Picture of George Borrow

George Borrow

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The Valley of Gelert - Legend of the Dog - Magnificent Scenery - The Knicht - Goats in Wales - The Frightful Crag - Temperance House - Smile and Curtsey.

BETH GELERT is situated in a valley surrounded by huge hills, the most remarkable of which are Moel Hebog and Cerrig Llan; the former fences it on the south, and the latter, which is quite black and nearly perpendicular, on the east. A small stream rushes through the valley, and sallies forth by a pass at its south-eastern end. The valley is said by some to derive its name of Beddgelert, which signifies the grave of Celert, from being the burial-place of Celert, a British saint of the sixth century, to whom Llangeler in Carmarthenshire is believed to have been consecrated, but the popular and most universally received tradition is that it has its name from being the resting-place of a faithful dog called Celert or Gelert, killed by his master, the warlike and celebrated Llywelyn ab Jorwerth, from an unlucky misapprehension. Though the legend is known to most people, I shall take the liberty of relating it.

Llywelyn during his contests with the English had encamped with a few followers in the valley, and one day departed with his men on an expedition, leaving his infant son in a cradle in his tent, under the care of his hound Gelert, after giving the child its fill of goat's milk. Whilst he was absent a wolf from the neighbouring mountains, in quest of prey, found its way into the tent, and was about to devour the child, when the watchful dog interfered, and after a desperate conflict, in which the tent was torn down, succeeded in destroying the monster. Llywelyn returning at evening found the tent on the ground, and the dog, covered with blood, sitting beside it. Imagining that the blood with which Gelert was besmeared was that of his own son devoured by the animal to whose care he had confided him, Llywelyn in a paroxysm of natural indignation forthwith transfixed the faithful creature with his spear. Scarcely, however, had he done so when his ears were startled by the cry of a child from beneath the fallen tent, and hastily removing the canvas he found the child in its cradle, quite uninjured, and the body of an enormous wolf, frightfully torn and mangled, lying near. His breast was now filled with conflicting emotions, joy for the preservation of his son, and grief for the fate of his dog, to whom he forthwith hastened. The poor animal was not quite dead, but presently expired, in the act of licking his master's hand. Llywelyn mourned over him as over a brother, buried him with funeral honours in the valley, and erected a tomb over him as over a hero. From that time the valley was called Beth Gelert.

Such is the legend, which, whether true or fictitious, is singularly beautiful and affecting.

The tomb, or what is said to be the tomb, of Gelert, stands in a beautiful meadow just below the precipitous side of Cerrig Llan: it consists of a large slab lying on its side, and two upright stones. It is shaded by a weeping willow, and is surrounded by a hexagonal paling. Who is there acquainted with the legend, whether he believes that the dog lies beneath those stones or not, can visit them without exclaiming with a sigh, "Poor Gelert!"

After wandering about the valley for some time, and seeing a few of its wonders, I inquired my way for Festiniog, and set off for that place. The way to it is through the pass at the south-east end of the valley. Arrived at the entrance of the pass I turned round to look at the scenery I was leaving behind me; the view which presented itself to my eyes was very grand and beautiful. Before me lay the meadow of Gelert with the river flowing through it towards the pass. Beyond the meadow the Snowdon range; on the right the mighty Cerrig Llan; on the left the equally mighty, but not quite so precipitous, Hebog. Truly, the valley of Gelert is a wondrous valley - rivalling for grandeur and beauty any vale either in the Alps or Pyrenees. After a long and earnest view I turned round again and proceeded on my way.

Presently I came to a bridge bestriding the stream, which a man told me was called Pont Aber Glas Lyn, or the bridge of the debouchement of the grey lake. I soon emerged from the pass, and after proceeding some way stopped again to admire the scenery. To the west was the Wyddfa; full north was a stupendous range of rocks; behind them a conical peak seemingly rivalling the Wyddfa itself in altitude; between the rocks and the road, where I stood, was beautiful forest scenery. I again went on, going round the side of a hill by a gentle ascent. After a little time I again stopped to look about me. There was the rich forest scenery to the north, behind it were the rocks and behind the rocks rose the wonderful conical hill impaling heaven; confronting it to the south-east, was a huge lumpish hill. As I stood looking about me I saw a man coming across a field which sloped down to the road from a small house. He presently reached me, stopped and smiled. A more open countenance than his I never saw in all the days of my life.

"Dydd dachwi, sir," said the man of the open countenance, "the weather is very showy."

"Very showy, indeed," said I; "I was just now wishing for somebody, of whom I might ask a question or two."

"Perhaps I can answer those questions, sir?"

"Perhaps you can. What is the name of that wonderful peak sticking up behind the rocks to the north?"

