Picture of George Borrow

George Borrow

places mentioned

Llangollen to Cerrigydruidion

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An Expedition - Pont y Pandy - The Sabbath - Glendower's Mount - Burial Place of Old - Corwen - The Deep Glen - The Grandmother - The Roadside Chapel.

I WAS now about to leave Llangollen, for a short time, and to set out on an expedition to Bangor, Snowdon, and one or two places in Anglesea. I had determined to make the journey on foot, in order that I might have perfect liberty of action, and enjoy the best opportunities of seeing the country. My wife and daughter were to meet me at Bangor, to which place they would repair by the railroad, and from which, after seeing some of the mountain districts, they would return to Llangollen by the way they came, where I proposed to join them, returning, however, by a different way from the one I went, that I might traverse new districts. About eleven o'clock of a brilliant Sunday morning I left Llangollen, after reading the morning-service of the Church to my family. I set out on a Sunday because I was anxious to observe the general demeanour of the people, in the interior of the country, on the Sabbath.

I directed my course towards the west, to the head of the valley. My wife and daughter after walking with me about a mile bade me farewell, and returned. Quickening my pace I soon left Llangollen valley behind me and entered another vale, along which the road which I was following, and which led to Corwen and other places, might be seen extending for miles. Lumpy hills were close upon my left, the Dee running noisily between steep banks, fringed with trees, was on my right; beyond it rose hills which form part of the wall of the Vale of Clwyd; their tops bare, but their sides pleasantly coloured with yellow corn-fields and woods of dark verdure. About an hour's walking, from the time when I entered the valley, brought me to a bridge over a gorge, down which water ran to the Dee. I stopped and looked over the side of the bridge nearest to the hill. A huge rock about forty feet long by twenty broad, occupied the entire bed of the gorge, just above the bridge, with the exception of a little gullet to the right, down which between the rock and a high bank, on which stood a cottage, a run of water purled and brawled. The rock looked exactly like a huge whale lying on its side, with its back turned towards the runnel. Above it was a glen of trees. After I had been gazing a little time a man making his appearance at the door of the cottage just beyond the bridge I passed on, and drawing nigh to him, after a slight salutation, asked him in English the name of the bridge.

"The name of the bridge, sir," said the man, in very good English, "is Pont y Pandy."

"Does not that mean the bridge of the fulling mill?"

"I believe it does, sir," said the man.

"Is there a fulling mill near?"

"No, sir, there was one some time ago, but it is now a sawing mill."

Here a woman, coming out, looked at me steadfastly.

"Is that gentlewoman your wife?"

"She is no gentlewoman, sir, but she is my wife."

"Of what religion are you?"

"We are Calvinistic-Methodists, sir."

"Have you been to chapel?"

"We are just returned, sir."

Here the woman said something to her husband, which I did not hear, but the purport of which I guessed from the following question which he immediately put.

"Have you been to chapel, sir?"

"I do not go to chapel; I belong to the Church."

"Have you been to church, sir?"

"I have not - I said my prayers at home, and then walked out."

"It is not right to walk out on the Sabbath-day, except to go to church or chapel."

"Who told you so?"

"The law of God, which says you shall keep holy the Sabbath-day."

"I am not keeping it unholy."

"You are walking about, and in Wales when we see a person walking idly about, on the Sabbath-day, we are in the habit of saying, Sabbath-breaker, where are you going?"

"The Son of Man walked through the fields on the Sabbath-day, why should I not walk along the roads?"

"He who called Himself the Son of Man was God and could do what He pleased, but you are not God."

"But He came in the shape of a man to set an example. Had there been anything wrong in walking about on the Sabbath-day, He would not have done it."

Here the wife exclaimed, "How worldly-wise these English are!"

"You do not like the English," said I.

"We do not dislike them," said the woman; "at present they do us no harm, whatever they did of old."

"But you still consider them," said I, "the seed of Y Sarfes cadwynog, the coiling serpent."

