Part 4 out of 14
people is living there now, who has done bene, molto bene."
"That's Rossi," said I, "how is it that I did not mention him
first? He is my excellent friend, and a finer, cleverer fellow
never lived, nor a more honourable man. You may well say he has
done well, for he is now the first jeweller in the place. The last
time I was there I bought a diamond of him for my daughter
Henrietta. Let us drink his health!"
"Willingly!" said the Italian. "He is the prince of the Milanese
of England - the most successful of all, but I acknowledge the most
deserving. Che viva."
"I wish he would write his life," said I; "a singular life it would
be - he has been something besides a travelling merchant, and a
jeweller. He was one of Buonaparte's soldiers, and served in
Spain, under Soult, along with John Gestra. He once told me that
Soult was an old rascal, and stole all the fine pictures from the
convents, at Salamanca. I believe he spoke with some degree of
envy, for he is himself fond of pictures, and has dealt in them,
and made hundreds by them. I question whether if in Soult's place
he would not have done the same. Well, however that may be, che
Here the landlady interposed, observing that she wished we would
now speak English, for that she had quite enough of Italian, which
she did not find near so pretty a language as she had expected.
"You must not judge of the sound of Italian from what proceeds from
my mouth," said I. "It is not my native language. I have had
little practice in it, and only speak it very imperfectly."
"Nor must you judge of Italian from what you have heard me speak,"
said the man of Como; "I am not good at Italian, for the Milanese
speak amongst themselves a kind of jargon, composed of many
languages, and can only express themselves with difficulty in
Italian. I have been doing my best to speak Italian, but should be
glad now to speak English, which comes to me much more glibly."
"Are there any books in your dialect, or jergo, as I believe you
call it?" said I.
"I believe there are a few," said the Italian.
"Do you know the word slandra?" said I.
"Who taught you that word?" said the Italian.
"Giovanni Gestra," said I; "he was always using it."
"Giovanni Gestra was a vulgar illiterate man," said the Italian;
"had he not been so he would not have used it. It is a vulgar
word; Rossi would not have used it."
"What is the meaning of it?" said the landlady eagerly.
"To roam about in a dissipated manner," said I.
"Something more," said the Italian. "It is considered a vulgar
word even in jergo."
"You speak English remarkably well," said I; "have you been long in
"I came over about four years ago," said the Italian.
"On your own account?" said I.
"Not exactly, signore; my brother, who was in business in
Liverpool, wrote to me to come over and assist him. I did so, but
soon left him, and took a shop for myself at Denbigh, where,
however, I did not stay long. At present I travel for an Italian
house in London, spending the summer in Wales, and the winter in
"And what do you sell?" said I.
"Weather-glasses, signore - pictures and little trinkets, such as
the country people like."
"Do you sell many weather-glasses in Wales?" said I.
"I do not, signore. The Welsh care not for weather-glasses; my
principal customers for weather-glasses are the farmers of
"I am told that you can speak Welsh," said I; "is that true?"
"I have picked up a little of it, signore."
"He can speak it very well," said the landlady; "and glad should I
be, sir, to hear you and him speak Welsh together."
"So should I," said the daughter who was seated nigh us, "nothing
would give me greater pleasure than to hear two who are not
Welshmen speaking Welsh together."
"I would rather speak English," said the Italian; "I speak a little
Welsh, when my business leads me amongst people who speak no other
language, but I see no necessity for speaking Welsh here."
"It is a pity," said I, "that so beautiful a country as Italy
should not be better governed."
"It is, signore," said the Italian; "but let us hope that a time
will speedily come when she will be so."
"I don't see any chance of it," said I. "How will you proceed in
order to bring about so desirable a result as the good government
"Why, signore, in the first place we must get rid of the
"You will not find it an easy matter," said I, "to get rid of the
Austrians; you tried to do so a little time ago, but miserably
"True, signore; but the next time we try perhaps the French will
"If the French help you to drive the Austrians from Italy," said I,
"you must become their servants. It is true you had better be the
servants of the polished and chivalrous French, than of the brutal
and barbarous Germans, but it is not pleasant to be a servant to
anybody. However, I do not believe that you will ever get rid of
the Austrians, even if the French assist you. The Pope for certain
reasons of his own favours the Austrians, and will exert all the
powers of priestcraft to keep them in Italy. Alas, alas, there is
no hope for Italy! Italy, the most beautiful country in the world,
the birth-place of the cleverest people, whose very pedlars can
learn to speak Welsh, is not only enslaved, but destined always to
"Do not say so, signore," said the Italian, with a kind of groan.
"But I do say so," said I, "and what is more, one whose shoe-
strings, were he alive, I should not he worthy to untie, one of
your mighty ones, has said so. Did you ever hear of Vincenzio
"I believe I have, signore; did he not write a sonnet on Italy?"
"He did," said I; "would you like to hear it?
"Very much, signore."
I repeated Filicaia's glorious sonnet on Italy, and then asked him
if he understood it.
"Only in part, signore; for it is composed in old Tuscan, in which
I am not much versed. I believe I should comprehend it better if
you were to say it in English."
"Do say it in English," said the landlady and her daughter: "we
should so like to hear it in English."
"I will repeat a translation," said I, "which I made when a boy,
which though far from good, has, I believe, in it something of the
spirit of the original:-
"O Italy! on whom dark Destiny
The dangerous gift of beauty did bestow,
From whence thou hast that ample dower of wo,
Which on thy front thou bear'st so visibly.
Would thou hadst beauty less or strength more high,
That more of fear, and less of love might show,
He who now blasts him in thy beauty's glow,
Or woos thee with a zeal that makes thee die;
Then down from Alp no more would torrents rage
Of armed men, nor Gallic coursers hot
In Po's ensanguin'd tide their thirst assuage;
Nor girt with iron, not thine own, I wot,
Wouldst thou the fight by hands of strangers wage
Victress or vanquish'd slavery still thy lot."
Lacing-up High-lows - The Native Village - Game Leg - Croppies Lie
Down - Keeping Faith - Processions - Croppies Get Up - Daniel
I SLEPT in the chamber communicating with the room in which I had
dined. The chamber was spacious and airy, the bed first-rate, and
myself rather tired, so that no one will be surprised when I say
that I had excellent rest. I got up, and after dressing myself
went down. The morning was exceedingly brilliant. Going out I saw
the Italian lacing up his high-lows against a step. I saluted him,
and asked him if he was about to depart.
"Yes, signore; I shall presently start for Denbigh."
"After breakfast I shall start for Bangor," said I.
"Do you propose to reach Bangor to-night, signore?"
"Yes," said I.
"Yes," said I; "I always walk in Wales."
"Then you will have rather a long walk, signore; for Bangor is
thirty-four miles from here."
I asked him if he was married.
"No, signore; but my brother in Liverpool is."
"To an Italian?"
"No, signore; to a Welsh girl."
"And I suppose," said I, "you will follow his example by marrying
one; perhaps that good-looking girl the landlady's daughter we were
seated with last night?"
"No, signore; I shall not follow my brother's example. If ever I
take a wife she shall be of my own village, in Como, whither I hope
to return, as soon as I have picked up a few more pounds."
"Whether the Austrians are driven away or not?" said I.
"Whether the Austrians are driven away or not - for to my mind
there is no country like Como, signore."
I ordered breakfast; whilst taking it in the room above I saw
through the open window the Italian trudging forth on his journey,
a huge box on his back, and a weather-glass in his hand - looking
the exact image of one of those men, his country people, whom forty
years before I had known at N-. I thought of the course of time,
sighed and felt a tear gather in my eye.
My breakfast concluded, I paid my bill, and after inquiring the way
to Bangor, and bidding adieu to the kind landlady and her daughter,
set out from Cerrig y Drudion. My course lay west, across a flat
country, bounded in the far distance by the mighty hills I had seen
on the preceding evening. After walking about a mile I overtook a
man with a game leg, that is a leg which, either by nature or
accident not being so long as its brother leg, had a patten
attached to it, about five inches high, to enable it to do duty
with the other - he was a fellow with red shock hair and very red
features, and was dressed in ragged coat and breeches and a hat
which had lost part of its crown, and all its rim, so that even
without a game leg he would have looked rather a queer figure. In
his hand he carried a fiddle.
"Good morning to you," said I.
"A good morning to your hanner, a merry afternoon and a roaring,
joyous evening - that is the worst luck I wish to ye."
"Are you a native of these parts?" said I.
"Not exactly, your hanner - I am a native of the city of Dublin,
or, what's all the same thing, of the village of Donnybrook, which
is close by it."
"A celebrated place," said I.
"Your hanner may say that; all the world has heard of Donnybrook,
owing to the humours of its fair. Many is the merry tune I have
played to the boys at that fair."
"You are a professor of music, I suppose?"
"And not a very bad one, as your hanner will say, if you allow me
to play you a tune."
"Can you play Croppies Lie Down?"
"I cannot, your hanner, my fingers never learnt to play such a
blackguard tune; but if you wish to hear Croppies Get Up I can
"You are a Roman Catholic, I suppose?"
"I am not, your hanner - I am a Catholic to the back-bone, just
like my father before me. Come, your hanner, shall I play ye
Croppies Get Up?"
"No," said I; "it's a tune that doesn't please my ears. If,
however, you choose to play Croppies Lie Down, I'll give you a
"Your hanner will give me a shilling?"
"Yes," said I; "if you play Croppies Lie Down; but you know you
cannot play it, your fingers never learned the tune."
