« VorigeDoorgaan »
awe! And above, what have we ?—a habitation upon the very edge, overlooking the abyss, from which it is protected by its massy stone foundation. Around, all is wild and barren; and grand are the forms of the high hills around, that, receding in two directions, fall below the horizon into lower valleys, and there, by their distance, intimating interminable regions of mountain range. But this habitation-is it desolate ?-It is large, though simple in its form. Why built here? Not a human being to be seen; no mark of human foot. The windows above, broken-below, closed, barricaded, boarded. The winds have come, like us, to make enquiry, and swept around it, and finding none to reply have made forcible entry, and torn some dozen feet or more off the roof. Never was more lonely spot. Is it magician's dwelling --or hold they here their nightly meetings the mountain spirits—their convocation of demons that hide them from the light of heaven by day, under bog in the cloudy fell? Such are the questions the imagination puts, and is satisfied for the time to receive no answer. The illusion is best. We af terwards learnt that it was built for an inn, the stage from place to place being long; but the scheme had failed, and it is now uninhabited. It is a lonely, dismal spot-yet with much grandeur, and the sketcher may find much about the rocks and black rivers for his portfolio of wilder nature. This is near another lonely place-an inn too-that has perhaps been the ruin of the other; for it is built where the road turns off to the Devil's Bridge, leaving the course of the poor dwindled Wye to the left, making its apparently uncomfortable way from its source in Plinlimmon, and not very far from this spot. The inn is Dufflyn Castle. The poor cattle in these regions look wretched, and starved-the sheep the most melancholy things; and wherever we came to habitations we were sure to find lambs without mothers, showing it had been a bad season among the ewes. There had been a great lack of rain, and vegetation was very scant. A man who kept a little inn by the roadside, told us that, three years ago, he had lost nearly five hundred sheep. He spoke in great admiration of the sagacity of his dogs; and of their readiness to do their duty, he gave us an interesting proof. There were a
few stray sheep on the very steep hill above us; he called to his dog in Welsh, and as he varied his words, so did the dog vary his course, ascending a very steep and disagreeable place. In one spot there were two holes, in which he told us the dog often fell; as he approached these we observed he used more caution. There was a line or track hardly distinguishable in the rough ground, which, though he came frequently upon it, he would never pass. This was the boundary of the owner's land-the dog effected the purpose for which he was sent, and drove the sheep up, ascending higher and higher until he was wellnigh out of sight-a word or two from his master brought him to a particular spot, and there he stood waiting for further orders. Sometimes at a word he would, while at great speed, suddenly change his course. Now the extraordinary thing is, this poor faithful creature was and is stone blind. We thought it wise; for it understood Welsh and we did not, and we should probably take a much longer time in learning it.
But as we are at Dufflyn or Dyf. flyn Castle, before we turn off towards Hafod and the Devil's Bridge, let us take a sketch of the scene before us. We have been long without seeing human faces; and here are some, not the worst in the world, before us. Here are, at least, a dozen women and half as many children, with their blue cloaks and round black hats, and what a world of baggage they have in that half-waggon halfcart-looking conveyance; and, alas, we find but one poor horse! Let us not cast eyes on him, lest his ghost, and if he be one of the country, he must be at least half a ghost, haunt us. They are bound for a great distance to join their husbands at some iron-works, a world of a way off. The poor beast! "A merciful man is merciful to his beast." In Welsh, this conveys no injunction to merciless women. we are in the neighbourhood of Llanidloes, perhaps this migration may be one of the happy effects of the late Chartist disturbances. We spoke of their baggage. The Welsh, in these parts at least, and as far as we went, to Aberystwith, are all well and comfortably and cleanly clad, especially the women; nor is there any appearance of poverty among them, excepting in some very few hovels among the wilds. And how very pleasing is