"Many people have asked that question, sir, and I have given them the answer which I now give you. It is called the 'Knicht,' sir; and a wondrous hill it is."

"And what is the name of yonder hill opposite to it, to the south, rising like one big lump."

"I do not know the name of that hill, sir, farther than that I have heard it called the Great Hill."

"And a very good name for it," said I; "do you live in that house?"

"I do, sir, when I am at home."

"And what occupation do you follow?"

"I am a farmer, though a small one."

"Is your farm your own?"

"It is not, sir: I am not so far rich."

"Who is your landlord?"

"Mr Blicklin, sir. He is my landlord."

"Is he a good landlord?"

"Very good, sir, no one can wish for a better landlord."

"Has he a wife?"

"In truth, sir, he has; and a very good wife she is."

"Has he children?"

"Plenty, sir; and very fine children they are."

"Is he Welsh?"

"He is, sir! Cumro pur iawn."

"Farewell," said I; "I shall never forget you; you are the first tenant I ever heard speak well of his landlord, or any one connected with him."

"Then you have not spoken to the other tenants of Mr Blicklin, sir. Every tenant of Mr Blicklin would say the same of him as I have said, and of his wife and his children too. Good-day, sir!"

I wended on my way; the sun was very powerful; saw cattle in a pool on my right, maddened with heat and flies, splashing and fighting. Presently I found myself with extensive meadows on my right, and a wall of rocks on my left, on a lofty bank below which I saw goats feeding; beautiful creatures they were, white and black, with long silky hair, and long upright horns. They were of large size, and very different in appearance from the common race. These were the first goats which I had seen in Wales; for Wales is not at present the land of goats, whatever it may have been.

I passed under a crag exceedingly lofty, and of very frightful appearance. It hung menacingly over the road. With this crag the wall of rocks terminated; beyond it lay an extensive strath, meadow, or marsh bounded on the cast by a lofty hill. The road lay across the marsh. I went forward, crossed a bridge over a beautiful streamlet, and soon arrived at the foot of the hill. The road now took a turn to the right, that is to the south, and seemed to lead round the hill. Just at the turn of the road stood a small neat cottage. There was a board over the door with an inscription. I drew nigh and looked at it, expecting that it would tell me that good ale was sold within, and read: "Tea made here, the draught which cheers but not inebriates." I was before what is generally termed a temperance house.

"The bill of fare does not tempt you, sir," said a woman who made her appearance at the door, just as I was about to turn away with an exceedingly wry face.

"It does not," said I, "and you ought to be ashamed of yourself to have nothing better to offer to a traveller than a cup of tea. I am faint; and I want good ale to give me heart, not wishy-washy tea to take away the little strength I have."

"What would you have me do, sir? Glad should I be to have a cup of ale to offer you, but the magistrates, when I applied to them for a licence, refused me one; so I am compelled to make a cup of tea, in order to get a crust of bread. And if you choose to step in, I will make you a cup of tea, not wishy-washy, I assure you, but as good as ever was brewed."

"I had tea for my breakfast at Beth Gelert," said I, "and want no more till to-morrow morning. What's the name of that strange- looking crag across the valley?"

"We call it Craig yr hyll ddrem, sir; which means - I don't know what it means in English."

"Does it mean the crag of the frightful look?"

"It does, sir," said the woman; "ah, I see you understand Welsh. Sometimes it's called Allt Traeth."

"The high place of the sandy channel," said I; "did the sea ever come up here?"

"I can't say, sir; perhaps it did; who knows?"

"I shouldn't wonder," said I, "if there was once an arm of the sea between that crag and this hill. Thank you! Farewell."

"Then you won't walk in, sir?

"Not to drink tea," said I, "tea is a good thing at a proper time, but were I to drink it now, it would make me ill."

"Pray, sir, walk in," said the woman, "and perhaps I can accommodate you."

"Then you have ale?" said I.

"No, sir; not a drop, but perhaps I can set something before you which you will like as well."

"That I question," said I, "however, I will walk in."

The woman conducted me into a nice little parlour, and, leaving me, presently returned with a bottle and tumbler on a tray.

"Here, sir," said she, "is something, which though not ale, I hope you will be able to drink."

"What is it?" said I.

"It is -, sir; and better never was drunk."

I tasted it; it was terribly strong. Those who wish for either whisky or brandy far above proof, should always go to a temperance house.

I told the woman to bring me some water, and she brought me a jug of water cold from the spring. With a little of the contents of the bottle, and a deal of the contents of the jug, I made myself a beverage tolerable enough; a poor substitute, however, to a genuine Englishman for his proper drink, the liquor which, according to the Edda, is called by men ale, and by the gods beer.

