Picture of George Borrow

George Borrow

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Inn at Mallwyd - A Dialogue - The Cumro.

I ENTERED the inn, and seeing a comely-looking damsel at the bar, I told her that I was in need of supper and a bed. She conducted me into a neat sanded parlour, where a good fire was blazing, and asked me what I would have for supper. "Whatever you can most readily provide," said I; "I am not particular." The maid retired, and taking off my hat, and disencumbering myself of my satchel, I sat down before the fire and fell into a doze, in which I dreamed of some of the wild scenes through which I had lately passed.

I dozed and dozed till I was roused by the maid touching me on the shoulder and telling me that supper was ready. I got up and perceived that during my doze she had laid the cloth and put supper upon the table. It consisted of bacon and eggs. During supper I had some conversation with the maid.

MYSELF. - Are you a native of this place?

MAID. - I am not, sir; I come from Dinas.

MYSELF. - Are your parents alive?

MAID. - My mother is alive, sir, but my father is dead.

MYSELF. - Where does your mother live?

MAID. - At Dinas, sir.

MYSELF. - How does she support herself?

MAID. - By letting lodgings to miners, sir.

MYSELF. - Are the miners quiet lodgers?

MAID. - Not always, sir; sometimes they get up at night and fight with each other.

MYSELF. - What does your mother do on those occasions?

MAID. - She draws the quilt over her head, and says her prayers, sir.

MYSELF. - Why doesn't she get up and part them?

MAID. - Lest she should get a punch or a thwack for her trouble, sir.

MYSELF. - Of what religion are the miners?

MAID. - They are Methodists, if they are anything; but they don't trouble their heads much about religion.

MYSELF. - Of what religion are you?

MAID. - I am of the Church, sir.

MYSELF. - Did you always belong to the Church?

MAID. - Not always. When I was at Dinas I used to hear the preacher, but since I have been here I have listened to the clergyman.

MYSELF. - Is the clergyman here a good man?

MAID. - A very good man indeed, sir. He lives close by. Shall I go and tell him you want to speak to him?

MYSELF. - Oh dear me, no! He can employ his time much more usefully than in waiting upon me.

After supper I sat quiet for about an hour. Then ringing the bell, I inquired of the maid whether there was a newspaper in the house. She told me there was not, but that she thought she could procure me one. In a little time she brought me a newspaper, which she said she had borrowed at the parsonage. It was the CUMRO, an excellent Welsh journal written in the interest of the Church. In perusing its columns I passed a couple of hours very agreeably, and then went to bed.


Mallwyd and its Church - Sons of Shoemakers - Village Inn - Dottings.

THE next day was the thirty-first of October, and was rather fine for the season. As I did not intend to journey farther this day than Machynlleth, a principal town in Montgomeryshire, distant only twelve miles, I did not start from Mallwyd till just before noon.

Mallwyd is a small but pretty village. The church is a long edifice standing on a slight elevation on the left of the road. Its pulpit is illustrious from having for many years been occupied by one of the very celebrated men of Wales, namely Doctor John Davies, author of the great Welsh and Latin dictionary, an imperishable work. An immense yew tree grows in the churchyard, and partly overshadows the road with its branches. The parsonage stands about a hundred yards to the south of the church, near a grove of firs. The village is overhung on the north by the mountains of the Arran range, from which it is separated by the murmuring Dyfi. To the south for many miles the country is not mountainous, but presents a pleasant variety of hill and dale.

After leaving the village a little way behind me I turned round to take a last view of the wonderful region from which I had emerged on the previous evening. Forming the two sides of the pass down which comes "the royal river" stood the Dinas mountain and Cefn Coch, the first on the left, and the other on the right. Behind, forming the background of the pass, appearing, though now some miles distant, almost in my proximity, stood Pen Dyn. This hill has various names, but the one which I have noted here, and which signifies the head of a man, perhaps describes it best. From where I looked at it on that last day of October it certainly looked like an enormous head, and put me in mind of the head of Mambrino, mentioned in the master work which commemorates the achievements of the Manchegan knight. This mighty mountain is the birthplace of more than one river. If the Gerres issues from its eastern side, from its western springs the Maw, that singularly picturesque stream, which enters the ocean at the place which the Saxons corruptly call Barmouth and the Cumry with great propriety Aber Maw, or the disemboguement of the Maw.

