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Title: The Description of Wales
Author: Cambrensis, Giraldus
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Description of Wales" ***

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Transcribed from the 1912 J. M. Dent edition by David Price, email

                         THE DESCRIPTION OF WALES
                             Gerald of Wales


I, WHO, at the expense of three years’ labour, arranged, a short time
ago, in three parts, the Topography of Ireland, with a description of its
natural curiosities, and who afterwards, by two years’ study, completed
in two parts the Vaticinal History of its Conquest; and who, by
publishing the Itinerary of the Holy Man (Baldwin) through Cambria,
prevented his laborious mission from perishing in obscurity, do now
propose, in the present little work, to give some account of this my
native country, and to describe the genius of its inhabitants, so
entirely distinct from that of other nations.  And this production of my
industry I have determined to dedicate to you, illustrious Stephen,
archbishop of Canterbury, as I before ascribed to you my Itinerary;
considering you as a man no less distinguished by your piety, than
conspicuous for your learning; though so humble an offering may possibly
be unworthy the acceptance of a personage who, from his eminence,
deserves to be presented with works of the greatest merit.

Some, indeed, object to this my undertaking, and, apparently from motives
of affection, compare me to a painter, who, rich in colours, and like
another Zeuxis, eminent in his art, is endeavouring with all his skill
and industry to give celebrity to a cottage, or to some other
contemptible object, whilst the world is anxiously expecting from his
hand a temple or a palace.  Thus they wonder that I, amidst the many
great and striking subjects which the world presents, should choose to
describe and to adorn, with all the graces of composition, such remote
corners of the earth as Ireland and Wales.

Others again, reproaching me with greater severity, say, that the gifts
which have been bestowed upon me from above, ought not to be wasted upon
these insignificant objects, nor lavished in a vain display of learning
on the commendation of princes, who, from their ignorance and want of
liberality, have neither taste to appreciate, nor hearts to remunerate
literary excellence.  And they further add, that every faculty which
emanates from the Deity, ought rather to be applied to the illustration
of celestial objects, and to the exultation of his glory, from whose
abundance all our talents have been received; every faculty (say they)
ought to be employed in praising him from whom, as from a perennial
source, every perfect gift is derived, and from whose bounty everything
which is offered with sincerity obtains an ample reward.  But since
excellent histories of other countries have been composed and published
by writers of eminence, I have been induced, by the love I bear to my
country and to posterity, to believe that I should perform neither an
useless nor an unacceptable service, were I to unfold the hidden merits
of my native land; to rescue from obscurity those glorious actions which
have been hitherto imperfectly described, and to bring into repute, by my
method of treating it, a subject till now regarded as contemptible.

What indeed could my feeble and unexercised efforts add to the histories
of the destruction of Troy, Thebes, or Athens, or to the conquest of the
shores of Latium?  Besides, to do what has been already done, is, in
fact, to be doing nothing; I have, therefore, thought it more eligible to
apply my industry to the arrangement of the history of my native country,
hitherto almost wholly overlooked by strangers; but interesting to my
relations and countrymen; and from these small beginnings to aspire by
degrees to works of a nobler cast.  From these inconsiderable attempts,
some idea may be formed with what success, should Fortune afford an
opportunity, I am likely to treat matters of greater importance.  For
although some things should be made our principal objects, whilst others
ought not to be wholly neglected, I may surely be allowed to exercise the
powers of my youth, as yet untaught and unexperienced, in pursuits of
this latter nature, lest by habit I should feel a pleasure in indolence
and in sloth, the parent of vice.

I have therefore employed these studies as a kind of introduction to the
glorious treasures of that most excellent of the sciences, which alone
deserves the name of science; which alone can render us wise to rule and
to instruct mankind; which alone the other sciences follow, as attendants
do their queen.  Laying therefore in my youth the foundations of so noble
a structure, it is my intention, if God will assist me and prolong my
life, to reserve my maturer years for composing a treatise upon so
perfect, so sacred a subject: for according to the poet,

                 “Ardua quippe fides robustos exigit annos;”

     “The important concerns of faith require a mind in its full vigour;”

I may be permitted to indulge myself for a short time in other pursuits;
but in this I should wish not only to continue, but to die.

But before I enter on this important subject, I demand a short interval,
to enable me to lay before the public my Treatise on the Instruction of a
Prince, which has been so frequently promised, as well as the Description
of Wales, which is now before me, and the Topography of Britain.

Of all the British writers, Gildas alone appears to me (as often as the
course of my subject leads me to consult him) worthy of imitation; for by
committing to paper the things which he himself saw and knew, and by
declaring rather than describing the desolation of his country, he has
compiled a history more remarkable for its truth than for its elegance.

Giraldus therefore follows Gildas, whom he wishes he could copy in his
life and manners; becoming an imitator of his wisdom rather than of his
eloquence—of his mind rather than of his writings—of his zeal rather than
of his style—of his life rather than of his language.


WHEN, amidst various literary pursuits, I first applied my mind to the
compilation of history, I determined, lest I should appear ungrateful to
my native land, to describe, to the best of my abilities, my own country
and its adjoining regions; and afterwards, under God’s guidance, to
proceed to a description of more distant territories.  But since some
leading men (whom we have both seen and known) show so great a contempt
for literature, that they immediately shut up within their book-cases the
excellent works with which they are presented, and thus doom them, as it
were, to a perpetual imprisonment; I entreat you, illustrious Prelate, to
prevent the present little work, which will shortly be delivered to you,
from perishing in obscurity.  And because this, as well as my former
productions, though of no transcendent merit, may hereafter prove to many
a source of entertainment and instruction, I entreat you generously to
order it to be made public, by which it will acquire reputation.  And I
shall consider myself sufficiently rewarded for my trouble, if,
withdrawing for a while from your religious and secular occupations, you
would kindly condescend to peruse this book, or, at least, give it an
attentive hearing; for in times like these, when no one remunerates
literary productions, I neither desire nor expect any other recompense.
Not that it would appear in any way inconsistent, however there exists
among men of rank a kind of conspiracy against authors, if a prelate so
eminently conspicuous for his virtues, for his abilities, both natural
and acquired, for irreproachable morals, and for munificence, should
distinguish himself likewise by becoming the generous and sole patron of
literature.  To comprise your merits in a few words, the lines of Martial
addressed to Trajan, whilst serving under Dioclesian, may be deservedly
applied to you:

    “Laudari debes quoniam sub principe duro,
       Temporibusque malis, ausus es esse bonus.”

And those also of Virgil to Mecænas, which extol the humanity of that
great man:

    “Omnia cum possis tanto tam clarus amico,
    Te sensit nemo posse nocere tamen.”

Many indeed remonstrate against my proceedings, and those particularly
who call themselves my friends insist that, in consequence of my violent
attachment to study, I pay no attention to the concerns of the world, or
to the interests of my family; and that, on this account, I shall
experience a delay in my promotion to worldly dignities; that the
influence of authors, both poets and historians, has long since ceased;
that the respect paid to literature vanished with literary princes; and
that in these degenerate days very different paths lead to honours and
opulence.  I allow all this, I readily allow it, and acquiesce in the
truth.  For the unprincipled and covetous attach themselves to the court,
the churchmen to their books, and the ambitious to the public offices,
but as every man is under the influence of some darling passion, so the
love of letters and the study of eloquence have from my infancy had for
me peculiar charms of attraction.  Impelled by this thirst for knowledge,
I have carried my researches into the mysterious works of nature farther
than the generality of my contemporaries, and for the benefit of
posterity have rescued from oblivion the remarkable events of my own
times.  But this object was not to be secured without an indefatigable,
though at the same time an agreeable, exertion; for an accurate
investigation of every particular is attended with much difficulty.  It
is difficult to produce an orderly account of the investigation and
discovery of truth; it is difficult to preserve from the beginning to the
end a connected relation unbroken by irrelevant matter; and it is
difficult to render the narration no less elegant in the diction, than
instructive in its matter, for in prosecuting the series of events, the
choice of happy expressions is equally perplexing, as the search after
them painful.  Whatever is written requires the most intense thought, and
every expression should be carefully polished before it be submitted to
the public eye; for, by exposing itself to the examination of the present
and of future ages, it must necessarily undergo the criticism not only of
the acute, but also of the dissatisfied, reader.  Words merely uttered
are soon forgotten, and the admiration or disgust which they occasioned
is no more; but writings once published are never lost, and remain as
lasting memorials either of the glory or of the disgrace of the author.
Hence the observation of Seneca, that the malicious attention of the
envious reader dwells with no less satisfaction on a faulty than on an
elegant expression, and is as anxious to discover what it may ridicule,
as what it may commend; as the poet also observes:

    “Discit enim citius meminitque libentius illud
    Quod quis deridet, quam quod probat et veneratur.”

Among the pursuits, therefore, most worthy of commendation, this holds by
no means the lowest rank; for history, as the moral philosopher declares,
“is the record of antiquity, the testimony of ages, the light of truth,
the soul of memory, the mistress of conduct, and the herald of ancient

This study is the more delightful, as it is more honourable to produce
works worthy of being quoted than to quote the works of others; as it is
more desirable to be the author of compositions which deserve to be
admired than to be esteemed a good judge of the writings of other men; as
it is more meritorious to be the just object of other men’s commendations
than to be considered an adept in pointing out the merits of others.  On
these pleasing reflections I feed and regale myself; for I would rather
resemble Jerome than Croesus, and I prefer to riches themselves the man
who is capable of despising them.  With these gratifying ideas I rest
contented and delighted, valuing moderation more than intemperance, and
an honourable sufficiency more than superfluity; for intemperance and
superfluity produce their own destruction, but their opposite virtues
never perish; the former vanish, but the latter, like eternity, remain
for ever; in short, I prefer praise to lucre, and reputation to riches.


