Picture of George Borrow

George Borrow

places mentioned

Chirk Castle

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The Ladies of Llangollen - Sir Alured - Eisteddfodau - Pleasure and Care.

SHORTLY after my return I paid a visit to my friends at the Vicarage, who were rejoiced to see me back, and were much entertained with the account I gave of my travels. I next went to visit the old church clerk of whom I had so much to say on a former occasion. After having told him some particulars of my expedition, to all of which he listened with great attention, especially to that part which related to the church of Penmynydd and the tomb of the Tudors, I got him to talk about the ladies of Llangollen, of whom I knew very little save what I had heard from general report. I found he remembered their first coming to Llangollen, their living in lodgings, their purchasing the ground called Pen y maes, and their erecting upon it the mansion to which the name of Plas Newydd was given. He said they were very eccentric, but good and kind, and had always shown most particular favour to himself; that both were highly connected, especially Lady Eleanor Butler, who was connected by blood with the great Duke of Ormond who commanded the armies of Charles in Ireland in the time of the great rebellion, and also with the Duke of Ormond who succeeded Marlborough in the command of the armies in the Low Countries in the time of Queen Anne, and who fled to France shortly after the accession of George the First to the throne, on account of being implicated in the treason of Harley and Bolingbroke; and that her ladyship was particularly fond of talking of both these dukes, and relating anecdotes concerning them. He said that the ladies were in the habit of receiving the very first people in Britain, "amongst whom," said the old church clerk, "was an ancient gentleman of most engaging appearance and captivating manners, called Sir Alured C-. He was in the army, and in his youth, owing to the beauty of his person, was called , 'the handsome captain.' It was said that one of the royal princesses was desperately in love with him, and that on that account George the Third insisted on his going to India. Whether or not there was truth in the report, to India he went, where he served with distinction for a great many years. On his return, which was not till he was upwards of eighty, he was received with great favour by William the Fourth, who amongst other things made him a field-marshal. As often as October came round did this interesting and venerable gentleman make his appearance at Llangollen to pay his respects to the ladies, especially to Lady Eleanor, whom he had known at Court as far back they say as the American war. It was rumoured at Llangollen that Lady Eleanor's death was a grievous blow to Sir Alured, and that he would never be seen there again. However, when October came round he made his appearance at the Vicarage, where he had always been in the habit of taking up his quarters, and called on and dined with Miss Ponsonby at Plas Newydd, but it was observed that he was not so gay as he had formerly been. In the evening, on his taking leave of Miss Ponsonby, she said that he had used her ill. Sir Alured coloured, and asked her what she meant, adding that he had not to his knowledge used any person ill in the course of his life. 'But I say you have used me ill, very ill,' said Miss Ponsonby, raising her voice, and the words 'very ill' she repeated several times. At last the old soldier waxing rather warm demanded an explanation. 'I'll give it you,' said Miss Ponsonby; 'were you not going away after having only kissed my hand?' 'Oh,' said the general, 'if that is my offence, I will soon make you reparation,' and instantly gave her a hearty smack on the lips, which ceremony he never forgot to repeat after dining with her on subsequent occasions."

We got on the subject of bards, and I mentioned to him Gruffydd Hiraethog, the old poet buried in the chancel of Llangollen church. The old clerk was not aware that he was buried there, and said that though he had heard of him he knew little or nothing about him.

"Where was he born?" said he.

"In Denbighshire," I replied, "near the mountain Hiraethog, from which circumstance he called himself in poetry Gruffydd Hiraethog."

"When did he flourish?"

"About the middle of the sixteenth century."

"What did he write?"

"A great many didactic pieces," said I in one of which is a famous couplet to this effect:

"He who satire loves to sing
On himself will satire bring."

"Did you ever hear of William Lleyn?" said the old gentleman.

"Yes," said I; "he was a pupil of Hiraethog, and wrote an elegy on his death, in which he alludes to Gruffydd's skill in an old Welsh metre, called the Cross Consonancy, in the following manner:

'"In Eden's grove from Adam's mouth
Upsprang a muse of noble growth;
So from thy grave, O poet wise,
Cross Consonancy's boughs shall rise.'"

"Really," said the old clerk, "you seem to know something about Welsh poetry. But what is meant by a muse springing up from Adam's mouth in Eden?"

