Picture of George Borrow

George Borrow

places mentioned

Upon Plynlimmon

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The Guide - The Great Plynlimmon - A Dangerous Path - Source of the Rheidol - Source of the Severn - Pennillion - Old Times and New - The Corpse Candle - Supper.

LEAVING the inn, my guide and myself began to ascend a steep hill just behind it. When we were about halfway up I asked my companion, who spoke very fair English, why the place was called the Castle.

"Because, sir," said he, "there was a castle here in the old time."

"Whereabouts was it?" said I.

"Yonder," said the man, standing still and pointing to the right. "Don't you see yonder brown spot in the valley? There the castle stood."

"But are there no remains of it?" said I. "I can see nothing but a brown spot."

"There are none, sir; but there a castle once stood, and from it the place we came from had its name, and likewise the river that runs down to Pont Erwyd."

"And who lived there?" said I.

"I don't know, sir," said the man; "but I suppose they were grand people, or they would not have lived in a castle."

After ascending the hill and passing over its top, we went down its western side and soon came to a black, frightful bog between two hills. Beyond the bog and at some distance to the west of the two hills rose a brown mountain, not abruptly, but gradually, and looking more like what the Welsh call a rhiw, or slope, than a mynydd, or mountain.

"That, sir," said my guide, "is the grand Plynlimmon."

"It does not look much of a hill," said I.

"We are on very high ground, sir, or it would look much higher. I question, upon the whole, whether there is a higher hill in the world. God bless Pumlummon Mawr!" said he, looking with reverence towards the hill. "I am sure I have a right to say so, for many is the good crown I have got by showing gentlefolks like yourself to the top of him."

"You talk of Plynlimmon Mawr, or the great Plynlymmon," said I; "where are the small ones?"

"Yonder they are," said the guide, pointing to two hills towards the north; "one is Plynlimmon Canol, and the other Plynlimmon Bach - the middle and the small Plynlimmon."

"Pumlummon," said I, "means five summits. You have pointed out only three; now, where are the other two?"

"Those two hills which we have just passed make up the five. However, I will tell your worship that there is a sixth summit. Don't you see that small hill connected with the big Pumlummon, on the right?"

"I see it very clearly," said I.

"Well, your worship, that's called Bryn y Llo - the Hill of the Calf, or the Calf Plynlimmon, which makes the sixth summit."

"Very good," said I, "and perfectly satisfactory. Now let us ascend the Big Pumlummon."

In about a quarter of an hour we reached the summit of the hill, where stood a large carn or heap of stones. I got upon the top and looked around me.

A mountainous wilderness extended on every side, a waste of russet coloured hills, with here and there a black, craggy summit. No signs of life or cultivation were to be discovered, and the eye might search in vain for a grove or even a single tree. The scene would have been cheerless in the extreme had not a bright sun lighted up the landscape.

"This does not seem to be a country of much society," said I to my guide.

"It is not, sir. The nearest house is the inn we came from, which is now three miles behind us. Straight before you there is not one for at least ten, and on either side it is an anialwch to a vast distance. Plunlummon is not a sociable country, sir; nothing to be found in it, but here and there a few sheep or a shepherd."

"Now," said I, descending from the carn, "we will proceed to the sources of the rivers."

"The ffynnon of the Rheidol is not far off," said the guide; "it is just below the hill."

We descended the western side of the hill for some way; at length, coming to a very craggy and precipitous place, my guide stopped, and pointing with his finger into the valley below, said:-

"There, sir, if you look down you can see the source of the Rheidol."

I looked down, and saw far below what appeared to be part of a small sheet of water.

"And that is the source of the Rheidol?" said I.

"Yes, sir," said my guide; "that is the ffynnon of the Rheidol."

"Well," said I; "is there no getting to it?"

"Oh yes! but the path, sir, as you see, is rather steep and dangerous."

"Never mind," said I. "Let us try it."

"Isn't seeing the fountain sufficient for you, sir?"

"By no means," said I. "It is not only necessary for me to see the sources of the rivers, but to drink of them, in order that in after times I may be able to harangue about them with a tone of confidence and authority."

"Then follow me, sir; but please to take care, for this path is more fit for sheep or shepherds than gentlefolk."

And a truly bad path I found it; so bad indeed that before I had descended twenty yards I almost repented having ventured. I had a capital guide, however, who went before and told me where to plant my steps. There was one particularly bad part, being little better than a sheer precipice; but even here I got down in safety with the assistance of my guide, and a minute afterwards found myself at the source of the Rheidol.