                                BOOK I
    CHAPTER                                                       PAGE
         I.  Length and Breadth of Wales, the Nature of its        155
             Soil, and the Three Remaining Tribes of
        II.  Of the Ancient Division of Wales into Three           156
       III.  Genealogy of the Princes of Wales                     157
        IV.  Cantreds—Royal Palaces—Cathedrals                     158
         V.  Mountains and Rivers of Wales                         159
        VI.  Concerning the Pleasantness and Fertility of          163
       VII.  Origin of the Names Cambria and Wales                 164
      VIII.  Concerning the Nature, Manners, and Dress, the        166
             Boldness, Agility, and Courage, of this Nation
        IX.  Their Sober Supper and Frugality                      168
         X.  Their Hospitality and Liberality                      170
        XI.  Concerning their cutting of their Hair, their         171
             Care of their Teeth, and Shaving of their
       XII.  Their Quickness and Sharpness of Understanding        174
      XIII.  Their Symphonies and Songs                            175
       XIV.  Their Wit and Pleasantry                              177
        XV.  Their Boldness and Confidence in Speaking             183
       XVI.  Concerning the Soothsayers of this Nation, and        179
             Persons as it were possessed
      XVII.  Their Love of High Birth and Ancient Genealogy        183
     XVIII.  Their Ancient Faith, Love of Christianity and         185
                               BOOK II
         I.  Concerning the Inconstancy and Instability of         189
             this Nation, and their Want of Reverence for
             Good Faith and Oaths
        II.  Their living by Plunder, and Disregard of the         190
             Bonds of Peace and Friendship
       III.  Their Deficiency in Battle, and Base and              192
             Dishonourable Flight
        IV.  Their Ambitious Seizure of Lands, and                 193
             Dissensions among Brothers
         V.  Their great Exaction, and Want of Moderation          194
        VI.  Concerning the Crime of Incest, and the Abuse         195
             of Churches by Succession and Participation
       VII.  Their Sins, and the consequent Loss of Britain        196
             and of Troy
      VIII.  In what Manner this Nation is to be overcome          198
        IX.  In what Manner Wales, when conquered, should          202
             be governed
         X.  In what Manner this Nation may resist and             204



CAMBRIA, which, by a corrupt and common term, though less proper, is in
modern times called Wales, is about two hundred miles long and one
hundred broad.  The length from Port Gordber {155a} in Anglesey to Port
Eskewin {155b} in Monmouthshire is eight days’ journey in extent; the
breadth from Porth Mawr, {155c} or the great Port of St. David’s, to
Ryd-helic, {155d} which in Latin means _Vadum salicis_, or the Ford of
the Willow, and in English is called Willow-forde, is four days’ journey.
It is a country very strongly defended by high mountains, deep valleys,
extensive woods, rivers, and marshes; insomuch that from the time the
Saxons took possession of the island the remnants of the Britons,
retiring into these regions, could never be entirely subdued either by
the English or by the Normans.  Those who inhabited the southern angle of
the island, which took its name from the chieftain Corinæus, {156} made
less resistance, as their country was more defenceless.  The third
division of the Britons, who obtained a part of Britany in Gaul, were
transported thither, not after the defeat of their nation, but long
before, by king Maximus, and, in consequence of the hard and continued
warfare which they underwent with him, were rewarded by the royal
munificence with those districts in France.


WALES was in ancient times divided into three parts nearly equal,
consideration having been paid, in this division, more to the value than
to the just quantity or proportion of territory.  They were Venedotia,
now called North Wales; Demetia, or South Wales, which in British is
called Deheubarth, that is, the southern part; and Powys, the middle or
eastern district.  Roderic the Great, or Rhodri Mawr, who was king over
all Wales, was the cause of this division.  He had three sons, Mervin,
Anarawt, and Cadell, amongst whom he partitioned the whole principality.
North Wales fell to the lot of Mervin; Powys to Anarawt; and Cadell
received the portion of South Wales, together with the general good
wishes of his brothers and the people; for although this district greatly
exceeded the others in quantity, it was the least desirable from the
number of noble chiefs, or Uchelwyr, {157a} men of a superior rank, who
inhabited it, and were often rebellious to their lords, and impatient of
control.  But Cadell, on the death of his brothers, obtained the entire
dominion of Wales, {157b} as did his successors till the time of Tewdwr,
whose descendants, Rhys, son of Tewdwr, Gruflydd, son of Rhys, and Rhys,
son of Gruffydd, the ruling prince in our time, enjoyed only (like the
father) the sovereignty over South Wales.


THE following is the generation of princes of South Wales: Rhys, son of
Gruffydd; Gruffydd, son of Rhys; Rhys, son of Tewdwr; Tewdwr, son of
Eineon; Eineon, son of Owen; Owen, son of Howel Dda, or Howel the Good;
Howel, son of Cadell, son of Roderic the Great.  Thus the princes of
South Wales derived their origin from Cadell, son of Roderic the Great.
The princes of North Wales descended from Mervin in this manner:
Llewelyn, son of Iorwerth; Iorwerth, son of Owen; Owen, son of Gruffydd;
Gruffydd, son of Conan; Conan, son of Iago; Iago, son of Edoual; Edoual,
son of Meyric; Meyric, son of Anarawt (Anandhrec); Anarawt, son of
Mervin, son of Roderic the Great.  Anarawt leaving no issue, the princes
of Powys have their own particular descent.

It is worthy of remark, that the Welsh bards and singers, or reciters,
have the genealogies of the aforesaid princes, written in the Welsh
language, in their ancient and authentic books; and also retain them in
their memory from Roderic the Great to B.M.; {158a} and from thence to
Sylvius, Ascanius, and Æneas; and from the latter produce the
genealogical series in a lineal descent, even to Adam.

But as an account of such long and remote genealogies may appear to many
persons trifling rather than historical, we have purposely omitted them
in our compendium.


SOUTH WALES contains twenty-nine cantreds; North Wales, twelve; Powys,
six: many of which are at this time in the possession of the English and
Franks.  For the country now called Shropshire formerly belonged to
Powys, and the place where the castle of Shrewsbury stands bore the name
of Pengwern, or the head of the Alder Grove.  There were three royal
seats in South Wales: Dinevor, in South Wales, removed from Caerleon;
Aberfraw, {158b} in North Wales; and Pengwern, in Powys.

Wales contains in all fifty-four cantreds.  The word _Cantref_ is derived
from _Cant_, a hundred, and _Tref_, a village; and means in the British
and Irish languages such a portion of land as contains a hundred vills.

There are four cathedral churches in Wales: St. David’s, upon the Irish
sea, David the archbishop being its patron: it was in ancient times the
metropolitan church, and the district only contained twenty-four
cantreds, though at this time only twenty-three; for Ergengl, in English
called Urchenfeld, {159a} is said to have been formerly within the
diocese of St. David’s, and sometimes was placed within that of Landaff.
The see of St. David’s had twenty-five successive archbishops; and from
the time of the removal of the pall into France, to this day, twenty-two
bishops; whose names and series, as well as the cause of the removal of
the archiepiscopal pall, may be seen in our Itinerary. {159b}

In South Wales also is situated the bishopric of Landaff, near the Severn
sea, and near the noble castle of Caerdyf; bishop Teilo being its patron.
It contains five cantreds, and the fourth part of another, namely,

In North Wales, between Anglesey and the Eryri mountains, is the see of
Bangor, under the patronage of Daniel, the abbot; it contains about nine

In North Wales also is the poor little cathedral of Llan-Elwy, or St.
Asaph, containing about six cantreds, to which Powys is subject.


WALES is divided and distinguished by noble rivers, which derive their
source from two ranges of mountains, the Ellennith, in South Wales, which
the English call Moruge, as being the heads of moors, or bogs; and Eryri,
in North Wales, which they call Snowdon, or mountains of snow; the latter
of which are said to be of so great an extent, that if all the herds in
Wales were collected together, they would supply them with pasture for a
considerable time.  Upon them are two lakes, one of which has a floating
island; and the other contains fish having only one eye, as we have
related in our Itinerary.

We must also here remark, that at two places in Scotland, one on the
eastern, and the other on the western ocean, the sea-fish called mulvelli
(mullets) have only the right eye.

The noble river Severn takes its rise from the Ellennith mountains, and
flowing by the castles of Shrewsbury and Bridgenorth, through the city of
Worcester, and that of Gloucester, celebrated for its iron manufactories,
falls into the sea a few miles from the latter place, and gives its name
to the Severn Sea.  This river was for many years the boundary between
Cambria and Loegria, or Wales and England; it was called in British
Hafren, from the daughter of Locrinus, who was drowned in it by her
step-mother; the aspirate being changed, according to the Latin idiom,
into S, as is usual in words derived from the Greek, it was termed
Sarina, as hal becomes _sal_; hemi, _semi_; hepta, _septem_.

The river Wye rises in the same mountains of Ellennith, and flows by the
castles of Hay and Clifford, through the city of Hereford, by the castles
of Wilton and Goodrich, through the forest of Dean, abounding with iron
and deer, and proceeds to Strigul castle, below which it empties itself
into the sea, and forms in modern times the boundary between England and
Wales.  The Usk does not derive its origin from these mountains, but from
those of Cantref Bachan; it flows by the castle of Brecheinoc, or
Aberhodni, that is, the fall of the river Hodni into the Usk (for Aber,
in the British language, signifies every place where two rivers unite
their streams); by the castles of Abergevenni and Usk, through the
ancient city of Legions, and discharges itself into the Severn Sea, not
far from Newport.

The river Remni flows towards the sea from the mountains of Brecheinoc,
having passed the castle and bridge of Remni.  From the same range of
mountains springs the Taf, which pursues its course to the episcopal see
of Landaf (to which it gives its name), and falls into the sea below the
castle of Caerdyf.  The river Avon rushes impetuously from the mountains
of Glamorgan, between the celebrated Cistercian monasteries of Margan and
Neth; and the river Neth, descending from the mountains of Brecheinoc,
unites itself with the sea, at no great distance from the castle of Neth;
each of these rivers forming a long tract of dangerous quicksands.  From
the same mountains of Brecheinoc the river Tawe flows down to Abertawe,
called in English Swainsey.  The Lochor joins the sea near the castle of
the same name; and the Wendraeth has its confluence near Cydweli.  The
Tywy, another noble river, rises in the Ellennith mountains, and
separating the Cantref Mawr from the Cantref Bachan, passes by the castle
of Llanymddyfri, and the royal palace and castle of Dinevor, strongly
situated in the deep recesses of its woods, by the noble castle of
Caermarddin, where Merlin was found, and from whom the city received its
name, and runs into the sea near the castle of Lhanstephan.  The river
Taf rises in the Presseleu mountains, not far from the monastery of
Whitland, and passing by the castle of St. Clare, falls into the sea near
Abercorran and Talacharn.  From the same mountains flow the rivers
Cleddeu, encompassing the province of Daugleddeu, and giving it their
name one passes by the castle of Lahaden, and the other by Haverford, to
the sea; and in the British language they bear the name of Daugleddeu, or
two swords.