their native politeness, urbanity-a strange term to use and apply to population far from city !—but not so far from polity, and rule, and order, and moral and religious feeling, or rather religious principle, which sweetly and simply directs this civil and intelligent people. What new systems of education may do for them, who knows? Not those who set them on foot; yet perhaps some of them do. Legislators take the whole world, with all its wondrously differing population, to be but the parish of Marylebone, and enact laws accordingly. Education, and political education-mongers, are at their work among this orderly people; orderly, for we look upon your Lla nidloes Chartists, if they be Welsh, as exceptions. We find they are having the worst books, of mischievously political and irreligious tendency, translated for their benefit, and amongst them," the Black Book." This we saw in a paper of advertisements. But our horse and tiger are refreshed, so we must be off for the Devil's Bridge, ill-omened name ! but we dare say that the road thither is easy enough," sed revocare gradum." The distance must be under five miles-the first two of which are dismal and dreary-after which the road suddenly makes a turn, and we are on the summit of a hill, and look over a very extensive scene, all mountainous even to the extreme distance. Range after range descends, yet we see not the depth; and above are other mountains running off from the eye, showing their forms and foldings in perspective. Immediately before us is a ravine, whose sides are covered with coppice, one side in shade, excepting the tops, which recline backward and catch the sun's gleam; the other side, somewhat more than halfway up, is of a dusky coppice colour, but suffused with the gold of the evening sun. The depth, undiscovered how deep, lies in that obscure haze, that, by making forms uncertain, adds sublimity. The alternate azure and golden hues of the lights and shadows, and their occasional blending one in to the other, and all receding and softening into a vast distance of mountain range, make the whole scene particularly beautiful. We remained some time and attempted it in colour; but the materials were wanting for properly attempting the view, and we failed. Still we keep the attempt; this we always do, for not only will it impress
the real scene upon our minds as we may hereafter turn over our sketches; but we shall come to find a something in it that may be useful, and may be true, though it was not our particular object in the drawing. Some figures. that made their appearance while we were sketching, were injurious to the effect; this perhaps determined the poetry of its character. It was a scene for angelic agency, and above the regions of "low-thoughted care.'
As we proceeded, the ravine became deeper, and ere long we arrived at the Devil's Bridge. Here the waters of two ravines meet, and flow in one narrow channel at the base of very high hills. The Devil's Bridge Inn is finely situated upon the very edge of the precipice, and immediately above the falls of the waters rushing from the mountains on the right, in the direction of Hafod. It is situated very near the bridge that takes its name from that celebrated architect, the great Pontifex. "Give a dog a bad name and hang him," and so they have hung old Sootie's Bridge, as not wishing to be upon any footing with the builder; not liking much to meddle with him, they have built another above him, so there they are, over another. After all, it may be said " The devil a monk was he." There is nothing like a good mysterious legend, in a wild country. makes the woods, the waters, the hills fabulous. It is delightful at Killarney to hear of O'Donnoghue and his white horses under the lake. The legend here is a sadly mean affair. It is of old Sootie and an old woman, who seems, whenever they are brought into contact, to be a match for him. The old lady lost her cow; and at length found her, or rather saw her, for there was an awful chasm between them. Upon this, the old gentleman appeared on the opposite side, and offered his services to make a bridge, upon condition that he should have the first that put foot over it. The cunning old jade thought a moment, and agreed to it; whereupon the bridge arose, when the old crone took a cake out of her pocket, whistled to her dog, and threw the cake over before him. After it he went, the devil bit his lips; but took his perquisite, and was laughed off the field. The superstitious may think he was very near taking his revenge upon the sex a few years ago, by playing a
young woman rather a slippery trick. A lady's-maid, of all persons in the world the one that has no business to stand upon a precipice, lost her footing while looking over the abyss, and was borne down a frightful depth, but her dress spreading out like a parachute, she was no otherwise injured than by being lodged in the black pool, and terribly frightened. After some delay, ropes were procured and cast down; but in the hurry, no proper noose was made, so that, while they were drawing her up as she clung to it with her hands, her strength failed her and down she fell again. But now a boy had contrived to work his way down, and rescued her, by placing her insensibly in a secure place until more effectual assistance was procured. The poor creature long suffered, as we understood, from the effects of the peril.
