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(63) Einion ab Cadwgan, a prince of a part of Powys; in 1113 he, in conjunction with others, demolished Cymer castle, in Merionyddshire, the property of his brother-in-law Uchtryd ab Edwin, of Llys, in this parish. He died in 1121, and left his possessions to Maredydd, his brother.
(64) “Meredydd ab Bleddyn, (see fol. 137, Powell,) prince of Powys, who was imprisoned by his brother Iorwerth, in the year 1101. After a confinement of four years he escaped, and regained possession of Powys. In 1108 he was dispossessed by Madog ab Rhiryd, but, at the expiration of two years, he took Madog prisoner, and obtained his dominions again. He died in 1129."
(65) Probably the error of calling Clawdd Offa, Watt's Dyke, arose from the circumstance of “one Colonel Wat, in Cromwell's time, being governor of Chirk Castle, when he forced the country about to pay their contributions beforehand, and delivered the castle, well furnished with bread and beer, &c. into the hands of Sir Thomas Myddleton's daughter, for her father's use.” Offa's dyke passes through the neighbourhood of Chirk Castle.
(66) Elystan, was the son of Cuhelyn ab Iarddur ab Severws ab Cadwaladyr Wenwynwyn ab Idnerth ab Iorwerth Hirvlawd, of the line of Teganwy. His mother was Rhieingar, the daughter of Goronw ab Tudyr Trevor. Elystan had the earldom of Hereford, in right of his mother; he married Gwenlliant, the daughter of Einion ab Hywel Da, by whom he had issue only one son, called Cadwgan. He is distinguished in the Triads, as one of the three band-wearing princes; which insignia was assumed instead of
He was the godson of king Athelstan. (67) The source of the Dee is among the hills of Merionyddshire, runs through Penllyn and Bala Lake, down to Corwen and Llangollen, between Chirkland and Bromfield, where it boweth northward towards Bangor, flows to Holt, to Chester, and from thence to the sea. It would appear by the poets that the Dee was held in peculiar veneration in times of yore, and probably on that account it is called Dwyv, which signifies I am, or Self-existent. We have it recorded that when the confederated princes of Wales had joined their forces to oppose Edelfred, or Ethelred, king of Northumberland, from penetrating into Wales at Bangor Iscoed, they called religion to their aid. Before the battle begun, Dynawd, or Dunawd, the abbot, made an oration to the army, and ordered the soldiers to kiss the ground in commemoration of the communion of the body of Christ, and to take up water into their hands out of the river Dee, and drink it in remembrance of his sacred blood, which was shed for them.
Since the former part of the History was printed, Sir S. R. Meyrick has most obligingly furnished the compiler of this article with the following information, in reference to the effigy of Edwin ab Grono.
“I do not say that the effigy might not have been intended for Edwin ab Grono, yet it most certainly was not sculptured till two hundred years later, being of the close of the reign of Edward I. The conical helmet is not indeed decisive of this point, but accompanied by the elbow piece, enables me to fix the period. The figure is in a haubergeon and chausses, but without surcoat, and holds a lance and sword, the weapons of a knight, though the former has the upper part broken off. (Signed,)
S. R. MEYRICK."
APOSTROPHE TO DEATH.
Thou odoriferous stench! sound rottenness!
of breath with fulsome dust,
O angeu argu! Ti
HYWEL AND URSELA;
A BORDER FRAGMENT.
The recollections of our youth are allowed to be much stronger than the impressions received by the mind in afterlife; and I revert to that period when in the little town of Montgomery I went to school, with feelings which, although allied to pleasure, were frequently subject to regret: all my juvenile peccadillos, the formidable spelling-book, the hours of play, marbles, top, prison-bass, and our then favorite Welsh games of fives and football, the holydays, and alas! black Monday, are now recalled to mind with rapture. Time has pursued his course steadily forward, and what does there remain now of many of my “castles built on air?” the reminiscence alone starts up like the phantom of a dream. I naturally reflect, Where are many of my early associates? those whom I loved, and who loved me, with all the sincerity of the affections of youth; many whom I have fought, with my young heart bursting with anger: alas! they are gone to “that bourne from whence no traveller returns." With them how often, attentively and motionless, have I listened to the traditionary story of some venerable patriarch, resting on his staff; or spectacled mother, spinning before her cottage at the decline of the summer's evening; and it was on one of these occasions that I gleaned the little tale which I shall communicate in the following pages, reserving to myself a right to vary the narration with such alteration of names and localities as may appear to be desirable.
The feuds existing between the borderers of England and Wales, at the end of the fifth and beginning of the sixth centuries, were lamentably prolonged by the combatants of either party; public feeling became brutalised, and society retrograded in the scale of civilization: so strong did the spirit of retaliation exist, that contiguous dwellers, and even kinsmen, entertained towards each other an unnatural animosity.