"I should be loth to call any people the seed of the serpent," said the woman.

"But one of your great bards did," said I.

"He must have belonged to the Church, and not to the chapel then," said the woman. "No person who went to chapel would have used such bad words."

"He lived," said I, "before people were separated into those of the Church and the chapel; did you ever hear of Taliesin Ben Beirdd?"

"I never did," said the woman.

"But I have," said the man; "and of Owain Glendower too."

"Do people talk much of Owen Glendower in these parts?" said I.

"Plenty," said the man, "and no wonder, for when he was alive he was much about here - some way farther on there is a mount, on the bank of the Dee, called the mount of Owen Glendower, where it is said he used to stand and look out after his enemies."

"Is it easy to find?" said I.

"Very easy," said the man, "it stands right upon the Dee and is covered with trees; there is no mistaking it."

I bade the man and his wife farewell, and proceeded on my way. After walking about a mile, I perceived a kind of elevation which answered to the description of Glendower's mount, which the man by the bridge had given me. It stood on the right hand, at some distance from the road, across a field. As I was standing looking at it a man came up from the direction in which I myself had come. He was a middle-aged man, plainly but decently dressed, and had something of the appearance of a farmer.

"What hill may that be?" said I in English, pointing to the elevation.

"Dim Saesneg, sir," said the man, looking rather sheepish, "Dim gair o Saesneg."

Rather surprised that a person of his appearance should not have a word of English, I repeated my question in Welsh.

"Ah, you speak Cumraeg, sir;" said the man evidently surprised that a person of my English appearance should speak Welsh. "I am glad of it! What hill is that, you ask - Dyna Mont Owain Glyndwr, sir."

"Is it easy to get to?" said I.

"Quite easy, sir," said the man. "If you please I will go with you."

I thanked him, and opening a gate he conducted me across the field to the mount of the Welsh hero.

The mount of Owen Glendower stands close upon the southern bank of the Dee, and is nearly covered with trees of various kinds. It is about thirty feet high from the plain, and about the same diameter at the top. A deep black pool of the river which here runs far beneath the surface of the field, purls and twists under the northern side, which is very steep, though several large oaks spring out of it. The hill is evidently the work of art, and appeared to me to be some burying-place of old.

"And this is the hill of Owain Glyndwr?" said I.

"Dyma Mont Owain Glyndwr, sir, lle yr oedd yn sefyll i edrych am ei elvnion yn dyfod o Gaer Lleon. This is the hill of Owain Glendower, sir, where he was in the habit of standing to look out for his enemies coming from Chester."

"I suppose it was not covered with trees then?" said I.

"No, sir; it has not been long planted with trees. They say, however, that the oaks which hang over the river are very old."

"Do they say who raised this hill?"

"Some say that God raised it, sir; others that Owain Glendower raised it. Who do you think raised it?"

"I believe that it was raised by man, but not by Owen Glendower. He may have stood upon it, to watch for the coming of his enemies, but I believe it was here long before his time, and that it was raised over some old dead king by the people whom he had governed."

"Do they bury kings by the side of rivers, sir?"

"In the old time they did, and on the tops of mountains; they burnt their bodies to ashes, placed them in pots and raised heaps of earth or stones over them. Heaps like this have frequently been opened, and found to contain pots with ashes and bones."

"I wish all English could speak Welsh, sir."


"Because then we poor Welsh who can speak no English could learn much which we do not know."

Descending the monticle we walked along the road together. After a little time I asked my companion of what occupation he was and where he lived.

"I am a small farmer, sir," said he, "and live at Llansanfraid Glyn Dyfrdwy across the river."

"How comes it," said I, "that you do not know English?"

"When I was young," said he, "and could have easily learnt it, I cared nothing about it, and now that I am old and see its use, it is too late to acquire it."

"Of what religion are you?" said I.

"I am of the Church," he replied.

I was about to ask him if there were many people of his persuasion in these parts; before, however, I could do so he turned down a road to the right which led towards a small bridge, and saying that was his way home, bade me farewell and departed.

