Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

prominence as the successor of Vortigern about 457, and disappears in 465. If the Merlin of Ardderyd had been his contemporary, he must have been a great deal more than a hundred years old at the date of the battle; and yet we know that he survived this contest for many years. In the poem of the Avallenau, speaking of himself he says:—

"Ten years and forty, as the toy of lawless ones,
Have I been wandering in gloom among sprites."

Making allowance for poetical exaggeration, it is quite clear that the Merlin who was present at Ardderyd, and who wrote these lines, could not have been the Myrdin, or Merlin the bard, soothsayer, and enchanter, of Ambrosianus; or, for the same reason, of Vortigern himself. Nay, I go further, and say that he could not have been the original of that enchanter Merlin who was the ally of

hur Pendragon, and who is credited with presiding over the birth of Arthur, and with the wondrous achievements of necromancy associated with this prince and his exploits. A man who died in 623 or later, as appears from the Avallenau, could not be born in 470 or 480, as

Villemarqué supposes. This date, I may observe, is too

late for his connection with Aurelius Ambrosianus, and it is too early for the man who survived to the close of the sixth century. It follows either that the true Merlin and his exploits are antedated, or that there were two Merlins. The latter, I believe, is the true supposition; and the mythical attributes of the earlier Merlin have been assigned to the latter, while a third wholly legendary Merlin arose in the imagination of the romancers of the eleventh century.

That the Merlin of Ambrosianus and Vortigern was really distinct from the second Merlin, is further proved by the circumstances of name and birth. The first Merlin, the vates of Ambrosianus, is called Myrdyn Emrys or Merlinus Ambrosius; the second is named by the Welsh Merlinus Caledonius, Silvestris, Wylt, or the Wild; and in the Polychronicon these are regarded as wholly distinct persons. Myrdin Emrys is born of a nun or vestal virgin and an incubus or spirit of the air. He is a god or devil incarnate. Belief in relations of this sort was fixed in the popular mind of the time, and it is countenanced by St Augustine: indeed, the word Myrdin (or Merlin) is said to indicate this descent. According to Mr Nash it is originally Mab-leian, Mac-leian, Mab-merchleian. This was Latinised as Merlinus, Mellinus, Merclinus.1 Villemarqué takes the same view as to the origin of the name, but runs it back to the classical Marsus. Now Merlin Caledonius had no such origin. He was clearly regarded. as the son of Madog Morvryn, who was descended from the great Cymric family founded by Coel Godebawe, and was nearly related to the historical and famous Urien Reged. Merlin had, moreover, a twin-sister, Gwendydd, who is constantly associated with him in his life, sufferings, and poetry. This by itself is sufficient to mark him. off from Merlin Ambrosius.

If this be so, it follows that the second Merlin, or Merlinus Caledonius, is the author or reputed author of the poems attributed to the person of the name, as this author was undoubtedly present at the battle of Ardderyd, was the friend of Gwenddoleu who fell there, 1 Introd. to Merlin, p. ix.

knew Rydderch Hael, the King of Strathclyde, met Kentigern, and generally was identified with the civil life of the period towards the close of the sixth century. In this case he is brought very close to us as a personage who lived within the bounds of the first-known historical kingdom in the valleys of the Clyde and Upper Tweeddale,—a haunter, in fact, of the Coed Celydon or Wood of Caledon. One word in passing regarding the first Merlin or Myrdin Emrys. He has been confounded with the King Aurelius Ambrosianus; but it is clear that he was quite a distinct person. The parentage of Aurelius Ambrosianus is obscure, but it would seem that he was of Roman descent; in fact, a Romanised Briton, and his mother probably a vestal virgin. Hence there arose regarding his birth, as respecting that of Myrdin Emrys, the notion that he too was born of a spirit of the air, which seems to have been the mode accepted at the time of accounting for certain irregularities. The Merlin of Ambrosius was also, and probably first of all, the vates of Vortigern. When Vortigern practically deserted the national cause, Merlin would seem to have attached himself to Ambrosius, the new leader,-the leader, in fact, of the Romanised Britons who dwelt mainly in the Roman cities, as yet, in great measure, intact. Vortigern is said to have given to Ambrosius a city on one of the summits of Snowdon; but this is incorrect in point both of the gift itself and its actual locality. It was not a city, but a fort or dinas which was given; and it is not situated on a summit of Snowdon, but on an isolated eminence in the valley of Nant Gwynant (the Valley of Waters), on the south side of Snowdon, and about a mile from

Beddgelert, and known even now as Dinas Emrys, or Fort of Ambrosius.1 This eminence and fort are traditionally associated with Myrdin Emrys, and the probability is that it was he upon whom the gift was conferred either by Vortigern or Aurelius Ambrosianus. Certainly it was here, according to the legend, that Myrdin Emrys poured forth his prophecies and forebodings as to the future of his country:—

"Qui sua vaticinia

Proflavit in Snaudonia,"

while Vortigern sat anxious and brooding by the stream which winds through the valley at the base of the hill. If stretch of lake and rush of stream below, grandeur of rock and peak above, the silence and the shadow that lie in the depths of cloven and precipitous cums,—the voice of the mountain as it sends its waters to the valley in the soft summer-tide, or as it swells in winter when the wind assails its changeless strength,-could ever touch the heart of man, and link it to the supernatural, this must have been, in an impressionable age, especially the function of the land which nourished the bard and seer of Dinas Emrys.

"Pierce then the heavens, thou hill of streams,
And make the snows thy crest!
The sunlight of immortal dreams
Around thee still shall rest.

"Eryri, temple of the bard,

And fortress of the free!
Midst rocks which heroes died to guard,
Their spirit dwells with thee!"

MRS HEMANS: Eryri Wen [Snowdon].

1 In the Polychronicon the site of the "Collis Ambrosii" is erroneously given as at the source of the Conway.

It was Merlin Caledonius who was present at the battle of Ardderyd in 573. He was on the side of the defeated pagan Cymri under Gwenddoleu. Gwenddoleu himself was slain, as was also Merlin's nephew, the son of his sister Gwendydd. The nephew, indeed, is said to have fallen somehow under the hand of Merlin himself. After this disastrous battle, and the loss of his friend and patron Gwenddoleu, Merlin fled to the upper district of the Tweed, the heart or centre of the Wood of Caledon, and passed the remainder of his life, reputed insane, among the glens of the great broad hills then clothed in birch, hazel, and rowan, which in crescent fold sweep from the Dollar Law to the Broad Law, and form the watershed between the burns that flow northwards to the Tweed and those that run southwards to the Meggat Water. There is no wilder or more solitary mountain-land in the south of Scotland than these highspreading moors; there is no scene which could be more fitly assigned to a heart-broken and despairing representative of the old Druidic nature-worship, at once poet and priest of the fading faith, yet torn and distracted by secret doubts as to its truth, and not knowing well where his beloved dead had gone, or what was their fate in that mysterious spirit world he felt was above and around him.

I know no more picturesque or suggestive episode in history or in fiction, than that of the reported meeting between Merlin and Kentigern amid the birk and hazel shaws on the upland wilds of Tweeddale, when the young apostle of Christianity pressed on the natureworshipper the claims of the new faith. One day the

« AnteriorContinuar »