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George Borrow

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Llandovery - Griffith ap Nicholas - Powerful Enemies - Last Words - Llandovery Church - Rees Pritchard - The Wiser Creature - God's better than All - The Old Vicarage.

THE morning of the ninth was very beautiful, with a slight tendency to frost. I breakfasted, and having no intention of proceeding on my journey that day, I went to take a leisurely view of Llandovery and the neighbourhood.

Llandovery is a small but beautiful town, situated amidst fertile meadows. It is a water-girdled spot, whence its name Llandovery or Llanymdyfri, which signifies the church surrounded by water. On its west is the Towey, and on its east the river Bran or Brein, which descending from certain lofty mountains to the north-east runs into the Towey a little way below the town. The most striking object which Llandovery can show is its castle, from which the inn, which stands near to it, has its name. This castle, majestic though in ruins, stands on a green mound, the eastern side of which is washed by the Bran. Little with respect to its history is known. One thing, however, is certain, namely that it was one of the many strongholds, which at one time belonged to Griffith ap Nicholas, Lord of Dinevor, one of the most remarkable men which South Wales has ever produced, of whom a brief account here will not be out of place.

Griffith ap Nicholas flourished towards the concluding part of the reign of Henry the Sixth. He was a powerful chieftain of South Wales and possessed immense estates in the counties of Carmarthen and Cardigan. King Henry the Sixth, fully aware of his importance in his own country, bestowed upon him the commission of the peace, an honour at that time seldom vouchsafed to a Welshman, and the captaincy of Kilgarran, a strong royal castle situated on the southern bank of the Teivi a few miles above Cardigan. He had many castles of his own, in which he occasionally resided, but his chief residence was Dinevor, half way between Llandovery and Carmarthen, once a palace of the kings of South Wales, from whom Griffith traced lineal descent. He was a man very proud at heart, but with too much wisdom to exhibit many marks of pride, speaking generally with the utmost gentleness and suavity, and though very brave addicted to dashing into danger for the mere sake of displaying his valour. He was a great master of the English tongue, and well acquainted with what learning it contained, but nevertheless was passionately attached to the language and literature of Wales, a proof of which he gave by holding a congress of bards and literati at Carmarthen, at which various pieces of eloquence and poetry were recited, and certain alterations introduced into the canons of Welsh versification. Though holding offices of trust and emolument under the Saxon, he in the depths of his soul detested the race, and would have rejoiced to see it utterly extirpated from Britain. This hatred of his against the English was the cause of his doing that which cannot be justified on any principle of honour, giving shelter and encouragement to Welsh thieves, who were in the habit of plundering and ravaging the English borders. Though at the head of a numerous and warlike clan, which was strongly attached to him on various accounts, Griffith did not exactly occupy a bed of roses. He had amongst his neighbours four powerful enemies who envied him his large possessions, with whom he had continual disputes about property and privilege. Powerful enemies they may well be called, as they were no less personages than Humphrey Duke of Buckingham, Richard Duke of York, who began the contest for the crown with King Henry the Sixth, Jasper Earl of Pembroke, son of Owen Tudor, and half-brother of the king, and the Earl of Warwick. These accused him at court of being a comforter and harbourer of thieves, the result being that he was deprived not only of the commission of the peace, but of the captaincy of Kilgarran, which the Earl of Pembroke, through his influence with his half-brother, procured for himself. They moreover induced William Borley and Thomas Corbet, two justices of the peace for the county of Hereford, to grant a warrant for his apprehension on the ground of his being in league with the thieves of the Marches. Griffith in the bosom of his mighty clan bade defiance to Saxon warrants, though once having ventured to Hereford he nearly fell into the power of the ministers of justice, only escaping by the intervention of Sir John Scudamore, with whom he was connected by marriage. Shortly afterwards, the civil war breaking out, the Duke of York apologised to Griffith, and besought his assistance against the king which the chieftain readily enough promised, not out of affection for York, but from the hatred which he felt, on account of the Kilgarran affair, for the Earl of Pembroke, who had sided, very naturally, with his half-brother, the king, and commanded his forces in the west. Griffith fell at the great battle of Mortimer's cross, which was won for York by a desperate charge made right at Pembroke's banner by Griffith and his Welshmen, when the rest of the Yorkists were wavering. His last words were: "Welcome, Death! since honour and victory make for us."