"They never did, your hanner; but they have heard it played of ould
by the blackguard Orange fiddlers of Dublin on the first of July,
when the Protestant boys used to walk round Willie's statue on
College Green - so if your hanner gives me the shilling, they may
perhaps bring out something like it."
"Very good," said I; "begin!"
"But, your hanner, what shall we do for the words? though my
fingers may remember the tune my tongue does not remember the words
- that is unless . . ."
"I give another shilling," said I; "but never mind you the words; I
know the words, and will repeat them."
"And your hanner will give me a shilling?"
"If you play the tune," said I.
"Hanner bright, your hanner?"
"Honour bright," said I.
Thereupon the fiddler taking his bow and shouldering his fiddle,
struck up in first-rate style the glorious tune, which I had so
often heard with rapture in the days of my boyhood in the barrack-
yard of Clonmel; whilst I, walking by his side as he stumped along,
caused the welkin to resound with the words, which were the delight
of the young gentlemen of the Protestant academy of that beautiful
"I never heard those words before," said the fiddler, after I had
finished the first stanza.
"Get on with you," said I.
"Regular Orange words!" said the fiddler, on my finishing the
"Do you choose to get on?" said I.
"More blackguard Orange words I never heard!" cried the fiddler, on
my coming to the conclusion of the third stanza. "Divil a bit
farther will I play; at any rate till I get the shilling."
"Here it is for you," said I; "the song is ended, and, of course,
"Thank your hanner," said the fiddler, taking the money, "your
hanner has kept your word with me, which is more than I thought
your hanner would. And now your hanner let me ask you why did your
hanner wish for that tune, which is not only a blackguard one but
quite out of date; and where did your hanner get the words?"
"I used to hear the tune in my boyish days," said I, "and wished to
hear it again, for though you call it a blackguard tune, it is the
sweetest and most noble air that Ireland, the land of music, has
ever produced. As for the words, never mind where I got them; they
are violent enough, but not half so violent as the words of some of
the songs made against the Irish Protestants by the priests."
"Your hanner is an Orange man, I see. Well, your hanner, the
Orange is now in the kennel, and the Croppies have it all their own
"And perhaps," said I, "before I die, the Orange will be out of the
kennel and the Croppies in, even as they were in my young days."
"Who knows, your hanner? and who knows that I may not play the old
tune round Willie's image in College Green, even as I used some
twenty-seven years ago?"
"Oh then you have been an Orange fiddler?"
"I have, your hanner. And now as your hanner has behaved like a
gentleman to me I will tell ye all my history. I was born in the
city of Dublin, that is in the village of Donnybrook, as I tould
your hanner before. It was to the trade of bricklaying I was bred,
and bricklaying I followed till at last, getting my leg smashed,
not by falling off the ladder, but by a row in the fair, I was
obliged to give it up, for how could I run up the ladder with a
patten on my foot, which they put on to make my broken leg as long
as the other. Well your hanner, being obliged to give up my
bricklaying, I took to fiddling, to which I had always a natural
inclination, and played about the streets, and at fairs, and wakes,
and weddings. At length some Orange men getting acquainted with
me, and liking my style of playing, invited me to their lodge,
where they gave me to drink and tould me that if I would change my
religion, and join them, and play their tunes, they would make it
answer my purpose. Well, your hanner, without much stickling I
gave up my Popery, joined the Orange lodge, learned the Orange
tunes, and became a regular Protestant boy, and truly the Orange
men kept their word, and made it answer my purpose. Oh the meat
and drink I got, and the money I made by playing at the Orange
lodges and before the processions when the Orange men paraded the
streets with their Orange colours. And oh, what a day for me was
the glorious first of July when with my whole body covered with
Orange ribbons, I fiddled Croppies Lie Down, Boyne Water, and the
Protestant Boys before the procession which walked round Willie's
figure on horseback in College Green, the man and horse all ablaze
with Orange colours. But nothing lasts under the sun, as your
hanner knows; Orangeism began to go down; the Government scowled at
it, and at last passed a law preventing the Protestant boys
dressing up the figure on the first of July, and walking round it.
That was the death-blow of the Orange party, your hanner; they
never recovered it, but began to despond and dwindle, and I with
them; for there was scarcely any demand for Orange tunes. Then Dan
O'Connell arose with his emancipation and repale cries, and then
instead of Orange processions and walkings, there were Papist
processions and mobs, which made me afraid to stir out, lest
knowing me for an Orange fiddler, they should break my head, as the
boys broke my leg at Donnybrook fair. At length some of the
repalers and emancipators knowing that I was a first-rate hand at
fiddling came to me and tould me, that if I would give over playing
Croppies Lie Down and other Orange tunes, and would play Croppies
Get Up, and what not, and become a Catholic and a repaler, and an
emancipator, they would make a man of me - so as my Orange trade
was gone, and I was half-starved, I consinted, not however till
they had introduced me to Daniel O'Connell, who called me a cridit
to my country, and the Irish Horpheus, and promised me a sovereign
if I would consint to join the cause, as he called it. Well, your
hanner, I joined with the cause and became a Papist, I mane a
Catholic once more, and went at the head of processions covered all
over with green ribbons, playing Croppies Get Up, Granny Whale, and
the like. But, your hanner, though I went the whole hog with the
repalers and emancipators, they did not make their words good by
making a man of me. Scant and sparing were they in the mate and
drink, and yet more sparing in the money, and Daniel O'Connell
never gave me the sovereign which he promised me. No, your hanner,
though I played Croppies Get Up, till my fingers ached, as I
stumped before him and his mobs and processions, he never gave me
the sovereign: unlike your hanner who gave me the shilling ye
promised me for playing Croppies Lie Down, Daniel O'Connell never
gave me the sovereign he promised me for playing Croppies Get Up.
Och, your hanner, I often wished the ould Orange days were back
again. However as I could do no better I continued going the whole
hog with the emancipators and repalers and Dan O'Connell; I went
the whole animal with them till they had got emancipation; and I
went the whole animal with them till they had nearly got repale -
when all of a sudden they let the whole thing drop - Dan and his
party having frighted the Government out of its seven senses, and
gotten all they could get, in money and places, which was all they
wanted, let the whole hullabaloo drop, and of course myself, who
formed part of it. I went to those who had persuaded me to give up
my Orange tunes, and to play Papist ones, begging them to give me
work; but they tould me very civilly that they had no further
occasion for my services. I went to Daniel O'Connell reminding him
of the sovereign he had promised me, and offering if he gave it me
to play Croppies Get Up under the nose of the lord-lieutenant
himself; but he tould me that he had not time to attend to me, and
when I persisted, bade me go to the Divil and shake myself. Well,
your hanner, seeing no prospect for myself in my own country, and
having incurred some little debts, for which I feared to be
arrested, I came over to England and Wales, where with little
content and satisfaction I have passed seven years."
"Well," said I; "thank you for your history - farewell."
"Stap, your hanner; does your hanner think that the Orange will
ever be out of the kennel, and that the Orange boys will ever walk
round the brass man and horse in College Green as they did of
"Who knows?" said I. "But suppose all that were to happen, what
would it signify to you?"
"Why then divil be in my patten if I would not go back to
Donnybrook and Dublin, hoist the Orange cockade, and become as good
an Orange boy as ever."
"What," said I, "and give up Popery for the second time?"
"I would, your hanner; and why not? for in spite of what I have
heard Father Toban say, I am by no means certain that all
Protestants will be damned."
"Farewell," said I.
"Farewell, your hanner, and long life and prosperity to you! God
bless your hanner and your Orange face. Ah, the Orange boys are
the boys for keeping faith. They never served me as Dan O'Connell
and his dirty gang of repalers and emancipators did. Farewell,
your hanner, once more; and here's another scratch of the illigant
tune your hanner is so fond of, to cheer up your hanner's ears upon
And long after I had left him I could hear him playing on his
fiddle in first-rate style the beautiful tune of "Down, down,
Croppies Lie Down."
Ceiniog Mawr - Pentre Voelas - The Old Conway - Stupendous Pass -
The Gwedir Family - Capel Curig - The Two Children - Bread -
Wonderful Echo - Tremendous Walker.
I WALKED on briskly over a flat uninteresting country, and in about
an hour's time came in front of a large stone house. It stood near
the road, on the left-hand side, with a pond and pleasant trees
before it, and a number of corn-stacks behind. It had something
the appearance of an inn, but displayed no sign. As I was standing
looking at it, a man with the look of a labourer, and with a dog by
his side, came out of the house and advanced towards me.
"What is the name of this place?" said I to him in English as he
"Sir," said the man, "the name of the house is Ceiniog Mawr."
"Is it an inn?" said I.
"Not now, sir; but some years ago it was an inn, and a very large
one, at which coaches used to stop; at present it is occupied by an
amaethwr - that is a farmer, sir."
"Ceiniog Mawr means a great penny," said I, "why is it called by
"I have heard, sir, that before it was an inn it was a very
considerable place, namely a royal mint, at which pennies were
made, and on that account it was called Ceiniog Mawr."
I was subsequently told that the name of this place was Cernioge
Mawr. If such be the real name the legend about the mint falls to
the ground, Cernioge having nothing to do with pence. Cern in
Welsh means a jaw. Perhaps the true name of the house is Corniawg,
which interpreted is a place with plenty of turrets or chimneys. A
mile or two further the ground began to rise, and I came to a small
village at the entrance of which was a water-wheel - near the
village was a gentleman's seat almost surrounded by groves. After
I had passed through the village, seeing a woman seated by the
roadside knitting, I asked her in English its name. Finding she
had no Saesneg I repeated the question in Welsh, whereupon she told
me that it was called Pentre Voelas.