"Why, I suppose," said I, "that Adam invented poetry."

I made inquiries of him about the eisteddfodau or sessions of bards, and expressed a wish to be present at one of them. He said that they were very interesting; that bards met at particular periods and recited poems on various subjects which had been given out beforehand, and that prizes were allotted to those whose compositions were deemed the best by the judges. He said that he had himself won the prize for the best englyn on a particular subject at an eisteddfod at which Sir Watkin Williams Wynn presided, and at which Heber, afterwards Bishop of Calcutta, was present, who appeared to understand Welsh well, and who took much interest in the proceedings of the meeting.

Our discourse turning on the latter Welsh poets I asked him if he had been acquainted with Jonathan Hughes, who the reader will remember was the person whose grandson I met and in whose arm-chair I sat at Ty yn y pistyll, shortly after my coming to Llangollen. He said that he had been well acquainted with him, and had helped to carry him to the grave, adding, that he was something of a poet, but that he had always considered his forte lay in strong good sense rather than poetry. I mentioned Thomas Edwards, whose picture I had seen in Valle Crucis Abbey. He said that he knew him tolerably well, and that the last time he saw him was when he, Edwards, was about seventy years of age, when he sent him in a cart to the house of a great gentleman near the aqueduct where he was going to stay on a visit. That Tom was about five feet eight inches high, lusty, and very strongly built; that he had something the matter with his right eye; that he was very satirical and very clever; that his wife was a very clever woman and satirical; his two daughters both clever and satirical, and his servant-maid remarkably satirical and clever, and that it was impossible to live with Twm O'r Nant without learning to be clever and satirical; that he always appeared to be occupied with something, and that he had heard him say there was something in him that would never let him be idle; that he would walk fifteen miles to a place where he was to play an interlude, and that as soon as he got there he would begin playing it at once, however tired he might be. The old gentleman concluded by saying that he had never read the works of Twm O'r Nant, but he had heard that his best piece was the interlude called "Pleasure and Care."


The Treachery of the Long Knives - The North Briton - The Wounded Butcher - The Prisoner.

ON the tenth of September our little town was flung into some confusion by one butcher having attempted to cut the throat of another. The delinquent was a Welshman, who it was said had for some time past been somewhat out of his mind; the other party was an Englishman, who escaped without further injury than a deep gash in the cheek. The Welshman might be mad, but it appeared to me that there was some method in his madness. He tried to cut the throat of a butcher: didn't this look like wishing to put a rival out of the way? and that butcher an Englishman: didn't this look like wishing to pay back upon the Saxon what the Welsh call bradwriaeth y cyllyll hirion, the treachery of the long knives? So reasoned I to myself. But here perhaps the reader will ask what is meant by "the treachery of the long knives?" whether he does or not I will tell him.

Hengist wishing to become paramount in Southern Britain thought that the easiest way to accomplish his wish would be by destroying the South British chieftains. Not believing that he should be able to make away with them by open force he determined to see what he could do by treachery. Accordingly he invited the chieftains to a banquet to be held near Stonehenge, or the Hanging Stones, on Salisbury Plains. The unsuspecting chieftains accepted the invitation, and on the appointed day repaired to the banquet, which was held in a huge tent. Hengist received them with a smiling countenance and every appearance of hospitality, and caused them to sit down to table, placing by the side of every Briton one of his own people. The banquet commenced, and all seemingly was mirth and hilarity. Now Hengist had commanded his people that when he should get up and cry "nemet eoure saxes," that is, take your knives, each Saxon should draw his long sax, or knife, which he wore at his side, and should plunge it into the throat of his neighbour. The banquet went on, and in the midst of it, when the unsuspecting Britons were revelling on the good cheer which had been provided for them, and half-drunken with the mead and beer which flowed in torrents, uprose Hengist, and with a voice of thunder uttered the fatal words "nemet eoure saxes:" the cry was obeyed, each Saxon grasped his knife and struck with it at the throat of his defenceless neighbour. Almost every blow took effect; only three British chieftains escaping from the banquet of blood. This infernal carnage the Welsh have appropriately denominated the treachery of the long knives. It will be as well to observe that the Saxons derived their name from the saxes, or long knives, which they wore at their sides, and at the use of which they were terribly proficient.

