Picture of Gerald of Wales

Gerald of Wales

places mentioned

Book 1, Ch. 6: The pleasantness and fertility of Wales

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Concerning the pleasantness and fertility of Wales

As the southern part of Wales near Cardiganshire, but particularly Pembrokeshire, is much pleasanter, on account of its plains and sea-coast, so North Wales is better defended by nature, is more productive of men distinguished for bodily strength, and more fertile in the nature of its soil; for, as the mountains of Eryri (Snowdon) could supply pasturage for all the herds of cattle in Wales, if collected together, so could the Isle of Mona (Anglesey) provide a requisite quantity of corn for all the inhabitants: on which account there is an old British proverb, "MON MAM CYMBRY," that is, "Mona is the mother of Wales." Merionyth, and the land of Conan, is the rudest and least cultivated region, and the least accessible. The natives of that part of Wales excel in the use of long lances, as those of Monmouthshire are distinguished for their management of the bow. It is to be observed, that the British language is more delicate and richer in North Wales, that country being less intermixed with foreigners. Many, however, assert that the language of Cardiganshire, in South Wales, placed as it were in the middle and heart of Cambria, is the most refined.

The people of Cornwall and the Armoricans speak a language similar to that of the Britons; and from its origin and near resemblance, it is intelligible to the Welsh in many instances, and almost in all; and although less delicate and methodical, yet it approaches, as I judge, more to the ancient British idiom. As in the southern parts of England, and particularly in Devonshire, the English language seems less agreeable, yet it bears more marks of antiquity (the northern parts being much corrupted by the irruptions of the Danes and Norwegians), and adheres more strictly to the original language and ancient mode of speaking; a positive proof of which may be deduced from all the English works of Bede, Rhabanus, and king Alfred, being written according to this idiom.

Gerald of Wales, The Description of Wales (Oxford, Mississippi, 1997)

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