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CELTIC FOLKLORE

J. RHfS



HENRY FROWDE, M.A.

PUBLISHER TO THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD




LONDON, EDINBURGH, AND NEW YORK



CELTIC FOLKLORE



WELSH:- A-NJO>:,' : .MANX



' , ' '



BY






JOHN RHYS; M.A.;,E)/LiTT.

HON. LL.D. OF THE UNIVERSlfY OF EDINBURGH

PROFESSOR OF CELTIC
PRINCIPAL OF JESUS COLLEGE, OXFORD



VOLUME II



OXFORD



AT THE CLARENDON PRESS

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PRINTED AT THE CLARENDON PRESS

BY HORACE HART, M.A.
PRINTER TO THE UNIVERSITY



PRO PI

CITY OF NEW YOnK



.CHAPTER VII

. j v , -'::,-'

- ' -,-

TRIUMPHS. OF THE WATER-WORLD

Une des legendes les plus repandues en Bretagne est celie'd'une pretendue
ville d'ls, qui, a une 'epoque inconnue, aurait etc engfa.Ck.tie.' par la mer. On
montre, a divers endrous de \a. cote, 1'emplacement.d^ eiette cite fabuleuse,
et les pecheurs vous en' font d'etranges recits. Les jours de tempete,
assurent-ils, on voit, dans fe& -creiix des vagues. <l& ubhimet des fleches de
ses e"glises ; les jours de calif e, ^n entend mpntei df 1'abime le son de ses
cloches, modulant 1'hymne du jour. RENAN.

1 ) i

MORE than once in the last chapter was the subject of
submersions and cataclysms brought before the reader,
and it may be convenient to enumerate here the most
remarkable cases, and to add one or two to their
number, as well as to dwell at somewhat greater length
on some instances which may be said to have found
their way into Welsh literature. He has already been
told of the outburst of the Glasfryn Lake (p. 367) and
Ffynnon Gywer (p. 376), of ILyn ILech Owen (p. 379)
and the Crymlyn (p. 191), also of the drowning of
Cantre'r Gwaelod (p. 383); not to mention that one
of my informants had something to say (p. 219) of the
submergence of Caer Arianrhod, a rock now visible
only at low water between Celynnog Fawr and Dinas
Dintte, on the coast of Arfon. But, to put it briefly, it
is an ancient belief in the Principality that its lakes
generally have swallowed up habitations of men, as in
the case of ILyn Syfadon (p. 73) and the Pool of Cor-
wrion (p. 57). To these I now proceed to add other
instances, to wit those of Bala Lake, Kenfig Pool,



RHYS



4 02 CELTIC FOLKLORE [CH.

ILynclys, and Helig ab Glannog's territory including
Traeth Lafan.

Perhaps it is best to begin with historical events,
namely those implied in the encroachment of the sea
and the sand on the. coast of Glamorganshire, from the

I C

Mumbles, in Goweh/'jto the* ifnplith of the Ogmore,
below Bridgend.' Ivfs belfeved -that" formerly the shores
of Swansea' 'Bay- were from three' : to : 'fiye miles further
out than the present strand, and -the o'yster dredgers
point to tbaj: ' part of the bay which' they call the
Green Grounds, while trawlers, hovering over these
sunken meadows of the Grove Island, declare that they
can sometimes see the foundations of the ancient home-
steads overwhelmed by a terrific storm which raged
some three centuries ago. The old people sometimes
talk of an extensive forest called Coed Arian, ' Silver
Wood,' stretching from the foreshore of the Mumbles
to Kenfig Burrows, and there is a tradition of a long-
lost bridle path used by many generations of Mansels,
Mowbrays, and Talbots, from Penrice Castle to Margam
Abbey. All this is said to be corroborated by the
fishing up every now and then in Swansea Bay of
stags' antlers, elks' horns, those of the wild ox, and wild
boars' tusks, together with the remains of other ancient
tenants of the submerged forest. Various references
in the registers of Swansea and Aberavon mark succes-
sive stages in the advance of the desolation from the
latter part of the fifteenth century down. Among others
a great sandstorm is mentioned, which overwhelmed
the borough of Cynffig or Kenfig, and encroached on
the coast generally : the series of catastrophes seems
to have culminated in an inundation caused by a terrible
tidal wave in the early part of the year 1607 l .

