Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

ARCHÆOLOGICAL NOTES.

Read at the Meeting of the British Archæological Association at Llangollen,

August 29th, 1877.

BY PROFESSOR RHYS, of Oxford.

OTHERS may be trusted to point out to the members of this learned Association the material remains of archaeological interest in this charming district of Llangollen ; but there is a sense in which tumuli, earthworks, and cromlechs are no more facts than are words, and especially names. It is by directing attention to two or three of the tales supplied by this part of the country, that I would attempt to do my part in welcoming this Association on its first visit to North Wales.

One might begin by dwelling on the history of some of the neighbouring churches, more than one of which commemorate the names of St. Germanus and St. Bride or Bridget, such as Llanarmon and Llansantffraid. One of the lessons to be learned from those names seems to be that there has been a fashion in the case of saints, as in everything else. Whether

any

of those alluded to are the oldest names of the churches now so called, may be doubted; at any rate, there are reasons for doubting that the churches called Llanarmon received that name during the period in which St. Germanus lived. But in the case of the church after which this parish is called, it is not so, for the Welsh have never allowed oblivion to cover the memory of the man who seems to have been the first missionary that laboured on the banks of the Dee, to turn our pagan ancestors to Christianity, and the name of Collen will be remembered as long as this place continues to be called Llangollen.

VOL. II.

D

$

[ocr errors]

This is not the time for a lesson on Welsh phonology, but I always feel glad of an opportunity of learning a new sound; and perhaps some of those attending the meeting of the Association would be glad to acquire the sound of the Welsh Il before returning to England. The directions need not be long. Discard the grotesque accounts of that sound in English books, place your tongue in position for pronouncing 1, and blow a good deal harder than need be for that consonant, then you have our ll; so long, however, as you hear thl, or chl, you may be sure you have not hit it, as it is a single consonant and not a combination.

To return to St. Collen, it would be needless to trouble you with the legends usually attached to his name; but I would call

your attention to one which I have never seen published in English. I am indebted for it to one of our best Welsh archæologists, the Rev. Owen Jones, of Llandudno. The following is the substance of a Welsh letter with which he favoured me about a fortnight ago

I have long been of opinion that our early Welsh legends are to be regarded as allegorical descriptions of historical facts; and on one occasion, several years ago, I happened to be lodging at a farm house near Pentref-y-Dwfr, at the foot of Bwlch-y-Rhiw-felen. In the morning the farmer, Mr. John Tudor, accompanied me over the Bwlch on my way to Llandegla, and in answer to my enquiries he related the following legend, which he had heard when a boy engaged as a shepherd on the mountains there :-In some very early period there used to live on the top of this Bwlch a giantess, who used to mutilate and kill all who came that way; at last, a man from the neighbouring Vale of Llangollen, made up his mind to rid the country of her; he sharpened his sword in order to go to fight with her. After he had climbed to her court, she came out to converse with him, and the result was that they engaged in a severe combat. By and

[ocr errors]

by the man succeeded in cutting off the right arm of the giantess, but she continued to fight as strenuously as ever. This went on until he managed to cut off her left arm also, whereupon the giantess began to call aloud to Arthur in the rock of Eglwyseg, entreating him to come to her rescue, as the knave was murdering her. The end, however, was that she was killed, and that the man hurried away to wash himself clean from her blood in a spring on the mountain, which is to this day known as Collen's Well.' The explanation,” continues Mr. Jones, “which I ventured to give Mr. Tudor was the following :-By the giantess was meant a cruel and oppressive system of religion, which prevailed here before the introduction of Christianity; it was the missionary who first brought the Gospel into those parts, and to whose memory Llangollen was consecrated, that was represented by the man who came to fight the giantess. It was with the sword of truth that he broke the force of her influence, partially at first and more completely afterwards, and in spite of her appeal to the secular power, here represented by Arthur, she was killed so as to rid the country of her violence and cruelty. Perhaps," adds Mr. Jones, “the legend was invented by one of the monks of Valle Crucis Abbey, which is in that neighbourhood.”