Just as I was about to pursue my journey two boys came up, bound in the same direction as myself. One was a large boy dressed in a waggoner's frock, the other was a little fellow in a brown coat and yellowish trowsers. As we walked along together I entered into conversation with them. They came from Dinas Mawddwy. The large boy told me that he was the son of a man who carted mwyn or lead ore, and the little fellow that he was the son of a shoemaker. The latter was by far the cleverest, and no wonder, for the son of shoemakers are always clever, which assertion should anybody doubt I beg him to attend the examinations at Cambridge, at which he will find that in three cases out of four the senior wranglers are the sons of shoemakers. From this little chap I got a great deal of information about Pen Dyn, every part of which he appeared to have traversed. He told me amongst other things that there was a castle upon it. Like a true son of a shoemaker, however, he was an arch rogue. Coming to a small house with a garden attached to it in which there were apple-trees, he stopped, whilst I went on with the other boy, and after a minute or two came up running with a couple of apples in his hand.

"Where did you get those apples?" said I; "I hope you did not steal them."

He made no reply, but bit one, then making a wry face he flung it away, and so he served the other. Presently afterwards, coming to a side lane, the future senior wrangler, for a senior wrangler he is destined to be, always provided he finds his way to Cambridge, darted down it like an arrow, and disappeared.

I continued my way with the other lad, occasionally asking him questions about the mines of Mawddwy. The information, however, which I obtained from him was next to nothing, for he appeared to be as heavy as the stuff which his father carted. At length we reached a village forming a kind of semicircle on a green which looked something like a small English common. To the east were beautiful green hills; to the west the valley with the river running through it, beyond which rose other green hills yet more beautiful than the eastern ones. I asked the lad the name of the place, but I could not catch what he said, for his answer was merely an indistinct mumble, and before I could question him again he left me, without a word of salutation, and trudged away across the green.

Descending a hill I came to a bridge, under which ran a beautiful river, which came foaming down from a gulley between two of the eastern hills. From a man whom I met I learned that the bridge was called Pont Coomb Linau, and that the name of the village I had passed was Linau. The river carries an important tribute to the Dyfi, at least it did when I saw it, though perhaps in summer it is little more than a dry water-course.

Half-an-hour's walking brought me from this place to a small town or large village, with a church at the entrance and the usual yew tree in the churchyard. Seeing a kind of inn I entered it, and was shown by a lad-waiter into a large kitchen, in which were several people. I had told him in Welsh that I wanted some ale, and as he opened the door he cried with a loud voice, "Cumro!" as much as to say, Mind what you say before this chap, for he understands Cumraeg - that word was enough. The people, who were talking fast and eagerly as I made my appearance, instantly became silent and stared at me with most suspicious looks. I sat down, and when my ale was brought I took a hearty draught, and observing that the company were still watching me suspiciously and maintaining the same suspicious silence, I determined to comport myself in a manner which should to a certain extent afford them ground for suspicion. I therefore slowly and deliberately drew my note-book out of my waistcoat pocket, unclasped it, took my pencil from the loops at the side of the book, and forthwith began to dot down observations upon the room and company, now looking to the left, now to the right, now aloft, now alow, now skewing at an object, now leering at an individual, my eyes half closed and my mouth drawn considerably aside. Here follow some of my dottings:-

"A very comfortable kitchen with a chimney-corner on the south side - immense grate and brilliant fire - large kettle hanging over it by a chain attached to a transverse iron bar - a settle on the left-hand side of the fire - seven fine large men near the fire - two upon the settle, two upon chairs, one in the chimney-corner smoking a pipe, and two standing up - table near the settle with glasses, amongst which is that of myself, who sit nearly in the middle of the room a little way on the right-hand side of the fire.