I arrived at Corwen which is just ten miles from Llangollen and which stands beneath a vast range of rocks at the head of the valley up which I had been coming, and which is called Glyndyfrdwy, or the valley of the Dee water. It was now about two o'clock, and feeling rather thirsty I went to an inn very appropriately called the Owen Glendower, being the principal inn in the principal town of what was once the domain of the great Owen. Here I stopped for about an hour refreshing myself and occasionally looking into a newspaper in which was an excellent article on the case of poor Lieutenant P. I then started for Cerrig-y-Drudion, distant about ten miles, where I proposed to pass the night. Directing my course to the north-west, I crossed a bridge over the Dee water and then proceeded rapidly along the road, which for some way lay between corn-fields, in many of which sheaves were piled up, showing that the Welsh harvest was begun. I soon passed over a little stream, the name of which I was told was Alowan. "Oh, what a blessing it is to be able to speak Welsh!" said I, finding that not a person to whom I addressed myself had a word of English to bestow upon me. After walking for about five miles I came to a beautiful but wild country of mountain and wood with here and there a few cottages. The road at length making an abrupt turn to the north, I found myself with a low stone wall on my left, on the verge of a profound ravine, and a high bank covered with trees on my right. Projecting out over the ravine was a kind of looking place, protected by a wall, forming a half-circle, doubtless made by the proprietor of the domain for the use of the admirers of scenery. There I stationed myself, and for some time enjoyed one of the wildest and most beautiful scenes imaginable. Below me was the deep narrow glen or ravine, down which a mountain torrent roared and foamed. Beyond it was a mountain rising steeply, its nearer side, which was in deep shade, the sun having long sunk below its top, hirsute with all kinds of trees, from the highest pinnacle down to the torrent's brink. Cut on the top surface of the wall, which was of slate, and therefore easily impressible by the knife, were several names, doubtless those of tourists, who had gazed from the look-out on the prospect, amongst which I observed in remarkably bold letters that of T . . . .

"Eager for immortality, Mr T.," said I; "but you are no H. M., no Huw Morris."

Leaving the looking place I proceeded, and, after one or two turnings, came to another, which afforded a view if possible yet more grand, beautiful and wild, the most prominent objects of which were a kind of devil's bridge flung over the deep glen and its foaming water, and a strange-looking hill beyond it, below which, with a wood on either side, stood a white farm-house - sending from a tall chimney a thin misty reek up to the sky. I crossed the bridge, which, however diabolically fantastical it looked at a distance, seemed when one was upon it, capable of bearing any weight, and soon found myself by the farm-house past which the way led. An aged woman sat on a stool by the door.

"A fine evening," said I in English.

"Dim Saesneg;" said the aged woman.

"Oh, the blessing of being able to speak Welsh," said I; and then repeated in that language what I had said to her in the other tongue.

"I daresay," said the aged woman, "to those who can see."

"Can you not see?"

"Very little. I am almost blind."

"Can you not see me?"

"I can see something tall and dark before me; that is all."

"Can you tell me the name of the bridge?"

"Pont y Glyn bin - the bridge of the glen of trouble."

"And what is the name of this place?"

"Pen y bont - the head of the bridge."

"What is your own name?"

"Catherine Hughes."

"How old are you?"

"Fifteen after three twenties."

"I have a mother three after four twenties; that is eight years older than yourself."

"Can she see?"

"Better than I - she can read the smallest letters."

"May she long be a comfort to you!"

"Thank you - are you the mistress of the house?"

"I am the grandmother."

"Are the people in the house?"

"They are not - they are at the chapel."

"And they left you alone?"

"They left me with my God."

"Is the chapel far from here?"

"About a mile."

"On the road to Cerrig y Drudion?"

"On the road to Cerrig y Drudion."

