewhere about here called Bat or
Bartholomew; this man had three children, two boys and one girl,
who, because their father's name was Bat, were generally called
'Plant de Bat,' or Bat's children. Very wicked children they were
from their cradle, giving their father and mother much trouble and
uneasiness; no good in any one of them, neither in the boys nor the
girl. Now the boys, once when they were rambling idly about,
lighted by chance upon a cave near the Devil's Bridge. Very
strange cave it was, with just one little hole at top to go in by;
so the boys said to one another: 'Nice cave this for thief to live
in. Suppose we come here when we are a little more big and turn
thief ourselves.' Well, they waited till they were a little more
big, and then leaving their father's house they came to de cave and
turned thief, lying snug there all day and going out at night to
rob upon the roads. Well, there was soon much talk in the country
about the robberies which were being committed, and people often
went out in search of de thieves, but all in vain; and no wonder,
for they were in a cave very hard to light upon, having, as I said
before, merely one little hole at top to go in by. So, Bat's boys
went on swimmingly for a long time, lying snug in cave by day and
going out at night to rob, letting no one know where they were but
their sister, who was as bad as themselves, and used to come to
them and bring them food and stay with them for weeks, and
sometimes go out and rob with them. But as de pitcher which goes
often to de well comes home broke at last, so it happened with
Bat's children. After robbing people upon the roads by night many
a long year and never being found out, they at last met one great
gentleman upon the roads by night and not only robbed, but killed
him, leaving his body all cut and gashed near to Devil's Bridge.
That job was the ruin of Plant de Bat, for the great gentleman's
friends gathered together and hunted after his murderers with dogs,
and at length came to the cave, and going in, found it stocked with
riches, and the Plant de Bat sitting upon the riches, not only the
boys but the girl also. So they took out the riches and the Plant
de Bat, and the riches they did give to churches and spyttys, and
the Plant de Bat they did execute, hanging the boys and burning the
girl. That, master, is what they says in dese parts about the
Plant de Bat."
"Thank you!" said I. "Is the cave yet to be seen?"
"Oh yes! it is yet to be seen, or part of it, for it is not now
what it was, having been partly flung open to hinder other thieves
from nestling in it. It is on the bank of the river Mynach, just
before it joins the Rheidol. Many gentlefolk in de summer go to
see the Plant de Bat's cave."
"Are you sure," said I, "that Plant de Bat means Bat's children?"
"I am not sure, master; I merely says what I have heard other
people say. I believe some says that it means 'the wicked
children,' or 'the Devil's children.' And now, master, we may as
well have done with them, for should you question me through the
whole night, I could tell you nothing more about the Plant de Bat."
After a little further discourse, chiefly about sheep and the
weather, I retired to the parlour, where the fire was now burning
brightly; seating myself before it, I remained for a considerable
time staring at the embers and thinking over the events of the day.
At length I rang the bell and begged to be shown to my chamber,
where I soon sank to sleep, lulled by the pattering of rain against
the window and the sound of a neighbouring cascade.
Wild Scenery - Awful Chasm - John Greaves - Durham County - Queen
Philippa - The Two Aldens - Welsh Wife - The Noblest Business - The
Welsh and the Salve - The Lad John.
A RAINY and boisterous night was succeeded by a bright and
beautiful morning. I arose and having ordered breakfast went forth
to see what kind of country I had got into. I found myself amongst
wild, strange-looking hills, not, however, of any particular
height. The house, which seemed to front the east, stood on the
side of a hill, on a wide platform abutting on a deep and awful
chasm, at the bottom of which chafed and foamed the Rheidol. This
river enters the valley of Pont Erwyd from the north-west, then
makes a variety of snake-like turns, and at last bears away to the
south-east just below the inn. The banks are sheer walls, from
sixty to a hundred feet high, and the bed of the river has all the
appearance of a volcanic rent. A brook, running from the south
past the inn, tumbles into the chasm at an angle, and forms the
cascade whose sound had lulled me to sleep the preceding night.
After breakfasting I paid my bill, and set out for the Devil's
Bridge without seeing anything more of that remarkable personage in
whom were united landlord, farmer, poet, and mighty fine gentleman
- the master of the house. I soon reached the bottom of the
valley, where are a few houses and the bridge from which the place
takes its name, Pont Erwyd signifying the bridge of Erwyd. As I
was looking over the bridge, near which are two or three small
waterfalls, an elderly man in a grey coat, followed by a young lad
and dog, came down the road which I had myself just descended.
"Good day, sir," said he, stopping, when he came upon the bridge.
"I suppose you are bound my road?"
"Ah," said I, recognising the old mining captain with whom I had
talked in the kitchen the night before, "is it you? I am glad to
see you. Yes, I am bound your way, provided you are going to the
"Then, sir, we can go together, for I am bound to my mine, which
lies only a little way t'other side of the Devil's Bridge."
Crossing the bridge of Erwyd, we directed our course to the south-
"What young man is that," said I, "who is following behind us?"
"The young man, sir, is my son John, and the dog with him is his
"And what may your name be, if I may take the liberty of asking?"
"Greaves, sir; John Greaves from the county of Durham."
"Ah! a capital county that," said I.
"You like the county, sir? God bless you! John!" said he in a
loud voice, turning to the lad, "why don't you offer to carry the
"Don't let him trouble himself," said I. "As I was just now
saying, a capital county is Durham county."
"You really had better let the boy carry your bag, sir."
"No," said I, "I would rather carry it myself. I question upon the
whole whether there is a better county in England."
"Is it long since your honour was in Durham county?"
"A good long time. A matter of forty years."
"Forty years! - why that's the life of a man. That's longer than I
have been out of the county myself. I suppose your honour can't
remember much about the county."
"Oh yes, I can! I remember a good deal."
"Please, your honour, tell me what you remember about the county.
It would do me good to hear it."
"Well, I remember it was a very fine county in more respects than
one. One part of it was full of big hills and mountains, where
there were mines of coal and lead, with mighty works with tall
chimneys spouting out black smoke, and engines roaring, and big
wheels going round, some turned by steam, and others by what they
call forces, that is, brooks of water dashing down steep channels.
Another part was a more level country, with beautiful woods, happy-
looking farm-houses well-filled fields and rich, glorious meadows,
in which stood stately, with brown sides and short horns, the
"Oh dear, oh dear!" said my companion. "Ah! I see your honour
knows everything about Durham county. Forces? none but one who had
been in Durham county would have used that word. I haven't heard
it for five-and-thirty years. Forces! there was a force close to
my village. I wonder if your honour has ever been in Durham city?"
"Oh yes! I have been there."
"Does your honour remember anything about Durham city?"
"Oh yes! I remember a good deal about it."
"Then, your honour, pray tell us what you remember about it - pray
do I perhaps it will do me good."
"Well then, I remember that it was a fine old city standing on a
hill with a river running under it, and that it had a fine old
church, one of the finest in the of Britain; likewise a fine old
castle; and last, not least, a capital old inn, where I got a
capital dinner off roast Durham beef, and a capital glass of ale,
which I believe was the cause, of my being ever after fond of ale."
"Dear me! Ah, I see your honour knows all about Durham city. And
now let me ask one question. How came your honour to Durham, city
and county? I don't think your honour is a Durham man either of
town or field."
"I am not; but when I was a little boy I passed through Durham
county with my mother and brother to a place called Scotland."
"Scotland! a queer country that, your honour!"
"So it is," said I; "a queerer country I never saw in all my life."