I asked the woman whether she could read; she told me that she could, both Welsh and English; she likewise informed me that she had several books in both languages. I begged her to show me some, whereupon she brought me some half dozen, and placing them on the table left me to myself. Amongst the books was a volume of poems in Welsh, written by Robert Williams of Betws Fawr, styled in poetic language, Gwilym Du O Eifion. The poems were chiefly on religious subjects. The following lines which I copied from "Pethau a wnaed mewn Gardd," or things written in a garden, appeared to me singularly beautiful:-

"Mewn gardd y cafodd dyn ei dwyllo;
Mewn gardd y rhoed oddewid iddo;
Mewn gardd bradychwyd Iesu hawddgar;
Mewn gardd amdowyd ef mewn daear."

"In a garden the first of our race was deceived;
In a garden the promise of grace he received;
In a garden was Jesus betrayed to His doom;
In a garden His body was laid in the tomb."

Having finished my glass of "summut" and my translation, I called to the woman and asked her what I had to pay.

"Nothing," said she, "if you had had a cup of tea I should have charged sixpence."

"You make no charge," said I, "for what I have had?"

"Nothing, sir, nothing."

"But suppose," said I, "I were to give you something by way of present would you - " and here I stopped. The woman smiled.

"Would you fling it in my face?" said I.

"Oh dear, no, sir," said the woman, smiling more than before.

I gave her something - it was not a sixpence - at which she not only smiled but curtseyed; then bidding her farewell I went out of the door.

I was about to take the broad road, which led round the hill, when she inquired of me where I was going, and on my telling her to Festiniog, she advised me to go by a by-road behind the house which led over the hill.

"If you do, sir," said she, "you will see some of the finest prospects in Wales, get into the high road again, and save a mile and a half of way."

I told the temperance woman I would follow her advice, whereupon she led me behind the house, pointed to a rugged path, which with a considerable ascent seemed to lead towards the north, and after giving certain directions, not very intelligible, returned to her temperance temple.


Spanish Proverb - The Short Cut - Predestinations - Rhys Goch - Old Crusty - Undercharging - The Cavalier.

THE Spaniards have a proverb: "No hay atajo sin trabajo," there is no short cut without a deal of labour. This proverb is very true, as I know by my own experience, for I never took a short cut in my life, and I have taken many in my wanderings, without falling down, getting into a slough, or losing my way. On the present occasion I lost my way, and wandered about for nearly two hours amidst rocks, thickets, and precipices, without being able to find it. The temperance woman, however, spoke nothing but the truth when she said I should see some fine scenery. From a rock I obtained a wonderful view of the Wyddfa towering in sublime grandeur in the west, and of the beautiful, but spectral, Knicht shooting up high in the north; and from the top of a bare hill I obtained a prospect to the south, noble indeed - waters, forests, hoary mountains, and in the far distance the sea. But all these fine prospects were a poor compensation for what I underwent: I was scorched by the sun, which was insufferably hot, and my feet were bleeding from the sharp points of the rocks which cut through my boots like razors. At length coming to a stone wall I flung myself down under it, and almost thought that I should give up the ghost. After some time, however, I recovered, and getting up tried to find my way out of the anialwch. Sheer good fortune caused me to stumble upon a path, by following which I came to a lone farm-house, where a good- natured woman gave me certain directions by means of which I at last got out of the hot stony wilderness, for such it was, upon a smooth royal road.

"Trust me again taking any short cuts," said I, "after the specimen I have just had." This, however, I had frequently said before, and have said since after taking short cuts - and probably shall often say again before I come to my great journey's end.

I turned to the east which I knew to be my proper direction, and being now on smooth ground put my legs to their best speed. The road by a rapid descent conducted me to a beautiful valley with a small town at its southern end. I soon reached the town, and on inquiring its name found I was in Tan y Bwlch, which interpreted signifieth "Below the Pass." Feeling much exhausted I entered the Grapes Inn.

On my calling for brandy and water I was shown into a handsome parlour. The brandy and water soon restored the vigour which I had lost in the wilderness. In the parlour was a serious-looking gentleman, with a glass of something before him. With him, as I sipped my brandy and water, I got into discourse. The discourse soon took a religious turn, and terminated in a dispute. He told me he believed in divine predestination; I told him I did not, but that I believed in divine prescience. He asked me whether I hoped to be saved; I told him I did, and asked him whether he hoped to be saved. He told me he did not, and as he said so, he tapped with a silver tea-spoon on the rim of his glass. I said that he seemed to take very coolly the prospect of damnation; he replied that it was of no use taking what was inevitable otherwise than coolly. I asked him on what ground he imagined he should be lost; he replied on the ground of being predestined to be lost. I asked him how he knew he was predestined to be lost; whereupon he asked me how I knew I was to be saved. I told him I did not know I was to be saved, but trusted I should be so by belief in Christ, who came into the world to save sinners, and that if he believed in Christ he might be as easily saved as myself, or any other sinner who believed in Him. Our dispute continued a considerable time longer. At last, finding him silent, and having finished my brandy and water, I got up, rang the bell, paid for what I had had, and left him looking very miserable, perhaps at finding that he was not quite so certain of eternal damnation as he had hitherto supposed. There can be no doubt that the idea of damnation is anything but disagreeable to some people; it gives them a kind of gloomy consequence in their own eyes. We must be something particular they think, or God would hardly think it worth His while to torment us for ever.