I bade her farewell, and pushed on - the road was good, with high rocky banks on each side. After walking about the distance indicated by the old lady, I reached a building, which stood on the right-hand side of the road, and which I had no doubt was the chapel, from a half-groaning, half-singing noise which proceeded from it. The door being open, I entered, and stood just within it, bare-headed. A rather singular scene presented itself. Within a large dimly-lighted room, a number of people were assembled, partly seated in rude pews, and partly on benches. Beneath a kind of altar, a few yards from the door, stood three men - the middlemost was praying in Welsh in a singular kind of chant, with his arms stretched out. I could distinguish the words, "Jesus descend among us! sweet Jesus descend among us - quickly." He spoke very slowly, and towards the end of every sentence dropped his voice, so that what he said was anything but distinct. As I stood within the door, a man dressed in coarse garments came up to me from the interior of the building, and courteously, and in excellent Welsh, asked me to come with him and take a seat. With equal courtesy, but far inferior Welsh, I assured him that I meant no harm, but wished to be permitted to remain near the door, whereupon with a low bow he left me. When the man had concluded his prayer, the whole of the congregation began singing a hymn, many of the voices were gruff and discordant, two or three, however, were of great power, and some of the female ones of surprising sweetness. At the conclusion of the hymn, another of the three men by the altar began to pray, just in the same manner as his comrade had done, and seemingly using much the same words. When he had done, there was another hymn, after which, seeing that the congregation was about to break up, I bowed my head towards the interior of the building, and departed.

Emerging from the hollow way, I found myself on a moor, over which the road lay in the direction of the north. Towards the west, at an immense distance, rose a range of stupendous hills, which I subsequently learned were those of Snowdon - about ten minutes' walking brought me to Cerrig y Drudion, a small village near a rocky elevation, from which, no doubt, the place takes its name, which interpreted, is the Rock of Heroes.


Cerrig y Drudion - The Landlady - Doctor Jones - Coll Gwynfa - The Italian - Men of Como - Disappointment - Weather - Glasses - Southey.

THE inn at Cerrig y Drudion was called the Lion - whether the white, black, red or green Lion, I do not know, though I am certain that it was a lion of some colour or other. It seemed as decent and respectable a hostelry as any traveller could wish, to refresh and repose himself in, after a walk of twenty miles. I entered a well-lighted passage, and from thence a well-lighted bar room, on the right hand, in which sat a stout, comely, elderly lady, dressed in silks and satins, with a cambric coif on her head, in company with a thin, elderly man with a hat on his head, dressed in a rather prim and precise manner. "Madam!" said I, bowing to the lady, "as I suppose you are the mistress of this establishment, I beg leave to inform you that I am an Englishman, walking through these regions, in order fully to enjoy their beauties and wonders. I have this day come from Llangollen, and being somewhat hungry and fatigued, hope I can be accommodated here with a dinner and a bed."

"Sir!" said the lady, getting up and making me a profound curtsey, "I am, as you suppose, the mistress of this establishment, and am happy to say that I shall be able to accommodate you - pray sit down, sir;" she continued, handing me a chair, "you must indeed be tired, for Llangollen is a great way from here."

I took the seat with thanks, and she resumed her own.

"Rather hot weather for walking, sir!" said the precise-looking gentleman.

"It is," said I; "but as I can't observe the country well without walking through it, I put up with the heat."

"You exhibit a philosophic mind, sir," said the precise-looking gentleman - "and a philosophic mind I hold in reverence."

"Pray, sir," said I, "have I the honour of addressing a member of the medical profession?"

"Sir," said the precise-looking gentleman, getting up and making me a bow, "your question does honour to your powers of discrimination - a member of the medical profession I am, though an unworthy one."

"Nay, nay, doctor," said the landlady briskly; "say not so - every one knows that you are a credit to your profession - well would it be if there were many in it like you - unworthy? marry come up! I won't hear such an expression."

"I see," said I, "that I have not only the honour of addressing a medical gentleman, but a doctor of medicine - however, I might have known as much by your language and deportment."