"The floor is of slate; a fine brindled greyhound lies before it on the hearth, and a shepherd's dog wanders about, occasionally going to the door and scratching as if anxious to get out. The company are dressed mostly in the same fashion, brown coats, broad-brimmed hats, and yellowish corduroy breeches with gaiters. One who looks like a labouring man has a white smock and a white hat, patched trowsers, and highlows covered with gravel - one has a blue coat.

"There is a clock on the right-hand side of the kitchen; a warming- pan hangs close by it on the projecting side of the chimney-corner. On the same side is a large rack containing many plates and dishes of Staffordshire ware. Let me not forget a pair of fire-irons which hang on the right-hand side of the chimney-corner!"

I made a great many more dottings, which I shall not insert here. During the whole time I was dotting the most marvellous silence prevailed in the room, broken only by the occasional scratching of the dog against the inside of the door, the ticking of the clock, and the ruttling of the smoker's pipe in the chimney-corner. After I had dotted to my heart's content I closed my book, put the pencil into the loops, then the book into my pocket, drank what remained of my ale, got up, and, after another look at the apartment and its furniture, and a leer at the company, departed from the house without ceremony, having paid for the ale when I received it. After walking some fifty yards down the street I turned half round and beheld, as I knew I should, the whole company at the door staring after me. I leered sideways at them for about half a minute, but they stood my leer stoutly. Suddenly I was inspired by a thought. Turning round I confronted them, and pulling my note- book out of my pocket, and seizing my pencil, I fell to dotting vigorously. That was too much for them. As if struck by a panic, my quondam friends turned round and bolted into the house; the rustic-looking man with the smock-frock and gravelled highlows nearly falling down in his eagerness to get in.

The name of the place where this adventure occurred was Cemmaes.


The Deaf Man - Funeral Procession - The Lone Family - The Welsh and their Secrets - The Vale of the Dyfi - The Bright Moon.

A LITTLE way from Cemmaes I saw a respectable-looking old man like a little farmer, to whom I said:

"How far to Machynlleth?"

Looking at me in a piteous manner in the face he pointed to the side of his head, and said - "Dim clywed."

It was no longer no English, but no hearing.

Presently I met one yet more deaf. A large procession of men came along the road. Some distance behind them was a band of women and between the two bands was a kind of bier drawn by a horse with plumes at each of the four corners. I took off my hat and stood close against the hedge on the right-hand side till the dead had passed me some way to its final home.

Crossed a river, which like that on the other side of Cemmaes streamed down from a gulley between two hills into the valley of the Dyfi. Beyond the bridge on the right-hand side of the road was a pretty cottage, just as there was in the other locality. A fine tall woman stood at the door, with a little child beside her. I stopped and inquired in English whose body it was that had just been borne by.

"That of a young man, sir, the son of a farmer, who lives a mile or so up the road."

MYSELF. - He seems to have plenty of friends.

WOMAN. - Oh yes, sir, the Welsh have plenty of friends both in life and death.

MYSELF. - A'n't you Welsh, then?

WOMAN. - Oh no, sir, I am English, like yourself, as I suppose.

MYSELF. - Yes, I am English. What part of England do you come from?

WOMAN. - Shropshire, sir.

MYSELF. - Is that little child yours?

WOMAN. - Yes, sir, it is my husband's child and mine.

MYSELF. - I suppose your husband is Welsh.

WOMAN. - Oh no, sir, we are all English.

MYSELF. - And what is your husband?

WOMAN. - A little farmer, sir, he farms about forty acres under Mrs -.

MYSELF. - Well, are you comfortable here?

WOMAN. - Oh dear me, no, sir, we are anything but comfortable. Here we are three poor lone creatures in a strange land, without a soul to speak to but one another. Every day of our lives we wish we had never left Shropshire.

MYSELF. - Why don't you make friends amongst your neighbours?

WOMAN. - Oh, sir, the English cannot make friends amongst the Welsh. The Welsh won't neighbour with them, or have anything to do with them, except now and then in the way of business.

