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Title: - To be updated
Author: Jeannette Augustus Marks, - To be updated
Language: English
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[Illustration: PETERS, ENGRS., BOSTON]

                          By Jeannette Marks

                 GALLANT LITTLE WALES. Sketches of its
               People, Places, and Customs. Illustrated.

                    THE END OF A SONG. Illustrated.

                 THROUGH WELSH DOORWAYS. Illustrated.

                       HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
                          BOSTON AND NEW YORK

_Gallant Little Wales_


                        _Gallant Little Wales_

                    _Sketches of its People, Places
                             and Customs_

                          BY JEANNETTE MARKS

                          WITH ILLUSTRATIONS


                          BOSTON AND NEW YORK
                       HOUGHTON MIFFLIN COMPANY
                     The Riverside Press Cambridge

                  COPYRIGHT 1912, BY JEANNETTE MARKS
                          ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

                       _Published October 1912_




As a guide-book this volume will be found to contain too few
unpronounceable Welsh place-names to be adequate, but as an
introduction to the North Welsh land, its customs, its village life,
its little churches, its holiday possibilities, its history and
associations, its folk-lore and romance, its music, its cottages and
castles, GALLANT LITTLE WALES should be useful. It is my intention to
follow this book with a companion volume on South Wales.

I wish to express my debt to Mr. Henry Blackwell, who has always been
quick to lend me volumes from his priceless Welsh library and who went
over some of my manuscript for me. I am under obligations also to Rev.
Gwilym O. Griffith of Carnarvonshire, North Wales. Thanks, too, I owe
to Miss Dorothy Foster for her work upon the map which appears as a
separate page in this volume.

The English know where beauty and comfort, good care, and good
Welsh mutton are to be had for a moderate tariff. But long before
the Englishman went for his vacations to these British Alps and the
American followed him, excursions were made into Wales. The Roman spent
a summer holiday or so both in North and South Wales, and left there
his villas and his fortresses and his roads. The Roman, having set or
followed a good example--and who shall say which it was?--and having
with Roman certainty got what he wanted, departed, leaving the country
open to other invaders who pillaged and plundered. Nor, since that
time, has the country ever been without an invader.

I, too, have gone my wonder-ways in Wales, plundering where I could.
I, too, Celt and Celt again, have followed its beauty and felt a
biting hunger for a land which, once loved, can never be forgotten.
As did another Celt, William Morris, in his poems, so in prose this
little book and I have wrought in an old garden, hoping to make “fresh
flowers spring up from hoarded seed” and to bring back again--“back to
folk weary”--some fragrance of old days and old deeds. Friendliness,
solitude, memories, beauty for the eye and beauty for the ear,--he who
would have one or all of these, let him go and go again to gallant
little Wales.


ATTIC PEACE, May 13, 1912.


       I. WELSH WALES                                 3

      II. A VILLAGE IN ERYRI                         17

     III. HILLTOP CHURCHES                           30


       V. WELSH FOLK-LORE                            86

      VI. THE CITY OF THE PRINCE OF WALES           105

     VII. THE EISTEDDFOD                            117

    VIII. CAMBRIAN COTTAGES                         133




    THE LADIES OF LLANGOLLEN              _Frontispiece_

    CONWAY CASTLE                                    10
    From an old print.

    THE QUEEN’S TOWER, CONWAY CASTLE                 24
    From an engraving by Cuitt, 1817.

    THE GREAT HALL AT CONWAY CASTLE                  32
    From an engraving by Cuitt.

    ST. WINIFRED’S WELL, HOLYHEAD                    40
    From an engraving by Cuitt, 1813.

    From an engraving by Cuitt.

    GATEWAY OF CARNARVON CASTLE                      66
    From an engraving by Cuitt.

    A VIEW OF DENBIGH CASTLE                         80
    From an engraving by Boydell, 1750.

    RUTHIN CASTLE                                    92
    From an engraving by Buck, 1742.

    THE COMPLEAT ANGLER IN WALES                    100


    LLANBERIS                                       124
    From an old print.

    BEAUMARIS                                       140
    From a proof before letters by Turner.

    From an engraving by Boydell, 1750.

    BEDDGELERT                                      160
    From an old print.

    THE SUMMIT OF SNOWDON                           172
    From an old print.

    MAP                             _Inside front cover_

_Gallant Little Wales_


_Welsh Wales_

It is a vanished past that haunts the imagination in Wales, so that
forever after in thoughts of that country one goes spellbound. It is
the beautiful present, the cry of the sheep upon the mountain-sides,
the church bells ringing from their little bell-cots and sounding
sweetly in valleys and on highland meadows, the very flowers of the
roadsides,--foxglove, bluebell, heather,--that keep one lingering in
Wales or draw one back to that land again. There are little churches
of twelfth-century foundation, gray or washed white,--their golden
glowing saffron wash of long ago unrenewed by the Welsh of to-day.
There are little cottages, white or yellow or pink, with their bright
doorsills of copper, their clean, shining flagstones, their latticed
windows, and all the homely and dignified tranquillity within. There,
towering above, are bare rock-strewn summits upon which the yew still
stands, and, by its side, springing from the tuft of grass which the
wind has not swept away, grows the white harebell; the yew monument
to a thousand years, the harebell a fragile thing of yesterday. And
above these church-crowned hills are mountain summits, gray and craggy,
stripped of everything verdant, places where there are “shapes that
haunt thought’s wilderness,” and suggestions of an endless, unending

It was Bishop Baldwin, I think, accompanied on his famous
twelfth-century journey through Cambria by Gerald of Wales, who said,
getting his breath with difficulty as he surmounted a Welsh hill, “The
nightingale followed wise counsel and never came into Wales.” Were this
true, the reply might be that Wales has no need of nightingales, so
many and so beautiful are the wind-played songs over the rocks, and so
incomparably lovely are the voices of the Welsh people themselves. In
any event, _had_ the nightingales come into Wales, a plump one--as it
seems Bishop Baldwin himself must have been--would never have remained
long in the mountain fastnesses of northern Wales,--at least not in
the neighbourhood of Snowdon or Nant Francon or Twll Ddu,--the “black
hole” of Wales. Neither, if Bishop Baldwin ever climbed to a Welsh
mountain-top, would this princely prelate have liked the views there.
A comfortable, fat living in some Welsh community like Valle Crucis
Abbey, near the river Dee, by Llangollen, would probably have been
far more to his liking. Even now these mountain inns are not of the
accepted kind, but merely a cromlech over which the wind still plays
its devil tunes, a cave or the ridgepole of a long sharp mountain
crest, broken by crags down to the very edge of the sea.

Wales is a land of mountains, of little alpine heights ranged on
the western coast of Great Britain. Set between plain and sea, full
of hill fastnesses, its turbulent history is partly explained by
the topography of Gwalia. Independence, lack of unity,--these words
summarize most of the early history of Wales. To the different parts of
Cambria, alpine Snowdonia, the pasture lands of Berwyn, the moorlands
and vast coal-fields of the south, came two races: one short and dark,
the Iberian; the other tall and fair, the Celtic. These are still the
two peoples of Wales. And after them came Rome; but Rome is gone, has
vanished, except for her walls and foundations and roads, and these
dark and fair races are still there, mingled, their racial traits still
impregnable, still intact.

When you add to what might be called the natural and inherent
difficulties of the necessary mountain climbing in Wales, those of
the Welsh language, you have a combination that is beyond words to
describe. Even the veriest tyro a-visiting Wales will tell you that the
language defies all description and the most conscientious efforts to
master it.

One warm day we were making a melancholy progress up a mountain-side
when steps passed swiftly and a voice said in Welsh, “Stepping
upwards?” The young man, an itinerant Welsh minister, was travelling in
the same direction with us and it did not seem polite to say “Goodbye,”
although I could think of no other Welsh words. Finally two inept ones
came to me, “Da iawn” (very good), and I spoke them. But then, not
content to let well enough alone, something more had to be said and I
kept on repeating those words like a parrot. The Welshman looked around
doubtfully, as if he wondered what the “Very good” was all about, and
I heard him murmuring to himself and saw him hasten upwards a little

“Say something else,” my companion whispered.

“I am going to if you will just give me time,” I snapped back.

But I didn’t say anything else; I couldn’t, for not another thing
would come. If any one feels disposed to criticize an alien because he
is unable to speak Welsh, then let him go test its difficulties for
himself, its long words, its savage consonants, its poor little vowels
lost like some bleating lamb upon rocky mountain-sides. You just get it
satisfactorily settled in your own mind that “Dad” means father,--very
natural and proper,--when suddenly you discover that “Tad” and “Nhad”
and “Thad” also mean father and are one and the same word. With mother
or “Mam” you suffer a similar though not the same fate. To begin with,
the Cymric alphabet differs from ours: it consists of thirty-one
letters, some of which, “mh,” “ch,” “dd,” “ff,” “ng,” “ngh,” “ll,”
“nh,” “ph,” “rh,” “th,” never occur in the English alphabet as letters
_per se_. Your honest grammarian will tell you flatly that in the case
of “ll” there is no sound in any language corresponding to it. Most
like it are the Spanish “ll” and the Italian “gl.” Then what to do? Do
as you would have to do in rope skipping: watch the rope, run and jump
in if you can. The “c” is hard in Welsh, never soft like “c” in “city”;
“ch” is like the guttural German “ch”; the “dd” sometimes like “eth”;
“f” like “v”; “ff” like “f”; “g” is never soft as in “giant,” but like
“g” in “get”; “i,” both long and short, as “i” in “pin” and “ee” in
“fleet”; “o” is short like “o” in “got” or long like “o” in “note”; “p”
as in English; “s” is like “s” in “sin”; “u” is sometimes like “i” and
sometimes not; the “w” is like “u”; “y” has two sounds, first like “u”
in “fur,” second like the Welsh “u.” A few words will illustrate Welsh
pronunciation. “Cymru” is pronounced, as nearly as one can suggest
its pronunciation, as if spelled “Kumree”; “Gwalia” as if “Gooalia”;
“Mawddwy” as if “Mauthooy”; “Wnion” as if “Oonion”; “Pwllheli” as if
“Pooltheli”; “Dolgelley” as if “Dolgethley.”

I have had some experiences with my “small” Welsh which I would
not exchange for those of “big” German in the past, or of any other
language in which I have been trained to read or speak. I remember one
experience that happened when we were in search of a certain little
church of ancient foundation, set upon a hilltop. In Wales there are
many of these little churches on the hilltops, like Llanrychwyn and
Llangelynin, and also little churches by the sea, like Llandanwg,
almost at the foot of Harlech. Within their mediæval lychgates and
high stone walls the dead are crowded close in their last sleep. Sweet
places are those old churches, with the yew standing sentinel near
them, and about them the shelter of the valley or the wide sweep of
the hilltop view. This time it was a hilltop church for which we were
searching. Again it was “Da iawn” which graced the conversation, but in
how different a manner!

We were in need of tea, and at the cottage next to the church, the only
cottage upon that summit, I rapped with my stick and said to the old
woman who came, “Dyma le da i gael te” (this is a good place to have

“Yiss,” was her reply, her face brightening; “Te?”

“Yes,” said I; “tea and bread-and-butter.”

“Jam?” asked she, remembering what I had forgotten.

“Yes,” I answered.

She spread the cover in the place on the turf to which we pointed and
smiled brightly at me, as if she, too, appreciated the beauty of that
place with its wide mountain and valley landscape, the trustful sheep
browsing near me, and down at our feet the magnificent pile of Harlech
Castle looking across the wide flat marsh at its feet and over the sea
toward the palace of King Mark.

“Da iawn” (very good), said I emphatically.

And her answering smile told me that we understood each other, even if
we could not speak each other’s language very well.

[Illustration: CONWAY CASTLE

_From an old print_]

Changeling Welsh words are begot of elves and fairies. Even as those
words are full of poetry, of romance, of a wild emotionalism,--the
“Scream of the Celt” it has been called, but in Wales it is a subdued
scream,--so, still, are the superstitions about fairies and elves
living among these Welsh hills and valleys. Childish tales they may
seem to you, if you are fortunate enough to be told anything about them
at all by the Welsh peasants, who are both suspicious and shy of the
“foreigner.” The tales one may hear even now in Wales are full of a
haunting race life. The Welsh speak of the fairies as the “little folk”
or the “fair folk” or “family”--“y Tylwyth Teg.” And well do these
little creatures deserve the name, for they are friendly in Wales.
Ghosts there are, too, and the death portents, the old hag of the mist
and others that groan or moan or sing or stamp with their feet. And
there are “Corpse Candles” and “Goblin Funerals.” Shakespeare knew a
deal about Welsh folk-lore, but where he got it from no one has yet
discovered. With Shakespeare “mab” meant a little thing, just as in any
Welsh village to-day “mabcath” means a kitten.

No matter where I have been I have found the Welsh conscious of the
beauty and significance of their land, its legendary lore, its history,
its marvellous natural attraction. They have always been eager to
give me information about some landmark, some incident about which I
might be inquiring. Over their shop counters, across the doorsills of
the humblest of Welsh cottages, by some kitchen fire where the brass
tea-kettle sang and glowed in the subdued light of the ingle, they
have poured forth titles of books and data,--things for which I was
searching, or needed to know. One old man, eighty-six years old and
bedridden, held my hand in an eager, childish clasp, while he tried
to tell me something about a church, the poor tired mind working like
a rundown clock, the half-sightless eyes looking at me in petition to
help him recall the days that had slipped so far away. He asked me
about friends of his,--people who had died before I had thought of
being born. He corrected my few words of Welsh, a ghost of a smile
about the old mouth, but he could not recollect what I wanted to know.
Without the information I was seeking, I went away saying “Nos da” to
him, which was, indeed, good night.

When Dr. Samuel Johnson made his memorable tour of Wales, he wrote,
“Wales is so little different from England that it offers nothing to
the speculations of the traveller.” He seemed wholly oblivious to the
strong racial difference between Welsh and English, which alters not
only the visage of the people, but also the visage of the very country.
He was so indifferent to the grandeur of Snowdon scenery that, going
around the base of that mountain of eagles in a chaise, he spent his
time keeping account of the number of sheep for “Miss Thrale,”--his
little favourite “Queenie.” I do not believe that Johnson’s disgust
would have been the least appeased by knowing that in the years to come
other great people were to go and go again to Wales, as to a beloved
lap of rest: Wordsworth, Shelley, Kingsley, Froude, Newman, Huxley,
Tyndall, Tennyson, Arnold, Tom Taylor, John Bright, Carmen Sylva, and
many another. The good Doctor scorned Welsh rivers, called them brooks
and offered to jump over them. He would have despised such a cottage
kitchen as I have lingered in many a time impressed by its beautiful
and dignified simplicity. Sweet places are these old kitchens,
hospitable, warm, cheerful. Sunlight or firelight, one or the other,
you may have always in them. Bright they are with fuchsias and little
gleaming leaded window-panes, with polished oak and polished brass and
copper, with the shining face of a grandfather clock, with pewter,
with lustre pitchers and creamers, with gleaming pots and kettles, and
the salt glistening on bacons and hams hanging from the blackened oak
rafters. Gay are they, too, with the life and laughter of children,
with the good cheer of contented older people, with the purr of the
house cat and the bubbling of the tea-kettle. More homelike, more
motherly, more charming old kitchens, it has never been my good fortune
to see.

There was only one thing in Wales which profoundly satisfied the
great Doctor and that was its castles, Harlech and Conway, and
Carnarvon Castle most of all. Almost every Welsh town has its
historical traditions of importance, but Carnarvon, the city of the
Prince of Wales, even more than others. There Elen, the Great Welsh
road-maker, was sought and won by the Emperor Maximus. Of that little
city, once the Roman city of Segontium, there is a description in the
“Mabinogion,” the classic of Welsh literature and one of the classics
of the world. The Roman Emperor saw in his dream but what we see now, a
fair and mighty castle, rocks, precipices, mountains of great height.
The Prince of Wales was born, according to legend, in Carnarvon Castle,
and there investiture ceremonies are still held. But veracious history
assures us that he was born in the town, outside the castle of which
he himself had built the very tower where he was supposed to have been
born. Tumultuous, confused, legendary is Welsh history, full of the
more or less mythical deeds of their great King Arthur, their brave
Prince Llewelyn, the fate that overtook the hopes and ideals of this
prince, their last fight for independence and their loss of it; their
submission to the yoke of conquerors and the history of English princes
who were put over them. It is a wild, sad, eventful history whose
sorrows and tragedies seem only to have bitten all that is most Cymric
in Welsh Wales deeper into Welsh lives and hearts, so that to-day,
despite all that conqueror or civilization can do, their language,
their lives, are still separate.

And the Welsh Eisteddfod, a festival of song and poetry, is a
revelation of the unique national Welsh spirit. From every hamlet in
Wales, even those reached only by Welsh ponies, visitors travel on
foot or by train to this feast of song and to witness the Gorsedd, a
druidical ceremony old as the Eye of Light itself. “Gallant little
Wales” shows itself to the least and last participant in the Eisteddfod
as Welsh Wales. Educationally this Eisteddfod ceremony is of great
value to Wales, democratic, representative, instructive; and nowhere
could the fact that Welsh educational ideals are quite different from
those of England--popular and progressive, with something of the
so-called American spirit in them--reveal itself more completely than
in this assembly of the people. Wales is essentially a democracy--a
democracy of song, a democracy of poetry, a democracy of education and
religion, and the Eisteddfod is the popular university of the people.
To comprehend what is deepest and best in Welsh Wales one must go to
the Eisteddfod and hear the Welsh, sensitive, capable of the “Hwyl,”
imaginative, passionate, fervidly patriotic, sing,--


    “Old mountain-built Cymru, the bard’s Paradise,
    The farm in the cwm, the wild crag in the skies,
    The river that winds, have entwined tenderly
    With a love spell my spirit in me.”

      _Chorus_: Land, Land,
                Too fondly I love thee, dear Land,
                Till warring sea and shore be gone,
                Pray God let the old tongue live on.”


_A Village in Eryri_

    “Curates mind the parish,
    Sweepers mind the court,
    We’ll away to Snowdon,
    For our ten days’ sport.”

    _Kingsley’s Letter to Tom Hughes._

At the centre of a wide meadow with valleys running in towards the
centre from east and south and west lies a little village of North
Wales. All the cottages are gray, gray as the stones of St. John’s, but
they are of the crisp, compact gray of slate, and not the crumbling,
fretted stone of Oxford. Occasionally some cottage nestling to the
craggy side of one of the valley roads is whitewashed with white or
pink, or fitted so neatly into the jutting rocks of the mountain-side
that only the humble façade, a screen of blooming roses, is visible.
Whitewash, roses, gleam of copper doorsills, running water, flash gaily
in the midst of the gray of Beddgelert. Above the houses is the blue
roadway of sky walled in by craggy mountain-summits, the sides of the
mountains carpeted with myriad tufts of heather, lavender or purple or
pink, and in autumn with the vivid yellow of the prickly gorse. Bees
desert tiny gardens of well-hedged roses for this wide principality
of bracken and heather, where around tufted blossoms they hum to the
tossing of some stream casting itself down the hills. Up the rocks
clamber ivy and sheep; about the moist edges of the pools and over the
cushions of damp moss, black and brown watered-silk snails measure
leisurely in well-fed content; and in little terraced glens of thick
sod and along the roadways grow bluebells and columbine and foxglove
and elfin white birches. But above these troops of upland bluebells and
slender, swaying birches hang rocks, wild, rugged, whipped bare even
of heather. And from the rough spine of Craig-y-Llan stretches away
towards Snowdon and Pen-y-Pass, a wilderness of naked rocks, weird,
jagged, shining gray and black in utter desolation.

At the meeting of the Colwyn and Gwynen rivers, with the hollow
sound of rushing water in its village lanes and the tinkling of sheep
bells scattering from the overhanging hills, the meadow strips lie
beside the valley roads, deep green with abundant grass or yellow with
grain. Life, however, has been strenuous in this village of fourscore
mountain huts, and many fathers and sons have had to labour to clear
the grassy fields. For these honest, independent, thrifty Welshmen,
slate and sheep are the chief means of support. The rivers yield, too,
a fair quantity of salmon as pink as some of the mountain huts, salmon
weighing from one to eighteen pounds. In a flood, although the torrent
sometimes reduces the number of inhabitants, the catch of salmon is
greater, and the villagers face the delicate task of balancing an
all-wise but unscrupulous Providence.

The way to a Welshman’s heart, nevertheless, is not through his
stomach; the Welsh think but little of what they eat. Before English
tourists came to the village the inns of the place, Ty Ucha--now the
Saracen’s Head--and Ty Isaf, provided a bill of fare consisting of oat
and barley bread, ale, porter, and eggs. English and Americans, unlike
the Welsh, do not go lightly on a holiday without consideration of
what there will be to eat. And our lodging-table, set by as kindly and
generous a hostess as three wanderers ever found, bore slender chickens
whose proportions suggested mountain climbing, mutton tender as the
ivy the poor sheep had been nibbling, salmon trout fresh as the stream
pouring by the corner of our cottage, Glan Afon, pound-cake filled
with plums, and tawny mountain honey. And, too, there were vegetables
for whose mere names we felt a careless indifference. Even the loaf of
bread Baucis and Philemon set before their wanderers was no better, I
am certain, than the bread of Beddgelert, light, sweet, with crackly
golden-brown crust. Often have we done nothing but watch--and joy
enough it was--the mammoth loaves coming home from the village bakery
across the village bridge, little children staggering under them, small
boys bearing them jauntily, mothers grasping them firmly under one arm,
a baby tucked away under the other.

At the inns, of which the Royal Goat is most pretentious,--it has a
piano,--there is much quiet holiday life led by quiet holiday people.
The simple folk who come to stay are for the most part the Welsh people
themselves, for whom Beddgelert is in the nature of a shrine, a place
canonized by the brave deed of one of their own Welsh greyhounds,
Prince Llewelyn’s Gelert. The visitors who travel through the valley
during the holiday month of August are English and Welsh tourists on
the coaches driving over Llanberis Pass, said to be the highest coach
drive in the world, and going to Carnarvon, the ancient Roman city of
Segontium, fourteen miles distant from Beddgelert.

In the last hundred years the village has harboured many a
distinguished man who, giving thanks for his undiscovered seclusion,
has come and gone unknown. Wordsworth came there with his friend,
Robert Jones; Shelley, living at Tan yr Allt, a few miles out of
Beddgelert, must often have passed through its lanes, his ragged brown
hair whipped by the valley wind, his great eyes blue as the roadway of
sky overhead; Kingsley, with a quick smile for the jolly little urchins
perched venturesomely on the sharp slate coping of the bridge, Frederic
Temple, Derwent Coleridge, J. A. Froude, Professor F. W. Newman,
Huxley, Tyndall, all found holiday rest in this quiet meadow sheltered
by its rampart of mountains. Gladstone came there, too. A village cow
with an eye for distinction endeavoured to hook the Prime Minister and
had afterwards the satisfaction of being sold for a large sum of money.
There also in the valley was born “Golden Rule” Jones, of Toledo fame,
a good man, and but one of many good men who have gone forth from this
fastness of peace to dream ever afterwards of a return to its gray
houses, its streams, its hills and heather and wilderness of crags.

