Part 9 out of 14
preparations for their journey than I for mine, and as I should
only be in their way whilst they were employed, it was determined
that I should depart on my expedition on Thursday, and that they
should remain at Llangollen till the Saturday.
We were at first in some perplexity with respect to the disposal of
the ecclesiastical cat; it would of course not do to leave it in
the garden to the tender mercies of the Calvinistic Methodists of
the neighbourhood, more especially those of the flannel
manufactory, and my wife and daughter could hardly carry it with
them. At length we thought of applying to a young woman of sound
church principles, who was lately married and lived over the water
on the way to the railroad station, with whom we were slightly
acquainted, to take charge of the animal, and she on the first
intimation of our wish, willingly acceded to it. So with her poor
puss was left along with a trifle for its milk-money, and with her,
as we subsequently learned, it continued in peace and comfort till
one morning it sprang suddenly from the hearth into the air, gave a
mew, and died. So much for the ecclesiastical cat!
The morning of Tuesday was rather fine, and Mr Ebenezer E-, who had
heard of our intended departure, came to invite us to spend the
evening at the Vicarage. His father had left Llangollen the day
before for Chester, where he expected to be detained some days. I
told him we should be most happy to come. He then asked me to take
a walk. I agreed with pleasure, and we set out, intending to go to
Llansilio at the western end of the valley and look at the church.
The church was an ancient building. It had no spire, but had the
little erection on its roof, so usual to Welsh churches, for
holding a bell.
In the churchyard is a tomb in which an old squire of the name of
Jones was buried about the middle of the last century. There is a
tradition about this squire and tomb to the following effect.
After the squire's death there was a lawsuit about his property, in
consequence of no will having been found. It was said that his
will had been buried with him in the tomb, which after some time
was opened, but with what success the tradition sayeth not.
In the evening we went to the Vicarage. Besides the family and
ourselves there was Mr R- and one or two more. We had a very
pleasant party; and as most of those present wished to hear
something connected with Spain, I talked much about that country,
sang songs of Germania, and related in an abridged form Lope de
Vega's ghost story, which is decidedly the best ghost story in the
In the afternoon of Wednesday I went and took leave of certain
friends in the town; amongst others of old Mr Jones. On my telling
him that I was about to leave Llangollen, he expressed considerable
regret, but said that it was natural for me to wish to return to my
native country. I told him that before returning to England I
intended to make a pedestrian tour in South Wales. He said that he
should die without seeing the south; that he had had several
opportunities of visiting it when he was young, which he had
neglected, and that he was now too old to wander far from home. He
then asked me which road I intended to take. I told him that I
intended to strike across the Berwyn to Llan Rhyadr, then visit
Sycharth, once the seat of Owain Glendower, lying to the east of
Llan Rhyadr, then return to that place, and after seeing the
celebrated cataract across the mountains to Bala - whence I should
proceed due south. I then asked him whether he had ever seen
Sycharth and the Rhyadr; he told me that he had never visited
Sycharth, but had seen the Rhyadr more than once. He then smiled
and said that there was a ludicrous anecdote connected with the
Rhyadr, which he would relate to me. "A traveller once went to see
the Rhyadr, and whilst gazing at it a calf which had fallen into
the stream above, whilst grazing upon the rocks, came tumbling down
the cataract. 'Wonderful!' said the traveller, and going away
reported that it was not only a fall of water, but of calves, and
was very much disappointed, on visiting the waterfall on another
occasion, to see no calf come tumbling down." I took leave of the
kind old gentleman with regret, never expecting to see him again,
as he was in his eighty-fourth year - he was a truly excellent
character, and might be ranked amongst the venerable ornaments of
his native place.
About half-past eight o'clock at night John Jones came to bid me
farewell. I bade him sit down, and sent for a pint of ale to
regale him with. Notwithstanding the ale, he was very melancholy
at the thought that I was about to leave Llangollen, probably never
to return. To enliven him I gave him an account of my late
expedition to Wrexham, which made him smile more than once. When I
had concluded he asked me whether I knew the meaning of the word
Wrexham: I told him I believed I did, and gave him the derivation
which the reader will find in an early chapter of this work. He
told me that with all due submission, he thought he could give me a
better, which he had heard from a very clever man, gwr deallus
iawn, who lived about two miles from Llangollen on the Corwen road.
In the old time a man of the name of Sam kept a gwestfa, or inn, at
the place where Wrexham flow stands; when he died he left it to his
wife, who kept it after him, on which account the house was first
called Ty wraig Sam, the house of Sam's wife, and then for
shortness Wraig Sam, and a town arising about it by degrees, the
town too was called Wraig Sam, which the Saxons corrupted into
I was much diverted with this Welsh derivation of Wrexham, which I
did not attempt to controvert. After we had had some further
discourse John Jones got up, shook me by the hand, gave a sigh,
wished me a "taith hyfryd," and departed. Thus terminated my last
day at Llangollen.
Departure for South Wales - Tregeiriog - Pleasing Scene - Trying to
Read - Garmon and Lupus - The Cracked Voice - Effect of a
Compliment - Llan Rhyadr.
THE morning of the 21st of October was fine and cold; there was a
rime frost on the ground. At about eleven o'clock I started on my
journey for South Wales, intending that my first stage should be
Llan Rhyadr. My wife and daughter accompanied me as far as Plas
Newydd. As we passed through the town I shook hands with honest A-
, whom I saw standing at the door of a shop, with a kind of Spanish
hat on his head, and also with my venerable friend old Mr Jones,
whom I encountered close beside his own domicile. At the Plas
Newydd I took an affectionate farewell of my two loved ones, and
proceeded to ascend the Berwyn. Near the top I turned round to
take a final look at the spot where I had lately passed many a
happy hour. There lay Llangollen far below me, with its chimneys
placidly smoking, its pretty church rising in its centre, its blue
river dividing it into two nearly equal parts, and the mighty hill
of Brennus overhanging it from the north.
I sighed, and repeating Einion Du's verse
"Tangnefedd i Llangollen!"
I went over the top of the hill and then began to descend its
southern side, obtaining a distant view of the plains of Shropshire
on the east. I soon reached the bottom of the hill, passed through
Llansanfraid, and threading the vale of the Ceiriog at length found
myself at Pont y Meibion in front of the house of Huw Morris, or
rather of that which is built on the site of the dwelling of the
poet. I stopped and remained before the house thinking of the
mighty Huw, till the door opened, and out came the dark-featured
man, the poet's descendant, whom I saw when visiting the place in
company with honest John Jones - he had now a spade in his hand and
was doubtless going to his labour. As I knew him to be of a rather
sullen unsocial disposition, I said nothing to him, but proceeded
on my way. As I advanced the valley widened, the hills on the west
receding to some distance from the river. Came to Tregeiriog a
small village, which takes its name from the brook; Tregeiriog
signifying the hamlet or village on the Ceiriog. Seeing a bridge
which crossed the rivulet at a slight distance from the road, a
little beyond the village, I turned aside to look at it. The
proper course of the Ceiriog is from south to north; where it is
crossed by the bridge, however, it runs from west to east,
returning to its usual course, a little way below the bridge. The
bridge was small and presented nothing remarkable in itself: I
obtained, however, as I looked over its parapet towards the west a
view of a scene, not of wild grandeur, but of something which I
like better, which richly compensated me for the slight trouble I
had taken in stepping aside to visit the little bridge. About a
hundred yards distant was a small water-mill, built over the
rivulet, the wheel going slowly, slowly round; large quantities of
pigs, the generality of them brindled, were either browsing on the
banks or lying close to the sides half immersed in the water; one
immense white hog, the monarch seemingly of the herd, was standing
in the middle of the current. Such was the scene which I saw from
the bridge, a scene of quiet rural life well suited to the brushes
of two or three of the old Dutch painters, or to those of men
scarcely inferior to them in their own style, Gainsborough,
Moreland, and Crome. My mind for the last half-hour had been in a
highly excited state; I had been repeating verses of old Huw
Morris, brought to my recollection by the sight of his dwelling-
place; they were ranting roaring verses, against the Roundheads. I
admired the vigour but disliked the principles which they
displayed; and admiration on the one hand and disapproval on the
other, bred a commotion in my mind like that raised on the sea when
tide runs one way and wind blows another. The quiet scene from the
bridge, however, produced a sedative effect on my mind, and when I
resumed my journey I had forgotten Huw, his verses, and all about
Roundheads and Cavaliers.
I reached Llanarmon, another small village, situated in a valley
through which the Ceiriog or a river very similar to it flows. It
is half-way between Llangollen and Llan Rhyadr, being ten miles
from each. I went to a small inn or public-house, sat down and
called for ale. A waggoner was seated at a large table with a
newspaper before him on which he was intently staring.
"What news?" said I in English.
"I wish I could tell you," said he in very broken English, "but I
"Then why are you looking at the paper?" said I.
"Because," said he, "by looking at the letters I hope in time to
make them out."
"You may look at them," said I, "for fifty years without being able
to make out one. You should go to an evening school."
