Picture of George Borrow

George Borrow

places mentioned

Bangor, Anglesey and Snowdon

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Bangor - Edmund Price - The Bridges - Bookselling - Future Pope - Wild Irish - Southey.

BANGOR is seated on the spurs of certain high hills near the Menai, a strait separating Mona or Anglesey from Caernarvonshire. It was once a place of Druidical worship, of which fact, even without the testimony of history and tradition, the name which signifies "upper circle" would be sufficient evidence. On the decay of Druidism a town sprang up on the site and in the neighbourhood of the "upper circle," in which in the sixth century a convent or university was founded by Deiniol, who eventually became Bishop of Bangor. This Deiniol was the son of Deiniol Vawr, a zealous Christian prince who founded the convent of Bangor Is Coed, or Bangor beneath the wood in Flintshire, which was destroyed, and its inmates almost to a man put to the sword by Ethelbert, a Saxon king, and his barbarian followers at the instigation of the monk Austin, who hated the brethren because they refused to acknowledge the authority of the Pope, whose delegate he was in Britain. There were in all three Bangors; the one at Is Coed, another in Powis, and this Caernarvonshire Bangor, which was generally termed Bangor Vawr or Bangor the great. The two first Bangors have fallen into utter decay, but Bangor Vawr is still a bishop's see, boasts of a small but venerable cathedral, and contains a population of above eight thousand souls.

Two very remarkable men have at different periods conferred a kind of lustre upon Bangor by residing in it, Taliesin in the old, and Edmund Price in comparatively modern time. Both of them were poets. Taliesin flourished about the end of the fifth century, and for the sublimity of his verses was for many centuries called by his countrymen the Bardic King. Amongst his pieces is one generally termed "The Prophecy of Taliesin," which announced long before it happened the entire subjugation of Britain by the Saxons, and which is perhaps one of the most stirring pieces of poetry ever produced. Edmund Price flourished during the time of Elizabeth. He was archdeacon of Merionethshire, but occasionally resided at Bangor for the benefit of his health. Besides being one of the best Welsh poets of his age he was a man of extraordinary learning, possessing a thorough knowledge of no less than eight languages.

The greater part of his compositions, however clever and elegant, are, it must be confessed, such as do little credit to the pen of an ecclesiastic, being bitter poignant satires, which were the cause of much pain and misery to individuals; one of his works, however, is not only of a kind quite consistent with his sacred calling, but has been a source of considerable blessing. To him the Cambrian Church is indebted for the version of the Psalms, which for the last two centuries it has been in the habit of using. Previous to the version of the Archdeacon a translation of the Psalms had been made into Welsh by William Middleton, an officer in the naval service of Queen Elizabeth, in the four-and-twenty alliterative measures of the ancients bards. It was elegant and even faithful, but far beyond the comprehension of people in general, and consequently by no means fitted for the use of churches, though intended for that purpose by the author, a sincere Christian, though a warrior. Avoiding the error into which his predecessor had fallen, the Archdeacon made use of a measure intelligible to people of every degree, in which alliteration is not observed, and which is called by the Welsh y mesur cyffredin, or the common measure. His opinion of the four-and-twenty measures the Archdeacon has given to the world in four cowydd lines to the following effect:

"I've read the master-pieces great
Of languages no less than eight,
But ne'er have found a woof of song
So strict as that of Cambria's tongue."

After breakfast on the morning subsequent to my arrival, Henrietta and I roamed about the town, and then proceeded to view the bridges which lead over the strait to Anglesey. One, for common traffic, is a most beautiful suspension bridge completed in 1820, the result of the mental and manual labours of the ingenious Telford; the other is a tubular railroad bridge, a wonderful structure, no doubt, but anything but graceful. We remained for some time on the first bridge, admiring the scenery, and were not a little delighted, as we stood leaning over the principal arch, to see a proud vessel pass beneath us in full sail.

Satiated with gazing we passed into Anglesey, and making our way to the tubular bridge, which is to the west of the suspension one, entered one of its passages and returned to the main land.

The air was exceedingly hot and sultry, and on coming to a stone bench, beneath a shady wall, we both sat down, panting, on one end of it; as we were resting ourselves, a shabby-looking man with a bundle of books came and seated himself at the other end, placing his bundle beside him; then taking out from his pocket a dirty red handkerchief, he wiped his face, which was bathed in perspiration, and ejaculated: "By Jasus, it is blazing hot!"