At the time we arrived at the inn, the shadows had extended over the whole depth, and about three parts up the side of the precipitous hill, above which the more distant mountain range was seen. The partially coppice-covered rocks were of a beautiful colour, a warm brown, and the coppice so indistinct that it was not very easy to discover that trees were there. In the midst, and at some distance within the ravine, was a deep dark pool, into which a cascade, but of no great height, was pouring its white water, and we could just discover that it was in motion. The whole scene looked grand, large, and solemn; there was enough positive light to show some of the prominent forms, which, by their divisions, made the mass of hill and rock appear to its full height; but afterwards, when the sun had sunk lower and the whole was in shade, the grandeur was gone. As too much direct light gives a meanness by the innumerable divisions and subdivisions it exposes, thus destroying the scene as a whole, so too little light has the same effect by a different operation, by removing all comparison of part with part, and thus reducing the whole. We think here Nature gave a lesson to artists; herein is contained a principle for application. And now night has closed in, a lovely tranquil night. Look out of window the hills, or rather mountains, have folded themselves into smaller compass, are asleep the stars sentinel them, and the distant sound of the falling waters assure you that all is
quiet living sleep, and not death. This is an inspiring time to the artist; his imagination is awake, and he feels the silent blessing both of Nature and of Art. The inn is large, the accommodation in every respect excellent. The Duke of Newcastle is expending large sums to make it a large and first-rate hotel. The building is not offensive to the scenery, perhaps quite otherwise, though it may not bear too strict an architectural serutiny. The roof is in the style of the Swiss cottage; not so the other parts of the building—yet, when finished, it may have a good effect; and its situation immediately over the abyss is greatly in its favour, for the view from the windows is very fine. This scene was not improved by a morning view, and less so at midday. It is certainly most beautiful towards evening, when a broad shadow is over the whole depth, and the tops of the mountains are partially lighted up. Scenery of this kind at mid-day is seldom seen to any advantage : at that time it requires large and moving clouds, that by their bold shadows separate the interfoldings, and give distance and character. A beautiful spot, therefore, should not be seen once, and left; the true admirer of nature, and particularly the artist, will soon acquire a knowledge, by his study of lines and the aspect of the scenery, of the changes that must affect it in the sun's course. It makes all the difference whether shadows come from the right or the left, from the back or front, when the objects that cast them are on all sides unequal. It is a great thing to know where it may be worth while to stop, not judging from the present effect, which may often be bad, and such as may disguise, for the time, great natural beauties. Who has not been surprised into admiration, returning in an evening over the very ground he had passed in the morning with weariness and distaste? It is far better to remain at one beautiful spot, days, and even weeks, than to run post-haste from spot to spot, the mind overwhelmed with vague recollections, and the portfolio crammed with imperfect studies when ten to one but the very best subjects for admiration or study are left unvisited, and often, when visited, unseen.
We regret that our stay was necessarily short; yet we are but "the lion's provider," to lead the way, and do not
hesitate to recommend the Devil's Bridge as a place of sojourn. Not very far from the inn, and facing it, having crossed the bridge, are some very fine views of the general scenery. We were in the broad sun; it was too much cut up into detail for work; we therefore made our way down to the black water we had seen from the inn window, and here we sketched, though not much to our satisfaction. Our friend was more successful, but in another line, for the trout came out of the dark water, sparkling beautifully, at his bidding. But here were fine subjects: bold masses of stone, that had been storm-cast from the cliffs, were in the clearest water, here shallow and there deep; above them the small fall, and above that the high mountain sides, rock and coppice intermingled. Here we were delighted with a sort of ballet exhibition. Two very large kites flew into the area between the cliffs, from over the top to the right, and magnificently and gracefully sported; it was what a dance on wings may be imagined to be, by free creatures in their utmost joy. After a while, another swept over the opposite cliff, and came sailing in his glory among them, and they joined, varied their figure, and performed a wonderful ballet. Sometimes they seemed burlesquing what we have seen in a theatre-retreating and coming in again, and with a new vagary. We afterwards learnt that these creatures are remarkably fine, and peculiar to the place. The kite is a noble bird; they possess the mountains, like fea thered princes. Retracing our steps, we returned to the inn, passed through a little gate, and behold the two bridges one over the other! The depth here does not look very appalling, probably not so great as it really is. From immediately below this bridge, the falls commence; we had seen them from the opposite hill, but had little conception of their beauty until we came near them. It is one stream, but several falls. The volume of water was not great: we are not certain if this was not an advantage, for there was enough to be very fine, and we saw more of the rock than we should have done had it been entirely covered by larger cascades; and we had better views of the wonderful scoopings it had at other times made in the rocky beds, which were now seen to great advantage under every
