Ceredigion, and thence made a series of marauding
visits into Dyfed, using for the purpose the ships
in which he had crossed from Ireland. In one of
these he killed a Bishop William of the Flemings,
who was on his way to the English court. The news
reached King Henry whilst Cadwgan was with him
on some business connected with the settlement of
Welsh affairs. The King, exasperated to the last
degree, bitterly reproached Cadwgan for not restrain-
ing this wild son of his, and at once despatched troops
to chastise Owen, who immediately fled to Ireland.
Cadwgan was suffered to return to Powys, but was
there assassinated by Madog, his son's ally, who at
once hastened to announce the news to the Bishop of
London, and was received with favour.
Owen hurried back from Ireland ; Madog was
caught in an ambush, and Owen put out his eyes
with red-hot irons.
Curiously enough, now King Henry received Owen
into his favour, and took him as a companion to
Normandy, where he acquitted himself gallantly, and
was knighted by the King. On his return to Eng-
land Henry sent him into W 7 ales with a commission
and promises of favour and assurances of confidence.
But Gerald of Windsor was awaiting his opportunity.
Owen on entering Wales began to butcher and burn
with the utmost barbarity, and some peasants who
escaped informed Gerald as to his whereabouts.
Gerald hastened to intercept him, surrounded him,
and Owen was pierced to the heart with an arrow,
i 9 4 LLANGOLLEN
A run of half an hour by train takes us to Corwen,
a dingy little town at the junction of the line to
Ruthin and Rhyl. Lying under steep mountains to
the south, it comes off scantily for sun in winter.
Here the church has been rebuilt in very bad taste,
with hideous plate-tracery in the windows, and a
cumbrous French " Gothic " arcade within. The
English and French architects of the Middle Ages
started with different conceptions as to how to deal
with the arch and the capital of the pillar on which
it rested. The Frenchman made of his arch a hole
bored in slabs of stone with sharp angles. If he had to
sustain it on a circular drum of a pillar, he accommo-
dated the capital to the arch by taking the Ionic
crown as his type and reproducing the horns at the
corners which serve as supports to the four angles of
the arch resting on it.
But the English architect saw how crude and harsh
and unpleasant to the eye was the bald, sharp-angled
arch, and he bevelled it away, substituting delicate
mouldings, and the section of the block of masonry
at the spring of the arch was now not a parallelogram,
but a hexagon. There was accordingly no need for
the Ionic horns, and he treated his capital as a basket
of flowers or foliage, or as a bowl wreathed round
with leaves. This is infinitely more beautiful.
But our architects fifty years ago, when taking a
holiday, rushed off to Normandy and filled their
sketch-books with drawings made in French churches,
and on returning home used them up in " restoring "
our English sacred buildings, or in designing churches
and town halls on foreign lines.
CORWEN CHURCH 195
And what excuse can be found for plate-tracery
that consists in drilling holes in slabs in Caen stone
for windows, when exquisite tracery and moulding
can be wrought out of the same stone ? I should
have liked to take Mr. Ferry, the perpetrator of the
abominations at Corwen, to Vale Crucis Abbey and
shame him by the comparison.
The only portions of the earlier church left at
Corwen are the lancets at the east end, and a bit of
north wall of the chancel.
Over the south porch door into the church is an
early incised cross, that is popularly supposed to be
the impression of Owen Glyndwr's dagger, flung from
the height above, and which left its mark on the
stone. Into the east side of the north porch is built
the leaning Carreg-y-Big-yn-y-Fach-Rewlyd (the
Pointed Stone in the Frosty Corner). It is about
six feet high, and is a prehistoric menhir. The story
goes that the church was begun on another site, but
every night the stones were removed and brought
here and heaped about this block. Accordingly the
builders accepted the intimation and erected the
church where it now stands.
An old cross with interlaced Celtic work on it, and
a short sword in relief, stands in the churchyard.
The Maen Llwyd, near Llandeilo, has also a sword
carved on it, and such stones probably indicate the
burial-place of a warrior. The base is indented with
hollows, like the cup -markings found in menhirs,
dolmens, and fiat rocks, which are still a mystery
to antiquaries, but which were perhaps intended as
receptacles for oil as oblations to the manes of the
dead, for some councils and bishops denounced the
superstitious anointings of standing stones by the
Beyond the river rises Caer Drewyn. The stone
wall encloses a large area on a steep slope. It does
not occupy the summit of the hill, but a spur near a
spring from which flows a tiny rill. The walls were
of stone unset in mortar, and they have fallen and
form a continuous mound of debris. Within are a
few ruined cytiau. The camp is of the type of the
Irish forts near the coast, but has been supposed to be
earlier and to belong to the Bronze Age, and without
an exploration with pick and shovel there is no
determining its period, for much the same construction
belonged to both epochs.