"And a queer set of people, your honour."
"So they are," said I; "a queerer set of people than the Scotch you
would scarcely see in a summer's day."
"The Durham folks, neither of town or field, have much reason to
speak well of the Scotch, your honour."
"I dare say not," said I; "very few people have."
"And yet the Durham folks, your honour, generally contrived to give
them as good as they brought."
"That they did," said I; "a pretty licking the Durham folks once
gave the Scots under the walls of Durham city, after the scamps had
been plundering the country for three weeks - a precious licking
they gave them, slaying I don't know how many thousands, and taking
their king prisoner."
"So they did, your honour, and under the command of a woman too."
"Very true," said I; "Queen Philippa."
"Just so, your honour! The idea that your honour should know so
much about Durham, both field and town!"
"Well," said I, "since I have told you so much about Durham,
perhaps you will tell me something about yourself. How did you
"I had better begin from the beginning, your honour. I was born in
Durham county close beside the Great Force, which no doubt your
honour has seen. My father was a farmer, and had a bit of a share
in a mining concern. I was brought up from my childhood both to
farming and mining work, but most to mining, because, do you see, I
took most pleasure in it, being the more noble business of the two.
Shortly after I had come to man's estate my father died, leaving me
a decent little property, whereupon I forsook farming altogether
and gave myself up, body, soul, and capital, to mining, which at
last I thoroughly understand in all its branches. Well, your
honour, about five-and-thirty years ago - that was when I was about
twenty-eight - a cry went through the north country that a great
deal of money might be made by opening Wales, that is, by mining in
Wales in the proper fashion, which means the north country fashion,
for there is no other fashion of mining good for much. There had
long been mines in Wales, but they had always been worked in a
poor, weak, languid manner, very different from that of the north
country. So a company was formed, at the head of which were the
Aldens, George and Thomas, for opening Wales, and they purchased
certain mines in these districts which they knew to be productive,
and which might be made yet more so, and settling down here called
themselves the Rheidol United. Well, after they had been here a
little time they found themselves in want of a man to superintend
their concerns, above all in the smelting department. So they
thought of me, who was known to most of the mining gentry in the
north country, and they made a proposal to me through George Alden,
afterwards Sir George, to come here and superintend. I said no at
first, for I didn't like the idea of leaving Durham county to come
to such an outlandish place as Wales; howsomeover, I at last
allowed myself to be overpersuaded by George Alden, afterwards Sir
George, and here I came with my wife and family - for I must tell
your honour I had married a respectable young woman of Durham
county, by whom I had two little ones - here I came and did my best
for the service of the Rheidol United. The company was terribly
set to it for a long time, spending a mint of money and getting
very poor returns. To my certain knowledge, the two Aldens, George
and Tom, spent between them thirty thousand pounds. The company,
however, persevered, chiefly at the instigation of the Aldens, who
were in the habit of saying, 'Never say die!' and at last got the
better of all their difficulties and rolled in riches, and had the
credit of being the first company that ever opened Wales, which
they richly deserved, for I will uphold it that the Rheidol United,
particularly the Aldens, George and Thomas, were the first people
who really opened Wales. In their service I have been for five-
and-thirty years, and daresay shall continue so till I die. I have
been tolerably comfortable, your honour, though I have had my
griefs, the bitterest of which was the death of my wife, which
happened about eight years after I came to this country. I thought
I should have gone wild at first, your honour; having, however,
always plenty to do, I at last got the better of my affliction. I
continued single till my English family grew up and left me, when,
feeling myself rather lonely, I married a decent young Welshwoman,
by whom I had one son, the lad John who is following behind with
his dog Joe. And now your honour knows the whole story of John
Greaves, miner from the county of Durham."
"And a most entertaining and instructive history it is," said I.
"You have not told me, however, how you contrived to pick up Welsh:
I heard you speaking it last night with the postman."
"Why, through my Welsh wife, your honour! Without her I don't
think I should ever have picked up the Welsh manner of discoursing
- she is a good kind of woman, my Welsh wife, though - "
"The loss of your Durham wife must have been a great grief to you,"
"It was the bitterest grief, your honour, as I said before, that I
ever had; my next worst I think was the death of a dear friend."
"Who was that?" said I
"Who was it, your honour? why, the Duke of Newcastle."
"Dear me!" said I, "how came you to know him?"
"Why, your honour, he lived at a place not far from here, called
Hafod, and so - "
"Hafod?" said I; "I have often heard of Hafod and its library; but
I thought it belonged to an old Welsh family called Johnes."
"Well, so it did, your honour, but the family died away, and the
estate was put up for sale, and purchased by the Duke, who built a
fine house upon it, which he made his chief place of residence -
the old family house, I must tell your honour, in which the library
was, had been destroyed by fire. Well, he hadn't been long settled
there before he found me out and took wonderfully to me,
discoursing with me and consulting me about his farming and
improvements. Many is the pleasant chat and discourse I have had
with his Grace for hours and hours together, for his Grace had not
a bit of pride, at least he never showed any to me, though perhaps
the reason of that was that we were both north country people.
Lord! I would have laid down my life for his Grace and have done
anything but one which he once asked me to do. 'Greaves,' said the
Duke to me one day, 'I wish you would give up mining and become my
steward.' 'Sorry I can't oblige your Grace,' said I, 'but give up
mining I cannot. I will at any time give your Grace all the advice
I can about farming and such like, but give up mining I cannot;
because why? - I conceive mining to be the noblest business in the
'versal world.' Whereupon his Grace laughed, and said he dare say
I was right, and never mentioned the subject again."
"Was his Grace very fond of farming and improving?"
"Oh yes, your honour. Like all the great gentry, especially the
north country gentry, his Grace was wonderfully fond of farming and
improving; and a wonderful deal of good he did, reclaiming
thousands of acres of land which was before good for nothing, and
building capital farm-houses and offices for his tenants. His
grand feat, however, was bringing the Durham bull into this
country, which formed a capital cross with the Welsh cows. Pity
that he wasn't equally fortunate with the north country sheep."
"Did he try to introduce them into Wales?"
"Yes, but they didn't answer, as I knew they wouldn't. Says I to
the Duke: 'It won't do, your Grace, to bring the north country
sheep here: because why? the hills are too wet and cold for their
constitutions'; but his Grace, who had sometimes a will of his own,
persisted and brought the north country sheep to these parts, and
it turned out as I said - the sheep caught the disease, and the
wool parted and - "
"But," said I, "you should have told him about the salve made of
bran, butter and oil; you should have done that."
"Well, so I did, your honour. I told him about the salve, and the
Duke listened to me, and the salve was made by these very hands;
but when it was made, what do you think? the foolish Welsh wouldn't
put it on, saying that it was against their laws and statties and
religion to use it, and talked about Devil's salves and the Witch
of Endor, and the sin against the Holy Ghost, and such like
nonsense. So to prevent a regular rebellion, the Duke gave up the
salve, and the poor sheep pined away and died, till at last there
was not one left."
"Who holds the estate at present?" said I.
"Why, a great gentleman from Lancashire, your honour, who bought it
when the Duke died; but he doesn't take the same pleasure in it
which the Duke did, nor spend so much money about it, the
consequence being that everything looks very different from what it
looked in the Duke's time. The inn at the Devil's Bridge and the
grounds look very different from what they looked in the Duke's
time, for you must know that the inn and the grounds form part of
the Hafod estate, and are hired from the proprietor."