MYSELF. - I have occasionally found the Welsh very civil.

WOMAN. - Oh yes, sir, they can be civil enough to passers-by, especially those who they think want nothing from them - but if you came and settled amongst them you would find them, I'm afraid, quite the contrary.

MYSELF. - Would they be uncivil to me if I could speak Welsh?

WOMAN. - Most particularly, sir; the Welsh don't like any strangers, but least of all those who speak their language.

MYSELF. - Have you picked up anything of their language?

WOMAN. - Not a word, sir, nor my husband neither. They take good care that we shouldn't pick up a word of their language. I stood the other day and listened whilst two women were talking just where you stand now, in the hope of catching a word, and as soon as they saw me they passed to the other side of the bridge, and began buzzing there. My poor husband took it into his head that he might possibly learn a word or two at the public-house, so he went there, called for a jug of ale and a pipe, and tried to make himself at home just as he might in England, but it wouldn't do. The company instantly left off talking to one another and stared at him, and before he could finish his pot and pipe took themselves off to a man, and then came the landlord, and asked him what he meant by frightening away his customers. So my poor husband came home as pale as a sheet, and sitting down in a chair said, "Lord, have mercy upon me!"

MYSELF. - Why are the Welsh afraid that strangers should pick up their language?

WOMAN. - Lest, perhaps, they should learn their secrets, sir!

MYSELF. - What secrets have they?

WOMAN. - The Lord above only knows, sir!

MYSELF. - Do you think they are hatching treason against Queen Victoria?

WOMAN. - Oh dear no, sir.

MYSELF. - Is there much murder going on amongst them?

WOMAN. - Nothing of the kind, sir.

MYSELF. - Cattle-stealing?

WOMAN. - Oh no, sir!

MYSELF. - Pig-stealing?

WOMAN. - No, sir!

MYSELF. - Duck or hen stealing?

WOMAN. - Haven't lost a duck or hen since I have been here, sir.

MYSELF. - Then what secrets can they possibly have?

WOMAN. - I don't know, sir! perhaps none at all, or at most only a pack of small nonsense that nobody would give three farthings to know. However, it is quite certain they are as jealous of strangers hearing their discourse as if they were plotting gunpowder treason or something worse.

MYSELF. - Have you been long here?

WOMAN. - Only since last May, sir! and we hope to get away by next, and return to our own country, where we shall have some one to speak to.

MYSELF. - Good-bye!

WOMAN. - Good-bye, sir, and thank you for your conversation; I haven't had such a treat of talk for many a weary day.

The Vale of the Dyfi became wider and more beautiful as I advanced. The river ran at the bottom amidst green and seemingly rich meadows. The hills on the farther side were cultivated a great way up, and various neat farm-houses were scattered here and there on their sides. At the foot of one of the most picturesque of these hills stood a large white village. I wished very much to know its name, but saw no one of whom I could inquire. I proceeded for about a mile, and then perceiving a man wheeling stones in a barrow for the repairing of the road I thought I would inquire of him. I did so, but the village was then out of sight, and though I pointed in its direction and described its situation I could not get its name out of him. At last I said hastily, "Can you tell me your own name?"

"Dafydd Tibbot, sir," said he.

"Tibbot, Tibbot," said I; "why, you are a Frenchman."

"Dearie me, sir," said the man, looking very pleased, "am I, indeed?"

"Yes, you are," said I, rather repenting of my haste, and giving him sixpence, I left him.

"I'd bet a trifle," said I to myself, as I walked away, that this poor creature is the descendant of some desperate Norman Tibault who helped to conquer Powisland under Roger de Montgomery or Earl Baldwin. How striking that the proud old Norman names are at present only borne by people in the lowest station. Here's a Tibbot or Tibault harrowing stones on a Welsh road, and I have known a Mortimer munching poor cheese and bread under a hedge on an English one. How can we account for this save by the supposition that the descendants of proud, cruel, and violent men - and who so proud, cruel and violent, as the old Normans - are doomed by God to come to the dogs?"

