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THE FLOWEEING OAK OF PENMYNYDD.
The Isle of Anglesea, once the chief seat of a religion more ancient than the memory of history, and the royal residence of sovereigns who pretended to an almost equal antiquity, seems indeed to have shared the fate of all things human. At present it is chiefly as the high road to Ireland that either priests or princes honour it with their attention. The sacred isle of the Druids, the stronghold and refuge of Welsh freedom and royalty during so many ages, has come to a pretty pass, it must be allowed, when it is merely reckoned as so many miles to be posted or railed over with all possible speed, on the way to the "still-vex'd Bermoothes" of the British seas!
But so it is; and so in all probability it will remain, even with that indefatigable sight-seer, the summer tourist, whose stock of picturesque enthusiasm and admiration is in general exhausted by the time he reaches the sea-washed bases of the majestic mountains which bound the mainland. Moreover, there is little to rekindle those sensations when once the stern shores of the isle are passed, and the traveller finds himself crossing the wild tracts of rocky or marshy pasturage which form the interior of Anglesea, scantily wooded, and grazed by endless herds of oxen and sheep, whose heads seem scarcely ever raised from the short sweet herbage which they are unconsciously engaged in converting into the finest beef and mutton eaten under the wide sweep of the British sceptre.
And yet one would imagine that a country which sends travellers to the plains of Troy, to dispute if such a city ever existed, might occasionally spare a few to contemplate the remains of a national antiquity perhaps more remote, in the shape of the numerous Druidical monuments scattered amidst the wilds of Anglesea. Even the mediaeval antiquary might spend as useful hours as he can at a much greater distance and expense, endeavouring to rebuild in fantasy the splendours of the royal Aberffraw, or, indeed, to discover its site with any certainty; or in wandering among the ruined abbeys and castles which still attest a bygone prosperity of no ordinary magnificence. Scarcely any one thinks it worth while to turn aside even to visit what remains of the family residence possessed by the ancestors of that right royal and, truth to say, right truculent and hot-blooded dynasty of the Tudors, who have left such lasting traces in our annals, and who probably owed no slight portion of their deeds and renown to the influence of that fiery Cambrian original.
It is true, we must again confess, that the most diligent researches would discover but little to gratify curiosity, and that no one, unenlightened by tradition, could possibly guess that the founder of so lofty and imperial a race first beheld the light in a wild which seems chiefly intended by nature for the breeding and fattening of the jolly beeves and muttons whose praises we have already chanted. But the tourist who has wandered at Aberffraw over all that remains of the palace of Roderic the Great, without being in the least conscious of the circumstance until admonished by his guide, will not be greatly surprised to find that the dwelling of a race which, after the accession of Henry VII. to the throne, was unanimously certified by the Welsh bards to descend from the mighty Arthur himself, has shrunk into an inconsiderable farm-house! A carved mantelpiece, some scattered piles of massive masonry, rude sculptures of escutcheons and heraldic ornaments, degraded by all sorts of rural intermixtures, are all the vestiges which remain to reward the labours of the antiquary. Oxen may low and pigs may grunt amidst the foundations of the chamber where the progenitor of the fieryhaired and fiery-hearted Elizabeth was born!
Penmynydd, as the place is still called (we beseech the reader not to be daunted by the appearance of the word, but to pronounce it boldly as if the y's were u's), was probably at no period much more than the rudely fortified dwelling of a Welsh chieftain, devised rather as the lodging and place of refuge of a half-savage clan of shepherds and huntsmen than as an exhibition of taste or comfort in domestic architecture. But its claims, even to answer purposes so simple, seemed gone by at a period as remote as the beginning of the seventeenth year of the fifteenth century, when our chronicle undertakes the description. The long wars between the Welsh and their Anglo-Norman invaders, which closed not many years before in the suppression of the great rebellion of Glendower (for it is a mistake to imagine that the conquest effected by Edward I. in the thirteenth century was a subjugation), covered all Wales with ruin and desolation, but left special traces in Anglesea. At the time we speak of, the greater part of the mansion and all the village of Penmynydd lay in ruins, beneath the observation of a personage who emerged with the earliest peep of day from the remains of a once massive tower of stonework, blackened and browned with the action of fire, if he had been so superfluous as to take notice of circumstances which were probably very familiar to him.
The mansion or castle of Penmynydd, as according to Welsh ideas it might be called, originally consisted of a group of buildings of unhewn timber, surrounded by a wall and moat, on the summit of an eminence, whence it took its designation, signifying in English the Mountain Head. Two strong towers of masonry, united by a circular keep, formed its chief strength in former times, but were now isolated by the destruction of the central pile, and of the greater part of the towers themselves. The aspect of these buildings and of the ruined huts which strewed the hill side attested that the destroying agent .was fire; but several years had evidently elapsed since the time of its application, for grass and foliage covered the traces of devastation in many parts. One of the towers seemed still inhabited, to judge from the smoke which wreathed from among the oak trees surrounding it; and that from which the person we have alluded to emerged seemed used as a stable, for the shrill neigh of a horse followed him to the exterior.
He was apparently a young peasant, of the usual middle stature and stout build of the Welsh mountaineer, with a blythe audacity and liveliness in his black eyes, and a shrewdness of expression on his square forehead and strong-cut features that betokened well for the qualities of the mind and character which stamp themselves in those lineaments. He was garbed, according to the simple fashion of the country and time, in a kind of loose frock of blue woollen, which descended to his muscular red knees, and was fastened at the waist with a leather belt, in which was stuck a long naked knife. His arms and legs were bare, but his feet were twisted with rope in the manner of a low boot, and declared a purpose of locomotion over some peculiarly rough and flinty route, without which such luxuries were seldom effected. The ex