By this time we had arrived at a small village, with a toll-bar and
a small church or chapel at some little distance from the road,
which here made a turn nearly full south. The road was very good,
but the country was wild and rugged; there was a deep vale on the
right, at the bottom of which rolled the Rheidol in its cleft,
rising beyond which were steep, naked hills.
"This village," said my companion, "is called Ysbytty Cynfyn. Down
on the right, past the church, is a strange bridge across the
Rheidol, which runs there through a horrid kind of a place. The
bridge is called Pont yr Offeiriad, or the Parson's Bridge, because
in the old time the clergyman passed over it every Sunday to do
duty in the church here."
"Why is this place called Ysbytty Cynfyn?" said I, "which means the
hospital of the first boundary; is there a hospital of the second
boundary near here?"
"I can't say anything about boundaries, your honour; all I know is,
that there is another Spytty farther on beyond Hafod called Ysbytty
Ystwyth, or the 'Spytty upon the Ystwyth. But to return to the
matter of the Minister's Bridge: I would counsel your honour to go
and see that bridge before you leave these parts. A vast number of
gentry go to see it in the summer time. It was the bridge which
the landlord was mentioning last night, though it scarcely belongs
to his district, being quite as near the Devil's Bridge inn as it
is to his own, your honour."
We went on discoursing for about half a mile farther, when,
stopping by a road which branched off to the hills on the left, my
companion said. "I must now wish your honour good day, being
obliged to go a little way up here to a mining work on a small bit
of business; my son, however, and his dog Joe will show your honour
the way to the Devil's Bridge, as they are bound to a place a
little way past it. I have now but one word to say, which is, that
should ever your honour please to visit me at my mine, your honour
shall receive every facility for inspecting the works, and moreover
have a bellyful of drink and victuals from Jock Greaves, miner from
the county of Durham."
I shook the honest fellow by the hand, and went on in company with
the lad John and his dog as far as the Devil's Bridge. John was a
highly-intelligent lad, spoke Welsh and English fluently, could
read, as he told me, both languages, and had some acquaintance with
the writings of Twm o'r Nant, as he showed by repeating the
following lines of the carter poet, certainly not the worst which
he ever wrote:-
"Twm or Nant mae cant a'm galw,
Tomas Edwards yw fy enw,"
Tom O Nant is a nickname I've got,
My name's Thomas Edwards, I wot."
The Hospice - The Two Rivers - The Devil's Bridge - Pleasant
I ARRIVED at the Devil's Bridge at about eleven o'clock of a fine
but cold day, and took up my quarters at the inn, of which I was
the sole guest during the whole time that I continued there; for
the inn, standing in a lone, wild district, has very few guests
except in summer, when it is thronged with tourists, who avail
themselves of that genial season to view the wonders of Wales, of
which the region close by is considered amongst the principal.
The inn, or rather hospice - for the sounding name of hospice is
more applicable to it than the common one of inn - was built at a
great expense by the late Duke of Newcastle. It is an immense
lofty cottage with projecting eaves, and has a fine window to the
east which enlightens a stately staircase and a noble gallery. It
fronts the north, and stands in the midst of one of the most
remarkable localities in the world, of which it would require a far
more vigorous pen than mine to convey an adequate idea.
Far to the west is a tall, strange-looking hill, the top of which
bears no slight resemblance to that of a battlemented castle. This
hill, which is believed to have been in ancient times a stronghold
of the Britons, bears the name of Bryn y Castell, or the hill of
the castle. To the north-west are russet hills, to the east two
brown paps, whilst to the south is a high, swelling mountain. To
the north, and just below the hospice, is a profound hollow with
all the appearance of the crater of an extinct volcano; at the
bottom of this hollow the waters of two rivers unite; those of the
Rheidol from the north, and those of the Afon y Mynach, or the
Monks' River, from the south-east. The Rheidol, falling over a
rocky precipice at the northern side of the hollow, forms a
cataract very pleasant to look upon from the middle upper window of
the inn. Those of the Mynach which pass under the celebrated
Devil's Bridge are not visible, though they generally make
themselves heard. The waters of both, after uniting, flow away
through a romantic glen towards the west. The sides of the hollow,
and indeed of most of the ravines in the neighbourhood, which are
numerous, are beautifully clad with wood.
Penetrate now into the hollow above which the hospice stands. You
descend by successive flights of steps, some of which are very
slippery and insecure. On your right is the Monks' River, roaring
down its dingle in five successive falls, to join its brother the
Rheidol. Each of the falls has its own peculiar basin, one or two
of which are said to be of awful depth. The length which these
falls with their basins occupy is about five hundred feet. On the
side of the basin of the last but one is the cave, or the site of
the cave, said to have been occupied in old times by the Wicked
Children - the mysterious Plant de Bat - two brothers and a sister,
robbers and murderers. At present it is nearly open on every side,
having, it is said, been destroyed to prevent its being the haunt
of other evil people. There is a tradition in the country that the
fall at one time tumbled over its mouth. This tradition, however,
is evidently without foundation, as from the nature of the ground
the river could never have run but in its present channel. Of all
the falls, the fifth or last is the most considerable: you view it
from a kind of den, to which the last flight of steps, the
ruggedest and most dangerous of all, has brought you. Your
position here is a wild one. The fall, which is split into two, is
thundering beside you; foam, foam, foam is flying all about you;
the basin or cauldron is boiling frightfully below you; hirsute
rocks are frowning terribly above you, and above them forest trees,
dank and wet with spray and mist, are distilling drops in showers
from their boughs.
But where is the bridge, the celebrated bridge of the Evil Man?
From the bottom of the first flight of steps leading down into the
hollow you see a modern-looking bridge, bestriding a deep chasm or
cleft to the south-east, near the top of the dingle of the Monks'
River; over it lies the road to Pont Erwyd. That, however, is not
the Devil's Bridge; but about twenty feet below that bridge, and
completely overhung by it, don't you see a shadowy, spectral
object, something like a bow, which likewise bestrides the chasm?
You do! Well, that shadowy, spectral object is the celebrated
Devil's Bridge, or, as the timorous peasants of the locality call
it, the Pont y Gwr Drwg. It is now merely preserved as an object
of curiosity, the bridge above being alone used for transit, and is
quite inaccessible except to birds and the climbing wicked boys of
the neighbourhood, who sometimes at the risk of their lives
contrive to get upon it from the frightfully steep northern bank,
and snatch a fearful joy, as, whilst lying on their bellies, they
poke their heads over its sides worn by age, without parapet to
prevent them from falling into the horrid gulf below. But from the
steps in the hollow the view of the Devil's Bridge, and likewise of
the cleft, is very slight and unsatisfactory. To view it properly,
and the wonders connected with it, you must pass over the bridge
above it, and descend a precipitous dingle on the eastern side till
you come to a small platform in a crag. Below you now is a
frightful cavity, at the bottom of which the waters of the Monks'
River, which comes tumbling from a glen to the east, whirl, boil,
and hiss in a horrid pot or cauldron, called in the language of the
country Twll yn y graig, or the hole in the rock, in a manner truly
tremendous. On your right is a slit, probably caused by volcanic
force, through which the waters after whirling in the cauldron
eventually escape. The slit is wonderfully narrow, considering its
altitude which is very great - considerably upwards of a hundred
feet. Nearly above you, crossing the slit, which is partially
wrapt in darkness, is the far-famed bridge, the Bridge of the Evil
Man, a work which, though crumbling and darkly grey, does much
honour to the hand which built it, whether it was the hand of Satan
or of a monkish architect; for the arch is chaste and beautiful,
far superior in every respect, except in safety and utility, to the
one above it, which from this place you have not the mortification
of seeing. Gaze on these objects, namely, the horrid seething pot
or cauldron, the gloomy volcanic slit, and the spectral, shadowy
Devil's Bridge for about three minutes, allowing a minute to each,
then scramble up the bank and repair to your inn, and have no more
sight-seeing that day, for you have seen enough. And if pleasant
recollections do not haunt you through life of the noble falls and
the beautiful wooded dingles to the west of the bridge of the Evil
One, and awful and mysterious ones of the monks' boiling cauldron,
the long, savage, shadowy cleft, and the grey, crumbling, spectral
bridge, I say boldly that you must be a very unpoetical person
Dinner at the Hospice - Evening Gossip - A Day of Rain - A Scanty
Flock - The Bridge of the Minister - Legs in Danger.