I inquired the way to Festiniog, and finding that I had passed by it on my way to the town, I went back, and as directed turned to the east up a wide pass, down which flowed a river. I soon found myself in another and very noble valley, intersected by the river which was fed by numerous streams rolling down the sides of the hills. The road which I followed in the direction of the east lay on the southern side of the valley and led upward by a steep ascent. On I went, a mighty hill close on my right. My mind was full of enthusiastic fancies; I was approaching Festiniog the birthplace of Rhys Goch, who styled himself Rhys Goch of Eryri or Red Rhys of Snowdon, a celebrated bard, and a partisan of Owen Glendower, who lived to an immense age, and who, as I had read, was in the habit of composing his pieces seated on a stone which formed part of a Druidical circle, for which reason the stone was called the chair of Rhys Goch; yes, my mind was full of enthusiastic fancies all connected with this Rhys Goch, and as I went along slowly, I repeated stanzas of furious war songs of his exciting his countrymen to exterminate the English, and likewise snatches of an abusive ode composed by him against a fox who had run away with his favourite peacock, a piece so abounding with hard words that it was termed the Drunkard's chokepear, as no drunkard was ever able to recite it, and ever and anon I wished I could come in contact with some native of the region with whom I could talk about Rhys Goch, and who could tell me whereabouts stood his chair.

Strolling along in this manner I was overtaken by an old fellow with a stick in his hand, walking very briskly. He had a crusty and rather conceited look. I spoke to him in Welsh, and he answered in English, saying that I need not trouble myself by speaking Welsh, as he had plenty of English, and of the very best. We were from first to last at cross purposes. I asked him about Rhys Goch and his chair. He told me that he knew nothing of either, and began to talk of Her Majesty's ministers and the fine sights of London. I asked him the name of a stream which, descending a gorge on our right, ran down the side of a valley, to join the river at its bottom. He told me that he did not know, and asked me the name of the Queen's eldest daughter. I told him I did not know, and remarked that it was very odd that he could not tell me the name of a stream in his own vale. He replied that it was not a bit more odd than that I could not tell him the name of the eldest daughter of the Queen of England: I told him that when I was in Wales I wanted to talk about Welsh matters, and he told me that when he was with English he wanted to talk about English matters. I returned to the subject of Rhys Goch and his chair, and he returned to the subject of Her Majesty's ministers, and the fine folks of London. I told him that I cared not a straw about Her Majesty's ministers and the fine folks of London, and he replied that he cared not a straw for Rhys Goch, his chair or old women's stories of any kind.

Regularly incensed against the old fellow, I told him he was a bad Welshman, and he retorted by saying I was a bad Englishman. I said he appeared to know next to nothing. He retorted by saying I knew less than nothing, and almost inarticulate with passion added that he scorned to walk in such illiterate company, and suiting the action to the word sprang up a steep and rocky footpath on the right, probably a short cut to his domicile, and was out of sight in a twinkling. We were both wrong: I most so. He was crusty and conceited, but I ought to have humoured him and then I might have got out of him anything he knew, always supposing that he knew anything.

About an hour's walk from Tan y Bwlch brought me to Festiniog, which is situated on the top of a lofty hill looking down from the south-east, on the valley which I have described, and which as I know not its name I shall style the Valley of the numerous streams. I went to the inn, a large old-fashioned house standing near the church; the mistress of it was a queer-looking old woman, antiquated in her dress and rather blunt in her manner. Of her, after ordering dinner, I made inquiries respecting the chair of Rhys Goch, but she said that she had never heard of such a thing, and after glancing at me askew, for a moment, with a curiously- formed left eye which she had, went away muttering chair, chair; leaving me in a large and rather dreary parlour, to which she had shown me. I felt very fatigued, rather I believe from that unlucky short cut than from the length of the way, for I had not come more than eighteen miles. Drawing a chair towards a table I sat down, and placing my elbows upon the board I leaned my face upon my upturned hands, and presently fell into a sweet sleep, from which I awoke exceedingly refreshed just as a maid opened the room door to lay the cloth.