Two or three days after the attempt at murder at Llangollen, hearing that the Welsh butcher was about to be brought before the magistrates, I determined to make an effort to be present at the examination. Accordingly I went to the police station and inquired of the superintendent whether I could be permitted to attend. He was a North Briton, as I have stated somewhere before, and I had scraped acquaintance with him, and had got somewhat into his good graces by praising Dumfries, his native place, and descanting to him upon the beauties of the poetry of his celebrated countryman, my old friend, Allan Cunningham, some of whose works he had perused, and with whom as he said, he had once the honour of shaking hands. In reply to my question he told me that it was doubtful whether any examination would take place, as the wounded man was in a very weak state, but that if I would return in half- an-hour he would let me know. I went away, and at the end of the half-hour returned, when he told me that there would be no public examination, owing to the extreme debility of the wounded man, but that one of the magistrates was about to proceed to his house and take his deposition in the presence of the criminal and also of the witnesses of the deed, and that if I pleased I might go along with him, and he had no doubt that the magistrate would have no objection to my being present. We set out together; as we were going along I questioned him about the state of the country, and gathered from him that there was occasionally a good deal of crime in Wales.

"Are the Welsh a clannish people?" I demanded.

"Very," said he.

"As clannish as the Highlanders?" said I.

"Yes," said he, "and a good deal more."

We came to the house of the wounded butcher, which was some way out of the town in the north-western suburb. The magistrate was in the lower apartment with the clerk, one or two officials, and the surgeon of the town. He was a gentleman of about two or three and forty, with a military air and large moustaches, for besides being a justice of the peace and a landed proprietor, he was an officer in the army. He made me a polite bow when I entered, and I requested of him permission to be present at the examination. He hesitated a moment and then asked me my motive for wishing to be present at it.

"Merely curiosity," said I.

He then observed that as the examination would be a private one, my being permitted or not was quite optional.

"I am aware of that," said I, "and if you think my remaining is objectionable I will forthwith retire." He looked at the clerk, who said there could be no objection to my staying, and turning round to his superior said something to him which I did not hear, whereupon the magistrate again bowed and said that he should he very happy to grant my request.

We went upstairs and found the wounded man in bed with a bandage round his forehead, and his wife sitting by his bedside. The magistrate and his officials took their seats, and I was accommodated with a chair. Presently the prisoner was introduced under the charge of a policeman. He was a fellow somewhat above thirty, of the middle size, and wore a dirty white frock coat; his right arm was partly confined by a manacle. A young girl was sworn, who deposed that she saw the prisoner run after the other with something in his hand. The wounded man was then asked whether he thought he was able to make a deposition; he replied in a very feeble tone that he thought he was, and after being sworn deposed that on the preceding Saturday, as he was going to his stall, the prisoner came up to him and asked whether he had ever done him any injury? he said no. "I then," said he, "observed the prisoner's countenance undergo a change, and saw him put his hand to his waistcoat-pocket and pull out a knife. I straight became frightened, and ran away as fast as I could; the prisoner followed, and overtaking me, stabbed me in the face. I ran into the yard of a public-house and into the shop of an acquaintance, where I fell down, the blood spouting out of my wound." Such was the deposition of the wounded butcher. He was then asked whether there had been any quarrel between him and the prisoner? He said there had been no quarrel, but that he had refused to drink with the prisoner when he requested him, which he had done very frequently, and had more than once told him that he did not wish for his acquaintance. The prisoner, on being asked, after the usual caution, whether he had anything to say, said that he merely wished to mark the man but not to kill him. The surgeon of the place deposed to the nature of the wound, and on being asked his opinion with respect to the state of the prisoner's mind, said that he believed that he might be labouring under a delusion. After the prisoner's bloody weapon and coat had been produced he was committed.

It was generally said that the prisoner was disordered in his mind; I held my tongue, but judging from his look and manner I saw no reason to suppose that he was any more out of his senses than I myself, or any person present, and I had no doubt that what induced him to commit the act was rage at being looked down upon by a quondam acquaintance, who was rising a little in the world, exacerbated by the reflection that the disdainful quondam acquaintance was one of the Saxon race, against which every Welshman entertains a grudge more or less virulent, which, though of course, very unchristianlike, is really, brother Englishman, after the affair of the long knives, and two or three other actions of a somewhat similar character of our noble Anglo-Saxon progenitors, with which all Welshmen are perfectly well acquainted, not very much to be wondered at.