I DINED in a parlour of the inn commanding an excellent view of the
hollow and the Rheidol fall. Shortly after I had dined, a fierce
storm of rain and wind came on. It lasted for an hour, and then
everything again became calm. Just before evening was closing in I
took a stroll to a village which stands a little way to the west of
the inn. It consists only of a few ruinous edifices, and is
chiefly inhabited by miners and their families. I saw no men, but
plenty of women and children. Seeing a knot of women and girls
chatting I went up and addressed them. Some of the girls were very
good-looking; none of the party had any English; all of them were
very civil. I first talked to them about religion, and found that,
without a single exception, they were Calvinistic-Methodists. I
next talked to them about the Plant de Bat. They laughed heartily
at the first mention of their name, but seemed to know very little
about their history. After some twenty minutes' discourse I bade
them good-night and returned to my inn.
The night was very cold; the people of the house, however, made up
for me a roaring fire of turf, and I felt very comfortable. About
ten o'clock I went to bed, intending next morning to go and see
Plynlimmon, which I had left behind me on entering Cardiganshire.
When the morning came, however, I saw at once that I had entered
upon a day by no means adapted for excursions of any considerable
length, for it rained terribly; but this gave me very little
concern; my time was my own, and I said to myself: "If I can't go
to-day I can perhaps go to-morrow." After breakfast I passed some
hours in a manner by no means disagreeable, sometimes meditating
before my turf fire, with my eyes fixed upon it, and sometimes
sitting by the window, with my eyes fixed upon the cascade of the
Rheidol, which was every moment becoming more magnificent. At
length about twelve o'clock, fearing that if I stayed within I
should lose my appetite for dinner, which has always been one of
the greatest of my enjoyments, I determined to go and see the
Minister's Bridge which my friend the old mining captain had spoken
to me about. I knew that I should get a wetting by doing so, for
the weather still continued very bad, but I don't care much for a
wetting provided I have a good roof, a good fire, and good fare to
betake myself to afterwards.
So I set out. As I passed over the bridge of the Mynach River I
looked down over the eastern balustrade. The Bridge of the Evil
One, which is just below it, was quite invisible. I could see,
however, the pot or crochan distinctly enough, and a horrible sight
it presented. The waters were whirling round in a manner to
describe which any word but frenzied would be utterly powerless.
Half-an-hour's walking brought me to the little village through
which I had passed the day before. Going up to a house I knocked
at the door, and a middle-aged man opening it, I asked him the way
to the Bridge of the Minister. He pointed to the little chapel to
the west, and said that the way lay past it, adding that he would
go with me himself, as he wanted to go to the hills on the other
side to see his sheep.
We got presently into discourse. He at first talked broken
English, but soon began to speak his native language. I asked him
if the chapel belonged to the Methodists.
"It is not a chapel," said he, "it is a church."
"Do many come to it?" said I.
"Not many, sir, for the Methodists are very powerful here. Not
more than forty or fifty come."
"Do you belong to the Church?" said I.
"I do, sir - thank God!"
"You may well be thankful," said I, "for it is a great privilege to
belong to the Church of England."
"It is so, sir," said the man, 'though few, alas! think so."
I found him a highly-intelligent person. On my talking to him
about the name of the place, he said that some called it Spytty
Cynfyn, and others Spytty Cynwyl, and that both Cynwyl and Cynfyn
were the names of people, to one or other of which the place was
dedicated, and that, like the place farther on called Spytty
Ystwyth, it was in the old time a hospital or inn for the
convenience of the pilgrims going to the great monastery of Ystrad
Flur or Strata Florida.
Passing through a field or two we came to the side of a very deep
ravine, down which there was a zigzag path leading to the bridge.
The path was very steep, and, owing to the rain, exceedingly
slippery. For some way it led through a grove of dwarf oaks, by
grasping the branches of which I was enabled to support myself
tolerably well; nearly at the bottom, however, where the path was
most precipitous, the trees ceased altogether. Fearing to trust my
legs, I determined to slide down, and put my resolution in
practice, arriving at a little shelf close by the bridge without
any accident. The man, accustomed to the path, went down in the
usual manner. The bridge consisted of a couple of planks and a
pole flung over a chasm about ten feet wide, on the farther side of
which was a precipice with a path at least quite as steep as the
one down which I had come, and without any trees or shrubs by which
those who used it might support themselves. The torrent rolled
about nine feet below the bridge; its channel was tortuous; on the
south-east side of the bridge was a cauldron, like that on which I
had looked down from the bridge over the river of the monks. The
man passed over the bridge and I followed him; on the other side we
stopped and turned round. The river was rushing and surging, the
pot was boiling and roaring, and everything looked wild and savage;
but the locality, for awfulness and mysterious gloom, could not
compare with that on the east side of the Devil's Bridge, nor for
sublimity and grandeur with that on the west.
"Here you see, sir," said the man, "the Bridge of the Offeiriad,
called so, it is said, because the popes used to pass over it in
the old time; and here you have the Rheidol, which, though not so
smooth nor so well off for banks as the Hafren and the Gwy, gets to
the sea before either of them, and, as the pennill says, is quite
as much entitled to honour:-
"'Hafren a Wy yn hyfryd eu wedd
A Rheidol vawr ei anrhydedd.'
Good rhyme, sir, that. I wish you would put it into Saesneg."
"I am afraid I shall make a poor hand of it," said I; "however, I
will do my best:-
"'Oh pleasantly do glide along the Severn and the Wye;
But Rheidol's rough, and yet he's held by all in honour high.'
"Very good rhyme that, sir! though not so good as the pennill
Cymraeg. Ha, I do see that you know the two languages and are one
poet. And now, sir, I must leave you, and go to the hills to my
sheep, who I am afraid will be suffering in this dreadful weather.
However, before I go, I should wish to see you safe over the
I shook him by the hand, and retracing my steps over the bridge,
began clambering up the bank on my knees.
"You will spoil your trousers, sir!" cried the man from the other
"I don't care if I do," said I, "provided I save my legs, which are
in some danger in this place, as well as my neck, which is of less
I hurried back amidst rain and wind to my friendly hospice, where,
after drying my wet clothes as well as I could, I made an excellent
dinner on fowl and bacon. Dinner over, I took up a newspaper which
was brought me, and read an article about the Russian war, which
did not seem to be going on much to the advantage of the allies.
Soon flinging the paper aside, I stuck my feet on the stove, one on
each side of the turf fire, and listened to the noises without.
The bellowing of the wind down the mountain passes and the roaring
of the Rheidol fall at the north side of the valley, and the
rushing of the five cascades of the river Mynach, were truly awful.