After dinner I got up, went out and strolled about the place. It was small, and presented nothing very remarkable. Tired of strolling I went and leaned my back against the wall of the churchyard and enjoyed the cool of the evening, for evening with its coolness and shadows had now come on.

As I leaned against the wall, an elderly man came up and entered into discourse with me. He told me he was a barber by profession, had travelled all over Wales, and had seen London. I asked him about the chair of Rhys Goch. He told me that he had heard of some such chair a long time ago, but could give me no information as to where it stood. I know not how it happened that he came to speak about my landlady, but speak about her he did. He said that she was a good kind of woman, but totally unqualified for business, as she knew not how to charge. On my observing that that was a piece of ignorance with which few landladies or landlords either were taxable, he said that however other publicans might overcharge, undercharging was her foible, and that she had brought herself very low in the world by it - that to his certain knowledge she might have been worth thousands instead of the trifle which she was possessed of, and that she was particularly notorious for undercharging the English, a thing never before dreamt of in Wales. I told him that I was very glad that I had come under the roof of such a landlady; the old barber, however, said that she was setting a bad example, that such goings on could not last long, that he knew how things would end, and finally working himself up into a regular tiff left me abruptly without wishing me good-night.

I returned to the inn, and called for lights; the lights were placed upon the table in the old-fashioned parlour, and I was left to myself. I walked up and down the room some time. At length, seeing some old books lying in a corner, I laid hold of them, carried them to the table, sat down and began to inspect them; they were the three volumes of Scott's "Cavalier" - I had seen this work when a youth, and thought it a tiresome trashy publication. Looking over it now when I was grown old I thought so still, but I now detected in it what from want of knowledge I had not detected in my early years, what the highest genius, had it been manifested in every page, could not have compensated for, base fulsome adulation of the worthless great, and most unprincipled libelling of the truly noble ones of the earth, because they the sons of peasants and handycraftsmen, stood up for the rights of outraged humanity, and proclaimed that it is worth makes the man and not embroidered clothing. The heartless, unprincipled son of the tyrant was transformed in that worthless book into a slightly- dissipated, it is true, but upon the whole brave, generous and amiable being; and Harrison, the English Regulus, honest, brave, unflinching Harrison, into a pseudo-fanatic, a mixture of the rogue and fool. Harrison, probably the man of the most noble and courageous heart that England ever produced, who when all was lost scorned to flee, like the second Charles from Worcester, but, braved infamous judges and the gallows, who when reproached on his mock trial with complicity in the death of the king, gave the noble answer that "It was a thing not done in a corner," and when in the cart on the way to Tyburn, on being asked jeeringly by a lord's bastard in the crowd, "Where is the good old cause now?" thrice struck his strong fist on the breast which contained his courageous heart, exclaiming, "Here, here, here!" Yet for that "Cavalier," that trumpery publication, the booksellers of England, on its first appearance, gave an order to the amount of six thousand pounds. But they were wise in their generation; they knew that the book would please the base, slavish taste of the age, a taste which the author of the work had had no slight share in forming.

Tired after a while with turning over the pages of the trashy "Cavalier" I returned the volumes to their place in the corner, blew out one candle, and taking the other in my hand marched off to bed.


The Bill - The Two Mountains - Sheet of Water - The Afanc-Crocodile - The Afanc-Beaver - Tai Hirion - Kind Woman - Arenig Vawr - The Beam and Mote - Bala.

AFTER breakfasting I demanded my bill. I was curious to see how little the amount would be, for after what I had heard from the old barber the preceding evening about the utter ignorance of the landlady in making a charge, I naturally expected that I should have next to nothing to pay. When it was brought, however, and the landlady brought it herself, I could scarcely believe my eyes. Whether the worthy woman had lately come to a perception of the folly of undercharging, and had determined to adopt a different system; whether it was that seeing me the only guest in the house she had determined to charge for my entertainment what she usually charged for that of two or three - strange by-the-bye that I should be the only guest in a house notorious for undercharging - I know not, but certain it is the amount of the bill was far, far from the next to nothing which the old barber had led me to suppose I should have to pay, who perhaps after all had very extravagant ideas with respect to making out a bill for a Saxon. It was, however, not a very unconscionable bill, and merely amounted to a trifle more than I had paid at Beth Gelert for somewhat better entertainment.

Having paid the bill without demur and bidden the landlady farewell, who displayed the same kind of indifferent bluntness which she had manifested the day before, I set off in the direction of the east, intending that my next stage should be Bala. Passing through a tollgate I found myself in a kind of suburb consisting of a few cottages. Struck with the neighbouring scenery, I stopped to observe it. A mighty mountain rises in the north almost abreast of Festiniog; another towards the east divided into two of unequal size. Seeing a woman of an interesting countenance seated at the door of a cottage I pointed to the hill towards the north, and speaking the Welsh language, inquired its name.