"And whom does the 'Plas' belong to yonder amongst the groves?"
"It belongs to Mr Wynn, sir, and so does the village and a great
deal of the land about here. A very good gentleman is Mr Wynn,
sir; he is very kind to his tenants and a very good lady is Mrs
Wynn, sir; in the winter she gives much soup to the poor."
After leaving the village of Pentre Voelas I soon found myself in a
wild hilly region. I crossed a bridge over a river, which,
brawling and tumbling amidst rocks, shaped its course to the north-
east. As I proceeded, the country became more and more wild; there
were dingles and hollows in abundance, and fantastic-looking hills,
some of which were bare, and others clad with trees of various
kinds. Came to a little well in a cavity, dug in a high bank on
the left-hand side of the road, and fenced by rude stone work on
either side; the well was about ten inches in diameter, and as many
deep. Water oozing from the bank upon a slanting tile fastened
into the earth fell into it. After damming up the end of the tile
with my hand, and drinking some delicious water, I passed on and
presently arrived at a cottage, just inside the door of which sat a
good-looking middle-aged woman engaged in knitting, the general
occupation of Welsh females.
"Good-day," said I to her in Welsh. "Fine weather."
"In truth, sir, it is fine weather for the harvest."
"Are you alone in the house?"
"I am, sir, my husband has gone to his labour."
"Have you any children?"
"Two, sir; but they are out at service."
"What is the name of this place?"
"Pant Paddock, sir."
"Do you get your water from the little well yonder?"
"We do, sir, and good water it is."
"I have drunk of it."
"Much good may what you have drunk do you, sir!"
"What is the name of the river near here?"
"It is called the Conway, sir."
"Dear me; is that river the Conway?"
"You have heard of it, sir?"
"Heard of it! it is one of the famous rivers of the world. The
poets are very fond of it - one of the great poets of my country
calls it the old Conway."
"Is one river older than another, sir?"
"That's a shrewd question. Can you read?"
"I can, sir."
"Have you any books?"
"I have the Bible, sir."
"Will you show it me?"
Then getting up she took a book from a shelf and handed it to me,
at the same time begging me to enter the house and sit down. I
declined, and she again took her seat and resumed her occupation.
On opening the book the first words which met my eye were: "Gad i
mi fyned trwy dy dir! - Let me go through your country" (Numb. XX.
"I may say these words," said I, pointing to the passage. "Let me
go through your country."
"No one will hinder you, sir, for you seem a civil gentleman."
"No one has hindered me hitherto. Wherever I have been in Wales I
have experienced nothing but kindness and hospitality, and when I
return to my own country I will say so."
"What country is yours, sir?"
"England. Did you not know that by my tongue?"
"I did not, sir. I knew by your tongue that you were not from our
parts - but I did not know that you were an Englishman. I took you
for a Cumro of the south country."
Returning the kind woman her book, and bidding her farewell I
departed, and proceeded some miles through a truly magnificent
country of wood, rock, and mountain. At length I came to a steep
mountain gorge, down which the road ran nearly due north, the
Conway to the left running with great noise parallel with the road,
amongst broken rocks, which chafed it into foam. I was now amidst
stupendous hills, whose paps, peaks, and pinnacles seemed to rise
to the very heaven. An immense mountain on the right side of the
road particularly struck my attention, and on inquiring of a man
breaking stones by the roadside I learned that it was called Dinas
Mawr, or the large citadel, perhaps from a fort having been built
upon it to defend the pass in the old British times. Coming to the
bottom of the pass I crossed over by an ancient bridge, and,
passing through a small town, found myself in a beautiful valley
with majestic hills on either side. This was the Dyffryn Conway,
the celebrated Vale of Conway, to which in the summer time
fashionable gentry from all parts of Britain resort for shade and
relaxation. When about midway down the valley I turned to the
west, up one of the grandest passes in the world, having two
immense door-posts of rock at the entrance. the northern one
probably rising to the altitude of nine hundred feet. On the
southern side of this pass near the entrance were neat dwellings
for the accommodation of visitors with cool apartments on the
ground floor, with large windows, looking towards the precipitous
side of the mighty northern hill; within them I observed tables,
and books, and young men, probably English collegians, seated at
After I had proceeded some way up the pass, down which a small
river ran, a woman who was standing on the right-hand side of the
way, seemingly on the look-out, begged me in broken English to step
aside and look at the fall.
"You mean a waterfall, I suppose?" said I.
"And how do you call it?" said I.
"The Fall of the Swallow, sir."
"And in Welsh?" said I.
"Rhaiadr y Wennol, sir."
"And what is the name of the river?" said I.
"We call the river the Lygwy, sir."
I told the woman I would go, whereupon she conducted me through a
gate on the right-hand side and down a path overhung with trees to
a rock projecting into the river. The Fall of the Swallow is not a
majestic single fall, but a succession of small ones. First there
are a number of little foaming torrents, bursting through rocks
about twenty yards above the promontory on which I stood. Then
come two beautiful rolls of white water, dashing into a pool a
little way above the promontory; then there is a swirl of water
round its corner into a pool below on its right, black as death,
and seemingly of great depth; then a rush through a very narrow
outlet into another pool, from which the water clamours away down
the glen. Such is the Rhaiadr y Wennol, or Swallow Fall; called so
from the rapidity with which the waters rush and skip along.
On asking the woman on whose property the fall was, she informed me
that it was on the property of the Gwedir family. The name of
Gwedir brought to my mind the "History of the Gwedir Family," a
rare and curious book which I had read in my boyhood, and which was
written by the representative of that family, a certain Sir John
Wynne, about the beginning of the seventeenth century. It gives an
account of the fortunes of the family, from its earliest rise; but
more particularly after it had emigrated, in order to avoid bad
neighbours, from a fair and fertile district into rugged Snowdonia,
where it found anything but the repose it came in quest of. The
book which is written in bold graphic English, flings considerable
light on the state of society in Wales, in the time of the Tudors,
a truly deplorable state, as the book is full of accounts of feuds,
petty but desperate skirmishes, and revengeful murders. To many of
the domestic sagas, or histories of ancient Icelandic families,
from the character of the events which it describes and also from
the manner in which it describes them, the "History of the Gwedir
Family," by Sir John Wynne, bears a striking resemblance.
After giving the woman sixpence I left the fall, and proceeded on
my way. I presently crossed a bridge under which ran the river of
the fall, and was soon in a wide valley on each side of which were
lofty hills dotted with wood, and at the top of which stood a
mighty mountain, bare and precipitous, with two paps like those of
Pindus opposite Janina, but somewhat sharper. It was a region of
fairy beauty and of wild grandeur. Meeting an old bleared-eyed
farmer I inquired the name of the mountain and learned that it was
called Moel Siabod or Shabod. Shortly after leaving him, I turned
from the road to inspect a monticle which appeared to me to have
something of the appearance of a burial heap. It stood in a green
meadow by the river which ran down the valley on the left. Whether
it was a grave hill or a natural monticle, I will not say; but
standing in the fair meadow, the rivulet murmuring beside it, and
the old mountain looking down upon it, I thought it looked a very
meet resting-place for an old Celtic king.
Turning round the northern side of the mighty Siabod I soon reached
the village of Capel Curig, standing in a valley between two hills,
the easternmost of which is the aforesaid Moel Siabod. Having
walked now twenty miles in a broiling day I thought it high time to
take some refreshment, and inquired the way to the inn. The inn,
or rather the hotel, for it was a very magnificent edifice, stood
at the entrance of a pass leading to Snowdon, on the southern side
of the valley, in a totally different direction from the road
leading to Bangor, to which place I was bound. There I dined in a
grand saloon amidst a great deal of fashionable company, who,
probably conceiving from my heated and dusty appearance that I was
some poor fellow travelling on foot from motives of economy,
surveyed me with looks of the most supercilious disdain, which,
however, neither deprived me of my appetite nor operated
uncomfortably on my feelings.
My dinner finished, I paid my bill, and having sauntered a little
about the hotel garden, which is situated on the border of a small
lake and from which, through the vista of the pass, Snowdon may be
seen towering in majesty at the distance of about six miles, I
started for Bangor, which is fourteen miles from Capel Curig.
The road to Bangor from Capel Curig is almost due west. An hour's
walking brought me to a bleak moor, extending for a long way amidst
wild sterile hills.
The first of a chain on the left, was a huge lumpy hill with a
precipice towards the road probably three hundred feet high. When
I had come nearly parallel with the commencement of this precipice,
I saw on the left-hand side of the road two children looking over a
low wall behind which at a little distance stood a wretched hovel.
On coming up I stopped and looked at them; they were a boy and
girl; the first about twelve, the latter a year or two younger;
both wretchedly dressed and looking very sickly.
"Have you any English?" said I, addressing the boy in Welsh.
"Dim gair," said the boy; "not a word; there is no Saesneg near
"What is the name of this place?"
"The name of our house is Helyg."
"And what is the name of that hill?" said I, pointing to the hill
of the precipice.
"Allt y Gog - the high place of the cuckoo."
"Have you a father and mother?"
"Are they in the house?"
"They are gone to Capel Curig."
"And they left you alone?"
"They did. With the cat and the trin-wire."
"Do your father and mother make wire-work?"
"They do. They live by making it."