Perhaps I ought not to have said the five cascades of the Mynach,
but the Mynach cascade, for now its five cascades had become one,
extending from the chasm over which hung the bridge of Satan to the
bottom of the valley.
After a time I fell into a fit of musing. I thought of the Plant
de Bat; I thought of the spitties or hospitals connected with the
great monastery of Ystrad Flur or Strata Florida; I thought of the
remarkable bridge close by, built by a clever monk of that place to
facilitate the coming of pilgrims with their votive offerings from
the north to his convent; I thought of the convent built in the
time of our Henry the Second by Ryce ab Gruffyd, prince of South
Wales; and lastly, I thought of a wonderful man who was buried in
its precincts, the greatest genius which Wales, and perhaps
Britain, ever produced, on whose account, and not because of old it
had been a magnificent building, and the most celebrated place of
popish pilgrimage in Wales, I had long ago determined to visit it
on my journey, a man of whose life and works the following is a
Birth and Early Years of Ab Gwilym - Morfudd - Relic of Druidism -
The Men of Glamorgan - Legend of Ab Gwilym - Ab Gwilym as a Writer
- Wonderful Variety - Objects of Nature - Gruffydd Gryg.
DAFYDD AB GWILYM was born about the year 1320, at a place called
Bro Gynnin in the county of Cardigan. Though born in wedlock he
was not conceived legitimately. His mother being discovered by her
parents to be pregnant, was turned out of doors by them, whereupon
she went to her lover, who married her, though in so doing he acted
contrary to the advice of his relations. After a little time,
however, a general reconciliation took place. The parents of Ab
Gwilym, though highly connected, do not appear to have possessed
much property. The boy was educated by his mother's brother
Llewelyn ab Gwilym Fychan, a chief of Cardiganshire; but his
principal patron in after life was Ifor, a cousin of his father,
surnamed Hael, or the bountiful, a chieftain of Glamorganshire.
This person received him within his house, made him his steward and
tutor to his daughter. With this young lady Ab Gwilym speedily
fell in love, and the damsel returned his passion. Ifor, however,
not approving of the connection, sent his daughter to Anglesey, and
eventually caused her to take the veil in a nunnery of that island.
Dafydd pursued her, but not being able to obtain an interview, he
returned to his patron, who gave him a kind reception. Under
Ifor's roof he cultivated poetry with great assiduity and wonderful
success. Whilst very young, being taunted with the circumstances
of his birth by a brother bard called Rhys Meigan, he retorted in
an ode so venomously bitter that his adversary, after hearing it,
fell down and expired. Shortly after this event he was made head
bard of Glamorgan by universal acclamation.
After a stay of some time with Ifor, he returned to his native
county and lived at Bro Gynnin. Here he fell in love with a young
lady of birth called Dyddgu, who did not favour his addresses. He
did not break his heart, however, on her account, but speedily
bestowed it on the fair Morfudd, whom he first saw at Rhosyr in
Anglesey, to which place both had gone on a religious account. The
lady after some demur consented to become his wife. Her parents
refusing to sanction the union, their hands were joined beneath the
greenwood tree by one Madawg Benfras, a bard, and a great friend of
Ab Gwilym. The joining of people's hands by bards, which was
probably a relic of Druidism, had long been practised in Wales, and
marriages of this kind were generally considered valid, and seldom
set aside. The ecclesiastical law, however, did not recognise
these poetical marriages, and the parents of Morfudd by appealing
to the law soon severed the union. After confining the lady for a
short time, they bestowed her hand in legal fashion upon a
chieftain of the neighbourhood, very rich but rather old, and with
a hump on his back, on account which he was nicknamed bow-back, or
little hump-back. Morfudd, however, who passed her time in rather
a dull manner with this person, which would not have been the case
had she done her duty by endeavouring to make the poor man
comfortable, and by visiting the sick and needy around her, was
soon induced by the bard to elope with him. The lovers fled to
Glamorgan, where Ifor Hael, not much to his own credit, received
them with open arms, probably forgetting how he had immured his OWN
daughter in a convent, rather than bestow her on Ab Gwilym. Having
a hunting-lodge in a forest on the banks of the lovely Taf, he
allotted it to the fugitives as a residence. Ecclesiastical law,
however, as strong in Wild Wales as in other parts of Europe, soon
followed them into Glamorgan, and, very properly, separated them.
The lady was restored to her husband, and Ab Gwilym fined to a very
high amount. Not being able to pay the fine, he was cast into
prison; but then the men of Glamorgan arose to a man, swearing that
their head bard should not remain in prison. "Then pay his fine!"
said the ecclesiastical law, or rather the ecclesiastical lawyer.
"So we will!" said the men of Glamorgan, and so they did. Every
man put his hand into his pocket; the amount was soon raised, the
fine paid, and the bard set free.
Ab Gwilym did not forget this kindness of the men of Glamorgan,
and, to requite it, wrote an address to the sun, in which he
requests that luminary to visit Glamorgan, to bless it, and to keep
it from harm. The piece concludes with some noble lines somewhat
to this effect
"If every strand oppression strong
Should arm against the son of song,
The weary wight would find, I ween,
A welcome in Glamorgan green."
Some time after his release he meditated a second elopement with
Morfudd, and even induced her to consent to go off with him. A
friend, to whom he disclosed what he was thinking of doing, asking
him whether he would venture a second time to take such a step, "I
will," said the bard, "in the name of God and the men of
Glamorgan." No second elopement, however, took place, the bard
probably thinking, as has been well observed, that neither God nor
the men of Glamorgan would help him a second time out of such an
affair. He did not attain to any advanced age, but died when about
sixty, some twenty years before the rising of Glendower. Some time
before his death his mind fortunately took a decidedly religious
He is said to have been eminently handsome in his youth, tall,
slender, with yellow hair falling in ringlets down his shoulders.
He is likewise said to have been a great libertine. The following
story is told of him:-
"In a certain neighbourhood he had a great many mistresses, some
married and others not. Once upon a time, in the month of June he
made a secret appointment with each of his lady-loves, the place
and hour of meeting being the same for all; each was to meet him at
the same hour beneath a mighty oak which stood in the midst of a
forest glade. Some time before the appointed hour he went, and
climbing up the oak, hid himself amidst the dense foliage of its
boughs. When the hour arrived he observed all the nymphs tripping
to the place of appointment; all came, to the number of twenty-four
- not one stayed away. For some time they remained beneath the oak
staring at each other. At length an explanation ensued, and it
appeared that they had all come to meet Ab Gwilym.
"'Oh, the treacherous monster!' cried they with one accord; 'only
let him show himself and we will tear him to pieces.'
"'Will you?' said Ab Gwilym from the oak; 'here I am; let her who
has been most wanton with me make the first attack upon me!'
"The females remained for some time speechless; all of a sudden,
however, their anger kindled, not against the bard, but against
each other. From harsh and taunting words they soon came to
actions: hair was torn off, faces were scratched, blood flowed
from cheek and nose. Whilst the tumult was at its fiercest Ab
Gwilym slipped away."