"That hill, sir," said she, "is called Moel Wyn."

Now Moel Wyn signifies the white, bare hill.

"And how do you call those two hills towards the east?"

"We call one, sir, Mynydd Mawr, the other Mynydd Bach."

Now Mynydd Mawr signifies the great mountain and Mynydd Bach the little one.

"Do any people live in those hills?"

"The men who work the quarries, sir, live in those hills. They and their wives and their children. No other people."

"Have you any English?"

"I have not, sir. No people who live on this side the talcot (tollgate) for a long way have any English."

I proceeded on my journey. The country for some way eastward of Festiniog is very wild and barren, consisting of huge hills without trees or verdure. About three miles' distance, however, there is a beautiful valley, which you look down upon from the southern side of the road, after having surmounted a very steep ascent. This valley is fresh and green and the lower parts of the hills on its farther side are, here and there, adorned with groves. At the eastern end is a deep, dark gorge, or ravine, down which tumbles a brook in a succession of small cascades. The ravine is close by the road. The brook after disappearing for a time shows itself again far down in the valley, and is doubtless one of the tributaries of the Tan y Bwlch river, perhaps the very same brook the name of which I could not learn the preceding day in the vale.

As I was gazing on the prospect an old man driving a peat cart came from the direction in which I was going. I asked him the name of the ravine and he told me it was Ceunant Coomb or hollow-dingle coomb. I asked the name of the brook, and he told me that it was called the brook of the hollow-dingle coomb, adding that it ran under Pont Newydd, though where that was I knew not. Whilst he was talking with me he stood uncovered. Yes, the old peat driver stood with his hat in his hand whilst answering the questions of the poor, dusty foot-traveller. What a fine thing to be an Englishman in Wales!

In about an hour I came to a wild moor; the moor extended for miles and miles. It was bounded on the east and south by immense hills and moels. On I walked at a round pace, the sun scorching me sore, along a dusty, hilly road, now up, now down. Nothing could be conceived more cheerless than the scenery around. The ground on each side of the road was mossy and rushy - no houses - instead of them were neat stacks, here and there, standing in their blackness. Nothing living to be seen except a few miserable sheep picking the wretched herbage, or lying panting on the shady side of the peat clumps. At length I saw something which appeared to be a sheet of water at the bottom of a low ground on my right. It looked far off - "Shall I go and see what it is?" thought I to myself. "No," thought I. "It is too far off" - so on I walked till I lost sight of it, when I repented and thought I would go and see what it was. So I dashed down the moory slope on my right, and presently saw the object again - and now I saw that it was water. I sped towards it through gorse and heather, occasionally leaping a deep drain. At last I reached it. It was a small lake. Wearied and panting I flung myself on its bank and gazed upon it.

There lay the lake in the low bottom, surrounded by the heathery hillocks; there it lay quite still, the hot sun reflected upon its surface, which shone like a polished blue shield. Near the shore it was shallow, at least near that shore upon which I lay. But farther on, my eye, practised in deciding upon the depths of waters, saw reason to suppose that its depth was very great. As I gazed upon it my mind indulged in strange musings. I thought of the afanc, a creature which some have supposed to be the harmless and industrious beaver, others the frightful and destructive crocodile. I wondered whether the afanc was the crocodile or the beaver, and speedily had no doubt that the name was originally applied to the crocodile.

"Oh, who can doubt," thought I, "that the word was originally intended for something monstrous and horrible? Is there not something horrible in the look and sound of the word afanc, something connected with the opening and shutting of immense jaws, and the swallowing of writhing prey? Is not the word a fitting brother of the Arabic timsah, denoting the dread horny lizard of the waters? Moreover, have we not the voice of tradition that the afanc was something monstrous? Does it not say that Hu the Mighty, the inventor of husbandry, who brought the Cumry from the summer- country, drew the old afanc out of the lake of lakes with his four gigantic oxen? Would he have had recourse to them to draw out the little harmless beaver? Oh, surely not. Yet have I no doubt that when the crocodile had disappeared from the lands, where the Cumric language was spoken, the name afanc was applied to the beaver, probably his successor in the pool, the beaver now called in Cumric Llostlydan, or the broad-tailed, for tradition's voice is strong that the beaver has at one time been called the afanc." Then I wondered whether the pool before me had been the haunt of the afanc, considered both as crocodile and beaver. I saw no reason to suppose that it had not. "If crocodiles," thought I, "ever existed in Britain, and who shall say that they have not, seeing that there remains have been discovered, why should they not have haunted this pool? If beavers ever existed in Britain, and do not tradition and Giraldus say that they have, why should they not have existed in this pool?