It was occupied at a much later time. Owen
Gwynedd in 1164 rose in revolt against Henry II.
The English King collected a mixed force, and from
Oswestry ascended the Dee. Owen and his brother
Cadwaladr of Merioneth fought a battle with him at
Crogen, near Chirk. The King's life was saved by
the self-devotion of Hubert de Clare, who, seeing an
arrow hurtling through the air towards his master,
interposed his body, and received the missile in his
breast. The Welsh retreated across the Berwyn
Mountains to Corwen, pursued by the English, and
Owen established himself and his forces within this
venerable ring of stones. They could obtain plenty
of mutton from the mountains and moors at their
back, and there was water in the spring under the
north wall. Henry's army camped on the opposite
hill. The weather broke up, rain poured down, and
the ground of the English camp became a quagmire.
The English dared not venture far for fear of falling
into ambushes among the woods and rocks, and
suffered for want of food. Men and horses dwindled
through sickness and privation. Military stores ran
short, and at length, in the mood of a baffled
tiger, Henry was compelled to withdraw without
having accomplished the end aimed at in this cam-
paign. Raging at his discomfiture, he had the
eyes torn out of the heads of the sons of Owen
Gwynedd and Rhys ab Tewdwr, whom he held as
Rug, near Corwen, is the scene of the treacherous
seizure of Gruffydd ab Cynan, king of Gwynedd, in
1080, by Hugh the Fat, Earl of Chester. He invited
the king to come unattended and unarmed to a
friendly conference here, and when he arrived had
him loaded with chains and carried off to Chester,
where he remained a prisoner for twelve years. He
owed his release to a young man of Corwen, who on
some plea obtained access to him in prison, and
carried him forth on his back, chains and all, on
a night when the garrison was keeping high revel
and his guards were drunk. On his return into
Gwynedd, he lurked for some time among the moun-
tains till he had rallied sufficient men about him,
when he swooped down on castle after castle of the
Normans, took and burnt them and drove the in-
vaders out of his lands.
Llandderfel is noted as having been a foundation
of Derfel Gadarn, son of Hywel ab Emyr of Brittany.
Before the Reformation there was a huge wooden
image of him in the church, which was held in so
great esteem that hundreds resorted to it daily with
their offerings of cows, horses, and money. It was
believed to have power to fetch souls out of
Purgatory. Dr. Ellis Price was sent by Cromwell as
Commissary to get rid of it. He found that on the
day when he visited Llandderfel between five and six
hundred pilgrims had been there. Price was ordered
to send the image to London ; the people were
angry, and offered .£40 to have it left. When the*
image arrived in London it was resolved to turn it
to a signal purpose.
Friar Forest, a Franciscan, had been chaplain and
confessor to Catherine of Aragon, and he declared
that he " owed a double obedience, first to the King
by the law of God, and secondly to the Bishop of
Rome by his rule and profession."
He was ordered to be burnt at the stake in 1538,
and Latimer was appointed to preach before him on
the occasion. The letter in which the Reformer
accepted this commission is not pleasant reading.
He was ready, since Cromwell desired it, " to play
the fool after his customable manner when Forest
should suffer," and he complained that the unfortun-
ate man was treated with too great leniency by his
gaolers, and that he was even suffered to hear Mass
and receive the Sacrament.
In Smithfield the pyre was built up, and the
wooden statue of Derfel Gadarn placed on it ;
above all was a pair of gallows from which Forest
was suspended in chains to be slowly burnt to
death, whilst Latimer was haranguing from his
pulpit, which at Latimer's own request was placed
close to the pyre.
In the church still remains a portion of a wooden
horse, or rather stag, popularly called Ceffyl D erf el,
and a wooden crozier, his Ffon, that formed part of
the subject. " The common people used to resort
from all parts at Easter in order to have a ride on
Derfel's horse. The horse was fixed to a pole, which
was placed in a horizontal position, and attached to
another, which stood perpendicularly and rested on
a pivot. The rider, taking hold of the crozier, which
was fastened to the horse, was wheeled round and
round, as children are wheeled when they mount a
wooden horse at a fair."