"I am too old," said he, "to do so now; if I did the children would
laugh at me."
"Never mind their laughing at you," said I, "provided you learn to
read; let them laugh who win!"
"You give good advice, mester," said he, "I think I shall follow
"Let me look at the paper," said I.
He handed it to me. It was a Welsh paper, and full of dismal
accounts from the seat of war.
"What news, mester?" said the waggoner.
"Nothing but bad," said I; "the Russians are beating us and the
"If the Rusiaid beat us," said the waggoner, "it is because the
Francod are with us. We should have gone alone."
"Perhaps you are right," said I; "at any rate we could not have
fared worse than we are faring now."
I presently paid for what I had had, inquired the way to Llan
Rhyadr, and departed.
The village of Llanarmon takes its name from its church, which is
dedicated to Garmon, an Armorican bishop, who with another called
Lupus came over into Britain in order to preach against the heresy
of Pelagius. He and his colleague resided for some time in
Flintshire, and whilst there enabled in a remarkable manner the
Britons to achieve a victory over those mysterious people the
Picts, who were ravaging the country far and wide. Hearing that
the enemy were advancing towards Mold, the two bishops gathered
together a number of the Britons, and placed them in ambush in a
dark valley through which it was necessary for the Picts to pass in
order to reach Mold, strictly enjoining them to remain quiet till
all their enemies should have entered the valley and then do
whatever they should see them, the two bishops, do. The Picts
arrived, and when they were about half-way through the valley the
two bishops stepped forward from a thicket and began crying aloud,
"Alleluia!" The Britons followed their example, and the wooded
valley resounded with cries of "Alleluia! Alleluia!" The shouts
and the unexpected appearance of thousands of men caused such
terror to the Picts that they took to flight in the greatest
confusion; hundreds were trampled to death by their companions, and
not a few were drowned in the river Alan (8) which runs through the
There are several churches dedicated to Garmon in Wales, but
whether there are any dedicated to Lupus I am unable to say. After
leaving Llanarmon I found myself amongst lumpy hills through which
the road led in the direction of the south. Arriving where several
roads met I followed one and became bewildered amidst hills and
ravines. At last I saw a small house close by a nant or dingle,
and turned towards it for the purpose of inquiring my way. On my
knocking at the door a woman made her appearance, of whom I asked
in Welsh whether I was in the road to Llan Rhyadr. She said that I
was out of it, but that if I went towards the south I should see a
path on my left which would bring me to it. I asked her how far it
was to Llan Rhyadr.
"Four long miles," she replied.
"And what is the name of the place where we are now?" said I.
"Cae Hir" (the long inclosure), said she.
"Are you alone in the house?" said I.
"Quite alone," said she; "but my husband and people will soon be
home from the field, for it is getting dusk."
"Have you any Saxon?" said I.
"Not a word," said she, "have I of the iaith dieithr, nor has my
husband, nor any one of my people."
I bade her farewell, and soon reached the road, which led south and
north. As I was bound for the south I strode forward briskly in
that direction. The road was between romantic hills; heard Welsh
songs proceeding from the hill fields on my right, and the murmur
of a brook rushing down a deep nant on my left. I went on till I
came to a collection of houses which an old woman, with a cracked
voice and a small tin milk-pail, whom I assisted in getting over a
stile into the road, told me was called Pen Strit - probably the
head of the street. She spoke English, and on my asking her how
she had learnt the English tongue, she told me that she had learnt
it of her mother who was an English woman. She said that I was two
miles from Llan Rhyadr, and that I must go straight forward. I did
so till I reached a place where the road branched into two, one
bearing somewhat to the left, and the other to the right. After
standing a minute in perplexity I took the right-hand road, but
soon guessed that I had taken the wrong one, as the road dwindled
into a mere footpath. Hearing some one walking on the other side
of the hedge I inquired in Welsh whether I was going right for Llan
Rhyadr, and was answered by a voice in English, apparently that of
a woman, that I was not, and that I must go back. I did so, and
presently a woman came through a gate to me.
"Are you the person," said I, "who just now answered me in English
after I had spoken in Welsh?"
"In truth I am," said she, with a half laugh.
"And how came you to answer me in English after I had spoken to you
"Because," said she, "it was easy enough to know by your voice that
you were an Englishman."
"You speak English remarkably well," said I.
"And so do you Welsh," said the woman; "I had no idea that it was
possible for any Englishman to speak Welsh half so well."
"I wonder," thought I to myself, "what you would have answered if I
had said that you speak English execrably." By her own account she
could read both Welsh and English. She walked by my side to the
turn, and then up the left-hand road, which she said was the way to
Llan Rhyadr. Coming to a cottage she bade me good-night and went
in. The road was horribly miry: presently, as I was staggering
through a slough, just after I had passed a little cottage, I heard
a cracked voice crying, "I suppose you lost your way?" I
recognised it as that of the old woman whom I had helped over the
stile. She was now standing behind a little gate which opened into
a garden before the cottage. The figure of a man was standing near
her. I told her that she was quite right in her supposition.
"Ah," said she, "you should have gone straight forward."
"If I had gone straight forward," said I, "I must have gone over a
hedge, at the corner of a field which separated two roads; instead
of bidding me go straight forward you should have told me to follow
the left-hand road."
"Well," said she, "be sure you keep straight forward now."
I asked her who the man was standing near her.
"It is my husband," said she.
"Has he much English?" said I.
"None at all," said she, "for his mother was not English, like
mine." I bade her good-night and went forward. Presently I came
to a meeting of roads, and to go straight forward it was necessary
to pass through a quagmire; remembering, however, the words of my
friend the beldame I went straight forward, though in so doing I
was sloughed up to the knees. In a little time I came to rapid
descent, and at the bottom of it to a bridge. It was now very
dark; only the corner of the moon was casting a faint light. After
crossing the bridge I had one or two ascents and descents. At last
I saw lights before me which proved to be those of Llan Rhyadr. I
soon found myself in a dirty little street, and, inquiring for the
inn, was kindly shown by a man to one which he said was the best,
and which was called the Wynstay Arms.
Inn at Llan Rhyadr - A low Englishman - Enquiries - The Cook - A
THE inn seemed very large, but did not look very cheerful. No
other guest than myself seemed to be in it, except in the kitchen,
where I heard a fellow talking English and occasionally yelling an
English song: the master and the mistress of the house were civil,
and lighted me a fire in what was called the Commercial Room, and
putting plenty of coals in the grate soon made the apartment warm
and comfortable. I ordered dinner or rather supper, which in about
half-an-hour was brought in by the woman. The supper whether good
or bad I despatched with the appetite of one who had walked twenty
miles over hill and dale.
Occasionally I heard a dreadful noise in the kitchen, and the woman
told me that the fellow there was making himself exceedingly
disagreeable, chiefly she believed because she had refused to let
him sleep in the house. She said that he was a low fellow that
went about the country with fish, and that he was the more ready to
insult her as the master of the house was now gone out. I asked if
he was an Englishman, "Yes," said she, "a low Englishman."
"Then he must be low indeed," said I. "A low Englishman is the
lowest of the low." After a little time I heard no more noise, and
was told that the fellow was gone away. I had a little whisky and
water, and then went to bed, sleeping in a tolerable chamber but
rather cold. There was much rain during the night and also wind;
windows rattled, and I occasionally heard the noise of falling
I arose about eight. Notwithstanding the night had been so
tempestuous the morning was sunshiny and beautiful. Having ordered
breakfast I walked out in order to look at the town. Llan Rhyadr
is a small place, having nothing remarkable in it save an ancient
church and a strange little antique market-house, standing on
pillars. It is situated at the western end of an extensive valley
and at the entrance of a glen. A brook or rivulet runs through it,
which comes down the glen from the celebrated cataract, which is
about four miles distant to the west. Two lofty mountains form the
entrance of the glen, and tower above the town, one on the south
and the other on the north. Their names, if they have any, I did
After strolling about the little place for about a quarter of an
hour, staring at the things and the people, and being stared at by
the latter, I returned to my inn, a structure built in the modern
Gothic style, and which stands nearly opposite to the churchyard.
Whilst breakfasting I asked the landlady, who was bustling about
the room, whether she had ever heard of Owen Glendower.
"In truth, sir, I have. He was a great gentleman who lived a long
time ago, and, and - "
"Gave the English a great deal of trouble," said I.
"Just so, sir; at least I daresay it is so, as you say it."
"And do you know where he lived?"
"I do not, sir; I suppose a great way off, somewhere in the south."
"Do you mean South Wales?"
"In truth, sir, I do."
"There you are mistaken," said I; "and also in supposing he lived a
great way off. He lived in North Wales, and not far from this
"In truth, sir, you know more about him than I."
"Did you ever hear of a place called Sycharth?
"Sycharth! Sycharth! I never did, sir."
"It is the place where Glendower lived, and it is not far off. I
want to go there, but do not know the way."
"Sycharth! Sycharth!" said the landlady musingly: "I wonder if it
is the place we call Sychnant."
"Is there such a place?"