The Dylluan - The Oldest Creatures.

MUCH rain fell about the middle of the month; in the intervals of the showers I occasionally walked by the banks of the river which speedily became much swollen; it was quite terrible both to the sight and ear near the "Robber's Leap;" there were breakers above the higher stones at least five feet high and a roar around almost sufficient "to scare a hundred men." The pool of Lingo was strangely altered; it was no longer the quiet pool which it was in summer, verifying the words of the old Welsh poet that the deepest pool of the river is always the stillest in the summer and of the softest sound, but a howling turbid gulf, in which branches of trees, dead animals and rubbish were whirling about in the wildest confusion. The nights were generally less rainy than the days, and sometimes by the pallid glimmer of the moon I would take a stroll along some favourite path or road. One night as I was wandering slowly along the path leading through the groves of Pen y Coed I was startled by an unearthly cry - it was the shout of the dylluan or owl, as it flitted over the tops of the trees on its nocturnal business.

Oh, that cry of the dylluan! what a strange wild cry it is; how unlike any other sound in nature! a cry which no combination of letters can give the slightest idea of. What resemblance does Shakespear's to-whit-to-whoo bear to the cry of the owl? none whatever; those who hear it for the first time never know what it is, however accustomed to talk of the cry of the owl and to-whit- to-whoo. A man might be wandering through a wood with Shakespear's owl-chorus in his mouth, but were he then to hear for the first time the real shout of the owl he would assuredly stop short and wonder whence that unearthly cry could proceed.

Yet no doubt that strange cry is a fitting cry for the owl, the strangest in its habits and look of all birds, the bird of whom by all nations the strangest tales are told. Oh, what strange tales are told of the owl, especially in connection with its long- lifedness; but of all the strange wild tales connected with the age of the owl, strangest of all is the old Welsh tale. When I heard the owl's cry in the groves of Pen y Coed that tale rushed into my mind. I had heard it from the singular groom who had taught me to gabble Welsh in my boyhood, and had subsequently read it in an old tattered Welsh story-book, which by chance fell into my hands. The reader will perhaps be obliged by my relating it.

"The eagle of the alder grove, after being long married and having had many children by his mate, lost her by death, and became a widower. After some time he took it into his head to marry the owl of the Cowlyd Coomb; but fearing he should have issue by her, and by that means sully his lineage, he went first of all to the oldest creatures in the world in order to obtain information about her age. First he went to the stag of Ferny-side Brae, whom he found sitting by the old stump of an oak, and inquired the age of the owl. The stag said: 'I have seen this oak an acorn which is now lying on the ground without either leaves or bark: nothing in the world wore it up but my rubbing myself against it once a day when I got up, so I have seen a vast number of years, but I assure you that I have never seen the owl older or younger than she is to-day. However, there is one older than myself, and that is the salmon- trout of Glyn Llifon.' To him went the eagle and asked him the age of the owl and got for answer: 'I have a year over my head for every gem on my skin and for every egg in my roe, yet have I always seen the owl look the same; but there is one older than myself, and that is the ousel of Cilgwry.' Away went the eagle to Cilgwry, and found the ousel standing upon a little rock, and asked him the age of the owl. Quoth the ousel: 'You see that the rock below me is not larger than a man can carry in one of his hands: I have seen it so large that it would have taken a hundred oxen to drag it, and it has never been worn save by my drying my beak upon it once every night, and by my striking the tip of my wing against it in rising in the morning, yet never have I known the owl older or younger than she is to-day. However, there is one older than I, and that is the toad of Cors Fochnod; and unless he knows her age no one knows it.' To him went the eagle and asked the age of the owl, and the toad replied: 'I have never eaten anything save what I have sucked from the earth, and have never eaten half my fill in all the days of my life; but do you see those two great hills beside the cross? I have seen the place where they stand level ground, and nothing produced those heaps save what I discharged from my body, who have ever eaten so very little - yet never have I known the owl anything else but an old hag who cried Too-hoo-hoo, and scared children with her voice even as she does at present.' So the eagle of Gwernabwy; the stag of Ferny-side Brae; the salmon trout of Glyn Llifon; the ousel of Cilgwry; the toad of Cors Fochnod, and the owl of Coomb Cowlyd are the oldest creatures in the world; the oldest of them all being the owl."