With a yet lower bow than before he replied with something of a sigh, "No, sir, no, our kind landlady and the neighbourhood are in the habit of placing doctor before my name, but I have no title to it - I am not Doctor Jones, sir, but plain Geffery Jones at your service," and thereupon with another bow he sat down.

"Do you reside here?" said I.

"Yes, sir, I reside here in the place of my birth - I have not always resided here - and I did not always expect to spend my latter days in a place of such obscurity, but, sir, misfortunes - misfortunes . . ."

"Ah," said I, "misfortunes! they pursue every one, more especially those whose virtues should exempt them from them. Well, sir, the consciousness of not having deserved them should be your consolation."

"Sir," said the doctor, taking off his hat, "you are infinitely kind."

"You call this an obscure place," said I - "can that be an obscure place which has produced a poet? I have long had a respect for Cerrig y Drudion because it gave birth to, and was the residence of a poet of considerable merit."

"I was not aware of that fact," said the doctor, "pray what was his name?"

"Peter Lewis," said I; "he was a clergyman of Cerrig y Drudion about the middle of the last century, and amongst other things wrote a beautiful song called Cathl y Gair Mwys, or the melody of the ambiguous word."

"Surely you do not understand Welsh?" said the doctor.

"I understand a little of it," I replied.

"Will you allow me to speak to you in Welsh?" said the doctor.

"Certainly," said I.

He spoke to me in Welsh, and I replied.

"Ha, ha," said the landlady in English; "only think, doctor, of the gentleman understanding Welsh - we must mind what we say before him."

"And are you an Englishman?" said the doctor.

"I am," I replied.

"And how came you to learn it?"

"I am fond of languages," said I, "and studied Welsh at an early period."

"And you read Welsh poetry?"

"Oh yes."

"How were you enabled to master its difficulties?"

"Chiefly by going through Owen Pugh's version of 'Paradise Lost' twice, with the original by my side. He has introduced into that translation so many of the poetic terms of the old bards, that after twice going through it, there was little in Welsh poetry that I could not make out with a little pondering."

"You pursued a very excellent plan, sir," said the doctor, "a very excellent plan indeed. Owen Pugh!"

"Owen Pugh! The last of your very great men," said I.

"You say right, sir," said the doctor. "He was indeed our last great man - Ultimus Romanorum. I have myself read his work, which he called Coll Gwynfa, the Loss of the place of Bliss - an admirable translation, sir; highly poetical, and at the same time correct."

"Did you know him?" said I.

"I had not the honour of his acquaintance," said the doctor - "but, sir, I am happy to say that I have made yours."

The landlady now began to talk to me about dinner, and presently went out to make preparations for that very important meal. I had a great deal of conversation with the doctor, whom I found a person of great and varied information, and one who had seen a vast deal of the world. He was giving me an account of an island in the West Indies, which he had visited, when a boy coming in, whispered into his ear; whereupon, getting up he said: "Sir, I am called away. I am a country surgeon, and of course an accoucheur. There is a lady who lives at some distance requiring my assistance. It is with grief I leave you so abruptly, but I hope that some time or other we shall meet again." Then making me an exceedingly profound bow, he left the room, followed by the boy.

I dined upstairs in a very handsome drawing-room, communicating with a sleeping apartment. During dinner I was waited upon by the daughter of the landlady, a good-looking merry girl of twenty. After dinner I sat for some time thinking over the adventures of the day, then feeling rather lonely and not inclined to retire to rest, I went down to the bar, where I found the landlady seated with her daughter. I sat down with them and we were soon in conversation. We spoke of Doctor Jones - the landlady said that he had his little eccentricities, but was an excellent and learned man. Speaking of herself she said that she had three daughters, that the youngest was with her and that the two eldest kept the principal inn at Ruthyn. We occasionally spoke a little Welsh. At length the landlady said, "There is an Italian in the kitchen who can speak Welsh too. It's odd the only two people not Welshmen I have ever known who could speak Welsh, for such you and he are, should be in my house at the same time."

