Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Beth Gêlert, or the Grave of the Greyhound

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.

Wales: Snowdon

Beth Gêlert, or the Grave of the Greyhound

By William Robert Spencer (1770–1834)

THE SPEARMEN heard the bugle sound,

And cheerly smiled the morn;

And many a brach and many a hound

Obeyed Llewelyn’s horn.

And still he blew a louder blast,

And gave a lustier cheer:

“Come, Gêlert, come, wert never last

Llewelyn’s horn to hear.

“O, where doth faithful Gêlert roam,

The flower of all his race,

So true, so brave,—a lamb at home,

A lion in the chase?”

’T was only at Llewelyn’s board

The faithful Gêlert fed;

He watched, he served, he cheered his lord,

And sentineled his bed.

In sooth he was a peerless hound,

The gift of royal John;

But now no Gêlert could be found,

And all the chase rode on.

And now, as o’er the rocks and dells

The gallant chidings rise,

All Snowdon’s craggy chaos yells

The many-mingled cries!

That day Llewelyn little loved

The chase of hart and hare;

And scant and small the booty proved,

For Gêlert was not there.

Unpleased Llewelyn homeward hied,

When, near the portal seat,

His truant Gêlert he espied,

Bounding his lord to greet.

But, when he gained his castle door,

Aghast the chieftain stood;

The hound all o’er was smeared with gore,

His lips, his fangs, ran blood.

Llewelyn gazed with fierce surprise;

Unused such looks to meet,

His favorite checked his joyful guise,

And crouched and licked his feet.

Onward, in haste, Llewelyn passed,

And on went Gêlert too;

And still, where’er his eyes he cast,

Fresh blood-gouts shocked his view.

O’erturned his infant’s bed he found,

With blood-stained 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 his child.

“Hell-hound! my child ’s by thee devoured,”

The frantic father cried;

And to the hilt his vengeful sword

He plunged in Gêlert’s side.

His suppliant looks, as prone he fell,

No pity could impart;

But still his Gêlert’s dying yell

Passed heavy o’er his heart.

Aroused by Gêlert’s dying yell,

Some slumberer wakened nigh:

What words the parent’s joy could tell

To hear his infant’s cry!

Concealed beneath a tumbled heap

His hurried search had missed,

All glowing from his rosy sleep,

The cherub boy he kissed.

Nor scath 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 Llewelyn’s pain!

For now the truth was clear;

His gallant hound the wolf had slain

To save Llewelyn’s heir:

Vain, vain was all Llewelyn’s woe;

“Best of thy kind, adieu!

The frantic blow 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 Gêlert’s bones protect.

There never could the spearman pass,

Or forester, unmoved;

There oft the tear-besprinkled grass

Llewelyn’s sorrow proved.

And there he hung his horn and spear,

And there, as evening fell,

In fancy’s ear he oft would hear

Poor Gêlert’s dying yell.

And, till great Snowdon’s rocks grow old,

And cease the storm to brave,

The consecrated spot shall hold

The name of “Gêlert’s Grave.”