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Chapter 2

In Madoc's tent the clarion sounds,
With rapid clangor hurried far;
Each hill and dale the note rebounds,
But when return the sons of war?
Thou, born of stern Necessity,
Dull Peace! the valley yields to thee,
And owns thy melancholy sway.

The feasts of the ancient British princes usually exhibited all
the rude splendour and liberal indulgence of mountain hospitality,
and Gwenwyn was, on the present occasion, anxious to purchase
popularity by even an unusual display of profusion; for he was
sensible that the alliance which he meditated might indeed be
tolerated, but could not be approved, by his subjects and

The following incident, trifling in itself, confirmed his
apprehensions. Passing one evening, when it was become nearly
dark, by the open window of a guard-room, usually occupied by some
few of his most celebrated soldiers, who relieved each other in
watching his palace, he heard Morgan, a man distinguished for
strength, courage, and ferocity, say to the companion with whom he
was sitting by the watch-fire, "Gwenwyn is turned to a priest, or
a woman! When was it before these last months, that a follower of
his was obliged to gnaw the meat from the bone so closely, as I am
now peeling the morsel which I hold in my hand?" [Footnote: It is
said in Highland tradition, that one of the Macdonalds of the
Isles, who had suffered his broadsword to remain sheathed for some
months after his marriage with a beautiful woman, was stirred to a
sudden and furious expedition against the mainland by hearing
conversation to the above purpose among his bodyguard.]

"Wait but awhile," replied his comrade, "till the Norman match be
accomplished; and so small will be the prey we shall then drive
from the Saxon churls, that we may be glad to swallow, like hungry
dogs, the very bones themselves."

Gwenwyn heard no more of their conversation; but this was enough
to alarm his pride as a soldier, and his jealousy as a prince. He
was sensible, that the people over whom he ruled were at once
fickle in their disposition, impatient of long repose, and full of
hatred against their neighbours; and he almost dreaded the
consequences of the inactivity to which a long truce might reduce
them. The risk was now incurred, however; and to display even more
than his wonted splendour and liberality, seemed the best way of
reconciling the wavering affections of his subjects.

A Norman would have despised the barbarous magnificence of an
entertainment, consisting of kine and sheep roasted whole, of
goat's flesh and deer's flesh seethed in the skins of the animals
themselves; for the Normans piqued themselves on the quality
rather than the quantity of their food, and, eating rather
delicately than largely, ridiculed the coarser taste of the
Britons, although the last were in their banquets much more
moderate than were the Saxons; nor would the oceans of _Crw_
and hydromel, which overwhelmed the guests like a deluge, have
made up, in their opinion, for the absence of the more elegant and
costly beverage which they had learnt to love in the south of
Europe. Milk, prepared in various ways, was another material of
the British entertainment, which would not have received their
approbation, although a nutriment which, on ordinary occasions,
often supplied the Avant of all others among the ancient
inhabitants, whose country was rich in flocks and herds, but poor
in agricultural produce.