"Dear me," said I; "I should like to see him."

"That you can easily do," said the girl; "I daresay he will be glad enough to come in if you invite him."

"Pray take my compliments to him," said I, "and tell him that I shall be glad of his company."

The girl went out and presently returned with the Italian. He was a short, thick, strongly-built fellow of about thirty-seven, with a swarthy face, raven-black hair, high forehead, and dark deep eyes, full of intelligence and great determination. He was dressed in a velveteen coat, with broad lappets, red waistcoat, velveteen breeches, buttoning a little way below the knee; white stockings apparently of lamb's-wool and high-lows.

"Buona sera?" said I.

"Buona sera, signore!" said the Italian.

"Will you have a glass of brandy and water?" said I in English.

"I never refuse a good offer," said the Italian.

He sat down, and I ordered a glass of brandy and water for him and another for myself.

"Pray speak a little Italian to him," said the good landlady to me. "I have heard a great deal about the beauty of that language, and should like to hear it spoken."

"From the Lago di Como?" said I, trying to speak Italian.

"Si, signore! but how came you to think that I was from the Lake of Como?"

"Because," said I, "when I was a ragazzo I knew many from the Lake of Como, who dressed much like yourself. They wandered about the country with boxes on their backs and weather-glasses in their hands, but had their head-quarters at N. where I lived."

"Do you remember any of their names?" said the Italian.

"Giovanni Gestra and Luigi Pozzi," I replied.

"I have seen Giovanni Gestra myself," said the Italian, "and I have heard of Luigi Pozzi. Giovanni Gestra returned to the Lago - but no one knows what is become of Luigi Pozzi."

"The last time I saw him," said I, "was about eighteen years ago at Coruna in Spain; he was then in a sad drooping condition, and said he bitterly repented ever quitting N."

"E con ragione," said the Italian, "for there is no place like N. for doing business in the whole world. I myself have sold seventy pounds' worth of weather-glasses at N. in one day. One of our people is living there now, who has done bene, molto bene."

"That's Rossi," said I, "how is it that I did not mention him first? He is my excellent friend, and a finer, cleverer fellow never lived, nor a more honourable man. You may well say he has done well, for he is now the first jeweller in the place. The last time I was there I bought a diamond of him for my daughter Henrietta. Let us drink his health!"

"Willingly!" said the Italian. "He is the prince of the Milanese of England - the most successful of all, but I acknowledge the most deserving. Che viva."

"I wish he would write his life," said I; "a singular life it would be - he has been something besides a travelling merchant, and a jeweller. He was one of Buonaparte's soldiers, and served in Spain, under Soult, along with John Gestra. He once told me that Soult was an old rascal, and stole all the fine pictures from the convents, at Salamanca. I believe he spoke with some degree of envy, for he is himself fond of pictures, and has dealt in them, and made hundreds by them. I question whether if in Soult's place he would not have done the same. Well, however that may be, che viva."

Here the landlady interposed, observing that she wished we would now speak English, for that she had quite enough of Italian, which she did not find near so pretty a language as she had expected.

"You must not judge of the sound of Italian from what proceeds from my mouth," said I. "It is not my native language. I have had little practice in it, and only speak it very imperfectly."

"Nor must you judge of Italian from what you have heard me speak," said the man of Como; "I am not good at Italian, for the Milanese speak amongst themselves a kind of jargon, composed of many languages, and can only express themselves with difficulty in Italian. I have been doing my best to speak Italian, but should be glad now to speak English, which comes to me much more glibly."

"Are there any books in your dialect, or jergo, as I believe you call it?" said I.

"I believe there are a few," said the Italian.

"Do you know the word slandra?" said I.

"Who taught you that word?" said the Italian.

"Giovanni Gestra," said I; "he was always using it."

"Giovanni Gestra was a vulgar illiterate man," said the Italian; "had he not been so he would not have used it. It is a vulgar word; Rossi would not have used it."