Came to Pont Velin Cerrig, the bridge of the mill of the Cerrig, a river which comes foaming down from between two rocky hills. This bridge is about a mile from Machynlleth, at which place I arrived at about five o'clock in the evening - a cool, bright moon shining upon me. I put up at the principal inn, which was of course called the Wynstay Arms.


Welsh Poems - Sessions Business - The Lawyer and his Client - The Court - The Two Keepers - The Defence.

DURING supper I was waited upon by a brisk, buxom maid who told me that her name was Mary Evans. The repast over, I ordered a glass of whiskey and water, and when it was brought I asked the maid if she could procure me some book to read. She said she was not aware of any book in the house which she could lay her hand on except one of her own, which if I pleased she would lend me. I begged her to do so. Whereupon she went out and presently returned with a very small volume, which she laid on the table and then retired. After taking a sip of my whiskey and water I proceeded to examine it. It turned out to be a volume of Welsh poems entitled "Blodau Glyn Dyfi"; or, Flowers of Glyn Dyfi, by one Lewis Meredith, whose poetical name is Lewis Glyn Dyfi. The author indites his preface from Cemmaes, June, 1852. The best piece is called Dyffryn Dyfi, and is descriptive of the scenery of the vale through which the Dyfi runs. It commences thus:

"Heddychol ddyffryn tlws,"
Peaceful, pretty vale,

and contains many lines breathing a spirit of genuine poetry.

The next day I did not get up till nine, having no journey before me, as I intended to pass that day at Machynlleth. When I went down to the parlour I found another guest there, breakfasting. He was a tall, burly, and clever-looking man of about thirty-five. As we breakfasted together at the same table we entered into conversation. I learned from him that he was an attorney from a town at some distance, and was come over to Machynlleth to the petty sessions, to be held that day, in order to defend a person accused of spearing a salmon in the river. I asked him who his client was.

"A farmer," said he, "a tenant of Lord V-, who will probably preside over the bench which will try the affair."

"Oh," said I, "a tenant spearing his landlord's fish - that's bad."

"No," said he, "the fish which he speared, that is, which he is accused of spearing, did not belong to his landlord but to another person; he hires land of Lord V-, but the fishing of the river which runs through that land belongs to Sir Watkin."

"Oh, then," said I, "supposing he did spear the salmon I shan't break my heart if you get him off: do you think you shall?"

"I don't know," said he. "There's the evidence of two keepers against him; one of whom I hope, however, to make appear a scoundrel, in whose oath the slightest confidence is not to be placed. I shouldn't wonder if I make my client appear a persecuted lamb. The worst is, that he has the character of being rather fond of fish, indeed of having speared more salmon than any other six individuals in the neighbourhood."

"I really should like to see him," said I; "what kind of person is he? - some fine, desperate-looking fellow, I suppose?"

"You will see him presently," said the lawyer; "he is in the passage waiting till I call him in to take some instructions from him; and I think I had better do so now, for I have breakfasted, and time is wearing away."

He then got up, took some papers out of a carpet bag, sat down, and after glancing at them for a minute or two, went to the door and called to somebody in Welsh to come in. Forthwith in came a small, mean, wizzened-faced man of about sixty, dressed in a black coat and hat, drab breeches and gaiters, and looking more like a decayed Methodist preacher than a spearer of imperial salmon.

"Well," said the attorney, "This is my client, what do you think of him?"

"He is rather a different person from what I had expected to see," said I; "but let us mind what we say or we shall offend him."

"Not we," said the attorney; "that is, unless we speak Welsh, for he understands not a word of any other language."

Then sitting down at the further table he said to his client in Welsh: "Now, Mr So-and-so, have you learnt anything more about that first keeper?"