Chirk - The Middleton Family - Castell y Waen - The Park - The Court Yard - The Young Housekeeper - The Portraits - Melin y Castell - Humble Meal - Fine Chests for the Dead - Hales and Hercules.

THE weather having become fine, myself and family determined to go and see Chirk Castle, a mansion ancient and beautiful, and abounding with all kinds of agreeable and romantic associations. It was founded about the beginning of the fifteenth century by a St John, Lord of Bletsa, from a descendant of whom it was purchased in the year 1615 by Sir Thomas Middleton, the scion of an ancient Welsh family who, following commerce, acquired a vast fortune, and was Lord Mayor of London. In the time of the great civil war it hoisted the banner of the king, and under Sir Thomas, the son of the Lord Mayor, made a brave defence against Lambert, the Parliamentary General, though eventually compelled to surrender. It was held successively by four Sir Thomas Middletons, and if it acquired a war-like celebrity under the second, it obtained a peculiarly hospitable one under the fourth, whose daughter, the fruit of a second marriage, became Countess of Warwick and eventually the wife of the poet and moralist Addison. In his time the hospitality of Chirk became the theme of many a bard, particularly of Huw Morris, who, in one of his songs, has gone so far as to say that were the hill Cefn Uchaf turned into beef and bread, and the rill Ceiriog into beer or wine, they would be consumed in half a year by the hospitality of Chirk. Though no longer in the hands of one of the name of Middleton, Chirk Castle is still possessed by one of the blood, the mother of the present proprietor being the eldest of three sisters, lineal descendants of the Lord Mayor, between whom in default of an heir male the wide possessions of the Middleton family were divided. This gentleman, who bears the name of Biddulph, is Lord Lieutenant of the county of Denbigh, and notwithstanding his war-breathing name, which is Gothic, and signifies Wolf of Battle, is a person of highly amiable disposition, and one who takes great interest in the propagation of the Gospel of peace and love.

To view this place, which, though in English called Chirk Castle, is styled in Welsh Castell y Waen, or the Castle of the Meadow, we started on foot about ten o'clock of a fine bright morning, attended by John Jones. There are two roads from Llangollen to Chirk, one the low or post road, and the other leading over the Berwyn. We chose the latter. We passed by the Yew Cottage, which I have described on a former occasion, and began to ascend the mountain, making towards its north-eastern corner. The road at first was easy enough, but higher up became very steep, and somewhat appalling, being cut out of the side of the hill which shelves precipitously down towards the valley of the Dee. Near the top of the mountain were three lofty beech-trees growing on the very verge of the precipice. Here the road for about twenty yards is fenced on its dangerous side by a wall, parts of which are built between the stems of the trees. Just beyond the wall a truly noble prospect presented itself to our eyes. To the north were bold hills, their sides and skirts adorned with numerous woods and white farm-houses; a thousand feet below us was the Dee and its wondrous Pont y Cysultau. John Jones said that if certain mists did not intervene we might descry "the sea of Liverpool"; and perhaps the only thing wanting to make the prospect complete, was that sea of Liverpool. We were, however, quite satisfied with what we saw, and turning round the corner of the hill, reached its top, where for a considerable distance there is level ground, and where, though at a great altitude, we found ourselves in a fair and fertile region, and amidst a scene of busy rural life. We saw fields and inclosures, and here and there corn-stacks, some made, and others not yet completed, about which people were employed, and waggons and horses moving. Passing over the top of the hill, we began to descend the southern side, which was far less steep than the one we had lately surmounted. After a little way, the road descended through a wood, which John Jones told us was the beginning of "the Park of Biddulph."

"There is plenty of game in this wood," said he; "pheasant cocks and pheasant hens, to say nothing of hares and coneys; and in the midst of it there is a space sown with a particular kind of corn for the support of the pheasant hens and pheasant cocks, which in the shooting-season afford pleasant sport for Biddulph and his friends."

Near the foot of the descent, just where the road made a turn to the east, we passed by a building which stood amidst trees, with a pond and barns near it.