"Very hot, my friend," said I; "have you travelled far to-day?"

"I have not, your hanner; I have been just walking about the dirty town trying to sell my books."

"Have you been successful?"

"I have not, your hanner; only three pence have I taken this blessed day."

"What do your books treat of?"

"Why, that is more than I can tell your hanner; my trade is to sell the books not to read them. Would your hanner like to look at them?"

"Oh dear no," said I; "I have long been tired of books; I have had enough of them."

"I daresay, your hanner; from the state of your hanner's eyes I should say as much; they look so weak - picking up learning has ruined your hanner's sight."

"May I ask," said I, "from what country you are?"

"Sure your hanner may; and it is a civil answer you will get from Michael Sullivan. It is from ould Ireland I am, from Castlebar in the county Mayo."

"And how came you into Wales?"

"From the hope of bettering my condition, your hanner, and a foolish hope it was."

"You have not bettered your condition, then?"

"I have not, your hanner; for I suffer quite as much hunger and thirst as ever I did in ould Ireland."

"Did you sell books in Ireland?"

"I did nat, yer hanner; I made buttons and clothes - that is I pieced them. I was several trades in ould Ireland, your hanner; but none of them answering, I came over here."

"Where you commenced book-selling?" said I.

"I did nat, your hanner. I first sold laces, and then I sold loocifers, and then something else; I have followed several trades in Wales, your hanner; at last I got into the book-selling trade, in which I now am."

"And it answers, I suppose, as badly as the others?"

"Just as badly, your hanner; divil a bit better."

"I suppose you never beg?"

"Your hanner may say that; I was always too proud to beg. It is begging I laves to the wife I have."

"Then you have a wife?"

"I have, your hanner; and a daughter, too; and a good wife and daughter they are. What would become of me without them I do not know."

"Have you been long in Wales?"

"Not very long, your hanner; only about twenty years."

"Do you travel much about?"

"All over North Wales, your hanner; to say nothing of the southern country."

"I suppose you speak Welsh?"

"Not a word, your hanner. The Welsh speak their language so fast, that divil a word could I ever contrive to pick up."

"Do you speak Irish?"

"I do, yer hanner; that is when people spake to me in it."

I spoke to him in Irish; after a little discourse he said in English:

"I see your hanner is a Munster man. Ah! all the learned men comes from Munster. Father Toban comes from Munster."

"I have heard of him once or twice before," said I.

"I daresay your hanner has. Every one has heard of Father Toban; the greatest scholar in the world, who they, say stands a better chance of being made Pope, some day or other, than any saggart in Ireland."

"Will you take sixpence?"

"I will, your hanner; if your hanner offers it; but I never beg; I leave that kind of work to my wife and daughter as I said before."

After giving him the sixpence, which he received with a lazy "thank your hanner," I got up, and followed by my daughter returned to the town.

Henrietta went to the inn, and I again strolled about the town. As I was standing in the middle of one of the business streets I suddenly heard a loud and dissonant gabbling, and glancing around beheld a number of wild-looking people, male and female. Wild looked the men, yet wilder the women. The men were very lightly clad, and were all barefooted and bareheaded; they carried stout sticks in their hands. The women were barefooted too, but had for the most part head-dresses; their garments consisted of blue cloaks and striped gingham gowns. All the females had common tin articles in their hands which they offered for sale with violent gestures to the people in the streets, as they walked along, occasionally darting into the shops, from which, however, they were almost invariably speedily ejected by the startled proprietors, with looks of disgust and almost horror. Two ragged, red-haired lads led a gaunt pony, drawing a creaking cart, stored with the same kind of articles of tin, which the women bore. Poorly clad, dusty and soiled as they were, they all walked with a free, independent, and almost graceful carriage.

"Are those people from Ireland?" said I to a decent-looking man, seemingly a mechanic, who stood near me, and was also looking at them, but with anything but admiration.

"I am sorry to say they are, sir;" said the man, who from his accent was evidently an Irishman, "for they are a disgrace to their country."

I did not exactly think so. I thought that in many respects they were fine specimens of humanity.

"Every one of those wild fellows," said I to myself, "is worth a dozen of the poor mean-spirited book-tramper I have lately been discoursing with."