The client bent down, and placing both his hands upon the table began to whisper in Welsh to his professional adviser. Not wishing to hear any of their conversation I finished my breakfast as soon as possible and left the room. Going into the inn-yard I had a great deal of learned discourse with an old ostler about the glanders in horses. From the inn-yard I went to my own private room and made some dottings in my note-book, and then went down again to the parlour, which I found unoccupied. After sitting some time before the fire I got up, and strolling out, presently came to a kind of marketplace, in the middle of which stood an old- fashioned-looking edifice supported on pillars. Seeing a crowd standing round it I asked what was the matter, and was told that the magistrates were sitting in the town-hall above, and that a grand poaching case was about to be tried. "I may as well go and hear it," said I.

Ascending a flight of steps I found myself in the hall of justice, in the presence of the magistrates and amidst a great many people, amongst whom I observed my friend the attorney and his client. The magistrates, upon the whole, were rather a fine body of men. Lord V- was in the chair, a highly intelligent-looking person, with fresh complexion, hooked nose, and dark hair. A policeman very civilly procured me a commodious seat. I had scarcely taken possession of it when the poaching case was brought forward. The first witness against the accused was a fellow dressed in a dirty snuff-coloured suit, with a debauched look, and having much the appearance of a town shack. He deposed that he was a hired keeper, and went with another to watch the river at about four o'clock in the morning; that they placed themselves behind a bush, and that a little before day-light they saw the farmer drive some cattle across the river. He was attended by a dog. Suddenly they saw him put a spear upon a stick which he had in his hand, run back to the river, and plunging the spear in, after a struggle, pull out a salmon; that they then ran forward, and he himself asked the farmer what he was doing, whereupon the farmer flung the salmon and spear into the river and said that if he did not take himself off he would fling him in too. The attorney then got up and began to cross-question him. "How long have you been a keeper?"

"About a fortnight."

"What do you get a week?"

"Ten shillings."

"Have you not lately been in London?"

"I have."

"What induced you to go to London?"

"The hope of bettering my condition."

"Were you not driven out of Machynlleth?"

"I was not."

"Why did you leave London?"

"Because I could get no work, and my wife did not like the place."

"Did you obtain possession of the salmon and the spear?"

"I did not."

"Why didn't you?"

"The pool was deep where the salmon was struck, and I was not going to lose my life by going into it."

"How deep was it?"

"Over the tops of the houses," said the fellow, lifting up his hands.

The other keeper then came forward; he was brother to the former, but had much more the appearance of a keeper, being rather a fine fellow, and dressed in a wholesome, well-worn suit of velveteen. He had no English, and what he said was translated by a sworn interpreter. He gave the same evidence as his brother about watching behind the bush, and seeing the farmer strike a salmon. When cross-questioned, however, he said that no words passed between the farmer and his brother, at least, that he heard. The evidence for the prosecution being given, my friend the attorney entered upon the defence. He said that he hoped the court were not going to convict his client, one of the most respectable farmers in the county, on the evidence of two such fellows as the keepers, one of whom was a well-known bad one, who for his evil deeds had been driven from Machynlleth to London, and from London back again to Machynlleth, and the other, who was his brother, a fellow not much better, and who, moreover, could not speak a word of English - the honest lawyer forgetting no doubt that his own client had just as little English as the keeper. He repeated that he hoped the court would not convict his respectable client on the evidence of these fellows, more especially as they flatly contradicted each other in one material point, one saying that words had passed between the farmer and himself, and the other that no words at all had passed, and were unable to corroborate their testimony by anything visible or tangible. If his client speared the salmon and then flung the salmon with the spear sticking in its body into the pool, why didn't they go into the pool and recover the spear and salmon? They might have done so with perfect safety, there being an old proverb - he need not repeat it - which would have secured them from drowning had the pool been not merely over the tops of the houses but over the tops of the steeples. But he would waive all the advantage which his client derived from the evil character of the witnesses, the discrepancy of their evidence, and their not producing the spear and salmon in court. He would rest the issue of the affair with confidence, on one argument, on one question; it was this. Would any man in his senses - and it was well known that his client was a very sensible man - spear a salmon not his own when he saw two keepers close at hand watching him - staring at him? Here the chairman observed that there was no proof that he saw them - that they were behind a bush. But my friend the attorney very properly, having the interest of his client and his own character for consistency in view, stuck to what he had said, and insisted that the farmer must have seen them, and he went on reiterating that he must have seen them, notwithstanding that several magistrates shook their heads.