The power and wealth of Griffith ap Nicholas, and also parts of his character, have been well described by one of his bards, Gwilym ab Ieuan Hen, in an ode to the following effect:-

"Griffith ap Nicholas, who like thee
For wealth and power and majesty!
Which most abound, I cannot say,
On either side of Towey gay,
From hence to where it meets the brine,
Trees or stately towers of thine?
The chair of judgment thou didst gain,
But not to deal in judgments vain -
To thee upon thy judgment chair
From near and far do crowds repair;
But though betwixt the weak and strong
No questions rose from right or wrong
The strong the weak to thee would hie;
The strong to do thee injury,
And to the weak thou wine wouldst deal,
And wouldst trip up the mighty heel.
A lion unto the lofty thou,
A lamb unto the weak and low.
Much thou resemblest Nudd of yore,
Surpassing all who went before;
Like him thou'rt fam'd for bravery,
For noble birth and high degree.
Hail, captain of Kilgarran's hold!
Lieutenant of Carmarthen old!
Hail, chieftain, Cambria's choicest boast!
Hail, justice, at the Saxon's cost!
Seven castles high confess thy sway,
Seven palaces thy hands obey.
Against my chief, with envy fired,
Three dukes and judges two conspired,
But thou a dauntless front didst show,
And to retreat they were not slow.
O, with what gratitude is heard
From mouth of thine the whispered word,
The deepest pools in rivers found
In summer are of softest sound;
The sage concealeth what he knows,
A deal of talk no wisdom shows;
The sage is silent as the grave,
Whilst of his lips the fool is slave;
Thy smile doth every joy impart,
Of faith a fountain is thy heart;
Thy hand is strong, thine eye is keen,
Thy head o'er every head is seen."

The church of Llandovery is a large edifice standing at the southern extremity of the town in the vicinity of the Towey. The outside exhibits many appearances of antiquity, but the interior has been sadly modernized. It contains no remarkable tombs; I was pleased, however, to observe upon one or two of the monuments the name of Ryce, the appellation of the great clan to which Griffith ap Nicholas belonged; of old the regal race of South Wales. On inquiring of the clerk, an intelligent young man who showed me over the sacred edifice, as to the state of the Church of England at Llandovery, he gave me a very cheering account, adding, however, that before the arrival of the present incumbent it was very low indeed. "What is the clergyman's name?" said I; "I heard him preach last night."

"I know you did, sir," said the clerk, bowing, "for I saw you at the service at Llanfair - his name is Hughes."

"Any relation of the clergyman at Tregaron?" said I.

"Own brother, sir."

"He at Tregaron bears a very high character," said I.

"And very deservedly, sir," said the clerk, "for he is an excellent man; he is, however, not more worthy of his high character than his brother here is of the one which he bears, which is equally high, and which the very dissenters have nothing to say against."

"Have you ever heard," said I, "of a man of the name of Rees Pritchard, who preached within these walls some two hundred years ago?"

"Rees Pritchard, sir! Of course I have - who hasn't heard of the old vicar - the Welshman's candle? Ah, he was a man indeed! We have some good men in the Church, very good; but the old vicar - where shall we find his equal?"

"Is he buried in this church?" said I.

"No, sir, he was buried out abroad in the churchyard, near the wall by the Towey."

"Can you show me his tomb?" said I. "No, sir, nor can any one; his tomb was swept away more than a hundred years ago by a dreadful inundation of the river, which swept away not only tombs but dead bodies out of graves. But there's his house in the market-place, the old vicarage, which you should go and see. I would go and show it you myself but I have church matters just now to attend to - the place of church clerk at Llandovery, long a sinecure, is anything but that under the present clergyman, who, though not a Rees Pritchard, is a very zealous Christian, and not unworthy to preach in the pulpit of the old vicar."

Leaving the church I went to see the old vicarage, but before saying anything respecting it, a few words about the old vicar.