In the afternoon I again passed over into Anglesey, but this time not by the bridge but by the ferry on the north-east of Bangor, intending to go to Beaumaris, about two or three miles distant: an excellent road, on the left side of which is a high bank fringed with dwarf oaks, and on the right the Menai strait, leads to it. Beaumaris is at present a watering-place. On one side of it, close upon the sea, stand the ruins of an immense castle, once a Norman stronghold, but built on the site of a palace belonging to the ancient kings of North Wales, and a favourite residence of the celebrated Owain Gwynedd, the father of the yet more celebrated Madoc, the original discoverer of America. I proceeded at once to the castle, and clambering to the top of one of the turrets, looked upon Beaumaris Bay, and the noble rocky coast of the mainland to the south-east beyond it, the most remarkable object of which is the gigantic Penman Mawr, which interpreted is "the great head- stone," the termination of a range of craggy hills descending from the Snowdon mountains.

"What a bay!" said I, "for beauty it is superior to the far-famed one of Naples. A proper place for the keels to start from, which, unguided by the compass, found their way over the mighty and mysterious Western Ocean."

I repeated all the Bardic lines I could remember connected with Madoc's expedition, and likewise many from the Madoc of Southey, not the least of Britain's four great latter poets, decidedly her best prose writer, and probably the purest and most noble character to which she has ever given birth; and then, after a long, lingering look, descended from my altitude, and returned, not by the ferry, but by the suspension bridge to the mainland.


Robert Lleiaf - Prophetic Englyn - The Second Sight - Duncan Campbell - Nial's Saga - Family of Nial - Gunnar - The Avenger.

"AV i dir Mon, cr dwr Menai, Tros y traeth, ond aros trai."

"I will go to the land of Mona, notwithstanding the water of the Menai, across the sand, without waiting for the ebb."

SO sang a bard about two hundred and forty years ago, who styled himself Robert Lleiaf, or the least of the Roberts. The meaning of the couplet has always been considered to be, and doubtless is, that a time would come when a bridge would be built across the Menai, over which one might pass with safety and comfort, without waiting till the ebb was sufficiently low to permit people to pass over the traeth, or sand, which, from ages the most remote, had been used as the means of communication between the mainland and the Isle of Mona or Anglesey. Grounding their hopes upon that couplet, people were continually expecting to see a bridge across the Menai: more than two hundred years, however, elapsed before the expectation was fulfilled by the mighty Telford flinging over the strait an iron suspension bridge, which, for grace and beauty, has perhaps no rival in Europe.

The couplet is a remarkable one. In the time of its author there was nobody in Britain capable of building a bridge, which could have stood against the tremendous surges which occasionally vex the Menai; yet the couplet gives intimation that a bridge over the Menai there would be, which clearly argues a remarkable foresight in the author, a feeling that a time would at length arrive when the power of science would be so far advanced, that men would be able to bridge over the terrible strait. The length of time which intervened between the composition of the couplet and the fulfilment of the promise, shows that a bridge over the Menai was no pont y meibion, no children's bridge, nor a work for common men. Oh, surely Lleiaf was a man of great foresight!

A man of great foresight, but nothing more; he foretold a bridge over the Menai, when no one could have built one, a bridge over which people could pass, aye, and carts and horses; we will allow him the credit of foretelling such a bridge; and when Telford's bridge was flung over the Menai, Lleiaf's couplet was verified. But since Telford's another bridge has been built over the Menai, which enables things to pass which the bard certainly never dreamt of. He never hinted at a bridge over which thundering trains would dash, if required, at the rate of fifty miles an hour; he never hinted at steam travelling, or a railroad bridge, and the second bridge over the Menai is one.

That Lleiaf was a man of remarkable foresight, cannot be denied, but there are no grounds which entitle him to be considered a possessor of the second sight. He foretold a bridge, but not a railroad bridge; had he foretold a railroad bridge, or hinted at the marvels of steam, his claim to the second sight would have been incontestable.

What a triumph for Wales; what a triumph for bardism, if Lleiaf had ever written an englyn, or couplet, in which not a bridge for common traffic, but a railroad bridge over the Menai was hinted at, and steam travelling distinctly foretold! Well, though Lleiaf did not write it, there exists in the Welsh language an englyn, almost as old as Lleiaf's time, in which steam travelling in Wales and Anglesea is foretold, and in which, though the railroad bridge over the Menai is not exactly mentioned, it may be considered to be included; so that Wales and bardism have equal reason to be proud. This is the englyn alluded to:-

"Codais, ymolchais yn Mon, cyn naw awr
Ciniewa'n Nghaer Lleon,
Pryd gosber yn y Werddon,
Prydnawn wrth dan mawn yn Mon."