Just as he was about to sit down I moved up behind him and whispered: "Why don't you mention the dog? Wouldn't the dog have been likely to have scented the fellows out even if they had been behind the bush?"

He looked at me for a moment and then said with a kind of sigh: "No, no! twenty dogs would be of no use here. It's no go - I shall leave the case as it is."

The court was cleared for a time, and when the audience were again admitted Lord V- said that the Bench found the prisoner guilty; that they had taken into consideration what his counsel had said in his defence, but that they could come to no other conclusion, more especially as the accused was known to have been frequently guilty of similar offences. They fined him four pounds, including costs.

As the people were going out I said to the farmer in Welsh: "A bad affair this."

"Drwg iawn" - very bad indeed, he replied.

"Did these fellows speak truth?" said I.

"Nage - Dim ond celwydd" - not they! nothing but lies.

"Dear me!" said I to myself, "what an ill-treated individual!"


Machynlleth - Remarkable Events - Ode to Glendower - Dafydd Gam - Lawdden's Hatchet.

MACHYNLLETH, pronounced Machuncleth, is one of the principal towns of the district which the English call Montgomeryshire, and the Welsh Shire Trefaldwyn or the Shire of Baldwin's town, Trefaldwyn or the town of Baldwin being the Welsh name for the town which is generally termed Montgomery. It is situated in nearly the centre of the valley of the Dyfi, amidst pleasant green meadows, having to the north the river, from which, however, it is separated by a gentle hill. It possesses a stately church, parts of which are of considerable antiquity, and one or two good streets. It is a thoroughly Welsh town, and the inhabitants, who amount in number to about four thousand, speak the ancient British language with considerable purity.

Machynlleth has been the scene of remarkable events, and is connected with remarkable names, some of which have rung through the world. At Machynlleth, in 1402, Owen Glendower, after several brilliant victories over the English, held a parliament in a house which is yet to be seen in the Eastern Street, and was formally crowned King of Wales; in his retinue was the venerable bard Iolo Goch, who, imagining that he now saw the old prophecy fulfilled, namely, that a prince of the race of Cadwaladr should rule the Britons, after emancipating them from the Saxon yoke, greeted the chieftain with an ode, to the following effect:-

"Here's the life I've sigh'd for long:
Abash'd is now the Saxon throng,
And Britons have a British lord
Whose emblem is the conquering sword;
There's none I trow but knows him well,
The hero of the watery dell,
Owain of bloody spear in field,
Owain his country's strongest shield;
A sovereign bright in grandeur drest,
Whose frown affrights the bravest breast.
Let from the world upsoar on high
A voice of splendid prophecy!
All praise to him who forth doth stand
To 'venge his injured native land!
Of him - of him a lay I'll frame
Shall bear through countless years his name,
In him are blended portents three,
Their glories blended sung shall be:
There's Oswain, meteor of the glen,
The head of princely generous men;
Owain the lord of trenchant steel,
Who makes the hostile squadrons reel;
Owain, besides, of warlike look,
A conqueror who no stay will brook;
Hail to the lion leader gay!
Marshaller of Griffith's war array;
The scourger of the flattering race,
For them a dagger has his face;
Each traitor false he loves to smite,
A lion is he for deeds of might;
Soon may he tear, like lion grim,
All the Lloegrians limb from limb!
May God and Rome's blest father high
Deck him in surest panoply!
Hail to the valiant carnager,
Worthy three diadems to bear!
Hail to the valley's belted king!
Hail to the widely conquering,
The liberal, hospitable, kind,
Trusty and keen as steel refined!
Vigorous of form he nations bows,
Whilst from his breast-plate bounty flows.
Of Horsa's seed on hill and plain
Four hundred thousand he has slain.
The copestone of our nation's he,
In him our weal, our all we see;
Though calm he looks his plans when breeding,
Yet oaks he'd break his clans when leading.
Hail to this partisan of war,
This bursting meteor flaming far!
Where'er he wends, Saint Peter guard him,
And may the Lord five lives award him!"