Rees Pritchard was born at Llandovery, about the year 1575, of respectable parents. He received the rudiments of a classical education at the school of the place, and at the age of eighteen was sent to Oxford, being intended for the clerical profession. At Oxford he did not distinguish himself in an advantageous manner, being more remarkable for dissipation and riot than application in the pursuit of learning. Returning to Wales, he was admitted into the ministry, and after the lapse of a few years was appointed vicar of Llandovery. His conduct for a considerable time was not only unbecoming a clergyman, but a human being in any sphere. Drunkenness was very prevalent in the age in which he lived, but Rees Pritchard was so inordinately addicted to that vice that the very worst of his parishioners were scandalized, and said: "Bad as we may be we are not half so bad as the parson."

He was in the habit of spending the greater part of his time in the public-house, from which he was generally trundled home in a wheel- barrow in a state of utter insensibility. God, however, who is aware of what every man is capable of, had reserved Rees Pritchard for great and noble things, and brought about his conversion in a very remarkable manner.

The people of the tavern which Rees Pritchard frequented had a large he-goat, which went in and out and mingled with the guests. One day Rees in the midst of his orgies called the goat to him and offered it some ale; the creature, far from refusing it, drank greedily, and soon becoming intoxicated, fell down upon the floor, where it lay quivering, to the great delight of Rees Pritchard, who made its drunkenness a subject of jest to his boon companions, who, however, said nothing, being struck with horror at such conduct in a person who was placed among them to be a pattern and example. Before night, however, Pritchard became himself intoxicated, and was trundled to the vicarage in the usual manner. During the whole of the next day he was very ill and kept at home, but on the following one he again repaired to the public-house, sat down and called for his pipe and tankard. The goat was now perfectly recovered, and was standing nigh. No sooner was the tankard brought than Rees taking hold of it held it to the goat's mouth. The creature, however, turned away its head in disgust, and hurried out of the room. This circumstance produced an instantaneous effect upon Rees Pritchard. "My God!" said he to himself, "is this poor dumb creature wiser than I? Yes, surely; it has been drunk, but having once experienced the wretched consequences of drunkenness, it refuses to be drunk again. How different is its conduct to mine! I, after having experienced a hundred times the filthiness and misery of drunkenness, have still persisted in debasing myself below the condition of a beast. Oh, if I persist in this conduct what have I to expect but wretchedness and contempt in this world and eternal perdition in the next? But, thank God, it is not yet too late to amend; I am still alive - I will become a new man - the goat has taught me a lesson." Smashing his pipe he left his tankard untasted on the table, went home, and became an altered man.

Different as an angel of light is from the fiend of the pit was Rees Pritchard from that moment from what he had been in former days. For upwards of thirty years he preached the Gospel as it had never been preached before in the Welsh tongue since the time of Saint Paul, supposing the beautiful legend to be true which tells us that Saint Paul in his wanderings found his way to Britain and preached to the inhabitants the inestimable efficacy of Christ's bloodshedding in the fairest Welsh, having like all the other apostles the miraculous gift of tongues. The good vicar did more. In the short intervals of relaxation which he allowed himself from the labour of the ministry during those years he composed a number of poetical pieces, which after his death were gathered together into a volume and published, under the title of "Canwyll y Cymry; or, the Candle of the Welshman." This work, which has gone through almost countless editions, is written in two common easy measures, and the language is so plain and simple that it is intelligible to the homeliest hind who speaks the Welsh language. All of the pieces are of a strictly devotional character, with the exception of one, namely, a welcome to Charles, Prince of Wales, on his return from Spain, to which country he had gone to see the Spanish ladye whom at one time he sought as bride. Some of the pieces are highly curious, as they bear upon events at present forgotten; for example, the song upon the year 1629, when the corn was blighted throughout the land, and "A Warning to the Cumry to repent when the Plague of Blotches and Boils was prevalent in London." Some of the pieces are written with astonishing vigour, for example, "The Song of the Husbandman," and "God's Better than All," of which last piece the following is a literal translation:-


"God's better than heaven or aught therein,
Than the earth or aught we there can win,
Better than the world or its wealth to me -
God's better than all that is or can be.
Better than father, than mother, than nurse,
Better than riches, oft proving a curse,
Better than Martha or Mary even -
Better by far is the God of heaven.
If God for thy portion thou hast ta'en
There's Christ to support thee in every pain,
The world to respect thee thou wilt gain,
To fear thee the fiend and all his train.
Of the best of portions thou choice didst make
When thou the high God to thyself didst take,
A portion which none from thy grasp can rend
Whilst the sun and the moon on their course shall wend
When the sun grows dark and the moon turns red,
When the stars shall drop and millions dread,
When the earth shall vanish with its pomps in fire,
Thy portion still shall remain entire.
Then let not thy heart, though distressed, complain!
A hold on thy portion firm maintain.
Thou didst choose the best portion, again I say -
Resign it not till thy dying day."