The above englyn was printed in the Greal, 1792, p. 316; the language shows it to be a production of about the middle of the seventeenth century. The following is nearly a literal translation:-

"I got up in Mona as soon as 'twas light,
At nine in old Chester my breakfast I took;
In Ireland I dined, and in Mona, ere night,
By the turf fire sat, in my own ingle nook."

Now, as sure as the couplet by Robert Lleiaf foretells that a bridge would eventually be built over the strait, by which people would pass, and traffic be carried on, so surely does the above englyn foreshadow the speed by which people would travel by steam, a speed by which distance is already all but annihilated. At present it is easy enough to get up at dawn at Holyhead, the point of Anglesey the most distant from Chester, and to breakfast at that old town by nine; and though the feat has never yet been accomplished, it would be quite possible, provided proper preparations were made, to start from Holyhead at daybreak, breakfast at Chester at nine, or before, dine in Ireland at two, and get back again to Holyhead ere the sun of the longest day has set. And as surely as the couplet about the bridge argues great foresight in the man that wrote it, so surely does the englyn prove that its author must have been possessed of the faculty of second sight, as nobody without it could, in the middle of the seventeenth century, when the powers of steam were unknown, have written anything in which travelling by steam is so distinctly alluded to.

Truly some old bard of the seventeenth century must in a vision of the second sight have seen the railroad bridge across the Menai, the Chester train dashing across it, at high railroad speed, and a figure exactly like his own seated comfortably in a third-class carriage.

And now a few words on the second sight, a few calm, quiet words, in which there is not the slightest wish to display either eccentricity or book-learning.

The second sight is the power of seeing events before they happen, or of seeing events which are happening far beyond the reach of the common sight, or between which and the common sight barriers intervene, which it cannot pierce. The number of those who possess this gift or power is limited, and perhaps no person ever possessed it in a perfect degree: some more frequently see coming events, or what is happening at a distance, than others; some see things dimly, others with great distinctness. The events seen are sometimes of great importance, sometimes highly nonsensical and trivial; sometimes they relate to the person who sees them, sometimes to other people. This is all that can be said with anything like certainty with respect to the nature of the second sight, a faculty for which there is no accounting, which, were it better developed, might be termed the sixth sense.

The second sight is confined to no particular country, and has at all times existed. Particular nations have obtained a celebrity for it for a time, which they have afterwards lost, the celebrity being transferred to other nations, who were previously not noted for the faculty. The Jews were at one time particularly celebrated for the possession of the second sight; they are no longer so. The power was at one time very common amongst the Icelanders and the inhabitants of the Hebrides, but it is so no longer. Many and extraordinary instances of the second sight have lately occurred in that part of England generally termed East Anglia, where in former times the power of the second sight seldom manifested itself.

There are various books in existence in which the second sight is treated of or mentioned. Amongst others there is one called "Martin's Description of the Western Isles of Scotland," published in the year 1703, which is indeed the book from which most writers in English, who have treated of the second sight, have derived their information. The author gives various anecdotes of the second sight, which he had picked up during his visits to those remote islands, which until the publication of his tour were almost unknown to the world. It will not be amiss to observe here that the term second sight is of Lowland Scotch origin, and first made its appearance in print in Martin's book. The Gaelic term for the faculty is taibhsearachd, the literal meaning of which is what is connected with a spectral appearance, the root of the word being taibhse, a spectral appearance or vision.

Then there is the History of Duncan Campbell. The father of this person was a native of Shetland, who, being shipwrecked on the coast of Swedish Lapland, and hospitably received by the natives, married a woman of the country, by whom he had Duncan, who was born deaf and dumb. On the death of his mother the child was removed by his father to Scotland, where he was educated and taught the use of the finger alphabet, by means of which people are enabled to hold discourse with each other, without moving the lips or tongue. This alphabet was originally invented in Scotland, and at the present day is much in use there, not only amongst dumb people, but many others, who employ it as a silent means of communication. Nothing is more usual than to see passengers in a common conveyance in Scotland discoursing with their fingers. Duncan at an early period gave indications of possessing the second sight. After various adventures he came to London, where for many years he practised as a fortune-teller, pretending to answer all questions, whether relating to the past or the future, by means of the second sight. There can be no doubt that this man was to a certain extent an impostor; no person exists having a thorough knowledge either of the past or future by means of the second sight, which only visits particular people by fits and starts, and which is quite independent of individual will; but it is equally certain that he disclosed things which no person could have been acquainted with without visitations of the second sight. His papers fell into the hands of Defoe, who wrought them up in his own peculiar manner, and gave them to the world under the title of the Life of Mr Duncan Campbell, the Deaf and Dumb Gentleman: with an appendix containing many anecdotes of the second sight from Martin's tour.