The noble river Teivi springs from the Ellennith mountains, in the upper
part of the Cantref Mawr and Caerdigan, not far from the pastures and
excellent monastery of Stratflur, forming a boundary between Demetia and
Caerdigan down to the Irish channel; this is the only river in Wales that
produces beavers, an account of which is given in our Itinerary; and also
exceeds every other river in the abundance and delicacy of its salmon.
But as this book may fall into the hands of many persons who will not
meet with the other, I have thought it right here to insert many curious
and particular qualities relating to the nature of these animals, how
they convey their materials from the woods to the river, with what skill
they employ these materials in constructing places of safety in the
middle of the stream, how artfully they defend themselves against the
attack of the hunters on the eastern and how on the western side; the
singularity of their tails, which partake more of the nature of fish than
flesh.  For further particulars see the Itinerary. {162a}

From the same mountains issues the Ystuyth, and flowing through the upper
parts of Penwedic, in Cardiganshire, falls into the sea near the castle
of Aberystuyth.  From the snowy mountains of Eryri flows the noble river
Devi, {162b} dividing for a great distance North and South Wales; and
from the same mountains also the large river Maw, {162c} forming by its
course the greater and smaller tract of sands called the Traeth Mawr and
the Traeth Bachan.  The Dissennith also, and the Arthro, flow through
Merionethshire and the land of Conan.  The Conwy, springing from the
northern side of the Eryri mountains, unites its waters with the sea
under the noble castle of Deganwy.  The Cloyd rises from another side of
the same mountain, and passes by the castle of Ruthlan to the sea.  The
Doverdwy, called by the English Dee, draws its source from the lake of
Penmelesmere, and runs through Chester, leaving the wood of Coleshulle,
Basinwerk, and a rich vein of silver in its neighbourhood, far to the
right, and by the influx of the sea forming a very dangerous quicksand;
thus the Dee makes the northern, and the river Wye the southern boundary
of Wales.


AS the southern part of Wales near Cardiganshire, but particularly
Pembrokeshire, is much pleasanter, on account of its plains and
sea-coast, so North Wales is better defended by nature, is more
productive of men distinguished for bodily strength, and more fertile in
the nature of its soil; for, as the mountains of Eryri (Snowdon) could
supply pasturage for all the herds of cattle in Wales, if collected
together, so could the Isle of Mona (Anglesey) provide a requisite
quantity of corn for all the inhabitants: on which account there is an
old British proverb, “_Mon mam Cymbry_,” that is, “Mona is the mother of
Wales.”  Merionyth, and the land of Conan, is the rudest and least
cultivated region, and the least accessible.  The natives of that part of
Wales excel in the use of long lances, as those of Monmouthshire are
distinguished for their management of the bow.  It is to be observed,
that the British language is more delicate and richer in North Wales,
that country being less intermixed with foreigners.  Many, however,
assert that the language of Cardiganshire, in South Wales, placed as it
were in the middle and heart of Cambria, is the most refined.

The people of Cornwall and the Armoricans speak a language similar to
that of the Britons; and from its origin and near resemblance, it is
intelligible to the Welsh in many instances, and almost in all; and
although less delicate and methodical, yet it approaches, as I judge,
more to the ancient British idiom.  As in the southern parts of England,
and particularly in Devonshire, the English language seems less
agreeable, yet it bears more marks of antiquity (the northern parts being
much corrupted by the irruptions of the Danes and Norwegians), and
adheres more strictly to the original language and ancient mode of
speaking; a positive proof of which may be deduced from all the English
works of Bede, Rhabanus, and king Alfred, being written according to this


CAMBRIA was so called from Camber, son of Brutus, for Brutus, descending
from the Trojans, by his grandfather, Ascanius, and father, Silvius, led
the remnant of the Trojans, who had long been detained in Greece, into
this western isle; and having reigned many years, and given his name to
the country and people, at his death divided the kingdom of Wales between
his three sons.  To his eldest son, Locrinus, he gave that part of the
island which lies between the rivers Humber and Severn, and which from
him was called Loegria.  To his second son, Albanactus, he gave the lands
beyond the Humber, which took from him the name of Albania.  But to his
youngest son, Camber, he bequeathed all that region which lies beyond the
Severn, and is called after him Cambria; hence the country is properly
and truly called Cambria, and its inhabitants Cambrians, or Cambrenses.
Some assert that their name was derived from _Cam_ and _Græco_, that is,
distorted Greek, on account of the affinity of their languages,
contracted by their long residence in Greece; but this conjecture, though
plausible, is not well founded on truth.

The name of Wales was not derived from Wallo, a general, or Wandolena,
the queen, as the fabulous history of Geoffrey Arthurius {165a} falsely
maintains, because neither of these personages are to be found amongst
the Welsh; but it arose from a barbarian appellation.  The Saxons, when
they seized upon Britain, called this nation, as they did all foreigners,
Wallenses; and thus the barbarous name remains to the people and their
country. {165b}

Having discoursed upon the quality and quantity of the land, the
genealogies of the princes, the sources of the rivers, and the derivation
of the names of this country, we shall now consider the nature and
character of the nation.


THIS people is light and active, hardy rather than strong, and entirely
bred up to the use of arms; for not only the nobles, but all the people
are trained to war, and when the trumpet sounds the alarm, the husbandman
rushes as eagerly from his plough as the courtier from his court; for
here it is not found that, as in other places,

                      “Agricolis labor actus in orbem,”

returns; for in the months of March and April only the soil is once
ploughed for oats, and again in the summer a third time, and in winter
for wheat.  Almost all the people live upon the produce of their herds,
with oats, milk, cheese, and butter; eating flesh in larger proportions
than bread.  They pay no attention to commerce, shipping, or
manufactures, and suffer no interruption but by martial exercises.  They
anxiously study the defence of their country and their liberty; for these
they fight, for these they undergo hardships, and for these willingly
sacrifice their lives; they esteem it a disgrace to die in bed, an honour
to die in the field of battle; using the poet’s expressions,—

             “Procul hinc avertite pacem,
    Nobilitas cum pace perit.”

Nor is it wonderful if it degenerates, for the ancestors of these men,
the Æneadæ, rushed to arms in the cause of liberty.  It is remarkable
that this people, though unarmed, dares attack an armed foe; the infantry
defy the cavalry, and by their activity and courage generally prove
victors.  They resemble in disposition and situation those conquerors
whom the poet Lucan mentions:

    — —“Populi quos despicit Arctos,
    Felices errore suo, quos ille timorum
    Maximus haud urget leti metus, inde ruendi
    In ferrum, mens prona viris, amimæque capaces,
    Mortis et ignavum redituræ parsere vitæ.”

They make use of light arms, which do not impede their agility, small
coats of mail, bundles of arrows, and long lances, helmets and shields,
and more rarely greaves plated with iron.  The higher class go to battle
mounted on swift and generous steeds, which their country produces; but
the greater part of the people fight on foot, on account of the marshy
nature and unevenness of the soil.  The horsemen as their situation or
occasion requires, willingly serve as infantry, in attacking or
retreating; and they either walk bare-footed, or make use of high shoes,
roughly constructed with untanned leather.  In time of peace, the young
men, by penetrating the deep recesses of the woods, and climbing the tops
of mountains, learn by practice to endure fatigue through day and night;
and as they meditate on war during peace, they acquire the art of
fighting by accustoming themselves to the use of the lance, and by
inuring themselves to hard exercise.

In our time, king Henry II., in reply to the inquiries of Emanuel,
emperor of Constantinople, concerning the situation, nature, and striking
peculiarities of the British island, among other remarkable circumstances
mentioned the following: “That in a certain part of the island there was
a people, called Welsh, so bold and ferocious that, when unarmed, they
did not fear to encounter an armed force; being ready to shed their blood
in defence of their country, and to sacrifice their lives for renown;
which is the more surprising, as the beasts of the field over the whole
face of the island became gentle, but these desperate men could not be
tamed.  The wild animals, and particularly the stags and hinds, are so
abundant, owing to the little molestation they receive, that in our time,
in the northern parts of the island towards the Peak, {168} when pursued
by the hounds and hunters, they contributed, by their numbers, to their
own destruction.”


NOT addicted to gluttony or drunkenness, this people who incur no expense
in food or dress, and whose minds are always bent upon the defence of
their country, and on the means of plunder, are wholly employed in the
care of their horses and furniture.  Accustomed to fast from morning till
evening, and trusting to the care of Providence, they dedicate the whole
day to business, and in the evening partake of a moderate meal; and even
if they have none, or only a very scanty one, they patiently wait till
the next evening; and, neither deterred by cold nor hunger, they employ
the dark and stormy nights in watching the hostile motions of their


NO one of this nation ever begs, for the houses of all are common to all;
and they consider liberality and hospitality amongst the first virtues.
So much does hospitality here rejoice in communication, that it is
neither offered nor requested by travellers, who, on entering any house,
only deliver up their arms.  When water is offered to them, if they
suffer their feet to be washed, they are received as guests; for the
offer of water to wash the feet is with this nation an hospitable
invitation.  But if they refuse the proffered service, they only wish for
morning refreshment, not lodging.  The young men move about in troops and
families under the direction of a chosen leader.  Attached only to arms
and ease, and ever ready to stand forth in defence of their country, they
have free admittance into every house as if it were their own.

Those who arrive in the morning are entertained till evening with the
conversation of young women, and the music of the harp; for each house
has its young women and harps allotted to this purpose.  Two
circumstances here deserve notice: that as no nation labours more under
the vice of jealousy than the Irish, so none is more free from it than
the Welsh: and in each family the art of playing on the harp is held
preferable to any other learning.  In the evening, when no more guests
are expected, the meal is prepared according to the number and dignity of
the persons assembled, and according to the wealth of the family who
entertains.  The kitchen does not supply many dishes, nor high-seasoned
incitements to eating.  The house is not furnished with tables, cloths,
or napkins.  They study nature more than splendour, for which reason, the
guests being seated in threes, instead of couples as elsewhere, {169a}
they place the dishes before them all at once upon rushes and fresh
grass, in large platters or trenchers.  They also make use of a thin and
broad cake of bread, baked every day, such as in old writings was called
_lagana_; {169b} and they sometimes add chopped meat, with broth.  Such a
repast was formerly used by the noble youth, from whom this nation boasts
its descent, and whose manners it still partly imitates, according to the
word of the poet:

                   “Heu! mensas consumimus, inquit Iulus.”

While the family is engaged in waiting on the guests, the host and
hostess stand up, paying unremitting attention to everything, and take no
food till all the company are satisfied; that in case of any deficiency,
it may fall upon them.  A bed made of rushes, and covered with a coarse
kind of cloth manufactured in the country, called _brychan_, {170} is
then placed along the side of the room, and they all in common lie down
to sleep; nor is their dress at night different from that by day, for at
all seasons they defend themselves from the cold only by a thin cloak and
tunic.  The fire continues to burn by night as well as by day, at their
feet, and they receive much comfort from the natural heat of the persons
lying near them; but when the under side begins to be tired with the
hardness of the bed, or the upper one to suffer from cold, they
immediately leap up, and go to the fire, which soon relieves them from
both inconveniences; and then returning to their couch, they expose
alternately their sides to the cold, and to the hardness of the bed.


THE men and women cut their hair close round to the ears and eyes.  The
women, after the manner of the Parthians, cover their heads with a large
white veil, folded together in the form of a crown.