The writer merely repeats this story, and he repeats it as
concisely as possible, in order to have an opportunity of saying
that he does not believe one particle of it. If he believed it, he
would forthwith burn the most cherished volume of the small
collection of books from which he derives delight and recreation,
namely, that which contains the songs of Ab Gwilym, for he would
have nothing in his possession belonging to such a heartless
scoundrel as Ab Gwilym must have been had he got up the scene above
described. Any common man who would expose to each other and the
world a number of hapless, trusting females who had favoured him
with their affections, and from the top of a tree would feast his
eyes upon their agonies of shame and rage, would deserve to be -
emasculated. Had Ab Gwilym been so dead to every feeling of
gratitude and honour as to play the part which the story makes him
play, he would have deserved not only to be emasculated, but to be
scourged with harp-strings in every market-town in Wales, and to be
dismissed from the service of the Muse. But the writer repeats
that he does not believe one tittle of the story, though Ab
Gwilym's biographer, the learned and celebrated William Owen, not
only seems to believe it, but rather chuckles over it. It is the
opinion of the writer that the story is of Italian origin, and that
it formed part of one of the many rascally novels brought over to
England after the marriage of Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the third
son of Edward the Third, with Violante, daughter of Galeazzo, Duke
Dafydd Ab Gwilym has been in general considered as a songster who
never employed his muse on any subject save that of love, and there
can be no doubt that by far the greater number of his pieces are
devoted more or less to the subject of love. But to consider him
merely in the light of an amatory poet would be wrong. He has
written poems of wonderful power on almost every conceivable
subject. Ab Gwilym has been styled the Welsh Ovid, and with great
justice, but not merely because like the Roman he wrote admirably
on love. The Roman was not merely an amatory poet: let the shade
of Pythagoras say whether the poet who embodied in immortal verse
the oldest, the most wonderful, and at the same time the most
humane, of all philosophy was a mere amatory poet. Let the shade
of blind Homer be called up to say whether the bard who composed
the tremendous line -
"Surgit ad hos clypei dominus septemplicis Ajax" -
equal to any save ONE of his own, was a mere amatory songster.
Yet, diversified as the genius of the Roman was, there is no
species of poetry in which he shone in which the Welshman may not
be said to display equal merit. Ab Gwilym, then, has been fairly
styled the Welsh Ovid. But he was something more - and here let
there be no sneers about Welsh: the Welsh are equal in genius,
intellect and learning to any people under the sun, and speak a
language older than Greek, and which is one of the immediate
parents of the Greek. He was something more than the Welsh Ovid:
he was the Welsh Horace, and wrote light, agreeable, sportive
pieces, equal to any things of the kind composed by Horace in his
best moods. But he was something more: he was the Welsh Martial,
and wrote pieces equal in pungency to those of the great Roman
epigrammatist, - perhaps more than equal, for we never heard that
any of Martial's epigrams killed anybody, whereas Ab Gwilym's piece
of vituperation on Rhys Meigan - pity that poets should be so
virulent - caused the Welshman to fall down dead. But he was yet
something more: he could, if he pleased, be a Tyrtaeus; he was no
fighter - where was there ever a poet that was? - but he wrote an
ode on a sword, the only warlike piece that he ever wrote, the best
poem on the subject ever written in any language. Finally, he was
something more: he was what not one of the great Latin poets was,
a Christian; that is, in his latter days, when he began to feel the
vanity of all human pursuits, when his nerves began to be unstrung,
his hair to fall off, and his teeth to drop out, and he then
composed sacred pieces entitling him to rank with - we were going
to say Caedmon; had we done so we should have done wrong; no
uninspired poet ever handled sacred subjects like the grand Saxon
Skald - but which entitle him to be called a great religious poet,
inferior to none but the protege of Hilda.
Before ceasing to speak of Ab Gwilym, it will be necessary to state
that his amatory pieces, which constitute more than one-half of his
productions, must be divided into two classes: the purely amatory
and those only partly devoted to love. His poems to Dyddgu and the
daughter of Ifor Hael are productions very different from those
addressed to Morfudd. There can be no doubt that he had a sincere
affection for the two first; there is no levity in the cowydds
which he addressed to them, and he seldom introduces any other
objects than those of his love. But in his cowydds addressed to
Morfudd is there no levity? Is Morfudd ever prominent? His
cowydds to that woman abound with humorous levity, and for the most
part have far less to do with her than with natural objects - the
snow, the mist, the trees of the forest, the birds of the air, and
the fishes of the stream. His first piece to Morfudd is full of
levity quite inconsistent with true love. It states how, after
seeing her for the first time at Rhosyr in Anglesey, and falling in
love with her, he sends her a present of wine by the hands of a
servant, which present she refuses, casting the wine contemptuously
over the head of the valet. This commencement promises little in
the way of true passion, so that we are not disappointed when we
read a little farther on that the bard is dead and buried, all on
account of love, and that Morfudd makes a pilgrimage to Mynyw to
seek for pardon for killing him, nor when we find him begging the
popish image to convey a message to her. Then presently we almost
lose sight of Morfudd amidst birds, animals and trees, and we are
not sorry that we do; for though Ab Gwilym is mighty in humour,
great in describing the emotions of love and the beauties of the
lovely, he is greatest of all in describing objects of nature;
indeed in describing them he has no equal, and the writer has no
hesitation in saying that in many of his cowydds in which he
describes various objects of nature, by which he sends messages to
Morfudd, he shows himself a far greater poet than Ovid appears in
any one of his Metamorphoses. There are many poets who attempt to
describe natural objects without being intimately acquainted with
them, but Ab Gwilym was not one of these. No one was better
acquainted with nature; he was a stroller, and there is every
probability that during the greater part of the summer he had no
other roof than the foliage, and that the voices of birds and
animals were more familiar to his ears than was the voice of man.
During the summer months, indeed, in the early part of his life, he
was, if we may credit him, generally lying perdue in the woodland
or mountain recesses near the habitation of his mistress, before or
after her marriage, awaiting her secret visits, made whenever she
could escape the vigilance of her parents, or the watchful of her
husband, and during her absence he had nothing better to do than to
observe objects of nature and describe them. His ode to the Fox,
one of the most admirable of his pieces, was composed on one of
Want of space prevents the writer from saying as much as he could
wish about the genius of this wonderful man, the greatest of his
country's songsters, well calculated by nature to do honour to the
most polished age and the most widely-spoken language. The bards
his contemporaries, and those who succeeded him for several hundred
years, were perfectly convinced of his superiority, not only over
themselves, but over all the poets of the past; and one, and a
mighty one, old Iolo the bard of Glendower, went so far as to
insinuate that after Ab Gwilym it would be of little avail for any
one to make verses -
"Aed lle mae'r eang dangneff,
Ac aed y gerdd gydag ef."
"To Heaven's high peace let him depart,
And with him go the minstrel art."
He was buried at Ystrad Flur, and a yew tree was planted over his
grave, to which Gruffydd Gryg, a brother bard, who was at one time
his enemy, but eventually became one of the most ardent of his
admirers, addressed an ode, of part of which the following is a
"Thou noble tree, who shelt'rest kind
The dead man's house from winter's wind;
May lightnings never lay thee low;
Nor archer cut from thee his bow,
Nor Crispin peel thee pegs to frame;
But may thou ever bloom the same,
A noble tree the grave to guard
Of Cambria's most illustrious bard!"
Start for Plynlimmon - Plynlimmon's Celebrity - Troed Rhiw Goch.
THE morning of the fifth of November looked rather threatening.
As, however, it did not rain, I determined to set off for
Plynlimmon, and, returning at night to the inn, resume my journey
to the south on the following day. On looking into a pocket
almanac I found it was Sunday. This very much disconcerted me, and
I thought at first of giving up my expedition. Eventually,
however, I determined to go, for I reflected that I should be doing
no harm, and that I might acknowledge the sacredness of the day by
attending morning service at the little Church of England chapel
which lay in my way.
