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saint was kneeling in solitary prayer in the wilds of Drummelzier, when a mysterious figure suddenly stood before him, weird-like, unearthly in look, "with haire growing so grime, fearful to see," terrible as an embodied fury. The saint boldly asked him who and what he was. The reply was: "Once was I the prophet of Vortigern [Gwenddoleu], Merlin by name, now in this solitude enduring privations. . . . . For I was the cause of the slaughter of all those who fell in the well-known battle of Ardderyd, which took place between the Lidel and Carvanolow." 1
After a time the bard passed from the sight of Kentigern, more wildered, weary, and perplexed than before, to chase, if that might help him, the gleam and shade on the hills, and seek his heart-solace in the pulsings of the burn and in communion with the creatures of the wilds.2
"Ah! well he loved the Powsail Burn,
There is every ground of probability for holding that the Tweeddale Merlin, or Merlin the Wild, is identical with the Cymric bard of the sixth century, certain of
1 Fordun, Scotichronicon, 1. iii. c. 31.
2 The reader may compare Waldhave's Prophecies of Merlin, referred to by Scott (Minstrelsy, iii. 201). Waldhave was lying on Lomond Law,
and he saw Merlin :
"He was formed like a freike [man] all his four quarters,
With haire growing so grime, fearful to see."
whose poems have come down to our own times. incidents of the poems are precisely the incidents in the life of the Caledonian Merlin. There are two existing poems of Merlin the Bard, which relate to the battle of Ardderyd, at which he was present. We have them in the original Cymric, in the ancient and famous Black Book of Caermarthen, Nos. I. and XVII. The first is in the form of a dialogue between Merlin and Taliessin, who is reported to have been Merlin's master or instructor, and who is the most celebrated of the four Welsh bards of the sixth or seventh century. It is a wail for the loss of the battle.
"Seven score generous ones have gone to the shades ;
The other is the oldest existing form of the poem attributed to Merlin, the Avellanau.2 It is a series of predictions regarding Cymric history, delivered in his character of prophet-bard. In it we have some curious glimpses of the poet himself, and in it too we have the hints of subsequent medieval traditions, and of those mythic features which the romancers of Brittany and of the middle ages afterwards ascribed to the historic Merlin. Seated at the foot of an apple-tree, in the Wood of Caledon, he sings:
"Terrible to them were heroic forms.
Gwendydd loves me not, greets me not;
I am hated by the firmest minister of Rydderch;
I have ruined his son and his daughter.
1 Skene, Books of Wales, i. 368.
2 Ibid., i. 370; ii. 335, Notes.
Death takes all away, why does he not visit me?
For after Gwenddoleu no princes honour me;
I am not soothed with diversion, I am not visited by the fair;
Though I am now despised by her who is of the colour of swans.
Sweet apple-tree which grows by the river side!
With respect to it the keeper will not thrive on its splendid fruit. While my reason was not aberrant, I used to be around its stem With a fair sportive maid, a paragon of splendid form.
Ten years and forty, as the toy of lawless ones,
Have I been wandering in gloom among sprites.
Sweet apple-tree that grows in the glade!
Their vehemence will conceal it from the lords of Rydderch,
Sweet apple-tree, and a tree of crimson hue,
Which grows in concealment in the Wood of Celyddon;
Until Cadwaladyr comes from the conference of Cadvaon,
This is one of the oldest poems in British literature; and it comes to us now as a sad wail from the depths of the Wood of Caledon, a note highly characteristic of that emotional Cymric temperament, which is powerful in impulse, daring in the onset, but, when baffled or defeated, is not effective in resource-rather finds relief in sentiment, in bewailing and denouncing the harshness and the hardness of the adverse order of things.
Cadwaladyr, the son of Cadwallawn, was the great hope of the Cymric race; and under his father, who died in 659, the century succeeding Merlin, the Cymri had a short-lived success against their AngloSaxon opponents. But this hope of the Cymri was
extinguished by the death of Cadwaladyr, in the pestilence of 664.1
Of Merlin personally we have one interesting notice in the verses of his friend and master Taliessin ::
"And the load that the moon separates,
In other words, the bard, in his lucid intervals, was gentle as the fair light which the moon sheds abroad in heaven, through the break of the cloud which passes over it.
In the twelfth century, a Life of Merlin in Latin hexameter verse appeared-(Vita Merlini Caledonii, 1150). It is attributed to Geoffrey of Monmouth. By this time. the mythic element had grown in a great measure round the historic character. Geoffrey represents Merlin, and, doubtless, on the ground of local tradition, as frequenting a fountain in the wilds of the Caledonian Forest. The fountain is on the summit of a mountain; it is shaded by hazels, and girt round by low copse-wood, or shaws. There Merlin was in the habit of sitting and gazing on the wide expanse of woods around him. He watched the sportive movements of the creatures of the wilds, seeking thus to soothe the phrenzy of his brain.
As late as the time of James V., Merlin the Wild was in popular repute as prophet and bard. Sir David Lindsay amused the youthful king with "The prophecies of Rhymer, Bede, and Merlin." Certain prophecies of Merlin were current, and believed
to have had their
1 Skene, Books of Wales, i. 73.
2 Ibid., ii. 534.
fulfilment about that period. This was especially true of his prediction regarding the death of the Regent Morton:
"In the mouth of Arran a selcouth [wonder] shall fall,
The heart was the cognisance of Morton; and he was committed before his trial to James Stewart, the new Earl of Arran. In the execution of Morton there was fulfilled, according to popular belief, Merlin's "falling of the heart by the mouth of Arran." 1
These and other prophecies of Merlin, like those attributed to the Rhymer, were, of course, simply either mythical elaborations, or forgeries for political purposes of later times.
Merlin the Wild, in his wanderings, was haunted by a female form, known originally as Hwimleian, or Chwifleian, meaning "the gleam." This figure would appear and then disappear before him. She sought to shut him up, as he imagined, in one of the lonely crags of the hills, there to have him in her power, and to hold him for ever in bonds of affection. We can well understand how the phrenzied imagination of the bard saw this figure in the glint of light that struck through the mist overhead; and how he watched it pass away across the glen as the hill haur darkened over the face of the sun; how he would dread it lurking in the shadows of the hazels, and see it in the moonbeams as they made lustrous the clear waters of his fountain. There can be no doubt that the Hwim
1 Minstrelsy, iii. 206.