Wales and the French Revolution Series
(English Poems)

A Tour Through Parts of South and North Wales (extract)

by William Sotheby

Location: English-Language Poetry from Wales 1789-1806, rhif / no. 2

From Book One

Now the soft murmurs, faint and fainter heard,
Die, while in contrast harsh from yon lone isle,
Loudly, with ceaseless revolution whirl’d,
Bursts the cogg’d wheel, and on the anvil blows,
Falling at measur’d intervals, and oft
More mark’d by casual interruptions, fling
Heavily forth their weight of sound. Soft falls
Upon the dewy earth descending eve,
And onward as I wander, wavering mists
Shadow the face of Nature, and diffuse
The thin blue veil, that half concealing adds
To the dim scene imaginary charms.

’Tis now the time, when from the narrow world
Withdrawn, and its close fett’ring care, the mind,
Swift as a prisoner from long bondage scap’d,
Exulting in its liberty, at will
Arrays its wild creation; yet the bard
That roams at eventide, through pathless woods,
His secret way, shapes not ideal scenes
More suited to the pensive range of thought,
Than yonder Castle,* ’mid the ruins vast * Caerfily Castle
Lifting its hoary brow. The mellow tints
That time’s slow pencil lays from year to year
Upon the ancient tow’rs, spread o’er the wreck
A grateful gloom, and the thick clouds that sweep
Along the darken’d battlements, extend
The melancholy grandeur of the scene.

Hail, solemn wreck! Thou silent hour, belov’d
Of fancy, hail! and thou, that o’er yon hill,
Mild orb, slow rising, with soft radiance gleam’st
Upon the Castle, while each varied shape
Of turret, and nich’d battlement that fronts
The light’s full stream, its shadowy image casts
On the retiring walls.

Bold on the summit of the mountain brow
Frowns many a hoary tow’r, where Cambria’s chiefs
Waving the banner’d dragon dar’d to arms
The Norman host. Breathing his native strains,
There the descendant of the British bards,
Hoel, or lofty Taliessin, oft
At the dim twilight hour in pensive mood,
Amid the silent hall o’ergrown with bryars,
Recalls the festivals of old, when blaz’d
The giant oak, and chieftains crown’d with mead
The sculptur’d horn, while the high vaulted roof
Re-echo’d to the honour’d minstrel’s harp.
O’er yonder crag, steep, lonely, wild, impends
The ruin’d fortress,* like th’ aerial shape * Caraigcennin, the remains of a British fortress.
Of battlement or broken citadel,
That when at eve autumnal gales arise,
Crowns the grey fleeces of the floating clouds.
Stranger! beneath yon tow’r a vaulted path
Down the steep mountain leads; with flaming torch
Amid the windings of the cliff descend,
Where, in its deep recess, the hollow’d rock
Catches the gather’d damps, that drop by drop
Fall through the porous stone. Gilt by the blaze,
The radiant cave, the dews that gem the roof
Shedding around from long pellucid points
The mimic diamonds, veins of sparry ore,
That glittering down the arches’ crystal sides
Their interlacing fret-work weave, renew
The visionary scenes to childhood dear,
Of subterranean palaces, the haunts
Of Genii brooding o’er their secret wealth.

… O’er the sunny lawns
The scatter’d groves of graceful foliage bloom,
Mingling with sweet variety: The hills
Sink softly melting to the plain beneath,
Lost gradual in its level, as the stream
That glides into the bosom of the sea:
High low’r the wilder steeps, darken’d with oaks
Majestic, as bold nature unconfin’d
Spreads in his forest range; and at the base
Of yon wood-waving cliff, where the proud wreck
Of ancient Dinevawr sublimely lifts
Its ivied battlements, swift Towy winds
Voluminous, in many a lucid fold
Wildly meand’ring; while beyond arise
The verdant heights that guard the shelter’d vale
And fade away, dim’d by the distant clouds.

Next article: The Resurrection of Rhitta Gawr .
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