But by far the most remarkable book in existence, connected with the second sight, is one in the ancient Norse language entitled "Nial's Saga."3 It was written in Iceland about the year 1200, and contains the history of a certain Nial and his family, and likewise notices of various other people. This Nial was what was called a spamadr, that is, a spaeman or a person capable of foretelling events. He was originally a heathen - when, however, Christianity was introduced into Iceland, he was amongst the first to embrace it, and persuaded his family and various people of his acquaintance to do the same, declaring that a new faith was necessary, the old religion of Odin, Thor, and Frey, being quite unsuited to the times. The book is no romance, but a domestic history compiled from tradition about two hundred years after the events which it narrates had taken place. Of its style, which is wonderfully terse, the following translated account of Nial and his family will perhaps convey some idea:-

"There was a man called Nial, who was the son of Thorgeir Gelling, the son of Thorolf. The mother of Nial was called Asgerdr; she was the daughter of Ar, the Silent, the Lord of a district in Norway. She had come over to Iceland and settled down on land to the west of Markarfliot, between Oldustein and Selialandsmul. Holtathorir was her son, father of Thorlief Krak, from whom the Skogverjars are come, and likewise of Thorgrim the big and Skorargeir. Nial dwelt at Bergthorshval in Landey, but had another house at Thorolfell. Nial was very rich in property, and handsome to look at, but had no beard. He was so great a lawyer, that it was impossible to find his equal, he was very wise, and had the gift of foretelling events, he was good at counsel, and of a good disposition, and whatever counsel he gave people was for their best; he was gentle and humane, and got every man out of trouble who came to him in his need. His wife was called Bergthora; she was the daughter of Skarphethin. She was a bold-spirited woman who feared nobody, and was rather rough of temper. They had six children, three daughters and three sons, all of whom will be frequently mentioned in this saga."

In the history many instances are given of Nial's skill in giving good advice and his power of seeing events before they happened. Nial lived in Iceland during most singular times, in which though there were laws provided for every possible case, no man could have redress for any injury unless he took it himself, or his friends took it for him, simply because there were no ministers of justice supported by the State, authorised and empowered to carry the sentence of the law into effect. For example, if a man were slain, his death would remain unpunished, unless he had a son or a brother, or some other relation to slay the slayer, or to force him to pay "bod," that is, amends in money, to be determined by the position of the man who was slain. Provided the man who was slain had relations, his death was generally avenged, as it was considered the height of infamy in Iceland to permit one's relations to be murdered, without slaying their murderers, or obtaining bod from them. The right, however, permitted to relations of taking with their own hands the lives of those who had slain their friends, produced incalculable mischiefs; for if the original slayer had friends, they, in the event of his being slain in retaliation for what he had done, made it a point of honour to avenge his death, so that by the lex talionis feuds were perpetuated. Nial was a great benefactor to his countrymen, by arranging matters between people, at variance in which he was much helped by his knowledge of the law, and by giving wholesome advice to people in precarious situations, in which he was frequently helped by the power which he possessed of the second sight. On several occasions he settled the disputes in which his friend Gunnar was involved, a noble, generous character, and the champion of Iceland, but who had a host of foes, envious of his renown; and it was not his fault if Gunnar was eventually slain, for if the advice which he gave had been followed, the champion would have died an old man; and if his own sons had followed his advice, and not been over fond of taking vengeance on people who had wronged them, they would have escaped a horrible death, in which he himself was involved, as he had always foreseen he should be.

"Dost thou know by what death thou thyself wilt die?" said Gunnar to Nial, after the latter had been warning him that if he followed a certain course he would die by a violent death.

"I do," said Nial.

"What is it?" said Gunnar.

"What people would think the least probable," replied Nial.

