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and a rotten sheepe to infect a whole flocke, was chatting of Irish verses, as though his toong had run on pattens, in commendation of the Lord Thomas, investing him with the title of Silken Thomas, bicause his horsemens jacks were gorgeously imbroidered with silke: and in the end he told him that he lingered there ouer long; whereat the Lord Thomas being quickened," as Hollinshed expresses it, bid defiance to the chancellor, threw down contemptuously the sword of office, which, in his father's absence, he held as deputy and rushed forth to engage in open insurrection.
Ah, Clandeboy! thy friendly floor
Slieve-Donard's oak shall light no more.-P. 288.
Clandeboy is a district of Ulster, formerly possessed by the sept of the O'Neales, and Slieve-Donard a romantic mountain in the same province. The clan was ruined after Tyrone's great rebellion, and their places of abode laid desolate. The ancient Irish, wild and uncultivated in other respects, did not yield even to their descendants in practising the most free and extended hospitality; and doubtless the bards mourned the decay of the mansion of their chiefs in strains similar to the verses of the British Llywarch Hen on a similar occasion, which are affecting, even through the discouraging medium of a literal translation:
Many a dog that scented well the prey, and aerial bawk,
Have been trained on this floor
Before Erlleon became polluted..
This hearth, ah, will it not be covered with nettles;
More congenial to it was the foot of the needy petitioner.
This hearth, will it not be covered with green sod!
Its ample caldron boiled the prey taken from the foe.
This bearth, will it not be covered with toad-stools!
This hearth, will it not be overgrown with spreading brambles!
Till now, logs of burning wood lay on it,
Accustomed to prepare the gifts of Reged!
This hearth, will it not be covered with thorns!
More congenial on it would have been the mixed group
of Owain's social friends united in harmony.
This hearth, will it not be covered over with ants!
More adapted to it would have been the bright torches
This hearth, will it not be covered with dock-leaves!
This hearth, will it not be turned up by the swine!
Heroic Elegies of Llyware Hen, by OWEN.
"The hall of Cynddylan is gloomy this night,
I must weep a while, and then be silent!
Hollinshed. Lond, 1808, 4to. vol. vi. p. 204.
The hall of Cynddylan is not easy this night,
On the top of the rock of Hydwyth,
Without its lord, without company, without the circling feasts!
The hall of Cynddylan is gloomy this night,
Without fire, without songs
Tears afflict the cheeks!
The tradition from which the ballad is founded was supplied by a friend, (the late Lord Webb Seymour,) whose account I will not do the injustice to abridge, as it contains an admirable picture of an old English hall:
"Littlecote House stands in a low and lonely situation. On three sides it is surrounded by a park that spreads over the adjoining hill; on the fourth, by meadows which are watered by the river Kennet. Close on one side of the house is a thick grove of lofty trees, along the verge of which runs one of the principal avenues to it through the park. It is an irregular building of great antiquity, and was probably erected about the time of the termination of feudal warfare, when defence came no longer to be an object in a country mansion. Many circumstances, however, in the interior of the house, seem appropriate to feudal times. The hall is very spacious, floored with stones, and lighted by large transom window that are clothed with casements. Its walls are hung with old military accoutrements, that have long been left a prey to rust. At one end of the hall is a range of coats of mail and helmets, and there is on every side abundance of old-fashioned pistols and guns, many of them with matchlocks. Immediately below the cornice, hangs a row of leathern jerkins, made in the form of a shirt, supposed to have been worn as armour, by the vassals. A large oak table, reaching nearly from one end of the room to the other, might have feasted the whole neighbourhood, and an appendage to one end of it made it answer at other times for the old game of shuffleboard. The rest of the furniture is in a suitable style, particularly an arm-chair of cumbrous workmanship, constructed of wood, curiously turned, with a high back and triangular seat, said to have been used by Judge Popham in
the reign of Elizabeth. The entrance into the hall is at one end, by a low door, communicating with a passage that leads from the outer door in the front of the house to a quadrangle within; at the other, it opens upon a gloomy staircase, by which you ascend to the first floor, and, passing the doors of some bedchambers, enter a narrow gallery, which extends along the back front of the house from one end to the other of it, and looks upon an old garden. This gallery is hung with portraits, chiefly in the Spanish dresses of the sixteenth century. In one of the bedchambers, which you pass in going towards the gallery, is a bedstead with bine furniture, which time has now made dingy and threadbare, and in the bottom of one of the bed curtains you are shown a place where a small piece has been cut out and sewn in again,-a circumstance which serves to identify the scene of the following story:
"It was on a dark rainy night in the month of November, that an old midwife sat musing by her cottage fire-side, when on a sudden she was startled by a loud knocking at the door. On opening it she found a horseman, who told her that her assistance was required immediately by a person of rank, and that she should be handsomely rewarded; but that there were reasons for keeping the affair a strict secret, and, therefore, she must submit to be blindfolded, and to be conducted in that condition to the bedchamber of the lady. With some hesitation the midwife consented; the horseman bound her eyes, and placed her on a pillion behind him. After proceeding in silence for many miles through rough and dirty lanes, they stopped, and the midwife was led into a house, which, from the length of her walk through the apartments, as well as the sounds about her, she discovered to be the seat of wealth and power. When the bandage was removed from her eyes, she found herself in a bedchamber, in which were the lady on whose account she had been sent for, and a man of a haughty and ferocious aspect. The lady was delivered of a fine boy. Immediately the man commanded the midwife to give him the child, and, catching it from her, he hurried across the room, and threw it on the back of the fire. that was blazing in the chimney. The child, however, was strong, and by its struggles rolled itself upon the hearth, when the ruffian again seized it with fury, and, in spite of the intercession of the midwife, and the more piteous entreaties of the mother, thrust it under the grate, and raking the live coals upon it, soon put an end to its life. The midwife, after spending some time in affording all the relief in her power to the wretched mother, was told that she must be gone. Her former conductor appeared, who again bound her eyes, and conveyed her behind him to her own home he then paid her handsomely, and departed. The midwife was strongly agitated by the horrors of the preceding night; and she immediately made a deposition of the facts before a magistrate. Two circumstances afforded hopes of detecting the house in which the crime had been committed; one was, the midwife, as she sat by the bedside, had, with a view to discover the place, cut out a piece of the bed curtain, and sewn it in again; the other was, that as she had descended the staircase she had counted the steps. Some suspicions fell upon one Darrell, at that time the proprietor of Littlecote-House, and the domain around it. The house was examined, and identified by the midwife, and Darrell was tried at Salisbury for the murder. By corrupting his judge, he escaped the sentence of the law; but broke his neck by a fall from his horse in hunting, in a few months after. The place where this happened is still known by the name of Darrell's Style,-a spot to be dreaded by the peasant whom the shades of evening have overtaken on his way.