1 For most of my information on this subject I have to thank Mr. David
Davies, editor of the South Wales Daily Post, published at Swansea.



vn] TRIUMPHS OF THE WATER-WORLD 403

To return to Kenfig, what remains of that old town
is near the sea, and it is on all sides surrounded by
hillocks of finely powdered sand and flanked by ridges
of the same fringing the coast. The ruins of several old
buildings half buried in the sand peep out of the
ground, and in the immediate neighbourhood is Kenfig
Pool, which is said to have a circumference of nearly
two miles. When the pool formed itself I have not
been able to discover : from such accounts as have come
in my way I should gather that it is older than the
growing spread of the sand, but the island now to be
seen in it is artificial and of modern make 1 . The story
relating to the lake is given as follows in the volume of
the lolo Manuscripts, p. 194, and the original, from
which I translate, is crisp, compressed, and, as I fancy,
in lolo's own words :

' A plebeian was in love with Earl Clare's daughter :
she would not have him as he was not wealthy. He
took to the highway, and watched the agent of the lord
of the dominion coming towards the castle from
collecting his lord's money. He killed him, took the
money, and produced the coin, and the lady married
him. A splendid banquet was held : the best men of
the country were invited, and they made as merry as
possible. On the second night the marriage was con-
summated, and when happiest one heard a voice : all
ear one listened and caught the words, "Vengeance
comes, vengeance comes, vengeance comes," three
times. One asked, " When ? " " In the ninth generation
(dch)" said the voice. " No reason for us to fear," said
the married pair ; " we shall be under the mould long
before." They lived on, however, and a g&resgynny%

1 I am indebted for this information to Mr. J. Herbert James of Vaynor,
who visited Kenfig lately and has called my attention to an article headed
'The Borough of Kenfig,* in the Archceologia Cambrensis for 1898: see
more especially the maps at pp. 138-42.

D d 2



44



CELTIC FOLKLORE [CH.



that is to say, a descendant of the sixth direct genera-
tion, was born to them, also to the murdered man a gor-
esgynnytf, who, seeing that the time fixed was come, visited
Kenfig. This was a discreet youth of gentle manners,
and he looked at the city and its splendour, and noted
that nobody owned a furrow or a chamber there except
the offspring of the murderer: he and his wife were
still living. At cockcrow he heard a cry, " Vengeance
is come, is come, is come." It is asked, "On whom?"
and answered, "On him who murdered my father of
the ninth dch" He rises in terror : he goes towards
the city ; but there is nothing to see save a large lake
with three chimney tops above the surface emitting
smoke that formed a stinking . . . l On the face of the
waters the gloves of the murdered man float to the
young man's feet : he picks them up, and sees on them
the murdered man's name and arms ; and he hears at
dawn of day the sound of praise to God rendered by
myriads joining in heavenly music. And so the story
ends/

On this coast is another piece of water in point,
namely Crymlyn, or ' Crumlin Pool,' now locally called
the Bog. It appears also to have been sometimes
called Pwft Cynan, after the name of a son of Rhys ab
Tewdwr, who, in his flight after his father's defeat on
Hirwaen Wrgan, was drowned in its waters 2 . It lies



1 Here the Welsh has a word edafwr, the exact meaning of which escapes
me, and I gather from the remarks of local etymologers that no such word is
now in use in Glamorgan.

2 See the Book of Aberpergwm, printed as Brut y Tyivysogion, in the Myvy-
rian Archaiology, ii. 524 ; also Morgan's Antiquarian Survey of East Cower,
p. 66, where the incident is given from ' Brut y Tywysogion, A. D. 1088.' It
is, however, not in what usually passes by the name of Brut y Tywysogion,
but comes, as the author kindly informs me, from a volume entitled ' Brut y
Tywysogion, the Gwentian Chronicle of Caradoc of ILancarvan, with a trans-
lation by the late Aneurin Owen, and printed for the Cambrian Archaeo-
logical Association, 1863 ' : see pp. 70-1.



vn] TRIUMPHS OF THE WATER-WORLD 405

on Lord Jersey's estate, at a distance of about one mile
east of the mouth of the Tawe, and about a quarter of
a mile from high-water mark, from which it is separated
by a strip of ground known in the neighbourhood as
Crymlyn Burrows. The name Crymlyn means Crooked
Lake, which, I am told, describes the shape of this piece
of water. When the bog becomes a pool it encloses
an island consisting of a little rocky hillock showing
no trace of piles, or walling, or any other handiwork of
man l . The story about this pool also is that it covers
a town buried beneath its waters. Mr. Wirt Sikes'
reference to it has already been mentioned, and I
have it on the evidence of a native of the immediate
neighbourhood, that he has often heard his father and
grandfather talk about the submerged town. Add to
this that Cadrawd, to whom I have had already (pp. 23,
376) to acknowledge my indebtedness, speaks in the
columns of the South Wales Daily News for February 15,
1899, of Crymlyn as follows :

