I didn't want this to get lost at the end of the poetry thread:
The grave of this famous dog (Gelert) is in a Nth Wales village called Beddgelert (literally, the Grave of Gelert). Here is Gelert's story in poetry, followed by George Borrow 1854 account in his wonderful "Wild Wales".
"Llewellyn And His Dog" by Hon. W. R. Spencer
The spearman heard the bugle sound,
And cheerily smiled the morn;
And many a brach, and many a hound,
Obeyed Llewellyn's horn.
And still he blew a louder blast,
And gave a louder cheer:
"Come, Gelert, come, why are thou last
Llewellyn's horn to hear!
"Oh, where does faithful Gelert roam?
The flower of all his race!
So true, so brave -- a lamb at home,
A lion in the chase!"
'Twas only at Llewellyn's board
The faithful Gelert fed;
He watched, he served, he cheered his lord,
And sentinel'd his bed.
In sooth he was a peerless hound,
The gift of Royal John -
But now no Gelert could be found,
And all the chase rode on.
And now as over rocks and dells
The gallant chidings rise,
All Snowdon's craggy chaos yells
With many mingled cries.
That day Llewellyn little loved
The chase of hart or hare;
And scant and small the booty proved,
For Gelert was not there.
Unpleased Llewellyn homeward hied,
When, near the portal-seat,
His truant, Gelert, he espied,
Bounding his lord to greet.
But when he gained the castle-door,
Aghast the chieftain stood;
The hound all o'er was smeared with gore --
His lips, his fangs ran blood!
Llewellyn gazed with fierce surprise,
Unused such looks to meet,
His favourite checked his joyful guise,
And crouched and licked his feet.
Onward in haste Llewellyn passed --
And on went Gelert too --
And still, where'er his eyes were cast,
Fresh blood-gouts shocked his view!
O'erturned his infant's bed he found,
The bloodstained covert rent,
And all around, the walls and ground,
With recent blood besprent.
He called his child -- no voice replied;
He searched -- with terror wild;
Blood! blood! he found on every side,
But nowhere found the child!
"Hell-hound! my child's by thee devoured!"
The frantic father cried;
And, to the hilt, his vengeful sword
He plunged in Gelert's side!
His suppliant looks, as prone he fell,
No pity could impart;
But still his Gelert's dying yell,
Passed heavy o'er his heart.
Aroused by Gelert's dying yell,
Some slumberer wakened nigh:
What words the parent's joy can tell,
To hear his infant cry?
Concealed beneath a tumbled heap,
His hurried search had missed,
All glowing from his rosy sleep
The cherub-boy he kissed.
Nor scathe had he, nor harm, nor dread --
But the same couch beneath
Lay a gaunt wolf, all torn and dead --
Tremendous still in death!
Ah! what was then Llewellyn's pain,
For now the truth was clear;
The gallant hound the wolf had slain,
To save Llewellyn's heir.
Vain, vain was all Llewellyn's woe;
"Best of thy kind, adieu!
The frantic deed which laid thee low
This heart shall ever rue!"
And now a gallant tomb they raise,
With costly sculpture decked;
And marbles, storied with his praise,
Poor Gelert's bones protect.
Here never could the spearman pass,
Or forester, unmoved;
Here oft the tear-besprinkled grass
Llewellyn's sorrow proved.
And here he hung his horn and spear,
And there, as evening fell,
In fancy's ear he oft would hear
Poor Gelert's dying yell.
from Wild Wales by George Borrow:
Llywelyn during his contests with the English had encamped with a few followers in the valley, and one day departed with his men on an expedition, leaving his infant son in a cradle in his tent, under the care of his hound Gelert, after giving the child its fill of goat's milk. Whilst he was absent a wolf from the neighbouring mountains, in quest of prey, found its way into the tent, and was about to devour the child, when the watchful dog interfered, and after a desperate conflict, in which the tent was torn down, succeeded in destroying the monster. Llywelyn returning at evening found the tent on the ground, and the dog, covered with blood, sitting beside it. Imagining that the blood with which Gelert was besmeared was that of his own son devoured by the animal to whose care he had confided him, Llywelyn in a paroxysm of natural indignation forthwith transfixed the faithful creature with his spear. Scarcely, however, had he done so when his ears were startled by the cry of a child from beneath the fallen tent, and hastily removing the canvas he found the child in its cradle, quite uninjured, and the body of an enormous wolf, frightfully torn and mangled, lying near. His breast was now filled with conflicting emotions, joy for the preservation of his son, and grief for the fate of his dog, to whom he forthwith hastened. The poor animal was not quite dead, but presently expired, in the act of licking his master's hand. Llywelyn mourned over him as over a brother, buried him with funeral honours in the valley, and erected a tomb over him as over a hero. From that time the valley was called Beth Gelert.