"Yes, sure; about six miles from here, near Langedwin."
"What kind of place is it?"
"In truth, sir, I do not know, for I was never there. My cook,
however, in the kitchen, knows all about it, for she comes from
"Can I see her?"
"Yes, sure; I will go at once and fetch her."
She then left the room and presently returned with the cook, a
short, thick girl with blue staring eyes.
"Here she is, sir," said the landlady, "but she has no English."
"All the better," said I. "So you come from a place called
Sychnant?" said I to the cook in Welsh.
"In truth, sir, I do;" said the cook.
"Did you ever hear of a gwr boneddig called Owen Glendower?"
"Often, sir, often; he lived in our place."
"He lived in a place called Sycharth?" said I.
"Well, sir; and we of the place call it Sycharth as often as
Sychnant; nay, oftener."
"Is his house standing?"
"It is not; but the hill on which it stood is still standing."
"Is it a high hill?"
"It is not; it is a small, light hill."
"A light hill!" said I to myself. "Old Iolo Goch, Owen Glendower's
bard, said the chieftain dwelt in a house on a light hill.
"'There dwells the chief we all extol
In timber house on lightsome knoll.'
"Is there a little river near it," said I to the cook, "a ffrwd?"
"There is; it runs just under the hill."
"Is there a mill upon the ffrwd?"
"There is not; that is, now - but there was in the old time; a
factory of woollen stands now where the mill once stood."
"'A mill a rushing brook upon
And pigeon tower fram'd of stone.'
"So says Iolo Goch," said I to myself, "in his description of
Sycharth; I am on the right road."
I asked the cook to whom the property of Sycharth belonged and was
told of course to Sir Watkin, who appears to be the Marquis of
Denbighshire. After a few more questions I thanked her and told
her she might go. I then finished my breakfast, paid my bill, and
after telling the landlady that I should return at night, started
for Llangedwin and Sycharth.
A broad and excellent road led along the valley in the direction in
which I was proceeding.
The valley was beautiful and dotted with various farm-houses, and
the land appeared to be in as high a state of cultivation as the
soil of my own Norfolk, that county so deservedly celebrated for
its agriculture. The eastern side is bounded by lofty hills, and
towards the north the vale is crossed by three rugged elevations,
the middlemost of which, called, as an old man told me, Bryn Dinas,
terminates to the west in an exceedingly high and picturesque crag.
After an hour's walking I overtook two people, a man and a woman
laden with baskets which hung around them on every side. The man
was a young fellow of about eight-and-twenty, with a round face,
fair flaxen hair, and rings in his ears; the female was a blooming
buxom lass of about eighteen. After giving them the sele of the
day I asked them if they were English.
"Aye, aye, master," said the man; "we are English."
"Where do you come from?" said I.
"From Wrexham," said the man.
"I thought Wrexham was in Wales," said
"If it be," said the man, "the people are not Welsh; a man is not a
horse because he happens to be born in a stable."
"Is that young woman your wife?" said I.
"Yes;" said he, "after a fashion" - and then he leered at the lass,
and she leered at him.
"Do you attend any place of worship?" said I.
"A great many, master!"
"What place do you chiefly attend?" said I.
"The Chequers, master!"
"Do they preach the best sermons there?" said I.
"No, master! but they sell the best ale there."
"Do you worship ale?" said I.
"Yes, master, I worships ale."
"Anything else?" said I.
"Yes, master! I and my mort worships something besides good ale;
don't we, Sue?" and then he leered at the mort, who leered at him,
and both made odd motions backwards and forwards, causing the
baskets which hung round them to creak and rustle, and uttering
loud shouts of laughter, which roused the echoes of the
"Genuine descendants, no doubt," said I to myself as I walked
briskly on, "of certain of the old heathen Saxons who followed Rag
into Wales and settled down about the house which he built.
Really, if these two are a fair specimen of the Wrexham population,
my friend the Scotch policeman was not much out when he said that
the people of Wrexham were the worst people in Wales."
Sycharth - The Kindly Welcome - Happy Couple - Sycharth - Recalling
the Dead - Ode to Sycharth.
I WAS now at the northern extremity of the valley near a great
house past which the road led in the direction of the north-east.
Seeing a man employed in breaking stones I inquired the way to
"You must turn to the left," said he, "before you come to yon great
house, follow the path which you will find behind it, and you will
soon be in Sychnant."
"And to whom does the great house belong?"
"To whom? why, to Sir Watkin."
"Does he reside there?"
"Not often. He has plenty of other houses, but he sometimes comes
there to hunt."
"What is the place's name?"
I turned to the left, as the labourer had directed me. The path
led upward behind the great house round a hill thickly planted with
trees. Following it I at length found myself on a broad road on
the top extending east and west, and having on the north and south
beautiful wooded hills. I followed the road which presently began
to descend. On reaching level ground I overtook a man in a
waggoner's frock, of whom I inquired the way to Sycharth. He
pointed westward down the vale to what appeared to be a collection
of houses, near a singular-looking monticle, and said, "That is
We walked together till we came to a road which branched off on the
right to a little bridge.
"That is your way," said he, and pointing to a large building
beyond the bridge, towering up above a number of cottages, he said,
"that is the factory of Sycharth;" he then left me, following the
high road, whilst I proceeded towards the bridge, which I crossed,
and coming to the cottages entered one on the right hand of a
remarkably neat appearance.
In a comfortable kitchen by a hearth on which blazed a cheerful
billet sat a man and woman. Both arose when I entered: the man
was tall, about fifty years of age, and athletically built; he was
dressed in a white coat, corduroy breeches, shoes, and grey worsted
stockings. The woman seemed many years older than the man; she was
tall also, and strongly built, and dressed in the ancient female
costume, namely, a kind of round, half Spanish hat, long blue
woollen kirtle or gown, a crimson petticoat, and white apron, and
broad, stout shoes with buckles.
"Welcome, stranger," said the man, after looking me a moment or two
full in the face.
"Croesaw, dyn dieithr - welcome, foreign man," said the woman,
surveying me with a look of great curiosity.
"Won't you sit down?" said the man, handing me a chair.
I sat down, and the man and woman resumed their seats.
"I suppose you come on business connected with the factory?" said
"No," said I, "my business is connected with Owen Glendower."
"With Owen Glendower?" said the man, staring.
"Yes," said I, "I came to see his place."
"You will not see much of his house now," said the man - "it is
down; only a few bricks remain."
"But I shall see the place where his house stood," said I, "which
is all I expected to see."
"Yes, you can see that."
"What does the dyn dieithr say?" said the woman in Welsh with an
"That he is come to see the place of Owen Glendower."
"Ah!" said the woman with a smile.
"Is that good lady your wife?" said I.
"She looks much older than yourself."
"And no wonder. She is twenty-one years older."
"How old are you?"
"Dear me," said I, "what a difference in your ages. How came you
"She was a widow and I had lost my wife. We were lone in the
world, so we thought we would marry."
"Do you live happily together?"
"Then you did quite right to marry. What is your name?"
"And that of your wife?"
"Does she speak English?"
"She speaks some, but not much."
"Is the place where Owen lived far from here?"
"It is not. It is the round hill a little way above the factory."
"Is the path to it easy to find?"
"I will go with you," said the man. "I work at the factory, but I
need not go there for an hour at least."
He put on his hat and bidding me follow him went out. He led me
over a gush of water which passing under the factory turns the
wheel; thence over a field or two towards a house at the foot of
the mountain where he said the steward of Sir Watkin lived, of whom
it would be as well to apply for permission to ascend the hill, as
it was Sir Watkin's ground. The steward was not at home; his wife
was, however, and she, when we told her we wished to go to the top
of Owain Glendower's Hill, gave us permission with a smile. We
thanked her and proceeded to mount the hill or monticle once the
residence of the great Welsh chieftain, whom his own deeds and the
pen of Shakespear have rendered immortal.
Owen Glendower's hill or mount at Sycharth, unlike the one bearing
his name on the banks of the Dee, is not an artificial hill, but
the work of nature, save and except that to a certain extent it has
been modified by the hand of man. It is somewhat conical and
consists of two steps or gradations, where two fosses scooped out
of the hill go round it, one above the other, the lower one
embracing considerably the most space. Both these fosses are about
six feet deep, and at one time doubtless were bricked, as stout
large, red bricks are yet to be seen, here and there, in their
sides. The top of the mount is just twenty-five feet across. When
I visited it it was covered with grass, but had once been subjected
to the plough as various furrows indicated. The monticle stands
not far from the western extremity of the valley, nearly midway
between two hills which confront each other north and south, the
one to the south being the hill which I had descended, and the
other a beautiful wooded height which is called in the parlance of
the country Llwyn Sycharth or the grove of Sycharth, from which
comes the little gush of water which I had crossed, and which now
turns the wheel of the factory and once turned that of Owen
Glendower's mill, and filled his two moats, part of the water by
some mechanical means having been forced up the eminence. On the
top of this hill or monticle in a timber house dwelt the great
Welshman Owen Glendower, with his wife, a comely, kindly woman, and
his progeny, consisting of stout boys and blooming girls, and
there, though wonderfully cramped for want of room, he feasted
bards who requited his hospitality with alliterative odes very
difficult to compose, and which at the present day only a few book-
worms understand. There he dwelt for many years, the virtual if
not the nominal king of North Wales, occasionally no doubt looking
down with self-complaisance from the top of his fastness on the
parks and fish-ponds of which he had several; his mill, his pigeon
tower, his ploughed lands, and the cottages of a thousand
retainers, huddled round the lower part of the hill, or strewn
about the valley; and there he might have lived and died had not
events caused him to draw the sword and engage in a war, at the
termination of which Sycharth was a fire-scathed ruin, and himself
a broken-hearted old man in anchorite's weeds, living in a cave on
the estate of Sir John Scudamore, the great Herefordshire
proprietor, who married his daughter Elen, his only surviving
After I had been a considerable time on the hill looking about me
and asking questions of my guide, I took out a piece of silver and
offered it to him, thanking him at the same time for the trouble he
had taken in showing me the place. He refused it, saying that I
was quite welcome.