' It was said by the old people that on the site of this
bog once stood the old town of Swansea, and that in
clear and calm weather the chimneys and even the
church steeple could be seen at the bottom of the lake,
and in the loneliness of the night the bells were often
heard ringing in the lake. It was also said that should
any person happen to stand with his face towards the
lake when the wind is blowing across the lake, and if
any of the spray of that water should touch his clothes,
it would be only with the greatest difficulty he could
save himself from being attracted or sucked into the
water. The lake was at one time much larger than at
present. The efforts made to drain it have drawn a
good deal of the water from it, but only to convert it

1 For this also I have to thank Mr. Herbert James, who recently inspected
the spot with Mr. Glascodine of Swansea.



406 CELTIC FOLKLORE [CH.

into a bog, which no one can venture to cross except in
exceptionally dry seasons or hard frost.'

On this I wish to remark in passing, that, while
common sense would lead one to suppose that the wind
blowing across the water would help the man facing it
to get away whenever he chose, the reasoning here is
of another order, one characteristic in fact of the ways
and means of sympathetic magic. For specimens in
point the reader may be conveniently referred to page
360. where he may compare the words quoted from
Mr. Hartland, especially as to the use there mentioned
of stones or pellets thrown from one's hands. In the
case of Crymlyn, the wind blowing off the face of the
water into the onlooker's face and carrying with it
some of the water in the form of spray which wets his
clothes, howsoever little, was evidently regarded as
establishing a link of connexion between him and the
body of the water or shall I say rather, between him
and the divinity of the water? and that this link was
believed to be so strong that it required the man's
utmost effort to break it and escape being drawn in and
drowned like Cynan. The statement, supremely silly
as it reads, is no modern invention ; for one finds that
Nennius or somebody else reasoned in precisely the
same way, except that for a single onlooker he sub-
stitutes a whole army of men and horses, and that he
points the antithesis by distinctly stating, that if they kept
their backs turned to the fascinating flood they would be
out of danger. The conditions which he had in view
were, doubtless, that the men should face the water and
have their clothing more or less wetted by the spray
from it. The passage ( 69) to which I refer is in the
Mirabilia, and Geoffrey of Monmouth is found to
repeat it in a somewhat better style of Latin (ix. 7) : the
following is the Nennian version :



vn] TRIUMPHS OF THE WATER-WORLD 407

Aliud miraculum est, idest Oper Linn Liguan. Ostium
fluminis illius fluit in Sabrina et quando Sabrina inun-
datur ad sissam, et mare inundatur similiter in ostio
supra dicti fluminis et in stagno ostii recipitur in modum
voraginis et mare non vadit sursum et est litus juxta
flumen etquamdiu Sabrina inundatur ad sissam, istud litus
non tegitur et quando recedit mare et Sabrina, tune Stag-
num Liuan eructat omne quod devoravit de mart et litus
istud tegitur et instar montis in una unda eructat et rumpit.
Et sifuerit exercitus totius regionis, in qua est, et direxerit
faciem contra undam, et exercitum trahit unda per vim hu-
more repletis vestibus et equi similiter trahuntur. Siautem
exercitus terga versus fuerit contra earn, non nocet ei unda.

' There is another wonder, to wit Aber ILyn ILiwan.
The water from the mouth of that river flows into the
Severn, and when the Severn is in flood up to its
banks, and when the sea is also in flood at the mouth
of the above-named river and is sucked in like a whirl-
pool into the pool of the Aber, the sea does not go on
rising : it leaves a margin of beach by the side of the
river, and all the time the Severn is in flood up to its
bank, that beach is not covered. And when the sea and
the Severn ebb, then ILyn ILiwan brings up all it had
swallowed from the sea, and that beach is covered
while ELyn ILiwan discharges its contents in one
mountain-like wave and vomits forth. Now if the army
of the whole district in which this wonder is, were to
be present with the men facing the wave, the force of
it would, once their clothes are drenched by the spray,
draw them in, and their horses would likewise be drawn.
But if the men should have their backs turned towards
the water, the wave would not harm them V

1 I do not know whether anybody has identified the spot which the
writer had in view, or whether the coast of the Severn still offers any feature
which corresponds in any way to the description.



4 o8 CELTIC FOLKLORE [CH.