Ty Isaf and Ty Ucha are the oldest inns of the village. Ty Isaf is
at the entrance of the lane leading to the church, and it was there,
not so many years ago, that the minister was still expected to drink a
cup or two of ale before entering the pulpit or fail in due prelusive
inspiration. At Ty Isaf was kept the Large Pint of Beddgelert (“Hen
Beint Mawr Bedd Gelert”), a pewter mug which held two quarts of old
beer. Any man who could drink this quantity at a breath might charge
the amount to the lord of the manor; if he failed, he paid for it
himself. But so often was the heroic deed accomplished by capacious
Welshmen that it is recorded the tenants paid but half their rent in
money. It would be interesting to know for how many goblins, fairies,
“Lantern Jacks,” flickering “Candles of the Dead,” Hen Beint Mawr was
responsible! Now over every little inn is the sign “Temperance,” for
Welsh revivals have played havoc with these noble drinking-feats.
One signboard, I can never pass without a smile, has gone so far as
rather to insist upon the temperance issue in the words, “Rooms and
Temperance.” Incidentally, the rector of the Episcopal Church has
given up his potation, and next door the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist
minister, also unsupported by home-brewed beer, wrestles with his
flock. Beddgelert Sabbath-keeping has all the force of an unbroken
tradition. A gentleman riding a-hunting on Sunday was confronted by
an old woman who shook her Welsh Bible at him and showered vindictive
Welsh _l’s_ on his worldly head. Nor was our own experience much
happier. Our drinking-water was fetched from Ty Ucha, and we had good
reason to believe it was responsible for wretched feelings. One Sunday
morning I consulted our Welsh hostess, explained to her what we thought
of the water, and asked whether we might have some brought from another
spring. We were told that it could not be drawn on the Sabbath, but
would be brought to us on Monday morning! In every cottage there is
a mammoth Welsh Bible, and groups of smaller Bibles both Welsh and
English. We went into one deserted mountain hut to take pictures of the
interior; inside, together with an old trunk, a rusty fluting-iron,
kettles, pans, a portion of the woven couch strung over the wide
fireplace, and old clothes, we found two Welsh Bibles, one English
Bible, and a torn portion of “Pilgrim’s Progress.”


_From an engraving by Cuitt, 1817_]

Indeed, the religious spirit of the place is a tradition but
infrequently broken in the past thousand years. Edward I had burned
the priory (now St. Mary’s Church), which was erected as a hospitium
in connexion with a small chapel and schoolhouse in the second half of
the sixth century; Henry VIII endeavoured to crush its power, and then
in 1830 the good villagers themselves entered upon the pious task of
renovation. In order to make the renovation as thorough as possible,
they tore down all the rare wood-carving, using it for kindling-wood,
and in some instances making pieces of household furniture from it;
they put in a false ceiling of clapboards hiding the fine Gothic arch
of the roof; the ceiling, together with the walls, they whitewashed,
and completed their pious task by boarding up several exquisitely
shaped lancet windows. Fortunately the renovation has been followed by
a restoration, and now the priory may be seen in some of its ancient
beauty, with the old yew tree spreading low over the gravestones and
the Gwynen pouring by its northern walls, singing the same mountain
song it sang when the canons regular of St. Augustine, barefooted,
gray-habited, with crucifix and rosary, marched solemnly from chapel to

The name Beddgelert, the Grave of Gelert (?), brings hundreds of Welsh
people to see this town each year. It is not an uncommon spectacle
to see a man, as he stands by the dog’s grave, brushing away tears,
or a little child crying bitterly. The story is of Prince Llewelyn’s
greyhound, who saved his master’s baby by killing a fierce wolf, and
then was slain by his master’s sword, for the Prince, entering, saw the
cradle overturned and the greyhound’s mouth covered with blood. The
name of the place, however, has nothing to do with the myth of Gelert;
the little hill on which the grave stands had for hundreds of years
been called “Bryn-y-Bedd,” the “Hill of the Grave,” a mound where the
Irish chief Celert, a far earlier hero than the dog, may have been
buried. There are parallels in other folk-lore for this tale, and one
even in the Sanscrit has been discovered in which, in place of Northern
wolf, a snake is the evil agent. There is an unmistakable twinkle in
a Beddgelert eye whenever the story is told. Alas! that the greyhound
buried there was not presented to Prince Llewelyn by his father-in-law,
King John, in the year 1205, but, the petted possession of two
Beddgelert spinsters, was presented by them at the beginning of the
nineteenth century to the sagacious David Prichard, the first owner of
the Royal Goat Hotel, and promptly interred by him in the famous mound.

Every one of the three valley roads of Beddgelert is filled with
incidents of Welsh legend and folk-lore. Even in our materialistic
age the credulous spirit abides here in this mountain-bred people,
quick, lively, romantic. The village is filled with lovely legend and
quaint lore; in the farmhouses among the hills heroic stories are still
told about Arthur and songs sung to Welsh melodies. There are tales
of ghosts, and of goblins, brown road goblins, and gray goblins of
the mist; of water sprites in the mountain torrents, now a beautiful,
half-naked maiden, now a fleshless old man; of the “Candle of the Dead”
with its clear white flame; of the little red-eyed, red-eared “Hounds
of Hell” flocking like sheep down some mountain-path; of the pranks
of “Lantern Jack” on dark winter nights; of the fairies living in the
summer among the bracken, in winter among heather and gorse, coming out
of their haunts to dive thievishly into the farmers’ pockets, or to
steal butter and milk and cheese from the careful housewives. There are
stories, too, of amiable, kindly fairies who carol and dance nightly.

Driving up from Tremadoc past Tan yr Allt, where Shelley lived for a
year, one comes to the bridge at the mouth of the pass. This bridge
is said to have been built by no less a person than the Devil, who
for his trouble got nothing in toll but a poor little dog that was
first to scamper over it. Down the Nant Gwynen Valley, a narrow river
valley running east out of Beddgelert, is Dinas Emrys, the home of
the magician Merlin and at many times the abiding place of King
Arthur. Merlin’s well, on the very summit of Dinas Emrys, is still a
discoverable well. There, too, surrounding the crown of this singular
hill, are traces and remains of the walls of an old Roman fortress; and
the entrance over the narrow ridge to the crown of Dinas Emrys bears
marks of stone hewn hundreds of years ago. Not more than three miles
further in the same valley is a precipitous pass leading up towards
Lliwedd by Snowdon, where some legends say Arthur fell and lies buried.
Up this valley road over Pen y Pass, in a wilderness of boulders
and crags tumbled hither and thither, is an interesting specimen of
cromlech, and near by some gigantic rocks so fitted together that they
form a hut in which an old woman is said to have lived many, many
years. I hope life was pleasanter to her during all those years than
it was for us during even the few minutes we were within the strange

The third valley running out of Beddgelert is the valley of the Colwyn.
This leads past Moel Hebog--in a cave on whose perpendicular side Owen
Glendwr lay in hiding for months--towards Carnarvon, a city of a castle
with casements:--

    “Charm’d magic casements, opening on the foam
    Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.”

There lying before one over the summer sea is the rim of Anglesey,
quiet in its mirage of white sand and the green land stretching
away into gray distance. Still many portions of the old Roman road
connecting Segontium and Heriri Mons may be seen in this valley,
bridle-paths the Welsh call “Ffyrdd Elen,” “Elen’s Roads.” Towering
above, Snowdon looks down, untroubled, from its splendid reach, upon
these paths, from which, in sunshine and in mist, Druid and Roman,
henchman of Edward and John, prince and poet and painter, have made
the steep ascent and seen swimming before them, like the sea of time,
a hundred hills; beyond, the wide glimmer of the ocean; and heard
rising through the air the roar of torrent and stream. Halfway up
Snowdon are the remains of a druidical temple. There, kneeling on some
of the stones, I listened to the song of wind and sea, the Harp of
Eryri, and tried to catch a little of the vast panorama, which was,
somehow, strangely, mournfully human, holding in sky-line and sea-line
dim shadow of the hearts which had knelt here before--the immemorial
worshippers of untold beauty.


_Hilltop Churches_

“Ah,” said Bishop Baldwin, recovering his breath, “the nightingale
followed wise counsel and never came into Wales.” So, jocund as the
most unordained, Baldwin’s holy company of the twelfth century moved
on its way, gathering ever more and more to it cloaks signed with
the crusading cross of red. To mind come other figures and to mind
come other pictures--wild, powerful, beautiful, pathetic--of a past
that is a thousand or two thousand years old. In some rock-strewn
valley, bleak and barren as the uttermost parts of the earth or
terrible as the valley of the shadow of death, rises the cry of human
sacrifice. Hundreds of years later, down a roadway bordered then as
now with foxglove and bluebells and heather, rides a gallant company,
gentle-mannered, on pleasure bent. Or by the walls of Conway Castle,
Edward I bears the body of his Eleanor to its far resting-place in
Westminster Abbey, where the stones are still fresh from the chisels
of the builders. Here is “the unimaginable touch of Time,” a Past that
as it slips away joins the mystery of a Future even at this instant in

But the traveller does not go on foot week after week many scores of
miles, with these thoughts always present, like Christian with a pack
upon his back, and meeting as did Christian many difficulties. True, a
good heart faces the open road expecting many obstacles, and can find
its wonder-ways even if it loses a night’s rest. Giraldus Cambrensis,
on the forward march with the Bishop through Wales, could vouch for an
island in which no one dies, for a wandering bell, for a whale with
three golden teeth, for grasshoppers that sing better when their heads
are cut off. He tells the story of a lad, Sisillus Long Leg by name,
who suffered a violent persecution from toads that in the end consumed
the young man to the very bones. And like most ecclesiastics, Giraldus
allows himself the relaxation of a good fish story.

This credulity, charming as it is and panacea for the physical
tedium of the open road, is the faculty of which the pedestrian of
to-day must strip himself. No other pilgrimages of which I know have
been made to these little churches, except by Mr. Herbert North, of
Wales,--who has studied the old churches of Arllechwyd simply, and to
whose architectural insight I am greatly indebted,--and by myself.
During many weeks my journey took me from hillside to hillside and
mountain-top to mountain-top, studying these ancient foundations. My
work was grounded upon incredulity; everything was recorded, nothing
concluded. As a motto the remark of the only thoughtful sexton I have
met out of literature might have been taken. Contemplating an old stone
at St. Mary, Conway, inscribed “Y 1066,” he said, “Hit wants a wise
’ead to find hit out.” At Gyffin beyond Conway we pointed to one object
after another in the church with the single question--an American

“How old is it?”

“It’s very old, mum,” came the reply.

“How old?”

“Oh, very old, mum,” in an impressive voice.


_From an engraving by Cuitt_]

Having tested barrel vault, paintings, chancel, windows, rood screen,
roof, walls, doors, in this fashion, we had worked ourselves out of the
church, so to speak, and I pointed up to a shiny tin rooster crowing
upon the bell-cot.

“How old is it, the rooster?” I said.

“Oh, very old, mum,” came the solemn reply.

At another place we were told that the bell swinging in the cot, and
sounding sweetly after the long journey uphill, dated from the fourth
century. It was useless to inform the poor soul that there were none
but hand-bells then in North Wales, and that she was in this case only
a little matter of one thousand years out of the way. After a mount
up to Llangelynin, taken hastily, and much investigation of objects
genuinely ancient, the woman who had us in thrall said, pointing
to a dark recess under a narrow, fixed pew, black as darkness, and
not more than one foot from the pew in front of it, “There’s a very
old tablet there, mum, my son says.” Perhaps she had calculated the
discrepancy between the width of the pew and myself; however, I got
through to the floor, wiped off the dust with a handkerchief, and
out blinked, as sleepily as if it were the very Rip Van Winkle of
stones, the young date 1874! Wild steeple chases there were in plenty,
with minor fatalities to limb and courage. It is useless, when one
mountain-top has been achieved, to find that after all there is nothing
left except the inconsiderable mountain itself,--it is useless then
to discover upon an opposite summit, whose peak could be reached by a
well-modulated voice, an extant church of indubitable antiquity, for to
meet with that church would require an all-day’s walk. There was one
steeple chase without even the comfort of another church in view.

Once reconciled to these surprises, for which no one can be held
accountable, and to the ineffectiveness of the sextons whom no one must
suppose responsible, there are no chances for disappointments except
such as are self-created. The attendants in most cases are women,
and wretched creatures some of them are. In one place a woman with a
goitre, and one eye gone, kept the keys. She was admirably proud of her
son because he did know something, but as the son spent all his days
in a mine we were not in a way to inherit his wisdom. Another woman
was deaf and dumb and foolish. A lad who took us through a church of
considerable importance, if antiquity can make these deserted churches
important, was so stupid he received a lecture upon his ignorance.
His unanswerable sectarian reply was that he did not belong to that
church anyway. We met with some smart young girls who, with their
twenty years of wisdom, were above knowledge concerning anything so
rusty and tumble-down as the church by means of which they hoped to win
sixpences for ribbons. There were two or three apple-cheeked old women
clad in caps and bobbing their curtsies. To one, a sweet old soul, I
was explaining that a certain door could not be very ancient and have
the big nails it had in it. “Uch,” she replied, in distress. “Well,
indeed, mum, perhaps they were put in later to hold it together.” It
may be said, I think, that the keys are kept as far away as possible,
why I cannot say. So is the vicar kept as far away as possible: even
the curates get the habit and stay away when they can. As a rule, the
churches are not set down in the midst of habitable villages, but most
often upon remote hillsides or hilltops. There is another difficulty
to be encountered also, in the person of the kindly individual who
could show you what you wish, but wishes to show you something else.
One old woman--the Ancient Mariner himself could not have been more
irresistible--detained us endlessly while she searched for and
displayed the Duchess of Westminster’s photograph.

These are some of the troubles in a progress otherwise enchanting;
once realized, it is well to forget them, together with the feet that
were sometimes too weary to travel five miles further and the shoulder
that ached under the strap. With its ache of all the ages the dream
of ancient beauty has no place in it for an hour’s weariness. As if
the riddle of existence could be explained by a wall rain-washed and
worn, upon which grow lichen, moss, rustling grass, and even trees,
and by lintels tipping earthward, golden flowers blowing upon them!
The eye travels thirstily from stone to stone, or to some peaceful
bell-cot pointing the bare ridge of a bleak, sheep-covered hill,
or to the far-away hills and gray sky and solemn, dreary places.
Spiritually it is easy to understand why these churches are on the
hills, and the controversy about their position seems a matter of no
further moment. There are other pictures, too, of churches by the
sea, in the main not as old as those upon the mountains, enclosures
where even the tombstones are crowded together in their last sleep.
Beyond these churchyards lies the encircling shore with ever the white
lip of the sea at its edge; above, low-lying regiments of clouds
march Snowdon-wards. Upon one eminence is the church, upon another,
nearer the water, a castle, and in the valley between these crumbling
sanctities of power and spirit is the little town, busy still, its
roofs making a joyous show of colour beneath the blue sky. Within
these churches by the sea there is ever the tideless roar of the
waters ringing upon the shores, and from these church doorways the
eye dreams upon the castle wasting with the land at its feet, or the
“llys” of King Mark, or upon the faint blue rim of some island, holy
as the mother of good men. Along the road on one side is the sea; on
the other, green hills rise into the blue of the sky, their slopes a
mosaic of gray sheep walls. And here out of the village at the end of
a grass-grown road, by the sea, lies a little church, around which
the sands have blown through so many centuries that the windows show
just the caps looking like sleepy eyes out of the huddled graves. One
minute time rolls like a chariot wheel crushing all things, another
moment and it is a mystic circle without beginning and without end. The
graves upon the hillsides, young in their hundreds of years, look down
upon the mounds of the British undisturbed in a millennial repose, and
upon a stone lying as hands two thousand years ago placed it. And past
the ears rush the centuries of all eternity, as in the travelling of a
mighty wind.

Seeing with the eye of visions it is not hard to re-create a
vanished past, to construct again the primitive British church of wood
and wattle, with its beauty of oaken rafter and carved wood which stone
now encloses. There is still an ancient wooden church in Greenstead,
Essex, in plan much like little churches of North Wales,--the walls
six feet high made of half trees side by side, the roof a tie beam,
with struts, less than six feet from the floor. This parallelogram
follows out the double square of what was undoubtedly the plan of
the ancient British church, something that was still geometrically
the square sanctuary with its square altar typifying the heavenly
Jerusalem. Bede, in his “Ecclesiastical History,” speaks of “a church
fit for an Episcopal See; which, however, after the manner of the
Scots, he [Finan] did not erect of stone, but of sawn timber, covering
it with reeds.” It is worth remembering that the little churches being
discussed are unique examples of a national type based, not upon the
Roman basilica, but upon the Temple, with its square Holy of Holies,
and illustrating certain features; a square east end with east window,
an altar concealed behind screens, and a south door instead of a
western portal. The wood and wattle churches have disappeared, but upon
the foundation lines have arisen the present stone churches of North
Wales, dating back in general to the eleventh and twelfth centuries.
Their walls of stone are daubed at the joints with mud, similar to the
treatment the wattle buildings had received, and the whole whitewashed
inside and out. The roof, later covered with oaken shingles and now
with soft-coloured slates, was in the Middle Ages thatched deeply
with reed or straw. At the east end was the small slit window, and
at the south end a door so low that even a short person must stoop
to enter it. Originally there were no bell turrets or porches, and
at the eastern gable merely a wooden cross. Inside, a screen divided
the building in half, the squints covered by veils, and several doors
opening into the altar space. Probably the screen was decorated with
painting as the barrel vaults came to be. Within and without, the
sanctuary gleamed pure white. The Saxons learned the use of whitewash
from the British, and St. Wilfrid gloried in having washed the York
Minster of his day “whiter than snow.”


_From an engraving by Cuitt, 1813_]

As the cottages, coloured white or yellow or pink, are seen nestling
against the hills of Wales, one regrets that the church no longer
receives as in olden days the same treatment. With the wash worn from
the churches and never renewed, the country has lost in picturesque
beauty. How pretty these buildings must have looked, with their steep
thatched roofs and white bell-cots gleaming in the midst of dark
yews, or perhaps some golden-tinted church glowing like a crocus in
the midst of pines. Not only have the colours faded, as if the land
were some bright missal turning gray, but the odd circular huts with
their conical thatched roofs, in which the natives once lived, have
tumbled down. In those days was a beautiful hospitality, the host and
hostess serving until all were served, and in these rude dwellings
the ancient harp was played; and from the wooden book, its revolving
square crossbars inscribed with letters or notes of music, were read
the ancient song and poetry of Wales. When the rectangular cottage
came in it did not differ greatly from the circular hut. There were
windows--“wind-eyes”--covered with a wooden lattice and shutter, the
walls smoothly plastered, and the interior made less primitive by the
use of three-legged tables and chairs. Still later, in the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries, the one space was divided off into kitchen,
chamber, and loft, the kitchen open to the roof and airy, healthful,
and clean. Hospitality was sacred then; any man might enter a dwelling,
and delivering up his arms stay as long as he would.

The church was but another sanctuary in olden days where men could
take refuge from sin or foe. The “llan,” which is the prefix to fully
eight tenths of all the names of ancient churches in North Wales,
means “enclosure.” Probably in these places were the earliest monastic
settlements, at a time when the “llan,” as the Irish “rath,” enclosed
habitation as well as sanctuary. But as the years brought about
greater specification in the functions of church and state the term
narrowed itself down and was applied solely to the church. The old
churchyard walls are still more or less circular like British fort
walls. Llangelynin has an enclosure that undoubtedly follows the old
lines. The walls of the churchyard near Holyhead are extremely ancient,
seventeen feet high and six feet thick. This masonry, from the presence
of certain round towers and the particular plastering used, is known
to be Roman. Set away from the world that is “too much with us,” these
enclosures are charming old spaces, habitable in a sweet sense. The
grass looks peace into tired eyes, and to eyes eager with plans rest
here is merely an emphasis upon the joy of living. And here, as the
stiles into the close show, the children play and have played from
generation to generation. Here they climbed upon the roof, and here
against the north and west walls, where burials are never made, they
played ball and scratched upon the stone their scoring-marks.

At Llangelynin there are no yew trees; that windy height is too bleak
for even the sturdy yew. Only white harebells and hardy grass blow
about on its bare rock-strewn summit. But in most of the enclosures
the yew still stands as the one enduring monument of a past whose very
rocks have been covered by the silt of over a thousand years. Many of
these trees date from a British period and remain emblematic to-day
as they were then. Sometimes it is a single yew by the lychgate which
one sees, or an alley of the deathless green, or perhaps yew branches
completely veil a gable end of the little church. At Beddgelert, the
oldest foundation in all Wales, the yew stands to-day as it stood
some two thousand years ago; about its base have rushed the floods of
wild mountain torrents, from its feet the graves of centuries have
been washed away down to the all-embracing sea. Like children of
yesterday are the mediæval lychgates through which one passes into the
church enclosure and through which is often caught the first glimpse
of the church bell-cot. At Caerhûn (the ancient Canovium), where the
yew spreads over the gate is a double bell-cot, which, as it has the
traditional straight ridge and gable in the middle, is amongst the
oldest in Wales, of the fourteenth or fifteenth century, for the cots
as well as the lychgates are “recent” in the life of these churches.
The little crucifixes with their straight arms are also of this date.
Before this time the local churches had nothing but hand-bells, which
were held in great reverence. One of them may be seen in the stone
coffin of Llewelyn the Great at Llanrwst. It is about ten inches high
and cast on an oblong plan. Gildas gave such a bell to St. David. Six
hundred years later, in the twelfth century, Giraldus Cambrensis tells
the story of a portable bell called “Bangu” which, when a certain woman
carried it to a castle where her husband was wrongfully imprisoned,
caused the destruction of the whole town except the church walls. The
campanology of North Wales is a romance in itself, a collection of odd,
interesting, pathetic tales of past miracles, past friendships, past

The original buildings not only did not have lychgates and bell-cots,
they also did not have porches, and some to-day do not have them. But
they are being added from time to time, and fearful are some of them
to behold. At St. Mary’s, Llanfwrog Church, just across the bridge
from quaint Ruthin, where the Duchess of Westminster has lived and
is of vastly more interest to the people than gable ends and oaken
rafters and other such stuff, fit only for the attics of men’s minds,
is a bit of “restoration” suitable for display in the windows of a
carriage-shop. The chancel railing is bright green, red, and black,
the pews black and red,--a foretaste possibly of the landscape into
which some of their occupants will one day take a dip,--and the stained
glass vies with a refracted solar ray in yellows and oranges and reds
and blues and greens. From this “restored” edifice drops a long flight
of steps past the windows and signboard of an ancient hostelry, “Ye
Labour in Vain Inn.” One cannot help wishing that the white gentleman
upon the signboard, who is scrubbing a black man in a tub of water,
would take his scrubbing-brush up to the church. Often, after all else
has been hopelessly restored and all vestiges of harmonious beauty
have disappeared, the old doorway remains, witness of an instinctive
reverence for a threshold. Many of the circular-headed doorways, now
hooded with porches, date from the eleventh and twelfth centuries and
even earlier, and through them one passes over a mere sill into the
sacred enclosure.

