Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

nigh an hundreth yeares olde, and no man here in this companye anything neare unto mine age.' Well, then,' quod Maister More, how say you in this matter? What think ye to be the cause of these shelfs and flattes that stop up Sandwich Haven ?' 'Forsooth, syr,' quoth he, 'I am an olde man; I think that Tenterton steeple is the cause of Goodwin Sandes. For I am an olde man, syr,' quod he, and I may remember the building of Tenterton steeple, and I may remember when there was no steeple at all there. And before that Tenterton steeple was a-building there was no manner of speaking of any flattes or sandes that stopped the haven; and therefore I thinke that Tenterton steeple is

[graphic][merged small]

the cause of the destroying and decaying of Sandwich Haven.' And even so, to my purpose,” said Latimer, in conclusion, “is preaching of God's worde the cause of rebellion, as Tenterton steeple is a cause that Sandwich Haven is decayed.”

A word in excuse of the “olde aged man” may be urged. Kentish tradition asserts that the Abbot of St. Augustine, who built Tenterden steeple, employed for the purpose a quantity of stones which had been collected for the strengthening of the sea-wall of Goodwin Sands, then an actual part of the main land. The next storm, in consequence, submerged the district, of which the Goodwins are the existing remains; and thus the steeple came to be regarded as the cause of the quicksands. That this legend is as baseless as the sands themselves does not leave Sir Thomas More's “olde man whit the worse

a reasoner. Granting as a premiss the truth of the abbot's story, there is nothing absurd in the conclusion.

a

as

[merged small][merged small][merged small][graphic][merged small]

Beauty of the Dee-Its Course-Derivation of the name-Deva-Bala Lake-Upper Waters of the Dee-Corwen-The Vale

of Llangollen-Plas Newydd and the “Ladies of Llangollen "-Valle Crucis Abbey-Dinas Brân-Viaduct over the Dee-The Hills round Llangollen--Wynnstay-The House and Grounds-Chirk Castle-Ruabon-Wrexham-BangorHolt and its Castle-Chester-The “Sands of Dee."

[graphic]

WELLERS on the upper courses of the Dove and Derwent in Derbyshire, and on those of the Wye and Towy in Wales, and of the Tamar in Cornwall, are like those Scotchmen of whom Sir Walter Scott says that each one, dwelling in any county of Scotland save Perth, will admit Perth to be the county next in charm of scenery to his own. That is to say, though every river abovenamed will be held by inhabitants of the districts through which it

flows to be the finest in the world, these candid judges will generally agree in pronouncing the Dee finest but one. Perhaps to the folk who do not live on or near any river, and who therefore are in a position to cultivate a generous impartiality on the subject, the united testimony of all those witnesses might go far in the direction of raising a claim, on behalf of the Dee, to be accounted the finest river of all.

It is certainly a very beautiful stream. Throughout a winding course of seventy miles it has not a dull moment's passage. The Arran Fowddwy, from whose steep side springs the infant river, is one of the highest mountains of Wales, topping by some 500 feet the famed Plynlimmon, which gives birth to the Severn and the Wye. Before touching, by

DERIVATION OF THE NAME.

187

turns, on the specially notable spots past which the Dee winds, from the Merionethshire mountain to Chester and the Irish Sea, we may trace at once the whole course of the river. Its bed is mountainous for some distance after it has left the parent fount; for the Bala Lake through which it flows is 574 feet above the ocean-level. Having traversed this, the largest inland expanse of water in Wales, the Dee flows on to the town of Corwen and its picturesque slate quarries. Entering Denbigh and the vale of Llangollen, it grows in beauty as it proceeds along that renowned panorama of mountain scenery. Of Llangollen and its neighbourhood we shall have to speak in time; and, with that pleasant duty in reserve, hasten past it now, lest it should tempt us to linger. Four miles below the town, which bears the same name as the narrow valley that closes it in, is the noble aqueduct of Cysylltau, which carries the Ellesmere Canal, at an altitude of 126 feet, over the Dee.

While flowing through the beautiful vale, the course of this river is eastward, and in this direction it continues till it bas passed Wynnstay, and then it turns to the north, separating the county of Denbigh and detached parts of Flint, on its Welsh or western side, from English Cheshire on the east. The ancient city of Chester is encompassed by the Dee almost as completely as by its own famous wall. Bangor, on the Dee, is part in Denbighshire and part in Flintshire, and is noteworthy as the site of one of the most ancient of monasteries. A chief affluent of the Dee is the Alwyn, which enters the larger river at Holt, presently to be remarked for its castle and other points of interest. After nearly encircling Chester, the Dee heads in a straight channel to its estuary, which is about fourteen miles long and from two to six miles broad—a passage greatly encumbered by sandbanks, of which many sad tales are told, one of them in a poem of the tenderest pathos, which will have its echo in every English heart that holds dear the memory of the great Churchman and poet, Charles Kingsley.

By some etymologists the name of this river is derived from the Gaelic word “ dhu,” which signifies " black ;” while others, with perhaps about as near an approach to probability, assign its origin to the word “ Duw,” which means “God.” Before entering the Bala Lake the mountain stream is entitled on the maps Dyfrdwy, which indeed is the Welsh name for the whole river down to the sea. In early times the Dee appears to have been regarded in some sort as a sacred stream, and it is referred to as such by many poets. Spenser introduces it among the rivers attendant on the marriage of the Thames and Medway :

" And following Dee, which Britons long ygone

Did call Divine, that doth by Chester tend."