I tried to force it upon him.
"I will not take it," said he; "but if you come to my house and
have a cup of coffee, you may give sixpence to my old woman."
"I will come," said I, "in a short time. In the meanwhile do you
go; I wish to be alone."
"What do you want to do?"
"To sit down and endeavour to recall Glendower, and the times that
The fine fellow looked puzzled; at last he said, "Very well,"
shrugged his shoulders, and descended the hill.
When he was gone I sat down on the brow of the hill, and with my
face turned to the east began slowly to chant a translation made by
myself in the days of my boyhood of an ode to Sycharth composed by
Iolo Goch when upwards of a hundred years old, shortly after his
arrival at that place, to which he had been invited by Owen
Twice have I pledg'd my word to thee
To come thy noble face to see;
His promises let every man
Perform as far as e'er he can!
Full easy is the thing that's sweet,
And sweet this journey is and meet;
I've vowed to Owain's court to go,
And I'm resolved to keep my vow;
So thither straight I'll take my way
With blithesome heart, and there I'll stay,
Respect and honour, whilst I breathe,
To find his honour'd roof beneath.
My chief of long lin'd ancestry
Can harbour sons of poesy;
I've heard, for so the muse has told,
He's kind and gentle to the old;
Yes, to his castle I will hie;
There's none to match it 'neath the sky:
It is a baron's stately court,
Where bards for sumptuous fare resort;
There dwells the lord of Powis land,
Who granteth every just demand.
Its likeness now I'll limn you out:
'Tis water girdled wide about;
It shows a wide and stately door
Reached by a bridge the water o'er;
'Tis formed of buildings coupled fair,
Coupled is every couple there;
Within a quadrate structure tall
Muster the merry pleasures all.
Conjointly are the angles bound -
No flaw in all the place is found.
Structures in contact meet the eye
Upon the hillock's top on high;
Into each other fastened they
The form of a hard knot display.
There dwells the chief we all extol
In timber house on lightsome knoll;
Upon four wooden columns proud
Mounteth his mansion to the cloud;
Each column's thick and firmly bas'd,
And upon each a loft is plac'd;
In these four lofts, which coupled stand,
Repose at night the minstrel band;
Four lofts they were in pristine state,
But now partitioned form they eight.
Tiled is the roof, on each house-top
Rise smoke-ejecting chimneys up.
All of one form there are nine halls
Each with nine wardrobes in its walls
With linen white as well supplied
As fairest shops of fam'd Cheapside.
Behold that church with cross uprais'd
And with its windows neatly glaz'd;
All houses are in this comprest -
An orchard's near it of the best,
Also a park where void of fear
Feed antler'd herds of fallow deer.
A warren wide my chief can boast,
Of goodly steeds a countless host.
Meads where for hay the clover grows,
Corn-fields which hedges trim inclose,
A mill a rushing brook upon,
And pigeon tower fram'd of stone;
A fish-pond deep and dark to see,
To cast nets in when need there be,
Which never yet was known to lack
A plenteous store of perch and jack.
Of various plumage birds abound;
Herons and peacocks haunt around,
What luxury doth his hall adorn,
Showing of cost a sovereign scorn;
His ale from Shrewsbury town he brings;
His usquebaugh is drink for kings;
Bragget he keeps, bread white of look,
And, bless the mark! a bustling cook.
His mansion is the minstrels' home,
You'll find them there whene'er you come
Of all her sex his wife's the best;
The household through her care is blest
She's scion of a knightly tree,
She's dignified, she's kind and free.
His bairns approach me, pair by pair,
O what a nest of chieftains fair!
Here difficult it is to catch
A sight of either bolt or latch;
The porter's place here none will fill;
Her largess shall be lavish'd still,
And ne'er shall thirst or hunger rude
In Sycharth venture to intrude.
A noble leader, Cambria's knight,
The lake possesses, his by right,
And midst that azure water plac'd,
The castle, by each pleasure grac'd.
And when I had finished repeating these lines I said, "How much
more happy, innocent, and holy, I was in the days of my boyhood
when I translate Iolo's ode than I am at the present time!" Then
covering my face with my hands I wept like a child.
Cup of Coffee - Gwen - Bluff old Fellow - A Rabble Rout - All from
AFTER a while I arose from my seat and descending the hill returned
to the house of my honest friends, whom I found sitting by their
fire as I had first seen them.
"Well," said the man, "did you bring back Owen Glendower?"
"Not only him," said I, "but his house, family, and all relating to
"By what means?" said the man.
"By means of a song made a long time ago, which describes Sycharth
as it was in his time, and his manner of living there."
Presently Gwen, who had been preparing coffee in expectation of my
return, poured out a cupful, which she presented to me, at the same
time handing me some white sugar in a basin.
I took the coffee, helped myself to some sugar, and returned her
thanks in her own language.
"Ah," said the man, in Welsh, "I see you are a Cumro. Gwen and I
have been wondering whether you were Welsh or English; but I see
you are one of ourselves."
"No," said I in the same language, "I am an Englishman, born in a
part of England the farthest of any from Wales. In fact, I am a
"And how came you to speak Welsh?" said the man.
"I took it into my head to learn it when I was a boy," said I.
"Englishmen sometimes do strange things."
"So I have heard," said the man, "but I never heard before of an
Englishman learning Welsh."
I proceeded to drink my coffee, and having finished it, and had a
little more discourse I got up, and having given Gwen a piece of
silver, which she received with a smile and a curtsey, I said I
must now be going,
"Won't you take another cup?" said Gwen, "you are welcome."
"No, thank you," said I, "I have had enough."
"Where are you going?" said the man in English.
"To Llan Rhyadr," said I, "from which I came this morning."
"Which way did you come?" said the man.
"By Llan Gedwin," I replied, "and over the hill. Is there another
"There is," said the man, "by Llan Silin."
"Llan Silin!" said I; "is not that the place where Huw Morris is
"It is," said the man.
"I will return by Llan Silin," said I, "and in passing through pay
a visit to the tomb of the great poet. Is Llan Silin far off?"
"About half a mile," said the man. "Go over the bridge, turn to
the right, and you will be there presently."
I shook the honest couple by the hand and bade them farewell. The
man put on his hat and went with me a few yards from the door, and
then proceeded towards the factory. I passed over the bridge,
under which was a streamlet, which a little below the bridge
received the brook which once turned Owen Glendower's corn-mill. I
soon reached Llan Silin, a village or townlet, having some high
hills at a short distance to the westward, which form part of the
I entered the kitchen of an old-fashioned public-house, and sitting
down by a table told the landlord, a red-nosed elderly man, who
came bowing up to me, to bring me a pint of ale. The landlord
bowed and departed. A bluff-looking old fellow, somewhat under the
middle size, sat just opposite to me at the table. He was dressed
in a white frieze coat, and had a small hat on his head set rather
consequentially on one side. Before him on the table stood a jug
of ale, between which and him lay a large crabstick. Three or four
other people stood or sat in different parts of the room.
Presently the landlord returned with the ale.
"I suppose you come on sessions business, sir?" said he, as he
placed it down before me.
"Are the sessions being held here to-day?" said I.
"They are," said the landlord, "and there is plenty of business;
two bad cases of poaching, Sir Watkin's keepers are up at court and
hope to convict."
"I am not come on sessions business," said I; "I am merely
strolling a little about to see the country."
"He is come from South Wales," said the old fellow in the frieze
coat, to the landlord, "in order to see what kind of country the
north is. Well at any rate he has seen a better country than his
"How do you know that I come from South Wales?" said I.
"By your English," said the old fellow; "anybody may know you are
South Welsh by your English; it is so cursedly bad. But let's hear
you speak a little Welsh; then I shall be certain as to who you
I did as he bade me, saying a few words in Welsh.
"There's Welsh," said the old fellow, "who but a South Welshman
would talk Welsh in that manner? It's nearly as bad as your
I asked him if he had ever been in South Wales.