One story about the formation of Bala Lake, or ILyn
Tegid 1 as it is called in Welsh, has been given at p. 376 :
here is another which I translate from a version in
Hugh Humphreys' ILyfr Gwybodaeth Gyffredinol (Car-
narvon), second series, vol. i, no. 2, p. i. I may
premise that the contributor, whose name is not given,
betrays a sort of literary ambition which has led him
to relate the story in a confused fashion ; and among
other things he uses the word edifeirwch, ' repentance,'
throughout, instead of dial, 'vengeance.' With that
correction it runs somewhat as follows : Tradition
relates that Bala Lake is but the watery tomb of the
palaces of iniquity ; and that some old boatmen can on
quiet moonlight nights in harvest see towers in ruins at
the bottom of its waters, and also hear at times a feeble
voice saying, Dial a daw, dial a (taw, ' Vengeance will
come ' ; and another voice inquiring, Pa bryd y daw,
1 When will it come ? ' Then the first voice answers,
Yn y drydect genhedlaeth, ' In the third generation.'
Those voices were but a recollection over oblivion, for
in one of those palaces lived in days of yore an oppres-
sive and cruel prince, corresponding to the well-known
description of one of whom it is said, ' Whom he would
he slew ; and whom he would he kept alive.' The
oppression and cruelty practised by him on the poor
farmers were notorious far and near. This prince,
while enjoying the morning breezes of summer in his
garden, used frequently to hear a voice saying, 'Ven-
geance will come.' But he always laughed the threat
away with reckless contempt. One night a poor harper

1 Supposed to be so called after a certain Tegid Foci, or ' Tegid the Bald,'
of Penflyn : the name Tegid is the phonetic spelling of what might be ex-
pected in writing as Tegyd it is the Latin Tacitus borrowed, and comes with
other Latin names in Pedigree I. of the Cuneda dynasty ; see the Cymmrodor,
xi. 170. In point of spelling one may compare Idris for what might be ex-
pected written Idrys, of the same pronunciation, for an earlier ludrys or lutfris.



vii] TRIUMPHS OF THE WATER-WORLD 409

from the neighbouring hills was ordered to come to
the prince's palace. On his way the harper was told
that there was great rejoicing at the palace at the birth
of the first child of the prince's son. When he had
reached the palace the harper was astonished at the
number of the guests, including among them noble
lords, princes, and princesses : never before had he seen
such splendour at any feast. When he had begun
playing the gentlemen and ladies dancing presented
a superb appearance. So the mirth and wine abounded,
nor did he love playing for them any more than they
loved dancing to the music of his harp. But about
midnight, when there was an interval in the dancing, and
the old harper had been left alone in a corner, he
suddenly heard a voice singing in a sort of a whisper in
his ear, 'Vengeance, vengeance! ' He turned at once,
and saw a little bird hovering above him and beckoning
him, as it were, to follow him. He followed the bird as
fast as he could, but after getting outside the palace he
began to hesitate. But the bird continued to invite him
on, and to sing in a plaintive and mournful voice the
word 'Vengeance, vengeance!' The old harper was
afraid of refusing to follow, and so they went on over
bogs and through thickets, whilst the bird was all the
time hovering in front of him and leading him along
the easiest and safest paths. But if he stopped for
a moment the same mournful note of 'Vengeance,
vengeance ! ' would be sung to him in a more and more
plaintive and heartbreaking fashion. They had by this
time reached the top of the hill, a considerable distance
from the palace. As the old harper felt rather fatigued
and weary, he ventured once more to stop and rest, but
he heard the bird's warning voice no more. He listened,
but he heard nothing save the murmuring of the little
burn hard by. He now began to think how foolish he



4 io CELTIC FOLKLORE [CH.

had been to allow himself to be led away from the feast
at the palace : he turned back in order to be there in
time for the next dance. As he wandered on the hill
he lost his way, and found himself forced to await the
break of day. In the morning, as he turned his eyes in
the direction of the palace, he could see no trace of it :
the whole tract below was one calm, large lake, with
his harp floating on the face of the waters.

Next comes the story of JLynclys Pool in the neigh-
bourhood of Oswestry. That piece of water is said to
be of extraordinary depth, and its name means the
' swallowed court.' The village of ILynclys is called
after it, and the legend concerning the pool is preserved
in verses printed among the compositions of the local
poet, John F. M. Dovaston, who published his works in
1825. The first stanza runs thus :-

Clerk Willin he sat at king Alaric's board,

And a cunning clerk was he ;
For he'd lived in the land of Oxenford

With the sons of Grammarie.