"What is the wire-work for?"
"It is for hedges to fence the fields with."
"Do you help your father and mother?"
"We do; as far as we can."
"You both look unwell."
"We have lately had the cryd" (ague).
"Is there much cryd about here?"
"Do you live well?"
"When we have bread we live well."
"If I give you a penny will you bring me some water?"
"We will, whether you give us a penny or not. Come, sister, let us
go and fetch the gentleman water."
They ran into the house and presently returned, the girl bearing a
pan of water. After I had drunk I gave each of the children a
penny, and received in return from each a diolch or thanks.
"Can either of you read?"
"Neither one nor the other."
"Can your father and mother read?"
"My father cannot, my mother can a little."
"Are there books in the house?"
"There are not."
"There is no book at all."
"Do you go to church?"
"We do not."
"In fine weather."
"Are you happy?"
"When there is bread in the house and no cryd we are all happy."
"Farewell to you, children."
"Farewell to you, gentleman!" exclaimed both.
"I have learnt something," said I, "of Welsh cottage life and
feeling from that poor sickly child."
I had passed the first and second of the hills which stood on the
left, and a huge long mountain on the right which confronted both,
when a young man came down from a gully on my left hand, and
proceeded in the same direction as myself. He was dressed in a
blue coat and corduroy trowsers, and appeared to be of a condition
a little above that of a labourer. He shook his head and scowled
when I spoke to him in English, but smiled on my speaking Welsh,
and said: "Ah, you speak Cumraeg: I thought no Sais could speak
Cumraeg." I asked him if he was going far.
"About four miles," he replied.
"On the Bangor road?"
"Yes," said he; "down the Bangor road."
I learned that he was a carpenter, and that he had been up the
gully to see an acquaintance - perhaps a sweetheart. We passed a
lake on our right which he told me was called Llyn Ogwen, and that
it abounded with fish. He was very amusing, and expressed great
delight at having found an Englishman who could speak Welsh; "it
will be a thing to talk of," said he, "for the rest of my life."
He entered two or three cottages by the side of the road, and each
time he came out I heard him say: "I am with a Sais who can speak
Cumraeg." At length we came to a gloomy-looking valley trending
due north; down this valley the road ran, having an enormous wall
of rocks on its right and a precipitous hollow on the left, beyond
which was a wall equally high as the other one. When we had
proceeded some way down the road my guide said. "You shall now
hear a wonderful echo," and shouting "taw, taw," the rocks replied
in a manner something like the baying of hounds. "Hark to the
dogs!" exclaimed my companion. "This pass is called Nant yr ieuanc
gwn, the pass of the young dogs, because when one shouts it answers
with a noise resembling the crying of hounds."
The sun was setting when we came to a small village at the bottom
of the pass. I asked my companion its name. "Ty yn y maes," he
replied, adding as he stopped before a small cottage that he was
going no farther, as he dwelt there.
"Is there a public-house here?" said I.
"There is," he replied, "you will find one a little farther up on
the right hand."
"Come, and take some ale," said I.
"No," said he.
"Why not?" I demanded.
"I am a teetotaler," he replied.
"Indeed," said I, and having shaken him by the hand, thanked him
for his company and bidding him farewell, went on. He was the
first person I had ever met of the fraternity to which he belonged,
who did not endeavour to make a parade of his abstinence and self-
After drinking some tolerably good ale in the public house I again
started. As I left the village a clock struck eight. The evening
was delightfully cool; but it soon became nearly dark. I passed
under high rocks, by houses and by groves, in which nightingales
were singing, to listen to whose entrancing melody I more than once
stopped. On coming to a town, lighted up and thronged with people,
I asked one of a group of young fellows its name.
"Bethesda," he replied.
"A scriptural name," said I.
"Is it?" said he; "well, if its name is scriptural the manners of
its people are by no means so."
A little way beyond the town a man came out of a cottage and walked
beside me. He had a basket in his hand. I quickened my pace; but
he was a tremendous walker, and kept up with me. On we went side
by side for more than a mile without speaking a word. At length,
putting out my legs in genuine Barclay fashion, I got before him
about ten yards, then turning round laughed and spoke to him in
English. He too laughed and spoke, but in Welsh. We now went on
like brothers, conversing, but always walking at great speed. I
learned from him that he was a market-gardener living at Bangor,
and that Bangor was three miles off. On the stars shining out we
began to talk about them.
Pointing to Charles's Wain I said, "A good star for travellers."
Whereupon pointing to the North star, he said:
"I forwyr da iawn - a good star for mariners."
We passed a large house on our left.
"Who lives there?" said I.
"Mr Smith," he replied. "It is called Plas Newydd; milltir genom
etto - we have yet another mile."
In ten minutes we were at Bangor. I asked him where the Albion
"I will show it you," said he, and so he did.
As we came under it I heard the voice of my wife, for she, standing
on a balcony and distinguishing me by the lamplight, called out. I
shook hands with the kind six-mile-an-hour market-gardener, and
going into the inn found my wife and daughter, who rejoiced to see
me. We presently had tea.
Bangor - Edmund Price - The Bridges - Bookselling - Future Pope -
Wild Irish - Southey.
BANGOR is seated on the spurs of certain high hills near the Menai,
a strait separating Mona or Anglesey from Caernarvonshire. It was
once a place of Druidical worship, of which fact, even without the
testimony of history and tradition, the name which signifies "upper
circle" would be sufficient evidence. On the decay of Druidism a
town sprang up on the site and in the neighbourhood of the "upper
circle," in which in the sixth century a convent or university was
founded by Deiniol, who eventually became Bishop of Bangor. This
Deiniol was the son of Deiniol Vawr, a zealous Christian prince who
founded the convent of Bangor Is Coed, or Bangor beneath the wood
in Flintshire, which was destroyed, and its inmates almost to a man
put to the sword by Ethelbert, a Saxon king, and his barbarian
followers at the instigation of the monk Austin, who hated the
brethren because they refused to acknowledge the authority of the
Pope, whose delegate he was in Britain. There were in all three
Bangors; the one at Is Coed, another in Powis, and this
Caernarvonshire Bangor, which was generally termed Bangor Vawr or
Bangor the great. The two first Bangors have fallen into utter
decay, but Bangor Vawr is still a bishop's see, boasts of a small
but venerable cathedral, and contains a population of above eight
Two very remarkable men have at different periods conferred a kind
of lustre upon Bangor by residing in it, Taliesin in the old, and
Edmund Price in comparatively modern time. Both of them were
poets. Taliesin flourished about the end of the fifth century, and
for the sublimity of his verses was for many centuries called by
his countrymen the Bardic King. Amongst his pieces is one
generally termed "The Prophecy of Taliesin," which announced long
before it happened the entire subjugation of Britain by the Saxons,
and which is perhaps one of the most stirring pieces of poetry ever
produced. Edmund Price flourished during the time of Elizabeth.
He was archdeacon of Merionethshire, but occasionally resided at
Bangor for the benefit of his health. Besides being one of the
best Welsh poets of his age he was a man of extraordinary learning,
possessing a thorough knowledge of no less than eight languages.
The greater part of his compositions, however clever and elegant,
are, it must be confessed, such as do little credit to the pen of
an ecclesiastic, being bitter poignant satires, which were the
cause of much pain and misery to individuals; one of his works,
however, is not only of a kind quite consistent with his sacred
calling, but has been a source of considerable blessing. To him
the Cambrian Church is indebted for the version of the Psalms,
which for the last two centuries it has been in the habit of using.
Previous to the version of the Archdeacon a translation of the
Psalms had been made into Welsh by William Middleton, an officer in
the naval service of Queen Elizabeth, in the four-and-twenty
alliterative measures of the ancients bards. It was elegant and
even faithful, but far beyond the comprehension of people in
general, and consequently by no means fitted for the use of
churches, though intended for that purpose by the author, a sincere
Christian, though a warrior. Avoiding the error into which his
predecessor had fallen, the Archdeacon made use of a measure
intelligible to people of every degree, in which alliteration is
not observed, and which is called by the Welsh y mesur cyffredin,
or the common measure. His opinion of the four-and-twenty measures
the Archdeacon has given to the world in four cowydd lines to the
"I've read the master-pieces great
Of languages no less than eight,
But ne'er have found a woof of song
So strict as that of Cambria's tongue."
After breakfast on the morning subsequent to my arrival, Henrietta
and I roamed about the town, and then proceeded to view the bridges
which lead over the strait to Anglesey. One, for common traffic,
is a most beautiful suspension bridge completed in 1820, the result
of the mental and manual labours of the ingenious Telford; the
other is a tubular railroad bridge, a wonderful structure, no
doubt, but anything but graceful. We remained for some time on the
first bridge, admiring the scenery, and were not a little
delighted, as we stood leaning over the principal arch, to see a
proud vessel pass beneath us in full sail.
Satiated with gazing we passed into Anglesey, and making our way to
the tubular bridge, which is to the west of the suspension one,
entered one of its passages and returned to the main land.
The air was exceedingly hot and sultry, and on coming to a stone
bench, beneath a shady wall, we both sat down, panting, on one end
of it; as we were resting ourselves, a shabby-looking man with a
bundle of books came and seated himself at the other end, placing
his bundle beside him; then taking out from his pocket a dirty red
handkerchief, he wiped his face, which was bathed in perspiration,
and ejaculated: "By Jasus, it is blazing hot!"
"Very hot, my friend," said I; "have you travelled far to-day?"
