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IN GLENDOWER LAND
As the name of Llewelyn is connected with the Snowdon district, so the name of another Welsh hero, Owen Glendower, lives still in that valley of the Dee that lies between Corwen and Llangollen.
The valley itself is one of the most interesting in Wales. Almost of a horseshoe shape, it is bounded by ranges of mountains, not very high, but beautiful in shape and colour. On one side, a blaze of yellow gorse, Moel Gamelin rears his rounded head; on the other the heather-clad heights of the Berwyns invite us to scramble up their slopes and to walk along the sky-line to the end of the vale. In the hollow lies the picturesque little market-town of Llangollen, and above it the steep cone-shaped hill is crowned by the ruined castle of Dinas Bran.
In the old days this castle must have been of great importance, for it guarded the entrance to the kingdom of Powys, the middle kingdom of Wales. It was the stronghold of Madoc, Lord of Powys, and of his son Griffith, who died in Llewelyn's last desperate struggle for freedom, both of whom were the ancestors of Owen Glendower himself.
Nowadays we shall find a relic of olden times in the harpist who sits upon the summit and plays Welsh airs, full of mournful sweetness, to those who visit the ruins. Below in the half-hidden Valle Crucis, lies one of the most famous of Welsh abbeys, which we are going to explore, in order to find the testing-place of these ancestors of Glendower.
In former days Valle Crucis Abbey, founded by the Lords of Dinas Bran, was noted for its hospitality—a virtue of which we are reminded by the ruins of a large hostel, or guest-house, and by the fish-ponds which still exist. Here are the monks' dormitories; and here, in the chapel, below the beautiful remains of the east window, lie the battered tombs of Madoc, the founder, and his son. Returning to Llangollen, and passing along the Holyhead road, we presently come to Glendyfrdwy, that "glen of the Dee" from which our hero Owen took his surname.
Like most young Welshmen of noble birth after the Conquest of Wales, Owen Glendower was brought up in England. Shakespeare makes him remind Hotspur that—
"I can speak English, lord, as well as you,
For I was trained up in the English Court,
Where, being but young, I framed to the harp,
Many an English ditty lovely well."
When Henry IV. became King, Owen appealed to him against Lord Grey of Ruthin, who had seized a piece of his moorland. The King favoured Lord Grey, and earned the lifelong hatred of his rival, who promptly recovered his land by force of arms. Grey of Ruthin took a mean revenge. When Henry summoned his Welsh barons, among others, to aid him in a war with Scotland, he suppressed the message that summoned Glendower, and then denounced him to the King as a traitor for not obeying his call. Glendower's house was immediately besieged, and he had only just time to escape to the woods. Now, Owen was no mean and unknown Welsh knight. He was as learned in books as he was skilled in warfare, and his house at Sycherth, ten miles from his native valley, was famous for its hospitality. His wife and children were of noble breed; as a poet of the day sings: "His wife, the best of wives, beneficent mother of a beautiful nest of chieftains. Happy am I in her wine and metheglyn."
DISTANT VIEW OF CARNARVON BAY
So, after a century of peace, when this descendant of the last Llewelyn raised the standard of revolt on the banks of the Dee, the Welshmen of the districts far and wide flocked to his aid, singing with the bard, Red Iolo:
"Thy high renown shall never fail; Owen Glendower, the Great, the Good, Lord of Glyndyfrdwy's fertile vale, High born, princely Owen, hail!"
Ruthin, the stronghold of Lord Grey, now a quiet country-town, was first attacked and burnt t,) the ground. Before Henry's army, under the government of Harry Percy, or Hotspur, and the young Prince Henry, then a boy of fourteen, could act against them, the revolt had spread all over Wales, and had declared its aim to be independence Of English rule. The success with which Glendower met soon earned for him the reputation of a wizard.
"I can call spirits from the vasty deep," Shakespeare makes him boast to Hotspur; who rudely replies: " Ay, but will they answer?" But let the rough Northern Earl scoff as he might, Owen certainly met with almost uncanny success. The English troops, "bootless and weather-beaten," were driven back across the borders again and again. Not only North Wales, but the South country also rose under him. Midway between the two stands "Pumlumon," better known as Plynlimmon, a five-pointed peak that rises, almost solitary, from the surrounding plain. Upon this top Glendower planted his standard, and from thence he managed to capture Mortimer, the powerful English Earl of royal blood, who became before long his son-in-law.
Owen was now openly acknowledged as Prince of Wales; castle after castle fell into his hands, and Parliaments were held by him at Dolgelly, under the shadow of Cader Idris, and elsewhere. But meantime Prince Henry, the future Henry V., was growing up and learning the art of war. It was he who, while Owen was busy in South Wales, came to his own valley of Glyndyfrdwy, and burnt his house down. For seven years the war went on, until the land was wellnigh ruined and the people weary of warfare. Pardons were freely offered and as freely accepted, until at last Owen Glendower found himself deserted. Still he would not give in, and when Henry V., soon after he was made King, sent him an unasked for pardon by the hands of Glendower's own son, it came too late; the hero of Wales' last bid for independence was dead.
Nearly eighty years later Wales recovered her name for loyalty to an English Sovereign when a certain Henry Tudor, grandson of a Welsh country gentleman who had married a King's widow, landed at Milford Haven, and, with the aid of his fellow-countrymen, won the Battle of Bosworth, and was crowned King as Henry VII. And so, when Henry VIII., his son, wished to bring about the Union of England and Wales by Act of Parliament, no voice was lifted against it. But if Henry thought by this Act, and by forbidding all magistrates in Wales to use the Welsh language, he was going to make the country actually a part of England, he was greatly mistaken. The upper classes might flock to the English Court and forget their Welsh homes, but the greater part of the people—the workers of the nation—kept their own speech, their own customs, their own traditions. The days of warfare were over; but still you can tell a Welshman from an Englishman wherever he is found. He may talk the purest English, but the fall and rise of his voice as he talks differs from the more monotonous tones of his Anglo-Saxon companion. He is more excitable, more easily moved to wrath, or tears, or laughter, and he possesses, as a rule, a far more vivid imagination than is found anywhere outside the Celtic race of which he forms a part.