The banquet was spread in a long low hall, built of rough wood
lined with shingles, having a fire at each end, the smoke of
which, unable to find its way through the imperfect chimneys in
the roof, rolled in cloudy billows above the heads of the
revellers, who sat on low seats, purposely to avoid its stifling
fumes. [Footnote: The Welsh houses, like those of the cognate
tribes in Ireland and in the Highlands of Scotland, were very
imperfectly supplied with chimneys. Hence, in the History of the
Gwydir Family, the striking expression of a Welsh chieftain who,
the house being assaulted and set on fire by his enemies, exhorted
his friends to stand to their defence, saying he had seen as much
smoke in the hall upon a Christmas even.] The mien and appearance
of the company assembled was wild, and, even in their social
hours, almost terrific. Their prince himself had the gigantic port
and fiery eye fitted to sway an unruly people, whose delight was
in the field of battle; and the long mustaches which he and most
of his champions wore, added to the formidable dignity of his
presence. Like most of those present, Gwenwyn was clad in a simple
tunic of white linen cloth, a remnant of the dress which the
Romans had introduced into provincial Britain; and he was
distinguished by the Eudorchawg, or chain of twisted gold links,
with which the Celtic tribes always decorated their chiefs. The
collar, indeed, representing in form the species of links made by
children out of rushes, was common to chieftains of inferior rank,
many of whom bore it in virtue of their birth, or had won it by
military exploits; but a ring of gold, bent around the head,
intermingled with Gwenwyn's hair--for he claimed the rank of one
of three diademed princes of Wales, and his armlets and anklets,
of the same metal, were peculiar to the Prince of Powys, as an
independent sovereign. Two squires of his body, who dedicated
their whole attention to his service, stood at the Prince's back;
and at his feet sat a page, whose duty it was to keep them warm by
chafing and by wrapping them in his mantle. The same right of
sovereignty, which assigned to Gwenwyn his golden crownlet, gave
him a title to the attendance of the foot-bearer, or youth, who
lay on the rushes, and whose duty it was to cherish the Prince's
feet in his lap or bosom. [Footnote: See Madoc for this literal
_foot page's_ office and duties. Mr. Southey's notes inform
us: "The foot-bearer shall hold the feet of the King in his lap,
from the time he reclines at the board till he goes to rest, and
he shall chafe them with a towel; and during all that time shall
watch that no harm befalls the King. He shall eat of the shame
dish from which the King takes his food; he shall light the first
candle before the King." Such are the instructions given for this
part of royal ceremonial in the laws of Howell Dha. It may be
added, that probably upon this Celtic custom was founded one of
those absurd and incredible representations which were propagated
at the time of the French revolution, to stir up the peasants
against their feudal superiors. It was pretended that some feudal
seigneurs asserted their right to kill and disembowel a peasant,
in order to put their own feet within the expiring body, and so
recover them from the chill.]

Notwithstanding the military disposition of the guests, and the
danger arising from the feuds into which they were divided, few of
the feasters wore any defensive armour, except the light goat-skin
buckler, which hung behind each man's seat. On the other hand,
they were well provided with offensive weapons; for the broad,
sharp, short, two-edged sword was another legacy of the Romans.
Most added a wood-knife or poniard; and there were store of
javelins, darts, bows, and arrows, pikes, halberds, Danish axes,
and Welsh hooks and bills; so, in case of ill-blood arising during
the banquet, there was no lack of weapons to work mischief.

But although the form of the feast was somewhat disorderly, and
that the revellers were unrestrained by the stricter rules of
good-breeding which the laws of chivalry imposed, the Easter
banquet of Gwenwyn possessed, in the attendance of twelve eminent
bards, one source of the most exalted pleasure, in a much higher
degree than the proud Normans could themselves boast. The latter,
it is true, had their minstrels, a race of men trained to the
profession of poetry, song, and music; but although those arts
were highly honoured, and the individual professors, when they
attained to eminence, were often richly rewarded, and treated with
distinction, the order of minstrels, as such, was held in low
esteem, being composed chiefly of worthless and dissolute
strollers, by whom the art was assumed, in order to escape from
the necessity of labour, and to have the means of pursuing a
wandering and dissipated course of life. Such, in all times, has
been the censure upon the calling of those who dedicate themselves
to the public amusement; among whom those distinguished by
individual excellence are sometimes raised high in the social
circle, while far the more numerous professors, who only reach
mediocrity, are sunk into the lower scale. But such was not the
case with the order of bards in Wales, who, succeeding to the
dignity of the Druids, under whom they had originally formed a
subordinate fraternity, had many immunities, were held in the
highest reverence and esteem, and exercised much influence with
their countrymen. Their power over the public mind even rivalled
that of the priests themselves, to whom indeed they bore some
resemblance; for they never wore arms, were initiated into their
order by secret and mystic solemnities, and homage was rendered to
their _Awen_, or flow of poetic inspiration, as if it had
been indeed marked with a divine character. Thus possessed of
power and consequence, the bards were not unwilling to exercise
their privileges, and sometimes, in doing so, their manners
frequently savoured of caprice.