The mountain of Plynlimmon to which I was bound is the third in
Wales for altitude, being only inferior to Snowdon and Cadair
Idris. Its proper name is Pum, or Pump, Lumon, signifying the five
points, because towards the upper part it is divided into five
hills or points. Plynlimmon is a celebrated hill on many accounts.
It has been the scene of many remarkable events. In the tenth
century a dreadful battle was fought on one of its spurs between
the Danes and the Welsh, in which the former sustained a bloody
overthrow; and in 1401 a conflict took place in one of its valleys
between the Welsh, under Glendower, and the Flemings of
Pembrokeshire, who, exasperated at having their homesteads
plundered and burned by the chieftain who was the mortal enemy of
their race, assembled in considerable numbers and drove Glendower
and his forces before them to Plynlimmon, where, the Welshmen
standing at bay, a contest ensued, in which, though eventually
worsted, the Flemings were at one time all but victorious. What,
however, has more than anything else contributed to the celebrity
of the hill is the circumstance of its giving birth to three
rivers, the first of which, the Severn, is the principal stream in
Britain; the second, the Wye, the most lovely river, probably,
which the world can boast of; and the third, the Rheidol, entitled
to high honour from its boldness and impetuosity, and the
remarkable banks between which it flows in its very short course,
for there are scarcely twenty miles between the ffynnon or source
of the Rheidol and the aber or place where it disembogues itself
into the sea.
I started about ten o'clock on my expedition, after making, of
course, a very hearty breakfast. Scarcely had I crossed the
Devil's Bridge when a shower of hail and rain came on. As,
however, it came down nearly perpendicularly, I put up my umbrella
and laughed. The shower pelted away till I had nearly reached
Spytty Cynwyl, when it suddenly left off and the day became
tolerably fine. On arriving at the Spytty, I was sorry to find
that there would be no service till three in the afternoon. As
waiting till that time was out of the question, I pushed forward on
my expedition. Leaving Pont Erwyd at some distance on my left, I
went duly north till I came to a place amongst hills where the road
was crossed by an angry-looking rivulet, the same, I believe which
enters the Rheidol near Pont Erwyd, and which is called the Castle
River. I was just going to pull off my boots and stockings in
order to wade through, when I perceived a pole and a rail laid over
the stream at little distance above where I was. This rustic
bridge enabled me to cross without running the danger of getting a
regular sousing, for these mountain streams, even when not reaching
so high as the knee, occasionally sweep the wader off his legs, as
I know by my own experience. From a lad whom I presently met I
learned that the place where I crossed the water was called Troed
rhiw goch, or the Foot of the Red Slope.
About twenty minutes' walk from hence brought me to Castell
Dyffryn, an inn about six miles distant from the Devil's Bridge,
and situated near a spur of the Plynlimmon range. Here I engaged a
man to show me the sources of the rivers and the other wonders of
the mountain. He was a tall, athletic fellow, dressed in brown
coat, round buff hat, corduroy trousers, linen leggings and
highlows, and, though a Cumro, had much more the appearance of a
native of Tipperary than a Welshman. He was a kind of shepherd to
the people of the house, who, like many others in South Wales,
followed farming and inn-keeping at the same time.
The Guide - The Great Plynlimmon - A Dangerous Path - Source of the
Rheidol - Source of the Severn - Pennillion - Old Times and New -
The Corpse Candle - Supper.
LEAVING the inn, my guide and myself began to ascend a steep hill
just behind it. When we were about halfway up I asked my
companion, who spoke very fair English, why the place was called
"Because, sir," said he, "there was a castle here in the old time."
"Whereabouts was it?" said I.
"Yonder," said the man, standing still and pointing to the right.
"Don't you see yonder brown spot in the valley? There the castle
"But are there no remains of it?" said I. "I can see nothing but a
"There are none, sir; but there a castle once stood, and from it
the place we came from had its name, and likewise the river that
runs down to Pont Erwyd."
"And who lived there?" said I.
"I don't know, sir," said the man; "but I suppose they were grand
people, or they would not have lived in a castle."
After ascending the hill and passing over its top, we went down its
western side and soon came to a black, frightful bog between two
hills. Beyond the bog and at some distance to the west of the two
hills rose a brown mountain, not abruptly, but gradually, and
looking more like what the Welsh call a rhiw, or slope, than a
mynydd, or mountain.
"That, sir," said my guide, "is the grand Plynlimmon."
"It does not look much of a hill," said I.
"We are on very high ground, sir, or it would look much higher. I
question, upon the whole, whether there is a higher hill in the
world. God bless Pumlummon Mawr!" said he, looking with reverence
towards the hill. "I am sure I have a right to say so, for many is
the good crown I have got by showing gentlefolks like yourself to
the top of him."
"You talk of Plynlimmon Mawr, or the great Plynlymmon," said I;
"where are the small ones?"
"Yonder they are," said the guide, pointing to two hills towards
the north; "one is Plynlimmon Canol, and the other Plynlimmon Bach
- the middle and the small Plynlimmon."
"Pumlummon," said I, "means five summits. You have pointed out
only three; now, where are the other two?"
"Those two hills which we have just passed make up the five.
However, I will tell your worship that there is a sixth summit.
Don't you see that small hill connected with the big Pumlummon, on
"I see it very clearly," said I.
"Well, your worship, that's called Bryn y Llo - the Hill of the
Calf, or the Calf Plynlimmon, which makes the sixth summit."
"Very good," said I, "and perfectly satisfactory. Now let us
ascend the Big Pumlummon."
In about a quarter of an hour we reached the summit of the hill,
where stood a large carn or heap of stones. I got upon the top and
looked around me.
A mountainous wilderness extended on every side, a waste of russet
coloured hills, with here and there a black, craggy summit. No
signs of life or cultivation were to be discovered, and the eye
might search in vain for a grove or even a single tree. The scene
would have been cheerless in the extreme had not a bright sun
lighted up the landscape.
"This does not seem to be a country of much society," said I to my
"It is not, sir. The nearest house is the inn we came from, which
is now three miles behind us. Straight before you there is not one
for at least ten, and on either side it is an anialwch to a vast
distance. Plunlummon is not a sociable country, sir; nothing to be
found in it, but here and there a few sheep or a shepherd."
"Now," said I, descending from the carn, "we will proceed to the
sources of the rivers."
"The ffynnon of the Rheidol is not far off," said the guide; "it is
just below the hill."
We descended the western side of the hill for some way; at length,
coming to a very craggy and precipitous place, my guide stopped,
and pointing with his finger into the valley below, said:-
"There, sir, if you look down you can see the source of the
I looked down, and saw far below what appeared to be part of a
small sheet of water.
"And that is the source of the Rheidol?" said I.
"Yes, sir," said my guide; "that is the ffynnon of the Rheidol."
"Well," said I; "is there no getting to it?"
"Oh yes! but the path, sir, as you see, is rather steep and
"Never mind," said I. "Let us try it."
"Isn't seeing the fountain sufficient for you, sir?"
"By no means," said I. "It is not only necessary for me to see the
sources of the rivers, but to drink of them, in order that in after
times I may be able to harangue about them with a tone of
confidence and authority."
"Then follow me, sir; but please to take care, for this path is
more fit for sheep or shepherds than gentlefolk."