A few points, simple and easy to remember as well as easy to discover,
give an added intelligent pleasure in the study of these churches. The
oldest churches are generally from twelve feet six inches to fourteen
feet wide; the early walls from three feet to three feet six inches
thick. Sixteenth-century walls rarely exceed two feet and a half in
thickness. The old wattle buildings were daubed with a mixture of clay
and cow dung; these church walls are built with earth and rendered
on the face with lime and mortar. Buttresses are sometimes found,
but they do not belong to early local work. The roofs are easy to
examine and often of an enchanting beauty. At Llangelynin is a roof
which is probably the original twelfth-century covering. The roof at
Llanrhychwyn is also of the close couple type; here the struts are
straight, but carved, and there are two ties across the nave. In some
of these roofs are intermediary rafters, added when the thatch was
replaced by slate.

The earliest mention of a chancel of which I know is that in the
poems of Cynddelw, who lived in the twelfth century, in his ode to
Tysilio, when he speaks of a certain church as the “light or shining
church” with a chancel for mass. We cannot assume that even in the
twelfth century chancels were by any means common in North Wales.
At Mallwyd Church there was, not so long ago, a communion table in
the centre of the building, and there is no question but that holy
ceremonies were performed originally, instead of at a chancel end, in
the midst of this rectangular Holy of Holies. At Bardsey, Pennant found
an insulated stone altar rather nearer the east end than the centre.
The rough, uneven slate paving in these churches is comparatively
modern, and it might be added comparatively luxurious. The first paving
was mud and sometimes flat stones. Formerly the windows were covered
by wooden shutters or lattices; that was the usage in all conventual
buildings. Now the windows are either well or illy filled with coloured
glass. In many of the churches falling into great dilapidation the
windows have been stuffed with stone and mortar, or rudely boarded
over. Some of the stained glass is genuinely ugly and some of it
genuinely and anciently lovely. That at Llanrhychwyn, coloured in brown
line and yellow stain and representing the Virgin and Child and the
Holy Trinity, is of the fifteenth century and still beautiful. Probably
the use of glass was not introduced into Wales till the thirteenth
century. West windows were unknown in local Welsh work. Where a window
with such an exposure is found, the opening did not belong to the early
church. There are windows of great antiquity in these churches. Look at
the lintelled window in the passageway into St. Beuno’s Chapel. Courage
hesitates at assigning a date to this bit of work. There are windows
far more elaborate of a comparatively early date, but they are the
work of Latin monks and do not follow the straight lines of the native
British architecture. An exquisite example of early Latin work is that
of the Gilbertine monks upon the Beddgelert triplet.

The barrel vaults in these churches are curious concave coverings
over the chancel end, ark-like in form and supposed type of the ancient
church. These oaken canopies have been elaborately painted in the past;
now they are to be seen in every stage of dilapidation, provoking the
eye by their interrupted pictures or faint lines of red and blue. They
are approximately of the same date, although not in the same condition,
for their destruction is due to leaky roofs and not to age. The ground
colour was the green-blue the Middle Ages loved so well, and the other
colours red, yellow, and white. At Llandanwg, where the sea would flow
into the western door were it not for a big embankment, there is a
barrel vault with faint traces of painting upon it. An old man whose
father and mother were the last people to be married there told us he
took an interest in it, it was the only church in Harlech Parish fifty
years ago, and “the only service held there then was when the parson
and the clerk used to go over and enjoy drinking their beer on the
gravestones.” English came stiff to his tongue, but he described the
fearful condition of the church, and the way the people took off the
seats for firewood and the children made a playhouse of the abandoned
structure. In one corner of the barrel vault was a picture of the Devil
prodding people down into hell. The children threw things at these
paintings, mud and other articles, till the pictures were completely
destroyed. Whatever the subject, it is pleasant to recall the colouring
of the barrel vaults, for, executed five or six hundred years ago, they
must have been brightly beautiful like the margins of an illuminated
book, radiant with something of the blue and gold of very heaven
itself. Of the rood screens and lofts that veiled the chancel space,
there are but few left intact; of the sacred rood itself, no vestige
except the socket on the candlebeam into which its pedestal slipped.
Fanaticism has swept this feature away. In Beddgelert their rood-screen
carving was converted into chairs for household use or fuel for warmth.
Strangely enough, Queen Elizabeth was the last defender of the screen’s
mystical beauty of carven wood and the silent admonishing figure
stretched upon its façade. At Llanengan there is a screen of rare
delicacy, stolen, together with some elbow stalls and silver bells,
from Bardsey, that resting-place of saints which seems to have been to
the ecclesiastical world what Fuseli said Blake was to the art world,
“good to steal from.” Chests, worm-eaten and with rusty bolts, are
often among the church treasures. St. Beuno’s chest at Clynnog is as
old as the saint himself. And at Clynnog, too, are dog tongs, or lazy
tongs as they were sometimes called, in each paddle four sharpened
nails which must have seemed bitter to any doggie’s sides, lean or fat,
as he was lifted ignominiously out of the sanctuary. And, oh, woe if it
caught him by the tail or foot! There are different types of fonts in
these churches: small square fonts like the earliest of Palestine, Asia
Minor, Egypt; extremely small fonts of various shapes dating from the
eleventh to the fourteenth century; large fonts used for immersion, and
belonging to the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. At Llanderfel near
Corwen is a wooden image, never, I imagine, satisfactorily accounted
for. It is a horse, though curiously like a deer in appearance. This
figure was the standard for the image that rested upon it and which
went, several hundred years ago, to help in the burning of poor Friar
Forest at Smithfield, to whom, while the fire crackled about his feet,
Latimer preached a sermon. Now even the brass tablet on the standard
has been sent to the British Museum, and the standard itself, till
within the last few years, used for a pig-trough.

Apparently London thought a Welshman who denied the supremacy of
the king worth burning, difficult to be rid of. Well might Englishmen
consider such a man’s forebears in saintship. The Latins tried to rid
the Western world of these anomalies in spiritual heritage--in vain!
The Reformation burnt them. In vain, too, for the Welshman to-day,
nonconformist and conformist alike, is as tenacious of the lists of
his hagiology as ever he was a thousand years ago. To the ancient Celt
there were three free dignitaries: church, land, and poet. To-day these
remain the revered dignitaries to the Welshman. In the past these
offices had been closely united, for to a Welshman saintship came by
birth, celebrity depended afterwards upon how he acted. There is an odd
title to a Welsh catalogue of saints: “Bonedd Saint ynys Prydain,”--the
Gentility of the Saints of the Isle of Britain. An old Irish song says
of St. Patrick that he “was a gentleman and came of decent people,” a
fact which to us does not seem prerequisite for saintdom. Not so to the
Celt; and it is best to keep this essential difference in mind, or one
might be puzzled by running across the annals, some day, of a saint
in so cheery a state that he fell into his own holy well and escaped
drowning only because of the good luck universally known to attend
people in a similar condition. The object of the Celtic saint, till
he became Latinized, was to serve his tribe by increasing its riches
and enlarging its boundaries. It was not necessary for him, as it was
for his brother Latin, to receive any papal sanction for his sainthood
or to work any miracles. His _carte_ to sanctity was membership in a
certain family or monastery. The Latin Christian world, establishing
its supremacy by degrees, could not fail to scoff at the temporal
emphasis of Welsh saintdom. Even Giraldus, a Welshman, comments mildly
upon the vindictiveness of certain saints, of whom he often knew more
than he cared to tell. Gradually, by ridicule chiefly, the lists of
Celtic holy men were closed. Even Bardsey, the _Insula Sanctorum_ of
the Welsh, does not escape a laugh from many critics, one of whom
observes that “It would be more facile to find graves in Bardsey for
so many saints than saints for so many graves”; a remark grudging and
ungracious, for the world has condescended to steal everything from
Bardsey and might leave it at least the glory of claiming as many dead
saints as it pleases.


_From an engraving by Cuitt_]

The tales, fabulous and odd, told of Welsh saints, Welsh relics, and
holy wells, are particularly charming because they are not marred by
over-didacticism. Tydecho was an illustrious saint who lived in the
time of King Arthur. Retiring from the world, he led a life of mingled
austerity in penance and of useful hours of ploughing. One day a youth
seized his oxen, but the next day wild stags were drawing the plough,
and a wolf harrowing after them. Furious, the youth brought his dogs
to chase away Tydecho’s wild friends. While enjoying this diversion he
seated himself upon a stone; attempting to rise he found himself fixed
to the rock. Truly a humiliating position for a proud-spirited youth
who enjoys taunting an old man! Friendship between man and beast is
woven into these tales like the bright colours threading the letters
of an ancient bestiary. St. Monacella protected hares from Brochwel
Yscythrog, who was hunting them. She hid the trembling little beasts
under her robe and, praying devoutly, faced the dogs. The dogs ceased
their running, and even when the horn was blown as a command to them
to follow the hare, they stole away howling and the horn stuck to the
huntsman’s lips. After Brochwel had listened to Monacella’s plea, the
little creatures were released, and to this day no one in the parish
will hunt one of Monacella’s lambs.

Many and attractively full of poetry are the superstitions that
still live in the solitudes of northern Wales. “Bees were created in
paradise,” say the “Leges Wallicæ,” “and no light save beeswax is to be
used at mass.” When on the fall of man they left paradise, God Himself
is said to have blessed them. They produced, too, the nectarious “medd”
of which the ancient Britons thought so much. One day we encountered a
hillside woman in great distress, breathless and flapping her apron;
her bees were running away and apparently the worldly creature had no
intention of letting them run back to paradise. Bent pins are still to
be found at the bottom of the sacred well within the church close, pins
dropped in before bathing to cure warts. Woe to the bather who failed
to drop in the propitiatory pin, for he promptly caught the warts
of which others had got rid. And in these holy wells the clothes of
sick children were washed, with happy auguries if the little garments
floated, with fell portent if they sank. At Llangelynin, where the
well is still in excellent condition, an old woman told me that to
cure a sick child a stranger to the family must dip the child in after
sundown. Spitting upon hearing the name of the Devil may not be polite,
but it is a simple way of expressing contempt, and so, too, is smiting
the breast in self-condemnatory woe at the name of Judas. Some of their
superstitions and customs, despite the smack of folly, are wise in
their emphasis upon the power of the imagination.

There are, too, some wholesome customs of precedence. The parson always
used to go out of chapel first,--in some places he does so still,--and
the parishioner who disputed this order of rank might have his ears
boxed for his trouble. After the baptism of a little child old women
wash their failing eyes in the font with pathetic faith in the virtue
of new, God-given life. There used to be some sweet customs, not
entirely lost yet, connected with burial. As the coffin rested on the
bier outside the door, the next of kin among the women gave to the
poorest persons in the parish, over the body of the dead, a great dish
filled with white bread. Then a cup of drink was handed across the bier
to the same poor and all knelt to repeat the Lord’s Prayer. At every
crossroad between the house and church they knelt again to pray, the
sexton’s hand-bell quiet only when all knees were on the earth.

On the way from church to church many tablets arrest the eye, kneeling
fathers and mothers with processions of kneeling children in a line
behind them. The _viva voce_ history of these reliefs suggests the
less quaint and more beautiful and enduring _relievo_ of sepulchral
urns. At Clynnog I counted thirteen children in happy procession
after one father. At Conway I might have counted twenty-nine if I
had wished to, but I had no such wish. At Corwen we found knee-holes
in both footstones and headstones to make comfortable the knees of
friends while they prayed,--or meditated, as I confess I did, upon the
hideousness of most sepulchral carving and inscription. There was one
part of these records which, with even the best traditions behind me,
could not be undertaken--the epitaph or similar memento. Early in the
journey this inscription was encountered:

                        Heare lyeth the body of
                     John, ap Robert, ap Porth, ap
                     David, ap Griffith, ap David
                        Vauchan, ap Blethyn, ap
                        Griffith, ap Meredith,
                       ap Jerworth, ap Llewelyn,
                       ap Jerorh, ap Heilin, ap
                         Cowryd, ap Cadvan, ap
                        Alawgwa, ap Cadell, the
                          King of Powys, who
                        departed this life the
                        XX day of March, in the
                         Year of our Lord God
                             1642, and of
                             his age XCV.

Now it was plain that this was one of the results of the saints’
unsaintly emphasis upon a family-tree. Certainly a man has a right
to as many ancestors as he can compass. But thereafter, when I saw
the usual clusters of “aps” and “Griffyevanjoneses,” I experienced a
reluctant and fluttering sensation within accompanied by external haste
to get elsewhere. Just one other epitaph, by reason of its brevity,
caught my pencil:--

                         Here lies John Shore,
                            I say no more;
                            Who was alive
                            In sixty-five.


_Dr. Johnson’s Tour of North Wales_

                      “What should we speak of
    When we are as old as you? When we shall hear
    The rain and wind beat dark December, how
    In this our pinching cave, shall we discourse
    The freezing hours away? We have seen nothing.”

Even the motion of driving in a post-chaise captivated the fancy of
Dr. Johnson, for he said, “If I had no duties, and no reference to
futurity, I would spend my life in driving briskly in a post-chaise
with a pretty woman; but she should be one who could understand me, and
would add something to the conversation.” Mrs. Piozzi, who, except for
that of prettiness, fulfilled these requirements both as a brilliant
conversationalist and owner of a post-chaise, asked her beloved Doctor
why he doted on a coach. Johnson’s reply was, that in the first place
the company was shut in with him “and could not escape as out of a
room,” and that in the second place, he could hear all the conversation
in a carriage. Any lamentations while travelling thus he considered
proof of an empty head or tongue that wished to talk and had nothing
about which to talk. “A mill that goes without grist,” he exclaimed,
“is as good a companion as such creatures.” As for himself, he felt no
inconvenience upon the road and he expected others to feel none. He
allowed nobody to complain of rain, sun, or dust. And so greatly did
he love this act of going forward that Mrs. Thrale (Mrs. Piozzi) said
she could not tell how far he might be taken before he would think of

Yet the impression which Macaulay gave of Johnson’s attitude towards
travelling is the one generally held: “Of foreign travel and of history
he spoke with the fierce and boisterous contempt of ignorance. ‘What
does a man learn by travelling? Is Beauclerk the better for travelling?
What did Lord Claremount learn in his travels, except that there was
a snake in one of the pyramids of Egypt?’” History has proved that
Macaulay could be brilliantly inaccurate; certainly in this estimate
of Johnson he was so. In still another passage Macaulay says that Dr.
Johnson “took it for granted that everybody who lived in the country
was either stupid or miserable.” The first twenty-seven years of
his life Johnson spent in small country towns and, although he was
sometimes miserable, because he was wretchedly poor, he was never

It was the young traveller whom he censured, not the mature traveller
or travelling in general. It was characteristic of him to say, “I never
like young travellers; they go too raw to make any great remarks.”
Indeed, so grave was his sense of the value of travel that he took
it upon himself to rebuke Boswell, as Boswell records: “Dr. Johnson
expressed a particular enthusiasm with respect to visiting the Wall of
China. I catched it for the moment, and said I really believed I should
go and see the Wall of China had I not children, of whom it was my duty
to take care. ‘Sir,’ (said he), ‘by doing so you would do what would be
of importance in raising your children to eminence. There would be a
lustre reflected upon them from your spirit and curiosity. They would
be at all times as the children of a man who had gone to view the Wall
of China. I am serious, sir.’”

In his college days Johnson may not have had the same reasons as the
young poet Keats for going “wonder-ways,” but reasons he had. With the
Doctor, perhaps even more truly than with Keats, curiosity was “the
first passion and the last.” While an undergraduate he was heard to
say, “I have a mind to see what is done in other places of learning.
I’ll go and visit the universities abroad. I’ll go to France and Italy.
I’ll go to Padua.” Twice he urged Boswell “to perambulate Spain,” and
of their tour to the Hebrides everybody knows. There was talk of his
going to Iceland, and for a time the great Doctor discussed travelling
around the world with two friends.

Of the existence of the journal of Johnson’s tour in North Wales even
Boswell did not know. This journey was begun by the Thrales and the
Doctor leaving Streatham at eleven o’clock on Tuesday morning of July
15, 1774. On their way they stopped at Litchfield at the house of Dr.
Darwin, psychologist, poet, and grandfather of Charles Darwin, of whose
roses Mrs. Piozzi wrote, “I have no roses equal to those at Litchfield,
where on one tree I recollect counting eighty-four within my own reach;
it grew against the house of Dr. Darwin.”

After passing through several towns on their route to North Wales
they came, a party of four, Mr. and Mrs. Thrale, little Queenie and
Johnson, to Chester on July twenty-seventh. Of Chester the Doctor made
short work. He was more interested in a grammar school held in part
of the Abbey refectory than in aught else, and wrote particularly,
“The Master seemed glad to see me.” Of course the Master was glad, for
was not Johnson the greatest man of his day? There is not one word
for the quiet beauty of the Dee, no mention of Cheshire cheese, and
nothing about Chester ale, which perhaps Johnson found as bad as did
Sion Tudor. Of their sojourn in Chester we get a more lively picture
from Mrs. Thrale’s comment on the entry in the Doctor’s journal than
from the journal itself. Johnson wrote, “We walked round the walls,
which are compleat.” Mrs. Piozzi observed, “Of those _ill-fated_
walls Dr. Johnson might have learned the extent from any one. He has
since put me fairly out of countenance by saying, ‘I have known _my
mistress_ fifteen years, and never saw her fairly out of humour but
on Chester wall’; it was because he would keep Miss Thrale beyond
her hour of going to bed to walk on the wall, where from the want of
light, I apprehended some accident to her,--perhaps to him.” Probably
nine-year-old “Miss Thrale” did not mind being kept beyond her hour of
going to bed by a stout gentleman who was her devoted slave!

The next day they entered Wales, dined at Mold and came to Llewenni.
Mrs. Thrale’s cousin, Robert Cotton, was living at Llewenni Hall, which
in 1817, after having been one thousand years in possession of the
family, was torn down. At Whitchurch, a few miles away, is an alabaster
altar monument to one of the Salusbury’s who owned this hall, Sir John,
or Syr John y Bodiau (“Sir John of the Thumbs”). This ancestor of
Mrs. Piozzi was not only distinguished by two thumbs on either hand,
but also by a giant’s strength. With his bare fist he is supposed to
have slain a white lioness in the Tower of London. Since then white
lionesses have all disappeared. Sir John of the Thumbs also killed a
mythical beast in a lair below a near-by castle, and overthrew a famous
giant. Is it any wonder that Mrs. Thrale, with such a forefather,
should sometimes have painted things _plus beau que le vérité_, and
that, even as her ancestor was fond of pulling up trees by the roots
when he had nothing better to do, his descendant should once in a while
give truth a little tug?

But if Mrs. Thrale had a distinguished progenitor, she had an even
more distinguished ancestress, for there at Llewenni Hall lived “Mam
Cymru,” the Mother of Wales. This Catherine de Berain’s first husband
was a Salusbury, her second husband was Sir Richard Clough. The second
daughter of the second marriage married Salusbury of Bachycraig,
and from this marriage Mrs. Piozzi was descended. Later, Catherine
de Berain became the third wife of Maurice Wynne, who was her third
husband. It is said that on the way home from the funeral of her first
husband, Wynne asked her to marry him. She had to refuse, however, as
Sir Richard Clough had asked her on the way _to_ the church. But she
assured him that she was not superstitious about the number 3, and
agreed to give Wynne the next opportunity. She kept her word.

When the Welsh used to speak of a rich person, they did not say “rich
as Crœsus” but “rich as a Clough.” On July thirtieth, Johnson and the
Thrales visited a remarkable house built by Sir Richard, the second
husband of “Mam Cymru.” On the thirty-first day they drove to the
Cathedral of St. Asaph, once the even smaller church of Llanelwy, to
which Giraldus Cambrensis in his tour in 1188 referred as “paupercula.”
About that time this tiny cathedral was changed from wickerwork or wood
to stone. On the same day they saw the Chapel of Llewenni, founded by
one of the Salusburys, where Johnson was surprised because the service,
read thrice on Sundays, was read only once in English.


_From an engraving by Cuitt_]

He was dissatisfied not only with the order of Welsh services, but
also with the behaviour of Welsh rivers. On this day he writes: “The
rivers here are mere torrents which are suddenly swelled by the rain to
great breadth and great violence, but have very little constant stream;
such are the Clwyd and the Elwy.” About Welsh rivers Johnson makes a
great many remarks. He is as scornful of them as an American is of the
Thames. Mrs. Piozzi says that his “ideas of anything not positively
large were ever mingled with contempt.” He asked of one of the sharp
currents in North Wales, “Has this _brook_ e’er a name?” “Why, dear
Sir, this is the _River_ Ustrad.” “Let us,” said Dr. Johnson, turning
to his friend, “jump over it directly, and show them how an Englishman
should treat a Welsh river.” Johnson was always of opinion that when
one had seen the ocean, cascades were but little things. He used to
laugh at Shenstone most unmercifully for not caring whether there was
anything good to eat in the streams he was so fond of. “As if,” says
Johnson, “one could fill one’s belly with hearing soft murmurs, or
looking at rough cascades!”

It would be difficult to make a summary of all the objects Johnson
called “mean” in North Wales. Among them were towns, rivers, inns,
dinners, churches, houses, choirs. It is safe to say that the great
Doctor could not rid himself altogether of English prejudices against
the Welsh and all things Welsh. George Borrow’s experience on the
summit of Snowdon was not at all unusual, except that in this instance
an Englishman in the presence of English people became the champion of
the Welsh. Undoubtedly Johnson was influenced in his contempt not only
by his English feeling, but also by the fact that he was a true son of
the eighteenth century, with all that century’s emphasis on power, on
size, on utility.

Yet Johnson was not totally incapable of appreciating the romantic
scenery of Wales. Some part of it, the more cultivated, he seems
to have felt, for on the very next day there is this record: “The
way lay through pleasant lanes, and overlooked a region beautifully
diversified with trees and grass.” It mortified Mrs. Thrale because
Mr. Thrale, a lover of landscapes, could not enjoy them with the great
Doctor, who would say, “Never heed such nonsense, a blade of grass is
always a blade of grass, whether in one country or another. Let us, if
we _do_ talk, talk about something; men and women are my subject of
enquiry; let us see how these differ from those we have left behind.”
However, Johnson was certainly not insensible to the beauty of nature.
In describing his emotions at the sight of Iona, he wrote: “Whatever
withdraws us from the power of our senses, whatever makes the past, the
distant, or the future predominate over the present, advances us in the
dignity of thinking beings.” In his tour in the Hebrides he welcomed
even the inconveniences of travelling, such as wind and rain, when they
meant finer scenery and more pictures for the mind.

Much on this same August second was found “mean,” including Mrs.
Thrale’s gift to the romantic old clerk of the parish church of
Bachycraig where Mrs. Thrale’s father was buried. The day following,
on their arrival in Holywell, Johnson had to admit that the town was
“neither very small nor very mean.” He was amazed and impressed by
the yield of water from St. Winifred’s Well, and the number of mill
wheels the water turned. But when they went down by the stream to see
a prospect, Johnson adds very specifically that he “had no part” in
it. He was vastly more interested in some brass and copper works, in
_lapis calaminaris_, in pigs of copper, and in some ironworks where he
saw iron half an inch thick “square-cut with shears worked by water,”
and hammers that moved as quick “as by the hand.” One has a curious
feeling that, were the Doctor suddenly translated to this world again,
foundries would interest him vastly more than any natural panorama.
In this Johnson was truly a man of his times, which were epoch-making
because of their new interest in the mechanics of industry, their
gigantic industrial impulse. Without a word for the singular beauties
of Holywell, without reference to the legend of St. Winifred or mention
of the ruins of the Abbey, he concludes his journal for August third:
“I then saw wire drawn, and gave a shilling. I have enlarged my notion,
though not being able to see the movements, and not having time to peep
closely, I know less than I might.”