"This," said John Jones, "is the house where the bailiff lives who farms and buys and sells for Biddulph, and fattens the beeves and swine, and the geese, ducks, and other poultry which Biddulph consumes at his table."

The scenery was now very lovely, consisting of a mixture of hill and dale, open space and forest, in fact the best kind of park scenery. We caught a glimpse of a lake in which John Jones said there were generally plenty of swans, and presently saw the castle, which stands on a green grassy slope, from which it derives its Welsh name of Castell y Waen; gwaen in the Cumrian language signifying a meadow or uninclosed place. It fronts the west, the direction from which we were coming; on each side it shows five towers, of which the middlemost, which protrudes beyond the rest, and at the bottom of which is the grand gate, is by far the bulkiest. A noble edifice it looked, and to my eye bore no slight resemblance to Windsor Castle.

Seeing a kind of ranger, we inquired of him what it was necessary for us to do, and by his direction proceeded to the southern side of the castle, and rung the bell at a small gate. The southern side had a far more antique appearance than the western; huge towers with small windows, and partly covered with ivy, frowned down upon us. A servant making his appearance, I inquired whether we could see the house; he said we could, and that the housekeeper would show it to us in a little time but that at present she was engaged. We entered a large quadrangular court: on the left-hand side was a door and staircase leading into the interior of the building, and farther on was a gateway, which was no doubt the principal entrance from the park. On the eastern side of the spacious court was a kennel, chained to which was an enormous dog, partly of the bloodhound, partly of the mastiff species, who occasionally uttered a deep magnificent bay. As the sun was hot, we took refuge from it under the gateway, the gate of which, at the further end, towards the park, was closed. Here my wife and daughter sat down on a small brass cannon, seemingly a six-pounder, which stood on a very dilapidated carriage; from the appearance of the gun, which was of an ancient form, and very much battered, and that of the carriage, I had little doubt that both had been in the castle at the time of the siege. As my two loved ones sat, I walked up and down, recalling to my mind all I had heard and read in connection with this castle. I thought of its gallant defence against the men of Oliver; I thought of its roaring hospitality in the time of the fourth Sir Thomas; and I thought of the many beauties who had been born in its chambers, had danced in its halls, had tripped across its court, and had subsequently given heirs to illustrious families.

At last we were told that she housekeeper was waiting for us. The housekeeper, who was a genteel, good-looking young woman, welcomed us at the door which led into the interior of the house. After we had written our names, she showed us into a large room or hall on the right-hand side on the ground floor, where were some helmets and ancient halberts, and also some pictures of great personages. The floor was of oak, and so polished and slippery, that walking upon it was attended with some danger. Wishing that John Jones, our faithful attendant, who remained timidly at the doorway, should participate with us in the wonderful sights we were about to see, I inquired of the housekeeper whether he might come with us. She replied with a smile that it was not the custom to admit guides into the apartments, but that he might come, provided he chose to take off his shoes; adding, that the reason she wished him to take off his shoes was, an apprehension that if he kept them on he would injure the floors with their rough nails. She then went to John Jones, and told him in English that he might attend us, provided he took off his shoes; poor John, however, only smiled and said "Dim Saesneg!"

"You must speak to him in your native language," said I, "provided you wish him to understand you - he has no English."

"I am speaking to him in my native language," said the young housekeeper, with another smile - "and if he has no English, I have no Welsh."

"Then you are English?" said I.

"Yes," she replied, "a native of London."

"Dear me," said I. "Well, it's no bad thing to be English after all; and as for not speaking Welsh, there are many in Wales who would be glad to have much less Welsh than they have." I then told John Jones the condition on which he might attend us, whereupon he took off his shoes with great glee and attended us, holding them in his hand.