Both sexes exceed any other nation in attention to their teeth, which
they render like ivory, by constantly rubbing them with green hazel and
wiping with a woollen cloth.  For their better preservation, they abstain
from hot meats, and eat only such as are cold, warm, or temperate.  The
men shave all their beard except the moustaches (_gernoboda_).  This
custom is not recent, but was observed in ancient and remote ages, as we
find in the works of Julius Cæsar, who says, {171} “The Britons shave
every part of their body except their head and upper lip;” and to render
themselves more active, and avoid the fate of Absalon in their excursions
through the woods, they are accustomed to cut even the hair from their
heads; so that this nation more than any other shaves off all pilosity.
Julius also adds, that the Britons, previous to an engagement, anointed
their faces with a nitrous ointment, which gave them so ghastly and
shining an appearance, that the enemy could scarcely bear to look at
them, particularly if the rays of the sun were reflected on them.


THESE people being of a sharp and acute intellect, and gifted with a rich
and powerful understanding, excel in whatever studies they pursue, and
are more quick and cunning than the other inhabitants of a western clime.

Their musical instruments charm and delight the ear with their sweetness,
are borne along by such celerity and delicacy of modulation, producing
such a consonance from the rapidity of seemingly discordant touches, that
I shall briefly repeat what is set forth in our Irish Topography on the
subject of the musical instruments of the three nations.  It is
astonishing that in so complex and rapid a movement of the fingers, the
musical proportions can be preserved, and that throughout the difficult
modulations on their various instruments, the harmony is completed with
such a sweet velocity, so unequal an equality, so discordant a concord,
as if the chords sounded together fourths or fifths.  They always begin
from B flat, and return to the same, that the whole may be completed
under the sweetness of a pleasing sound.  They enter into a movement, and
conclude it in so delicate a manner, and play the little notes so
sportively under the blunter sounds of the base strings, enlivening with
wanton levity, or communicating a deeper internal sensation of pleasure,
so that the perfection of their art appears in the concealment of it:

    “Si lateat, prosit;
    — — ferat ars deprensa pudorem.”

    “Art profits when concealed,
    Disgraces when revealed.”

From this cause, those very strains which afford deep and unspeakable
mental delight to those who have skilfully penetrated into the mysteries
of the art, fatigue rather than gratify the ears of others, who seeing,
do not perceive, and hearing, do not understand; and by whom the finest
music is esteemed no better than a confused and disorderly noise, and
will be heard with unwillingness and disgust.

They make use of three instruments, the harp, the pipe, and the crwth or
crowd (_chorus_). {172}

They omit no part of natural rhetoric in the management of civil actions,
in quickness of invention, disposition, refutation, and confirmation.  In
their rhymed songs and set speeches they are so subtle and ingenious,
that they produce, in their native tongue, ornaments of wonderful and
exquisite invention both in the words and sentences.  Hence arise those
poets whom they call Bards, of whom you will find many in this nation,
endowed with the above faculty, according to the poet’s observation:

    “Plurima concreti fuderunt carmina Bardi.”

But they make use of alliteration (_anominatione_) in preference to all
other ornaments of rhetoric, and that particular kind which joins by
consonancy the first letters or syllables of words.  So much do the
English and Welsh nations employ this ornament of words in all exquisite
composition, that no sentence is esteemed to be elegantly spoken, no
oration to be otherwise than uncouth and unrefined, unless it be fully
polished with the file of this figure.  Thus in the British tongue:

    “Digawn Duw da i unic.”

    “Wrth bob crybwyll rhaïd pwyll parawd.” {173}

And in English,

    “God is together gammen and wisedom.”

The same ornament of speech is also frequent in the Latin language.
Virgil says,

    “Tales casus Cassandra canebat.”

And again, in his address to Augustus,

    “Dum dubitet natura marem, faceretve puellam,
    Natus es, o pulcher, pene puella, puer.”

This ornament occurs not in any language we know so frequently as in the
two first; it is, indeed, surprising that the French, in other respects
so ornamented, should be entirely ignorant of this verbal elegance so
much adopted in other languages.  Nor can I believe that the English and
Welsh, so different and adverse to each other, could designedly have
agreed in the usage of this figure; but I should rather suppose that it
had grown habitual to both by long custom, as it pleases the ear by a
transition from similar to similar sounds.  Cicero, in his book “On
Elocution,” observes of such who know the practice, not the art, “Other
persons when they read good orations or poems, approve of the orators or
poets, not understanding the reason why, being affected, they approve;
because they cannot know in what place, of what nature, nor how that
effect is caused which so highly delights them.”


IN their musical concerts they do not sing in unison like the inhabitants
of other countries, but in many different parts; so that in a company of
singers, which one very frequently meets with in Wales, you will hear as
many different parts and voices as there are performers, who all at
length unite, with organic melody, in one consonance and the soft
sweetness of B flat.  In the northern district of Britain, beyond the
Humber, and on the borders of Yorkshire, the inhabitants make use of the
same kind of symphonious harmony, but with less variety; singing only in
two parts, one murmuring in the base, the other warbling in the acute or
treble.  Neither of the two nations has acquired this peculiarity by art,
but by long habit, which has rendered it natural and familiar; and the
practice is now so firmly rooted in them, that it is unusual to hear a
simple and single melody well sung; and, what is still more wonderful,
the children, even from their infancy, sing in the same manner.  As the
English in general do not adopt this mode of singing, but only those of
the northern countries, I believe that it was from the Danes and
Norwegians, by whom these parts of the island were more frequently
invaded, and held longer under their dominion, that the natives
contracted their mode of singing as well as speaking.


THE heads of different families, in order to excite the laughter of their
guests, and gain credit by their sayings, make use of great facetiousness
in their conversation; at one time uttering their jokes in a light, easy
manner, at another time, under the disguise of equivocation, passing the
severest censures.  For the sake of explanation I shall here subjoin a
few examples.  Tegeingl is the name of a province in North Wales, over
which David, son of Owen, had dominion, and which had once been in the
possession of his brother.  The same word also was the name of a certain
woman with whom, it was said, each brother had an intrigue, from which
circumstance arose this term of reproach, “To have Tegeingl, after
Tegeingl had been in possession of his brother.”

At another time, when Rhys, son of Gruffydd, prince of South Wales,
accompanied by a multitude of his people, devoutly entered the church of
St. David’s, previous to an intended journey, the oblations having been
made, and mass solemnised, a young man came to him in the church, and
publicly declared himself to be his son, threw himself at his feet, and
with tears humbly requested that the truth of this assertion might be
ascertained by the trial of the burning iron.  Intelligence of this
circumstance being conveyed to his family and his two sons, who had just
gone out of the church, a youth who was present made this remark: “This
is not wonderful; some have brought gold, and others silver, as
offerings; but this man, who had neither, brought what he had, namely,
iron;” thus taunting him with his poverty.  On mentioning a certain house
that was strongly built and almost impregnable, one of the company said,
“This house indeed is strong, for if it should contain food it could
never be got at,” thus alluding both to the food and to the house.  In
like manner, a person, wishing to hint at the avaricious disposition of
the mistress of a house, said, “I only find fault with our hostess for
putting too little butter to her salt,” whereas the accessory should be
put to the principal; thus, by a subtle transposition of the words,
converting the accessory into the principal, by making it appear to
abound in quantity.  Many similar sayings of great men and philosophers
are recorded in the Saturnalia of Macrobius.  When Cicero saw his
son-in-law, Lentulus, a man of small stature, with a long sword by his
side: “Who,” says he, “has girded my son-in-law to that sword?” thus
changing the accessary into the principal.  The same person, on seeing
the half-length portrait of his brother Quintus Cicero, drawn with very
large features and an immense shield, exclaimed, “Half of my brother is
greater than the whole!”  When the sister of Faustus had an intrigue with
a fuller, “Is it strange,” says he, “that my sister has a spot, when she
is connected with a fuller?”  When Antiochus showed Hannibal his army,
and the great warlike preparations he had made against the Romans, and
asked him, “Thinkest thou, O Hannibal, that these are sufficient for the
Romans?”  Hannibal, ridiculing the unmilitary appearance of the soldiers,
wittily and severely replied, “I certainly think them sufficient for the
Romans, however greedy;” Antiochus asking his opinion about the military
preparations, and Hannibal alluding to them as becoming a prey to the


NATURE hath given not only to the highest, but also to the inferior,
classes of the people of this nation, a boldness and confidence in
speaking and answering, even in the presence of their princes and
chieftains.  The Romans and Franks had the same faculty; but neither the
English, nor the Saxons and Germans, from whom they are descended, had
it.  It is in vain urged, that this defect may arise from the state of
servitude which the English endured; for the Saxons and Germans, who
enjoy their liberty, have the same failing, and derive this natural
coldness of disposition from the frozen region they inhabit; the English
also, although placed in a distant climate, still retain the exterior
fairness of complexion and inward coldness of disposition, as inseparable
from their original and natural character.  The Britons, on the contrary,
transplanted from the hot and parched regions of Dardania into these more
temperate districts, as

              “Cœlum non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt,”

still retain their brown complexion and that natural warmth of temper
from which their confidence is derived.  For three nations, remnants of
the Greeks after the destruction of Troy, fled from Asia into different
parts of Europe, the Romans under Æneas, the Franks under Antenor, and
the Britons under Brutus; and from thence arose that courage, that
nobleness of mind, that ancient dignity, that acuteness of understanding,
and confidence of speech, for which these three nations are so highly
distinguished.  But the Britons, from having been detained longer in
Greece than the other two nations, after the destruction of their
country, and having migrated at a later period into the western parts of
Europe, retained in a greater degree the primitive words and phrases of
their native language.  You will find amongst them the names Oenus,
Resus, Æneas, Hector, Achilles, Heliodorus, Theodorus, Ajax, Evander,
Uliex, Anianus, Elisa, Guendolena, and many others, bearing marks of
their antiquity.  It is also to be observed, that almost all words in the
British language correspond either with the Greek or Latin, as ὑδωζ,
water, is called in British, dwr; ἁλς, salt, in British, halen; ονομα,
eno, a name; πεντε, pump, five; δεκα, deg, ten.  The Latins also use the
words frænum, tripos, gladius, lorica; the Britons, froyn (ffrwyn),
trepet (tribedd), cleddyf, and lluric (llurig); unicus is made unic
(unig); canis, can (cwn); and belua, beleu.