Another feature of the land impressed him favourably, the houses of
country gentlemen. “This country seems full of very splendid houses,”
he notes on August fourth, after visiting a Mr. Lloyd’s house near
Ruthin, where he had been to see the castle. He writes quite at length
on the ruins of Ruthin and ends characteristically, “Only one tower had
a chimney, so that there was [little] commodity of living. It was only
a place of strength.” It was on this day that the keep of the castle,
when he heard that Mrs. Thrale was a native of North Wales, told her
that his wife had been a Welshwoman, and had desired to be buried at
Ruthin. “So,” said the man, “I went with the corpse myself, because I
thought it would be a pleasant journey, and indeed I found Ruthin a
very beautiful place.”

Two days later they dined at Mr. Myddleton’s, of Gwaenynog, the
gentleman who raised the unwelcome monument to Johnson’s memory before
the Doctor had had a chance to die, and while he still considered
himself very much alive. This memorial is on the site at Gwaenynog
where Johnson used to stroll up and down. It reads: “This spot was
often dignified by the presence of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., whose moral
writings, exactly conformable to the precepts of Christianity, gave
ardour to Virtue and confidence to Truth.” Perhaps it is not strange
that Johnson was not pleased with the monument. He wrote to Mrs.
Thrale, “Mr. Myddleton’s attention looks like an intention to bury
me alive. I would as willingly see my friend, however benevolent and
hospitable, quietly inurned. Let him think, for the present, of some
more acceptable memorial.”

To the Doctor death was always an enemy who would, he knew, outwit him
in the end, a terrifying presence against which he struggled. “But who
can run the race with death?” he cries despairingly. This premature
memorial must have revolted everything in him, for to him “the whole
of life” was but keeping away the thoughts of death. Even a dark road
troubled him.

Leaving Llewenni on August eighteenth, they started definitely forward
on their journey. They passed through Abergele, “a mean little town,”
to Bangor, where they found “a very mean inn.” Certainly meanness is
accumulating in Wales! Johnson had the instinctive contempt for things
Welsh which so many English people hold. But, after finding Lord
Bulkely’s house at Bangor also “very mean,” this is the point in the
great Doctor’s journal where the lover of Wales may take heart.

There was one contrivance of the hand and mind of man which impressed
Dr. Johnson tremendously. Where such works of the Creator as Snowdon,
for example, failed, where the mystery of this land of legend passed
him by, castles succeeded by virtue of their size, the strength of
their walls, the completeness of their equipment. In Denbigh, Johnson
had eagerly tried to trace the lines of that “prodigious pile” of a
castle. So much of the comment we get in this neglected Welsh journal
and in Johnson’s other writings seems to summarize itself in two
words: size and power. He told Mrs. Piozzi to get a book on gardening,
since she would stay in the country, feed the chickens, and starve her
intellect, “and learn,” he said, “to raise the _largest_ turnips, and
to breed the _biggest_ fowls.” It was in vain that Mrs. Piozzi told him
that the goodness of these dishes did not depend upon their size.

From Beaumaris Castle to Carnarvon there is a crescendo of praise,
ending in the memorable words about Carnarvon: “To survey this place
would take much time. I did not think there had been such buildings;
it surpassed my ideas.” Of Beaumaris, Johnson wrote: “The Castle is
a mighty pile.… This Castle corresponds with all the representatives
of romancing narratives. Here is not wanting the private passage, the
dark cavity, the deep dungeon, or the lofty tower. We did not discover
the well. This is the most compleat view that I have yet had of an old
Castle.” And then came four last delighted words, “It had a moat.”

Nor was the next day, August twentieth, less of a success. After
meeting with some friends they went to see the castle in Carnarvon,
which Johnson describes as “an edifice of stupendous magnitude and
strength; it has in it all that we observed at Beaumaris, and much
greater dimensions, many of the smaller rooms floored with stone are
entire; of the larger rooms, the beams and planks are all left; this is
the state of all buildings left to time. We mounted the Eagle Tower by
one hundred and sixty-nine steps, each of ten inches. We did not find
the well; nor did I trace the moat; but moats there were, I believe, to
all castles on the plain, which not only hindered access, but prevented
mines. We saw but a very small part of the mighty ruin, and in all
these old buildings, the subterraneous works are concealed by the

When Johnson and the Thrales were on their way from Llewenni to
Bangor, they passed through Conway. The Doctor was much exercised
in Conway because of the plight of an Irish gentlewoman and her
young family who could get no beds to sleep in, but the one feature
in this rare old town which might have impressed him, its castle,
he did not notice in the journal. Built by the same architect who
planned Carnarvon, it has much of its grace and is in some respects
even more beautifully placed. With its machicolated towers, its vast
banqueting-hall, Queen Eleanor’s oratory, and the river washing at
its foundations, it is still a wonderful old pile. On the return trip
Johnson makes a short, practical note to the effect that the castle
afforded them nothing new, and that if it was larger than that of
Beaumaris, it was smaller than that of Carnarvon. Carnarvon was the
largest, and the Doctor was not to be weaned from it any more than from
the idea that Mrs. Thrale ought to raise the largest turnips.

The day following this memorable inspection of Carnarvon Castle,
they dined with Sir Thomas Wynne and his Lady. Johnson’s comment was
brief,--“the dinner mean, Sir Thomas civil, his Lady nothing.” It would
seem that Lady Wynne failed to recognize the greatness of her visitor,
and, accustomed to a distinguished reception, the great man’s vanity
was hurt. Afterwards he made remarks about Sir Thomas’s Lady, in which
she was compared to “sour small beer” and “run tea.” Of a lady in
Scotland he had said “that she resembled a dead nettle; were she alive
she would sting.”

This mean dinner and, we presume, its meaner hostess were but a
sorry prelude to a melancholy journey which the party had to take
to Mrs. Thrale’s old home at Bodvel. They found nothing there as in
Mrs. Thrale’s childhood; the walk was cut down, the pond was dry.
The near-by churches which Mrs. Thrale held by impropriation Johnson
thought “mean and neglected to a degree scarcely imaginable. They
have no pavement, and the earth is full of holes. The seats are
rude benches; the altars have no rails. One of them has a breach in
the roof. On the desk, I think, of each lay a folio Welsh Bible of
the black letter, which the curate cannot easily read.” Over one
hundred and thirty years later it was that I made the tour, which I
have described for you, of these Welsh churches of early foundation.
Mysterious, desolate, dilapidated old places they are; in comparison
with the ugly, comfortable nonconformist chapels, spectacles for the
prosperous to jeer at.

Mrs. Piozzi tells a story which shows that the great Doctor brought
terror to the hearts of the Welsh parsons. “It was impossible not to
laugh at the patience Dr. Johnson showed, when a Welsh parson of mean
abilities, though a good heart, struck with reverence at the sight of
Dr. Johnson, whom he had heard of as the greatest man living, could
not find any words to answer his enquiries concerning a motto around
somebody’s arms which adorned a tombstone in Ruabon Churchyard. If I
remember right, the words were,--

    Heb Dw, Heb Dym (Without God, without all)
    Dw o’ diggon (God is all sufficient).[1]

And though of not very difficult construction, the gentleman seemed
wholly confounded, and unable to explain them; till Dr. Johnson, having
picked out the meaning by little and little, said to the man, ‘_Heb_ is
a preposition, I believe, Sir, is it not?’ My countryman, recovering
some spirits upon the sudden question, cried out, ‘So I humbly presume,
Sir,’ very comically.”

About Bodvel they found the Methodist “prevalent,” which could not
have been a pleasant circumstance to Johnson. With nonconformity the
great Doctor had no sympathy. Boswell says that Johnson thought them
“too sanguine in their accounts of their success among savages, and
that much of what they tell is not to be believed. He owned that the
Methodists had done good; had spread religious impressions among the
vulgar part of mankind; but, he said, they had great bitterness against
other Christians, and that he never could get a Methodist to explain in
what he excelled others.”

This unhappy day they concluded suitably by going to Pwllheli, “a mean
old town at the extremity of the country,” where they bought something
by which to remember its meanness. Pwllheli is still mean, but in a
different way, for it has become a noisy watering-resort from which the
quiet traveller longs to escape at the first moment to quiet Abersoch
or to Llanengan or Aberdaron, where “trippers” cease from troubling and
tourists are at rest.

Nowadays, even the most breathless will grant Snowdon a few words of
praise--praise for its lakes, awe for its rock-strewn valleys like the
valley of the shadow of death. Of the two lakes, Llyn Beris and Llyn
Padarn, which receive the waters on the northern slope of Snowdon,
Johnson did not think much, for he complained that “the boat is always
near one bank or the other.” As for Snowdon itself, the record is, “We
climbed with great labour. I was breathless and harassed.” There is
no word for all that is romantic or awe-inspiring, not an exclamation
for the summit to which have mounted king, poet, priest, bard, wise
men, through countless ages--only a record of Queenie’s goats, “one
hundred and forty-nine, I think.” Mr. Thrale, Queenie’s father, was
near-sighted and could not see the goats, so he had promised the child
a penny for every one she showed him. Dr. Johnson, the devoted friend
of Queenie, kept the account.

On their way back to the English border again, they passed through
Bangor, where Johnson must have been happy in finding that “the quire
is mean!” On August twenty-eighth they were once more with hospitable
Mr. Myddleton. Here they stayed for over a week, and the journal
contains, among other things, a long note about a Mr. Griffiths. The
addition of the name of his estate or village fails to identify him
now; looking for a Griffiths or a Jones in Wales, even a particular
Jones or Griffiths, is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Perhaps
the present limitation to a dozen patronymics is a blessing for courts
of law, but it is baffling for the curious-minded man. The historian
finds the old Welsh John ap Robert ap David ap Griffith ap Meredith ap
David ap Vauchan ap Blethyn ap Griffith ap Meredith, and so on for a
dozen more “aps,” easier for purposes of identification.

On their homeward way Johnson was enthusiastic about Wrexham and its
“large and magnificent” church, one of the Seven Wonders of Wales. On
the seventh of September they came to Chirk Castle, but I cannot find
that they went into this residence, a place which undoubtedly would
have delighted Johnson more on account of its “commodity of living”
and solid grandeur than because one of its heiresses was the unamiable
Warwick Dowager who had married Addison. They left for Shrewsbury after
they had viewed the little waterfall of Pistyll Rhaiadr, where the
Doctor remarked only upon its height and the copiousness of its fall.
If Johnson had been an up-to-date Cambrian railway tourist, he could
not have entered and left North Wales in more approved style, for he
came in by way of Chester and left by way of Shrewsbury. Safely out of
Wales they journeyed homeward through Worcester, probably Birmingham,
and Oxford. On September twenty-fourth there is this simple record: “We
went home.”


_From an engraving by Boydell, 1750_]

It is to be remembered that on this tour Johnson lacked the
companionship of the faithful Boswell. Yet the scantiness of the diary
and its critical attitude cannot be accounted for wholly on this
ground, but were due, I think, far more to the fact that the Doctor was
thoroughly English in prejudice. Tobias Smollett’s feeling in “Humphrey
Clinker,” for example, is even more English and uncomplimentary. All
through his tour of the Hebrides, though he denounced Scotland and all
things Scottish, called the Scotch liars and their country naked, yet
the Doctor had an uneasy conviction of their superiority. As far as
Wales was concerned, he simply did not consider this country of Arthur,
of bard and of poet, this country of an indestructible nationalism,
worthy his serious interest. Had he lived in Shakespeare’s day his
concern would have been much greater, his respect more solicitous.

On the first visit to Mr. Myddleton the preservation of the Welsh
language had been discussed. In his journal for that date Dr. Johnson
wrote, “Myddleton is the only man, who, in Wales, has talked to me
of literature.” He was visiting people who, almost universally, were
supremely indifferent to Wales and all things Welsh. In other words, he
was visiting the upper or ruling classes. It is not so many years ago
that the children of the gentry were still not allowed to learn Welsh
for fear their English accent might be spoiled. Now, happily, they are
taught Welsh, a fact which not only improves the relationship between
them and the working classes, but also is contributing generously to a
revival of all that is best in Welsh song and literature. Even a prince
of the blood royal learns Welsh and speaks it.

Dr. Johnson was in Wales at a time when the intellectual interests
of Welshmen were most flagging, that is, just before the introduction
of the Welsh Sunday Schools which, with their educational rather than
exclusively religious function, gave impulse to a period of modern
Welsh literature. Not only in chronology but also in importance, the
establishment of the Welsh Sunday School must take precedence of
Lady Charlotte Guest’s translations of the “Mabinogion.” Yet what
Macpherson’s “Ossian” did for Scotland in the seventies in arousing
interest, Lady Guest did for Wales in 1838. It is possible, if one
can presuppose the impossible, that with these translations in hand
Dr. Johnson’s journal would have been very different. However, one
is fearful that, fortified even with Lady Charlotte’s beautiful
translations, there would have been passages in the authentic Welsh
“Mabinogion” as angrily rejected by him as Macpherson’s imposture
was. Johnson said that he never could get the meaning of an Erse song
explained to him. He asked a young lady who had sung such a song what
it was about, and she replied that it was for the entertainment of the
company. He explained that it was its meaning he could not understand,
whereupon she answered that it was a love song. And that was all the
intelligence, Johnson said, that he could get.

There was strong probability, as a Welsh traveller in 1682 expressed
it, of Welsh being “English’d out of Wales, as Latin was barbarously
Goth’d out of Italy.” From the time of the Great Rebellion, however,
the condition of the Welsh language began to improve, and it is
possible greatly to overrate the difficulties with which Johnson met in
coming to know the life of the people. Impatiently he had exclaimed,
“Let us, if we do talk, talk about something; men and women are my
subject of enquiry; let us see how these differ from those we have left
behind.” But from any evidence in his journal Johnson did not consider
it worth his while to discover how much the Welsh really do differ from
the English. The visible physical fact with which he was confronted
was the dark-haired, dark-eyed, dark-complexioned Welshman of medium
stature, very Spanish-looking, sometimes almost Oriental. What he
heard were voices quite distinct from the English, quiet and pure in
enunciation. What he must have felt--if he felt the Welsh as distinct,
except in inferiority--was a race as different as the south is from
the north, sensitive, imaginative, excitable, deeply impressionable to
everything that is beautiful, as capable of the “howl” as the Irish,
yet more critical, of an intellectual independence which makes Roman
Catholicism unwelcome to the Welsh, with a shrewdness that is the logic
of success in money-getting, a captive race with minds which can never
be servile. Yet in a letter to Boswell announcing that he had visited
five out of the six counties of North Wales, Dr. Johnson wrote: “Wales
is so little different from England, that it offers nothing to the
speculation of the traveller.” Johnson was capable, too, of taunting
Boswell with the sterility of Scotland. He had a certain strain of
contrariness in him, “tonic” some call it, which made him emphasize the
undesirable features of a country or a personality. Three years after
this journey, forgetting even his interest in castles, he was able to
say: “Except the woods of _Bachycraigh_, what is there in Wales that
can fill the hunger of ignorance, or quench the thirst of curiosity?”

[1] Heb Duw, Heb Dym (Without God, Nothing), Duw a’ diggon (God and
plenty) would be more correct Welsh and a better translation.


_Welsh Folk-Lore_

Many and attractively full of poetry are the superstitions still
living in the solitary Welsh hills. One day I encountered a hillside
woman while we were looking for a hilltop church. She was in great
distress, breathless and flapping her apron. Now there is a Welsh
legend that bees were created in paradise, and her bees were running
away. Apparently, this worldly, heartless creature had no intention, if
an apron could prevent it, of allowing her bees to go back to heaven.
Fairyland is Cambria in Wales, if you will let me juggle with my
words in this fashion, for I do not know how to express it otherwise.
And yearning for continued love and life, even with the bees, is the
breath of the phantom and spirit world called “Fairyland.” Although the
instinct of faith in the supernatural may be primitive and the Welsh of
to-day highly civilized, yet supernatural belief is still ineradicated
among the people. Their childish tales, often so hard to understand,
are full of a haunting race life. Conviction, for example, that fairies
are the souls of dead mortals, mortals not good enough for heaven or
bad enough for hell,--at least the thought is a gentle one, and as such
not to be despised. And to their gentle masters the fairies themselves
seem to have given an uncommon devotion. If fairies are troublesome,
one can sometimes get rid of them by changing one’s residence. But
not so with these Welsh fairies! Like the family servant for whom
every one longs, they stick closer than a brother. Even going into
England will not drive Welsh fairies away from those they love. Matthew
Arnold should have considered this when he was studying the Celtic
temperament, and denouncing it for its inconstancy, for the essence of
all that is Celtic is the Welsh fairy.

One is a little of the opinion of the youth, who, when he first saw
the Lady of the Lake, thought she was a goose. That is what I thought
of my first fairies, and still think of them. Yet, in this day and
generation, it is something to have seen a fairy at all! It was dusk,
and I had come through a tiny hill village, where white cottages were
gleaming in the dark, and light shining on garden walls. It was so
quiet that I could hear pine needles dropping on the ground, and the
wind talking in the branches of the rain, still miles distant upon the
sea. The noise of a tardy bumblebee, hurrying homeward in the dark,
fairly boomed in my ears, and the sounds of shale rock slipping down
the hillside came and went mysteriously. Through lighted windows I
caught glimpses of evening comfort, of a bright fire glowing with peat,
whose aroma was everywhere on the soft air, of dressers and tridarns,
brave with countless ornaments, of a grandfather’s clock whose wise old
face shone with light, of children’s heads about the supper table.

But a higher hill was calling me, and an adventure of whose nature I
had not even dreamed. I turned off the road by a Wesleyan chapel and
mounted a steep path. Up, up, up I went around the side of a green
hill, sometimes listening to the night stir of the birds, sometimes
startled by a brown rabbit, leaping for cover. Out beyond, the
mountains of Snowdonia were piled height on height, all washed in sepia
depth upon a sky, moonless, but brilliant with stars. I hastened, for
I was eager to reach the pine-crowned summit. Up there would be no
sound except the wind in the trees, and once in a while some homely
noises from the villages in the valley below: the sharp bark of a dog,
the bleating of a lamb, the closing of some cottage door, a resonant

Once on the hilltop, I lay down to rest, listening to the soft flight
and hooting of some young owl, and feeling the grass cool and deep to
my head and hands. As I lay there, eyes half closed, I heard some one
coming up the path. Nearer and nearer drew uncertain footsteps and the
tapping of a cane over loose stones. I sat up quickly, and there in
the dark was an old woman, a cane in one hand, a basket in the other.
Something cried piteously from the basket and I asked what it was. The
old crone said that it was a kitten, and showed me a sack in which
something else, tied up, squirmed and mewed. But she did not open the
bag. After a due amount of greeting and curtseying, the old woman went
on. I noticed that she kept looking back as she followed the path over
the crown of the hill.

My attention was diverted from her by the approach of more footsteps.
It was a boy, a very large boy, and in his hand I could clearly see a
school-bag, ridiculously small for such a big lad, in which he, too,
carried something. Behind him walked a huge dog, feathered on back and
legs so heavily that his shaggy hair trailed on the ground. I heard
something cry from the little bag, and I asked what it was. The lad
replied in Welsh that it was a kitten. I could see him smiling as he
stood his ground. Except in Welsh there was nothing further for me to
do. Under the most favourable circumstances it is a great deal to do
anything at all in Welsh, and with my heart beating rapidly and my
tongue growing dry, I did not feel that I could do anything more in any
language. We were silent while the little thing kept on “miaowing,”
and this boy, like an ordinary boy, hitched about for a few moments,
kicking stones from the path, and then went on, followed by the dog.

Erect and uneasy, I continued to sit up. Just as dog and boy were
out of sight I heard some one else stumbling up the path and a faint
kitten-like noise. I began to be afraid of those kittens being carried
one after one over this desolate hilltop. It suggested a little the
enchantments in the “Mabinogion,” only in the “Mabinogion” mice and
not kittens played the leading part. I got up and fled before this
experience should have a chance to become the beginning of some
enchantment. But already I felt as if a spell were upon me, and even
when I was quite far away from the kitteny place, I was still in a
strange condition of excitement. One feels a natural dislike for any
sort of hilltop enchantments, and I did.

I was making considerable speed in my Welsh-soled boots and feeling
more like an ordinary person, when the path took a sharp turn and I saw
something strange in front of me. Down below ran the road, hard enough
to be a fact, and lighted by the clear glow of the stars. If only one
could always be sure of what is coming in this world, such a turning
as I had taken would be like Keats’s beauty, “a joy forever.” But
alas! close at my own right hand, very distinct, unmistakably clear,
rose something my eyes had never met before: a chimney with no house
attached to it. And on the treeless meadow in front of this apparition
I saw the old woman leaning on her stick and the boy sitting beside his
dog. Clearly the spell had worked. But how I struggled out from under
this enchantment is another story.

The least credulous may look at fairy and goblin food in the woods
and fields, and their gloves, the foxglove, growing beside the road.
And their animals, their sheep, their horses, their dogs are visible
on many a dim hillside. The Welsh speak of these little people as the
fair folk or family--“y Tylwyth Teg.” And well do they deserve the
name. Sometimes they are spoken of as the fair folk of the wood or the
fair folk of the mine. In gowns of green, blue, white, and scarlet they
dance on moonlit nights. If they like you they will bestow blessings on
you, and are frequently called “mothers’ blessings” because mothers are
glad to have such little ones. But if one speaks unkindly of them, one
will get into trouble. And here, whether one be talking of fairies or
of mortals, who cannot always avenge themselves as readily as fairies,
is a lesson worth remembering.

[Illustration: RUTHIN CASTLE

_From an engraving by Buck, 1742_]

Elves, according to the Welsh,--I have seen only a picture of one
drawn by a Welsh miner,--also live on goblin food and wear foxgloves
when they have any particularly hard work to do. The Queen of the Elves
is none other than the Shakespearean fairy spoken of by Mercutio, who

    “In shape no bigger than an agate stone
    On the forefinger of an alderman.”

No one who has _not_ seen a fairy can have any idea how difficult it
is to draw the line between history and story. The difficulties of the
folklorist are as nothing,--for his is the scientific spirit,--compared
with the trouble the real fairy hunter has in the open. Nowadays, of
course, no one believes everything or possibly anything he is told. But
in times past mankind seems to have been gifted with a more intimate
faith in and knowledge of some things than we have to-day. For example,
people used to know Satan better and were more afraid of him. An honest
Welsh farmer saw him lying across the road with his head on one wall
and his tail on the other. The Devil was moaning horribly, which in
this uncomfortable position would not be strange for any one.

In criticism of Welsh fairies there is one thing to be said. They not
only have a rather practical-joking sort of humour, but they also have
very little sense of equity. A man may do his best for them, and then
they repay him in the end by a trick. A Welsh piper was coming home
in the gray of the evening, and had to cross a little running stream,
from which he saw only the shadowed hillside and heard only the voice
of the wind. But when he had travelled beyond the hill, music became
audible, and, turning, instead of the knoll he had been looking at,
there was a great castle with lights blazing and music playing and the
sound of dancing feet. He went back and was caught in the procession
coming out from its doors and taken in to pipe to them. He piped for a
day or so, but he was anxious to return to his people, and the fairies
seemed to understand. They said they would let him go if he would play
a favourite tune. He played his best, they danced fast and furiously.
And at last he was set free on the dark hillside, with only the voice
of the wind for company. He went home hastily, but when he entered his
father’s house no one knew him. An old man awoke from a doze by the
fire, and said that he had heard, when a boy, of a piper who had gone
away on a quiet evening and never come back again. That was over a
hundred years ago.