And a truly bad path I found it; so bad indeed that before I had
descended twenty yards I almost repented having ventured. I had a
capital guide, however, who went before and told me where to plant
my steps. There was one particularly bad part, being little better
than a sheer precipice; but even here I got down in safety with the
assistance of my guide, and a minute afterwards found myself at the
source of the Rheidol.
The source of the Rheidol is a small beautiful lake, about a
quarter of a mile in length. It is overhung on the east and north
by frightful crags, from which it is fed by a number of small
rills. The water is of the deepest blue, and of very considerable
depth. The banks, except to the north and east, slope gently down,
and are clad with soft and beautiful moss. The river, of which it
is the head, emerges at the south-western side, and brawls away in
the shape of a considerable brook, amidst moss, and rushes down a
wild glen tending to the south. To the west the prospect is
bounded, at a slight distance, by high, swelling ground. If few
rivers have a more wild and wondrous channel than the Rheidol,
fewer still have a more beautiful and romantic source.
After kneeling down and drinking freely of the lake I said:
"Now, where are we to go to next?"
"The nearest ffynnon to that of the Rheidol, sir, is the ffynnon of
"Very well," said I; "let us now go and see the ffynnon of the
I followed my guide over a hill to the north-west into a valley, at
the farther end of which I saw a brook streaming apparently to the
south, where was an outlet.
"That brook," said the guide, "is the young Severn." The brook
came from round the side of a very lofty rock, singularly
variegated, black and white, the northern summit presenting
something of the appearance of the head of a horse. Passing round
this crag we came to a fountain surrounded with rushes, out of
which the brook, now exceedingly small, came murmuring.
"The crag above," said my guide, "is called Crag y Cefyl, or the
Rock of the Horse, and this spring at its foot is generally called
the ffynnon of the Hafren. However, drink not of it, master; for
the ffynnon of the Hafren is higher up the nant. Follow me, and I
will presently show you the real ffynnon of the Hafren."
I followed him up a narrow and very steep dingle. Presently we
came to some beautiful little pools of water in the turf, which was
here remarkably green.
"These are very pretty pools, an't they, master?" said my
companion. "Now, if I was a false guide I might bid you stoop and
drink, saying that these were the sources of the Severn; but I am a
true cyfarwydd, and therefore tell you not to drink, for these
pools are not the sources of the Hafren, no more than the spring
below. The ffynnon of the Severn is higher up the nant. Don't
fret, however, but follow me, and we shall be there in a minute."
So I did as he bade me, following him without fretting higher up
the nant. Just at the top he halted and said: "Now, master, I
have conducted you to the source of the Severn. I have considered
the matter deeply, and have come to the conclusion that here, and
here only, is the true source. Therefore stoop down and drink, in
full confidence that you are taking possession of the Holy Severn."
The source of the Severn is a little pool of water some twenty
inches long, six wide, and about three deep. It is covered at the
bottom with small stones, from between which the water gushes up.
It is on the left-hand side of the nant, as you ascend, close by
the very top. An unsightly heap of black turf-earth stands right
above it to the north. Turf-heaps, both large and small, are in
abundance in the vicinity.
After taking possession of the Severn by drinking at its source,
rather a shabby source for so noble a stream, I said, "Now let us
go to the fountain of the Wye."
"A quarter of an hour will take us to it, your honour," said the
guide, leading the way.
The source of the Wye, which is a little pool, not much larger than
that which constitutes the fountain of the Severn, stands near the
top of a grassy hill which forms part of the Great Plynlimmon. The
stream after leaving its source runs down the hill towards the
east, and then takes a turn to the south. The Mountains of the
Severn and the Wye are in close proximity to each other. That of
the Rheidol stands somewhat apart front both, as if, proud of its
own beauty, it disdained the other two for their homeliness. All
three are contained within the compass of a mile.
"And now, I suppose, sir, that our work is done, and we may go back
to where we came from," said my guide, as I stood on the grassy
hill after drinking copiously of the fountain of the Wye.
"We may," said I; "but before we do I must repeat some lines made
by a man who visited these sources, and experienced the hospitality
of a chieftain in this neighbourhood four hundred years ago." Then
taking off my hat, I lifted up my voice and sang:-
"From high Plynlimmon's shaggy side
Three streams in three directions glide;
To thousands at their mouths who tarry
Honey, gold and mead they carry.
Flow also from Plynlimmon high
Three streams of generosity;
The first, a noble stream indeed,
Like rills of Mona runs with mead;
The second bears from vineyards thick
Wine to the feeble and the sick;
The third, till time shall be no more,
Mingled with gold shall silver pour."
"Nice pennillion, sir, I daresay," said my guide, "provided a
person could understand them. What's meant by all this mead, wine,
gold, and silver?"
"Why," said I, "the bard meant to say that Plynlimmon, by means of
its three channels, sends blessings and wealth in three different
directions to distant places, and that the person whom he came to
visit, and who lived on Plynlimmon, distributed his bounty in three
different ways, giving mead to thousands at his banquets, wine from
the vineyards of Gascony to the sick and feeble of the
neighbourhood, and gold and silver to those who were willing to be
tipped, amongst whom no doubt was himself, as poets have never been
above receiving a present."
"Nor above asking for one, your honour; there's a prydydd in this
neighbourhood who will never lose a shilling for want of asking for
it. Now, sir, have the kindness to tell me the name of the man who
made those pennillion."
"Lewis Glyn Cothi," said I; "at least, it was he who made the
pennillion from which those verses are translated."
"And what was the name of the gentleman whom he came to visit?"
"His name," said I, "was Dafydd ab Thomas Vychan."
"And where did he live?"
"Why, I believe, he lived at the castle, which you told me once
stood on the spot which you pointed out as we came up. At any
rate, he lived somewhere upon Plynlimmon."
"I wish there was some rich gentleman at present living on
Plynlimmon," said my guide; "one of that sort is much wanted."
"You can't have everything at the same time," said I; "formerly you
had a chieftain who gave away wine and mead, and occasionally a bit
of gold or silver, but then no travellers and tourists came to see
the wonders of the hills, for at that time nobody cared anything
about hills; at present you have no chieftain, but plenty of
visitors, who come to see the hills and the sources, and scatter
plenty of gold about the neighbourhood."
We now bent our steps homeward, bearing slightly to the north,
going over hills and dales covered with gorse and ling. My guide
walked with a calm and deliberate gait, yet I had considerable
difficulty in keeping up with him. There was, however, nothing
surprising in this; he was a shepherd walking on his own hill, and
having first-rate wind, and knowing every inch of the ground, made
great way without seeming to be in the slightest hurry: I would
not advise a road-walker, even if he be a first-rate one, to
attempt to compete with a shepherd on his own, or indeed any hill;
should he do so, the conceit would soon be taken out of him.
After a little time we saw a rivulet running from the west.
"This ffrwd," said my guide, "is called Frennig. It here divides
shire Trefaldwyn from Cardiganshire, one in North and the other in
Shortly afterwards we came to a hillock of rather a singular shape.
"This place, sir," said he, "is called Eisteddfa."
"Why is it called so?" said I. "Eisteddfa means the place where
people sit down."
"It does so," said the guide, "and it is called the place of
sitting because three men from different quarters of the world once
met here, and one proposed that they should sit down."
"And did they?" said I.
"They did, sir; and when they had sat down they told each other
"I should be glad to know what their histories were," said I.
"I can't exactly tell you what they were, but I have heard say that
there was a great deal in them about the Tylwyth Teg or fairies."
"Do you believe in fairies?" said I.
"I do, sir; but they are very seldom seen, and when they are they