We presently went upstairs, to what the housekeeper told us was the principal drawing-room, and a noble room it was, hung round with the portraits of kings and queens, and the mighty of the earth. Here, on canvas, was noble Mary, the wife of William of Orange, and her consort by her side, whose part like a true wife she always took. Here was wretched Mary of Scotland, the murderess of her own lord. Here were the two Charleses and both the Dukes of Ormond - the great Duke who fought stoutly in Ireland against Papist and Roundhead; and the Pretender's Duke who tried to stab his native land, and died a foreign colonel. And here, amongst other daughters of the house, was the very proud daughter of the house, the Warwick Dowager who married the Spectator, and led him the life of a dog. She looked haughty and cold, and not particularly handsome; but I could not help gazing with a certain degree of interest and respect on the countenance of the vixen, who served out the gentility worshipper in such prime style. Many were the rooms which we entered, of which I shall say nothing, save that they were noble in size and rich in objects of interest. At last we came to what was called the picture gallery. It was a long panelled room, extending nearly the whole length of the northern side. The first thing which struck us on entering was the huge skin of a lion stretched out upon the floor; the head, however, which was towards the door, was stuffed, and with its monstrous teeth looked so formidable and life-like, that we were almost afraid to touch it. Against every panel was a portrait; amongst others was that of Sir Thomas Middleton, the stout governor of the castle, during the time of the siege. Near to it was the portrait of his rib, Dame Middleton. Farther down on the same side were two portraits of Nell Gwynn; the one painted when she was a girl; the other when she had attained a more mature age. They were both by Lely, the Apelles of the Court of wanton Charles. On the other side was one of the Duke of Gloucester, the son of Queen Anne, who, had he lived, would have kept the Georges from the throne. In this gallery on the southern side was a cabinet of ebony and silver, presented by Charles the Second to the brave warrior Sir Thomas, and which, according to tradition, cost seven thousand pounds. This room, which was perhaps the most magnificent in the castle, was the last we visited. The candle of God, whilst we wandered through these magnificent halls, was flaming in the firmament, and its rays, penetrating through the long narrow windows, showed them off, and all the gorgeous things which they contained to great advantage. When we left the castle we all said, not excepting John Jones, that we had never seen in our lives anything more princely and delightful than the interior.

After a little time, my wife and daughter complaining of being rather faint, I asked John Jones whether there was an inn in the neighbourhood where some refreshment could be procured. He said there was, and that he would conduct us to it. We directed our course towards the east, rousing successively, and setting a- scampering, three large herds of deer - the common ones were yellow and of no particular size - but at the head of each herd we observed a big old black fellow with immense antlers; one of these was particularly large, indeed as huge as a bull. We soon came to the verge of a steep descent, down which we went, not without some risk of falling. At last we came to a gate; it was locked; however, on John Jones shouting, an elderly man with his right hand bandaged, came and opened it. I asked him what was the matter with his hand, and he told me that he had lately lost three fingers whilst working at a saw-mill up at the castle. On my inquiring about the inn he said he was the master of it, and led the way to a long neat low house, nearly opposite to a little bridge over a brook, which ran down the valley towards the north. I ordered some ale and bread-and-butter, and whilst our repast was being got ready John Jones and I went to the bridge.

"This bridge, sir," said John, "is called Pont y Velin Castell, the bridge of the Castle Mill; the inn was formerly the mill of the castle, and is still called Melin y Castell. As soon as you are over this bridge you are in shire Amwythig, which the Saxons call Shropshire. A little way up on yon hill is Clawdd Offa or Offa's dyke, built of old by the Brenin Offa in order to keep us poor Welsh within our bounds."

As we stood on the bridge I inquired of Jones the name of the brook which was running merrily beneath it.

"The Ceiriog, sir," said John, "the same river that we saw at Pont y Meibion."

"The river," said I, "which Huw Morris loved so well, whose praises he has sung, and which he has introduced along with Cefn Uchaf in a stanza in which he describes the hospitality of Chirk Castle in his day, and which runs thus:

"Pe byddai 'r Cefn Ucha,
Yn gig ac yn fara,
A Cheiriog fawr yma'n fir aml bob tro,
Rhy ryfedd fae iddyn'
Barhau hanner blwyddyn,
I wyr bob yn gan-nyn ar ginio."

"A good penill that, sir," said John Jones. "Pity that the halls of great people no longer flow with rivers of beer, nor have mountains of bread and beef for all comers."

"No pity at all," said I; "things are better as they are. Those mountains of bread and beef, and those rivers of ale merely encouraged vassalage, fawning and idleness; better to pay for one's dinner proudly and independently at one's inn, than to go and cringe for it at a great man's table."

We crossed the bridge, walked a little way up the hill which was beautifully wooded, and then retraced our steps to the little inn, where I found my wife and daughter waiting for us, and very hungry. We sat down, John Jones with us, and proceeded to despatch our bread-and-butter and ale. The bread-and-butter were good enough, but the ale poorish. Oh, for an Act of Parliament to force people to brew good ale! After finishing our humble meal, we got up and having paid our reckoning went back into the park, the gate of which the landlord again unlocked for us.