From Llandderfel the old Sarn Helen, or Elen's
Road, runs to Llandrillo ; and with a visit to this
place may be combined one to the Pennant of
Melangell, who was descended from this Elen and
her husband Maximus. Her mother was an Irish-
The story goes that her father desired to marry
her to a chief under him, but either she disliked the
man or the thought of marriage, and determined to
run away. Accordingly she found an opportunity to
escape, and secreted herself at Pennant, a lonely and
lovely spot at the head of the Tanat. Her story is
represented on the cornice of the carved oak screen
of the church.
In this spot, sleeping on bare rock, she remained
for fifteen years. One day Brochwel, prince of
Powys, was hunting and in pursuit of a hare, when
puss escaped into a thicket and took refuge under
the robe of a virgin of great beauty, whom the
huntsman discovered. She faced and drove back
the hounds. The huntsman then put his horn to his
lips, and there it stuck as if glued. Upon this, up
came the prince, and he at once granted a parcel
of land to the saint, to serve as a sanctuary, and
bade her found there a convent. This she did, and
she lived in a cell, which still remains, though some-
what altered, at the east end of the church.
She was buried there, and fragments of her beauti-
ful shrine, as it is believed, remain built into the walls,
sufficient to allow of its reconstruction. The cell of
S. Melangell is, as said, to the east of the church, and
has no communication with it. It goes by the name
of Cell-y-Bedd, or Cell of the Grave, and has a door
and a window, and in this cell formerly stood her
Melangell is considered the patroness of hares,
which are termed her lambs. Until the eighteenth
century so strong was the superstition that no one in
the parish would kill a hare, and even now, when a
hare is pursued by hounds, boys will shout after it,
" God and Melangell be with thee ! " and it is held
that it will escape.
Her gwely, or bed, lies on the side of the valley op-
posite to the church, a quarter of a mile further south.
It is a recess in the rocks, overgrown with a bush,
above the road.
In the churchyard is a sculptured stone, on which
is represented a man in armour, with the inscription
" HIC JACET EDW ART." This is believed to be the
tombstone of Ionverth (Edward) with the Broken
THE HARP 201
Nose. He was the eldest son of Owen Gwynedd,
prince of North Wales. Because of the blemish he
was set aside, and the crown accorded to his brother
David, and he was granted a few hundreds in Car-
narvonshire and Merionethshire for his lordship. But
David grudged him even these, and he had to fly from
him to Pennant Melangell, as to a sanctuary. He was
pursued thither, and there murdered at his brother's
At Llangollen the Welsh harper may still be heard.
He frequents the hotels and plays for sixpences and
threepenny-bits given him by the visitors. What a
delightful instrument the harp is ! Its resonant
chords thrill those in the human heart in a manner
that the wires of the harpsichord and piano that
have superseded it cannot do. The latter are mere
mechanical instruments compared with harp and
violin and the ancient lute. The harp was adopted,
in the reign of James I., as the arms of Ireland, to
be quartered with those of England and Scotland.
When this was proposed, then said the Earl of
Northampton, "Very suitable symbol for Ireland,
costing more to keep in tune than it is worth."
But Wales would have had as much right to the
harp as symbol as has Ireland ; it had, however, its
own ancient arms — the four lions quarterly. Accord-
ing to the Triads there were formerly in use three
harps — that of the king, that of the bard, and that
of the gentleman. The first two were valued at
1 20 pence, and the last at 60 pence ; but we do not
know in what consisted the distinction.
The performers let their nails grow to claws, and
the strings were twanged with them. In the Romance
of Prince Horn : —
"The King came into hall
Among his knights all
He calleth Adhelberus
His steward and him said thus :
' Steward, take thou here
My foundling him to lere (learn)
To play upon the harp
With his nails sharp.' "
And Chaucer, in his House of Fame, says : —
" For though that the best harper upon live
Would on the beste sounid jolly harpe
That ever was, with his fingers five
Touch all one string, or aie one warble harpe,
Were his nails pointed never so sharp," etc.
The most ancient harp had but a single row of
strings, then a second row was introduced, and, lastly,
a third ; and the final improvement was the addition
of pedals. The number of strings varied from 54,
56, 58 to 60. Formerly the Welsh harp was rested
by the performer on the left shoulder — the treble was
played with the left hand, and the bass with the right
— but now the position is reversed.