Perhaps there is no reason why the fairies, as well as poor mortals,
should not be allowed a natural and happy alternation between badness
and goodness. Metaphorically speaking, they are not the only creatures
who steal money and butter and cheese, and who whisk away helpless,
unbaptized infants. Doubtless a New England Mather--those early New
England Mathers were hard on babies--would say that an infant who
remained unbaptized long enough to be discovered by a fairy deserved
to be stolen. Such an idea could have flourished only in New England.
As if it were not bad enough to face the-survival-of-the-fittest
test in this life without carrying it over into heaven! I, for one,
am not disposed to find fault with the fairies when, as happened in
Beddgelert, they led a man into beautiful lodgings. To know what a
temptation a beautiful apartment might become, one must have lived,
as I have, in that little mountain-cupped village. When the man awoke
in the morning after a peaceful night’s rest, he was sleeping on a
swamp with a clump of rushes for his pillow. If he had been a nervous,
sleepless, modern man, instead of finding fault as he did, he would
have been grateful for the night’s sound rest and forthwith tried
the swamp again. After this there would have been a “Swamp Cure for

There are ghosts, too, in Wales, but they are rather spiritless
creatures, much easier to catch and not so tricksy as the fairies. Nor
do they select prickly furze and stony hilltops as their hiding-places.
But on the whole they are difficult to subdue, especially the farm
ghosts. While the servants are busy making the butter, the ghost or
spirit frequently throws something unclean into the milk or sends
the pans spinning around like mad. In one farm the farmer offered a
reward of five pounds to any one who would lay their particularly
lively spirit. Several people tried it, including an aged priest in
whose face the impertinent ghost waved a woman’s bonnet. Finally, the
Established Church being unable to cope with this sprightly situation,
an Independent minister from Llanarmon coaxed the ghost into the barn.
There the spirit, still unsubdued, turned into a lion, a mastiff, and
other ferocious beasts, but in no incarnation could it do any harm to
the Independent Griffiths. It became discouraged, and the minister
persuaded the poor thing to appear in the form of a fly. Perhaps
in this incarnation the wretched thing still had hopes of revenge.
However, the intrepid Griffiths was too much for it, and it was
captured in a tobacco box and borne off, never to trouble the farmer
any more.

The death portents in Cambria reveal all the strangeness and
lawlessness of the Celtic imagination. No one who does not know the
Welsh hills, who has not been on them day after day, can feel the
significance of these death portents. One must have travelled on the
top and edge of the Welsh mountain world to understand,--have looked
out upon a sea of hills gray and barren in their utter colourlessness,
and down upon valleys like the valley of the shadow of death. There
abyss and altitude are alike full of terrors, of mist before which mind
and step falter, of an Unknown which presses home in bodily anguish,
which distorts the vision and strikes upon the ear with the outcry of
bewildered souls. It is not strange, then, that the Welsh have the
most horrible of banshees. It is known as the Gwrach y Rhybin, the old
hag of the mist; and a Cyhyraeth which moans dolefully in the night
but is never seen; and a Tolaeth which groans or sings or saws, or
tramps with its feet, and is also unseen. And there are, besides, the
“Dogs of Hell” and the “Dogs of the Sky” and the “Corpse Candle” and
the “Goblin Funeral,”--all of them portents of death. Several years
ago I came very near seeing one of these portentous dogs. I was on
a treeless upland pasture, rich with ruby like a deep agate, with
lavender, flecked with emerald-green as musk is freaked with brown;
purple, pink, and opalescent in the sunshine that came and went. There
were black sheep and white in that pasture, I remember, and some little
lambs that straddled with surprise. One rose, stretching and curling
its tail with the delicious energy of waking from sleep. I looked down
what seemed like a particoloured gulf of greensward into valleys where
men and cattle had become dots in size, and up to more fern and heather
and altitudes where the curlew cried. It was as I looked up that I saw
an impressively large black dog that went through an impossibly small
sheep-hole in a sheep-wall. But a wisp of mist came over the Welsh
mountain-side, and one never makes an effort to see that sort of thing
or to run after it. Hunting rollicking elves and lightfoot fairies is
quite a different matter!

One of the most beautiful legends in the Iolo Manuscripts is the
story of one of these death portents. There was a lord rich in houses
and land and gold. Every luxury of life was his for the asking. One
night he heard a voice cry out distinctly three times, “The greatest
and richest man of this parish shall perish to-night.” He was aware
that there was no other man so great or rich as he, and he sent for
the physician and prepared to die. But the night passed and day came
and he still lived. At sunrise he heard the bell tolling and knew that
some one must have died, and he sent to enquire who it was. It was
an old blind beggar who had asked for charity at the lord’s gate and
been refused. Then this great lord saw that the voice had come as a
warning to him, that his riches were as nothing in comparison with the
treasure and wealth which the blind man had in the kingdom of heaven.
He accepted the warning and relieved all who were poor or in need. When
he died, angels were heard to sing him a welcome, and after his death
he was buried, as he had asked to be, in the blind beggar’s grave.

Of hags and witches there used to be far too many in Wales.
Shakespeare tells all one needs to know of them. For some reasons,
hidden to us, he had peculiarly intimate and extensive information
concerning Celtic folk-lore. Macbeth, speaking of witches, says, “I
have learned by the perfectest report, they have more in them than
mortal knowledge. When I burned in desire to question them further,
they made themselves air, into which they vanished.” These witches
did not hesitate to throw even portions of human beings into seething

    “Round about the cauldron go;
    In the poisoned entrails throw.”

They threw in other things, too, as the third witch tells us,--

    “Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
    Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf
    Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
    Root of hemlock digged i’ the dark,
    Liver of blaspheming Jew,
    Gall of goat, and slips of yew
    Silver’d in the moon’s eclipse,
    Nose of Turk, and Tartar’s lips.”


In Wales the knowledge which witches possessed they did not use for
the good of others, but for their hurt; they tormented children and
animals, they plagued the hard-working and industrious, and upset the
Welsh household. In Cambria there are witches unlike any I have ever
heard of, witches that will cause cows to sit down like cats before the
fire. No wonder the Welsh farmer keeps his Bible handy in the kitchen
chest, and runs for it post-haste, to read his seated cow a chapter and
unwitch her! No wonder that with such witches conjurors are needed,--if
for no other reason, then to unseat the cows; and that country folk
pluck the snapdragon to protect themselves from these hags! No wonder
the peasants cross their doors, even to this day in isolated districts,
to shield themselves, and that they keep horseshoes and churchyard
earth to preserve their cottages from spells!

No matter how he fumbled the English fairies, Shakespeare never made
any mistake with the Welsh. He understood what “mab” meant,--that it
meant a little thing,--just as “mabcath” in Welsh means a kitten, or
“mabinogi,” the singular of “mabinogion,” means a tale told to the
little ones. No one who has not seen a fairy can have any idea how
difficult it is to draw the line between history and story. That some
of the fairies seen on the way home from fairs and from patriotic
Eisteddfodau--Welsh national festivals of poetry and song--are due to
ale, cannot be disputed. It is commonly said that the Methodists are
driving the fairies out of Cambria. These nonconformists are usually
teetotallers. However, the real fairy is still in Wales, and if you do
not believe me, all I can say is, that you must go to Wales and prove
that I am wrong. But perhaps it would be well before you take the
journey to look at your foot, for if you find you have not a foot that
water runs under, it is best for you not to go. So runs the ancient
proverb, and without that lucky foot no fairy shall you see.

There is only one thing that can possibly counteract the lack of a
requisite instep for those who desire to see fairies, and that is
eating a good deal of cheese. I do not know why this is, but I do
know that as far back as one can go, much further back than Giraldus
Cambrensis or even Taliessin or the archest of the archdruids, Welsh
rarebit and roasted cheese have been the very bread of Cymric diet.
There is a story in John Rastell’s “Hundred Mery Talys,” printed in
the sixteenth century, which shows that before Shakespeare came to
elucidate the Welsh fairy, this question of cheese and the Welsh
had been duly considered: “I fynde wrytten amonge olde gestes, howe
God mayde Saynt Peter porter of heuen, and that God of hys goodnes,
sone after his passyon, suffered many men to come to the kyngdome of
Heuen with small deseruynge; at whych tyme there was in heuen a great
companye of Welchmen, whyche with crakynge and babelynge troubled all
the other. Wherefore God sayde to saynte Peter that he was wery of
them, and that he wold fayne haue them out of heuen. To whome Saynte
Peter sayd: Good Lorde, I warrente you, that shall be done. Wherefore
Saynt Peter wente out of heuen gates and cried with a loud voice _Cause
bobe_ (caws pob), that is as moche to saye as rosted chese, whiche
thynge the Welchemen herynge, ranne out of heuen a great pace. And when
Saynt Peter saw them all out, he suddenly wente into Heuen, and locked
the dore, and so sparred all the Welchmen out.”

Undoubtedly among everything Welsh, even in literature, cheese is the
“Open Sesame.” It is encountered in “Mabinogion” romance and beauty,
which is the same thing as to say cheese among the Welsh! Is there any
other folk-lore in the history of the world in which cheese plays so
important a rôle? It might in German folk-lore, but the fact is that
it does not. Bread, milk, the juice of the grape, but cheese? No, that
is lifted into the realm of imagination and of a world-classic only in
Cambria. Again Shakespeare showed his surprisingly accurate knowledge
of the Celt when Falstaff exclaims, “Heaven defend me from that Welsh
Fairy, lest he transform me to a piece of cheese!”


_The City of the Prince of Wales_

From the heart of Snowdon, some thirteen miles or more, on roads gray
with altitudes of rock, green with shining hillside pastures dotted
with white sheep, and crossed by rushing streams, we walked down to
Carnarvon. From the rocky heights behind it, this city of the Prince
of Wales--the great castle pile, the castle walls enclosing the roofs
of many buildings--extends to the edge of the sea, where the boom of
a sailing-vessel swinging around might easily touch the castle wall.
And beyond are the ships, the Island of Anglesey, Mona, beloved in all
Welsh hearts, peaceful and fertile, with the clouds above.

It was tranquil, luxuriant, established, unshaken by anything that
Time had been able to do. There still were the walls strong to defend;
the ships from the sea, and cottage chimneys symbol of many an ingle
nook, of quiet firesides, of homely comforts, of beloved household
faces, of young joy and ancient peace.

“Caer Seint yn Arfon!” “Caer ar Fon,” Carnarvon, meaning the
stronghold opposite Mona or Anglesey. “Caer,” the fortress, the
station, where in Welsh legend, Elen, the great Welsh road-maker, was
sought and won by the Emperor Maximus,--history this, or tradition,
which makes the thirteenth century and its Edwards and its castles
seem but as the children of yesterday. I thought of the description
of the old city in the “Dream of Maxen Wledig,” the dream of Maximus,
the tyrant, in the “Mabinogion,” one of the classics of the world and
_the_ classic of Welsh literature. In that dream what did that Roman
Emperor see but what we now saw? “Valleys he saw, and steeps, and rocks
of wondrous height, and rugged precipices, never yet saw he the like.
And thence he beheld an island in the sea facing this rugged land. And
between him and this land was a country of which the plain was as large
as the sea, the mountain as vast as the wood. And from the mountain he
saw a river that flowed through the land and fell into the sea. And at
the mouth of the river he beheld a castle, the fairest that man ever
saw, and the gate of the castle was open, and he went into the castle.”

Probably “Helen of the Roads” is the legendary form which the power of
Rome has taken in Wales. On either side of the mountains two roads run
their straight course from south to north, roads that were marked by
camps in strategic places and by Roman houses of stone in the sunshiny
reaches of the hillsides. Rome is still everywhere in Wales: the way
it thinks in politics, its speech, its literature,--and nowhere more
beautifully than in the “Dream of Maxen Wledig.” The Britons were
in the sorry plight of having to choose between enemies; and of the
two, Roman or heathen invader, the Romans were the more friendly and
beneficent, for the wild birds of the heathen carried only fire on
their wings, and alighted on the ripe grain to burn it, but the Romans
maintained order and conferred power. There in this most ancient city
of Segontium are still the walls of the Roman town as well as the more
recent walls of the castle town, and a remain which suggests a Roman
hypocaust; there coins and other fragments of this ancient empire are
constantly being found. There the body of the father of Constantine,
the first Christian Emperor, was discovered in the reign of Edward I.
And Edward, brutal and practical though he was, had it interred with
pomp and honour in the church.

The very size and strength of Carnarvon Castle as it still stands
shows how important strategically Edward thought the town. That Roman
stronghold which was there before the present castle must have been
beautiful, too, if in the legend of “Maxen Wledig” we have recollection
of what it was like. Both in the dream and with the messengers whom
the Emperor sent, they traversed the land until they came to Snowdon.
“Behold,” said the messengers, “the rugged land that our master saw.”
And then they went forward until they saw Anglesey, and Aber Sain, and
a castle at the mouth of the river. “And in the castle he saw a fair
hall, of which the roof seemed to be all gold, the walls of the hall
seemed to be entirely of glittering precious gems, the doors all seemed
to be of gold. Golden seats he saw in the hall, and silver tables. And
on a seat opposite to him he beheld two auburn-haired youths playing at
chess. He saw a silver board for the chess, and golden pieces thereon.
The garments of the youths were of jet black satin, and chaplets of
ruddy gold bound their hair, whereon were sparkling jewels of great
price, rubies and gems, alternating with imperial stones.… And beside a
pillar in the hall he saw a hoary-headed man, in a chair of ivory, with
the figures of two eagles in ruddy gold thereon. Bracelets of gold were
upon his arms, many rings were on his hands and a gold torque about his
neck; and his hair was bound with a golden diadem. He was of powerful
aspect. A chessboard of gold was before him, and a rod of gold, and a
steel file in his hand. And he was carving out chessmen. And he saw a
maiden sitting before him in a chair of ruddy gold. Not more easy than
to gaze upon the sun when brightest, was it to look upon her by reason
of her beauty. A vest of white silk was upon the maiden, with clasps of
ruddy gold at the breast, and a surcoat of gold tissue upon her, and a
frontlet of ruddy gold upon her head, and rubies and gems were in the
frontlet, alternating with pearls and imperial stones. And a girdle
of ruddy gold was around her. She was the fairest sight that man ever
beheld.” What more beautiful in any castle to be, in any modern royal
pageant of to-day or to-morrow, could there be than this Helen of Wales
of whom the Emperor dreamed and whom he sought and found? Unlike the
other Grecian Helen, she left, not records of war and strife behind
to attest her beauty, but serviceable roads over many of which we may
still travel to-day.

With the exception of Alnwick, Carnarvon Castle is the finest in Great
Britain. It is a wonderful creation of man, a thing of strength and
beauty, of might and grace; its decorated castellated architecture,
facing two ways towards the sea, giving it a visionary appearance
of charm wholly lacking in the bulky massiveness of Conway and
Harlech,--magic casements, these, as I said before,--

                        “opening on the foam
    Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.”

Its thirteen towers, pentagonal, hexagonal, octagonal, perfect in
their slender grace from walls ten feet thick. About one hundred and
fifty years ago, Pennant wrote: “This town is justly the boast of
North Wales, for the beauty of situation, goodness of the buildings,
regularity of the plan, and, above all, the grandeur of the castle, the
most magnificent badge of our subjection.”

It was in the Eagle Tower in which Edward II, the first Prince of
Wales,--though why they should forget their own valiant Gruffyd ap
Llewelyn is more than the writer can see,--is supposed to have been
born. The ivy clings now everywhere upon its castellated summits.
Probably the famous tower was so called because of the bird carved upon
its walls. “Within a little dark room of this tower,” says Pennant,
“not twelve feet long, nor eight in breadth, was born Edward II; so
little, in those days, did a royal consort consult either pomp or
conveniency.” Alas, the Prince was not born in that little tower as
records well show! The Welsh refused to acknowledge the English king
unless he would dwell in Wales. This was impossible; so their demands
were modified to the requirement that the prince placed over them must
be of their own nation and language and of an unblamable life. Queen
Eleanor was about to be confined, and, although it was midwinter and
harsh weather, the king sent for her and she was brought to Carnarvon
where the first English Prince of Wales was born. As soon as Edward
heard that the child was born he called the Welsh nobility together at
Rhuddlan, ostensibly to consult about the public good and safety of
all Wales. Once there, he told them that in case he had to leave the
country he would appoint in his place a prince who would fulfil the
conditions they had given, provided they would obey him, naming one who
had been “born in Wales, could speak no English, and whose life and
conversation nobody could stain,” and then named his own son just born
in Carnarvon. In his seventeenth year, 1301, this Prince of Wales was
formally invested, even as in 1911 another Prince of Wales was endued,
“with a chaplet of gold round his head, a golden ring on his finger,
and a silver sceptre in his hand.” The title is never inherited, but is
conferred by special creation and investiture.


Unfortunate for romantic tradition is it that Edward II built the
Eagle Tower and was not born in it. But these are the facts of
the case, and the people of Carnarvon know them perfectly well.
Undoubtedly, however, this prince was born in the town. One feels
indignant sometimes, perhaps often, in Wales at the value set upon
celebrity, the celebrity which “pays”; at Denbigh the proud claiming of
Stanley, the explorer, where the poor lad was knocked about and abused
worse than some cur of the streets; the exploitation of Dr. Johnson,
who happened to be with Mrs. Piozzi in the vicinity of Denbigh for a
few days; and then this English Prince of Wales whom the Welsh insist
upon having born in the tower which he himself built! Ah, well,--

    “Why should not gallant Taffy
      Have his relics and his bones,
    Llewelyns and Cadwallos,
      And Griffyevanjones?”

And we must just be willing to let this cherished Eagle Tower be an
indispensable Welsh bone--or relic of contention.

The gateway of Carnarvon Castle is very impressive, of great size and
strength, as are most of these North Wales castles, but, as is not
the case with most of them, with romantic grace added. Vines clamber
up it and over it, cracks etch the portions of the walls which are
bare. Above the gateway, in its niche high out of reach of destructive
enemies, is the figure of Edward II; and to the right and to the left
graceful turrets rise above the walls. Low on the face of the gateway
tower are slits for defence, above them at a safe altitude are windows
with part of the tracery still intact. This entrance was besieged by
Glendower in the fifteenth century and by a Parliamentary army in the
seventeenth. Bitter battles were fought about the old gate and in the
town beyond. One day at Carnarvon, when the peasant folk were holding a
fair, one Madoc, who claimed to be the son of Llewelyn, burst into the
market square, stormed the castle, and left the town a smouldering ruin.

But distant, far, far distant are those ancient days of primitive
strife. And as I turned off my Snowdon road to enter by this castle
gateway I had still in mind the peaceful, prosperous town through which
I had come and the ships on the sea beyond and the shining island
shore of Mona, mother of Wales. We paid our entrance fee and, as I was
doing that, my eye caught sight of an old table there under the arch,
littered with books for sale. I looked at the shimmering green grass
beyond in the castle courtyard down upon which the sun was flooding. We
were in no haste. I wanted to dally, and dally I did by the bookstall,
my hand falling upon a first edition of Goldsmith’s “Bee”, to be sold
at sixpence! We paid for it, and I could hear my friend saying, “Do you
suppose it really is a first edition?”

My fingers between the leaves of this book, I turned to and opened
“A City Night-Peace,” reading, “There may come a time when this
temporary solitude may be made continual, and the city itself, like its
inhabitants, fade away, and leave a desert in its room.” Then we went
through into the sunshine in the courtyard beyond, the book clasped
tightly in my hand, and the hours passed as in a dream. There was the
touch of time made visible, there was life carried forward even in
the busy chirping of the birds upon the vine-covered walls, there was
sunshine as it had been in those olden but not more golden days than
this, there was the sound of voices, voices beloved so long, long ago,
and speaking again; there was joy, and sorrow, living again for me and
in me; there once more was all that eager, ardent, daily commonplace of
human lives, that daily friendliness of little things which makes life
so worth the living. I felt it in all about us, woven into everything,
the cheerful noise of birds, the voices from beyond the castle walls,
the sunshine, the colour; and more and more the spirit of the place
took possession of me.

Again as in a dream within a dream we passed through the castle
gateway out into the town with its simple old houses, its little shops
with their signboards and gay windows, its inns and lodgings, past the
Welsh children playing in the streets and their elders going gravely
to and fro about their business, and the sleek horses and whirling
motors, up the hill past Llanbeblig Church, the churchyard Watts-Dunton
has used as part of the setting of his story “Aylwin,” and on to the
country road which, with thirteen miles’ walking, would bring us
home--to our Welsh home at the foot of Snowdon, Eryri, the home of
eagles. Behind us, as we turned, the ships had become but white moths
on a vast sea, Anglesey was growing dimmer, the cows pastured on the
plain about the old town were but specks, the coast-line was merging
into the water. But still the castle dominated everything, and I
thought of Dr. Samuel Johnson’s delight in that vast pile and his naïve
record in the Cambrian journal: “I did not think there had been such
buildings; it surpassed my ideas.”


_The Eisteddfod_

It was the first morning of my first Welsh National Eisteddfod, and I
sat by the window working, and glancing away from my work to a hillside
up which led narrow steps to the summits above, among which were hidden
away some half a dozen tiny villages. Colwyn Bay, where the Eisteddfod
was to be held, was--as the crow does _not_ fly--about forty miles
distant. It was a glorious morning of sunshine in which gleamed the
river, glossy beeches and pines, and little whitewashed Welsh cottages.
As I looked, there began to emerge from the steps a stream of people;
down and down they flowed, bright in their pretty dresses or shining
in their black Sunday-best broadcloth. All those mountain hamlets up
above, reached by roads passable only for mountain ponies, were sending
their men, women, and children to the Welsh festival of song and poetry.

Talking and excited about who would be chaired as bard, who would
be crowned, what female choir would win in the choral contests, what
male choir, and discussing a thousand little competitions, even to a
set of insertions for sheets, shams, and towels, we were borne on the
train from Bettws-y-Coed swiftly through the Vale of Conway, beside the
river, past Caerhûn, the once ancient city of Canovium, past Conway
Castle, with its harp-shaped walls still encircling the town, and so to
Colwyn Bay.

Then all these enthusiastic people who had climbed down a hill to
take the train, climbed up another to see the first Gorsedd ceremony.
As we passed, from one of the cottages was heard the voice of a woman
screaming in great excitement, “Mrs. Jones, Mrs. Jones, come to the
front door quickly. There’s some people going by; they’re dressed in
blue and white. Dear me, Mrs. Jones, they’re MEN!” The procession,
fully aware that Mrs. Jones, and all the little Joneses and all the
big and middling Joneses, too, had come, went on gravely up, up, up
the hill to “Y Fanerig” (the Flagstaff), where stood the “Maen Llog
of the Gorsedd” and its encircling stones. The paths were steep, and
even bards and druids are subject to _embonpoint_. Old Eos Dar, who can
sing penillion with never a pause for breath, lost his “wind,” and the
“Bearer of the Great Sword of the Gorsedd” was no more to be found. A
boy scout, perhaps thinking of Scott’s minstrel, who said,--

    “The way was long, the wind was cold,
    The minstrel was infirm and old,”

was despatched downhill after him, and found him and the sword, arm in
arm, lagging comfortably behind. Druidical deportment is astonishingly
human at times. But the hilltop achieved and wind recovered, the
bards soberly made their way into the druidical circle of stones that
surround the great Gorsedd stone. Nowhere, as the Archdruid remarked,
had the Bardic Brotherhood been brought nearer heaven.