"I have not, your hanner; I have been just walking about the dirty
town trying to sell my books."
"Have you been successful?"
"I have not, your hanner; only three pence have I taken this
"What do your books treat of?"
"Why, that is more than I can tell your hanner; my trade is to sell
the books not to read them. Would your hanner like to look at
"Oh dear no," said I; "I have long been tired of books; I have had
enough of them."
"I daresay, your hanner; from the state of your hanner's eyes I
should say as much; they look so weak - picking up learning has
ruined your hanner's sight."
"May I ask," said I, "from what country you are?"
"Sure your hanner may; and it is a civil answer you will get from
Michael Sullivan. It is from ould Ireland I am, from Castlebar in
the county Mayo."
"And how came you into Wales?"
"From the hope of bettering my condition, your hanner, and a
foolish hope it was."
"You have not bettered your condition, then?"
"I have not, your hanner; for I suffer quite as much hunger and
thirst as ever I did in ould Ireland."
"Did you sell books in Ireland?"
"I did nat, yer hanner; I made buttons and clothes - that is I
pieced them. I was several trades in ould Ireland, your hanner;
but none of them answering, I came over here."
"Where you commenced book-selling?" said I.
"I did nat, your hanner. I first sold laces, and then I sold
loocifers, and then something else; I have followed several trades
in Wales, your hanner; at last I got into the book-selling trade,
in which I now am."
"And it answers, I suppose, as badly as the others?"
"Just as badly, your hanner; divil a bit better."
"I suppose you never beg?"
"Your hanner may say that; I was always too proud to beg. It is
begging I laves to the wife I have."
"Then you have a wife?"
"I have, your hanner; and a daughter, too; and a good wife and
daughter they are. What would become of me without them I do not
"Have you been long in Wales?"
"Not very long, your hanner; only about twenty years."
"Do you travel much about?"
"All over North Wales, your hanner; to say nothing of the southern
"I suppose you speak Welsh?"
"Not a word, your hanner. The Welsh speak their language so fast,
that divil a word could I ever contrive to pick up."
"Do you speak Irish?"
"I do, yer hanner; that is when people spake to me in it."
I spoke to him in Irish; after a little discourse he said in
"I see your hanner is a Munster man. Ah! all the learned men comes
from Munster. Father Toban comes from Munster."
"I have heard of him once or twice before," said I.
"I daresay your hanner has. Every one has heard of Father Toban;
the greatest scholar in the world, who they, say stands a better
chance of being made Pope, some day or other, than any saggart in
"Will you take sixpence?"
"I will, your hanner; if your hanner offers it; but I never beg; I
leave that kind of work to my wife and daughter as I said before."
After giving him the sixpence, which he received with a lazy "thank
your hanner," I got up, and followed by my daughter returned to the
Henrietta went to the inn, and I again strolled about the town. As
I was standing in the middle of one of the business streets I
suddenly heard a loud and dissonant gabbling, and glancing around
beheld a number of wild-looking people, male and female. Wild
looked the men, yet wilder the women. The men were very lightly
clad, and were all barefooted and bareheaded; they carried stout
sticks in their hands. The women were barefooted too, but had for
the most part head-dresses; their garments consisted of blue cloaks
and striped gingham gowns. All the females had common tin articles
in their hands which they offered for sale with violent gestures to
the people in the streets, as they walked along, occasionally
darting into the shops, from which, however, they were almost
invariably speedily ejected by the startled proprietors, with looks
of disgust and almost horror. Two ragged, red-haired lads led a
gaunt pony, drawing a creaking cart, stored with the same kind of
articles of tin, which the women bore. Poorly clad, dusty and
soiled as they were, they all walked with a free, independent, and
almost graceful carriage.
"Are those people from Ireland?" said I to a decent-looking man,
seemingly a mechanic, who stood near me, and was also looking at
them, but with anything but admiration.
"I am sorry to say they are, sir;" said the man, who from his
accent was evidently an Irishman, "for they are a disgrace to their
I did not exactly think so. I thought that in many respects they
were fine specimens of humanity.
"Every one of those wild fellows," said I to myself, "is worth a
dozen of the poor mean-spirited book-tramper I have lately been
In the afternoon I again passed over into Anglesey, but this time
not by the bridge but by the ferry on the north-east of Bangor,
intending to go to Beaumaris, about two or three miles distant: an
excellent road, on the left side of which is a high bank fringed
with dwarf oaks, and on the right the Menai strait, leads to it.
Beaumaris is at present a watering-place. On one side of it, close
upon the sea, stand the ruins of an immense castle, once a Norman
stronghold, but built on the site of a palace belonging to the
ancient kings of North Wales, and a favourite residence of the
celebrated Owain Gwynedd, the father of the yet more celebrated
Madoc, the original discoverer of America. I proceeded at once to
the castle, and clambering to the top of one of the turrets, looked
upon Beaumaris Bay, and the noble rocky coast of the mainland to
the south-east beyond it, the most remarkable object of which is
the gigantic Penman Mawr, which interpreted is "the great head-
stone," the termination of a range of craggy hills descending from
the Snowdon mountains.
"What a bay!" said I, "for beauty it is superior to the far-famed
one of Naples. A proper place for the keels to start from, which,
unguided by the compass, found their way over the mighty and
mysterious Western Ocean."
I repeated all the Bardic lines I could remember connected with
Madoc's expedition, and likewise many from the Madoc of Southey,
not the least of Britain's four great latter poets, decidedly her
best prose writer, and probably the purest and most noble character
to which she has ever given birth; and then, after a long,
lingering look, descended from my altitude, and returned, not by
the ferry, but by the suspension bridge to the mainland.
Robert Lleiaf - Prophetic Englyn - The Second Sight - Duncan
Campbell - Nial's Saga - Family of Nial - Gunnar - The Avenger.
"AV i dir Mon, cr dwr Menai,
Tros y traeth, ond aros trai."
"I will go to the land of Mona, notwithstanding the water of the
Menai, across the sand, without waiting for the ebb."
SO sang a bard about two hundred and forty years ago, who styled
himself Robert Lleiaf, or the least of the Roberts. The meaning of
the couplet has always been considered to be, and doubtless is,
that a time would come when a bridge would be built across the
Menai, over which one might pass with safety and comfort, without
waiting till the ebb was sufficiently low to permit people to pass
over the traeth, or sand, which, from ages the most remote, had
been used as the means of communication between the mainland and
the Isle of Mona or Anglesey. Grounding their hopes upon that
couplet, people were continually expecting to see a bridge across
the Menai: more than two hundred years, however, elapsed before
the expectation was fulfilled by the mighty Telford flinging over
the strait an iron suspension bridge, which, for grace and beauty,
has perhaps no rival in Europe.
The couplet is a remarkable one. In the time of its author there
was nobody in Britain capable of building a bridge, which could
have stood against the tremendous surges which occasionally vex the
Menai; yet the couplet gives intimation that a bridge over the
Menai there would be, which clearly argues a remarkable foresight
in the author, a feeling that a time would at length arrive when
the power of science would be so far advanced, that men would be
able to bridge over the terrible strait. The length of time which
intervened between the composition of the couplet and the
fulfilment of the promise, shows that a bridge over the Menai was
no pont y meibion, no children's bridge, nor a work for common men.
Oh, surely Lleiaf was a man of great foresight!
A man of great foresight, but nothing more; he foretold a bridge
over the Menai, when no one could have built one, a bridge over
which people could pass, aye, and carts and horses; we will allow
him the credit of foretelling such a bridge; and when Telford's
bridge was flung over the Menai, Lleiaf's couplet was verified.
But since Telford's another bridge has been built over the Menai,
which enables things to pass which the bard certainly never dreamt
of. He never hinted at a bridge over which thundering trains would
dash, if required, at the rate of fifty miles an hour; he never
hinted at steam travelling, or a railroad bridge, and the second
bridge over the Menai is one.
That Lleiaf was a man of remarkable foresight, cannot be denied,
but there are no grounds which entitle him to be considered a
possessor of the second sight. He foretold a bridge, but not a
railroad bridge; had he foretold a railroad bridge, or hinted at
the marvels of steam, his claim to the second sight would have been
What a triumph for Wales; what a triumph for bardism, if Lleiaf had
ever written an englyn, or couplet, in which not a bridge for
common traffic, but a railroad bridge over the Menai was hinted at,
and steam travelling distinctly foretold! Well, though Lleiaf did
not write it, there exists in the Welsh language an englyn, almost
as old as Lleiaf's time, in which steam travelling in Wales and
Anglesea is foretold, and in which, though the railroad bridge over
the Menai is not exactly mentioned, it may be considered to be
included; so that Wales and bardism have equal reason to be proud.
This is the englyn alluded to:-
"Codais, ymolchais yn Mon, cyn naw awr
Ciniewa'n Nghaer Lleon,
Pryd gosber yn y Werddon,
Prydnawn wrth dan mawn yn Mon."
The above englyn was printed in the Greal, 1792, p. 316; the
language shows it to be a production of about the middle of the
seventeenth century. The following is nearly a literal
"I got up in Mona as soon as 'twas light,
At nine in old Chester my breakfast I took;
In Ireland I dined, and in Mona, ere night,
By the turf fire sat, in my own ingle nook."