The source of the Rheidol is a small beautiful lake, about a quarter of a mile in length. It is overhung on the east and north by frightful crags, from which it is fed by a number of small rills. The water is of the deepest blue, and of very considerable depth. The banks, except to the north and east, slope gently down, and are clad with soft and beautiful moss. The river, of which it is the head, emerges at the south-western side, and brawls away in the shape of a considerable brook, amidst moss, and rushes down a wild glen tending to the south. To the west the prospect is bounded, at a slight distance, by high, swelling ground. If few rivers have a more wild and wondrous channel than the Rheidol, fewer still have a more beautiful and romantic source.

After kneeling down and drinking freely of the lake I said:

"Now, where are we to go to next?"

"The nearest ffynnon to that of the Rheidol, sir, is the ffynnon of the Severn."

"Very well," said I; "let us now go and see the ffynnon of the Severn!"

I followed my guide over a hill to the north-west into a valley, at the farther end of which I saw a brook streaming apparently to the south, where was an outlet.

"That brook," said the guide, "is the young Severn." The brook came from round the side of a very lofty rock, singularly variegated, black and white, the northern summit presenting something of the appearance of the head of a horse. Passing round this crag we came to a fountain surrounded with rushes, out of which the brook, now exceedingly small, came murmuring.

"The crag above," said my guide, "is called Crag y Cefyl, or the Rock of the Horse, and this spring at its foot is generally called the ffynnon of the Hafren. However, drink not of it, master; for the ffynnon of the Hafren is higher up the nant. Follow me, and I will presently show you the real ffynnon of the Hafren."

I followed him up a narrow and very steep dingle. Presently we came to some beautiful little pools of water in the turf, which was here remarkably green.

"These are very pretty pools, an't they, master?" said my companion. "Now, if I was a false guide I might bid you stoop and drink, saying that these were the sources of the Severn; but I am a true cyfarwydd, and therefore tell you not to drink, for these pools are not the sources of the Hafren, no more than the spring below. The ffynnon of the Severn is higher up the nant. Don't fret, however, but follow me, and we shall be there in a minute."

So I did as he bade me, following him without fretting higher up the nant. Just at the top he halted and said: "Now, master, I have conducted you to the source of the Severn. I have considered the matter deeply, and have come to the conclusion that here, and here only, is the true source. Therefore stoop down and drink, in full confidence that you are taking possession of the Holy Severn."

The source of the Severn is a little pool of water some twenty inches long, six wide, and about three deep. It is covered at the bottom with small stones, from between which the water gushes up. It is on the left-hand side of the nant, as you ascend, close by the very top. An unsightly heap of black turf-earth stands right above it to the north. Turf-heaps, both large and small, are in abundance in the vicinity.

After taking possession of the Severn by drinking at its source, rather a shabby source for so noble a stream, I said, "Now let us go to the fountain of the Wye."

"A quarter of an hour will take us to it, your honour," said the guide, leading the way.

The source of the Wye, which is a little pool, not much larger than that which constitutes the fountain of the Severn, stands near the top of a grassy hill which forms part of the Great Plynlimmon. The stream after leaving its source runs down the hill towards the east, and then takes a turn to the south. The Mountains of the Severn and the Wye are in close proximity to each other. That of the Rheidol stands somewhat apart front both, as if, proud of its own beauty, it disdained the other two for their homeliness. All three are contained within the compass of a mile.

"And now, I suppose, sir, that our work is done, and we may go back to where we came from," said my guide, as I stood on the grassy hill after drinking copiously of the fountain of the Wye.

"We may," said I; "but before we do I must repeat some lines made by a man who visited these sources, and experienced the hospitality of a chieftain in this neighbourhood four hundred years ago." Then taking off my hat, I lifted up my voice and sang:-

"From high Plynlimmon's shaggy side
Three streams in three directions glide;
To thousands at their mouths who tarry
Honey, gold and mead they carry.
Flow also from Plynlimmon high
Three streams of generosity;
The first, a noble stream indeed,
Like rills of Mona runs with mead;
The second bears from vineyards thick
Wine to the feeble and the sick;
The third, till time shall be no more,
Mingled with gold shall silver pour."

"Nice pennillion, sir, I daresay," said my guide, "provided a person could understand them. What's meant by all this mead, wine, gold, and silver?"