From the summit, north, east, south, west, the soft valleys, the
towering mountains, the secluded villages, the shining rivers, and the
great sea were visible. And there on this hilltop the bards, druids,
and ovates dressed in blue and white and green robes, celebrated rites
only less old than the Eye of Light itself. After the sounding of the
trumpet (“Corn Gwlad”), the Gorsedd prayer was recited in Welsh,--

    “Grant, O God, Thy Protection;
    And in Protection, Strength;
    And in Strength, Understanding;
    And in Understanding, Knowledge;
    And in Knowledge, the Knowledge of Justice;
    And in the Knowledge of Justice, the Love of it;
    And in that Love, the Love of all Existence;
    And in the Love of all Existence, the Love of God.
              God and all Goodness.”

Then the Archdruid, Dyfed, standing upon the Gorsedd stone and facing
the east, unsheathed the great sword, crying out thrice, “Aoes
Heddwch?” (Is it peace?) and the bards and ovates replied “Heddwch!”

There are some scholars who question the “identity of the Bardic
Gorsedd with the druidic system.” The Welsh Gorsedd, this side of the
controversial point, is forty centuries old, and in all conscience
that is old enough. Diodorus, the Cicilian, wrote, “There are, among
the Gauls, makers of verses, whom they name bards. There are also
certain philosophers and theologists, exceedingly esteemed, whom they
call Druids.” Strabo, the geographer, says, “Amongst the whole of the
Gauls three classes are especially held in distinguished honour--the
bards, the prophets, and the druids. The bards are singers and poets,
the prophets are sacrificers and philosophers, but the druids, besides
physiology, practised ethical philosophy.” As far back as we can
look in the life of the Cymru, poetry, song, and theology have been
inextricably woven together. The Gorsedd was then, formally, for the
Welsh people what it still is informally: a popular university, a law
court, a parliament. The modern Gorsedd, with its twelve stones, is
supposed to represent the signs of the zodiac through which the sun
passes, with a central stone, called the “Maen Llog,” in the position
of the sacrificial fire in the druidical temple. A close reverence for
nature, a certain pantheism in the cult of the druids, shows itself in
various ways,--in the belief that the oak tree was the home of the god
of lightning, that mistletoe, which usually grows upon the oak, was
a mark of divine favour. The most prominent symbol of the Gorsedd is
the “Broad Arrow” or “mystic mark,” supposed to represent the rays of
light which the druids worshipped. Even the colours of the robes of the
druids, ovates, and bards are full of characteristic worship of nature;
the druids in white symbolical of the purity of truth and light, the
ovates in green like the life and growth of nature, the bards in blue,
the hue of the sky and in token of the loftiness of their calling.

Up there on the hilltop, with its vast panorama of hill and valley,
sea and sky, time became as nothing. The Gorsedd became again the
democratic Witenagemot of the Welsh, and there still were represented
the mountain shepherd, the pale collier, the lusty townsman, the gentle
knight, the expounder of law, the teacher and the priest. But if upon
the hill time was as nothing, down below in the gigantic Eisteddfod
pavilion some ten thousand people were waiting. “Gallant little Wales,”
which has certainly awakened from its long sleep, was past the period
of rubbing its eyes. It was shouting and calling for the Eisteddfod
ceremonies to begin, perhaps as the folk in Caerwys had called
impatiently in the days of the twelfth century, or again in that old
town in the days of Elizabeth, the last that memorable Eisteddfod when
a commission was appointed by Elizabeth herself to check the bad habits
of a crowd of lazy illiterate bards who went about the country begging.

That great Eisteddfodic pavilion, where the people were waiting
good-naturedly but impatiently, is primarily a place of music. Even as
in the world, so in Wales music comes first in the hearts of mankind
and poetry second. And it may be, since music is more social and
democratic, that the popular preference is as it should be. The human
element in all that happens at a Welsh Eisteddfod is robust and teeming
with enthusiasm. It is true that prize-taking socks, shawls, pillow
shams, and such homely articles no longer hang in festoons above the
platform as they did some twenty or thirty years ago. Now the walls
are gaily decorated with banners bearing thousands of spiteful-looking
dragons, and pennants inscribed with the names of scores of famous
Welshmen, and with such mottoes as “Y Gwir yn Erbyn y Byd” (the truth
against the world), “Gwlad y Mabinogion” (the land of the Mabinogion),
“Calon wrth Galon” (heart with heart), and others.

After the procession of dignitaries was seated upon the platform, a
worried-looking bard began to call out prizes for every conceivably
useful thing under the sun, among them a clock tower which he seemed
to be in need of himself as a rostrum for his throat-splitting yells.
During these announcements the choirs were filing in, a pretty child
with a ’cello much larger than herself was taking off her hat and coat,
a stiff, self-conscious young man was bustling about with an air of
importance, and in the front, just below the platform, sat newspaper
reporters, from all over the United Kingdom, busy at their work. Among
them were the gray, the young, the weary, the dusty, the smart, the
shabby, and one who wore a wig, but made up in roses in his buttonhole
for what he lacked in hair. There were occasional cheers as some
local prima donna entered the choir seats, and many jokes from the
anxious-looking master of ceremonies.

At last the first choir was assembled, and a little lady, somebody’s
good mother, mounted upon a chair. The choir began to sing,--

    “Come, sisters, come,
    Where light and shadows mingle,
    And elves and fairies dance and sing,
    Upon the meadow land.”

[Illustration: LLANBERIS

_From an old print_]

The little lady never worked harder, her baton, her hands, her head,
her lips, her eyes were all busy. Was it the Celtic spirit that made
those elves and fairies _seem_ to dance upon the meadows or did they
really dance? The next choir was composed of younger women, among them
many a beauty-loving face, alas! too pale and telling of the hard
life of the hills or of the harder life of some mining-town. Of the
third choir the leader was a merry little man, scarcely as high as the
leader’s stand, with a wild look in his twinkling eyes as he waved a
baton and the choir began,--

    “Far beneath the stars we lie,
    Far from gaze of mortal eye,
    Far beneath the ocean swell,
    Here we merry mermaids dwell.”

He believed not only in his choir, but also in those mermaidens, and
so did the little lad, not much bigger than Hofmann when he first began
to tour, who played the accompaniment. When that choir went out, a
fourth came in, still inviting the sisters to come. At last the sisters
not only came, but also decided to stay, and another choir lured the
sailor successfully to his doom, and all was over, for even in choir
tragedies there must be an end to the song. The gallant little mother
had won the first prize. It takes the mothers to win prizes, and the
audience thought so, too. The crowd yelled and stamped with delight.

When one asks one’s self whether Surrey, for example, or such a state
as Massachusetts in America, could be brought to send its people from
every farm, every valley, every hilltop, to a festival thousands
strong, day after day for a whole week, one realizes how tremendous a
thing this Welsh national enthusiasm is. Educationally nothing could be
a greater movement for Wales. To the Welsh the beauty of worship, of
music, of poetry are inseparable. Only so can this passion for beauty,
which brings multitudes together to take part in all that is noblest
and best in Welsh life, be explained. Only so can you understand why
some young collier, pale and work-worn, sings with his whole soul and
shakes with the song within him even as a bird shakes with the notes
that are too great for its body. These Welsh sing as if music were all
the world to them, and in it they forget the world. Behind the passion
of their song lies a devout religious conviction, and their song
sweeps up in praise and petition to an Almighty God, who listens to
Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind” as well as to some great hymn. To hear
ten thousand Welsh people singing “Land of my Fathers,” each taking
naturally one of the four parts and all singing in perfect harmony, is
to have one of the great experiences of life. To hear Shelley’s “Ode”
set to Elgar’s music and sung by several choirs, to hear that wild,
far-travelling wind sweep along in a tumult of harmonies, to know that
every heart there was as a lyre even to the least breath of that wind,
to hear that last cry,--

                      “Oh, wind,
    If winter comes, can spring be far behind?”--

to listen again to those choirs late in the evening on the station
platform with the sea dim and vast and muting the song to its own
greater music, is to have felt in the Welsh spirit what no tongue can
describe,--it is to understand the meaning of the word “hwyl,” that
untranslatable word of a passionate emotionalism.

All that went on behind the scenes the audience could not know. They
saw only those considered by the adjudicators fit to survive. They did
not see the six blind people, for even the blind have their place in
this great festival, who entered the little school-room off Abergele
Road to take the preliminary tests, the girl who played “The Harmonious
Blacksmith,” and, shaking from excitement and holding on to her guide,
was led away unsuccessful. They did not see the lad who played “Men of
Harlech” crudely, his anxious ageing, work-worn mother sitting beside
him, holding his stick and nodding her head in approval. All they heard
were a selected two who were considered by the judges fit to play,
a man both blind and deaf who performed a _scherzo_ of Brahms and a
Carnarvon sea-captain, now blind, who played on the violin. The quiet
of the one-time sea-captain’s face laid against the violin, the peace
and pleasure in the lines about the sightless eyes, would have repaid
the whole audience--even if the violinist had not been an exceptionally
good player--for listening.

One of the inspiring and amusing events of the week was the discovery
of a marvellous contralto. A young girl, shabbily dressed and ill at
ease, came out to sing. Everything was being pressed forward towards
the crowning of the bard, one of the great events of the Eisteddfod.
People were impatient, and somewhat noisy. But as the girl began to
sing they quieted down, then they listened with wonder, and in a minute
you could have heard a pin drop in that throng of ten thousand. Before
she had finished singing, “Jesu, Lover of my Soul,” the audience knew
that it had listened to one of the great singers of the world. When she
had finished her song and unclasped her hands, she became again nothing
more than an awkward, silly, giggling child whom Llew Tegid had to hold
by the arm.

The audience shouted, “What’s her name?”

“Maggie Jones,” he replied; “that begins well.”

“Where does she come from?” demanded the crowd.

“Police station,” answered Llew Tegid lugubriously.

The audience roared with laughter and demanded the name of the town.
Maggie Jones is the daughter of Police Superintendent Jones of
Pwllheli. Perhaps in the years to come the world will hear her name

There are children at these Eisteddfodau whose little feet can scarce
reach the pedals of a harp. Even the robins singing up in the high
pavilion roof who had joined in the music from time to time, trilling
joyously to Handel’s “Oh, had I Jubal’s Lyre,” twittered with surprise
that anything so small could play anything so large. But no one of
the thousands there, even the children, grew tired for an instant,
unless it was these same robins, who were weary at times because of the
cheerless character of some of the sacred music sung in competition and
themselves started up singing blithely and gladly as God meant that
birds and men should sing. The robins twittered madly when some sturdy
little Welshman stepped into the penillion singing, accompanied by the
harp, no more to be daunted than a child stepping into rope skipping.
When the grown-ups had finished, two little children came forward and
sang their songs, North Wales style.

The afternoon was growing later and later; it was high time for the
name of the bard of the crown poem to be announced. At last, with due
pomp, the name of the young bard was announced. Every one looked to see
where he might be sitting. He was found sitting modestly in the rear of
the big pavilion, and there were shouts of “Dyma fo!” (here he is). Two
bards came down and escorted him to the platform, where all the druids,
ovates, and bards were awaiting him. The band, the trumpeter, the harp,
and the sword now all performed their service, the sun slanting down
through the western windows on to this bardic pageant. The sparrows
flew in and out of the sunlight, unafraid of the dragons that waved
about them and the bands that played beneath them, and the great sword
held sheathed over the young bard’s head. The sword was bared three
times and sheathed again as all shouted “Heddwch!” The bard was crowned
and the whole audience rose to the Welsh national song.

What is the meaning of this unique festival of poetry and song? Mr.
Lloyd George, who had escaped from the din of battle outside, and the
jeers of the Goths and Vandals who couldn’t or wouldn’t understand the
Fourth Form, said, amidst laughter, that there was no budget to raise
taxes for the upkeep of the Eisteddfod. Then he continued, “The bards
are not compelled by law to fill up forms. There is no conscription to
raise an army from the ranks of the people to defend the Eisteddfod’s
empire in the heart of the nation. And yet, after the lapse of
generations, the Eisteddfod is more alive than ever. Well, of what good
is she? I will tell you one thing--she demonstrates what the democracy
of Wales can do at its best. The democracy has kept her alive; the
democracy has filled her chairs; the sons of the democracy compete for
her honours. I shall never forget my visit to the Llangollen Eisteddfod
two years ago. When crossing the hills between Flintshire and the
valley of the Dee, I saw their slopes darkened with the streams of
shepherds and cottagers and their families going towards the town. What
did they go to see? To see a man of their nation honoured for a piece
of poetry.… And the people were as quick to appreciate the points as
any expert of the Gorsedd, and wonderfully responsive to every lofty
thought.” Yes, unlike any other gathering in the world, the Eisteddfod
is all that. Long ago in the latter half of the eighteenth century Iolo
Morganwg stated the objects of Welsh bardism,--“to reform the morals
and customs; to secure peace; to praise (or encourage) all that is good
or excellent.” This national festival is the popular university of
the people, it is the centre of Welsh nationalism, the feast of Welsh
brotherhood. Only listened to in this spirit can one understand what
it means when an Eisteddfodic throng, after the crowning of the bard,
rises to sing “Hen Wlad fy Nhadau,”--

    “Old land that our fathers before us held dear.”


_Cambrian Cottages_

In the “Dream of Rhonabwy,” from the “Mabinogion,” one of the great
books of the imaginative literature of the world, it is not a very
pleasant picture which we get of a Welsh home. Yet the Welsh cottage
home of to-day is a treasure of beauty and orderliness. Doubtless this
picture from the “Dream of Rhonabwy,” in its realistic detail, making
allowances for certain Norman influences at work upon the various
stories of the “Mabinogion,” is a true one. The strength and rustiness
of the colouring of the house of Heilyn Goch, the blackness of the old
hall, the upright gable out of the door of which poured the household
smoke, the floor inside full of puddles and slippery with the mire of
cattle, the boughs of holly spread on the floor, and at one side of the
hall an old hag making a fire, the yellow calf-skin it was a privilege
for any one to get upon, the barley bread and cheese and milk which,
after the people of the house had entered,--a ruddy, curly-headed man
with faggots on his back, and a pale slender woman,--they were given to
eat;--all, I say, forms a picture rude, coarse, strong in its primitive
detail of twelfth-century Cymric household life. Something more,
too, it suggests. As Matthew Arnold says, “The very first thing that
strikes one, in reading the ‘Mabinogion,’ is how evidently the mediæval
story-teller is pillaging an antiquity of which he does not fully
possess the secret; he is like a peasant building his hut on the side
of Halicarnassus or Ephesus; he builds, but what he builds is full of
materials of which he knows not the history, or knows by a glimmering
tradition merely.”

There are other pictures, too, in the “Mabinogion” of early Welsh
household life, pictures which one must question because of their
luxury and general magnificence, features evidently due to the strong
Norman influence one finds at work almost throughout these stories.
No picture could be more rich and more beautiful than that in the
“Dream of Maxen Wledig,” where Helen is found by the Emperor’s
messenger sitting in the old castle hall at Carnarvon. These are the
tales of the splendid, barbaric youth of a people, filled with the
vividness, the crowding, the vitality of youth, and touched to an
even more magnificent beauty by another hand which was deliberate
and Norman--stories divinely disregardful of what might have been
intelligible; in their mystery and wonder full of the life of the
young. Barbaric touches, magic, fantastic elements, crude life,
gorgeous colouring,--all this and thrice more than this does one find
in the “Mabinogion.”

At first dreaming,--for dream one must over the cottages of Wales
if one is ever truly to enter them,--these homes of a more recent
time would seem to have suffered a loss in vividness, in interest,
so immeasurable that there could be no gain to balance against it.
Gone are the mystery and the semblance of splendour; the sense of
adventure and the strong, wild life of these earlier centuries are
forever vanished. Yes, gone they are, and gone they were before ever a
_rédacteur_ took down one of the tales of the “Mabinogion” from report
that was already becoming but tradition. Purposely did I select the
“Dream of Rhonabwy,” for not only in closeness to human reality, but
also in architectural detail, do I believe it to be an exact picture
of early Welsh home life. After the sordid picture of the hall, the
description of the rainstorm comes but as a reinforcing touch of
truthfulness: “And there arose a storm of wind and rain, so that it
was hardly possible to go forth with safety. And being weary with
their journey, they laid themselves down and sought sleep. And when
they looked at the couch, it seemed to be made but of a little coarse
straw … with the stems of boughs sticking therethrough, for the cattle
had eaten all the straw that was placed at the head and at the foot.
And upon it was stretched an old russet-coloured rug, threadbare and
ragged; and a coarse sheet, full of slits, was upon the rug, and an
ill-stuffed pillow, and a worn-out cover upon the sheet. And after
much suffering from … the discomfort of their couch, a heavy sleep
fell on Rhonabwy’s companion. But Rhonabwy, not being able either to
sleep or to rest, thought he should suffer less if he went to lie upon
the yellow calf-skin that was stretched out on the floor. And there
he slept.” Undoubtedly here even the slit sheet is a touch of Norman

In the “Dream of Rhonabwy,” not in the far more beautiful “Dream of
Maxen Wledig,” with its elaborate interior descriptions, do we find
something like prototype for the Welsh cottage of to-day: the fire
made against the gable end, even as it is now in the cottages, the
sleeping accommodations at the opposite ends. This is the arrangement
still of the vast majority of the cottages. Originally probably there
were no windows other than, it may be, little slits--“wind-eyes”
they were called with that relevant quaintness characteristic of
early speech--such as we see to this day in old Welsh barns. In the
“Mabinogion” story of Geraint, with its white stag, its divergent
sense of the forest and of a bustling town life and the beautiful
Gwenhwyvar, there is reference to glass windows: “And one morning in
the summer time they were upon their couch, and Geraint lay upon the
edge of it. And Enid was without sleep in the apartment, which had
windows of glass. And the sun shone upon the couch. And the clothes
had slipped from off his arms and his breast, and he was asleep. Then
she gazed upon the marvellous beauty of his appearance, and she said,
‘Alas, and I am the cause that these arms and this breast have lost
their glory and the war-like fame which they once so richly enjoyed.’”
Are any lines in Tennyson’s “Enid” taken from this “Mabinogion” tale,
that story upon which Tennyson’s widest popularity was founded, more
vivid than this beautiful romantic touch? Undoubtedly these glass
windows which revealed the manly beauty of Geraint in overthrow were
glass lattices. They could not have been very common, and considerably
later they were followed by wooden lattices in general use in the
Welsh cottage, and still occasionally to be found to-day. I have found
them several times in the dairy-rooms of old cottages in North Wales.
Norman influence was at work in this story of the late twelfth or early
thirteenth century from the “Mabinogion.” Sometime in the fourteenth
or fifteenth century it was that the lattice window of the cottage
came in, nor did it go out of use until the end of the seventeenth
century. The window was a double frame--just as it is most frequently
now--filled with woven diamond lattice. Within were wooden shutters
opening inwards. A distant view or sketch of the leaded panes of to-day
or of the diamond lattice of a long ago yesterday reveals no difference
between the two, so closely has the type of window been kept, as, for
example, the little, old-style windows of Beddgelert and Carnarvon.

And the beauty out upon which these old windows look is ever the
same--Eryri, Eagle’s Eyrie, is this land of North Wales. Peak,
precipice, lake, rushing stream, valley, forest lie always before
one, sometimes shrouded for a while by the mist, again pricked out in
indescribable altitude of mountain or whiteness of falling water before
eyes that cannot fail to wonder at their beauty. In the fourteenth book
of the “Prelude,” Wordsworth writes of the ascent which he and his
Welsh friend made of Snowdon from Beddgelert at dawn, and we may, if
we have not been in that mountain-cupped heart of Wales to hear it for
ourselves, hear with Wordsworth the mounting

        “roar of waters, torrents, streams,
    Innumerable, roaring with one voice!”

And with the poet, too, behold an

    “Emblem of a mind
    That feeds upon infinity.”

The majestic beauty of these little Alps of Wales seems but to
emphasize the cheerfulness and cosiness of the life man has made for
himself. Indeed, nowhere are valleys greener, more sheltering, more
homelike, more cosey. And the cottages, with their ascending spirals
of peat smoke, the sweet fragrance of their homely life, speak a
language of welcome no one can mistake. Gone are the old barbaric days,
with their rough, strong life, their adventure; gone are the days of
chivalry, with their bright pageant, their luxury, their courtly ways.
Here we may turn a stone of those mediæval days, there touch a fretted
memorial of still earlier times, even before Arthur had come to wake
the world to a new romance and a new and selfless endeavour. Lessened,
cheaper may this humble cottage heritage of the present seem than those
times which have gone their “journey of all days” into the past. But
not so does this sweet homeliness seem to me. Life is gentler, life is
better, perhaps even kindlier within them by the bright hearth where,
for the asking, any one may sit welcomed and at ease. Their purple
roofs are but modest regal seal upon the happiness within. One feels
singularly close to that great mother of us all in these tiny Welsh
cottages, near to what is essential, what is real. Mortals who have not
been dissevered from their proper feeling for houses will realize that
these little homes have sprung, as it were, from the soil, that the
cord binding them to the earth has never been cut.

[Illustration: BEAUMARIS

_From a proof before letters by Turner_]

The “Cyttiau Gwyddelod” or circular huts were the earliest forms of
dwellings of which there are still remains. One finds them in various
places on the meadows lying between and in front of Pen-y-Pass and
Pen-y-Gwyrd where Charles Kingsley loved to stop. There are many other
places, too, one not far out of Barmouth where Tennyson stayed and
where some of the stanzas from “In Memoriam” were written; and some
near Bettws-y-Coed, one of whose valleys, the Lledr, Ruskin called the
most beautiful in the world. The little circular rings of foundation
stones are curiously disappointing, scarcely worth the seeing, except
that, in touching them, it may be one presses a hand’s breadth nearer
to a vanished past. These circular huts lasted through a Roman-British
period, and looked, probably, much like a wigwam, with a circular
foundation wall of stone, wood, or wattle, from four to six feet high,
capped with woven boughs of thatch, and within, a floor diameter from
twelve to twenty-four feet. Gradually the circular hut gave place
to the rectangular, at first with slight improvement in comfort,
as I think the picture of “Rhonabwy” suggests. There was still no
chimney or ingle and the smoke poured out of the open doorway. Yet
in the arrangement described in “Rhonabwy” we have embryonically the
arrangement of to-day. The subdivision of the interior space was still
to come.