Now, as sure as the couplet by Robert Lleiaf foretells that a
bridge would eventually be built over the strait, by which people
would pass, and traffic be carried on, so surely does the above
englyn foreshadow the speed by which people would travel by steam,
a speed by which distance is already all but annihilated. At
present it is easy enough to get up at dawn at Holyhead, the point
of Anglesey the most distant from Chester, and to breakfast at that
old town by nine; and though the feat has never yet been
accomplished, it would be quite possible, provided proper
preparations were made, to start from Holyhead at daybreak,
breakfast at Chester at nine, or before, dine in Ireland at two,
and get back again to Holyhead ere the sun of the longest day has
set. And as surely as the couplet about the bridge argues great
foresight in the man that wrote it, so surely does the englyn prove
that its author must have been possessed of the faculty of second
sight, as nobody without it could, in the middle of the seventeenth
century, when the powers of steam were unknown, have written
anything in which travelling by steam is so distinctly alluded to.
Truly some old bard of the seventeenth century must in a vision of
the second sight have seen the railroad bridge across the Menai,
the Chester train dashing across it, at high railroad speed, and a
figure exactly like his own seated comfortably in a third-class
And now a few words on the second sight, a few calm, quiet words,
in which there is not the slightest wish to display either
eccentricity or book-learning.
The second sight is the power of seeing events before they happen,
or of seeing events which are happening far beyond the reach of the
common sight, or between which and the common sight barriers
intervene, which it cannot pierce. The number of those who possess
this gift or power is limited, and perhaps no person ever possessed
it in a perfect degree: some more frequently see coming events, or
what is happening at a distance, than others; some see things
dimly, others with great distinctness. The events seen are
sometimes of great importance, sometimes highly nonsensical and
trivial; sometimes they relate to the person who sees them,
sometimes to other people. This is all that can be said with
anything like certainty with respect to the nature of the second
sight, a faculty for which there is no accounting, which, were it
better developed, might be termed the sixth sense.
The second sight is confined to no particular country, and has at
all times existed. Particular nations have obtained a celebrity
for it for a time, which they have afterwards lost, the celebrity
being transferred to other nations, who were previously not noted
for the faculty. The Jews were at one time particularly celebrated
for the possession of the second sight; they are no longer so. The
power was at one time very common amongst the Icelanders and the
inhabitants of the Hebrides, but it is so no longer. Many and
extraordinary instances of the second sight have lately occurred in
that part of England generally termed East Anglia, where in former
times the power of the second sight seldom manifested itself.
There are various books in existence in which the second sight is
treated of or mentioned. Amongst others there is one called
"Martin's Description of the Western Isles of Scotland," published
in the year 1703, which is indeed the book from which most writers
in English, who have treated of the second sight, have derived
their information. The author gives various anecdotes of the
second sight, which he had picked up during his visits to those
remote islands, which until the publication of his tour were almost
unknown to the world. It will not be amiss to observe here that
the term second sight is of Lowland Scotch origin, and first made
its appearance in print in Martin's book. The Gaelic term for the
faculty is taibhsearachd, the literal meaning of which is what is
connected with a spectral appearance, the root of the word being
taibhse, a spectral appearance or vision.
Then there is the History of Duncan Campbell. The father of this
person was a native of Shetland, who, being shipwrecked on the
coast of Swedish Lapland, and hospitably received by the natives,
married a woman of the country, by whom he had Duncan, who was born
deaf and dumb. On the death of his mother the child was removed by
his father to Scotland, where he was educated and taught the use of
the finger alphabet, by means of which people are enabled to hold
discourse with each other, without moving the lips or tongue. This
alphabet was originally invented in Scotland, and at the present
day is much in use there, not only amongst dumb people, but many
others, who employ it as a silent means of communication. Nothing
is more usual than to see passengers in a common conveyance in
Scotland discoursing with their fingers. Duncan at an early period
gave indications of possessing the second sight. After various
adventures he came to London, where for many years he practised as
a fortune-teller, pretending to answer all questions, whether
relating to the past or the future, by means of the second sight.
There can be no doubt that this man was to a certain extent an
impostor; no person exists having a thorough knowledge either of
the past or future by means of the second sight, which only visits
particular people by fits and starts, and which is quite
independent of individual will; but it is equally certain that he
disclosed things which no person could have been acquainted with
without visitations of the second sight. His papers fell into the
hands of Defoe, who wrought them up in his own peculiar manner, and
gave them to the world under the title of the Life of Mr Duncan
Campbell, the Deaf and Dumb Gentleman: with an appendix containing
many anecdotes of the second sight from Martin's tour.
But by far the most remarkable book in existence, connected with
the second sight, is one in the ancient Norse language entitled
"Nial's Saga." (3) It was written in Iceland about the year 1200,
and contains the history of a certain Nial and his family, and
likewise notices of various other people. This Nial was what was
called a spamadr, that is, a spaeman or a person capable of
foretelling events. He was originally a heathen - when, however,
Christianity was introduced into Iceland, he was amongst the first
to embrace it, and persuaded his family and various people of his
acquaintance to do the same, declaring that a new faith was
necessary, the old religion of Odin, Thor, and Frey, being quite
unsuited to the times. The book is no romance, but a domestic
history compiled from tradition about two hundred years after the
events which it narrates had taken place. Of its style, which is
wonderfully terse, the following translated account of Nial and his
family will perhaps convey some idea:-
"There was a man called Nial, who was the son of Thorgeir Gelling,
the son of Thorolf. The mother of Nial was called Asgerdr; she was
the daughter of Ar, the Silent, the Lord of a district in Norway.
She had come over to Iceland and settled down on land to the west
of Markarfliot, between Oldustein and Selialandsmul. Holtathorir
was her son, father of Thorlief Krak, from whom the Skogverjars are
come, and likewise of Thorgrim the big and Skorargeir. Nial dwelt
at Bergthorshval in Landey, but had another house at Thorolfell.
Nial was very rich in property, and handsome to look at, but had no
beard. He was so great a lawyer, that it was impossible to find
his equal, he was very wise, and had the gift of foretelling
events, he was good at counsel, and of a good disposition, and
whatever counsel he gave people was for their best; he was gentle
and humane, and got every man out of trouble who came to him in his
need. His wife was called Bergthora; she was the daughter of
Skarphethin. She was a bold-spirited woman who feared nobody, and
was rather rough of temper. They had six children, three daughters
and three sons, all of whom will be frequently mentioned in this
In the history many instances are given of Nial's skill in giving
good advice and his power of seeing events before they happened.
Nial lived in Iceland during most singular times, in which though
there were laws provided for every possible case, no man could have
redress for any injury unless he took it himself, or his friends
took it for him, simply because there were no ministers of justice
supported by the State, authorised and empowered to carry the
sentence of the law into effect. For example, if a man were slain,
his death would remain unpunished, unless he had a son or a
brother, or some other relation to slay the slayer, or to force him
to pay "bod," that is, amends in money, to be determined by the
position of the man who was slain. Provided the man who was slain
had relations, his death was generally avenged, as it was
considered the height of infamy in Iceland to permit one's
relations to be murdered, without slaying their murderers, or
obtaining bod from them. The right, however, permitted to
relations of taking with their own hands the lives of those who had
slain their friends, produced incalculable mischiefs; for if the
original slayer had friends, they, in the event of his being slain
in retaliation for what he had done, made it a point of honour to
avenge his death, so that by the lex talionis feuds were
perpetuated. Nial was a great benefactor to his countrymen, by
arranging matters between people, at variance in which he was much
helped by his knowledge of the law, and by giving wholesome advice
to people in precarious situations, in which he was frequently
helped by the power which he possessed of the second sight. On
several occasions he settled the disputes in which his friend
Gunnar was involved, a noble, generous character, and the champion
of Iceland, but who had a host of foes, envious of his renown; and
it was not his fault if Gunnar was eventually slain, for if the
advice which he gave had been followed, the champion would have
died an old man; and if his own sons had followed his advice, and
not been over fond of taking vengeance on people who had wronged
them, they would have escaped a horrible death, in which he himself
was involved, as he had always foreseen he should be.
"Dost thou know by what death thou thyself wilt die?" said Gunnar
to Nial, after the latter had been warning him that if he followed
a certain course he would die by a violent death.
"I do," said Nial.
"What is it?" said Gunnar.
"What people would think the least probable," replied Nial.
He meant that he should die by fire. The kind generous Nial, who
tried to get everybody out of difficulty, perished by fire. His
sons by their violent conduct had incensed numerous people against
them. The house in which they lived with their father was beset at
night by an armed party, who, unable to break into it owing to the
desperate resistance which they met with from the sons of Nial,
Skarphethin, Helgi, and Grimmr and a comrade of theirs called Kari,
(4) set it in a blaze, in which perished Nial, the lawyer and man
of the second sight, his wife Bergthora, and two of their sons, the
third, Helgi, having been previously slain, and Kari, who was
destined to be the avenger of the ill-fated family, having made his
escape, after performing deeds of heroism which for centuries after
were the themes of song and tale in the ice-bound isle.
Snowdon - Caernarvon - Maxen Wledig - Moel y Cynghorion - The
Wyddfa - Snow of Snowdon - Rare Plant.
ON the third morning after our arrival at Bangor we set out for
Snowdon or Eryri is no single hill, but a mountainous region, the
loftiest part of which, called Y Wyddfa, nearly four thousand feet
above the level of the sea, is generally considered to be the
highest point of Southern Britain. The name Snowdon was bestowed
upon this region by the early English on account of its snowy
appearance in winter; Eryri by the Britons, because in the old time
it abounded with eagles, Eryri (5) in the ancient British language
signifying an eyrie or breeding-place of eagles.