"Yes," said he; "and a bad country I found it; just like the
"If you take me for a South Welshman," said I, "you ought to speak
civilly both of the South Welsh and their country."
"I am merely paying tit for tat," said the old fellow. "When I was
in South Wales your people laughed at my folks and country, so when
I meet one of them here I serve him out as I was served out there."
I made no reply to him, but addressing myself to the landlord
inquired whether Huw Morris was not buried in Llan Silin
churchyard. He replied in the affirmative.
"I should like to see his tomb," said I.
"Well, sir," said the landlord, "I shall be happy to show it to you
whenever you please."
Here again the old fellow put in his word.
"You never had a prydydd like Huw Morris in South Wales," said he;
"nor Twm o'r Nant either."
"South Wales has produced good poets," said I.
"No, it hasn't," said the old fellow; "it never produced one. If
it had, you wouldn't have needed to come here to see the grave of a
poet; you would have found one at home."
As he said these words he got up, took his stick, and seemed about
to depart. Just then in burst a rabble rout of game-keepers and
river-watchers who had come from the petty sessions, and were in
high glee, the two poachers whom the landlord had mentioned having
been convicted and heavily fined. Two or three of them were
particularly boisterous, running against some of the guests who
were sitting or standing in the kitchen, and pushing the landlord
about, crying at the same time that they would stand by Sir Watkin
to the last, and would never see him plundered. One of them, a
fellow of about thirty, in a hairy cap, black coat, dirty yellow
breeches, and dirty white top-boots, who was the most obstreperous
of them all, at last came up to the old chap who disliked South
Welshmen and tried to knock off his hat, swearing that he would
stand by Sir Watkin; he, however, met a Tartar. The enemy of the
South Welsh, like all crusty people, had lots of mettle, and with
the stick which he held in his hand forthwith aimed a blow at the
fellow's poll, which, had he not jumped back, would probably have
"I will not be insulted by you, you vagabond," said the old chap,
"nor by Sir Watkin either; go and tell him so."
The fellow looked sheepish, and turning away proceeded to take
liberties with other people less dangerous to meddle with than old
crabstick. He, however, soon desisted, and sat down evidently
"Were you ever worse treated in South Wales by the people there
than you have been here by your own countrymen?" said I to the old
"My countrymen?" said he; "this scamp is no countryman of mine; nor
is one of the whole kit. They are all from Wrexham, a mixture of
broken housekeepers and fellows too stupid to learn a trade; a set
of scamps fit for nothing in the world but to swear bodily against
honest men. They say they will stand up for Sir Watkin, and so
they will, but only in a box in the Court to give false evidence.
They won't fight for him on the banks of the river. Countrymen of
mine, indeed! they are no countrymen of mine; they are from
Wrexham, where the people speak neither English nor Welsh, not even
South Welsh as you do."
Then giving a kind of flourish with his stick he departed.
Llan Silin Church - Tomb of Huw Morris - Barbara and Richard -
Welsh Country Clergyman - The Swearing Lad - Anglo-Saxon Devils.
HAVING discussed my ale I asked the landlord if he would show me
the grave of Huw Morris. "With pleasure, sir," said he; "pray
follow me." He led me to the churchyard, in which several enormous
yew trees were standing, probably of an antiquity which reached as
far back as the days of Henry the Eighth, when the yew bow was
still the favourite weapon of the men of Britain. The church
fronts the south, the portico being in that direction. The body of
the sacred edifice is ancient, but the steeple which bears a gilded
cock on its top is modern. The innkeeper led me directly up to the
southern wall, then pointing to a broad discoloured slab, which lay
on the ground just outside the wall, about midway between the
portico and the oriel end, he said:
"Underneath this stone lies Huw Morris, sir." Forthwith taking off
my hat I went down on my knees and kissed the cold slab covering
the cold remains of the mighty Huw, and then, still on my knees,
proceeded to examine it attentively. It is covered over with
letters three parts defaced. All I could make out of the
inscription was the date of the poet's death, 1709. "A great
genius, a very great genius, sir," said the inn-keeper, after I had
got on my feet and put on my hat.
"He was indeed," said I; "are you acquainted with his poetry?"
"Oh yes," said the innkeeper, and then repeated the four lines
composed by the poet shortly before his death, which I had heard
the intoxicated stonemason repeat in the public-house of the Pandy,
the day I went to visit the poet's residence with John Jones.
"Do you know any more of Huw's poetry?" said I.
"No," said the innkeeper. "Those lines, however, I have known ever
since I was a child and repeated them, more particularly of late
since age has come upon me and I have felt that I cannot last
It is very odd how few of the verses of great poets are in people's
mouths. Not more than a dozen of Shakespear's lines are in
people's mouths: of those of Pope not more than half that number.
Of Addison's poetry two or three lines may be in people's mouths,
though I never heard one quoted, the only line which I ever heard
quoted as Addison's not being his but Garth's:
"'Tis best repenting in a coach and six.'
Whilst of the verses of Huw Morris I never knew any one but myself,
who am not a Welshman, who could repeat a line beyond the four
which I have twice had occasion to mention, and which seem to be
generally known in North if not in South Wales.
From the flagstone I proceeded to the portico and gazed upon it
intensely. It presented nothing very remarkable, but it had the
greatest interest for me, for I remembered how many times Huw
Morris had walked out of that porch at the head of the
congregation, the clergyman yielding his own place to the inspired
bard. I would fain have entered the church, but the landlord had
not the key, and told me that he imagined there would be some
difficulty in procuring it. I was therefore obliged to content
myself with peeping through a window into the interior, which had a
solemn and venerable aspect.
"Within there," said I to myself, "Huw Morris, the greatest
songster of the seventeenth century, knelt every Sunday during the
latter thirty years of his life, after walking from Pont y Meibion
across the bleak and savage Berwyn. Within there was married
Barbara Wynn, the Rose of Maelai, to Richard Middleton, the
handsome cavalier of Maelor, and within there she lies buried, even
as the songster who lamented her untimely death in immortal verse
lies buried out here in the graveyard. What interesting
associations has this church for me, both outside and in, but all
connected with Huw; for what should I have known of Barbara, the
Rose, and gallant Richard but for the poem on their affectionate
union and untimely separation, the dialogue between the living and
the dead, composed by humble Huw, the farmer's son of Ponty y
After gazing through the window till my eyes watered I turned to
the innkeeper, and inquired the way to Llan Rhyadr. Having
received from him the desired information I thanked him for his
civility, and set out on my return.
Before I could get clear of the town I suddenly encountered my
friend R-, the clever lawyer and magistrate's clerk of Llangollen.
"I little expected to see you here," said he.
"Nor I you," I replied.
"I came in my official capacity," said he; "the petty sessions have
been held here to-day."
"I know they have," I replied; "and that two poachers have been
convicted. I came here on my way to South Wales to see the grave
of Huw Morris, who, as you know, is buried in the churchyard."
"Have you seen the clergyman?" said R-.
"No," I replied.
"Then come with me," said he; "I am now going to call upon him. I
know he will be rejoiced to make your acquaintance."
He led me to the clergyman's house, which stood at the south-west
end of the village within a garden fenced with an iron paling. We
found the clergyman in a nice comfortable parlour or study, the
sides of which were decorated with books. He was a sharp clever-
looking man, of about the middle age. On my being introduced to
him he was very glad to see me, as my friend R- told me he would
be. He seemed to know all about me, even that I understood Welsh.
We conversed on various subjects: on the power of the Welsh
language; its mutable letters; on Huw Morris, and likewise on ale,
with an excellent glass of which he regaled me. I was much pleased
with him, and thought him a capital specimen of the Welsh country
clergyman. His name was Walter Jones.
After staying about half-an-hour I took leave of the good kind man,
who wished me all kind of happiness, spiritual and temporal, and
said that he should always be happy to see me at Llan Silin. My
friend R- walked with me a little way and then bade me farewell.
It was now late in the afternoon, the sky was grey and gloomy, and
a kind of half wintry wind was blowing. In the forenoon I had
travelled along the eastern side of the valley, which I will call
that of Llan Rhyadr, directing my course to the north, but I was
now on the western side of the valley, journeying towards the
south. In about half-an-hour I found myself nearly parallel with
the high crag which I had seen from a distance in the morning. It
was now to the east of me. Its western front was very precipitous,
but on its northern side it was cultivated nearly to the summit.
As I stood looking at it from near the top of a gentle acclivity a
boy with a team, whom I had passed a little time before, came up.
He was whipping his horses, who were straining up the ascent, and
was swearing at them most frightfully in English. I addressed him
in that language, inquiring the name of the crag, but he answered
Dim Saesneg, and then again fell to cursing; his horses in English.
I allowed him and his team to get to the top of the ascent, and
then overtaking him, I said in Welsh: "What do you mean by saying
you have no English? You were talking English just now to your
"Yes," said the lad, "I have English enough for my horses, and that
"You seem to have plenty of Welsh," said I; "why don't you speak
Welsh to your horses?"