"Littlecote House is two miles from Hungerford, in Berkshire, through which the Bath road passes. The fact occurred in the reign of Elizabeth. All the important circumstances I have given exactly as they are told in the country; some trifles only are added, either to render the whole connected, or to increase the impression."
To Lord Webb's edition of this singular story the author can now add the following account, extracted from Aubrey's Correspondence. It occurs among other particulars respecting Sir John Popham :
Dayrell, of Littlecote, in Corn. Wilts, having gott his lady's waiting-woman with child, when her travell came, sent a servant with a horse for a midwife, whom he was to bring hoodwinked. She was brought, and layd the woman, but as soon as the child was born, she sawe the knight take the child and murther it, and burn it in the fire in the chamber. She having done her businesse, was extraordinarily rewarded for her paines, and sent blindfolded away. This horrid action did much run in her mind, and she had desire to discover it, but knew not where 'twas. She considered with herself the time that she was riding, and how many miles she might have rode at that rate in that time, and that it must be some great person's house, for the roome was 12 foot high; and she should know the chamber if she sawe it. She went to a Justice of Peace, and search was made. The
'I think there is a chapel on one side of it, but am not quite sure.
Such an exhortation was, in similar circumstances, actually given to his followers by a Welsh chieftain :
Enmity did continue betweene Howell ap Rys ap Howell Vaughan and the sonnes of John ap Meredith. After the death of Evan ap Rebert, Griffith ap Gronw (cosen-german to John ap Meredith's sonres of Gwynfryn, who had long served in France, and had charge there) comeing home to live in the countrey, it happened that a servant of his, comeing to fish in Stymllyn, his fish was taken away, and the fellow beaten by Howell ap Rys his servants, and by his commandment. Griffith ap John ap Gronw took the matter in such dudgeon that he challenged Howell ap Rys to the field, which he refusing, assembling his cosins John ap. Meredith's sonnes and his friends together, assaulted Howell in his own house, after the maner he had scene in the French warres, and consumed with fire his barnes and his out-houses. Whilst he was thus assaulting the hall, which Howel ap Rys and many other people kept, being a very strong house, he was shot, out of a crevice of the
This, and what follows, is taken from a real achievement of Major Robert Philipson, called, from his desperate and adventurous courage, Robin the Devil; which, as being very inaccurately noticed in this note upon the first edition, shall be now given in a more authentic form. The chief place of his retreat was not Lord's Island, in Derwentwater, but Curwen's Island, in the Lake of Windermere
"This island formerly belonged to the Philipsons, a family of note in Westmoreland. During the Civil Wars, two of them, an elder and a younger brother, served the King. The former, who was the proprietor of it, commanded a regiment; the latter was a major. "The major, whose name was Robert, was a man of great spirit and enterprise; and for his many feats of personal bravery had obtained, among the Oliverians of those parts, the appellation of Robin the Devil.
"After the war had subsided, and the direful effects of public opposition had ceased, revenge and malice long kept alive the animosity of individuals. Colonel Briggs, a steady friend to usurpation, resided at this time at Kendal, and under the double character of a reading magistrate (for he was a Justice-of-Peace) and an active commander, held the country in awe. This person having heard that Major Philipson was at his brother's house on the island in Windermere, resolved, if possible, to seize and punish a man who had made himself so particularly obnoxious. How it was conducted, my authority does not inform us-whether he got together the navigation of the lake, and blockaded the place by sea, or whether he landed and carried on his approaches in form. Neither do we learn the strength of the garrison within, nor of the works without. All we learn is, that Major Philipson endured a siege of eight months with great gallantry, till his brother, the Colonel, raised a party and relieved him.
"It was now the Major's turn to make reprisals. He put himself, therefore, at the head of a little troop of horse, and rode to Kendal. Here, being informed that Colonel Briggs was at prayers, (for it was on a Sunday morning,) he stationed his men properly in the avenues, and himself armed, rode directly into the church. It probably was not a regular church,
1 Dr. Burn's History of Westmoreland.