"At a time almost inconceivably remote, when the hills around were covered with woods, through which the elk and the bison and the wild cow strolled, when men were rare throughout the lands and unlike in most things to the present race - at such a period - and such a period there has been - I can easily conceive that the afanc-crocodile haunted this pool, and that when the elk or bison or wild cow came to drink of its waters the grim beast would occasionally rush forth, and seizing his bellowing victim, would return with it to the deeps before me to luxuriate at his ease upon its flesh. And at a time less remote, when the crocodile was no more, and though the woods still covered the hills, and wild cattle strolled about, men were more numerous than before, and less unlike the present race, I can easily conceive this lake to have been the haunt of the afanc-beaver, that he here built cunningly his house of trees and clay, and that to this lake the native would come with his net and his spear to hunt the animal for his precious fur. Probably if the depths of that pool were searched relics of the crocodile and the beaver might be found, along with other strange things connected with the periods in which they respectively lived. Happy were I if for a brief space I could become a Cingalese that I might swim out far into that pool, dive down into its deepest part and endeavour to discover any strange things which beneath its surface may lie." Much in this guise rolled my thoughts as I lay stretched on the margin of the lake.

Satiated with musing I at last got up and endeavoured to regain the road. I found it at last, though not without considerable difficulty. I passed over moors, black and barren, along a dusty road till I came to a valley; I was now almost choked with dust and thirst, and longed for nothing in the world so much as for water; suddenly I heard its blessed sound, and perceived a rivulet on my left hand. It was crossed by two bridges, one immensely old and terribly dilapidated, the other old enough, but in better repair - went and drank under the oldest bridge of the two. The water tasted of the peat of the moors, nevertheless I drank greedily of it, for one must not be over-delicate upon the moors.

Refreshed with my draught I proceeded briskly on my way, and in a little time saw a range of white buildings, diverging from the road on the right hand, the gable of the first abutting upon it. A kind of farm-yard was before them. A respectable-looking woman was standing in the yard. I went up to her and inquired the name of the place.

"These houses, sir," said she, "are called Tai Hirion Mignaint. Look over that door and you will see T. H. which letters stand for Tai Hirion. Mignaint is the name of the place where they stand."

I looked, and upon a stone which formed the lintel of the middlemost door I read "T. H 1630."

The words Tai Hirion it will be as well to say signify the long houses.

I looked long and steadfastly at the inscription, my mind full of thoughts of the past.

"Many a year has rolled by since these houses were built," said I, as I sat down on a stepping-stone.

"Many indeed, sir," said the woman, "and many a strange thing has happened."

"Did you ever hear of one Oliver Cromwell?" said I.

"Oh, yes, sir, and of King Charles too. The men of both have been in this yard and have baited their horses; aye, and have mounted their horses from the stone on which you sit."

"I suppose they were hardly here together?" said I.

"No, no, sir," said the woman, "they were bloody enemies, and could never set their horses together."

"Are these long houses," said I, "inhabited by different families?"

"Only by one, sir, they make now one farm-house."

"Are you the mistress of it," said I.

"I am, sir, and my husband is the master. Can I bring you anything, sir?"

"Some water," said I, "for I am thirsty, though I drank under the old bridge."

The good woman brought me a basin of delicious milk and water.

"What are the names of the two bridges," said I, "a little way from here?"

"They are called, sir, the old and new bridge of Tai Hirion; at least we call them so."

"And what do you call the ffrwd that runs beneath them?"

"I believe, sir, it is called the river Twerin."

"Do you know a lake far up there amidst the moors?"

"I have seen it, sir; they call it Llyn Twerin."

"Does the river Twerin flow from it?"

"I believe it does, sir, but I do not know."

"Is the lake deep?"

"I have heard that it is very deep, sir, so much so that nobody knows it's depth."

"Are there fish in it?"

"Digon, sir, digon iawn, and some very large. I once saw a Pen- hwyad from that lake which weighed fifty pounds."

After a little farther conversation I got up, and thanking the kind woman departed. I soon left the moors behind me and continued walking till I came to a few houses on the margin of a meadow or fen in a valley through which the way trended to the east. They were almost overshadowed by an enormous mountain which rose beyond the fen on the south. Seeing a house which bore a sign, and at the door of which a horse stood tied, I went in, and a woman coming to meet me in a kind of passage, I asked her if I could have some ale.