"It's of no use speaking Welsh to them," said the boy; "Welsh isn't
"Isn't Myn Diawl tolerably strong?" said I.
"Not strong enough for horses," said the boy "if I were to say Myn
Diawl to my horses, or even Cas Andras, they would laugh at me."
"Do the other carters," said I, "use the same English to their
horses which you do to yours?"
"Yes" said the boy, "they'll all use the same English words; if
they didn't the horses wouldn't mind them."
"What a triumph," thought I, "for the English language that the
Welsh carters are obliged to have recourse to its oaths and
execrations to make their horses get on!"
I said nothing more to the boy on the subject of language, but
again asked him the name of the crag. "It is called Craig y
Gorllewin," said he. I thanked him, and soon left him and his team
Notwithstanding what the boy said about the milk-and-water
character of native Welsh oaths, the Welsh have some very pungent
execrations, quite as efficacious, I should say, to make a horse
get on as any in the English swearing vocabulary. Some of their
oaths are curious, being connected with heathen times and Druidical
mythology; for example that Cas Andras, mentioned by the boy, which
means hateful enemy or horrible Andras. Andras or Andraste was the
fury or Demigorgon of the Ancient Cumry, to whom they built temples
and offered sacrifices out of fear. Curious that the same oath
should be used by the Christian Cumry of the present day, which was
in vogue amongst their pagan ancestors some three thousand years
ago. However, the same thing is observable amongst us Christian
English: we say the Duse take you! even as our heathen Saxon
forefathers did, who worshipped a kind of Devil so called, and
named a day of the week after him, which name we still retain in
our hebdomadal calendar like those of several other Anglo-Saxon
devils. We also say: Go to old Nick! and Nick or Nikkur was a
surname of Woden, and also the name of a spirit which haunted fords
and was in the habit of drowning passengers.
Night came quickly upon me after I had passed the swearing lad.
However, I was fortunate enough to reach Llan Rhyadr, without
having experienced any damage or impediment from Diawl, Andras,
Duse, or Nick.
Church of Llan Rhyadr - The Clerk - The Tablet - Stone - First View
of the Cataract.
THE night was both windy and rainy like the preceding one, but the
morning which followed, unlike that of the day before, was dull and
gloomy. After breakfast I walked out to take another view of the
little town. As I stood looking at the church a middle-aged man of
a remarkably intelligent countenance came up and asked me if I
should like to see the inside. I told him I should, whereupon he
said that he was the clerk and would admit me with pleasure.
Taking a key out of his pocket he unlocked the door of the church
and we went in. The inside was sombre, not so much owing to the
gloominess of the day as the heaviness of the architecture. It
presented something in the form of a cross. I soon found the clerk
what his countenance represented him to be, a highly intelligent
person. His answers to my questions were in general ready and
"This seems rather an ancient edifice," said I; "when was it
"In the sixteenth century," said the clerk; "in the days of Harry
"Have any remarkable men been clergymen of this church?"
"Several, sir; amongst its vicars was Doctor William Morgan, the
great South Welshman, the author of the old Welsh version of the
Bible, who flourished in the time of Queen Elizabeth. Then there
was Doctor Robert South, an eminent divine, who, though not a
Welshman, spoke and preached Welsh better than many of the native
clergy. Then there was the last vicar, Walter D-, a great preacher
and writer, who styled himself in print Gwalter Mechain."
"Are Morgan and South buried here?" said I.
"They are not, sir," said the clerk; "they had been transferred to
other benefices before they died."
I did not inquire whether Walter D- was buried there, for of him I
had never heard before, but demanded whether the church possessed
any ancient monuments.
"This is the oldest which remains, sir," said the clerk, and he
pointed with his finger to a tablet-stone over a little dark pew on
the right side of the oriel window. There was an inscription upon
it, but owing to the darkness I could not make out a letter. The
clerk, however, read as follows.
1694. 21 Octr.
Hic Sepultus Est
"Do you understand Latin?" said I to the clerk.
"I do not, sir; I believe, however, that the stone is to the memory
of one Bynner."
"That is not a Welsh name," said I.
"It is not, sir," said the clerk.
"It seems to be radically the same as Bonner," said I, "the name of
the horrible Popish Bishop of London in Mary's time. Do any people
of the name of Bynner reside in this neighbourhood at present?"
"None, sir," said the clerk; "and if the Bynners are descendants of
Bonner, it is, perhaps, well that there are none."
I made the clerk, who appeared almost fit to be a clergyman, a
small present, and returned to the inn. After paying my bill I
flung my satchel over my shoulder, took my umbrella by the middle
in my right hand, and set off for the Rhyadr.
I entered the narrow glen at the western extremity of the town and
proceeded briskly along. The scenery was romantically beautiful;
on my left was the little brook, the waters of which run through
the town; beyond it a lofty hill; on my right was a hill covered
with wood from the top to the bottom. I enjoyed the scene, and
should have enjoyed it more had there been a little sunshine to
I passed through a small village, the name of which I think was
Cynmen, and presently overtook a man and boy. The man saluted me
in English, and I entered into conversation with him in that
language. He told me that he came from Llan Gedwin, and was going
to a place called Gwern something, in order to fetch home some
sheep. After a time he asked me where I was going.
"I am going to see the Pistyll Rhyadr," said I
We had then just come to the top of a rising ground.
"Yonder's the Pistyll!" said he, pointing to the west.
I looked in the direction of his finger, and saw something at a
great distance, which looked like a strip of grey linen hanging
over a crag.
"That is the waterfall," he continued, "which so many of the Saxons
come to see. And now I must bid you good-bye, master; for my way
to the Gwern is on the right"
Then followed by the boy he turned aside into a wild road at the
corner of a savage, precipitous rock.
Mountain Scenery - The Rhyadr - Wonderful Feat.
AFTER walking about a mile with the cataract always in sight, I
emerged from the glen into an oblong valley extending from south to
north, having lofty hills on all sides, especially on the west,
from which direction the cataract comes. I advanced across the
vale till within a furlong of this object, when I was stopped by a
deep hollow or nether vale into which the waters of the cataract
tumble. On the side of this hollow I sat down, and gazed down
before me and on either side. The water comes spouting over a crag
of perhaps two hundred feet in altitude between two hills, one
south-east and the other nearly north. The southern hill is wooded
from the top, nearly down to where the cataract bursts forth; and
so, but not so thickly, is the northern hill, which bears a
singular resemblance to a hog's back. Groves of pine are on the
lower parts of both; in front of a grove low down on the northern
hill is a small white house of a picturesque appearance. The water
of the cataract, after reaching the bottom of the precipice, rushes
in a narrow brook down the vale in the direction of Llan Rhyadr.
To the north-east, between the hog-backed hill and another strange-
looking mountain, is a wild glen, from which comes a brook to swell
the waters discharged by the Rhyadr. The south-west side of the
vale is steep, and from a cleft of a hill in that quarter a slender
stream rushing impetuously joins the brook of the Rhyadr, like the
rill of the northern glen. The principal object of the whole is of
course the Rhyadr. What shall I liken it to? I scarcely know,
unless to an immense skein of silk agitated and disturbed by
tempestuous blasts, or to the long tail of a grey courser at
furious speed. Through the profusion of long silvery threads or
hairs, or what looked such, I could here and there see the black
sides of the crag down which the Rhyadr precipitated itself with
something between a boom and a roar.
After sitting on the verge of the hollow for a considerable time I
got up, and directed my course towards the house in front of the
grove. I turned down the path which brought me to the brook which
runs from the northern glen into the waters discharged by the
Rhyadr, and crossing it by stepping-stones, found myself on the
lowest spur of the hog-backed hill. A steep path led towards the
house. As I drew near two handsome dogs came rushing to welcome
the stranger. Coming to a door on the northern side of the house I
tapped, and a handsome girl of about thirteen making her
appearance, I inquired in English the nearest way the waterfall;
she smiled, and in her native language said that she had no Saxon.
On my telling her in Welsh that I was come to see the Pistyll she
smiled again, and said that I was welcome, then taking me round the
house, she pointed to a path and bade me follow it. I followed the
path which led downward to a tiny bridge of planks, a little way
below the fall. I advanced to the middle of the bridge, then
turning to the west, looked at the wonderful object before me.
There are many remarkable cataracts in Britain and the neighbouring
isles, even the little Celtic Isle of Man has its remarkable
waterfall; but this Rhyadr, the grand cataract of North Wales, far
exceeds them all in altitude and beauty, though it is inferior to
several of them in the volume of its flood. I never saw water
falling so gracefully, so much like thin beautiful threads, as
here. Yet even this cataract has its blemish. What beautiful
object has not something which more or less mars its loveliness?
There is an ugly black bridge or semi-circle of rock, about two
feet in diameter and about twenty feet high, which rises some
little way below it, and under which the water, after reaching the
bottom, passes, which intercepts the sight, and prevents it from
taking in the whole fall at once. This unsightly object has stood
where it now stands since the day of creation, and will probably
remain there to the day of judgment. It would be a desecration of
nature to remove it by art, but no one could regret if nature in
one of her floods were to sweep it away.
