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

Wales: Conway, the River

The River Conway

By Michael Drayton (1563–1631)

From “Poly-Olbion”

AWHILE thus taking breath, our way yet fair in view,

The Muse her former course doth seriously pursue.

From Penmen’s craggy height to try her saily wings,

Herself long having bathed in the delicious springs

(That trembling from his top through long-worn crannies creep,

To spend their liquid store on the insatiate deep),

She meets with Conway first, which lieth next at hand,

Whose precious orient pearl that breedeth in her sand

Above the other floods of Britain doth her grace:

Into the Irish sea which making out her race,

Supplied by many a mere (through many several rills

Into her bosom poured), her plenteously she fills.

O goodly river! near unto thy sacred spring

Prophetic Merlin sat, when to the British king

The changes long to come auspiciously he told.

Most happy were thy nymphs, that wondering did behold

His graver wrinkled brow, amazed, and did bear

The dreadful words he spake, that so ambiguous were.

Thrice happy brooks, I say, that (every way about)

Thy tributaries be: as is that town, whereout

Into the sea thou fall’st, which Conway of thy name

Perpetually is called, to register thy fame.

For thou, clear Conway, heard’st wise Merlin first relate

The Destinies’ decree, of Britain’s future fate;

Which truly he foretold proud Vortiger should lose,

As when him from his seat the Saxons should depose;

The forces that should here from Armoric arrive,

Yet far too weak from hence the enemy to drive;

And to that mighty king, which rashly undertook

A strong-walled tower to rear, those earthly spirits that shook

The great foundation still, in dragons’ horrid shape,

That dreaming wizard told; making the mountain gape

With his most powerful charms, to view those caverns deep;

And from the top of Brith, so high and wondrous steep,

Where Dinas Emris stood, showed where the serpents fought,

The white that tore the red; from whence the prophet wrought

The Britons’ sad decay then shortly to ensue.