(If you're a dog lover, I'm sorry for breaking your heart...but I love this heart-wrenching tale which I was introduced to by an Aussie friend, "Soma," last year at this time.)
The Only WO'N!
And now I've got to lay me down in tears because of this tale you've left, W'On.... It is our Nikita's birthday today--she's a husky and my mother's been singing her songs all evening. Doggy love and celebration--but now my heart's filled with this Gelert and how he died!
Would love to know how to pronounce his name...and when this happened....
Thank you for leaving this here for us. It really should be set to music--I wonder whether it has...
I've got to lay me down in tears...
Then I am pleased to offer you some relief from a piece of high camp Victoriana Dog lovers will be relieved to know that this story is a complete fabrication, put about in the nineteenth century…http://www.data-wales.co.uk/beddgelert.htm
It actually drew on a much older tale from the Mabinogion, tho’ I am darned if I can remember much about it, and since it’s 2:30am (hi Jo!) I am not too inclined to go wading through my copy… ;)
It actually drew on a much older tale from the Mabinogion....
Thanks, Mav, for relieving me from nightmares. I read through the information provided on the link you gave above, and read there a bit more about Lady Charlotte Guest's Mabinogion, which I cannot imagine pronouncing correctly! Ma-bih-NO-jyuhn is my best stab, and I probably just killed it!
Can't help thinking about my poor Demon I ran over--my beloved fat cat. Terrible thing to hurt an animal one loves, but to kill it--ah, that is woe.
MA-bih-NO-ghee-on is a fair approximation of the Welsh (hard 'g' formed with a labio-palatal seal, not the softer jay sound formed in the front of the mouth) - in my transliteration 'ghee' rhymes with key.
Just to avoid a misunderstanding, the Mabinogion are ancient tales, handed down by the oral bardic traditions of Welsh culture, and only set down in written forms in comparatively recent times (500 years!) I think Lady Guest was just a Victorian dabbler in translations, tho' I am probably being cruelly dismissive of her scholarship. I'm drawing attention to this only because I *know these works as one of the ancient glories of British storytellers' art, and it was only re-reading my post I suddenly realised I was quite unreasonably taking it for granted that others would know about them. Anyone who is now discovering them is in for a treat - an extraordinary mix of the personal, the social and the cosmic/allegorical.
Intriguing background on the tale, mav. I wasn't sure how much of the tale was a legend of fact or fiction, but I did know of the Mabinogion link, since I happened to pick up a copy of Guest's translation last summer (but I've yet to read it, now next on my list) after looking into the background of "Gelert." (is there a proper Welsh pronunciation of Gelert, mav, please?) Still a searing tale, though, even if it's purely fiction. But, as a dog lover, I feel relieved to know it may actually have never happened. Here's a part of the intro that sheds more light on the evolution of the Mabinogion:
In the Thirteenth or Fourteenth Century, when the tales which comprise the Mabinogion were first written down in the Red Book of Hergest, Wales still possessed a special class of professional storytellers, or "bards." It was a highly regimented class, and those wishing to enter the bardic ranks were required not only to undergo a formal training in composition, but to learn as well a common body of traditional stories (Mabinogi) such as are found here. These stories had circulated orally for countless years, some perhaps since before Christianity came to Wales, and as time passed and new bards were taught the traditional lore, the stories naturally evolved and changed; words were altered, passages were forgotten or replaced, and changes in customs and beliefs were reflected. It is now impossible to ascribe to any tale a specific date of composition, much less a specific author, for the differences in subject and style among the stories show they are the work of many hands.
