Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Legend of Bala Lake

One story about the formation of Bala Lake, or Llyn Tegid ... I translate from a version in Hugh Humphreys' Llyfr Gwybodaeth Gyffredinol (Carnarvon), second series, vol. i, no. 2, P. I.

I may premise that the contributor, whose name is not given, betrays a sort of literary ambition which has led him to relate the story in a confused fashion; and among other things he uses the word edifeirwch, 'repentance,' throughout, instead of dial, 'vengeance.' With that correction it runs somewhat as follows:--

Tradition relates that Bala Lake is but the watery tomb of the palaces of iniquity; and that some old boatmen can on quiet moonlight nights in harvest see towers in ruins at the bottom of its waters, and also hear at times a feeble voice saying, "Dial a daw, dial a itaw," 'Vengeance will come'; and another voice inquiring, "Pa bryd y daw," 'When will it come?' Then the first voice answers, "Yn y drydedd genhedlaeth," 'In the third generation.'

Those voices were but a recollection over oblivion, for in one of those palaces lived in days of yore an oppressive aud cruel prince, corresponding to the well-known description of one of whom it is said, 'Whom he would he slew; and whom he would he kept alive.' The oppression and cruelty practised by him on the poor farmers were notorious far and near. This prince, while enjoying the morning breezes of summer in his garden, used frequently to hear a voice saying, 'Vengeance will come.' But he always laughed the threat away with reckless contempt.

One night a poor harper from the neighbouring hills was ordered to come to the prince's palace. On his way the harper was told that there was great rejoicing at the palace at the birth of the first child of the prince's son. When he had reached the palace the harper was astonished at the number of the guests, including among them noble lords, princes, and princesses: never before had he seen such splendour at any feast. When he had begun playing the gentlemen and ladies dancing presented a superb appearance. So the mirth and wine abounded, nor did he love playing for them any more than they loved dancing to the music of his harp.

But about midnight, when there was an interval in the dancing, and the old harper had been left alone in a comer, he suddenly heard a voice singing in a sort of a whisper in his ear, 'Vengeance, vengeance!' He turned at once, and saw a little bird hovering above him and beckoning him, as it were, to follow him. He followed the bird as fast as he could, but after getting outside the palace he began to hesitate. But the bird continued to invite him on, and to sing in a plaintive and mournful voice the word 'Vengeance, vengeance!' The old harper was afraid of refusing to follow, and so they went on over bogs and through thickets, whilst the bird was all the time hovering in front of him and leading him along the easiest and safest paths. But if he stopped for a moment the same mournful note of 'Vengeance, vengeance!' would be sung to him in a more and more plaintive and heartbreaking fashion.

They had by this time reached the top of the hill, a considerable distance from the palace. As the old harper felt rather fatigued and weary, he ventured once more to stop and rest, but he heard the bird's warning voice no more. Helistened, but he heard nothing save the murmuring of the little burn hard by. He now began to think how foolish he had been to allow himself to be led away from the feast at the palace: he turned back in order to be there in time for the next dance. As he wandered on the hill he lost his way, and found himself forced to await the break of day. In the morning, as he turned his eyes in the direction of the palace, he could see no trace of it: the whole tract below was one calm, large lake, with his harp floating on the face of the waters.

-- from John Rhys' Celtic Folklore: Welsh and Manx (1901):


Post a Comment

<< Home

Hit Counter
Internet Service Provider