He meant that he should die by fire. The kind generous Nial, who tried to get everybody out of difficulty, perished by fire. His sons by their violent conduct had incensed numerous people against them. The house in which they lived with their father was beset at night by an armed party, who, unable to break into it owing to the desperate resistance which they met with from the sons of Nial, Skarphethin, Helgi, and Grimmr and a comrade of theirs called Kari,4 set it in a blaze, in which perished Nial, the lawyer and man of the second sight, his wife Bergthora, and two of their sons, the third, Helgi, having been previously slain, and Kari, who was destined to be the avenger of the ill-fated family, having made his escape, after performing deeds of heroism which for centuries after were the themes of song and tale in the ice-bound isle.


Snowdon - Caernarvon - Maxen Wledig - Moel y Cynghorion - The Wyddfa - Snow of Snowdon - Rare Plant.

ON the third morning after our arrival at Bangor we set out for Snowdon.

Snowdon or Eryri is no single hill, but a mountainous region, the loftiest part of which, called Y Wyddfa, nearly four thousand feet above the level of the sea, is generally considered to be the highest point of Southern Britain. The name Snowdon was bestowed upon this region by the early English on account of its snowy appearance in winter; Eryri by the Britons, because in the old time it abounded with eagles, Eryri5 in the ancient British language signifying an eyrie or breeding-place of eagles.

Snowdon is interesting on various accounts. It is interesting for its picturesque beauty. Perhaps in the whole world there is no region more picturesquely beautiful than Snowdon, a region of mountains, lakes, cataracts, and, groves in which nature shows herself in her most grand and beautiful forms.

It is interesting from its connection with history: it was to Snowdon that Vortigern retired from the fury of his own subjects, caused by the favour which he showed to the detested Saxons. It was there that he called to his counsels Merlin, said to be begotten on a hag by an incubus, but who was in reality the son of a Roman consul by a British woman. It was in Snowdon that he built the castle, which he fondly deemed would prove impregnable, but which his enemies destroyed by flinging wild-fire over its walls; and it was in a wind-beaten valley of Snowdon, near the sea, that his dead body decked in green armour had a mound of earth and stones raised over it. It was on the heights of Snowdon that the brave but unfortunate Llywelin ap Griffith made his last stand for Cambrian independence; and it was to Snowdon that that very remarkable man, Owen Glendower, retired with his irregular bands before Harry the Fourth and his numerous and disciplined armies, soon however, to emerge from its defiles and follow the foe, retreating less from the Welsh arrows from the crags, than from the cold, rain and starvation of the Welsh hills.

But it is from its connection with romance that Snowdon derives its chief interest. Who when he thinks of Snowdon does not associate it with the heroes of romance, Arthur and his knights? whose fictitious adventures, the splendid dreams of Welsh and Breton minstrels, many of the scenes of which are the valleys and passes of Snowdon, are the origin of romance, before which what is classic has for more than half a century been waning, and is perhaps eventually destined to disappear. Yes, to romance Snowdon is indebted for its interest and consequently for its celebrity; but for romance Snowdon would assuredly not be what it at present is, one of the very celebrated hills of the world, and to the poets of modern Europe almost what Parnassus was to those of old.

To the Welsh, besides being the hill of the Awen or Muse, it has always been the hill of hills, the loftiest of all mountains, the one whose snow is the coldest, to climb to whose peak is the most difficult of all feats; and the one whose fall will be the most astounding catastrophe of the last day.

To view this mountain I and my little family set off in a caleche on the third morning after our arrival at Bangor.

Our first stage was to Caernarvon. As I subsequently made a journey to Caernarvon on foot, I shall say nothing about the road till I give an account of that expedition, save that it lies for the most part in the neighbourhood of the sea. We reached Caernarvon, which is distant ten miles from Bangor, about eleven o'clock, and put up at an inn to refresh ourselves and the horses. It is a beautiful little town situated on the southern side of the Menai Strait at nearly its western extremity. It is called Caernarvon, because it is opposite Mona or Anglesey: Caernarvon signifying the town or castle opposite Mona. Its principal feature is its grand old castle, fronting the north, and partly surrounded by the sea. This castle was built by Edward the First after the fall of his brave adversary Llewelyn, and in it was born his son Edward whom, when an infant, he induced the Welsh chieftains to accept as their prince without seeing, by saying that the person whom he proposed to be their sovereign was one who was not only born in Wales, but could not speak a word of the English language. The town Caernarvon, however, existed long before Edward's time, and was probably originally a Roman station. According to Welsh tradition it was built by Maxen Wledig or Maxentius, in honour of his wife Ellen who was born in the neighbourhood. Maxentius, who was a Briton by birth, and partly by origin contested unsuccessfully the purple with Gratian and Valentinian, and to support his claim led over to the Continent an immense army of Britons, who never returned, but on the fall of their leader settled down in that part of Gaul generally termed Armorica, which means a maritime region, but which the Welsh call Llydaw, or Lithuania, which was the name, or something like the name, which the region bore when Maxen's army took possession of it, owing, doubtless, to its having been the quarters of a legion composed of barbarians from the country of Leth or Lithuania.