THERE are certain persons in Cambria, whom you will find nowhere else,
called Awenddyon, {179} or people inspired; when consulted upon any
doubtful event, they roar out violently, are rendered beside themselves,
and become, as it were, possessed by a spirit.  They do not deliver the
answer to what is required in a connected manner; but the person who
skilfully observes them, will find, after many preambles, and many
nugatory and incoherent, though ornamented speeches, the desired
explanation conveyed in some turn of a word: they are then roused from
their ecstasy, as from a deep sleep, and, as it were, by violence
compelled to return to their proper senses.  After having answered the
questions, they do not recover till violently shaken by other people; nor
can they remember the replies they have given.  If consulted a second or
third time upon the same point, they will make use of expressions totally
different; perhaps they speak by the means of fanatic and ignorant
spirits.  These gifts are usually conferred upon them in dreams: some
seem to have sweet milk or honey poured on their lips; others fancy that
a written schedule is applied to their mouths and on awaking they
publicly declare that they have received this gift.  Such is the saying
of Esdras, “The Lord said unto me, open thy mouth, and I opened my mouth,
and behold a cup full of water, whose colour was like fire; and when I
had drank it, my heart brought forth understanding, and wisdom entered
into my breast.”  They invoke, during their prophecies, the true and
living God, and the Holy Trinity, and pray that they may not by their
sins be prevented from finding the truth.  These prophets are only found
among the Britons descended from the Trojans.  For Calchas and Cassandra,
endowed with the spirit of prophecy, openly foretold, during the siege of
Troy, the destruction of that fine city; on which account the high
priest, Helenus, influenced by the prophetic books of Calchas, and of
others who had long before predicted the ruin of their country, in the
first year went over to the Greeks with the sons of Priam (to whom he was
high priest), and was afterwards rewarded in Greece.  Cassandra, daughter
of king Priam, every day foretold the overthrow of the city; but the
pride and presumption of the Trojans prevented them from believing her
word.  Even on the very night that the city was betrayed, she clearly
described the treachery and the method of it:

                      “— tales casus Cassandra canebat,”

as in the same manner, during the existence of the kingdom of the
Britons, both Merlin Caledonius and Ambrosius are said to have foretold
the destruction of their nation, as well as the coming of the Saxons, and
afterwards that of the Normans; and I think a circumstance related by
Aulus Gellius worth inserting in this place.  On the day that Caius Cæsar
and Cneius Pompey, during the civil war, fought a pitched battle in
Thessalia, a memorable event occurred in that part of Italy situated
beyond the river Po.  A priest named Cornelius, honourable from his rank,
venerable for his religion, and holy in his manners, in an inspired
moment proclaimed, “Cæsar has conquered,” and named the day, the events,
the mutual attack, and the conflicts of the two armies.  Whether such
things are exhibited by the spirit, let the reader more particularly
inquire; I do not assert they are the acts of a Pythonic or a diabolic
spirit; for as foreknowledge is the property of God alone, so is it in
his power to confer knowledge of future events.  There are differences of
gifts, says the Apostle, but one and the same spirit; whence Peter, in
his second Epistle, writes, “For the prophecy came not in the old time by
the will of man, but men spake as if they were inspired by the Holy
Ghost:” to the same effect did the Chaldeans answer king Nebuchadonazar
on the interpretation of his dream, which he wished to extort from them.
“There is not,” say they, “a man upon earth who can, O king,
satisfactorily answer your question; let no king therefore, however great
or potent, make a similar request to any magician, astrologer, or
Chaldean; for it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is
none other that can shew it before the king, except the Gods, whose
dwelling is not with flesh.”  On this passage Jerome remarks, “The
diviners and all the learned of this world confess, that the prescience
of future events belongs to God alone; the prophets therefore, who
foretold things to come, spake by the spirit of God.  Hence some persons
object, that, if they were under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they
would sometimes premise, “Thus saith the Lord God,” or make use of some
expression in the prophetic style; and as such a mode of prophesying is
not taken notice of by Merlin, and no mention is made of his sanctity,
devotion, or faith, many think that he spake by a Pythonic spirit.  To
which I answer, that the spirit of prophecy was given not only to the
holy, but sometimes to unbelievers and Gentiles, to Baal, to the sibyls,
and even to bad people, as to Caiaphas and Bela.  On which occasion
Origen says: “Do not wonder, if he whom ye have mentioned declares that
the Scribes and Pharisees and doctors amongst the Jews prophesied
concerning Christ; for Caiaphas said: “It is expedient for us that one
man die for the people:” but asserts at the same time, that because he
was high priest for that year, he prophesied.  Let no man therefore be
lifted up, if he prophesies, if he merits prescience; for prophecies
shall fail, tongues shall cease, knowledge shall vanish away; and now
abideth, faith, hope, and charity: these three; but the greatest of these
is Charity, which never faileth.  But these bad men not only prophesied,
but sometimes performed great miracles, which others could not
accomplish.  John the Baptist, who was so great a personage, performed no
miracle, as John the Evangelist testifies: “And many came to Jesus and
said, Because John wrought no signs,” etc.  Nor do we hear that the
mother of God performed any miracle; we read in the Acts of the Apostles,
that the sons of Sheva cast out devils in the name of Jesus, whom Paul
preached; and in Matthew and Luke we may find these words: “Many shall
say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name?
and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful
works? and then I will profess unto them, I never knew you.”  And in
another place, John says: “Master, we saw a certain man casting out
devils in thy name, and forbade him, because he followeth not with us.”
But Jesus said: “Forbid him not; no man can do a miracle in my name, and
speak evil of me; for whoever is not against me, is for me.”

Alexander of Macedon, a gentile, traversed the Caspian mountains, and
miraculously confined ten tribes within their promontories, where they
still remain, and will continue until the coming of Elias and Enoch.  We
read, indeed, the prophecies of Merlin, but hear nothing either of his
sanctity or his miracles.  Some say, that the prophets, when they
prophesied, did not become frantic, as it is affirmed of Merlin
Silvestris, and others possessed, whom we have before mentioned.  Some
prophesied by dreams, visions, and enigmatical sayings, as Ezechiel and
Daniel; others by acts and words, as Noah, in the construction of the
ark, alluded to the church; Abraham, in the slaying of his son, to the
passion of Christ; and Moses by his speech, when he said, “A prophet
shall the Lord God raise up to you of your brethren; hear him;” meaning
Christ.  Others have prophesied in a more excellent way by the internal
revelation and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as David did when
persecuted by Saul: “When Saul heard that David had fled to Naioth (which
is a hill in Ramah, and the seat of the prophets), he sent messengers to
take him; and when they saw the company of the prophets prophesying, and
Samuel standing at their head, the Spirit of God came upon the messengers
of Saul, and they also prophesied; and he sent messengers a second and
again a third time, and they also prophesied.  And Saul enraged went
thither also; and the Spirit of God was upon him also, and he went on,
and prophesied until he came to Naioth, and he stripped off his royal
vestments, and prophesied with the rest for all that day and all that
night; whilst David and Samuel secretly observed what passed.”  Nor is it
wonderful that those persons who suddenly receive the Spirit of God, and
so signal a mark of grace, should for a time seem alienated from their
earthly state of mind.


THE Welsh esteem noble birth and generous descent above all things, {183}
and are, therefore, more desirous of marrying into noble than rich
families.  Even the common people retain their genealogy, and can not
only readily recount the names of their grandfathers and
great-grandfathers, but even refer back to the sixth or seventh
generation, or beyond them, in this manner: Rhys, son of Gruffydd, son of
Rhys, son of Tewdwr, son of Eineon, son of Owen, son of Howel, son of
Cadell, son of Roderic Mawr, and so on.

Being particularly attached to family descent, they revenge with
vehemence the injuries which may tend to the disgrace of their blood; and
being naturally of a vindictive and passionate disposition, they are ever
ready to avenge not only recent but ancient affronts; they neither
inhabit towns, villages, nor castles, but lead a solitary life in the
woods, on the borders of which they do not erect sumptuous palaces, nor
lofty stone buildings, but content themselves with small huts made of the
boughs of trees twisted together, constructed with little labour and
expense, and sufficient to endure throughout the year.  They have neither
orchards nor gardens, but gladly eat the fruit of both when given to
them.  The greater part of their land is laid down to pasturage; little
is cultivated, a very small quantity is ornamented with flowers, and a
still smaller is sown.  They seldom yoke less than four oxen to their
ploughs; the driver walks before, but backwards, and when he falls down,
is frequently exposed to danger from the refractory oxen.  Instead of
small sickles in mowing, they make use of a moderate-sized piece of iron
formed like a knife, with two pieces of wood fixed loosely and flexibly
to the head, which they think a more expeditious instrument; but since

    “Segnius irritant animos demissa per aures,
    Quam quæ sunt oculis subjecta fidelibus,”

their mode of using it will be better known by inspection than by any
description.  The boats {184} which they employ in fishing or in crossing
the rivers are made of twigs, not oblong nor pointed, but almost round,
or rather triangular, covered both within and without with raw hides.
When a salmon thrown into one of these boats strikes it hard with his
tail, he often oversets it, and endangers both the vessel and its
navigator.  The fishermen, according to the custom of the country, in
going to and from the rivers, carry these boats on their shoulders; on
which occasion that famous dealer in fables, Bleddercus, who lived a
little before our time, thus mysteriously said: “There is amongst us a
people who, when they go out in search of prey, carry their horses on
their backs to the place of plunder; in order to catch their prey, they
leap upon their horses, and when it is taken, carry their horses home
again upon their shoulders.”


IN ancient times, and about two hundred years before the overthrow of
Britain, the Welsh were instructed and confirmed in the faith by Faganus
and Damianus, sent into the island at the request of king Lucius by pope
Eleutherius, and from that period when Germanus of Auxerre, and Lupus of
Troyes, came over on account of the corruption which had crept into the
island by the invasion of the Saxons, but particularly with a view of
expelling the Pelagian heresy, nothing heretical or contrary to the true
faith was to be found amongst the natives.  But it is said that some
parts of the ardent doctrines are still retained.  They give the first
piece broken off from every loaf of bread to the poor; they sit down to
dinner by three to a dish, in honour of the Trinity.  With extended arms
and bowing head, they ask a blessing of every monk or priest, or of every
person wearing a religious habit.  But they desire, above all other
nations, the episcopal ordination and unction, by which the grace of the
spirit is given.  They give a tenth of all their property, animals,
cattle, and sheep, either when they marry, or go on a pilgrimage, or, by
the counsel of the church, are persuaded to amend their lives.  This
partition of their effects they call the great tithe, two parts of which
they give to the church where they were baptised, and the third to the
bishop of the diocese.  But of all pilgrimages they prefer that to Rome,
where they pay the most fervent adoration to the apostolic see.  We
observe that they show a greater respect than other nations to churches
and ecclesiastical persons, to the relics of saints, bells, holy books,
and the cross, which they devoutly revere; and hence their churches enjoy
more than common tranquillity.  For peace is not only preserved towards
all animals feeding in churchyards, but at a great distance beyond them,
where certain boundaries and ditches have been appointed by the bishops,
in order to maintain the security of the sanctuary.  But the principal
churches to which antiquity has annexed the greater reverence extend
their protection to the herds as far as they can go to feed in the
morning and return at night.  If, therefore, any person has incurred the
enmity of his prince, on applying to the church for protection, he and
his family will continue to live unmolested; but many persons abuse this
indemnity, far exceeding the indulgence of the canon, which in such cases
grants only personal safety; and from the places of refuge even make
hostile irruptions, and more severely harass the country than the prince
himself.  Hermits and anchorites more strictly abstinent and more
spiritual can nowhere be found; for this nation is earnest in all its
pursuits, and neither worse men than the bad, nor better than the good,
can be met with.