Snowdon is interesting on various accounts. It is interesting for
its picturesque beauty. Perhaps in the whole world there is no
region more picturesquely beautiful than Snowdon, a region of
mountains, lakes, cataracts, and, groves in which nature shows
herself in her most grand and beautiful forms.
It is interesting from its connection with history: it was to
Snowdon that Vortigern retired from the fury of his own subjects,
caused by the favour which he showed to the detested Saxons. It
was there that he called to his counsels Merlin, said to be
begotten on a hag by an incubus, but who was in reality the son of
a Roman consul by a British woman. It was in Snowdon that he built
the castle, which he fondly deemed would prove impregnable, but
which his enemies destroyed by flinging wild-fire over its walls;
and it was in a wind-beaten valley of Snowdon, near the sea, that
his dead body decked in green armour had a mound of earth and
stones raised over it. It was on the heights of Snowdon that the
brave but unfortunate Llywelin ap Griffith made his last stand for
Cambrian independence; and it was to Snowdon that that very
remarkable man, Owen Glendower, retired with his irregular bands
before Harry the Fourth and his numerous and disciplined armies,
soon however, to emerge from its defiles and follow the foe,
retreating less from the Welsh arrows from the crags, than from the
cold, rain and starvation of the Welsh hills.
But it is from its connection with romance that Snowdon derives its
chief interest. Who when he thinks of Snowdon does not associate
it with the heroes of romance, Arthur and his knights? whose
fictitious adventures, the splendid dreams of Welsh and Breton
minstrels, many of the scenes of which are the valleys and passes
of Snowdon, are the origin of romance, before which what is classic
has for more than half a century been waning, and is perhaps
eventually destined to disappear. Yes, to romance Snowdon is
indebted for its interest and consequently for its celebrity; but
for romance Snowdon would assuredly not be what it at present is,
one of the very celebrated hills of the world, and to the poets of
modern Europe almost what Parnassus was to those of old.
To the Welsh, besides being the hill of the Awen or Muse, it has
always been the hill of hills, the loftiest of all mountains, the
one whose snow is the coldest, to climb to whose peak is the most
difficult of all feats; and the one whose fall will be the most
astounding catastrophe of the last day.
To view this mountain I and my little family set off in a caleche
on the third morning after our arrival at Bangor.
Our first stage was to Caernarvon. As I subsequently made a
journey to Caernarvon on foot, I shall say nothing about the road
till I give an account of that expedition, save that it lies for
the most part in the neighbourhood of the sea. We reached
Caernarvon, which is distant ten miles from Bangor, about eleven
o'clock, and put up at an inn to refresh ourselves and the horses.
It is a beautiful little town situated on the southern side of the
Menai Strait at nearly its western extremity. It is called
Caernarvon, because it is opposite Mona or Anglesey: Caernarvon
signifying the town or castle opposite Mona. Its principal feature
is its grand old castle, fronting the north, and partly surrounded
by the sea. This castle was built by Edward the First after the
fall of his brave adversary Llewelyn, and in it was born his son
Edward whom, when an infant, he induced the Welsh chieftains to
accept as their prince without seeing, by saying that the person
whom he proposed to be their sovereign was one who was not only
born in Wales, but could not speak a word of the English language.
The town Caernarvon, however, existed long before Edward's time,
and was probably originally a Roman station. According to Welsh
tradition it was built by Maxen Wledig or Maxentius, in honour of
his wife Ellen who was born in the neighbourhood. Maxentius, who
was a Briton by birth, and partly by origin contested
unsuccessfully the purple with Gratian and Valentinian, and to
support his claim led over to the Continent an immense army of
Britons, who never returned, but on the fall of their leader
settled down in that part of Gaul generally termed Armorica, which
means a maritime region, but which the Welsh call Llydaw, or
Lithuania, which was the name, or something like the name, which
the region bore when Maxen's army took possession of it, owing,
doubtless, to its having been the quarters of a legion composed of
barbarians from the country of Leth or Lithuania.
After staying about an hour at Caernarvon we started for Llanberis,
a few miles to the east. Llanberis is a small village situated in
a valley, and takes its name from Peris, a British saint of the
sixth century, son of Helig ab Glanog. The valley extends from
west to east, having the great mountain of Snowdon on its south,
and a range of immense hills on its northern side. We entered this
valley by a pass called Nant y Glo or the ravine of the coal, and
passing a lake on our left, on which I observed a solitary
corracle, with a fisherman in it, were presently at the village.
Here we got down at a small inn, and having engaged a young lad to
serve as guide, I set out with Henrietta to ascend the hill, my
wife remaining behind, not deeming herself sufficiently strong to
encounter the fatigue of the expedition.
Pointing with my finger to the head of Snowdon towering a long way
from us in the direction of the east, I said to Henrietta:-
"Dacw Eryri, yonder is Snowdon. Let us try to get to the top. The
Welsh have a proverb: 'It is easy to say yonder is Snowdon; but
not so easy to ascend it.' Therefore I would advise you to brace
up your nerves and sinews for the attempt."
We then commenced the ascent, arm-in-arm, followed by the lad, I
singing at the stretch of my voice a celebrated Welsh stanza, in
which the proverb about Snowdon is given, embellished with a fine
moral, and which may thus be rendered:-
"Easy to say, 'Behold Eryri,'
But difficult to reach its head;
Easy for him whose hopes are cheery
To bid the wretch be comforted."
We were far from being the only visitors to the hill this day;
groups of people, or single individuals, might be seen going up or
descending the path as far as the eye could reach. The path was
remarkably good, and for some way the ascent was anything but
steep. On our left was the Vale of Llanberis, and on our other
side a broad hollow, or valley of Snowdon, beyond which were two
huge hills forming part of the body of the grand mountain, the
lowermost of which our guide told me was called Moel Elia, and the
uppermost Moel y Cynghorion. On we went until we had passed both
these hills, and come to the neighbourhood of a great wall of rocks
constituting the upper region of Snowdon, and where the real
difficulty of the ascent commences. Feeling now rather out of
breath we sat down on a little knoll with our faces to the south,
having a small lake near us, on our left hand, which lay dark and
deep, just under the great wall.
Here we sat for some time resting and surveying the scene which
presented itself to us, the principal object of which was the
north-eastern side of the mighty Moel y Cynghorion, across the wide
hollow or valley, which it overhangs in the shape of a sheer
precipice some five hundred feet in depth. Struck by the name of
Moel y Cynghorion, which in English signifies the hill of the
counsellors, I enquired of our guide why the hill was so called,
but as he could afford me no information on the point I presumed
that it was either called the hill of the counsellors from the
Druids having held high consultation on its top, in time of old, or
from the unfortunate Llewelyn having consulted there with his
chieftains, whilst his army lay encamped in the vale below.
Getting up we set about surmounting what remained of the ascent.
The path was now winding and much more steep than it had hitherto
been. I was at one time apprehensive that my gentle companion
would be obliged to give over the attempt; the gallant girl,
however, persevered, and in little more than twenty minutes from
the time when we arose from our resting-place under the crags, we
stood, safe and sound, though panting, upon the very top of
Snowdon, the far-famed Wyddfa.
The Wyddfa is about thirty feet in diameter and is surrounded on
three sides by a low wall. In the middle of it is a rude cabin, in
which refreshments are sold, and in which a person resides through
the year, though there are few or no visitors to the hill's top,
except during the months of summer. Below on all sides are
frightful precipices except on the side of the west. Towards the
east it looks perpendicularly into the dyffrin or vale, nearly a
mile below, from which to the gazer it is at all times an object of
admiration, of wonder and almost of fear.
There we stood on the Wyddfa, in a cold bracing atmosphere, though
the day was almost stiflingly hot in the regions from which we had
ascended. There we stood enjoying a scene inexpressibly grand,
comprehending a considerable part of the mainland of Wales, the
whole of Anglesey, a faint glimpse of part of Cumberland; the Irish
Channel, and what might be either a misty creation or the shadowy
outline of the hills of Ireland. Peaks and pinnacles and huge
moels stood up here and there, about us and below us, partly in
glorious light, partly in deep shade. Manifold were the objects
which we saw from the brow of Snowdon, but of all the objects which
we saw, those which filled us with delight and admiration, were
numerous lakes and lagoons, which, like sheets of ice or polished
silver, lay reflecting the rays of the sun in the deep valleys at
"Here," said I to Henrietta, "you are on the top crag of Snowdon,
which the Welsh consider, and perhaps with justice, to be the most
remarkable crag in the world; which is mentioned in many of their
old wild romantic tales, and some of the noblest of their poems,
amongst others in the 'Day of Judgment,' by the illustrious Goronwy
Owen, where it is brought forward in the following manner:
"'Ail i'r ar ael Eryri,
Cyfartal hoewal a hi.'
"'The brow of Snowdon shall be levelled with the ground, and the
eddying waters shall murmur round it.'
"You are now on the top crag of Snowdon, generally termed Y Wyddfa,
(6) which means a conspicuous place or tumulus, and which is
generally in winter covered with snow; about which snow there are
in the Welsh language two curious englynion or stanzas consisting
entirely of vowels with the exception of one consonant, namely the
"'Oer yw'r Eira ar Eryri, - o'ryw
Ar awyr i rewi;
Oer yw'r ia ar riw 'r ri,
A'r Eira oer yw 'Ryri.
"'O Ri y'Ryri yw'r oera, - o'r ar,
Ar oror wir arwa;
O'r awyr a yr Eira,
O'i ryw i roi rew a'r ia.'