After staying about an hour at Caernarvon we started for Llanberis, a few miles to the east. Llanberis is a small village situated in a valley, and takes its name from Peris, a British saint of the sixth century, son of Helig ab Glanog. The valley extends from west to east, having the great mountain of Snowdon on its south, and a range of immense hills on its northern side. We entered this valley by a pass called Nant y Glo or the ravine of the coal, and passing a lake on our left, on which I observed a solitary corracle, with a fisherman in it, were presently at the village. Here we got down at a small inn, and having engaged a young lad to serve as guide, I set out with Henrietta to ascend the hill, my wife remaining behind, not deeming herself sufficiently strong to encounter the fatigue of the expedition.

Pointing with my finger to the head of Snowdon towering a long way from us in the direction of the east, I said to Henrietta:-

"Dacw Eryri, yonder is Snowdon. Let us try to get to the top. The Welsh have a proverb: 'It is easy to say yonder is Snowdon; but not so easy to ascend it.' Therefore I would advise you to brace up your nerves and sinews for the attempt."

We then commenced the ascent, arm-in-arm, followed by the lad, I singing at the stretch of my voice a celebrated Welsh stanza, in which the proverb about Snowdon is given, embellished with a fine moral, and which may thus be rendered:-

"Easy to say, 'Behold Eryri,'
But difficult to reach its head;
Easy for him whose hopes are cheery
To bid the wretch be comforted."

We were far from being the only visitors to the hill this day; groups of people, or single individuals, might be seen going up or descending the path as far as the eye could reach. The path was remarkably good, and for some way the ascent was anything but steep. On our left was the Vale of Llanberis, and on our other side a broad hollow, or valley of Snowdon, beyond which were two huge hills forming part of the body of the grand mountain, the lowermost of which our guide told me was called Moel Elia, and the uppermost Moel y Cynghorion. On we went until we had passed both these hills, and come to the neighbourhood of a great wall of rocks constituting the upper region of Snowdon, and where the real difficulty of the ascent commences. Feeling now rather out of breath we sat down on a little knoll with our faces to the south, having a small lake near us, on our left hand, which lay dark and deep, just under the great wall.

Here we sat for some time resting and surveying the scene which presented itself to us, the principal object of which was the north-eastern side of the mighty Moel y Cynghorion, across the wide hollow or valley, which it overhangs in the shape of a sheer precipice some five hundred feet in depth. Struck by the name of Moel y Cynghorion, which in English signifies the hill of the counsellors, I enquired of our guide why the hill was so called, but as he could afford me no information on the point I presumed that it was either called the hill of the counsellors from the Druids having held high consultation on its top, in time of old, or from the unfortunate Llewelyn having consulted there with his chieftains, whilst his army lay encamped in the vale below.

Getting up we set about surmounting what remained of the ascent. The path was now winding and much more steep than it had hitherto been. I was at one time apprehensive that my gentle companion would be obliged to give over the attempt; the gallant girl, however, persevered, and in little more than twenty minutes from the time when we arose from our resting-place under the crags, we stood, safe and sound, though panting, upon the very top of Snowdon, the far-famed Wyddfa.

The Wyddfa is about thirty feet in diameter and is surrounded on three sides by a low wall. In the middle of it is a rude cabin, in which refreshments are sold, and in which a person resides through the year, though there are few or no visitors to the hill's top, except during the months of summer. Below on all sides are frightful precipices except on the side of the west. Towards the east it looks perpendicularly into the dyffrin or vale, nearly a mile below, from which to the gazer it is at all times an object of admiration, of wonder and almost of fear.