Happy and fortunate indeed would this nation be, nay, completely blessed,
if it had good prelates and pastors, and but one prince, and that prince
a good one.



HAVING in the former book clearly set forth the character, manners, and
customs of the British nation, and having collected and explained
everything which could redound to its credit or glory; an attention to
order now requires that, in this second part, we should employ our pen in
pointing out those particulars in which it seems to transgress the line
of virtue and commendation; having first obtained leave to speak the
truth, without which history not only loses its authority, but becomes
undeserving of its very name.  For the painter who professes to imitate
nature, loses his reputation, if, by indulging his fancy, he represents
only those parts of the subject which best suit him.

Since, therefore, no man is born without faults, and he is esteemed the
best whose errors are the least, let the wise man consider everything
human as connected with himself; for in worldly affairs there is no
perfect happiness under heaven.  Evil borders upon good, and vices are
confounded with virtues; as the report of good qualities is delightful to
a well-disposed mind, so the relation of the contrary should not be
offensive.  The natural disposition of this nation might have been
corrupted and perverted by long exile and poverty; for as poverty
extinguisheth many faults, so it often generates failings that are
contrary to virtue.


THESE people are no less light in mind than in body, and are by no means
to be relied upon.  They are easily urged to undertake any action, and
are as easily checked from prosecuting it—a people quick in action, but
more stubborn in a bad than in a good cause, and constant only in acts of
inconstancy.  They pay no respect to oaths, faith, or truth; and so
lightly do they esteem the covenant of faith, held so inviolable by other
nations, that it is usual to sacrifice their faith for nothing, by
holding forth the right hand, not only in serious and important concerns,
but even on every trifling occasion, and for the confirmation of almost
every common assertion.  They never scruple at taking a false oath for
the sake of any temporary emolument or advantage; so that in civil and
ecclesiastical causes, each party, being ready to swear whatever seems
expedient to its purpose, endeavours both to prove and defend, although
the venerable laws, by which oaths are deemed sacred, and truth is
honoured and respected, by favouring the accused and throwing an odium
upon the accuser, impose the burden of bringing proofs upon the latter.
But to a people so cunning and crafty, this yoke is pleasant, and this
burden is light.


THIS nation conceives it right to commit acts of plunder, theft, and
robbery, not only against foreigners and hostile nations, but even
against their own countrymen.  When an opportunity of attacking the enemy
with advantage occurs, they respect not the leagues of peace and
friendship, preferring base lucre to the solemn obligations of oaths and
good faith; to which circumstance Gildas alludes in his book concerning
the overthrow of the Britons, actuated by the love of truth, and
according to the rules of history, not suppressing the vices of his
countrymen.  “They are neither brave in war, nor faithful in peace.”  But
when Julius Cæsar, great as the world itself,

                 “Territa quæsitis ostendit terga Britannis,”

were they not brave under their leader Cassivellaunus?  And when Belinus
and Brennus added the Roman empire to their conquests?  What were they in
the time of Constantine, son of our Helen?  What, in the reign of
Aurelius Ambrosius, whom even Eutropius commends?  What were they in the
time of our famous prince Arthur?  I will not say fabulous.  On the
contrary, they, who were almost subdued by the Scots and Picts, often
harassed with success the auxiliary Roman legions, and exclaimed, as we
learn from Gildas, “The barbarians drove us to the sea, the sea drove us
again back to the barbarians; on one side we were subdued, on the other
drowned, and here we were put to death.  Were they not,” says he, “at
that time brave and praiseworthy?”  When attacked and conquered by the
Saxons, who originally had been called in as stipendiaries to their
assistance, were they not brave?  But the strongest argument made use of
by those who accuse this nation of cowardice, is, that Gildas, a holy
man, and a Briton by birth, has handed down to posterity nothing
remarkable concerning them, in any of his historical works.  We promise,
however, a solution of the contrary in our British Topography, if God
grants us a continuance of life.

As a further proof, it may be necessary to add, that from the time when
that illustrious prince of the Britons, mentioned at the beginning of
this book, totally exhausted the strength of the country, by transporting
the whole armed force beyond the seas; that island, which had before been
so highly illustrious for its incomparable valour, remained for many
subsequent years destitute of men and arms, and exposed to the predatory
attacks of pirates and robbers.  So distinguished, indeed, were the
natives of this island for their bravery, that, by their prowess, that
king subdued almost all Cisalpine Gaul, and dared even to make an attack
on the Roman empire.

In process of time, the Britons, recovering their long-lost population
and knowledge of the use of arms, re-acquired their high and ancient
character.  Let the different æras be therefore marked, and the
historical accounts will accord.  With regard to Gildas, who inveighs so
bitterly against his own nation, the Britons affirm that, highly
irritated at the death of his brother, the prince of Albania, whom king
Arthur had slain, he wrote these invectives, and upon the same occasion
threw into the sea many excellent books, in which he had described the
actions of Arthur, and the celebrated deeds of his countrymen; from which
cause it arises, that no authentic account of so great a prince is any
where to be found.


IN war this nation is very severe in the first attack, terrible by their
clamour and looks, filling the air with horrid shouts and the deep-toned
clangour of very long trumpets; swift and rapid in their advances and
frequent throwing of darts.  Bold in the first onset, they cannot bear a
repulse, being easily thrown into confusion as soon as they turn their
backs; and they trust to flight for safety, without attempting to rally,
which the poet thought reprehensible in martial conflicts:

                      “Ignavum scelus est tantum fuga;”

and elsewhere—

                 “In vitium culpæ ducit fuga, si caret arte.”

The character given to the Teutones in the Roman History, may be applied
to this people.  “In their first attack they are more than men, in the
second, less than women.”  Their courage manifests itself chiefly in the
retreat, when they frequently return, and, like the Parthians, shoot
their arrows behind them; and, as after success and victory in battle,
even cowards boast of their courage, so, after a reverse of fortune, even
the bravest men are not allowed their due claims of merit.  Their mode of
fighting consists in chasing the enemy or in retreating.  This
light-armed people, relying more on their activity than on their
strength, cannot struggle for the field of battle, enter into close
engagement, or endure long and severe actions, such as the poet

    “Jam clypeo clypeus, umbone repellitur umbo,
    Ense minax ensis, pede pes, et cuspide cuspis.”

Though defeated and put to flight on one day, they are ready to resume
the combat on the next, neither dejected by their loss, nor by their
dishonour; and although, perhaps, they do not display great fortitude in
open engagements and regular conflicts, yet they harass the enemy by
ambuscades and nightly sallies.  Hence, neither oppressed by hunger or
cold, nor fatigued by martial labours, nor despondent in adversity, but
ready, after a defeat, to return immediately to action, and again endure
the dangers of war; they are as easy to overcome in a single battle, as
difficult to subdue in a protracted war.  The poet Claudian thus speaks
of a people similar in disposition:—

    “Dum percunt, meminêre mali: si corda parumper
    Respirare sinas, nullo tot funera censu
    Prætercunt, tantique levis jactura cruoris.”


THIS nation is, above all others, addicted to the digging up of boundary
ditches, removing the limits, transgressing landmarks, and extending
their territory by every possible means.  So great is their disposition
towards this common violence, that they scruple not to claim as their
hereditary right, those lands which are held under lease, or at will, on
condition of planting, or by any other title, even although indemnity had
been publicly secured on oath to the tenant by the lord proprietor of the
soil.  Hence arise suits and contentions, murders and conflagrations, and
frequent fratricides, increased, perhaps, by the ancient national custom
of brothers dividing their property amongst each other.  Another heavy
grievance also prevails; the princes entrust the education of their
children to the care of the principal men of their country, each of whom,
after the death of his father, endeavours, by every possible means, to
exalt his own charge above his neighbours.  From which cause great
disturbances have frequently arisen amongst brothers, and terminated in
the most cruel and unjust murders; and on which account friendships are
found to be more sincere between foster-brothers, than between those who
are connected by the natural ties of brotherhood.  It is also remarkable,
that brothers shew more affection to one another when dead, than when
living; for they persecute the living even unto death, but revenge the
deceased with all their power.


WHERE they find plenty, and can exercise their power, they levy the most
unjust exactions.  Immoderate in their love of food and intoxicating
drink, they say with the Apostle, “We are instructed both to abound, and
to suffer need;” but do not add with him, “becoming all things to all
men, that I might by all means save some.”  As in times of scarcity their
abstinence and parsimony are too severe, so, when seated at another man’s
table, after a long fasting, (like wolves and eagles, who, like them,
live by plunder, and are rarely satisfied,) their appetite is immoderate.
They are therefore penurious in times of scarcity, and extravagant in
times of plenty; but no man, as in England, mortgages his property for
the gluttonous gratification of his own appetite.  They wish, however,
that all people would join with them in their bad habits and expenses; as
the commission of crimes reduces to a level all those who are concerned
in the perpetration of them.


THE crime of incest hath so much prevailed, not only among the higher,
but among the lower orders of this people, that, not having the fear of
God before their eyes, they are not ashamed of intermarrying with their
relations, even in the third degree of consanguinity.  They generally
abuse these dispensations with a view of appeasing those enmities which
so often subsist between them, because “their feet are swift to shed
blood;” and from their love of high descent, which they so ardently
affect and covet, they unite themselves to their own people, refusing to
intermarry with strangers, and arrogantly presuming on their own
superiority of blood and family.  They do not engage in marriage, until
they have tried, by previous cohabitation, the disposition, and
particularly the fecundity, of the person with whom they are engaged.  An
ancient custom also prevails of hiring girls from their parents at a
certain price, and a stipulated penalty, in case of relinquishing their

Their churches have almost as many parsons and sharers as there are
principal men in the parish.  The sons, after the decease of their
fathers, succeed to the ecclesiastical benefices, not by election, but by
hereditary right possessing and polluting the sanctuary of God.  And if a
prelate should by chance presume to appoint or institute any other
person, the people would certainly revenge the injury upon the institutor
and the instituted.  With respect to these two excesses of incest and
succession, which took root formerly in Armorica, and are not yet
eradicated, Ildebert, bishop of Le Mans, in one of his epistles, says,
“that he was present with a British priest at a council summoned with a
view of putting an end to the enormities of this nation:” hence it
appears that these vices have for a long time prevailed both in Britany
and Britain.  The words of the Psalmist may not inaptly be applied to
them; “They are corrupt and become abominable in their doings, there is
none that doeth good, no, not one: they are all gone out of the way, they
are altogether become abominable,” etc.