"'Cold is the snow on Snowdon's brow
It makes the air so chill;
For cold, I trow, there is no snow
Like that of Snowdon's hill.
"'A hill most chill is Snowdon's hill,
And wintry is his brow;
From Snowdon's hill the breezes chill
Can freeze the very snow.'"
Such was the harangue which I uttered on the top of Snowdon; to
which Henrietta listened with attention; three or four English, who
stood nigh, with grinning scorn, and a Welsh gentleman with
considerable interest. The latter coming forward shook me by the
hand exclaiming -
"Wyt ti Lydaueg?"
"I am not a Llydauan," said I; "I wish I was, or anything but what
I am, one of a nation amongst whom any knowledge save what relates
to money-making and over-reaching is looked upon as a disgrace. I
am ashamed to say that I am an Englishman."
I then returned his shake of the hand; and bidding Henrietta and
the guide follow me, went into the cabin, where Henrietta had some
excellent coffee and myself and the guide a bottle of tolerable
ale; very much refreshed we set out on our return.
A little way from the top, on the right-hand side as you descend,
there is a very steep path running down in a zigzag manner to the
pass which leads to Capel Curig. Up this path it is indeed a task
of difficulty to ascend to the Wyddfa, the one by which we mounted
being comparatively easy. On Henrietta's pointing out to me a
plant, which grew on a crag by the side of this path some way down,
I was about to descend in order to procure it for her, when our
guide springing forward darted down the path with the agility of a
young goat, in less than a minute returned with it in his hand and
presented it gracefully to the dear girl, who on examining it said
it belonged to a species of which she had long been desirous of
possessing a specimen. Nothing material occurred in our descent to
Llanberis, where my wife was anxiously awaiting us. The ascent and
descent occupied four hours. About ten o'clock at night we again
found ourselves at Bangor.
Gronwy Owen - Struggles of Genius - The Stipend.
THE day after our expedition to Snowdon I and my family parted;
they returning by railroad to Chester and Llangollen whilst I took
a trip into Anglesey to visit the birth-place of the great poet
Goronwy Owen, whose works I had read with enthusiasm in my early
Goronwy or Gronwy Owen, was born in the year 1722, at a place
called Llanfair Mathafarn Eithaf in Anglesey. He was the eldest of
three children. His parents were peasants and so exceedingly poor
that they were unable to send him to school. Even, however, when
an unlettered child he gave indications that he was visited by the
awen or muse. At length the celebrated Lewis Morris chancing to be
at Llanfair became acquainted with the boy, and struck with his
natural talents, determined that he should have all the benefit
which education could bestow. He accordingly, at his own expense
sent him to school at Beaumaris, where he displayed a remarkable
aptitude for the acquisition of learning. He subsequently sent him
to Jesus College, Oxford, and supported him there whilst studying
for the church. Whilst at Jesus, Gronwy distinguished himself as a
Greek and Latin scholar, and gave such proofs of poetical talent in
his native language, that he was looked upon by his countrymen of
that Welsh college as the rising Bard of the age. After completing
his collegiate course he returned to Wales, where he was ordained a
minister of the Church in the year 1745. The next seven years of
his life were a series of cruel disappointments and pecuniary
embarrassments. The grand wish of his heart was to obtain a curacy
and to settle down in Wales. Certainly a very reasonable wish. To
say nothing of his being a great genius, he was eloquent, highly
learned, modest, meek and of irreproachable morals, yet Gronwy Owen
could obtain no Welsh curacy, nor could his friend Lewis Morris,
though he exerted himself to the utmost, procure one for him. It
is true that he was told that he might go to Llanfair, his native
place, and officiate there at a time when the curacy happened to be
vacant, and thither he went, glad at heart to get back amongst his
old friends, who enthusiastically welcomed him; yet scarcely had he
been there three weeks when he received notice from the Chaplain of
the Bishop of Bangor that he must vacate Llanfair in order to make
room for a Mr John Ellis, a young clergyman of large independent
fortune, who was wishing for a curacy under the Bishop of Bangor,
Doctor Hutton - so poor Gronwy the eloquent, the learned, the meek,
was obliged to vacate the pulpit of his native place to make room
for the rich young clergyman, who wished to be within dining
distance of the palace of Bangor. Truly in this world the full
shall be crammed, and those who have little, shall have the little
which they have taken away from them. Unable to obtain employment
in Wales Gronwy sought for it in England, and after some time
procured the curacy of Oswestry in Shropshire, where he married a
respectable young woman, who eventually brought him two sons and a
From Oswestry he went to Donnington near Shrewsbury, where under a
certain Scotchman named Douglas, who was an absentee, and who died
Bishop of Salisbury, he officiated as curate and master of a
grammar school for a stipend - always grudgingly and contumeliously
paid - of three-and-twenty pounds a year. From Donnington he
removed to Walton in Cheshire, where he lost his daughter who was
carried off by a fever. His next removal was to Northolt, a
pleasant village in the neighbourhood of London.
He held none of his curacies long, either losing them from the
caprice of his principals, or being compelled to resign them from
the parsimony which they practised towards him. In the year 1756
he was living in a garret in London vainly soliciting employment in
his sacred calling, and undergoing with his family the greatest
privations. At length his friend Lewis Morris, who had always
assisted him to the utmost of his ability, procured him the
mastership of a government school at New Brunswick in North America
with a salary of three hundred pounds a year. Thither he went with
his wife and family, and there he died sometime about the year
He was the last of the great poets of Cambria and, with the
exception of Ab Gwilym, the greatest which she has produced. His
poems which for a long time had circulated through Wales in
manuscript were first printed in the year 1819. They are composed
in the ancient Bardic measures, and were with one exception, namely
an elegy on the death of his benefactor Lewis Morris, which was
transmitted from the New World, written before he had attained the
age of thirty-five. All his pieces are excellent, but his
masterwork is decidedly the Cywydd y Farn or "Day of Judgment."
This poem which is generally considered by the Welsh as the
brightest ornament of their ancient language, was composed at
Donnington, a small hamlet in Shropshire on the north-west spur of
the Wrekin, at which place, as has been already said, Gronwy toiled
as schoolmaster and curate under Douglas the Scot, for a stipend of
three-and-twenty pounds a year.
Start for Anglesey - The Post-Master - Asking Questions - Mynydd
Lydiart - Mr Pritchard - Way to Llanfair.
WHEN I started from Bangor, to visit the birth-place of Gronwy
Owen, I by no means saw my way clearly before me. I knew that he
was born in Anglesey in a parish called Llanfair Mathafarn eithaf,
that is St Mary's of farther Mathafarn - but as to where this
Mathafarn lay, north or south, near or far, I knew positively
nothing. Passing through the northern suburb of Bangor I saw a
small house in front of which was written "post-office" in white
letters; before this house underneath a shrub in a little garden
sat an old man reading. Thinking that from this person, whom I
judged to be the post-master, I was as likely to obtain information
with respect to the place of my destination as from any one, I
stopped, and taking off my hat for a moment, inquired whether he
could tell me anything about the direction of a place called
Llanfair Mathafarn eithaf. He did not seem to understand my
question, for getting up he came towards me and asked what I
wanted: I repeated what I had said, whereupon his face became
"Llanfair Mathafarn eithaf!" said he. "Yes, I can tell you about
it, and with good reason, for it lies not far from the place where
I was born."
The above was the substance of what he said, and nothing more, for
he spoke in English somewhat broken.
"And how far is Llanfair from here?" said I.
"About ten miles," he replied.
"That's nothing," said I: "I was afraid it was much farther."
"Do you call ten miles nothing," said he, "in a burning day like
this? I think you will be both tired and thirsty before you get to
Llanfair, supposing you go there on foot. But what may your
business be at Llanfair?" said he, looking at me inquisitively.
"It is a strange place to go to, unless you go to buy hogs or
"I go to buy neither hogs nor cattle," said I, "though I am
somewhat of a judge of both; I go on a more important errand,
namely to see the birth-place of the great Gronwy Owen."
"Are you any relation of Gronwy Owen?" said the old man, looking at
me more inquisitively than before, through a large pair of
spectacles which he wore.
"None whatever," said I.
"Then why do you go to see his parish, it is a very poor one."
"From respect to his genius," said I; "I read his works long ago,
and was delighted with them."
"Are you a Welshman?" said the old man.
"No," said I, "I am no Welshman."
"Can you speak Welsh?" said he, addressing me in that language.
"A little," said I; "but not so well as I can read it."
"Well," said the old man, "I have lived here a great many years,
but never before did a Saxon call upon me, asking questions about
Gronwy Owen, or his birth-place. Immortality to his memory! I owe
much to him, for reading his writings taught me to be a poet!"
"Dear me!" said I, "are you a poet?"
"I trust I am," said he; "though the humblest of Ynys Fon."
A flash of proud fire, methought, illumined his features as he
pronounced these last words.
"I am most happy to have met you," said I; "but tell me how am I to
get to Llanfair?"
"You must go first," said he, "to Traeth Coch which in Saxon is
called the 'Red Sand.' In the village called the Pentraeth which
lies above that sand, I was born; through the village and over the
bridge you must pass, and after walking four miles due north you
will find yourself in Llanfair eithaf, at the northern extremity of
Mon. Farewell! That ever Saxon should ask me about Gronwy Owen,
and his birth-place! I scarcely believe you to be a Saxon, but
whether you be or not, I repeat farewell."