How much exactly of the poem comes from Dovaston's
own muse, and how much comes from the legend, I
cannot tell. Take for instance the king's name, this
I should say is not derived from the story ; but as to
the name of the clerk, that possibly is, for the poet
bases it on Croes-Willin, the Welsh form of which has
been given me as Croes-Wylan, that is Wylan's Cross,
the name of the base of what is supposed to have been
an old cross, a little way out of Oswestry on the north
side ; and I have been told that there is a farm in the
same neighbourhood called Tre' Wylan, ' Wylan's
Stead.' To return to the legend, Alaric's queen was
endowed with youth and beauty, but the king was not
happy ; and when he had lived with her nine years he
told Clerk Willin how he first met her when he was



vn] TRIUMPHS OF THE WATER-WORLD 411

hunting 'fair Blodwell's rocks among.' He married
her on the condition that she should be allowed to leave
him one night in every seven, and this she did without
his once knowing whither she went on the night of her
absence. Clerk Willin promised to restore peace to
the king if he would resign the queen to him, and
a tithe annually of his cattle and of the wine in his
cellar to him and the monks of the White Minster.
The king consented, and the wily clerk hurried away
with his book late at night to the rocks by the Giant's
Grave, where there was an ago 1 or cave which was sup-
posed to lead down to Faery. While the queen was
inside the cave, he began his spells and made it irrevo-
cable that she should be his, arfd that his fare should be
what fed on the king's meadow and what flowed in his
cellar. When the clerk's potent spells forced the queen
to meet him to consummate his bargain with the king,
what should he behold but a grim ogress, who told him
that their spells had clashed. She explained to him
how she had been the king's wife for thirty years, and
how the king began to be tired of her wrinkles and old
age. Then, on condition of returning to the Ogo to be
an ogress one night in seven, she was given youth and
beauty again, with which she attracted the king anew.
In fact, she had promised him happiness

Till within his hall the flag-reeds tall
And the long green rushes grow.

The ogress continued in words which made the clerk
see how completely he had been caught in his own net :

Then take thy bride to thy cloistered bed,

As by oath and spell decreed,
And nought be thy fare but the pike and the dare,

And the water in which they feed.

The clerk had succeeded in restoring peace at the



4 i2 CELTIC FOLKLORE [CH.

king's banqueting board, but it was the peace of the
dead ;

For down went the king, and his palace and all,

And the waters now o'er it flow,
And already in his hall do the flag-reeds tall

And the long green rushes grow.

But the visitor will, Dovaston says, find Willin's peace
relieved by the stories which the villagers have to tell
of that wily clerk, of Croes-Willin, and of 'the cave
called the Grim Ogo ' ; not to mention that when the
lake is clear, they will show you the towers of the palace
below, the ILynclys, which the Brython of ages gone
by believed to be there.

We now come to a different story about this pool,
namely, one which has fteen preserved in Latin by the
historian Humfrey Lhuyd, or Humphrey ILwyd, to the
following effect :

' After the description of Gwynedh, let vs now come
to Powys, the seconde kyngedome of Wales, which in
the time of German Altisiodorensis [St. Germanus of
Auxerre], which preached sometime there, agaynst
Pelagius Heresie : was of power, as is gathered out
of his life. The kynge wherof, asy is there read,
bycause he refused to heare that good man : by the
secret and terrible iudgement of God, with his Palace,
and all his householde : was swallowed vp into the
bowels of the Earth, in that place, whereas, not farre
from Oswastry, is now a standyng water, of an
vnknowne depth, called Lhunclys, that is to say : the
deuouryng of the Palace. And there are many
Churches founde in the same Province, dedicated to
the name of German V

1 The translation was made by Thomas Twyne, and published in 1573
under the title of The Breuiary of Bntayne, where the passage here given
occurs, on fol. 69. The original was entitled Commentarioli Britannicce
Descriptions Fragmentum, published at Cologne in 1572. The original of
our passage, fol. 57", has Guynedhia and Llunclis. The stem tlwnc oitlyncaf.



VH] TRIUMPHS OF THE WATER-WORLD 413

I have not succeeded in finding the story in any of
the lives of St. Germanus, but Nennius, 32, mentions
a certain Benli, whom he describes as rex iniquus atque
tyrannus valde, who, after refusing to admit St. Germanus
and his following into his city, was destroyed with all
his courtiers, not by water, however, but by fire from
heaven. But the name Benli, in modern Welsh spell-
ing Benm' *, points to the Moel Famau range of moun-
tains, one of which is known as Moel Fenfti, between
Ruthin and Mold, rather than to any place near Oswestry.
In any case there is no reason to suppose that this story
with its Christian and ethical motive is anything like so



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