The calamities necessarily arising from such a state of things were horrible to contemplate: murders and conflagrations perpetually occurred; ill-fated Powis shared deeply of the misery : then might the poet well exclaim,
“Oh, land of ancient heroes, dark indeed
In vain imploring mercy!" The boundaries of Shropshire and Upper Powis, in the district from whence I take my story, are between the town of Montgomery and the village of Chirbury, in Salop, a distance of three miles; and, singular as it may appear, that in the days I
write of, so intense was the spirit of animosity existing between the rival nations, that the destruction of a Shropshire man would inevitably follow the discovery of a pollution of the Cambrian soil, by placing his foot beyond the boundary, and no quarter was ever granted to the Cymro by a Saxon foe.
In the midst of these damning prejudices, the young persons whose names
are affixed to my story, formed an ardent attachment for each other, but Hywel, being a Saxon, whose father had rendered himself particularly obnoxious to the Welsh, was unfortunately denied the felicity of visiting the object of his love, otherwise than clandestinely, and the penalty of such a discovery I have already stated; and Ursela too was alike excluded the company of Hywel, she being of Cambrian blood. It was, indeed, impossible entirely to prevent communication between the lovers, and Hywel had incurred repeated risks in visiting his adored maiden. These secret meetings, it appears, became known to the father of Ursela, who planned many stratagems to intercept the lovers, but for some time without effect; until, maddened at the unsuccessful result, the parent of Ursela determined at once to gratify his revenge, exulting in the idea of mortifying Hywel, even at the cost of rendering his own child for ever miserable.
The humble remonstrances of the dutiful girl had no effect upon the unfeeling father; her tears and lamentations touched not the icy feelings of his heart, and the youthful Ursela was consigned to the care of an ancient relative in Montgomery Castle, who had passed the generally gay morning of life in the dreary nunnery of St. Paul de Leon, in Brittany, and Ursela became lost to the world. The solitude of the lofty turret, deficiency of exercise and air, the morose deportment of the gloomy fanatic, and more than all, the recollection of her Hywel, soon wrought a fearful change upon the interesting recluse: her sensative mind worked upon the fair outward form, and a few months reduced the hapless Ursela from a blooming beauty to a melancholy shadow, consumed by hopeless despondency.
But the purposes of tyranny are often defeated, and purity and innocence urged by unjust severity to the commission of clandestine acts, which, though not justifiable, are certainlyin some degree palliated by the cruelties of the oppressor; and so it here proved, for even the thick walls and grated windows of this unfortunate girl's prison could not prevent a communication from Hywel, and he ultimately succeeded in cheering the mind of his attached Ursela. Exactly how this was accomplished is not known; time has partially destroyed the story, and I have been obliged to embody by figurative romance the disjointed atoms of the tale: yet still some interesting recollections are preserved. I have been assured that in olden time, a subterranean archway
existed throughout the distance between the dungeons of Montgomery castle, under the many intervening banks and streams, to a frightfully deep cellar beneath the monastery of Chirbury. Of the probability of such a communication I venture no opinion, it is sufficient for me to adopt the legend, and to acknowledge the circumstance. At the still hour of darkness when the heavens,
“ Studded with stars, or night's paler planet,
Resumed their wondrous course unerring,
To silent adoration and mute awe,”— would the adventurous Hywel seek the private entrance to a flight of stairs in the monastery of Chirbury, and slowly grope his way through the suffocating damps, his torch of birch-wood fittered by the bat, or its faint ray reflected from the diamond eye of the loathsome toad. Then would he pause awhile, but the gloom could produce no alarm in his mind, and to procure an interview with his love he would have encountered any obstacle.
Having reached the extremity of the passage, by some secret but well understood sign, would Ursela descend the rock-stairs of Montgomery Castle, down to the deepest dungeon that ever clanked with fetters, or echoed to the sighs of the hapless captive, and there would the lovers meet, bewailing the cruel fate which rendered the prospect of conjugal felicity hopeless. Then would the weeping broken-hearted Ursela and the half-mad Hywel pledge their mutual vows; and not till lingering together at the latest moment possible, to avoid detection, would the frenzied youth retrace his steps to the convent, and Ursela resume her hard pallet in the cell.
How long these midnight meetings continued is uncertain, or in what manner a discovery of them took place, tradition saith not, but well-planned measures were adopted for watching the unhappy lovers; their detection followed, and retributive severity in those dreadful times on the border, was at least as horrible as the cruelties practised by the most uncivilised of savage nations.
The severest discipline was enforced in the punishment of these unfortunates. Hywel was literally hacked alive by the knife of the executioner.* The youthful, beauteous, Ursela, experienced a more lingering death; she was enclosed in a vault deep-deep below the foundations of the castle, with a taper, a crucifix, a cake of bread, and a cup of water. The communication to the dungeon was then bricked up.
The circumstance mentioned hardly needs the corroborative proof of history. The death of Sir Walter Blount in England, and the monstrous atrocities so often read of in Cambrian story, will instantly suggest themselves to the intelligent reader.