variety of form and colour. The first fall of magnitude would make a magnificent picture, if the direction of the fall itself were not unfortunate. Were there a more full body of water, it might break over the rock in various ways; with the present scant stream, it is too much directly across the pieture, and as ifin a cut channel. The background is very fine; a large hollow, behind and above the water, forming a wooded basin, surmounted by some pine trees, above and partly through the branches of which the inn is not unpicturesquely seen, and the younger trees that shoot out their tender foliage into the hollow, give magnitude to the whole. This fall terminates in very dark water, nearly surrounded by deeply-coloured precipitous rocks, among which there are some of an ochrey colour, that give a very marked relief to the depth of the
But by far the most striking fall is that below "the Robber's Čave" -a cavern of no great depth; and where, it is said, a robber once lived with, we believe, two companions, a sister and another female. The habi tation must have been very small for three persons, but certainly very safe from surprise. It is said that, one having betrayed the watchword, the robber was taken; he had committed a murder. A more savage scene can hardly be conceived close to the roar and perpetual dampness of the cataract, a precipice before it, with only one, and that a dangerous, access. What a place wherein to meditate on crime! crime for crime's sake; for here could be none of the usual enticements— joyless, unsocial home! From this cave we descended, something like a path, or rather footing, being now made in the descent, to a ledge of rock, through a narrow passage in which the water has found its way. When in full volume, we suppose this whole mass is covered with water, and the scene must be very grand. Yet we had some advantage in seeing it in its present state, as we were enabled to reach what at other times might be the centre of the channel; and thus we had the fall in its recess, and immediately before us. The masses are large and very bold, the water even now being very grand, and though one as a cataract, broken into unequal and fine parts. The water seems pouring down from the sky, as the higher ground is not seen ;
a few feet only from the great brow of the huge mass-the brow, that as it were conceals under it the roof, is the cavern, dark and gloomy; at its edge some rich-coloured fern is growing, which makes the gloom the greater. The sweeping lines of the rock are very grand, their breaking being only at the cataract, where great fragments jut out boldly into the foam, and around them the water thunders. The ledge which forms the foreground is divided into many channels, though now dry, and runs upwards to the right, forming a pass to the upper rock, yet marking its magnitude by the division. The sky above the cataract is broken by some bold trees, or rather trunks of trees, for there was scarcely any foliage on them. This scene would make a very fine picture in the hands of a skilful artist. Still lower, there may be even a finer subject. As we intended visiting the spot again, we did not attempt the descent and now regret we left the Devil's Bridge without reaching the extreme depth of this awful place. The colour of the rock is well suited to the grandeur of the scene. artist will not be content with general views; he will find an infinite variety of detail to occupy much of his time, and fill his portfolio with advantage. Nothing can be easier of access-it is close to the inn, where he can have
the very best accommodation, and, if he pleases, on terms of boarding. We spent two days here, before we proceeded to Hafod.
The road lies still among mountains-about five miles, or scarcely so much, half up hill and half down. Shall we venture to say we were disappointed in Hafod? We had come from almost savage wildness, and were not prepared to see mountains dressed. The great ex. tensive ranges of wood are very fine, and not the less striking from the freshness, the youth, yet fulness of the trees; the woods are trees, not coppice, but they are not of that massy, matted growth we are accustomed to see in old dressed places. We have vigour for antiquity—each has its peculiar charm. You see at once you are upon the very verge of extreme barrenness; the high woods, at their summits and nearly at their base, terminating, or rather flowing off, into wild mountain. The river was very low-it is so immediately
under the high woods, that we suspect it will not afford much variety for the painter. As a seat, Hafod is finely situated; yet, though there is plenty of wood, it wants shelter. There do not appear any deep glens in which you could embower yourself in shade: the heat of the day was oppressive, which made us look for this cool repose the great beauty, after all, of landscape. We read what has been said of Hafod in the guide-books, and thought there was much exaggeration. We do not presume to be judges of architecture beyond its effect upon the artist's eye, and its agreement with the scenery around it. It would be difficult to define its order: it is not Gothic, it is not Venetian, nor Turkish, but a mixture of all. The little obelisks, two to each pinnacle, look very little indeed. It is fair to say, that as it is undergoing great alterations, and is partly boarded up, it must be impossible to judge of it as a whole. It is at present in a semi-neglected state. We walked to the flower-garden, or what was the flower-garden, and returned with melancholy reflections. For whom was it made, how was it cherished, and how desolate is it?-a deserted ruined garden is at all times a dire, a dismal sight. There is a trifling matter here that gave offence to the imagination, by rudely snapping its finest chain. There are some carved grotesque heads in the doorways entering this garden. The sculptor had cut, large enough to catch the eye, the date, and "London," and probably his name, for part was obliterated. Who, in such a spot, would wish to be reminded of London, or Bath, or marble-cutters' yards-or desire to know that these heads came from any part of the world but the garden-or that they were not left there by the genii of the garden, whose creation the whole circumference should be? Another remark, in our architectural ignorance, we will venture to make. There is something not pleasing in seeing bright freestoneyellow buildings arise, where there is nothing of the kind in the soil to harmonize with them. Should not houses in the country be Aurox boves-as if they sprung from the ground-should they not be of the stone of the country, or as much like the stone of the country as possible? The eye cannot be deluded, and is sensible of an intruder nature never intended to be seen there. It is like a woman with false hair, which,