We strolled towards the north along the base of the hill. The imagination of man can scarcely conceive a scene more beautiful than the one which we were now enjoying. Huge oaks studded the lower side of the hill, towards the top was a belt of forest, above which rose the eastern walls of the castle; the whole forest, castle and the green bosom of the hill glorified by the lustre of the sun. As we proceeded we again roused the deer, and again saw three old black fellows, evidently the patriarchs of the herds, with their white enormous horns; with these ancient gentlefolks I very much wished to make acquaintance, and tried to get near them, but no! they would suffer no such thing; off they glided, their white antlers, like the barked top boughs of old pollards, glancing in the sunshine, the smaller dapple creatures following them bounding and frisking. We had again got very near the castle, when John Jones told me that if we would follow him he would show us something very remarkable; I asked him what it was.

"Llun Cawr," he replied. "The figure of a giant."

"What giant?" said I.

But on this point he could give me no information. I told my wife and daughter what he had said, and finding that they wished to see the figure, I bade John Jones lead us to it. He led us down an avenue just below the eastern side of the castle; noble oaks and other trees composed it, some of them probably near a hundred feet high; John Jones observing me looking at them with admiration, said:

"They would make fine chests for the dead, sir."

What an observation! how calculated, amidst the most bounding joy and bliss, to remind man of his doom! A moment before I had felt quite happy, but now I felt sad and mournful. I looked at my wife and daughter, who were gazing admiringly on the beauteous scenes around them, and remembered that in a few short years at most we should all three be laid in the cold narrow house formed of four elm or oaken boards, our only garment the flannel shroud, the cold damp earth above us, instead of the bright glorious sky. Oh, how sad and mournful I became! I soon comforted myself, however, by reflecting that such is the will of Heaven, and that Heaven is good.

After we had descended the avenue some way John Jones began to look about him, and getting on the bank on the left side disappeared. We went on, and in a little time saw him again beckoning to us some way farther down, but still on the bank. When we drew nigh to him he bade us get on the bank; we did so and followed him some way, midst furze and lyng. All of a sudden he exclaimed, "There it is!" We looked and saw a large figure standing on a pedestal. On going up to it we found it to be a Hercules leaning on his club, indeed a copy of the Farnese Hercules, as we gathered from an inscription in Latin partly defaced. We felt rather disappointed, as we expected that it would have turned out to be the figure of some huge Welsh champion of old. We, however, said nothing to our guide. John Jones, in order that we might properly appreciate the size of the statue by contrasting it with his own body, got upon the pedestal and stood up beside the figure, to the elbow of which his head little more than reached.

I told him that in my country, the eastern part of Lloegr, I had seen a man quite as tall as the statue.

"Indeed, sir," said he; "who is it?"

"Hales the Norfolk giant," I replied, "who has a sister seven inches shorter than himself, who is yet seven inches taller than any man in the county when her brother is out of it."

When John Jones got down he asked me who the man was whom the statue was intended to represent.

"Erchwl," I replied, "a mighty man of old, who with club cleared the country of thieves, serpents, and monsters."

I now proposed that we should return to Llangollen, whereupon we retraced our steps, and had nearly reached the farm-house of the castle when John Jones said that we had better return by the low road, by doing which we should see the castle-lodge and also its gate which was considered one of the wonders of Wales. We followed his advice and passing by the front of the castle northwards soon came to the lodge. The lodge had nothing remarkable in its appearance, but the gate which was of iron was truly magnificent.

On the top were two figures of wolves which John Jones supposed to be those of foxes. The wolf of Chirk is not intended to be expressive of the northern name of its proprietor, but as the armorial bearing of his family by the maternal side, and originated in one Ryred, surnamed Blaidd or Wolf from his ferocity in war, from whom the family, which only assumed the name of Middleton in the beginning of the thirteenth century, on the occasion of its representative marrying a rich Shropshire heiress of that name, traces descent.

The wolf of Chirk is a Cambrian not a Gothic wolf, and though "a wolf of battle," is the wolf not of Biddulph but of Ryred.

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

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