The earliest examples extant of the rectangular type are of the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Up till three years ago, when
it was destroyed to make room for an extension of the Calvinistic
Methodist Chapel, such a little cottage there still was in Beddgelert,
Ty Ucha. Such a cot there still is in Bettws-y-Coed, Dol y Waenydd;
also Tyddyn Cynal, near Aber Conway, as well as Old Plas, Llanfair
Fechan, to give but a few examples which any lover of Welsh life may
consult for himself. These little cottages are to be distinguished
by their roof principals, which start from the floor, heavy curved
pieces of oak meeting at the ridge in the roof. No doubt the earliest
churches were built in this fashion and the cottages were copied from
them. The churches of old foundation which survive, however, are,
as I have said in the chapter on the little churches of Wales, in
the style the Latin monks dictated and Llewelyn the Great introduced
into Wales,--twelfth-century churches such as those at Llanrhychwyn,
Gyffin, and Caerhûn. Beyond question, Welsh cottages represent a native
influence which antedates that of the oldest churches now extant in

In the Welsh women who sit by the ingle fire of this cottage life
one feels an age-old continuity of home, of the heart of things, of
association, of service, of beauty; the pale slender woman of the
“Dream of Rhonabwy” who entered the hall with the ruddy man; the maiden
with “yellow curling hair” whom, in the “Lady of the Fountain,” Owain
sees through an aperture in the gate, a row of houses on either side
of the maiden; and others who kindle fires and perform the household
tasks, who accoutre the knights, who embroider with gold upon yellow
satin. Much of the colour of that mediæval world is a thing of the
past, but not its women: they are essentially the same, though of a
democratic to-day, simple as Enid in her worn habiliments when Arthur
asked her what expedition this was and she replied, “I know not, lord,
save that it behoves me to journey by the same road that he journeys.”
The woman of to-day knows now what that journey of her mate is, and
still she goes with him, not driven before him, but by his side.

It was on the road that, as I studied these little cottages from week
to week, I encountered the Welshwoman of both an olden romance and a
present world of fact. Very humble little pilgrimages were these of
mine, not made without their diverse experiences of joy and fatigue.
Sometimes it was a little lane I travelled on foot, off the highroad
and through the heart of a farmland, the hedges eight feet high with
honeysuckle and heaven-deep with fragrance; again I dropped down a
hill, heather and foxglove making a royal display in bare places, and
in the distance the bells of Llanycil ringing; or I climbed a hill on
the way to Llangynog, a ridge which seemed the top and the edge of
the world, treeless upland pastures like deep agate rich with ruby,
lavender, brown and freaked with emerald green, purple and pink, and
all opalescent with sunshine, dotted with black sheep and white sheep
and little lambs, some straddling with surprise as they rose stretching
and curling their tails with the delicious energy of awakening. Or,
like Moses, I came down from Nebo, only it was a Welsh Nebo and my
hands were full of peppermints bought for twopence, and children,
rosy-cheeked youngsters in a frenzy of joy, were running about me. Into
strange places may even a cottage gleam lead. Once it took me to that
most primitive of all shelters, a cromlech, where gorse made sunshine
on the hill and heather made a glory, and in a near-by oat-field
pansies bloomed, and, above, a crown of pines sung in the ever-blowing
winds. Or the gleam led me beside some tiny stream, almost invisible,
that found its way like a thread downhill.

    “Down from the mountain
    And over the level,
    And streaming and shining on
    Silent river,
    Silvery willow,
    Pasture and plowland,
    Innocent maidens,
    Garrulous children,
    Homestead and harvest,
    Reaper and gleaner,
    And rough-ruddy faces
    Of lowly labour
    I followed the gleam.”

A gleam that led me on and on was this bright-shining, fragrant,
humble cottage life of Wales, with its much-needed assurance, amidst
the sorrows of our present times, that some magic of a life still full
of faith is lived among these solitary hillsides, among busy towns and
in sheltered Welsh valleys. Into human difficulties, too, did my gleam
lead me, as gleams have a way of doing. My first adventure was to find
a cottage called “Buarthau” (pronounced _Bee-ar-thai_). I knew that
it was on the hillside beyond Hendra Farm outside of Dolwyddelan, at
the head of that valley, the Lledr, which Ruskin has called the most
beautiful in the world. A child who spoke very little English summoned
her mother, a pale, slender woman with a baby in her arms, to point
out the cottage to me. The little girl led me and we climbed the steep
hillside. Beside it were wild roses, cool in pink and green; beyond
us was a magnificent view of Siabod, Snowdon, Aran, and Moel Hebog,
becoming with every upward-mounting step more grand. The old roof of
the sixteenth or seventeenth century which I had come to see was partly
destroyed, the large curved principals which came almost to the ground
had been well rubbed and gnawed by the teeth of kine. Under a tree near
a little cottage we ate our luncheon, a tree which accommodatingly
turned itself into a harp. Then we came down, across the Lledr River,
and turned and entered the village where the heart of the place is St.
Gwyddelan’s Church, built about 1500 A.D., with a rood screen removed
from some earlier church, a knocker to claim sanctuary still upon the
door, and warm hay piled high and spread in the sun over the old graves.

There was another day when I was in search of an old house still
habitable, but of the same date of building as Buarthau. From
Bettws-y-Coed I followed slowly up a long hill, from which I looked
down into an ever-deepening valley, where lay the road leading up past
the Conway and the Lledr to Dolwyddelan. After I passed Pentrevoelas,
I picked up a little fellow carrying a school-bag. We passed a big
empty graveyard place where five new graves were crowded against the
wall,--the living were planning well for the jostling of the dead who
were to come,--then I put the little fellow down by the chapel where
his mother lived. The road to Giler grew more and more difficult. At
last I came to a beautiful old house with a fortified gate and high
surrounding walls. Outside the walls, mother and daughter, farmer and
farm hands, were all milking the cows. They courteously led me through
the ancient gateway, a friendly place within, for not only did the cats
run to meet us, but also the pigs. I ascended the outside steps of the
fortified gateway into a room where was the Pryce coat of arms and the
date 1623 upon the walls. Then we went into the farmhouse through an
old doorway that would be the joy of any antiquary who might behold it.
Even this was fortified. Within, the oak panelling, the oak partitions,
the seats around the walls, the deep, small-paned, narrow windows, the
kitchen, the storeroom, the dairy, the mill--all were as they had been
four hundred years ago--a little the worse for wear, but still staunch,
still comely, still generous and hospitable. One fireplace I stood
before was twelve feet long and four or five feet deep. On the way home
I saw a flock of lapwings in the meadow. I passed the chapel corner
where the little fellow was; I saw two rabbits rubbing noses in the
field; and then, facing toward the sun, which was setting over Siabod
and the Ogwen Valley, I followed home.


_From an engraving by Boydell, 1750_]

These Welsh cottages and granges are like a well-made person or
a well-made life: they have nothing to conceal. They reveal their
construction, and their beauty inheres in this revelation of what
they really are. Instead of being all daubed over with plaster and
smeared with unattractive paper, their joists and beams, their
panelled oak partitions, the ingle-heart of the house, the warm, brown
oaken dressers and tridarn, the grandfather clock and settles, the
three-legged tables and three-legged chairs form a picture of simple
harmony, which at its best it would be hard to rival either in dignity
or homely beauty. I am not referring to the Welsh lodging-house which
is all many an Englishman or American knows in Wales. The floor of
the cottage may be but of beaten clay, neatly whitewashed around the
edge. This, however, is surely a more attractive floor covering than
many which cost, even before they leave the carpet factory, a good
deal more. Beautiful rooms are these where, from the lustre-ware,
the pewter, the copper and brass and latticed windows, many a
lesson is still to be learned by some of us who think it impossible
that we should be able to take anything from so humble a place. In
these Welsh cottages life has continued more or less unchanged in
a beautiful simplicity. It is not merely the simplicity imposed by
poverty,--although that does exist to a depressing extent in Wales,--it
is rather their sense of fitness, their love of what is beautiful, that
innate instinct of theirs, not only for the right word, but also for
the right beauty of a room, even of a kitchen. When they would imitate
under the pressure of modern fussiness and vulgarities, something still
holds them back. The lodging-house in Wales represents a concession
to modernity, their mistaken and delicate tribute to the visitor. It
is the Welsh farmhouse kitchen in all its dignity of use and beauty
which represents the true life of the Cymri, the ineradicable æsthetic
fineness of Gwalia. In Wales, and at a time when the world pays it but
scant respect, poetry dwells everywhere and is at home. The grimiest
coal centre, the dustiest slate quarry eating into the very bowels
of the earth and the skin of the people, cannot drive poetry and
music away from Wales. They dwell by the doorway of the whitewashed
cottage in that group of oaks, or under that sheltering sycamore and
the cottage roof of flowering thatch, in the water-split stains of
the slates upon the roofs, in the gleam of the doorsill over which
one steps. Here in these Welsh cottages is simplicity as compelling,
because more human and not less unself-conscious, as that of the palace.

Practically every characteristic possessed by the Welsh makes for love
of home. Their very shyness drives them through the house door to the
fireside, before all that is best can be revealed. Sensitive, full of
feeling, gay and melancholy by turns, they are like their own hills,
now sombre and now bright. It is temperament that makes the music of
the Welsh cottage, its picturesqueness, its romance. Without the Cymric
temperament there could have been no Welsh revivals, no invincible
Lloyd George, no Eisteddfodau. The delicacy of the woman, who is
always the home-maker, inheres in the Celt. He feels the significance
of the home with such yearning and such passion that it is almost
incomprehensible to his fellows of coarser fibre. It was that feminine
love of home which made Celtic chivalry what it was. And I dare to say
that it is still that element which makes the humble Welsh cottage what
it is to-day.

Those qualities which caused the Cymri to reverence their bards and
esteem learning are the qualities at work in their lives now. The
passionate admiration which in olden times made them follow a leader
like Llewelyn the Great or a lost cause, is what makes them shout by
the tens of thousands for Lloyd George to-day and a winning cause.
Their low, quiet voices, their gentle ways, their spiritual intensity,
all throw a glamour about the lives they lead. One does not expect to
find a sage in yon little cottage where the village bread is baked.
Yet he is there, his books two deep on every shelf of his little
room, his lamp burning far into the night. Nor does one expect to
find a Welsh Jenny Lind in this cot whose brass doorsill we have just
left; but, busy about her work, a voice the world might well run to
listen to follows us down these Welsh upland meadows. And behind that
counter, over which we buy sweets for the children, is an historian
and antiquary; in yon post-office a bard,--even the very farmer spends
his leisure not as other farmers do; and nothing is as many, in their
commonplaceness, their German _Gemeinheit_, expect and demand that it
shall be.

It is a far cry, some may think, from the “Mabinogion,” one of the
possessions of all the world, to a little Welsh cottage. No, it is not
a far cry; it is a history, interrupted here and there by haunting
words, broken by words not to be recovered, but still a history from
those first (?) “cyttiau gwyddelod,” with their rude music of harp and
their tales read from a revolving wooden book, down to this cot whose
shelter we have sought in a valley or upland meadow, even as Wordsworth
some one hundred years ago or Shelley sought such shelter at the base
of Snowdon. It is a far cry, some may think, from that smoke curling
out of the gable end of the hall in the “Dream of Rhonabwy” to this
ingle by which we have sat. No, it is a development, a continuance
marked only by the steps of man’s desire to strengthen and make more
perfect his home here, forgetting that Chaucer has told us in his poem

    “Her nis non hom, her nis but wildernesse:
    Forth, pilgrim, forth! Forth, beste, out of thy stal!”

For the gray of a gray day outside, here by this hearth is the rose
of fire, the tongue of flame by which we warm ourselves, the fluttering
of those dreams beneath which we hide ourselves as under a sheltering
wing. The passionate heart of a passionately sensitive people is
this hearth and flame of a Welsh cottage. To have lived by it is to
have lost the need to hear those tonic words of Matthew Arnold, for
here, indeed, the Celt may still, in his dreams, his love, his song,
react against the despotism of fact. And outside is a world of magic,
sometimes hostile but more often friendly, a world of beauty and of
enchantment. From the “Dream of Rhonabwy,” its women, its homes, its
organized life, its beauty, down to the castle and cottage in Carnarvon
or Conway, it is but one history, however many stages that history may
have passed through; and until the traveller or the alien in Wales
realizes this fact, he passes blindfold through its valleys and over
its mountains and in and out of its cottage doors.


Castles and Abbeys in North Wales

    Old Time … gentlest among the Thralls
    Of Destiny, upon these wounds hath laid
    His lenient touches, soft as light that falls,
    From the wan Moon, upon the towers and walls,
    Light deepening the profoundest sleep of shade

    WORDSWORTH, “Ruins of a Castle in North Wales.”

The more one lives in Wales the more one recognizes the need for
nonconformity. The Established Church has frequently conformed too
much, certainly to the bars found in all public inns, and probably
to the “jorum” measure set by castle life and even by the abbey life
that is now no more. No doubt, if there were less poverty, there might
be less drinking; on the other hand, if there were less drinking,
there would certainly be less poverty. Even now, as I write in the
most respectable old inn in Denbigh,--the place where all the gentry
go,--for an inn sign I am looking out on three liquor kegs crossed one
above another with a bunch of grapes pendant.

But the hill on which this quaint, small, prosperous town of
Denbigh is built does the best it can by its steepness to keep the
people in good condition. In Welsh Denbigh Castle is called “Castell
Caledfryn-yn-Rhos,” the “Castle of the Craggy Hill in Rhos.” From the
“bottom,” as the natives call the foot of the town and hill,--they
are identical,--it is a sheer climb to the top where the castle is
situated, and in that climb one has traversed the entire village. Close
by the castle is the Church of St. Hilary, more or less falling to
pieces now, where once masses were said for the soul of Henry de Lacy.
Within the castle enclosure, in a tiny cottage, John Henry Rowlands,
or Stanley, the African explorer, was born. Very eager is Denbigh to
claim this distinguished man, and but little can you get them to say
about the brutal treatment which drove him away from home and made him
a wanderer upon the face of the earth. Denbigh claims Twm o’r Nant
also,--he is buried at the bottom of the town in Whitchurch,--but
not content with claiming him, they canonize him with the absurd
name of “Welsh Shakespeare.” Born in 1739, he developed, without any
educational advantages whatsoever, remarkable skill in the writing
of interludes, which for many years he himself played up and down
the country, and by which, because he championed the cause of the
people “against the evils of the day,” he got the ear of his popular
audiences. Denbigh claims Dr. Samuel Johnson, too, and exaggerates his
brief visit to Middleton at Gwaenynog. They have even photographed one
cottage and called it Johnson’s.

A few miles west from Denbigh, at Rhuddlan, they have made the most
of their history, but it is not recent; rather it is standardized
and dignified by an antiquity which antedates even the ivy-covered
ruins of the castle. There starlings flutter in and out,--perhaps a
descendant of that starling which Branwen had taught to speak and who
carried across the sea to Carnarvon, to her brother, Bendigeid Vran,
the tale of her sufferings. There, too, are the fireplaces of an ample
hospitality which is no more. I thought of the promise Edward had made
in Rhuddlan that he would give the people a prince born in Wales and
who could speak no English. I thought of that battle between Saxon
and Welsh, in 769, on Morfa (marsh) Rhuddlan, which, before our eyes,
stretched gently and mysteriously away to the sea, and of the song that
had commemorated it and of the defeat of the Cymru:--

    “Calm the sun sets o’er the hills of Carnarvon,
    Deep fall the shadows on valley and lea,
    Scarce a breath ripples the breast of old ocean,
    Faint on the ear falls the roll of the sea.”

Also in the old song is heard again the din of weapons, the hissing of
arrows, and the cries of those who fought and those who fell. Even in
its English translation it is still a stirring old song.

On the coast, a few miles north of Rhuddlan, is one of the most famous
castles in British history, Flint Castle; but a dolorous, sorrowful old
place it is now, set down in the midst of belching smokestacks and a
sooty modern life that cares nothing for it. At Flint the dismantling
of Richard II was performed. Froissart, the chronicler, speaking of
Richard’s departure from Flint Castle in the custody of the Duke of
Lancaster, tells us a strange story. King Richard had a beautiful
greyhound who loved him beyond measure. As the Duke and the King were
conversing in the court of the castle, the greyhound was loosed and
immediately ran to the Duke, paying him all the attentions he had
always given to the King. The Duke asked what was the meaning of this
fondness. “Cousin,” replied the King, “it means a great deal for you
and very little for me.”

Above Flint, on the River Dee, is Hawarden Castle, the new residence
and the old ruin made famous to us in recent years by the fact that
William Ewart Gladstone lived there. And there, centuries ago,
Llewelyn, the great Welsh prince, first saw his Eleanor. The people
in this vicinity are called “Harden Jews.” In this connection an
interesting story from legendary history is told. It was in the year
946 that Cynan ap Ellis ap Anarawd was king of North Wales and a
Christian church stood there. In this church was a roodloft surmounted
by a figure of the Virgin bearing a holy cross in her hands. The
summer had been hot and dry and the people began to pray for rain.
Lady Trawst, wife of Sytsylt, governor of the castle, was one of those
who prayed most often to the image. One day while she was on her knees
the cross fell and killed her. The weather continued hot and the
indignant people decided to bring the rood to trial for the murder of
Lady Trawst. This was done and the Virgin and cross sentenced to be
hanged, but Spar of Mancot, one of the jury, thought drowning would be
better. Finally the judgment was partially amended and the image was
laid upon the beach and the tide did the rest. It was carried up to the
walls of Chester, and the citizens of that town, ancient even in 946,
reverently took it up and buried it, setting above it a monument with
this inscription upon it:--

    “The Jews their God did crucify,
    The Hardeners theirs did drown,
    Because their wants she’d not supply,
    And lies under this cold stone.”

And from this time forth the river, which had been called the Usk, was
called Rood Die or Dee.


_From an old print_]

It is not possible to re-create that olden castle life in Wales.
A fragment here and a fragment there one finds, and when the broken
life has been put together again, as in the “Mabinogion,” the Norman
influence is more than a varnish to its ancient surface,--it is often
colour, with occasionally an entirely new figure painted in. Glimpses
of the palace life do we get, of the sleeping-rooms and halls and
chambers, of beautiful buildings, of youths and pages, of vestures of
silk and gold and yellow robes of shining satin. Pictures of maidens,
too, there are, who live for us still as if they had not vanished from
within walls which Time has partially destroyed. One maiden there was
who was made from the blossoms of the oak and of the broom and of the
yellow meadow sweet, and whom they called Blodeuwedd or Flower-face.
Another, not Blodwen, but Olwen, she who was clothed in a “robe of
flame-coloured silk … more yellow was her head than the flower of the
broom, and her skin was whiter than the foam of the wave, and fairer
were her hands and her fingers than the blossoms of the wood anemone
amidst the spray of the meadow fountain.… Four white trefoils sprung up
wherever she trod. And therefore was she called Olwen.” Pictures, too,
there are in the “Mabinogion” and elsewhere of the castles in which
these maidens embroidered, sitting in golden chairs and clad in yellow
satin. One description there is in “The Lady of the Fountain,” which
is a vivid picture of a Welsh castle: “And at length it chanced that I
came to the fairest valley in the world, wherein were trees of equal
growth; and a river ran through the valley, and a path was by the side
of the river. And I followed the path until midday, and I continued
my journey along the remainder of the valley until the evening: and
at the extremity of a plain I came to a large and lustrous castle, at
the foot of which was a torrent.” The fair valley, the path by the
riverside, the lustrous castle, the torrent--all are still a part of
the life of Wales to-day. Again, for the mere opening of a book, we
may see knights in their encounters as of old: the horse that pricks
forward, the furious blows upon the faces of the shields, the broken
armour and bursting girths, and then the battle on foot, their arms
striking sparks, and blood and sweat filling their eyes. Nowhere in all
literature is there a more beautiful picture of a horse than in Kilhwch
and Olwen: “And the youth pricked forth upon a steed with head dappled
gray, of four winters old, firm of limb, with shell-formed hoofs,
having a bridle of linked gold on his head, and upon him a saddle of
costly gold. And in the youth’s hand were two spears of silver, sharp,
well-tempered, headed with steel, three ells in length, of an edge to
wound the wind, and cause blood to flow, and swifter than the fall of
the dewdrop from the blade of reed-grass upon the earth when the dew
of June is at the heaviest. A gold-hilted sword was upon his thigh,
the blade of which was of gold, bearing a cross of inlaid gold of the
hue of the lightning of heaven; his war-horn was of ivory. Before him
were two brindled, white-breasted greyhounds, having strong collars of
rubies about their necks, reaching from the shoulder to the ear. And
the one that was on the left side bounded across to the right side, and
the one on the right to the left, and like two sea-swallows sported
around him. And his courser cast up four sods with his four hoofs, like
four swallows in the air, about his head, now above, now below. About
him was a four-cornered cloth of purple, and an apple of gold was at
each corner, and every one of the apples was of the value of an hundred
kine. And there was precious gold of the value of three hundred kine
upon his shoes, and upon his stirrups, from his knee to the tip of his
toe. And the blade of grass bent not beneath him, so light was his
courser’s tread as he journeyed towards the gate of Arthur’s Palace.”

Charming pictures of friendship there are, too, lived within castle
and abbey; and descriptions of the love of birds and journeys taken
upon sea and land; and harsh and barbaric touches to remind us of
a past still more ancient and of a cruelty still more primitive.
Possible flashes do we get of the humour of this olden life: the
refreshing gentleman in Branwen, the daughter of Llyr, whom no house
could ever contain; Bendigeid Vran, the brother of Branwen, that good
brother who sat upon the rock of Harlech looking over the sea, and all
unconsciously welcoming those who were to break the heart of the sister
he loved. Poetry and wisdom also there are in this ancient life: the
Coranians, who, however low words might be spoken, if the wind met that
speech, it was made known to them; and Arthur granting a boon in words
which are a poem in themselves,--“as far as the wind dries, and the
rain moistens, and the sun revolves, and the sea encircles, and the
earth extends.” “There is no remedy for that which is past, be it as it
may,” said Luned. And in the “Mabinogion,” as in every life, there was
one door which when those who were bearing the head of Bendigeid Vran
to London opened and looked through, “they were as conscious of all the
evils they had ever sustained, and of all the friends and companions
they had lost, and of all the misery that had befallen them, as if it
had all happened in that very spot.”

South from Flint and south from Hawarden, yet near the windings of the
river Dee, is Castle Dinas Bran, “Crow Castle,” as the English call
it, mistakenly turning “Bran,” a word whose actual meaning is unknown,
into “Crow.” Scarcely a stone of this very famous and ancient old
castle situated on a high hill is left intact. The very rubble of its
walls is exposed. Of the castle there is not enough left to repay any
one for a visit, except a lover of desolation. Here, in another land,
are walls like those of Balclutha, and desolate are they. Here the fox
looks out of the window and the rank grass waves about its head, and
here on the wind the song of mourning lifts itself bewailing the days
that are gone. Yet from the valley below, with its quaint old town of
Llangollen, its wonderful Abbey of Valle Crucis, and the shimmering of
the running waters of the river Dee, the present is a reassuring one.
Smoke curls up cheerfully from scores of household chimneys. The sun
shines down upon the abbey walls, upon the chapter house, still intact,
and upon the broken walls of the church itself.

    “Ivy’d Valle Crucis; time decay’d
    Dim on the brink of Deva’s wandering floods,
    Your ivy’d arch glittering through the tangled shade,
    Your gray hills towering o’er your night of woods;
    Deep in the vale recesses as you stand,
    And, desolately great.”