The old vicarage of Llandovery is a very large mansion of dark red brick, fronting the principal street or market-place, and with its back to a green meadow bounded by the river Bran. It is in a very dilapidated condition, and is inhabited at present by various poor families. The principal room, which is said to have been the old vicar's library, and the place where he composed his undying Candle, is in many respects a remarkable apartment. It is of large dimensions. The roof is curiously inlaid with stucco or mortar, and is traversed from east to west by an immense black beam. The fire-place, which is at the south, is very large and seemingly of high antiquity. The windows, which are two in number and look westward into the street, have a quaint and singular appearance. Of all the houses in Llandovery the old vicarage is by far the most worthy of attention, irrespective of the wonderful monument of God's providence and grace who once inhabited it.

The reverence in which the memory of Rees Pritchard is still held in Llandovery the following anecdote will show. As I was standing in the principal street staring intently at the antique vicarage, a respectable-looking farmer came up and was about to pass, but observing how I was employed he stopped, and looked now at me and now at the antique house. Presently he said

"A fine old place, is it not, sir? but do you know who lived there?"

Wishing to know what the man would say provided he thought I was ignorant as to the ancient inmate, I turned a face of inquiry upon him; whereupon he advanced towards me two or three steps, and placing his face so close to mine that his nose nearly touched my cheek, he said in a kind of piercing whisper -

"The Vicar."

Then drawing his face back he looked me full in the eyes as if to observe the effect of his intelligence, gave me two nods as if to say, "He did, indeed," and departed.

THE Vicar of Llandovery had then been dead nearly two hundred years. Truly the man in whom piety and genius are blended is immortal upon earth.


Departure from Llandovery - A Bitter Methodist - North and South - The Caravan - Captain Bosvile - Deputy Ranger - A Scrimmage - The Heavenly Gwynfa - Dangerous Position.

ON the tenth I departed from Llandovery, which I have no hesitation in saying is about the pleasantest little town in which I have halted in the course of my wanderings. I intended to sleep at Gutter Vawr, a place some twenty miles distant, just within Glamorganshire, to reach which it would be necessary to pass over part of a range of wild hills, generally called the Black Mountains. I started at about ten o'clock; the morning was lowering, and there were occasional showers of rain and hail. I passed by Rees Pritchard's church, holding my hat in my hand as I did so, not out of respect for the building, but from reverence for the memory of the sainted man who of old from its pulpit called sinners to repentance, and whose remains slumber in the churchyard unless washed away by some frantic burst of the neighbouring Towey. Crossing a bridge over the Bran just before it enters the greater stream, I proceeded along a road running nearly south and having a range of fine hills on the east. Presently violent gusts of wind came on, which tore the sear leaves by thousands from the trees, of which there were plenty by the roadsides. After a little time, however, this elemental hurly-burly passed away, a rainbow made its appearance, and the day became comparatively fine. Turning to the south-east under a hill covered with oaks, I left the vale of the Towey behind me, and soon caught a glimpse of some very lofty hills which I supposed to be the Black Mountains. It was a mere glimpse, for scarcely had I descried them when mist settled down and totally obscured them from my view.

In about an hour I reached Llangadog, a large village. The name signifies the church of Gadog. Gadog was a British saint of the fifth century, who after labouring amongst his own countrymen for their spiritual good for many years, crossed the sea to Brittany, where he died. Scarcely had I entered Llangadog when a great shower of rain came down. Seeing an ancient-looking hostelry I at once made for it. In a large and comfortable kitchen I found a middle-aged woman seated by a huge deal table near a blazing fire, with a couple of large books open before her. Sitting down on a chair I told her in English to bring me a pint of ale. She did so, and again sat down to her books, which on inquiry I found to be a Welsh Bible and Concordance. We soon got into discourse about religion, but did not exactly agree, for she was a bitter Methodist, as bitter as her beer, only half of which I could get down.