As I was standing on the planks a woman plainly but neatly dressed
came from the house. She addressed me in very imperfect English,
saying that she was the mistress of the house and should be happy
to show me about. I thanked her for her offer, and told her that
she might speak Welsh, whereupon she looked glad, and said in that
tongue that she could speak Welsh much better than Saesneg. She
took me by a winding path up a steep bank on the southern side of
the fall to a small plateau, and told me that was the best place to
see the Pistyll from. I did not think so, for we were now so near
that we were almost blinded by the spray, though, it is true, the
semicircle of rock no longer impeded the sight; this object we now
saw nearly laterally rising up like a spectral arch, spray and foam
above it, and water rushing below. "That is a bridge rather for
ysprydoedd (9) to pass over than men," said I.
"It is," said the woman; "but I once saw a man pass over it."
"How did he get up?" said I. "The sides are quite steep and
"He wriggled to the sides like a llysowen, (10) till he got to the
top, when he stood upright for a minute, and then slid down on the
"Was he any one from these parts?" said I.
"He was not. He was a dyn dieithr, a Russian; one of those with
whom we are now at war."
"Was there as much water tumbling then as now?"
"More, for there had fallen more rain."
"I suppose the torrent is sometimes very dreadful?" said I.
"It is indeed, especially in winter; for it is then like a sea, and
roars like thunder or a mad bull."
After I had seen all I wished of the cataract, the woman asked me
to come to the house and take some refreshment. I followed her to
a neat little room where she made me sit down and handed me a bowl
of butter-milk. On the table was a book in which she told me it
was customary for individuals who visited the cataract to insert
their names. I took up the book which contained a number of names
mingled here and there with pieces of poetry. Amongst these
compositions was a Welsh englyn on the Rhyadr, which, though
incorrect in its prosody, I thought stirring and grand. I copied
it, and subjoin it with a translation which I made on the spot.
"Crychiawg, ewynawg anian - yw y Rhyadr
Yn rhuo mal taran;
Colofn o dwr, gloyw-dwr glan,
Gorwyllt, un lliw ag arian."
Foaming and frothing from mountainous height,
Roaring like thunder the Rhyadr falls;
Though its silvery splendour the eye may delight,
Its fury the heart of the bravest appals.
Wild Moors - The Guide - Scientific Discourse - The Land of Arthur
- The Umbrella - Arrival at Bala.
WHEN I had rested myself and finished the buttermilk, I got up, and
making the good woman a small compensation for her civility,
inquired if I could get to Bala without returning to Llan Rhyadr.
"Oh yes," said she, "if you cross the hills for about five miles
you will find yourself upon a road which will take you straight to
"Is there anyone here," said I, "who will guide me over the hills,
provided I pay him for his trouble?"
"Oh yes," said she, "I know one who will be happy to guide you
whether you pay him or not."
She went out and presently returned with a man about thirty-five,
stout and well-looking, and dressed in a waggoner's frock.
"There," said she, "this is the man to show you over the hills; few
know the paths better."
I thanked her, and telling the man I was ready, bade him lead the
way. We set out, the two dogs of which I have spoken attending us,
and seemingly very glad to go. We ascended the side of the hog-
backed hill to the north of the Rhyadr. We were about twenty
minutes in getting to the top, close to which stood a stone or
piece of rock, very much resembling a church altar, and about the
size of one. We were now on an extensive moory elevation, having
the brook which forms the Rhyadr a little way on our left. We went
nearly due west, following no path, for path there was none, but
keeping near the brook. Sometimes we crossed water-courses which
emptied their tribute into the brook, and every now and then
ascended and descended hillocks covered with gorse and whin. After
a little time I entered into conversation with my guide. He had
not a word of English.
"Are you married?" said I.
"In truth I am, sir."
"What family have you?"
"I have a daughter."
"Where do you live?"
"At the house of the Rhyadr."
"I suppose you live there as servant?"
"No, sir, I live there as master."
"Is the good woman I saw there your wife?"
"In truth, sir, she is."
"And the young girl I saw your daughter?"
"Yes, sir, she is my daughter."
"And how came the good woman not to tell me you were her husband?"
"I suppose, sir, you did not ask who I was, and she thought you did
not care to know."
"But can you be spared from home?"
"Oh yes, sir, I was not wanted at home."
"What business are you?"
"I am a farmer, sir."
"A sheep farmer?"
"Who is your landlord."
"Well, it was very kind of you to come with me."
"Not at all, sir; I was glad to come with you, for we are very
lonesome at Rhyadr, except during a few weeks in the summer, when
the gentry come to see the Pistyll. Moreover, I have sheep lying
about here which need to be looked at now and then, and by coming
hither with you I shall have an opportunity of seeing them."
We frequently passed sheep feeding together in small numbers. In
two or three instances my guide singled out individuals, caught
them, and placing their heads between his knees examined the
insides of their eyelids, in order to learn by their colour whether
or not they were infected with the pwd or moor disorder. We had
some discourse about that malady. At last he asked me if there was
a remedy for it.
"Oh yes," said I; "a decoction of hoarhound."
"What is hoarhound?" said he.
"Llwyd y Cwn," said I. "Pour some of that down the sheep's throat
twice a day, by means of a horn, and the sheep will recover, for
the bitterness, do you see, will destroy the worm (11) in the
liver, which learned men say is the cause of the disorder."
We left the brook on our left hand and passed by some ruined walls
which my guide informed me had once belonged to houses but were now
used as sheepfolds. After walking several miles, according to my
computation, we began to ascend a considerable elevation covered
with brown heath and ling. As we went on the dogs frequently put
up a bird of a black colour, which flew away with a sharp whirr.
"What bird is that?" said I.
"Ceiliog y grug, the cock of the heath," replied my guide. "It is
said to be very good eating, but I have never tasted it. The
ceiliog y grug is not food for the like of me. It goes to feed the
rich Saxons in Caer Ludd."
We reached the top of the elevation.
"Yonder," said my guide, pointing to a white bare place a great way
off to the west, "is Bala road."
"Then I will not trouble you to go any further," said I; "I can
find my way thither."
"No, you could not," said my guide; "if you were to make straight
for that place you would perhaps fall down a steep, or sink into a
peat hole up to your middle, or lose your way and never find the
road, for you would soon lose sight of that place. Follow me, and
I will lead you into a part of the road more to the left, and then
you can find your way easily enough to that bare place, and from
thence to Bala." Thereupon he moved in a southerly direction down
the steep and I followed him. In about twenty minutes we came to
"Now," said my guide, "you are on the road; bear to the right and
you cannot miss the way to Bala."
"How far is it to Bala?" said I.
"About twelve miles," he replied.
I gave him a trifle, asking at the same time if it was sufficient.
"Too much by one-half," he replied; "many, many thanks." He then
shook me by the hand, and accompanied by his dogs departed, not
back over the moor, but in a southerly direction down the road.
Wending my course to the north, I came to the white bare spot which
I had seen from the moor, and which was in fact the top of a
considerable elevation over which the road passed. Here I turned
and looked at the hills I had come across. There they stood,
darkly blue, a rain cloud, like ink, hanging over their summits.
Oh, the wild hills of Wales, the land of old renown and of wonder,
the land of Arthur and Merlin!
The road now lay nearly due west. Rain came on, but it was at my
back, so I expanded my umbrella, flung it over my shoulder and
laughed. Oh, how a man laughs who has a good umbrella when he has
the rain at his back, aye and over his head too, and at all times
when it rains except when the rain is in his face, when the
umbrella is not of much service. Oh, what a good friend to a man
is an umbrella in rain time, and likewise at many other times.
What need he fear if a wild bull or a ferocious dog attacks him,
provided he has a good umbrella? He unfurls the umbrella in the
face of the bull or dog, and the brute turns round quite scared,
and runs away. Or if a footpad asks him for his money, what need
he care provided he has an umbrella? He threatens to dodge the
ferrule into the ruffian's eye, and the fellow starts back and
says, "Lord, sir! I meant no harm. I never saw you before in all
my life. I merely meant a little fun." Moreover, who doubts that
you are a respectable character provided you have an umbrella? You
go into a public-house and call for a pot of beer, and the publican
puts it down before you with one hand without holding out the other
for the money, for he sees that you have an umbrella and
consequently property. And what respectable man, when you overtake
him on the way and speak to him, will refuse to hold conversation
with you, provided you have an umbrella? No one. The respectable
man sees you have an umbrella, and concludes that you do not intend
to rob him, and with justice, for robbers never carry umbrellas.
Oh, a tent, a shield, a lance, and a voucher for character is an
umbrella. Amongst the very best friends of man must be reckoned an
The way lay over dreary, moory hills; at last it began to descend,
and I saw a valley below me with a narrow river running through it,
to which wooded hills sloped down; far to the west were blue
mountains. The scene was beautiful but melancholy; the rain had
passed away, but a gloomy almost November sky was above, and the
mists of night were coming down apace.