Again, referring to it as the home of the sage Timon, foster-father to King Arthur, he says :

“ His dwelling is full low in valley green,

Under the foot of Rauran's mossie shore,
From whence the river Dee, as silver clean,

His tumbling billows rolls with gentle rore.”

“Silver clean” contradicts the supposition that the river's name can have come from such a source as “dhu,” or

black.” Drayton, in the “Polyolbion,” speaks of Dee's holiness; and Milton, in the exquisite monody on his college-friend, Edward King, or, as he styles him, “ Lycidas,” who perished in a shipwreck as he was voyaging from Chester to Ireland, has the followiug

“ Nor on the shaggy top of Mona high,

Nor yet where Deva spreads her wizard stream."

Can it be that, through a mere play upon the word, or an accidental similarity of sound, the “divine " attribute of this wizard stream arose ? For, as Milton's classic verse proclaims, the Romans called the river Deva. That it has traditionally enjoyed a poetic veneration is plain enough ; and the custom of ages, in this matter, has been followed by the author of "Idyls of the King,” who finds a comparison for the wifely care bestowed by Enid on Prince Geraint in the noble imagery of these lines :

“ The breath
Of her sweet tendance hovering over him
Fill'd all the genial courses of his blood
With deeper and with ever deeper love,
As the south-west that, blowing Bala Lake,
Fills all the sacred Dee."

[graphic]

A WELSH PEASANT WOMAN.

Llyn Tegid, or Bala Lake, is surrounded by hills which are adorned with trees almost to their summits, and the scenery, pastoral and sylvan, has none of the rocky wildness which elsewhere characterises the natural beauty of Wales. Only above the soft harmony of the low hills rise Cader Idris, and Arran Benllyn, and Arran Fowddwy, the latter among the loftiest peaks in Wales. On the north side, the Arrans present a long slope of rock, heather, and grass; but to the south and south-east are bold precipices and wild glens, branching off in mountain

ranges. It is at the foot of the south-eastern precipices of Arran Fowddwy that the source of the Dee is found, in Craig Llyn Dyfi, a tarn in the midst of hills. On each of the Arrans has been erected a cairn, that on Arran Fowddwy being much larger than the one on Arran Benllyn. It is said of the former that the peasants who built the cairn desired, by its means, to make their mountain higher than Cader Idris, from the supposition that this latter has the natural advantage of a few feet. This, however, it certainly has not. Authentic surveys have established the height of Arran Fowddwy to be 2,970 feet; and, though Cader Idris has not been so accurately measured, it is some hundreds of feet lower, being probably not more than 2,200 feet high. By first ascending Arran Benllyn, the summit of which commands an extensive view of the whole of Bala Lake, a long mountain range which includes Snowdon and the Harlech peaks, Fowddach estuary, the wild front of Cader Idris, and a tract of sea, the neighbouring and taller mountain may be reached by an uneven but not difficult walk of two miles over hillocks of rock and intervening spaces of grass. The panorama seen from the summit of Arran Fowddwy is chiefly to be admired in its aspect to the south. As far as eye can reach spreads a vast undulating plateau of mountain ground, the nearer heights being divided into many beautiful green hills, slanting into deep hollows. When enticed away from his favourite Bettws-y-Coed region, David Cox

[blocks in formation]

found splendid material for his magic pencil in this prospect of many views. To the east, past the front of Arran Benllyn, is Bala Lake; and northward of its waters is a fine moorland plateau, across which is seen Arenig Fawr, backed by more distant mountains.

Just after the Dee has left Bala Lake, refreshed, invigorated, and filled therewith, it is crossed by a bridge, near the barely discernible traces of a once mighty castle, called Castell Grouw. A little town is there, half hidden by trees, and presenting from the road a very winsome look. Among the woods on the river-bank is perceived Glan Llyn, the fishing-seat of Sir Watkin Williams Wynn, a most desirable lodge for any lover of angling ;

[graphic][ocr errors][merged small]

for the Dee still retains the proudest celebrity as a salmon-river. Pleasant glimpses of the peaceful bosom of Bala Lake, and of the Berwyn hills, and of the rugged tops of Arran Benllyn and Arenig Fawr, are caught at many points of this delightful wilderness. Joined by the Tryweryn, the Dee flows on to Corwen, through the vale of Edeirnion. Praised as this well-wooded and generally picturesque valley has been by Pennant and other old writers, there is so much finer scenery to be noted as we proceed that Edeirnion may well be dismissed with brief salutation. Corwen is situated at the foot of a high rock on the north side of the Berwyn mountain range, near the junction of the Dee with the Alwen; and from it are roads leading to Llangollen, Bala, Bettws-y-Coed, Ruthin, and Wrexham. A path at the back of the town ascends to the top of the steep eminence, where a heap of stones, surmounted by a flagstaff, commemorates the marriage of the Prince of Wales. The spot bears the name of Glyndwr's Seat, tradition having closely knit the name of Owain ap Gryffydd—Shakespeare's Owen Glendower, the close of whose romantic and marvellous career was likewise the end of the last struggle for Welsh independence—with most of the scenes hereabout, as also with the valley of Llangollen. From Glendower's, or Glyndwr's,

« ZurückWeiter »