Wild Wales, by George Borrow

Chapter 69

Church of Llan Rhyadr — The Clerk — The Tablet — Stone — First View of the Cataract.

THE night was both windy and rainy like the preceding one, but the morning which followed, unlike that of the day before, was dull and gloomy. After breakfast I walked out to take another view of the little town. As I stood looking at the church a middle-aged man of a remarkably intelligent countenance came up and asked me if I should like to see the inside. I told him I should, whereupon he said that he was the clerk and would admit me with pleasure. Taking a key out of his pocket he unlocked the door of the church and we went in. The inside was sombre, not so much owing to the gloominess of the day as the heaviness of the architecture. It presented something in the form of a cross. I soon found the clerk what his countenance represented him to be, a highly intelligent person. His answers to my questions were in general ready and satisfactory.

“This seems rather an ancient edifice,” said I; “when was it built?”

“In the sixteenth century,” said the clerk; “in the days of Harry Tudor.”

“Have any remarkable men been clergymen of this church?”

“Several, sir; amongst its vicars was Doctor William Morgan, the great South Welshman, the author of the old Welsh version of the Bible, who flourished in the time of Queen Elizabeth. Then there was Doctor Robert South, an eminent divine, who, though not a Welshman, spoke and preached Welsh better than many of the native clergy. Then there was the last vicar, Walter D-, a great preacher and writer, who styled himself in print Gwalter Mechain.”

“Are Morgan and South buried here?” said I.

“They are not, sir,” said the clerk; “they had been transferred to other benefices before they died.”

I did not inquire whether Walter D— was buried there, for of him I had never heard before, but demanded whether the church possessed any ancient monuments.

“This is the oldest which remains, sir,” said the clerk, and he pointed with his finger to a tablet-stone over a little dark pew on the right side of the oriel window. There was an inscription upon it, but owing to the darkness I could not make out a letter. The clerk, however, read as follows.

1694. 21 Octr. Hic Sepultus Est Sidneus Bynner.

“Do you understand Latin?” said I to the clerk.

“I do not, sir; I believe, however, that the stone is to the memory of one Bynner.”

“That is not a Welsh name,” said I.

“It is not, sir,” said the clerk.

“It seems to be radically the same as Bonner,” said I, “the name of the horrible Popish Bishop of London in Mary’s time. Do any people of the name of Bynner reside in this neighbourhood at present?”

“None, sir,” said the clerk; “and if the Bynners are descendants of Bonner, it is, perhaps, well that there are none.”

I made the clerk, who appeared almost fit to be a clergyman, a small present, and returned to the inn. After paying my bill I flung my satchel over my shoulder, took my umbrella by the middle in my right hand, and set off for the Rhyadr.

I entered the narrow glen at the western extremity of the town and proceeded briskly along. The scenery was romantically beautiful; on my left was the little brook, the waters of which run through the town; beyond it a lofty hill; on my right was a hill covered with wood from the top to the bottom. I enjoyed the scene, and should have enjoyed it more had there been a little sunshine to gild it.

I passed through a small village, the name of which I think was Cynmen, and presently overtook a man and boy. The man saluted me in English, and I entered into conversation with him in that language. He told me that he came from Llan Gedwin, and was going to a place called Gwern something, in order to fetch home some sheep. After a time he asked me where I was going.

“I am going to see the Pistyll Rhyadr,” said I

We had then just come to the top of a rising ground.

“Yonder’s the Pistyll!” said he, pointing to the west.

I looked in the direction of his finger, and saw something at a great distance, which looked like a strip of grey linen hanging over a crag.

“That is the waterfall,” he continued, “which so many of the Saxons come to see. And now I must bid you good-bye, master; for my way to the Gwern is on the right”

Then followed by the boy he turned aside into a wild road at the corner of a savage, precipitous rock.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 14:50