"Why," said I, "the bard meant to say that Plynlimmon, by means of its three channels, sends blessings and wealth in three different directions to distant places, and that the person whom he came to visit, and who lived on Plynlimmon, distributed his bounty in three different ways, giving mead to thousands at his banquets, wine from the vineyards of Gascony to the sick and feeble of the neighbourhood, and gold and silver to those who were willing to be tipped, amongst whom no doubt was himself, as poets have never been above receiving a present."

"Nor above asking for one, your honour; there's a prydydd in this neighbourhood who will never lose a shilling for want of asking for it. Now, sir, have the kindness to tell me the name of the man who made those pennillion."

"Lewis Glyn Cothi," said I; "at least, it was he who made the pennillion from which those verses are translated."

"And what was the name of the gentleman whom he came to visit?"

"His name," said I, "was Dafydd ab Thomas Vychan."

"And where did he live?"

"Why, I believe, he lived at the castle, which you told me once stood on the spot which you pointed out as we came up. At any rate, he lived somewhere upon Plynlimmon."

"I wish there was some rich gentleman at present living on Plynlimmon," said my guide; "one of that sort is much wanted."

"You can't have everything at the same time," said I; "formerly you had a chieftain who gave away wine and mead, and occasionally a bit of gold or silver, but then no travellers and tourists came to see the wonders of the hills, for at that time nobody cared anything about hills; at present you have no chieftain, but plenty of visitors, who come to see the hills and the sources, and scatter plenty of gold about the neighbourhood."

We now bent our steps homeward, bearing slightly to the north, going over hills and dales covered with gorse and ling. My guide walked with a calm and deliberate gait, yet I had considerable difficulty in keeping up with him. There was, however, nothing surprising in this; he was a shepherd walking on his own hill, and having first-rate wind, and knowing every inch of the ground, made great way without seeming to be in the slightest hurry: I would not advise a road-walker, even if he be a first-rate one, to attempt to compete with a shepherd on his own, or indeed any hill; should he do so, the conceit would soon be taken out of him.

After a little time we saw a rivulet running from the west.

"This ffrwd," said my guide, "is called Frennig. It here divides shire Trefaldwyn from Cardiganshire, one in North and the other in South Wales."

Shortly afterwards we came to a hillock of rather a singular shape.

"This place, sir," said he, "is called Eisteddfa."

"Why is it called so?" said I. "Eisteddfa means the place where people sit down."

"It does so," said the guide, "and it is called the place of sitting because three men from different quarters of the world once met here, and one proposed that they should sit down."

"And did they?" said I.

"They did, sir; and when they had sat down they told each other their histories."

"I should be glad to know what their histories were," said I.

"I can't exactly tell you what they were, but I have heard say that there was a great deal in them about the Tylwyth Teg or fairies."

"Do you believe in fairies?" said I.

"I do, sir; but they are very seldom seen, and when they are they do no harm to anybody. I only wish there were as few corpse- candles as there are Tylwith Teg, and that they did as little harm."

"They foreshow people's deaths, don't they?" said I.

"They do, sir; but that's not all the harm they do. They are very dangerous for anybody to meet with. If they come bump up against you when you are walking carelessly it's generally all over with you in this world. I'll give you an example: A man returning from market from Llan Eglos to Llan Curig, not far from Plynlimmon, was struck down dead as a horse not long ago by a corpse-candle. It was a rainy, windy night, and the wind and rain were blowing in his face, so that he could not see it, or get out of its way. And yet the candle was not abroad on purpose to kill the man. The business that it was about was to prognosticate the death of a woman who lived near the spot, and whose husband dealt in wool - poor thing! she was dead and buried in less than a fortnight. Ah, master, I wish that corpse-candles were as few and as little dangerous as the Tylwith Teg or fairies."

We returned to the inn, where I settled with the honest fellow, adding a trifle to what I had agreed to give him. Then sitting down, I called for a large measure of ale, and invited him to partake of it. He accepted my offer with many thanks and bows, and as we sat and drank our ale we had a great deal of discourse about the places we had visited. The ale being finished, I got up and said:

"I must now be off for the Devil's Bridge!"

Whereupon he also arose, and offering me his hand, said:

"Farewell, master; I shall never forget you. Were all the gentlefolks who come here to see the sources like you, we should indeed feel no want in these hills of such a gentleman as is spoken of in the pennillion."

The sun was going down as I left the inn. I recrossed the streamlet by means of the pole and rail. The water was running with much less violence than in the morning, and was considerably lower. The evening was calm and beautifully cool, with a slight tendency to frost. I walked along with a bounding and elastic step, and never remember to have felt more happy and cheerful.