Leaving Llangadog I pushed forward. The day was now tolerably fine. In two or three hours I came to a glen, the sides of which were beautifully wooded. On my left was a river, which came roaring down from a range of lofty mountains right before me to the south-east. The river, as I was told by a lad, was the Sawdde or Southey, the lofty range the Black Mountains. Passed a pretty village on my right standing something in the shape of a semicircle, and in about half-an-hour came to a bridge over a river which I supposed to be the Sawdde which I had already seen, but which I subsequently learned was an altogether different stream. It was running from the south, a wild, fierce flood, amidst rocks and stones, the waves all roaring and foaming.

After some time I reached another bridge near the foot of a very lofty ascent. On my left to the east upon a bank was a small house, on one side of which was a wheel turned round by a flush of water running in a little artificial canal; close by it were two small cascades, the waters of which, and also those of the canal, passed under the bridge in the direction of the west. Seeing a decent-looking man engaged in sawing a piece of wood by the roadside, I asked him in Welsh whether the house with the wheel was a flour mill.

"Nage," said he, "it is a pandy, fulling mill."

"Can you tell me the name of a river," said I, "which I have left about a mile behind me. Is it the Sawdde?'

"Nage," said he, "it is the Lleidach."

Then looking at me with great curiosity, he asked if I came from the north country.

"Yes," said I, "I certainly come from there."

"I am glad to hear it," said he, "for I have long wished to see a man from the north country."

"Did you never see one before?" said I.

"Never in my life," he replied; "men from the north country seldom show themselves in these parts."

"Well," said I; "I am not ashamed to say that I come from the north."

"Ain't you? Well, I don't know that you have any particular reason to be ashamed, for it is rather your misfortune than your fault; but the idea of any one coming from the north - ho, ho!"

"Perhaps in the north," said I, "they laugh at a man from the south."

"Laugh at a man from the south! No, no; they can't do that."

"Why not?" said I; "why shouldn't the north laugh at the south as well as the south at the north?"

"Why shouldn't it? why, you talk like a fool. How could the north laugh at the south as long as the south remains the south and the north the north? Laugh at the south! you talk like a fool, David, and if you go on in that way I shall be angry with you. However, I'll excuse you; you are from the north, and what can one expect from the north but nonsense? Now tell me, do you of the north eat and drink like other people? What do you live upon?"

"Why, as for myself," said I; "I generally live on the best I can get."

"Let's hear what you eat; bacon and eggs?

"Oh yes, I eat bacon and eggs when I can get nothing better."

"And what do you drink? Can you drink ale?"

"Oh yes," said I; "I am very fond of ale when it's good. Perhaps you will stand a pint?"

"Hm," said the man looking somewhat blank; "there is no ale in the Pandy and there is no public-house near at hand, otherwise - Where are you going to-night?"

"To Gutter Vawr."

"Well, then, you had better not loiter; Gutter Vawr is a long way off over the mountain. It will be dark, I am afraid, long before you get to Gutter Vawr. Good evening, David! I am glad to have seen you, for I have long wished to see a man from the north country. Good evening! you will find plenty of good ale at Gutter Vawr."

I went on my way. The road led in a south-eastern direction gradually upward to very lofty regions. After walking about half- an-hour I saw a kind of wooden house on wheels drawn by two horses coming down the hill towards me. A short black-looking fellow in brown-top boots, corduroy breeches, jockey coat and jockey cap sat on the box, holding the reins in one hand and a long whip in the other. Beside him was a swarthy woman in a wild flaunting dress. Behind the box out of the fore part of the caravan peered two or three black children's heads. A pretty little foal about four months old came frisking and gambolling now before now beside the horses, whilst a colt of some sixteen months followed more leisurely behind. When the caravan was about ten yards distant I stopped, and raising my left hand with the little finger pointed aloft, I exclaimed:

"Shoon, Kaulomengro, shoon! In Dibbel's nav, where may tu be jawing to?"

Stopping his caravan with considerable difficulty the small black man glared at me for a moment like a wild cat, and then said in a voice partly snappish, partly kind:

"Savo shan tu? Are you one of the Ingrines?"

"I am the chap what certain folks calls the Romany Rye."

"Well, I'll be jiggered if I wasn't thinking so and if I wasn't penning so to my juwa as we were welling down the chong."