This was perhaps the case with Cadwallon, the chief bard of
Gwenwyn, and who, as such, was expected to have poured forth the
tide of song in the banqueting-hall of his prince. But neither the
anxious and breathless expectation of the assembled chiefs and
champions--neither the dead silence which stilled the roaring
hall, when his harp was reverently placed before him by his
attendant--nor even the commands or entreaties of the Prince
himself--could extract from Cadwallon more than a short and
interrupted prelude upon the instrument, the notes of which
arranged themselves into an air inexpressibly mournful, and died
away in silence. The Prince frowned darkly on the bard, who was
himself far too deeply lost in gloomy thought, to offer any
apology, or even to observe his displeasure. Again he touched a
few wild notes, and, raising his looks upward, seemed to be on the
very point of bursting forth into a tide of song similar to those
with which this master of his art was wont to enchant his hearers.
But the effort was in vain--he declared that his right hand was
withered, and pushed the instrument from him.

A murmur went round the company, and Gwenwyn read in their aspects
that they received the unusual silence of Cadwallon on this high
occasion as a bad omen. He called hastily on a young and ambitious
bard, named Caradoc of Menwygent, whose rising fame was likely
soon to vie with the established reputation of Cadwallon, and
summoned him to sing something which might command the applause of
his sovereign and the gratitude of the company. The young man was
ambitious, and understood the arts of a courtier. He commenced a
poem, in which, although under a feigned name, he drew such a
poetic picture of Eveline Berenger, that Gwenwyn was enraptured;
and while all who had seen the beautiful original at once
recognized the resemblance, the eyes of the Prince confessed at
once his passion for the subject, and his admiration of the poet.
The figures of Celtic poetry, in themselves highly imaginative,
were scarce sufficient for the enthusiasm of the ambitious bard,
rising in his tone as he perceived the feelings which he was
exciting. The praises of the Prince mingled with those of the
Norman beauty; and "as a lion," said the poet, "can only be led by
the hand of a chaste and beautiful maiden, so a chief can only
acknowledge the empire of the most virtuous, the most lovely of
her sex. Who asks of the noonday sun, in what quarter of the world
he was born? and who shall ask of such charms as hers, to what
country they owe their birth?"

Enthusiasts in pleasure as in war, and possessed of imaginations
which answered readily to the summons of their poets, the Welsh
chiefs and leaders united in acclamations of applause; and the
song of the bard went farther to render popular the intended
alliance of the Prince, than had all the graver arguments of his
priestly precursor in the same topic.

Gwenwyn himself, in a transport of delight, tore off the golden
bracelets which he wore, to bestow them upon a bard whose song had
produced an effect so desirable; and said, as he looked at the
silent and sullen Cadwallon, "The silent harp was never strung
with golden wires."

"Prince," answered the bard, whose pride was at least equal to
that of Gwenwyn himself, "you pervert the proverb of Taliessin--it
is the flattering harp which never lacked golden strings."

Gwenwyn, turning sternly towards him, was about to make an angry
answer, when the sudden appearance of Jorworth, the messenger whom
he had despatched to Raymond Berenger, arrested his purpose. This
rude envoy entered the hall bare-legged, excepting the sandals of
goat-skin which he wore, and having on his shoulder a cloak of the
same, and a short javelin in his hand. The dust on his garments,
and the flush on his brow, showed with what hasty zeal his errand
had been executed. Gwenwyn demanded of him eagerly, "What news
from Garde Doloureuse, Jorworth ap Jevan?"

"I bear them in my bosom," said the son of Jevan; and, with much
reverence, he delivered to the Prince a packet, bound with silk,
and sealed with the impression of a swan, the ancient cognizance
of the House of Berenger. Himself ignorant of writing or reading,
Gwenwyn, in anxious haste, delivered the letter to Cadwallon, who
usually acted as secretary when the chaplain was not in presence,
as chanced then to be the case. Cadwallon, looking at the letter,
said briefly, "I read no Latin. Ill betide the Norman, who writes
to a Prince of Powys in other language than that of Britain! and
well was the hour, when that noble tongue alone was spoken from
Tintadgel to Cairleoil!"