MOREOVER, through their sins, and particularly that detestable and wicked
vice of Sodom, as well as by divine vengeance, they lost Britain as they
formerly lost Troy.  For we read in the Roman history, that the emperor
Constantine having resigned the city and the Western empire to the
blessed Sylvester and his successors, with an intention of rebuilding
Troy, and there establishing the chief seat of the Eastern Empire, heard
a voice, saying, “Dost thou go to rebuild Sodom?” upon which, he altered
his intention, turned his ships and standards towards Byzantium, and
there fixing his seat of empire, gave his own propitious name to the
city.  The British history informs us, that Mailgon, king of the Britons,
and many others, were addicted to this vice; that enormity, however, had
entirely ceased for so long a time, that the recollection of it was
nearly worn out.  But since that, as if the time of repentance was almost
expired, and because the nation, by its warlike successes and acquisition
of territory, has in our times unusually increased in population and
strength, they boast in their turn, and most confidently and unanimously
affirm, that in a short time their countrymen shall return to the island,
and, according to the prophecies of Merlin, the nation, and even the
name, of foreigners, shall be extinguished in the island, and the Britons
shall exult again in their ancient name and privileges.  But to me it
appears far otherwise; for since

    “Luxuriant animi rebus plerumque secundis,
    Nec facile est æqua commoda mente pati;”

And because

    “Non habet unde suum paupertas pascat amorem, . . .
    Divitiis alitur luxuriosus amor.”

So that their abstinence from that vice, which in their prosperity they
could not resist, may be attributed more justly to their poverty and
state of exile than to their sense of virtue.  For they cannot be said to
have repented, when we see them involved in such an abyss of vices,
perjury, theft, robbery, rapine, murders, fratricides, adultery, and
incest, and become every day more entangled and ensnared in evil-doing;
so that the words of the prophet Hosea may be truly applied to them,
“There is no truth, nor mercy,” etc.

Other matters of which they boast are more properly to be attributed to
the diligence and activity of the Norman kings than to their own merits
or power.  For previous to the coming of the Normans, when the English
kings contented themselves with the sovereignty of Britain alone, and
employed their whole military force in the subjugation of this people,
they almost wholly extirpated them; as did king Offa, who by a long and
extensive dyke separated the British from the English; Ethelfrid also,
who demolished the noble city of Legions, {197} and put to death the
monks of the celebrated monastery at Banchor, who had been called in to
promote the success of the Britons by their prayers; and lastly Harold,
who himself on foot, with an army of light-armed infantry, and conforming
to the customary diet of the country, so bravely penetrated through every
part of Wales, that he scarcely left a man alive in it; and as a memorial
of his signal victories many stones may be found in Wales bearing this

To these bloody and recent victories of the English may be attributed the
peaceable state of Wales during the reigns of the three first Norman
kings; when the nation increased in population, and being taught the use
of arms and the management of horses by the English and Normans (with
whom they had much intercourse, by following the court, or by being sent
as hostages), took advantage of the necessary attention which the three
succeeding kings were obliged to pay to their foreign possessions, and
once more lifting up their crests, recovered their lands, and spurned the
yoke that had formerly been imposed upon them.


THE prince who would wish to subdue this nation, and govern it peaceably,
must use this method.  He must be determined to apply a diligent and
constant attention to this purpose for one year at least; for a people
who with a collected force will not openly attack the enemy in the field,
nor wait to be besieged in castles, is not to be overcome at the first
onset, but to be worn out by prudent delay and patience.  Let him divide
their strength, and by bribes and promises endeavour to stir up one
against the other, knowing the spirit of hatred and envy which generally
prevails amongst them; and in the autumn let not only the marches, but
also the interior part of the country be strongly fortified with castles,
provisions, and confidential families.  In the meantime the purchase of
corn, cloth, and salt, with which they are usually supplied from England,
should be strictly interdicted; and well-manned ships placed as a guard
on the coast, to prevent their importation of these articles from Ireland
or the Severn sea, and to facilitate the supply of his own army.
Afterwards, when the severity of winter approaches, when the trees are
void of leaves, and the mountains no longer afford pasturage—when they
are deprived of any hopes of plunder, and harassed on every side by the
repeated attacks of the enemy—let a body of light-armed infantry
penetrate into their woody and mountainous retreats, and let these troops
be supported and relieved by others; and thus by frequent changes, and
replacing the men who are either fatigued or slain in battle, this nation
may be ultimately subdued; nor can it be overcome without the above
precautions, nor without great danger and loss of men.  Though many of
the English hired troops may perish in a day of battle, money will
procure as many or more on the morrow for the same service; but to the
Welsh, who have neither foreign nor stipendiary troops, the loss is for
the time irreparable.  In these matters, therefore, as an artificer is to
be trusted in his trade, so attention is to be paid to the counsel of
those who, having been long conversant in similar concerns, are become
acquainted with the manners and customs of their country, and whom it
greatly interests, that an enemy, for whom during long and frequent
conflicts they have contracted an implacable hatred, should by their
assistance be either weakened or destroyed.  Happy should I have termed
the borders of Wales inhabited by the English, if their kings, in the
government of these parts, and in their military operations against the
enemy, had rather employed the marchers and barons of the country, than
adopted the counsels and policy of the people of Anjou and the Normans.
In this, as well as in every other military expedition, either in Ireland
or in Wales, the natives of the marches, from the constant state of
warfare in which they are engaged, and whose manners are formed from the
habits of war, are bold and active, skilful on horseback, quick on foot,
not nice as to their diet, and ever prepared when necessity requires to
abstain both from corn and wine.  By such men were the first hostile
attacks made upon Wales as well as Ireland, and by such men alone can
their final conquest be accomplished.  For the Flemings, Normans,
Coterells, and Bragmans, are good and well-disciplined soldiers in their
own country; but the Gallic soldiery is known to differ much from the
Welsh and Irish.  In their country the battle is on level, here on rough
ground; there in an open field, here in forests; there they consider
their armour as an honour, here as a burden; there soldiers are taken
prisoners, here they are beheaded; there they are ransomed, here they are
put to death.  Where, therefore, the armies engage in a flat country, a
heavy and complex armour, made of cloth and iron, both protects and
decorates the soldier; but when the engagement is in narrow defiles, in
woods or marshes, where the infantry have the advantage over the cavalry,
a light armour is preferable.  For light arms afford sufficient
protection against unarmed men, by whom victory is either lost or won at
the first onset; where it is necessary that an active and retreating
enemy should be overcome by a certain proportional quantity of moderate
armour; whereas with a more complex sort, and with high and curved
saddles, it is difficult to dismount, more so to mount, and with the
greatest difficulty can such troops march, if required, with the
infantry.  In order, therefore, that

               “Singula quæque locum teneant sortita decenter,”

we maintain it is necessary to employ heavy-armed and strong troops
against men heavily armed, depending entirely upon their natural
strength, and accustomed to fight in an open plain; but against
light-armed and active troops, who prefer rough ground, men accustomed to
such conflicts, and armed in a similar manner, must be employed.  But let
the cities and fortresses on the Severn, and the whole territory on its
western banks towards Wales, occupied by the English, as well as the
provinces of Shropshire and Cheshire, which are protected by powerful
armies, or by any other special privileges and honourable independence,
rejoice in the provident bounty of their prince.  There should be a
yearly examination of the warlike stores, of the arms, and horses, by
good and discreet men deputed for that purpose, and who, not intent on
its plunder and ruin, interest themselves in the defence and protection
of their country.  By these salutary measures, the soldiers, citizens,
and the whole mass of the people, being instructed and accustomed to the
use of arms, liberty may be opposed by liberty, and pride be checked by
pride.  For the Welsh, who are neither worn out by laborious burdens, nor
molested by the exactions of their lords, are ever prompt to avenge an
injury.  Hence arise their distinguished bravery in the defence of their
country; hence their readiness to take up arms and to rebel.  Nothing so
much excites, encourages, and invites the hearts of men to probity as the
cheerfulness of liberty; nothing so much dejects and dispirits them as
the oppression of servitude.  This portion of the kingdom, protected by
arms and courage, might be of great use to the prince, not only in these
or the adjacent parts, but, if necessity required, in more remote
regions; and although the public treasury might receive a smaller annual
revenue from these provinces, yet the deficiency would be abundantly
compensated by the peace of the kingdom and the honour of its sovereign;
especially as the heavy and dangerous expenses of one military expedition
into Wales usually amount to the whole income among from the revenues of
the province.


AS therefore this nation is to be subdued by resolution in the manner
proposed, so when subdued, its government must be directed by moderation,
according to the following plan.  Let the care of it be committed to a
man of a firm and determined mind; who during the time of peace, by
paying due obedience to the laws, and respect to the government, may
render it firm and stable.  For like other nations in a barbarous state,
this people, although they are strangers to the principles of honour, yet
above all things desire to be honoured; and approve and respect in others
that truth which they themselves do not profess.  Whenever the natural
inconstancy of their indisposition shall induce them to revolt, let
punishment instantly follow the offence; but when they shall have
submitted themselves again to order, and made proper amends for their
faults (as it is the custom of bad men to remember wrath after quarrels),
let their former transgression be overlooked, and let them enjoy security
and respect, as long as they continue faithful.  Thus, by mild treatment
they will be invited to obedience and the love of peace, and the thought
of certain punishment will deter them from rash attempts.  We have often
observed persons who, confounding these matters, by complaining of
faults, depressing for services, flattering in war, plundering in peace,
despoiling the weak, paying respect to revolters, by thus rendering all
things confused, have at length been confounded themselves.  Besides, as
circumstances which are foreseen do less mischief, and as that state is
happy which thinks of war in the time of peace, let the wise man be upon
his guard, and prepared against the approaching inconveniences of war, by
the construction of forts, the widening of passes through woods, and the
providing of a trusty household.  For those who are cherished and
sustained during the time of peace, are more ready to come forward in
times of danger, and are more confidently to be depended upon; and as a
nation unsubdued ever meditates plots under the disguise of friendship,
let not the prince or his governor entrust the protection of his camp or
capital to their fidelity.  By the examples of many remarkable men, some
of whom have been cruelly put to death, and others deprived of their
castles and dignities, through their own neglect and want of care, we may
see, that the artifices of a crafty and subdued nation are much more to
be dreaded than their open warfare; their good-will than their anger,
their honey than their gall, their malice than their attack, their
treachery than their aggression, and their pretended friendship more than
their open enmity.  A prudent and provident man therefore should
contemplate in the misfortune of others what he ought himself to avoid;
correction taught by example is harmless, as Ennodius {203} says: “The
ruin of predecessors instructs those who succeed; and a former
miscarriage becomes a future caution.”  If a well-disposed prince should
wish these great designs to be accomplished without the effusion of
blood, the marches, as we before mentioned, must be put into a state of
defence on all sides, and all intercourse by sea and land interdicted;
some of the Welsh may be stirred up to deadly feuds, by means of
stipends, and by transferring the property of one person to another; and
thus worn out with hunger, and a want of the necessaries of life, and
harassed by frequent murders and implacable enmities, they will at last
be compelled to surrender.