"It is a long time since we last met, Captain Bosvile, for I suppose I may call you Captain now?"

"Yes! the old man has been dead and buried this many a year, and his sticks and titles are now mine. Poor soul, I hope he is happy; indeed I know he is, for he lies in Cockleshell churchyard, the place he was always so fond of, and has his Sunday waistcoat on him with the fine gold buttons, which he was always so proud of. Ah, you may well call it a long time since we met - why, it can't be less than thirty year."

"Something about that - you were a boy then of about fifteen."

"So I was, and you a tall young slip of about twenty; well, how did you come to jin mande?"

"Why, I knew you by your fighting mug - there ain't such another mug in England."

"No more there an't - my old father always used to say it was of no use hitting it for it always broke his knuckles. Well, it was kind of you to jin mande after so many years. The last time I think I saw you was near Brummagem, when you were travelling about with Jasper Petulengro and - I say, what's become of the young woman you used to keep company with?"

"I don't know."

"You don't? Well, she was a fine young woman and a vartuous. I remember her knocking down and giving a black eye to my old mother, who was wonderfully deep in Romany, for making a bit of a gillie about you and she. What was the song? Lord, how my memory fails me! Oh, here it is:-

"'Ando berkho Rye cano
Oteh pivo teh khavo
Tu lerasque ando berkho piranee
Teh corbatcha por pico.'"

"Have you seen Jasper Petulengro lately?" said I.

"Yes, I have seen him, but it was at a very considerable distance. Jasper Petulengro doesn't come near the likes of we now. Lord! you can't think what grand folks he and his wife have become of late years, and all along of a trumpery lil which somebody has written about them. Why, they are hand and glove with the Queen and Prince, and folks say that his wife is going to be made dame of honour, and Jasper Justice of the Peace and Deputy Ranger of Windsor Park."

"Only think," said I. "And now tell me, what brought you into Wales?"

"What brought me into Wales? I'll tell you; my own fool's head. I was doing nicely in the Kaulo Gav and the neighbourhood, when I must needs pack up and come into these parts with bag and baggage, wife and childer. I thought that Wales was what it was some thirty years agone when our foky used to say - for I was never here before - that there was something to be done in it; but I was never more mistaken in my life. The country is overrun with Hindity mescrey, woild Irish, with whom the Romany foky stand no chance. The fellows underwork me at tinkering, and the women outscream my wife at telling fortunes - moreover, they say the country is theirs and not intended for niggers like we, and as they are generally in vast numbers what can a poor little Roman family do but flee away before them? A pretty journey I have made into Wales. Had I not contrived to pass off a poggado bav engro - a broken-winded horse - at a fair, I at this moment should be without a tringoruschee piece in my pocket. I am now making the best of my way back to Brummagem, and if ever I come again to this Hindity country may Calcraft nash me."

"I wonder you didn't try to serve some of the Irish out," said I.

"I served one out, brother; and my wife and childer helped to wipe off a little of the score. We had stopped on a nice green, near a village over the hills in Glamorganshire, when up comes a Hindity family, and bids us take ourselves off. Now it so happened that there was but one man and a woman and some childer, so I laughed, and told them to drive us off. Well, brother, without many words, there was a regular scrimmage. The Hindity mush came at me, the Hindity mushi at y my juwa, and the Hindity chaves at my chai. It didn't last long, brother. In less than three minutes I had hit the Hindity mush, who was a plaguey big fellow, but couldn't fight, just under the point of the chin, and sent him to the ground with all his senses gone. My juwa had almost scratched an eye out of the Hindity mushi, and my chai had sent the Hindity childer scampering over the green. 'Who has got to quit now?' said I to the Hindity mush after he had got on his legs, looking like a man who has been cut down after hanging just a minute and a half. 'Who has got notice to quit, now, I wonder?' Well, brother, he didn't say anything, nor did any of them, but after a little time they all took themselves off, with a cart they had, to the south. Just as they got to the edge of the green, however, they turned round and gave a yell which made all our blood run cold. I knew what it meant, and said, 'This is no place for us.' So we got everything together and came away and, though the horses were tired, never stopped till we had got ten miles from the place; and well it was we acted as we did, for, had we stayed, I have no doubt that a whole Hindity clan would have been down upon us before morning and cut our throats."