There we stood on the Wyddfa, in a cold bracing atmosphere, though the day was almost stiflingly hot in the regions from which we had ascended. There we stood enjoying a scene inexpressibly grand, comprehending a considerable part of the mainland of Wales, the whole of Anglesey, a faint glimpse of part of Cumberland; the Irish Channel, and what might be either a misty creation or the shadowy outline of the hills of Ireland. Peaks and pinnacles and huge moels stood up here and there, about us and below us, partly in glorious light, partly in deep shade. Manifold were the objects which we saw from the brow of Snowdon, but of all the objects which we saw, those which filled us with delight and admiration, were numerous lakes and lagoons, which, like sheets of ice or polished silver, lay reflecting the rays of the sun in the deep valleys at his feet.

"Here," said I to Henrietta, "you are on the top crag of Snowdon, which the Welsh consider, and perhaps with justice, to be the most remarkable crag in the world; which is mentioned in many of their old wild romantic tales, and some of the noblest of their poems, amongst others in the 'Day of Judgment,' by the illustrious Goronwy Owen, where it is brought forward in the following manner:

"'Ail i'r ar ael Eryri,
Cyfartal hoewal a hi.'

"'The brow of Snowdon shall be levelled with the ground, and the eddying waters shall murmur round it.'

"You are now on the top crag of Snowdon, generally termed Y Wyddfa,6 which means a conspicuous place or tumulus, and which is generally in winter covered with snow; about which snow there are in the Welsh language two curious englynion or stanzas consisting entirely of vowels with the exception of one consonant, namely the letter R.

"'Oer yw'r Eira ar Eryri, - o'ryw
Ar awyr i rewi;
Oer yw'r ia ar riw 'r ri,
A'r Eira oer yw 'Ryri.

"'O Ri y'Ryri yw'r oera, - o'r ar,
Ar oror wir arwa;
O'r awyr a yr Eira,
O'i ryw i roi rew a'r ia.'

"'Cold is the snow on Snowdon's brow
It makes the air so chill;
For cold, I trow, there is no snow
Like that of Snowdon's hill.

"'A hill most chill is Snowdon's hill,
And wintry is his brow;
From Snowdon's hill the breezes chill
Can freeze the very snow.'"

Such was the harangue which I uttered on the top of Snowdon; to which Henrietta listened with attention; three or four English, who stood nigh, with grinning scorn, and a Welsh gentleman with considerable interest. The latter coming forward shook me by the hand exclaiming -

"Wyt ti Lydaueg?"

"I am not a Llydauan," said I; "I wish I was, or anything but what I am, one of a nation amongst whom any knowledge save what relates to money-making and over-reaching is looked upon as a disgrace. I am ashamed to say that I am an Englishman."

I then returned his shake of the hand; and bidding Henrietta and the guide follow me, went into the cabin, where Henrietta had some excellent coffee and myself and the guide a bottle of tolerable ale; very much refreshed we set out on our return.

A little way from the top, on the right-hand side as you descend, there is a very steep path running down in a zigzag manner to the pass which leads to Capel Curig. Up this path it is indeed a task of difficulty to ascend to the Wyddfa, the one by which we mounted being comparatively easy. On Henrietta's pointing out to me a plant, which grew on a crag by the side of this path some way down, I was about to descend in order to procure it for her, when our guide springing forward darted down the path with the agility of a young goat, in less than a minute returned with it in his hand and presented it gracefully to the dear girl, who on examining it said it belonged to a species of which she had long been desirous of possessing a specimen. Nothing material occurred in our descent to Llanberis, where my wife was anxiously awaiting us. The ascent and descent occupied four hours. About ten o'clock at night we again found ourselves at Bangor.

3 One or two of the characters and incidents in this Saga are mentioned in the Romany Rye. London, 1857, vol. i. p. 240; vol. ii. p. 150.

A partial translation of the Saga, made by myself, has been many years in existence. It forms part of a mountain of unpublished translations from the Northern languages. In my younger days no London publisher, or indeed magazine editor, would look at anything from the Norse, Danish, etc.

4 All these three names are very common in Norfolk, the population of which is of Norse origin. Skarphethin is at present pronounced Sharpin. Helgi Heely. Skarphethin, interpreted, is a keen pirate.

5 Eryri likewise signifies an excrescence or scrofulous eruption. It is possible that many will be disposed to maintain that in the case of Snowdon the word is intended to express a rugged excrescence or eruption on the surface of the earth.

6 It will not be amiss to observe that the original term is gwyddfa but gwyddfa; being a feminine noun or compound commencing with g, which is a mutable consonant, loses the initial letter before y the definite article - you say Gwyddfa a tumulus, but not y gwyddfa THE tumulus.

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

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