To Machynlleth on the occasion of the parliament came Dafydd Gam, so celebrated in after time; not, however, with the view of entering into the councils of Glendower, or of doing him homage, but of assassinating him. This man, whose surname Gam signifies crooked, was a petty chieftain of Breconshire. He was small of stature and deformed in person, though possessed of great strength. He was very sensitive of injury, though quite as alive to kindness; a thorough-going enemy and a thorough-going friend. In the earlier part of his life he had been driven from his own country for killing a man, called Big Richard of Slwch, in the High Street of Aber Honddu or Brecon, and had found refuge in England and kind treatment in the house of John of Gaunt, for whose son Henry, generally called Bolingbroke, he formed one of his violent friendships. Bolingbroke, on becoming King Henry the Fourth, not only restored the crooked little Welshman to his possessions, but gave him employments of great trust and profit in Herefordshire. The insurrection of Glendower against Henry was quite sufficient to kindle against him the deadly hatred of Dafydd, who swore "by the nails of God" that he would stab his countryman for daring to rebel against his friend King Henry, the son of the man who had received him in his house and comforted him when his own countrymen were threatening his destruction. He therefore went to Machynlleth with the full intention of stabbing Glendower, perfectly indifferent as to what might subsequently be his own fate. Glendower, however, who had heard of his threat, caused him to be seized and conducted in chains to a prison which he had in the mountains of Sycharth. Shortly afterwards, passing through Breconshire with his host, he burnt Dafydd's house - a fair edifice called the Cyrnigwen, situated on a hillock near the river Honddu - to the ground, and seeing one of Gam's dependents gazing mournfully on the smouldering ruins he uttered the following taunting englyn:-

"Shouldst thou a little red man descry
Asking about his dwelling fair,
Tell him it under the bank doth lie,
And its brow the mark of the coal doth bear."

Dafydd remained confined till the fall of Glendower, shortly after which event he followed Henry the Fifth to France, where he achieved that glory which will for ever bloom, dying, covered with wounds, on the field of Agincourt after saving the life of the king, to whom in the dreadest and most critical moment of the fight he stuck closer than a brother, not from any abstract feeling of loyalty, but from the consideration that King Henry the Fifth was the son of King Henry the Fourth, who was the son of the man who received and comforted him in his house, after his own countrymen had hunted him from house and land.

Connected with Machynlleth is a name not so widely celebrated as those of Glendower and Dafydd Gam, but well known to and cherished by the lovers of Welsh song. It is that of Lawdden, a Welsh bard in holy orders, who officiated as priest at Machynlleth from 1440 to 1460. But though Machynlleth was his place of residence for many years, it was not the place of his birth, Lychwr in Carmarthenshire being the spot where he first saw the light. He was an excellent poet, and displayed in his compositions such elegance of language, and such a knowledge of prosody, that it was customary, long after his death, when any masterpiece of vocal song or eloquence was produced, to say that it bore the traces of Lawdden's hatchet. At the request of Griffith ap Nicholas, a powerful chieftain of South Wales, and a great patron of the Muse, he drew up a statute relating to poets and poetry, and at the great Eisteddfodd, or poetical congress, held at Carmarthen in the year 1450, under the auspices of Griffith, which was attended by the most celebrated bards of the north and south, he officiated as judge, in conjunction with the chieftain, upon the compositions of the bards who competed for the prize - a little silver chair. Not without reason, therefore, do the inhabitants of Machynlleth consider the residence of such a man within their walls, though at a far by-gone period, as conferring a lustre on their town, and Lewis Meredith has probability on his side when, in his pretty poem on Glen Dyfi, he says:-

"Whilst fair Machynlleth decks thy quiet plain,
Conjoined with it shall Lawdden's name remain."

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

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