"What is the meaning of it?" said the landlady eagerly.

"To roam about in a dissipated manner," said I.

"Something more," said the Italian. "It is considered a vulgar word even in jergo."

"You speak English remarkably well," said I; "have you been long in Britain?"

"I came over about four years ago," said the Italian.

"On your own account?" said I.

"Not exactly, signore; my brother, who was in business in Liverpool, wrote to me to come over and assist him. I did so, but soon left him, and took a shop for myself at Denbigh, where, however, I did not stay long. At present I travel for an Italian house in London, spending the summer in Wales, and the winter in England."

"And what do you sell?" said I.

"Weather-glasses, signore - pictures and little trinkets, such as the country people like."

"Do you sell many weather-glasses in Wales?" said I.

"I do not, signore. The Welsh care not for weather-glasses; my principal customers for weather-glasses are the farmers of England."

"I am told that you can speak Welsh," said I; "is that true?"

"I have picked up a little of it, signore."

"He can speak it very well," said the landlady; "and glad should I be, sir, to hear you and him speak Welsh together."

"So should I," said the daughter who was seated nigh us, "nothing would give me greater pleasure than to hear two who are not Welshmen speaking Welsh together."

"I would rather speak English," said the Italian; "I speak a little Welsh, when my business leads me amongst people who speak no other language, but I see no necessity for speaking Welsh here."

"It is a pity," said I, "that so beautiful a country as Italy should not be better governed."

"It is, signore," said the Italian; "but let us hope that a time will speedily come when she will be so."

"I don't see any chance of it," said I. "How will you proceed in order to bring about so desirable a result as the good government of Italy?"

"Why, signore, in the first place we must get rid of the Austrians."

"You will not find it an easy matter," said I, "to get rid of the Austrians; you tried to do so a little time ago, but miserably failed."

"True, signore; but the next time we try perhaps the French will help us."

"If the French help you to drive the Austrians from Italy," said I, "you must become their servants. It is true you had better be the servants of the polished and chivalrous French, than of the brutal and barbarous Germans, but it is not pleasant to be a servant to anybody. However, I do not believe that you will ever get rid of the Austrians, even if the French assist you. The Pope for certain reasons of his own favours the Austrians, and will exert all the powers of priestcraft to keep them in Italy. Alas, alas, there is no hope for Italy! Italy, the most beautiful country in the world, the birth-place of the cleverest people, whose very pedlars can learn to speak Welsh, is not only enslaved, but destined always to remain enslaved."

"Do not say so, signore," said the Italian, with a kind of groan.

"But I do say so," said I, "and what is more, one whose shoe- strings, were he alive, I should not he worthy to untie, one of your mighty ones, has said so. Did you ever hear of Vincenzio Filicaia?"

"I believe I have, signore; did he not write a sonnet on Italy?"

"He did," said I; "would you like to hear it?

"Very much, signore."

I repeated Filicaia's glorious sonnet on Italy, and then asked him if he understood it.

"Only in part, signore; for it is composed in old Tuscan, in which I am not much versed. I believe I should comprehend it better if you were to say it in English."

"Do say it in English," said the landlady and her daughter: "we should so like to hear it in English."

"I will repeat a translation," said I, "which I made when a boy, which though far from good, has, I believe, in it something of the spirit of the original:-

"O Italy! on whom dark Destiny
The dangerous gift of beauty did bestow,
From whence thou hast that ample dower of wo,
Which on thy front thou bear'st so visibly.
Would thou hadst beauty less or strength more high,
That more of fear, and less of love might show,
He who now blasts him in thy beauty's glow,
Or woos thee with a zeal that makes thee die;
Then down from Alp no more would torrents rage
Of armed men, nor Gallic coursers hot
In Po's ensanguin'd tide their thirst assuage;
Nor girt with iron, not thine own, I wot,
Wouldst thou the fight by hands of strangers wage
Victress or vanquish'd slavery still thy lot."

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

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