I reached the hospice at about six o'clock, a bright moon shining upon me, and found a capital supper awaiting me, which I enjoyed exceedingly.

How one enjoys one's supper at one's inn after a good day's walk, provided one has the proud and glorious consciousness of being able to pay one's reckoning on the morrow!


A Morning View - Hafod Ychdryd - The Monument - Fairy-looking Place - Edward Lhuyd.

THE morning of the sixth was bright and glorious. As I looked from the window of the upper sitting-room of the hospice the scene which presented itself was wild and beautiful to a degree. The oak- covered tops of the volcanic crater were gilded with the brightest sunshine, whilst the eastern sides remained in dark shade and the gap or narrow entrance to the north in shadow yet darker, in the midst of which shone the silver of the Rheidol cataract. Should I live a hundred years I shall never forget the wild fantastic beauty of that morning scene.

I left the friendly hospice at about nine o'clock to pursue my southern journey. By this time the morning had lost much of its beauty, and the dull grey sky characteristic of November began to prevail. The way lay up a hill to the south-east; on my left was a glen down which the river of the Monk rolled with noise and foam. The country soon became naked and dreary, and continued so for some miles. At length, coming to the top of a hill, I saw a park before me, through which the road led after passing under a stately gateway. I had reached the confines of the domain of Hafod.

Hafod Ychdryd, or the summer mansion of Uchtryd, has from time immemorial been the name of a dwelling on the side of a hill above the Ystwyth, looking to the east. At first it was a summer boothie or hunting lodge to Welsh chieftains, but subsequently expanded to the roomy, comfortable dwelling of Welsh squires, where hospitality was much practised and bards and harpers liberally encouraged. Whilst belonging to an ancient family of the name of Johnes, several members of which made no inconsiderable figure in literature, it was celebrated, far and wide, for its library, in which was to be found, amongst other treasures, a large collection of Welsh manuscripts on various subjects - history, medicine, poetry and romance. The house, however, and the library were both destroyed in a dreadful fire which broke out. This fire is generally called the great fire of Hafod, and some of those who witnessed it have been heard to say that its violence was so great that burning rafters mixed with flaming books were hurled high above the summits of the hills. The loss of the house was a matter of triviality compared with that of the library. The house was soon rebuilt, and probably, phoenix-like, looked all the better for having been burnt, but the library could never be restored. On the extinction of the family, the last hope of which, an angelic girl, faded away in the year 1811, the domain became the property of the late Duke of Newcastle, a kind and philanthrophic nobleman, and a great friend of agriculture, who held it for many years, and considerably improved it. After his decease it was purchased by the head of an ancient Lancashire family, who used the modern house as a summer residence, as the Welsh chieftains had used the wooden boothie of old.

I went to a kind of lodge, where I had been told that I should find somebody who would admit me to the church, which stood within the grounds and contained a monument which I was very desirous of seeing, partly from its being considered one of the masterpieces of the great Chantrey, and partly because it was a memorial to the lovely child, the last scion of the old family who had possessed the domain. A good-looking young woman, the only person whom I saw, on my telling my errand, forthwith took a key and conducted me to the church. The church was a neat edifice with rather a modern look. It exhibited nothing remarkable without, and only one thing remarkable within, namely, the monument, which was indeed worthy of notice, and which, had Chantrey executed nothing else, might well have entitled him to be considered, what the world has long pronounced him, the prince of British sculptors.

This monument, which is of the purest marble, is placed on the eastern side of the church, below a window of stained glass, and represents a truly affecting scene: a lady and gentleman are standing over a dying girl of angelic beauty, who is extended on a couch, and from whose hand a volume, the Book of Life, is falling. The lady is weeping.

Beneath is the following inscription -

To the Memory of
The only child of THOMAS and JANE JOHNES
Who died in 1811
After a few days' sickness
This monument is dedicated
By her parents.

An inscription worthy, by its simplicity and pathos, to stand below such a monument.