"Well," said I, "farewell. I can't stay any longer. As it is, I shall be late at Gutter Vawr."

"Farewell, brother!" said Captain Bosvile; and, giving a cry, he cracked, his whip and set his horses in motion.

"Won't you give us sixpence to drink?" cried Mrs Bosvile, with a rather shrill voice.

"Hold your tongue, you she-dog," said Captain Bosvile. "Is that the way in which you take leave of an old friend? Hold your tongue, and let the Ingrine gentleman jaw on his way."

I proceeded on my way as fast as I could, for the day was now closing in. My progress, however, was not very great; for the road was steep, and was continually becoming more so. In about half-an- hour I came to a little village, consisting of three or four houses; one of them, at the door of which several carts were standing, bore the sign of a tavern.

"What is the name of this place?" said I to a man who was breaking stones on the road.

"Capel Gwynfa," said he.

Rather surprised at the name, which signifies in English the Chapel of the place of bliss, I asked the man why it was called so.

"I don't know," said the man.

"Was there ever a chapel here?" said I.

"I don't know, sir; there is none now."

"I daresay there was in the old time," said I to myself, as I went on, "in which some holy hermit prayed and told his beads, and occasionally received benighted strangers. What a poetical word that Gwynfa, place of bliss, is. Owen Pugh uses it in his translation of 'Paradise Lost' to express Paradise, for he has rendered the words Paradise Lost by Col Gwynfa - the loss of the place of bliss. I wonder whether the old scholar picked up the word here. Not unlikely. Strange fellow that Owen Pugh. Wish I had seen him. No hope of seeing him now, except in the heavenly Gwynfa. Wonder whether there is such a place. Tom Payne thinks there's not. Strange fellow that Tom Payne. Norfolk man. Wish I had never read him."

Presently I came to a little cottage with a toll-bar. Seeing a woman standing at the door, I inquired of her the name of the gate.

"Cowslip Gate, sir."

"Has it any Welsh name?"

"None that I know of, sir."

This place was at a considerable altitude, and commanded an extensive view to the south, west, and north. Heights upon heights rose behind it to the east. From here the road ran to the south for a little way nearly level, then turned abruptly to the east, and was more steep than ever. After the turn, I had a huge chalk cliff towering over me on the right, and a chalk precipice on my left. Night was now coming on fast, and, rather to my uneasiness, masses of mist began to pour down the sides of the mountain. I hurried on, the road making frequent turnings. Presently the mist swept down upon me, and was so thick that I could only see a few yards before me. I was now obliged to slacken my pace, and to advance with some degree of caution. I moved on in this way for some time, when suddenly I heard a noise, as if a number of carts were coming rapidly down the hill. I stopped, and stood with my back close against the high bank. The noise drew nearer, and in a minute I saw distinctly through the mist, horses, carts, and forms of men passing. In one or two cases the wheels appeared to be within a few inches of my feet. I let the train go by, and then cried out in English, "Am I right for Gutter Vawr?"

"Hey?" said a voice, after a momentary interval.

"Am I right for Gutter Vawr?" I shouted yet louder.

"Yes sure!" said a voice, probably the same.

Then instantly a much rougher voice cried, "Who the Devil are you?"

I made no answer, but went on, whilst the train continued its way rumbling down the mountain. At length I gained the top, where the road turned and led down a steep descent towards the south-west. It was now quite night, and the mist was of the thickest kind. I could just see that there was a frightful precipice on my left, so I kept to the right, hugging the side of the hill. As I descended I heard every now and then loud noises in the vale, probably proceeding from stone quarries. I was drenched to the skin, nay, through the skin, by the mist, which I verily believe was more penetrating than that described by Ab Gwilym. When I had proceeded about a mile I saw blazes down below, resembling those of furnaces, and soon after came to the foot of the hill. It was here pouring with rain, but I did not put up my umbrella, as it was impossible for me to be more drenched than I was. Crossing a bridge over a kind of torrent, I found myself amongst some houses. I entered one of them from which a blaze of light and a roar of voices proceeded, and, on inquiring of an old woman who confronted me in the passage, I found that I had reached my much needed haven of rest, the tavern of Gutter Vawr in the county of Glamorgan.

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

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