The Red Book of Hergest, from which this translation was made, is part of the collection of Jesus College, Oxford, and has therefore always been of limited availability to any but scholars. Prior to 1849, when, after eleven years of work, Lady Charlotte E. Guest (1812-1895) completed her three-volume edition of Mabinogion (published by Longman, London between 1841 and 1850) no other complete English translation had been made, and even those who knew Welsh were most likely unfamiliar with the Red Book's contents. The first edition met the needs of both the student and the lay reader, including not only the translation, but the text in Welsh and extensive explanatory notes as well. A one-volume edition, without the Welsh text, appeared in 1877, and Lady Guest's translation has retained its popularity ever since. Readers will find that the century and a half that have passed since the first publication of Guest's Mabinogion have not diminished her work, and the translation remains as timeless as the stories themselves.
Two paragraphs between the above cited, the first and the last, give a chronological overview of the tales in the Mabinogion.
So have there been other more recent translations, mav, or would one have to know Welsh and have access to explore The Red Book of Hergest to learn more accurately the content of the original bardic tales?
And, now, it's 2am here, as well, so I'll do some searching on the Red Book tomorrow...yawn....
The Only WO'N!
Fabrication or not, this dog-owner-lover knows the tale strikes too close to home not to have some grain of truth...perhaps another dog, another time, but some truth.
And truth or fable, it still made me cry.
Does anyone have the poem George Gordon, Lord Byron wrote over the grave of his beloved dog Boatswain?
I tried Google with no luck. Pictures of the grave marker but no poem.
mav, here's a comprehensive look at the legend and the Celtic myths behind it. You have to scroll down to XXI. Beth Gellert
Also found this curious tidbit in the text:or in Bingley's Tour in Wales (1800).
Bingley?...your namesake? Or have you been around a lot longer than you've been letting on to us? The Only WO'N!
Cripes! I never felt so useless as in reading Byron's estimation of man:
Who knows thee well, must quit thee with disgust,
Degraded mass of animated dust!
Imagine greeting a classroom of children with these words,
"Good morning, you degraded masses of animated dust!"
PS: Thanks, Bill, for the link. Woof! Woof!
a comprehensive look at the legend and the Celtic myths behind it Croker (Fairy Legends of Ireland, vol. iii. p. 165) points out several places where the legend seems to have been localised in place-names - two places, called "Gwal y Vilast" ("Greyhound's Couch"), in Carmarthen and Glamorganshire; "Llech y Asp" ("Dog's Stone"), in Cardigan, and another place…
Fascinating stuff, Whit – thanks! I must find out more about this Llech y Asp, and I am also curious because the normal word for dog is cwn
I love the idea of these tales migrating across the face of the globe so that a Bhuddhistic text eventually becomes subsumed into Celtic culture (and we wonder about the migration of language…!
)This concludes the literary route of the Legend of Gellert from India to Wales: Buddhistic Vinaya Pitaka - Fables of Bidpai; - Oriental Sindibad;-Occidental Seven Sages of Rome ; - " English" (Latin), Gesta Romanorum ;-Welsh, Fables of Cattwg.http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/cft/cft28.htm
It really should be set to music--I wonder if it has...
From the "sacred-texts" link:The legend is now firmly established at Bedd Gellert, There is said to be an ancient air, "Bedd Gelert," " as sung by the Ancient Britons"; it is given in a pamphlet published at Carnarvon in the "fifties," entitled Gellert's Grave; or, Llewellyn's Rashness: a Ballad, by the Hon. W R. Spencer, to which is added that ancient Welsh air, "Bedd Gelert," as sung by the Ancient Britons. The air is from R. Roberts' "Collection of Welsh Airs," but what connection it has with the legend I have been unable to ascertain. This is probably another case of adapting one tradition to another.
There you are WordWanderer...a-googlin' now to go! ... The Only WO'N!
In reply to:
Also found this curious tidbit in the text:
or in Bingley's Tour in Wales (1800).
Bingley?...your namesake? Or have you been around a lot longer than you've been letting on to us?
Yes, indeed. I did take a tour in Wales shortly before the events recorded by Miss Austen, and had often thought of publishing my journal of that time before I entered cryogenic suspension. I had no idea someone in my family had actually induced a publisher to bring out my scribblings.
So that's why Anu has you listed as a veteran!