Gwenwyn only replied to him with an angry glance.

"Where is Father Einion?" said the impatient Prince.

"He assists in the church," replied one of his attendants, "for it
is the feast of Saint--"

"Were it the feast of Saint David," said Gwenwyn, "and were the
pyx between his hands, he must come hither to me instantly!"

One of the chief henchmen sprung off, to command his attendance,
and, in the meantime, Gwenwyn eyed the letter containing the
secret of his fate, but which it required an interpreter to read,
with such eagerness and anxiety, that Caradoc, elated by his
former success, threw in a few notes to divert, if possible, the
tenor of his patron's thoughts during the interval. A light and
lively air, touched by a hand which seemed to hesitate, like the
submissive voice of an inferior, fearing to interrupt his master's
meditations, introduced a stanza or two applicable to the subject.

"And what though thou, O scroll," he said, apostrophizing the
letter, which lay on the table before his master, "dost speak with
the tongue of the stranger? Hath not the cuckoo a harsh note, and
yet she tells us of green buds and springing flowers? What if thy
language be that of the stoled priest, is it not the same which
binds hearts and hands together at the altar? And what though thou
delayest to render up thy treasures, are not all pleasures most
sweet, when enhanced by expectation? What were the chase, if the
deer dropped at our feet the instant he started from the cover--or
what value were there in the love of the maiden, were it yielded
without coy delay?"

The song of the bard was here broken short by the entrance of the
priest, who, hasty in obeying the summons of his impatient master,
had not tarried to lay aside even the stole, which he had worn in
the holy service; and many of the elders thought it was no good
omen, that, so habited, a priest should appear in a festive
assembly, and amid profane minstrelsy.

The priest opened the letter of the Norman Baron, and, struck with
surprise at the contents, lifted his eyes in silence.

"Read it!" exclaimed the fierce Gwenwyn.

"So please you," replied the more prudent chaplain, "a smaller
company were a fitter audience."

"Read it aloud!" repeated the Prince, in a still higher tone;
"there sit none here who respect not the honour of their prince,
or who deserve not his confidence. Read it, I say, aloud! and by
Saint David, if Raymond the Norman hath dared--"

He stopped short, and, reclining on his seat, composed himself to
an attitude of attention; but it was easy for his followers to
fill up the breach in his exclamation which prudence had

The voice of the chaplain was low and ill-assured as he read the
following epistle:--

"Raymond Berenger, the noble Norman Knight, Seneschal
of the Garde Doloureuse, to Gwenwyn, Prince of Powys,
(may peace be between them!) sendeth health.

"Your letter, craving the hand of our daughter Eveline Berenger,
was safely delivered to us by your servant, Jorworth ap Jevan, and
we thank you heartily for the good meaning therein expressed to us
and to ours. But, considering within ourselves the difference of
blood and lineage, with the impediments and causes of offence
which have often arisen in like cases, we hold it fitter to match
our daughter among our own people; and this by no case in
disparagement of you, but solely for the weal of you, of
ourselves, and of our mutual dependants, who will be the more safe
from the risk of quarrel betwixt us, that we essay not to draw the
bonds of our intimacy more close than beseemeth. The sheep and the
goats feed together in peace on the same pastures, but they mingle
not in blood, or race, the one with the other. Moreover, our
daughter Eveline hath been sought in marriage by a noble and
potent Lord of the Marches, Hugo de Lacy, the Constable of
Chester, to which most honourable suit we have returned a
favourable answer. It is therefore impossible that we should in
this matter grant to you the boon you seek; nevertheless, you
shall at all times find us, in other matters, willing to pleasure
you; and hereunto we call God, and Our Lady, and Saint Mary
Magdalene of Quatford, to witness; to whose keeping we heartily
recommend you.

"Written by our command, at our Castle of Garde Doloureuse, within
the Marches of Wales, by a reverend priest, Father Aldrovand, a
black monk of the house of Wenlock; and to which we have appended
our seal, upon the eve of the blessed martyr Saint Alphegius, to
whom be honour and glory!"