That Edward I. ordered a massacre of the Welsh
bards and minstrels is a mere fiction.
"That Edward did this," says Sharon Turner, "seems
rather a vindictive tradition of an irritated nation than
an historical fact. The destruction of the independent
sovereignties of Wales abolished the patronage of the
bards, and in the cessation of internal warfare, and of
external ravages, they lost l&eir favourite subjects and most
familiar imagery. They declined because they were no
WELSH BARDS 203
The early Welsh harps seem to have been strung
with hair. Dafydd ab Gwilym, a contemporary of
Chaucer, boasts that his harp had not " one string
from a dead sheep"* in it, but "hair glossy black."
The Irish harp was strung with wire. Some of the
Welsh harps of an inferior kind were of leather, and
Dafydd pours scorn on such : —
" The din of the leathern harp " (presupposes it shall not
be played with a horny nail), " of unpleasing form, only the
graceless bears it, and I love not its button-covered trough,
nor its music, nor its guts, sounding disgustingly, nor its
yellow colour . . . nor its bent column ; only the vile love
it. Under the touch of the eight fingers, ugly is the bulge
of its belly, with the canvas cover; its hoarse sound is
only fit for an aged Saxon."
The bards, according to Taliessin, himself one of
them, do not seem to have had a high character,
although, according to the Triad, the bard is equal
to the king.
Taliessin is supposed to have lived in the time of
Maelgwn Gwynedd, in the first half of the sixth
century, and is credited with a satire on the king's
bards ; but the poem was actually composed in the
thirteenth century, and satirises the bards of the
writer's own day : —
"Minstrels persevere in their false custom,
Immoral ditties are their delight ;
Vain and tasteless praises theirs.
At all times falsehood they utter.
Innocent people they turn to jest,
Married women's character they take away
And destroy the innocence of maids.
They drink all night ; they sleep all day,
The Church they hate, and the tavern they haunt.
Tithes and offerings to God they do not pay,
Nor worship Him Sunday or Holyday.
Everything travails to obtain its food,
Save the minstrel and the lazy thief."
It was the degradation of the minstrel that led to
such severe Acts being passed to put him down.
But the harper and minstrel remained attached to
the household of a gentleman as a matter of course
in Wales till the eighteenth century, and, as we have
seen, so late as in the first half of the nineteenth
century an Anglesey parson had his harper as one of
The Lake of Bala — Estuary of the Mawddach — Barmouth — Cader
Idris — The Torrent and Precipice Walks — " Welsh web" — Numer-
ous lakes — Fishing in Wales — Treachery of David ab Llewelyn —
Gruffydd's attempt to escape — "The Spirit's Blasted Tree" — John
Thomas — Characteristics of the Welsh people — Intelligence great
— None of the coarseness characterising the Anglo-Saxon bumpkin
— Long-heads and short-heads — A Welsh courtship — Untruthful-
ness a product of servitude — Religiousness of the Welsh — The
theatre discountenanced — Old Interludes — Richard Malvine —
Twm o'r Nant — Poetry in Wales — Welsh Nonconformity — The
squirearchy — The Seiet — The old Welsh preachers — Embellishments
— The Hwyl — Reviving the spirit — How the Church was treated —
The Methodist Revival — The Church in Wales.
ONLY as one reaches the head of the Bala Lake,
coming from Ruabon, does the beauty of form
of the Welsh mountains begin to impress one. Then
ensues the rapid descent of the valley of the Wnion,
down which the train gallops, and as Dolgelley is
approached, Cader Idris breaks on the sight.
Beyond Dolgelley expands the estuary of the
Mawddach, and when the tide is in it is hard to
match it for loveliness in the British Isles, especially
when the heather is in bloom. Then the flush is on
the mountains above that mirror, and it is like the
glow of glad surprise on the young girl's cheek when
she contemplates herself in a glass and for the first
time realises how beautiful she is.
Dolgelley and Barmouth are two delightful places
at which to halt and whence to explore the glorious
surrounding scenery. To the former belongs Cader
Idris, and to the latter Llawllech and Diphwys. To
the first the vale of the Mawddach, and to the second
that of the Arthog.
Cader Idris is the throne of the great father of
Welsh song. Who Idris was we hardly know. He
is veiled in mystery, as his throne is wrapped in
mist. But some dim traditions of him have come
down to us.