There are three things which ruin this nation, and prevent its enjoying
the satisfaction of a fruitful progeny.  First, because both the natural
and legitimate sons endeavour to divide the paternal inheritance amongst
themselves; from which cause, as we have before observed, continual
fratricides take place.  Secondly, because the education of their sons is
committed to the care of the high-born people of the country, who, on the
death of their fathers, endeavour by all possible means to exalt their
pupil; from whence arise murders, conflagrations, and almost a total
destruction of the country.  And, thirdly, because from the pride and
obstinacy of their disposition, they will not (like other nations)
subject themselves to the dominion of one lord and king.


HAVING hitherto so partially and elaborately spoken in favour of the
English, and being equally connected by birth with each nation, justice
demands that we should argue on both sides; let us therefore, at the
close of our work, turn our attention towards the Welsh, and briefly, but
effectually, instruct them in the art of resistance.  If the Welsh were
more commonly accustomed to the Gallic mode of arming, and depended more
on steady fighting than on their agility; if their princes were unanimous
and inseparable in their defence; or rather, if they had only one prince,
and that a good one; this nation situated in so powerful, strong, and
inaccessible a country, could hardly ever be completely overcome.  If,
therefore, they would be inseparable, they would become insuperable,
being assisted by these three circumstances; a country well defended by
nature, a people both contented and accustomed to live upon little, a
community whose nobles as well as privates are instructed in the use of
arms; and especially as the English fight for power, the Welsh for
liberty; the one to procure gain, the other to avoid loss; the English
hirelings for money, the Welsh patriots for their country.  The English,
I say, fight in order to expel the natural inhabitants from the island,
and secure to themselves the possession of the whole; but the Welsh
maintain the conflict, that they, who have so long enjoyed the
sovereignty of the whole kingdom, may at least find a hiding place in the
worst corner of it, amongst woods and marshes; and, banished, as it were,
for their offences, may there in a state of poverty, for a limited time,
perform penance for the excesses they committed in the days of their
prosperity.  For the perpetual remembrance of their former greatness, the
recollection of their Trojan descent, and the high and continued majesty
of the kingdom of Britain, may draw forth many a latent spark of
animosity, and encourage the daring spirit of rebellion.  Hence during
the military expedition which king Henry II. made in our days against
South Wales, an old Welshman at Pencadair, who had faithfully adhered to
him, being desired to give his opinion about the royal army, and whether
he thought that of the rebels would make resistance, and what would be
the final event of this war, replied, “This nation, O king, may now, as
in former times, be harassed, and in a great measure weakened and
destroyed by your and other powers, and it will often prevail by its
laudable exertions; but it can never be totally subdued through the wrath
of man, unless the wrath of God shall concur.  Nor do I think, that any
other nation than this of Wales, or any other language, whatever may
hereafter come to pass, shall, in the day of severe examination before
the Supreme Judge, answer for this corner of the earth.”


{155a}  Port Gordber, written _Gordwr_ by Humphrey Lhwyd in his Breviary
of Britain, probably a corruption from Gorddyar, a roaring, applied to
the sea, as Gorddyar môr, the roaring of the sea.

{155b}  The harbour, now known by the name of Portscwit, (and recorded in
the Triads as one of the three passages or ferries in the Isle of
Britain), is situated on the Welsh side of the Bristol channel, at a
short distance from the lower passage.

{155c}  Port Mawr, or the large port, is thus mentioned by Leland in his
Itinerary, tom. v. pp. 28, 29:—“About a mile of is Port Mawre, where is a
great sande with a shorte estuary into the lande.  And sum say that there
hath beene a castel at or aboute Port Mawr, but the tokens be not very

{155d}  Rhyd-helyg, or the Ford of the Willow.—I imagine this place is
Walford in Herefordshire, near the banks of the river Wye.

{156}  Brutus, according to the fable, in his way to Britain, met with a
company of Trojans, who had fled from Troy with Antenor and Corinæus at
their head, who submitted themselves to Brutus, and joined his company;
which Corinæus, being a very valiant man, rendered great service to
Brutus during his wars in Gaul and Britain; in return for which, Brutus,
having subdued the island, and divided it amongst his people, gave
Cornwall to Corinæus, who, as it is said, called it after his own name,

{157a}  Uchelwyr, so called from _Uchel_, high, and _gwr_, a man.

{157b}  This assertion is unfounded, if we give credit to the Welsh
Chronicle, which dates the death of Cadell in 907, and that of Anarawdin
in 913.  [Howell Dda, the son of Cadell, reunited Wales under one

{158a}  B.M.—This abbreviation, which in every manuscript I have seen of
Giraldus has been construed into _Beatam Mariam_, and in many of them is
written _Beatam Virginem_, may with much greater propriety be applied to
_Belinus Magnus_, or Beli the Great, a distinguished British King, to
whom most of the British pedigrees ascended; and because his name
occurred so frequently in them it was often written short, B.M., which
some men, by mistake, interpret _Beata Maria_.—(Sir R. C. H.)

{158b}  Aberfraw, a small town at the conflux of the river Fraw and the
sea, on the S.W. part of the isle of Anglesey, and twelve miles S.E. of

{159a}  A great lordship in Herefordshire, including the district between
Hereford and Monmouth, bordering on the river Wye.

{159b}  Book ii. chapter i.

{162a}  Book ii. c. 4.

{162b}  If by the mountains of Eryri we are to understand the Snowdonian
range of hills, our author has not been quite accurate in fixing the
source of the river Dovy, which rises between Dynas-y-mowddu and Bala
Lake, to the southward of Mount Arran: from whence it pursues its course
to Mallwyd, and Machynlleth, below which place it becomes an estuary, and
the boundary between North and South Wales.

{162c}  Our author is again incorrect in stating that the river Maw
forms, by its course, the two tracts of sands called Traeth Mawr and
Traeth Bychan.  This river, from which Barmouth derives the name of
Abermaw, and to which Giraldus, in the fifth chapter of the second book
of his Itinerary, has given the epithet of _bifurcus_, runs far to the
southward of either of the Traeths.  The Traeth Mawr, or large sands, are
formed by the impetuous torrents which descend from Snowdon by
Beddgelert, and pass under the Devil’s Bridge at Pont Aberglasllyn, so
called from the river Glasllyn; and the Traeth Bychan, or little sands,
are formed by numerous streams which unite themselves in the vale of
Festiniog, and become an æstuary near the village of Maentwrog.

{165a}  Better known as Geoffrey of Monmouth.

{165b}  The Anglo-Saxons called the Britons _Wealhas_, from a word in
their own language, which signified literally foreigners; and hence we
derive the modern name Welsh.

{168}  The Peak, in Derbyshire.

{169a}  Sir R. C. Hoare has altogether misunderstood the original here.
It was the custom in the middle ages to place the guests at table in
pairs, and each two persons ate out of one plate.  Each couple was a
_mess_.  At a later period, among the great the mess consisted of four
persons; but it appears that in Wales, at this time, it was formed of
three guests.

{169b}  “Bread, called _Lagana_, was, I suppose, the sort of household
bread, or thin cake baked on an iron plate, called a griddle (_gradell_),
still common in Caermarthenshire, and called _Bara Llech_ and _Bara
Llechan_, or griddle bread, from being so baked.”—Owen.  “_Laganum_, a
fritter or pancake, _Baranyiod_.”—_Lluyd_, _Archaiology_, p. 75.

{170}  _Brychan_, in Lhuyd’s Archaiology and Cornish Grammar, is spelt
Bryccan, and interpreted a blanket.

{171}  “Omnes vero se Britanni vitro inficiunt, quod cæruleum efficit
colorem, atque hoc horridore sunt in pugna adspectu; capilloque sunt
promisso, atque omni parte corporis rasa, præter caput et labrum
superius.”—_Cæsar de Bello Gallico_, cap. 13, 14.

{172}  This instrument is generally supposed to have been the origin of
the violin, which was not commonly known in England till the reign of
Charles I.  Before this time the crwth was not probably confined to the
Principality, from the name of _Crowdero_ in Hudibras; as also from a
fiddler being still called a _crowder_ in some parts of England, though
he now plays on a violin instead of a crwth.

{173}  These Welsh lines quoted by Giraldus are selected from two
different stanzas of moral verses, called Eglynion y Clywed, the
composition of some anonymous bard; or probably the work of several:

    “A glyweisti a gant Dywyneg,
    Milwr doeth detholedig;
    Digawn Duw da i unig?

    “Hast thou heard what was sung by Dywynic?
    A wise and chosen warrior;
    God will effect solace to the orphan.

    “A glyweisti a gant Anarawd?
    Milwr doniawg did lawd;
    Rhaid wrth anmhwyll pwyll parawd.

    “Hast thou heard what was sung by Anarawd?
    A warrior endowed with many gifts;
    With want of sense ready wit is necessary.”

Or, as Giraldus quotes it,

    “Wrth bob crybwll rhaid pwyll parawd.”

    “With every hint ready wit is necessary.”

                                        _Myvyvrian Archaiology_, page 172.

{179}  Awenydhion, in a literal sense, means persons inspired by the
Muse, and is derived from Awen and Awenydd, a poetical rapture, or the
gift of poetry.  It was the appellation of the disciples, or candidates
for the Bardic Order; but the most general acceptation of the word was,
Poets, or Bards.

{183}  Genealogies were preserved as a principle of necessity under the
ancient British constitution.  A man’s pedigree was in reality his title
deed, by which he claimed his birthright in the country.  Every one was
obliged to show his descent through nine generations, in order to be
acknowledged a free native, and by this right he claimed his portion of
land in the community.  He was affected with respect to legal process in
his collateral affinities through nine degrees.  For instance, every
murder committed had a fine levied on the relations of the murderer,
divided into nine degrees; his brother paying the greatest, and the ninth
in affinity the least.  This fine was distributed in the same way among
the relatives of the victim.  A person past the ninth descent formed a
new family.  Every family was represented by its elder; and these elders
from every family were delegates to the national council.—_Owen_.

{184}  The _naviculæ_ mentioned by Giraldus bear the modern name of
_coracles_, and are much used on the Welsh rivers for the taking of
salmon.  Their name is derived probably from the Celtic word _corawg_,
which signifies a _ship_.  They are mentioned by the ancient writers.

{197}  By the city of Legions Chester is here meant, not Caerleon.

{198}  Of the stones inscribed “HIC VICTOR FUIT HAROLDUS”—“HERE HAROLD
CONQUERED,” no original, I believe, remains extant; but at the village of
Trelech, in Monmouthshire, there is a modern pedestal bearing the above
inscription.—See the description and engraving in Coxe’s Monmouthshire,
p. 234.

{203}  In one MS. of Giraldus in the British Museum, this name is written

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