So far his explanation is highly ingenious, as applied to the legend in its present form. However, I am inclined to think that it dates long before the time of Valle Crucis Abbey, and that most of the materials out of which it was constructed are even older than Christianity; perhaps one might characterize it as a pagan legend fertilized by Christianity. I doubt whether we might venture to compare the giantess with the sphynx; but if we substitute for her a dragon, we can connect it with a well-known class of legends, and at the same time discover a motive for the victorious slayer of the giantess hurrying away to a well to wash himself clean from her blood,

a

for that may, as in some of the dragon legends, have been poisonous. It is hard to say, whether the reference to the well partakes more of the nature of a solar myth or of Christianity, but certain it is that St. Collen, who by implication is the hero, represents Christianity. Consequently, Arthur appears as one who might be appealed to on the pagan side. This is, I am inclined to think, the original character of Arthur as the Solar hero of Kymry and Bretons; and it is easy to understand how, when they became Christians, he had to follow suit, so as to become the good knight we find him in the Mabinogion ; as such, one cannot without some difficulty think of him as paying no heed to the cries of a female in distress. On the whole it would seem that an Arthur who was neither Christian nor chivalrous was an older and more original character than the one pictured in mediæval romance.

The foregoing legend probably did not stand alone. Within the last few days I have succeeded in collecting a few shreds of a nearly parallel one at Llanberis. Between Llanberis church and the pass, nearly opposite the house called Cwmglas, under a large stone called Y Gromlech, on the left hand side as you ascend, was the abode of a giantess called Canrig (or Cantrig) But, which seems to have meant Canrig the Stumpy, and to have indicated that her stoutness was out of all proportion to her stature. Now Canrig Bwt was a cannibal, and especially fond of feasting on children. So when the man came who was destined to put an end to her, and challenged her to come out and fight, she coolly replied, “Wait till I have scraped this young skull clean." In the meantime he placed himself on the stone under which she was to come out, and chopped off her head with his sword when she made her appearance in quest of him. He is said to have been a criminal sentenced to death, who had the alternative of trying his luck in conflict with the giantess, and the name of Canrig Bwt has come down to our time only as a means of frightening naughty children ; but I am not sure that this is a sufficient proof that her ravages were confined to infants.

I would call your attention next to the name of the river you have lately crossed and re-crossed so frequently, the Dee; in Welsh it is called Dyfrdwy, a word which analyses itself into Dyfr-dwy, whereof the first syllable is a weakening of dwfr, water. But what is the other syllable? Two answers are given. It is sometimes crudely guessed to be the same as the Welsh du, black, which is phonetically impossible, and deserving of no further mention. The more popular etymiology identifies it with Welsh dwy, the feminine of dau, 'two', and treats the entire name as meaning the water of two, that is of two rivers; and the two rivers supposed to form the Dee are pointed out in the neighbourhood of Bala. It would perhaps be no serious objection to this etymology, that Dyfrılwy would accordingly be a name which could be literally applied to almost all the rivers in the world; but a little fact suffices to dissolve a great deal of conjecture. The former offers itself in one of the ways in which Giraldus Cambrensis spells the name of the river, namely as Decerdoeu, where doeu is the same as the old Welsh doiu or duiu, the genitive of old Welsh diu, a god. It is not altogether unknown in its full form in later Welsh, as for instance in dwyv-ol, divine, now written and pronounced dwyfol; but more commonly duiu or dwyw is shortened into dwy as in meudwy, a hermit, literally servus dei : similarly an old name Guas-duiu, which also means servus dei, appears later as Gwas-duy. So the phonology of Dyfrdwy is perfectly plain and simple, and the word would have to be regarded as meaning aqua dei, but for other evidence which makes me prefer treating dwy as here meaning goddess, whence Dyfrdwy would be aqua dea. Who was the goddess I do not know,

« ForrigeFortsæt »