The Triads celebrate him as Idris Gawr, or the
Giant, one of the three primitive bards of the Isle of
Britain, the inventor of the harp, and withal great in
the knowledge of the stars. It was said that whoso-
ever should pass a night on Cader Idris would de-
scend in the morning inspired with the spirit of
poetry or a frenzied madman.
I said to my guide in Iceland one day, pointing to
a glittering jokull, "Oh, Grimr! would you not like
to stand on the top ? " "I can see the top very well
from down here," was his reply.
A good many of us with old bones, and breath
coming short, will be content to look on Cader Idris
from below, or only to mount the glens to the lakes
that lie around it, and leave the ultimate climb to
the young bloods.
The Town Council of Dolgelley has done its best
to make the place attractive to visitors who have not
this climbing passion on them, by laying out walks
RESORT OF FISHERMEN 207
such as those of the Torrent and the Precipice, to
facilitate the easy reach of striking points of view.
Of the town itself not much can be said. " You
see this decanter ? " said an old gentleman after
dinner. " That is the church "; and, taking a handful
of nutshells and strewing them about the decanter,
he added, " there are the houses."
Dolgelley does a little business. It has long been
noted for the manufacture of the " Welsh web," and
it is a famous resort of fishermen, though the well-
whipped streams do not abound in finny denizens as
they did at one time ; moreover, the fish have grown
uncommonly wary. The neighbourhood has within
reach many lakes more or less deserving of the
angler's attention, and all meriting a visit by anyone
who has an eye for the beautiful. To the fisherman
comes the choice between stream and tarn, between
following up the brawling torrent to its source, linger-
ing by the pools in which the trout glide like shadows,
and dreaming in a boat on one of the lakelets, whilst
a gentle breeze ruffles its surface. Some clever lines
were written by the late Major George Cecil Gooch,
some years ago, contrasting the fishing in England
with that in Scotland. They apply equally to the
contrast between angling in England and in Wales.
" Oh ! yon angler in Kennet and Itchen !
How he creeps and he crawls on his knees.
How he casteth a fly a deep ditch in,
Or on high hangs it up in the trees !
How he stalks a poor trout that is rising,
How he chucks a fly into its mouth !
Then vows that his skill is surprising,
For they manage things so in the South.
" Let him boast of his fine fishing tackle,
Of his lines and his casts and all that,
Of his quills and his cluns let him cackle,
Let him tie a cork band round his hat ;
The reward of his toil, do you ask it ?
While he grovels all day on his face,
After all, when he reckons his basket,
He must count all his spoils by the brace.
" Leave the country of hedgerows and meadows,
Where the yellow marsh-marigold grows,
Where the oak and the elm cast their shadows,
Bid adieu to the Land of the Rose.
Come with me to the Land of the Thistle,
Where the waters run rugged and fleet,
To the hills where the wild curlews whistle,
Where a man may stand up on his feet.
" Come with me where the bright sunbeams flicker,
Through the larches above on the brae,
Where the streams by the boulder stones bicker,
And wavelets around are at play.
Throw your line straight across over yonder,
Down, down let it gradually swing,
By the swirl near the rock let it wander,
And you'll hook a trout fit for a king.
" There he comes ! now just hit him and hold him !
Let him rage up and down through the pool !
There are no wretched weeds to enfold him,
He's yours if you only keep cool.
So you have him ! Now try for his cousins,
For his uncles and aunts and so forth.
Never fear but you'll get 'em by dozens,
That's the way that we fish in the North."
Aye ! and in Wales also !
The Precipice Walk is that which will probably be
first taken by the visitor to Dolgelley, carried round
Moel Cynwch, which rises to the height of 1,068 feet,
CIVIL WAR 209
and has on its lower head a prehistoric camp. The
way from Dolgelley leads past Cymmer Abbey, that
was founded by Llewelyn ab Iorwerth the Great, who
died in 1240.
His son Gruffydd, a man of noble stature and
majestic beauty, won the hearts of the men of
Gwynedd, and he was preferred by them to his
brother David, whose mother was English ; and
from the moment that the breath was out of the
body of Llewelyn a fierce and sanguinary war broke
out between the half-brothers. At length, by the
interposition of the Bishop of Bangor, a meeting
was arranged to take place between the rival princes,
but David treacherously waylaid his brother, and his
eldest son Owen, on their way to the appointed place