"Of the best, sir," she replied, and conducted me down the passage into a neat room, partly kitchen, partly parlour, the window of which looked out upon the fen. A rustic-looking man sat smoking at a table with a jug of ale before him. I sat down near him, and the good woman brought me a similar jug of ale, which on tasting I found excellent. My spirits which had been for some time very flagging presently revived, and I entered into conversation with my companion at the table. From him I learned that he was a farmer of the neighbourhood, that the horse tied before the door belonged to him, that the present times were very bad for the producers of grain, with very slight likelihood of improvement; that the place at which we were was called Rhyd y fen, or the ford across the fen; that it was just half way between Festiniog and Bala, that the clergyman of the parish was called Mr Pughe, a good kind of man, but very purblind in a spiritual sense; and finally that there was no safe religion in the world, save that of the Calvinistic- Methodists, to which my companion belonged.

Having finished my ale I paid for it, and leaving the Calvinistic farmer still smoking, I departed from Rhyd y fen. On I went along the valley, the enormous hill on my right, a moel of about half its height on my left, and a tall hill bounding the prospect in the east, the direction in which I was going. After a little time, meeting two women, I asked them the name of the mountain to the south.

"Arenig Vawr," they replied, or something like it.

Presently meeting four men I put the same question to the foremost, a stout, burly, intelligent-looking fellow, of about fifty. He gave me the same name as the women. I asked if anybody lived upon it.

"No," said he, "too cold for man."

"Fox?" said I.

"No! too cold for fox."

"Crow?" said I.

"No, too cold for crow; crow would be starved upon it." He then looked me in the face, expecting probably that I should smile.

I, however, looked at him with all the gravity of a judge, whereupon he also observed the gravity of a judge, and we continued looking at each other with all the gravity of judges till we both simultaneously turned away, he followed by his companions going his path, and I going mine.

I subsequently remembered that Arenig is mentioned in a Welsh poem, though in anything but a flattering and advantageous manner. The writer calls it Arenig ddiffaith or barren Arenig, and says that it intercepts from him the view of his native land. Arenig is certainly barren enough, for there is neither tree nor shrub upon it, but there is something majestic in its huge bulk. Of all the hills which I saw in Wales none made a greater impression upon me.

Towards evening I arrived at a very small and pretty village in the middle of which was a tollgate. Seeing an old woman seated at the door of the gate-house I asked her the name of the village. "I have no Saesneg!" she screamed out.

"I have plenty of Cumraeg," said I, and repeated my question. Whereupon she told me that it was called Tref y Talcot - the village of the tollgate. That it was a very nice village, and that she was born there. She then pointed to two young women who were walking towards the gate at a very slow pace and told me they were English. "I do not know them," said I. The old lady, who was somewhat deaf, thinking that I said I did not know English, leered at me complacently, and said that in that case, I was like herself, for she did not speak a word of English, adding that a body should not be considered a fool for not speaking English. She then said that the young women had been taking a walk together, and that they were much in each other's company for the sake of conversation, and no wonder, as the poor simpletons could not speak a word of Welsh. I thought of the beam and mote mentioned in Scripture, and then cast a glance of compassion on the two poor young women. For a moment I fancied myself in the times of Owen Glendower, and that I saw two females, whom his marauders had carried off from Cheshire or Shropshire to toil and slave in the Welshery, walking together after the labours of the day were done, and bemoaning their misfortunes in their own homely English.

Shortly after leaving the village of the tollgate I came to a beautiful valley. On my right hand was a river the farther bank of which was fringed with trees; on my left was a gentle ascent, the lower part of which was covered with rich grass, and the upper with yellow luxuriant corn; a little farther on was a green grove, behind which rose up a moel. A more bewitching scene I never beheld. Ceres and Pan seemed in this place to have met to hold their bridal. The sun now descending shone nobly upon the whole. After staying for some time to gaze, I proceeded, and soon met several carts, from the driver of one of which I learned that I was yet three miles from Bala. I continued my way and came to a bridge, a little way beyond which I overtook two men, one of whom, an old fellow, held a very long whip in his hand, and the other, a much younger man with a cap on his head, led a horse. When I came up the old fellow took off his hat to me, and I forthwith entered into conversation with him. I soon gathered from him that he was a horsedealer from Bala, and that he had been out on the road with his servant to break a horse. I astonished the old man with my knowledge of Welsh and horses, and learned from him - for conceiving I was one of the right sort, he was very communicative - two or three curious particulars connected with the Welsh mode of breaking horses. Discourse shortened the way to both of us, and we were soon in Bala. In the middle of the town he pointed to a large old-fashioned house on the right hand, at the bottom of a little square, and said, "Your honour was just asking me about an inn. That is the best inn in Wales, and if your honour is as good a judge of an inn as of a horse, I think you will say so when you leave it. Prydnawn da 'chwi!"

George Borrow, Wild Wales: Its People, Language and Scenery (Oxford, Mississippi, 1996)

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