The voice of Father Einion faltered, and the scroll which he held
in his hand trembled in his grasp, as he arrived at the conclusion
of this epistle; for well he knew that insults more slight than
Gwenwyn would hold the least word it contained, were sure to put
every drop of his British blood into the most vehement commotion.
Nor did it fail to do so. The Prince had gradually drawn himself
up from the posture of repose in which he had prepared to listen
to the epistle; and when it concluded, he sprung on his feet like
a startled lion, spurning from him as he rose the foot-bearer, who
rolled at some distance on the floor. "Priest," he said, "hast
thou read that accursed scroll fairly? for if thou hast added, or
diminished, one word, or one letter, I will have thine eyes so
handled, that thou shalt never read letter more!"

The monk replied, trembling, (for he was well aware that the
sacerdotal character was not uniformly respected among the
irascible Welshmen,) "By the oath of my order, mighty prince, I
have read word for word, and letter for letter."

There was a momentary pause, while the fury of Gwenwyn, at this
unexpected affront, offered to him in the presence of all his
Uckelwyr, (_i.e._ noble chiefs, literally men of high
stature,) seemed too big for utterance, when the silence was
broken by a few notes from the hitherto mute harp of Cadwallon.
The Prince looked round at first with displeasure at the
interruption, for he was himself about to speak; but when he
beheld the bard bending over his harp with an air of inspiration,
and blending together, with unexampled skill, the wildest and most
exalted tones of his art, he himself became an auditor instead of
a speaker, and Cadwallon, not the Prince, seemed to become the
central point of the assembly, on whom all eyes were bent, and to
whom each ear was turned with breathless eagerness, as if his
strains were the responses of an oracle.

"We wed not with the stranger,"--thus burst the song from the lips
of the poet. "Vortigern wedded with the stranger; thence came the
first wo upon Britain, and a sword upon her nobles, and a
thunderbolt upon her palace. We wed not with the enslaved Saxon--
the free and princely stag seeks not for his bride the heifer
whose neck the yoke hath worn. We wed not with the rapacious
Norman--the noble hound scorns to seek a mate from the herd of
ravening wolves. When was it heard that the Cymry, the descendants
of Brute, the true children of the soil of fair Britain, were
plundered, oppressed, bereft of their birthright, and insulted
even in their last retreats?--when, but since they stretched their
hand in friendship to the stranger, and clasped to their bosoms
the daughter of the Saxon? Which of the two is feared?--the empty
water-course of summer, or the channel of the headlong winter
torrent?--A maiden smiles at the summer-shrunk brook while she
crosses it, but a barbed horse and his rider will fear to stem the
wintry flood. Men of Mathravel and Powys, be the dreaded flood of
winter--Gwenwyn, son of Cyverliock!--may thy plume be the topmost
of its waves!"

All thoughts of peace, thoughts which, in themselves, were foreign
to the hearts of the warlike British, passed before the song of
Cadwallon like dust before the whirlwind, and the unanimous shout
of the assembly declared for instant war. The Prince himself spoke
not, but, looking proudly around him, flung abroad his arm, as one
who cheers his followers to the attack.

The priest, had he dared, might have reminded Gwenwyn, that the
Cross which he had assumed on his shoulder, had consecrated his
arm to the Holy War, and precluded his engaging in any civil
strife. But the task was too dangerous for Father Einion's
courage, and he shrunk from the hall to the seclusion of his own
convent. Caradoc, whose brief hour of popularity was past, also
retired, with humbled and dejected looks, and not without a glance
of indignation at his triumphant rival, who had so judiciously
reserved his display of art for the theme of war, that was ever
most popular with the audience.

The chiefs resumed their seats no longer for the purpose of
festivity, but to fix, in the hasty manner customary among these
prompt warriors, where they were to assemble their forces, which,
upon such occasions, comprehended almost all the able-bodied males
of the country,--for all, excepting the priests and the bards,
were soldiers,--and to settle the order of their descent upon the
devoted marches, where they proposed to signalize, by general
ravage, their sense of the insult which their Prince had received,
by the rejection of his suit.

Sir Walter Scott