After presenting a trifle to the woman, who, to my great surprise, could not speak a word of English, I left the church, and descended the side of the hill, near the top of which it stands. The scenery was exceedingly beautiful. Below me was a bright green valley, at the bottom of which the Ystwyth ran brawling, now hid amongst groves, now showing a long stretch of water. Beyond the river to the east was a noble mountain, richly wooded. The Ystwyth, after a circuitous course, joins the Rheidol near the strand of the Irish Channel, which the united rivers enter at a place called Aber Ystwyth, where stands a lovely town of the same name, which sprang up under the protection of a baronial castle, still proud and commanding even in its ruins, built by Strongbow, the conqueror of the great western isle. Near the lower part of the valley the road tended to the south, up and down through woods and bowers, the scenery still ever increasing in beauty. At length, after passing through a gate and turning round a sharp corner, I suddenly beheld Hafod on my right hand, to the west at a little distance above me, on a rising ground, with a noble range of mountains behind it.

A truly fairy place it looked, beautiful but fantastic, in the building of which three styles of architecture seemed to have been employed. At the southern end was a Gothic tower; at the northern an Indian pagoda; the middle part had much the appearance of a Grecian villa. The walls were of resplendent whiteness, and the windows, which were numerous, shone with beautiful gilding. Such was modern Hafod, a strange contrast, no doubt, to the hunting lodge of old.

After gazing at this house of eccentric taste for about a quarter of an hour, sometimes with admiration, sometimes with a strong disposition to laugh, I followed the road, which led past the house in nearly a southerly direction. Presently the valley became more narrow, and continued narrowing till there was little more room than was required for the road and the river, which ran deep below it on the left-hand side. Presently I came to a gate, the boundary in the direction in which I was going of the Hafod domain.

Here, when about to leave Hafod, I shall devote a few lines to a remarkable man whose name should be ever associated with the place. Edward Lhuyd was born in the vicinity of Hafod about the period of the Restoration. His father was a clergyman, who after giving him an excellent education at home sent him to Oxford, at which seat of learning he obtained an honourable degree, officiated for several years as tutor, and was eventually made custodiary of the Ashmolean Museum. From his early youth he devoted himself with indefatigable zeal to the acquisition of learning. He was fond of natural history and British antiquities, but his favourite pursuit, and that in which he principally distinguished himself, was the study of the Celtic dialects; and it is but doing justice to his memory to say, that he was not only the best Celtic scholar of his time, but that no one has arisen since worthy to be considered his equal in Celtic erudition. Partly at the expense of the university, partly at that of various powerful individuals who patronized him, he travelled through Ireland, the Western Highlands, Wales, Cornwall and Armorica, for the purpose of collecting Celtic manuscripts. He was particularly successful in Ireland and Wales. Several of the most precious Irish manuscripts in Oxford, and also in the Chandos Library, were of Lhuyd's collection, and to him the old hall at Hafod was chiefly indebted for its treasures of ancient British literature. Shortly after returning to Oxford from his Celtic wanderings he sat down to the composition of a grand work in three parts, under the title of Archaeologia Britannica , which he had long projected. The first was to be devoted to the Celtic dialects; the second to British Antiquities, and the third to the natural history of the British Isles. He only lived to complete the first part. It contains various Celtic grammars and vocabularies, to each of which there is a preface written by Lhuyd in the particular dialect to which the vocabulary or grammar is devoted. Of all these prefaces the one to the Irish is the most curious and remarkable. The first part of the Archaeologia was published at Oxford in 1707, two years before the death of the author. Of his correspondence, which was very extensive, several letters have been published, all of them relating to philology, antiquities, and natural history.


An Adventure - Spytty Ystwyth - Wormwood.

SHORTLY after leaving the grounds of Hafod I came to a bridge over the Ystwyth. I crossed it, and was advancing along the road which led apparently to the south-east, when I came to a company of people who seemed to be loitering about. It consisted entirely of young men and women, the former with crimson favours, the latter in the garb of old Wales, blue tunics and sharp crowned hats. Going up to one of the young women, I said, "Petti yw? what's the matter!"

"Priodas (a marriage)," she replied, after looking at me attentively. I then asked her the name of the bridge, whereupon she gave a broad grin, and after some, little time replied: "Pont y Groes (the bridge of the cross)." I was about to ask her some other question when she turned away with a loud chuckle, and said something to another wench near her, who, grinning yet more uncouthly, said something to a third, who grinned too, and lifting up her hands and spreading her fingers wide, said: "Dyn oddi dir y Gogledd - a man from the north country, hee, hee!" Forthwith there was a general shout, the wenches crying: "A man from the north country, hee, hee!" and the fellows crying: "A man from the north country, hoo, hoo!"

"Is this the way you treat strangers in the south?" said I. But I had scarcely uttered the words when with redoubled shouts the company exclaimed: "There's Cumraeg! there's pretty Cumraeg. Go back, David, to shire Fon! That Cumraeg won't pass here."

