Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Circuit through Powys

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

Wales: Introductory

The Circuit through Powys

By Owain Gwynedd (c. 1100–1170)

  • Translated by R. Fenton
  • At this early period the king was compelled to visit his subjects in various parts of his dominions to receive his revenue at stated periods, and also to hold his court. Owain has finely described his circuit, and named, one by one, the various places he was in the habit of visiting.

  • TO share the festal joy and song,

    Owain’s train we move along;

    Every passion now at rest

    That clouds the brow or rends the breast;

    But oppression’s foes the same,

    Quick to kindle into flame,

    Setting off from Mostyn, say

    Whither shall we bend our way?

    Quick despatch thee, boy; take heed

    That thou slack not of thy speed,

    Or with idle gossip greet

    The loiterer thou mayst chance to meet,

    Onward push, and look not back;

    Let naught divert thee from thy track.

    To Keri hie thee, lad, and say,

    Thither will we bend our way.

    Keri greeted, onward haste,

    Thy time will not admit of waste,

    With no vulgar message sent,

    On thy duty be intent:

    Dread our anger to excite,

    Lest our vengeance on thee light.

    Then announce that in our rounds

    We visit next Arwystli’s bounds.

    Thy errand told, stay not long,

    Herald of a princely throng:

    But onward still thy steps pursue,

    Ceredig’s confines in thy view,

    Thither with speed increasing go,

    Swift as arrow from a bow:

    And to Penwedig tidings bear,

    Of our approach and visit there.

    Hence without delaying, boy,

    To toil familiar by employ;

    Scorn fatigue, and unsubdued

    Be thy painful march renewed;

    Then with shout as hunter’s loud,

    Publish this our message proud:

    That Meirion’s mountains shall detain

    The course of our convivial train.

    Quick proceed, the mountain crost,

    That not a moment may be lost;

    Fast by the margins of the deep,

    Where storms eternal uproar keep.

    The road to shorten mend thy pace,

    Be thy speed contracting space;

    And faithful to thy message, say

    We take Ardudwy in our way.

    No delaying, boy, push on,

    Ardudwy visited, be gone,

    Haste the region to survey

    Which Mervyn gloried erst to sway,

    To Nevyn go, inquire for Nest,

    And lodging there become her guest,

    By which untold it may be seen,

    That we are on our road to Lleyn.

    Messenger, set off again,

    Forerunner of our gallant train,

    Hurry at our chief’s command,

    Prince of liberal heart and hand:

    And as through Arvon winds thy way

    Armed knight, we charge thee stay,

    That having journeyed many a mile,

    We mean to visit Mona’s isle.

    We are Owain’s princely host,

    Spoils of foes the wealth we boast,

    Tyrant Lloegyr overthrown

    Gives us title to renown,

    Then our toilsome marches o’er

    Can we want an opening door?

    Shall we not find in Rhos a bed

    Whereon to lay the weary head?

    Thy prince commands thee to depart,

    (Except the mistress of his heart

    Haply thou shouldst chance to meet,)

    With strictest orders none to greet;

    But quickly mount the fleetest steed,

    Not confiding to thy speed;

    To Llanerch tidings to convey

    That we shall stop there on our way.

    Off again, that region face,

    Nurse of a renowned race,

    Who, for many a gallant deed,

    Deserve the horn, the hero’s meed;

    Thither haste with our commands,

    Quitting Tyno Bedwal’s lands,

    And say we purpose to regale,

    And taste of social joys at Iâl.

    But tarry not, no respite take,

    This witching region quick forsake,

    Howe’er her sons, to charm thy stay,

    May throw temptation in thy way;

    We forbid thy lingering there

    Beyond the opening of the year,

    To Maelor then thy steps direct,

    That she our coming may expect.

    This performed, yet loiter not,

    Be thy very food forgot:

    Every hindrance put away,

    All that can create delay.

    To stop at Maelor ’s not allowed,

    For further still extends thy road;

    To visit Kynllaith we propose,

    Then haste the message to disclose.

    Thy progress then, with counsel due,

    And forms that suit our rank pursue,

    Worthy of our commission prove,

    For not like petty tribes we move;

    Prompt to discharge the duty go,

    And borrow fleetness from the roe,

    That Mechain in her turn may hear

    Of our intended visit there.

    What though our prince, with prosperous rounds,

    Has measured Cambria’s lovely bounds,

    Though conquered realms enrich our train,

    Heaven’s kingdom yet is ours to gain,

    Which to possess may we aspire,

    Faith lending pinions to desire;

    Where we, our earthly journeys past,

    May find eternal rest at last.