Inseparable from and a part of the spiritual beauty of this scene is
the thought of the old blind rector, who is now custodian of the abbey
and who still speaks lovingly of the beauty of the things he can no
longer see. He has been there twenty-nine years, and through many of
those years he has been going blind. Yet he told us cheerfully that
he was greatly encouraged by our interest. “I never destroy anything
that is old,” he said; “I stick to the old.” As we stood there talking,
the lovely little white English daisies looking up from the grass at
us, the venerable old man told us something of his work. He was much
discouraged because people were not interested, and even as he leaned
on his stick, doubtless hoping for other visitors, his ear-sight
quickened by the eye-sight he had lost, people were passing by outside
walking toward the Pillar of Eliseg and a wooded vale beyond.

In Llangollen, the village near the abbey, lived and died the ladies
of Llangollen, two dear, quaint, sentimental souls, with personalities
sufficiently marked and fearless so that they were unafraid to be
themselves. Louisa Costello, in her account of a Welsh tour, gives them
rather sharp treatment. She says that they were foolish, condescending,
proud, vain, and pompous, yet she admits that they were charitable and
considerate of their neighbours. Of their friendship she has nothing
good to say. In a word, they were a couple of eccentric sentimentalists
and both frightfully ugly. With the larger charity of the man,
Wordsworth, who paid them a visit and wrote them a sonnet, described
their appearance in the following words, “So oddly was one of these
ladies attired that we took her, at a little distance, for a Roman
Catholic priest, with a crucifix and relics hung at his neck. They were
without caps, their hair, bushy and white as snow, which contributed to
the mistake.” In the sonnet addressed to them there are, among others,
two lines of pure tribute:--

    “The Vale of Friendship, let this spot
    Be named; there, faithful to a low roofed Cot,
    On Deva’s banks, ye have abode so long;
    Sisters in love, a love allowed to climb,
    Even on this earth, above the reach of Time.”

Lady Eleanor Butler was the daughter of the Earl of Ormond. She was
born in Dublin and was both wealthy and beautiful. The Honourable Miss
Ponsonby, a member of an ancient family, was an early friend of Lady
Eleanor. She, too, was born in Dublin, and both lost their parents at
the same time. They loved independence and did not love their suitors.
Many things drew them together and, as Wordsworth aptly phrases it,
they retired into notice in the Vale of Llangollen. Now they lie buried
there, their faithful servant, Mrs. Mary Carryll, lying in an equal
grave beside them.

In this neighbourhood are many castles, among them Chirk the property
of Lord Howard de Walden, and Ruthin Castle which is not very
interesting. About northwest from Llangollen lies the old town of
Conway, with its castle and its rare old Plas Mawr. Suetonius says that
the chief motive assigned by the Romans for the invasion of Britain
was that they might obtain possession of the Conway pearl fisheries.
One of the Conway pearls, now no longer much thought of, was placed
in the regal crown and presented by Sir R. Wynne to Richard II. The
picturesqueness of Conway streets is greater than that of any other
North Walian town. Little gable ends look out and down upon the streets
like curious eyes. The houses are irregular and there are odd turns
and twistings of the streets; cobblestones and old flagstones and an
occasional black-and-white house; and everywhere glimpses through
castle gate or over castle wall. The exterior of the castle is still
singularly perfect; only one part of it seems to be falling, that
nearest the river and looking out upon the sea. Overlooking the town,
upon the river, is Queen Eleanor’s oratory:--

    “In her oryall then she was
    Closyd well with royall glas:
    Fulfullyd it was with ymagery,
    Every windowe by and by,
    On each side had ther a gynne
    Sperde with manie a dyvers pynne.”

It matters not now whether this was a place of prayer or place in
which the Queen arrayed herself. Pennant, when he made his famous “Tour
in Wales,” described Conway as castle of matchless magnificence, and a
matchlessly magnificent Castle it still is.

It takes but a single effort of the imagination to see again the
life within that ancient harp-shaped town as it must have been even
so recently as seventy-five years ago: the varying colours of the
peasants’ dresses, their large market-baskets and umbrellas, their
bright handkerchiefs, the tall North Walian beaver hats and frilled
caps peeping out beneath, the bright cheeks and even brighter pink
cotton jackets worn by the girls. Healthy, well-made peasants those,
neat of garb and gay of heart, good-looking, both men and women. Again
the old market-place, beyond Plas Mawr and the church, rings with their
laughter and their lively barter, and the clatter of their ponies’
hoofs; again the soft voices of the women are heard and the heavier
voices of the men; again they mount their horses, sometimes double, and
ride away out of the lively town to the silent hills beyond, through
Gyffin, where the colours in the old barrel vault of the church must
have been even brighter than they are now; perhaps they go as far as
some hillside like that on which Llangelynin still keeps its gray
sanctuary. Again down upon the old town settles a double silence. The
day’s work is done; twilight has come, and over all reigns a stillness
which is as that of a Welsh Sabbath.

Through the Vale of Conway, past Trevriw and Llanrwst with its Gwyder
Castle, past beautiful Bettws-y-Coed and Capel Curig, and on to the
Pass of Llanberis, a walk of unrivalled beauty, there appears at last,
as one travels down to Pen-y-Pass (the head of the pass), the single
tower of the ruined castle of Dolbadarn. A Welsh triad says there are
three primary requisites for poetry: an eye that can see nature, a
heart that can feel nature, and a resolution that dares follow nature.
No one can come down from this road over the towering summits of
Snowdon to the little green valley in which Dolbadarn lies without, for
the time, becoming a poet, even to the resolution that dares follow
the spiritual counsels which come from sky and mountain and rushing
stream and the very rocks that fill this valley. “Nature has here,”
says Camden, “reared huge groups of mountains, as if she intended
to bind the island fast to the bowels of the earth, and make a safe
retreat for Britons in the time of war. For here are so many crags and
rocks, so many wooded valleys, rendered impassable by so many lakes,
that the lightest troops, much less an army, could never find their way
among them. These mountains may be truly called the British Alps; for,
besides that they are the highest in the whole island, they are, like
the Alps, bespread with broken crags on every side, all surrounding one
which, towering in the centre, far above the rest, lifts its head so
loftily, as if it meant not only to threaten, but to thrust it into the


_From an old print_]

The better one comes to know the castles of North Wales, the more is
one impressed with the extraordinary ability shown in fortifying every
access into the country. Dolbadarn itself is ancient; whether it dates
from before or after the Roman Conquest is doubtful; it was with the
thought of Llanberis Pass in mind that Tennyson wrote his “Golden
Year”; it was there that he heard

                  “the great echo flap
    And buffet round the hill from bluff to bluff.”

Here in this castle Owen Goch was imprisoned by his brother Llewelyn.
To this prisoner a bard, Howel Voel ap Griffi ap Pwyll Gwyddel,
composed his Welsh awdl, or ode, called “The Captive of Dolbadarn.” The
feeling in this poem is still quick even after all the changes of the
centuries and even with all the loss from translation:--

    “His palace gates no more unclose,
      No harp is heard within his hall,
    His friends are vassals to his foes,
      Grief and despair have vanquished all.
    He, the defender,--he, the good and just,--
    Is gone; his name, his honour, in the dust!

    “He prized but treasures to bestow,
      He cherish’d state but to be free;
    None from his walls unsped might go,
      To all he gave, but most to me!

    “Ruddy his cheeks as morning’s light,
      His ready lance was firm and bright,
    The crimson stains that on it glow
      Tell of the Saxon’s overthrow.

    “Shame, that a prince like this should lie
      An outcast, in captivity.
    And oh! what years of ceaseless shame,
      Should cloud the Lord of Snowdon’s name!”

Professor O. M. Edwards, in his book called “Wales,” describes
Dolbadarn as the last home of Welsh independence.

Hundreds of years before the sad, peace-loving life of Llewelyn had
played its great part in Welsh history, in the valley that runs from
the head of the pass along the low margin of beautiful Gwynant Lake,
by a little river that talks gayly in all weathers but most gayly in
the stormiest, past Llyn (lake) Dinas to Beddgelert,--in this valley is
situated on Dinas Emrys some fragments and traces of one of the oldest
and most important strongholds in Great Britain. This was the fort of
Merlin who “called up spirits from the vasty deep.” There is melancholy
and romantic interest to be found on the summit of Dinas Emrys,
tracing what still remains. Something there is, perhaps enough for the
archæologist to re-create all that has been lost. On this same road,
some thirteen miles beyond, lies Carnarvon Castle, of whose history and
beauty I have written in “The City of the Prince of Wales.”

In the “Mabinogion” there are wild-wood touches showing aspects of
the life the Cymru had lived. The redactor of the old story of Branwen
says: “Then they went on to Harlech … and there came three birds and
began singing unto them a certain song, and all the songs they had ever
heard were unpleasant compared thereto; and the birds seemed to them
to be at a great distance from them over the sea, yet they appeared as
distinct as if they were close by.” And again, “In Harlech you will
be feasting seven years, the birds of Rhiannon singing unto you the
while.” Just as the “Dream of Maxen Wledig” is in a sense the story
of Carnarvon Castle, so is this tale of Branwen, the “fair-bosomed,”
full of pictures and suggestions of Harlech Castle, Bendigeid Vran
(the blessed) sitting on a rock and looking out to sea,--across that
enchanted bay, on the other side of which lies Criccieth Castle, while
the King of Ireland, Matholwch, his ships flying pennants of satin,
comes wooing the sister of Branwen. A strange story this which has
come out of that old castle stronghold, its royal Irish lover, its
good Bendigeid Vran, its beautiful Branwen, the tame starlings and the
singing-birds of Rhiannon, and that cry of Branwen, “Alas, woe is me
that I was ever born”; and after that cry, the heart that broke and was
buried in the four-sided grave on the banks of the Alaw.

Harlech Castle was probably originally built about the middle of
the sixth century by a British prince. Edward I constructed the
present castle on the ruins of the former one. It was finished in
the thirteenth century and became the seat of many conflicts between
Owen Glendwr and the English. Thither heroic Margaret of Anjou fled,
following the battle of Northampton. It was the last of the castles
to hold out for Charles. The whole life of this stronghold has been
heroic, stupendous in size, gallant in its human figures, impressive
in its human sorrows, indomitable in its human courage. Here, and in
the other castles of North Wales, many of those strange prophecies of
Taliessin have been fulfilled or in part fulfilled, something at least

    “All the angels’ words
    As to peace and war.”

                                THE END



_Suggestions for Some Tours_[2]

At the junction of the Llugwy and Conway valleys, embowered in
trees, cut by rushing streams, surrounded by mountains, among them
Siabod, the Glyders, and some of the lesser hills of Snowdonia, is
Bettws-y-Coed, one of the most beautiful and, be it said, the most
comfortable villages in all North Wales. There are good inns, good
lodgings, excellent train-service, coaches,--all that mankind in a
holiday humour can desire. This little “chapel in the woods” is a place
rich in beautiful legend, near the sea, in the midst of mountains, for
the sportsman blessed with good fishing and good hunting. Artists go
there, and where artists go, others can afford to follow. The Lledr
Valley, which meets the Conway just outside of Bettws, Ruskin called
the most beautiful valley in the world. At Bettws-y-Coed, I think, are
as fine headquarters as any in North Wales for a series of tours. The
Waterloo Hotel, the Royal Oak, the Gwydir are all good hotels, well
run, sanitary, and with excellent food. In Bettws, too, there is a
first-rate garage from which you can get good cars at any time.

Repeated experience of life in North Wales in its most isolated,
tiny hamlets, where the tourist had never been before and where it
was impossible to secure lodging; experience in the small towns like
Conway and Carnarvon, full of association, quiet and yet prosperous;
and experience in the larger centres of Welsh life, have given me a
perspective which is, perhaps, uncommon. The great advantage of Bettws
is that you can not only get everywhere from that delightful place, but
that you can also be most comfortable at a reasonable rate.

If you are touring in an automobile you will find each one of the tours
which I suggest food merely for a day of comfortable delight. If you
are walking, or driving, these tours can be broken up and shortened or
extended indefinitely.

       *       *       *       *       *

For the FIRST DAY go up the Vale of Conway, stopping at Trefriw.
On your way to Trefriw, you will pass through Llanrwst, which, dear
old market-town that it is, will for liveliness on a market-day
suggest Piccadilly rather than a little Welsh town. There from miles
around--and if you wish to see a Welsh market you cannot do better
than to go to Llanrwst, for during centuries it has had a great
reputation as a place of barter--there from miles around, the Welsh
peasants gather, and there you will see Welsh household articles
which you could not find in any shop. There is much in Llanrwst worth
taking a glimpse at, the old bridge built by Inigo Jones which would
be enough to send a well-regulated motor car to the madhouse, but
from the artist point of view is still useful; the little cottage by
the bridge, Gwydir Castle just beyond the cottage, not a tumble-down
castle either, but resplendent with gorgeously carved furniture and
Spanish-leather-covered walls and relics too many and too old to

But on to Trefriw and from Trefriw climb the hill on foot,--it is only
a short hill,--to see Llanrhychwyn Church, a double-aisled church of
the most primitive simplicity, where Prince Llewelyn used in tumultuous
days to worship. One aisle is considerably older than the other,
dating, as its architecture, the details of its rafters, the windows
and doors show, perhaps back as far as the eighth century, surely the
ninth. And now to Conway, stopping by the way at Caerhûn for just a
glimpse of the old church there and a long enough time to realize that
you are standing on the foundations of what was once the ancient Roman
city of Canovium. Do not stay there so long that you will not have
time to turn on a road just about a mile and a half outside of Conway
that leads up the hill to Llangelynin Church, also one of the oldest
foundations in all Great Britain, a poor, stricken, old place tended by
a woman scarcely strong enough to creep around, apart from any village
or any cottages, remote, pathetic in its semi-decay, and containing
still the old pulpit, some of the old glass, and a leper’s window
through which lepers used in the Middle Ages to receive the sacrament
and to listen to the services.

And now you are almost within the harp-shaped castle walls of Conway
itself--old Conway with its cobbled streets, its beautiful Plas Mawr,
its ancient hostelries, its massive castle with the oratory of Queen
Eleanor still looking out upon the sea, and--treasure not to be
despised--near the castle the tiniest cottage in all Great Britain.
There are good hotels in Conway where an excellent luncheon or dinner
may be found, and if there is time for sight-seeing, perhaps the
best thing to do would be to buy one of Abel Heywood’s penny guides,
for in these penny guides is found a wealth of reliable information.
Enough, this, for one day’s joy, and I have discovered for you what
no guide-book would do--two, and perhaps three, of the sweetest old
churches of primitive Wales.

       *       *       *       *       *

Leaving Bettws-y-Coed on the SECOND DAY, you will go through Capel
Curig, stopping on the way for a glimpse of the Swallow Falls. Now,
down through the valley past Llyn Ogwen, from which you can visit, if
you wish, the Devil’s Kitchen or Twll Ddu, the “black hole,” as the
Welsh call it, where, every year, foolish young collegians lose their
lives in scaling the walls. In its lack of verdure, in its stupendous
rocky mountain summits, in its gigantic boulders of stone thrown hither
and yon, this valley is a veritable valley of the shadow of death,
gray, desolate, rock-strewn. You will pass through Bethesda on your
way to Bangor, seeing, as you go along, hillsides covered with rubbish
from slate quarries. And now to Bangor, where Dr. Samuel Johnson over
one hundred years ago found the inn, together with a great deal else
in Wales, “very mean.” Although the good Doctor was tremendously
interested in his food, despite the very meanness of the inns, he found
Bangor, its Beaumaris Castle, and its cathedral, interesting. But they
have changed the “meanness” of their inns now, for this Welsh town has
become a university town and you will find good food and good inns.

Only a few miles beyond is Carnarvon,--that old town which North
Walians claim as the most interesting of all their towns,--and
Carnarvon Castle, in the words of Pennant, “the most magnificent badge
of our subjection to the English.” There in Carnarvon the investitures
of the Princes of Wales have taken place. Carnarvon Castle is, with the
exception of Alnwick, the finest of all Great Britain and possessed of
the romantic grace--its casements looking out upon the sea and the dim
romantic shores of Anglesey and its towers back upon the rocky sides
of Snowdon--of any European castle. Within the walls of this castle,
begun by Edward I and completed by his son, the first English Prince
of Wales, and within the walls of the town,--for Carnarvon is a city
of the early Middle Ages founded upon the ancient city of the Romans
called Segontium,--many hours, even days, might be spent.

Homewards now to Bettws through Llanberis, up the long, beautifully
graded road to Pen-y-Pass (which means simply the head of the pass),
where you will find an inn for mountaineers in whose attractive
dining-room you can have delicious tea and a view unrivalled in all
North Wales. From Pen-y-Pass one of the easiest ascents of Snowdon can
be made, and, with Bettws as a centre, it would be a very simple thing
to run down to Pen-y-Pass for an ascent. You are within a few miles of
Bettws now and will reach there in time for supper or dinner at seven

       *       *       *       *       *

On the THIRD DAY go through Capel Curig again, turning at
Pen-y-Gwryd,--where Charles Kingsley, the novelist, and Tom Hood spent
so many happy days and where there is an excellent inn,--to go to
Beddgelert. You will run down one of the most beautiful roads in Great
Britain, wide, smooth, with all Snowdonia at your right-hand side,
and on the left, mountains that roll away towards the jagged summit
of Cynicht; down past beautiful Lake Gwynant; past beautiful country
places; past Dinas Lake where a remarkable creature of mythological
times is supposed to have lived--fairy tale seems to have made a sort
of crocodile out of what was probably a beaver;--past Dinas Emrys,
on which there are still remains of a Roman stronghold and where the
magician Merlin Ambrosius worked many a spell and Arthur has often
been; still on, past Aran, a mountain only less high than Snowdon, from
whose side leaps a little waterfall; along a road with a turbulent
Welsh river on one side and fawn-like, mottled beach trees on the
other; now on to the outskirts of the village, where one begins to
see signboards announcing lodgings, and finally, into the village of
Beddgelert, set sheltered and surrounded in its cup of mountains, and
where, if you have a heart for legend, you may see a dog’s grave and
believe the beautiful old tale; and where, if you have an eye for
beauty, you may have your eyes filled--eat your cake, indeed, and take
some of it away with you;--and where, if you have a mind to rest, you
may stay on indefinitely, finding each day more peaceful and more
lovely than the last in that little mountain-cupped village, with the
sound of its running rivers and its tumbling mountain streams and the
day-long cawing of its rooks. If you want a welcome from some one who
loves Americans and who will do all that she can for them, you could
not do better than go to Mrs. Howell Griffith Powell, who will give you
excellent simple food and, if it is a cold day or you happen merely
to want it as an added pleasure, an open fire. There are good hotels
there, too, the Royal Goat Hotel and the Prince Llewelyn.

Then in the afternoon you will go on down through Aberglaslyn Pass.
Perhaps you will stand on the old bridge for a few minutes and read or
listen to the story of how the Devil--always a singularly active figure
in Wales and the Welsh imagination--tried to get an unjust toll for
the building of that bridge and was outwitted. The Welsh mind--and the
revival is a point in proof--takes a singular delight in outwitting
the Devil. Now, on to Tremadoc, where on the right-hand side of the
road you will see the house in which Shelley, the poet, lived for a
year with poor unhappy Harriet. From Portmadoc you can take a short
détour to Harlech and its castle, a tremendous old pile of a fortress,
scarcely beautiful, but very impressive as it stands upon its vast rock
looking out over the sea and the mountains, and down over the little
cottages sheltered at its foot. As you look across the sea, you are
gazing upon the land where King Mark is supposed to have had his palace
and upon Criccieth, where you may still see an old stub of a castle.
Perhaps you will be even more interested to know that Lloyd George has
his summer home in Criccieth, and that not far from Harlech, Bernard
Shaw has spent a good deal of his time preparing his next delightfully
wicked laugh at the expense of himself and mankind. Just opposite
Harlech Castle is a good inn where one can get an ample dinner or
luncheon or tea; and a car or one’s walking-traps may be left.

Retracing a few miles from Harlech, follow the road through the
beautiful Vale of Maentwrog. It was in the Vale of Maentwrog that Lord
Lyttleton said, “One might with the woman one loves pass an age in this
vale and think it but a day.” Up through this wonderful vale you will
see a tiny narrow-gauge railway making its way. Sharp is the contrast
between the country at Festiniog, from which one looks down upon the
Vale of Maentwrog, and the country about Blaenau Festiniog, which is
the next town beyond. Blaenau Festiniog--high up on the mountain side,
with the peaks of gray rock summits towering high above the village
and rocks everywhere coming down to the backs of the houses, miles of
slate rubbish within sight of every street in the village--has for its
proud boast the fact that it contains the largest slate quarries in the
world. Here are quarried the beautiful blue slates of which Wales is
proud, and which, alas, the cheaper French slates have been driving out
of the market. It is well worth the trouble to climb the quarry steps
up the Oakeley Quarry. Then on through the Lledr Valley, with every
turn of the road near the Lledr River, through plantations of pines,
past little houses, down this beautifully graded road until the Lledr
River joins the Conway, past the Fairy Glen, and so home once more to

       *       *       *       *       *

A FOURTH DAY should be spent in a more fertile part of the country
following the Cerrig-y-Druidion road through to Corwen. A few miles
farther on, along the river Dee, one comes to Llangollen, a sweet old
town, where lived those two dear, high-spirited, quaint old ladies of
Llangollen; where there are excellent inns in a fertile valley, good
shops, a town Welsh to its finger tips, and an old abbey called Valle
Crucis. One hears so much of Tintern Abbey on its southern English
river, yet there is something about Valle Crucis which I think is no
less lovely. More of a ruin it is, and in some ways more of a treasure.
On the whole, it has fallen into greater dilapidation, but there are
parts of it from which one can read much of a life that is past.
There is a charming old chapter house almost intact; a delightful old
fishpond from which the monks, who had an eye for what was good to
eat, took their carp; and there are such graceful Norman chimneys and
fireplaces as I do not remember having seen any place else; and there,
too, the old blind rector shows one the things which he cannot see any
more, saying over and over as he guides one around, “I never destroy
anything that is old.” The restoration of this abbey is his work, his
life, and before his sight went he had put into print such records of
its past life that he had identified himself with its history for all
time to come. Americans he loves, too, and you will give as well as get

       *       *       *       *       *

In conclusion, a few general suggestions. You would find it amply
worth your while to motor over to Bala, or, if you are not motoring,
to take the train over there. The lake is beautiful, accommodations
are good, and one can, from Bala as a centre, make several short and
most interesting trips:--one to Dolgelly, where Tennyson spent so
many of his vacations; another up to the quaint little town of Ruthin
in which Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Piozzi (Mrs. Thrale) spent some little
time and of which Mrs. Piozzi tells the charming story which I have
repeated elsewhere. She was discussing with the caretaker of one of
the little churches in the possession of the Thrale family her plans
for her journey and mentioned that she was going to Ruthin. “Ruthin,
mum,” he said, “my wife came from Ruthin, and when she died I made up
my mind I’d go with the body to Ruthin, for I thought I would find it a
pleasant journey, and indeed, mum, I found it a very pleasant journey.”

[2] Buy anywhere you happen to be in Wales, _The Gossiping Guide to
Wales_; its maps, big and small, and its text answer all questions.
Price, one shilling.

                          The Riverside Press
                       CAMBRIDGE . MASSACHUSETTS
                               U . S . A

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