Finding they disliked my Welsh I had recourse to my own language. "Really," said I in English, "such conduct is unaccountable. What do you mean?" But this only made matters worse, for the shouts grew louder still, and every one cried: "There's pretty English! Well, if I couldn't speak better English than that I'd never speak English at all. No, David; if you must speak at all, stick to Cumraeg." Then forthwith, all the company set themselves in violent motion, the women rushing up to me with their palms and fingers spread out in my face, without touching me, however, as they wheeled round me at about a yard's distance, crying: "A man from the north country, hee, hee!" and the fellows acting just in the same way, rushing up with their hands spread out, and then wheeling round me with cries of "A man from the north country, hoo, hoo!" I was so enraged that I made for a heap of stones by the road-side, intending to take some up and fling them at the company. Reflecting, however, that I had but one pair of hands and the company at least forty, and that by such an attempt at revenge I should only make myself ridiculous, I gave up my intention, and continued my journey at a rapid pace, pursued for a long way by "hee, hee," and "hoo, hoo," and: "Go back, David, to your goats in Anglesey, you are not wanted here."

I began to descend a hill forming the eastern side of an immense valley, at the bottom of which rolled the river. Beyond the valley to the west was an enormous hill, on the top of which was a most singular-looking crag, seemingly leaning in the direction of the south. On the right-hand side of the road were immense works of some kind in full play and activity, for engines were clanging and puffs of smoke were ascending from tall chimneys. On inquiring of a boy the name of the works I was told that they were called the works of Level Vawr, or the Great Level, a mining establishment; but when I asked him the name of the hill with the singular peak, on the other side of the valley, he shook his head and said he did not know. Near the top of the hill I came to a village consisting of a few cottages and a shabby-looking church. A rivulet descending from some crags to the east crosses the road, which leads through the place, and tumbling down the valley, joins the Ystwyth at the bottom. Seeing a woman standing at the door, I inquired the name of the village.

"Spytty Ystwyth," she replied, but she, no more than the boy down below, could tell me the name of the strange-looking hill across the valley. This second Spytty or monastic hospital, which I had come to, looked in every respect an inferior place to the first. Whatever its former state might have been, nothing but dirt and wretchedness were now visible. Having reached the top of the hill I entered upon a wild moory region. Presently I crossed a little bridge over a rivulet, and seeing a small house on the shutter of which was painted "cwrw," I went in, sat down on an old chair, which I found vacant, and said in English to an old woman who sat knitting by the window: "Bring me a pint of ale!"

"Dim Saesneg!" said the old woman.

"I told you to bring me a pint of ale," said I to her in her own language.

"You shall have it immediately, sir," said she, and going to a cask, she filled a jug with ale, and after handing it to me resumed her seat and knitting.

"It is not very bad ale," said I, after I had tasted it.

"It ought to be very good," said the old woman, "for I brewed it myself."

"The goodness of ale," said I, "does not so much depend on who brews it as on what it is brewed of. Now there is something in this ale which ought not to be. What is it made of?"

"Malt and hop."

"It tastes very bitter," said I. "Is there no chwerwlys13 in it?"

"I do not know what chwerwlys is," said the old woman.

"It is what the Saxons call wormwood," said I.

"Oh, wermod. No, there is no wermod in my beer, at least not much."

"Oh, then there is some; I thought there was. Why do you put such stuff into your ale?"

"We are glad to put it in sometimes when hops are dear, as they are this year. Moreover, wermod is not bad stuff, and some folks like the taste better than that of hops."

"Well, I don't. However, the ale is drinkable. What am I to give you for the pint?"

"You are to give me a groat."

"That is a great deal," said I, "for a groat I ought to have a pint of ale made of the best malt and hops."

"I give you the best I can afford. One must live by what one sells. I do not find that easy work."

"Is this house your own?"

"Oh no! I pay rent for it, and not a cheap one."

"Have you a husband?

"I had, but he is dead."

"Have you any children?"

"I had three, but they are dead too, and buried with my husband at the monastery."

"Where is the monastery?"

"A good way farther on, at the strath beyond Rhyd Fendigaid."

"What is the name of the little river by the house?"

"Avon Marchnad (Market River)."

"Why is it called Avon Marchnad?"

"Truly, gentleman, I cannot tell you."

I went on sipping my ale and finding fault with its bitterness till I had finished it, when getting up I gave the old lady her groat, bade her farewell, and departed.

13 Bitter root.

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

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