I crossed a bridge at the bottom of the valley and presently saw a
road branching to the right. I paused, but after a little time
went straight forward. Gloomy woods were on each side of me and
night had come down. Fear came upon me that I was not on the right
road, but I saw no house at which I could inquire, nor did I see a
single individual for miles of whom I could ask. At last I heard
the sound of hatchets in a dingle on my right, and catching a
glimpse of a gate at the head of a path, which led down into it, I
got over it. After descending some time I hallooed. The noise of
the hatchets ceased. I hallooed again, and a voice cried in Welsh,
"What do you want?" "To know the way to Bala," I replied. There
was no answer, but presently I heard steps, and the figure of a man
drew nigh, half undistinguishable in the darkness, and saluted me.
I returned his salutation, and told him I wanted to know the way to
Bala. He told me, and I found I had been going right. I thanked
him and regained the road. I sped onward, and in about half-an-
hour saw some houses, then a bridge, then a lake on my left, which
I recognised as the lake of Bala. I skirted the end of it, and
came to a street cheerfully lighted up, and in a minute more was in
the White Lion Inn.
Cheerful Fire - Immense Man - Doctor Jones - Recognition - A Fast
Young Man - Excellent Remarks - Disappointment.
I WAS conducted into the coffee-room of the White Lion by a little
freckled maid whom I saw at the bar, and whom I told that I was
come to pass the night at the inn. The room presented an agreeable
contrast to the gloomy, desolate places through which I had lately
come. A good fire blazed in the grate, and there were four lights
on the table. Lolling in a chair by one side of the fire was an
individual at the sight of whom I almost started. He was an
immense man, weighing I should say at least eighteen stone, with
brown hair, thinnish whiskers, half-ruddy, half-tallowy complexion,
and dressed in a brown sporting coat, drab breeches, and yellow-
topped boots - in every respect the exact image of the
Wolverhampton gent or hog-merchant who had appeared to me in my
dream at Llangollen, whilst asleep before the fire. Yes, the very
counterpart of that same gent looked this enormous fellow, save and
except that he did not appear to be more than seven or eight and
twenty, whereas the hog-merchant looked at least fifty. Laying my
satchel down I took a seat and ordered the maid to get some dinner
for me, and then asked what had become of the waiter, Tom Jenkins.
"He is not here at present, sir," said the freckled maid; "he is at
his own house."
"And why is he not here?" said I.
"Because he is not wanted, sir; he only comes in summer when the
house is full of people."
And having said this the little freckled damsel left the room.
"Reither a cool night, sir!" said the enormous man after we had
been alone together a few minutes.
I again almost started, for he spoke with the same kind of half-
piping, half-wheezing voice, with which methought the Wolverhampton
gent had spoken to me in my dream.
"Yes," said I; "it is rather cold out abroad, but I don't care as I
am not going any farther to-night."
"That's not my case," said the stout man, "I have got to go ten
miles, as far as Cerrig Drudion, from which place I came this
afternoon in a wehicle."
"Do you reside at Cerrig Drudion?" said I.
"No," said the stout man, whose dialect I shall not attempt further
to imitate, "but I have been staying there some time; for happening
to go there a month or two ago I was tempted to take up my quarters
at the inn. A very nice inn it is, and the landlady a very
agreeable woman, and her daughters very agreeable young ladies."
"Is this the first time you have been at Bala?"
"Yes, the first time. I had heard a good deal about it, and wished
to see it. So to-day, having the offer of a vehicle at a cheap
rate, I came over with two or three other gents, amongst whom is
"Dear me" said I, "is Doctor Jones in Bala?"
"Yes," said the stout man. "Do you know him?"
"Oh yes," said I, "and have a great respect for him; his like for
politeness and general learning is scarcely to be found in
"Only think," said the stout man. "Well, I never heard that of him
Wishing to see my sleeping room before I got my dinner, I now rose
and was making for the door, when it opened, and in came Doctor
Jones. He had a muffler round his neck, and walked rather slowly
and disconsolately, leaning upon a cane. He passed without
appearing to recognise me, and I, thinking it would be as well to
defer claiming acquaintance with him till I had put myself a little
to rights, went out without saying anything to him. I was shown by
the freckled maid to a nice sleeping apartment, where I stayed some
time adjusting myself. On my return to the coffee-room I found the
doctor sitting near the fire-place. The stout man had left the
room. I had no doubt that he had told Doctor Jones that I had
claimed acquaintance with him, and that the doctor, not having
recollected me, had denied that he knew anything of me, for I
observed that he looked at me very suspiciously.
I took my former seat, and after a minute's silence said to Doctor
Jones, "I think, sir, I had the pleasure of seeing you some time
ago at Cerrig Drudion?"
"It's possible, sir," said Doctor Jones in a tone of considerable
hauteur, and tossing his head so that the end of his chin was above
his comforter, "but I have no recollection of it."
I held my head down for a little time, then raising it and likewise
my forefinger, I looked Doctor Jones full in the face and said,
"Don't you remember talking to me about Owen Pugh and Coll Gwynfa?"
"Yes, I do," said Doctor Jones in a very low voice, like that of a
person who deliberates; "yes, I do. I remember you perfectly,
sir," he added almost immediately in a tone of some animation; "you
are the gentleman with whom I had a very interesting conversation
one evening last summer in the bar of the inn at Cerrig Drudion. I
regretted very much that our conversation was rather brief, but I
was called away to attend to a case, a professional case, sir, of
some delicacy, and I have since particularly regretted that I was
unable to return that night, as it would have given me much
pleasure to have been present at a dialogue, which I have been told
by my friend the landlady, you held with a certain Italian who was
staying at the house, which was highly agreeable and instructive to
herself and her daughter."
"Well," said I, "I am rejoiced that fate has brought us together
again. How have you been in health since I had the pleasure of
"Rather indifferent, sir, rather indifferent. I have of late been
afflicted with several ailments, the original cause of which, I
believe, was a residence of several years in the Ynysoedd y
Gorllewin - the West India Islands - where I had the honour of
serving her present gracious Majesty's gracious uncle, George the
Fourth - in a medical capacity, sir. I have likewise been
afflicted with lowness of spirits, sir. It was this same lowness
of spirits which induced me to accept an invitation made by the
individual lately in the room to accompany him in a vehicle with
some other people to Bala. I shall always consider my coming as a
fortunate circumstance, inasmuch as it has given me an opportunity
of renewing my acquaintance with you."
"Pray," said I, "may I take the liberty of asking who that
"Why," said Doctor Jones, "he is what they call a Wolverhampton
"A Wolverhampton gent," said I to myself; "only think!"
"Were you pleased to make any observation, sir?" said the doctor.
"I was merely saying something to myself," said I. "And in what
line of business may he be? I suppose in the hog line."
"Oh no!" said Doctor Jones. "His father, it is true, is a hog-
merchant, but as for himself he follows no business; he is what is
called a fast young man, and goes about here and there on the
spree, as I think they term it, drawing, whenever he wants money,
upon his father, who is in affluent circumstances. Some time ago
he came to Cerrig Drudion, and was so much pleased with the place,
the landlady, and her daughters, that he has made it his
headquarters ever since. Being frequently at the house I formed an
acquaintance with him, and have occasionally made one in his
parties and excursions, though I can't say I derive much pleasure
from his conversation, for he is a person of little or no
"The son of a hog-merchant," thought I to myself. "Depend upon it,
that immense fellow whom I saw in my dream purchase the big hog at
Llangollen fair, and who wanted me to give him a poond for his
bargain, was this gent's father. Oh, there is much more in dreams
than is generally dreamt of by philosophy!"
Doctor Jones presently began to talk of Welsh literature, and we
were busily engaged in discussing the subject when in walked the
fast young man, causing the floor to quake beneath his ponderous
tread. He looked rather surprised at seeing the doctor and me
conversing, but Doctor Jones turning to him, said, "Oh, I remember
this gentleman perfectly."
"Oh!" said the fast young man; "very good!" then flinging himself
down in a chair with a force that nearly broke it, and fixing his
eyes upon me, said, "I think I remember the gentleman too. If I am
not much mistaken, sir, you are one of our principal engineers at
Wolverhampton. Oh yes! I remember you now perfectly. The last
time I saw you was at a public dinner given to you at
Wolverhampton, and there you made a speech, and a capital speech it
Just as I was about to reply Doctor Jones commenced speaking Welsh,
resuming the discourse on Welsh literature. Before, however, he
had uttered a dozen words he was interrupted by the Wolverhampton
gent, who exclaimed in a blubbering tone: "O Lord, you are surely
not going to speak Welsh. If I had thought I was to be bothered
with Welsh I wouldn't have asked you to come."
"If I spoke Welsh, sir," said the doctor, "it was out of compliment
to this gentleman, who is a proficient in the ancient language of
my country. As, however, you dislike Welsh, I shall carry on the
conversation with him in English, though peradventure you may not
be more edified by it in that language than if it were held in
He then proceeded to make some very excellent remarks on the
history of the Gwedir family, written by Sir John Wynn, to which