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in what kind of scene his visit to a watering-place (supposing it his first visit) will fix him for three, or four, or six weeks, into what company it will introduce him, what range of Nature's beauties it will afford to his daily excursion.
It is a serious detriment to the famed of all the wells of Wales, that every Guide Book, or nearly so, is a mere compilation of scraps from preceding works; many of them taken from tours performed early in this century, whence it has happened that we find in many a new book, for the use of visitors to Wales, inns named as the “principal” of a town, which have long since degenerated into pot-houses,places described as almost inaccessible, which have enjoyed these fifteen years excellent roads, &c. &c. This false representation has especially attached to the beautifully situated and valuable springs of Llanwrtyd. From either of the towns of Llandovery, Builth, or Rhagader, the romantic valley and river by which they rise are accessible by a road easy for even carriages.
The discovery of this water, in 1732, was of a far less suspicious nature, for disinterestedness, than those of Llandrindod, by the old “cunning woman, doctress, midwife, and so forth.” A respected clergyman, the grandfather of Theophilus Jones, the historian of Brecknockshire, the Rev. Theophilus Evans, vicar of Llangammarch, was the first experimentalist of their virtues, and first subject of cure performed by them. He had been many years a great sufferer by a disease, which externally “nearly amounted to a leprosy," and internally reduced him to extreme weakness, when chance led him along the banks of the most romantic of South Walian rivers, to where there spouted out in its milky softness, from the bosom of a green hill, over a few polished pebbles, the unregarded little prill (as the Welsh call it) then known by the ugly name of Y Fynnon Ddrewllyd, “the stinking well,” and, from that ill-savour alone, deemed poisonous. The unhappy clergyman, wearied out with so loathsome a malady, sat musing on the fatal nature of that innocent looking rivulet, probably wishing that “the Almighty had not fixed his canons” against that sad eternal cure which was so close to his hand, when a frog, which little personage we ought properly to call the first discoverer, as he proved at least its innoxious nature, darted merrily within it, and thus assured the languid gazer on the short sweet sod that surrounds it, that he might drink and live. So he drank and lived-long and well, -a
disinterested evidence of its virtues ; nor has the fame of this spring ever suffered those vicissitudes following the changes of fashion, which have attended Llandrindod. Whatever cures have been, or can be effected by the spa
of Harrowgate, may confidently be looked for from the water of Llanwrtyd ; and have been, ever since the fortunate one of the good vicar (which was effected in the surprisingly short period of two months, though he had been given up as incurable,) gratefully received by numbers of the poor natives, whose confined intercourse, however, could not spread their just fames so far as could the more opulent visitors of Llandrindod in their annual resort thither.
One cause has operated to the limitation of the numbers who seek its effects, which ought to be removed. It is a prevalent idea, that the water is merely a sulphureous one, therefore limited in its effects to diseases wholly external. Though sulphur proves its presence by the smell, and effect on silver, it also contains a chalybeate and saline impregnation, and magnesia, and the carbonic gas; thus condensing, in one homogenous fluid (by no means nauseous, notwithstanding its odour,) the chief ingredients that give virtue to the three several springs at Llandrindod. The proportion of active aperient salt is much smaller, therefore requires the assistance of a little Rochelle, Cheltenham, or Epsom salt, and only that, to effect whatever can be effected by the Saline Rock, and “blacksmith's" waters of the latter place. Besides this, there is at no great distance, a very good and mild saline spring, near Llangammarch, but two or three years since discovered, the waters of which it were well to have conveyed every morning to Llanwrtyd (it would lose nothing by keeping three days) for the use of the company. The advantage which Llandrindod water can boast, if it be a boast—of its stronger operation, that of Llanwrtyd at least counterbalances in the remarkably salutary influence it exerts on the kidneys,-an effect the more valuable that it is one of the utmost uncertainty, even from the most noted diuretics of the pharmacopæia. No physician, whatever, can promise, with confidence of fulfilment, that what he administers shall produce such action in those remoter and rebellious organs, the kidneys, which he can almost with certainty predict on the stomach or bowels, by emetics or cathartics. This difficult and doubtful achievement is one of great ease and uniformity to the subtle Naiad of this fount.
But as it is not my purpose to do aught but gossip about the wells of Wales, I find myself relapsing into “the doctor,” and hasten to a more pleasing topic with which to conclude the scenic virtues of the Llanwrtyd Wells, leaving the medicinal to the reader's consultation with his Welsh Tour, or Guide Book, any one of which will point out to what invalid state generally each water is best adapted. Nor will any philosophic reader smile at my term of scenic virtues, I am persuaded, because he will remember how much the corpus sanum relies on the mens sana to complete that climax of exquisite existence, the " mens sana in corpore sano.” And who shall deny that a delightful situation, the utmost peace, grandeur, and beauty which nature can combine in a landscape, must tend greatly to diffuse tranquil and delicious emotions through a mind, to invigorate at once and sooth, in short, lay a foundation of perfect sanity?
Llan wrth Rhyd-the church by the ford-a pleasant conjunction! The very name hints of the picturesque and sheltered wildness, inasmuch as our Welsh churches are all antique, and our Welsh rivers all sweetly fringed with wood, and embanked by mountains, and a ford, despite the little danger, always brings to the mind images of rural or romantic nature. I should have said, by the bye, all Welsh rivers but the Ithon, a Radnorshire river running near Llandrindod common, but out of view from it. That is, in nearly all its doublings, a singularly ugly sort of a water,a naked river, a perfect indecency in Wales; its banks deep and steep, without trees, or mosses, or brambles,-a canal of a river.
The Irvon is as perfect a contrast to this sort of stream as can be. Many a copious draught have my two boys and myself enjoyed of its shining clear water, (to us far more sovereign a remedy than that of Llandrindod, or any other, being duly assisted by addition of a Chinese herb,) on a summer morning, gipsy fashion, and never without increased admiration of its natural beauties. The approach to the wells from Builth is by an excellent road (thật to Llandovery) as far as to the village of Llangammarch. The intervening next two miles or more, are over monotonous moorland, a naked sheepwalk, wearying enough to the eye, but giving all the effect of contrast to the scene, which surprises the traveller on descending a little pitch, as we call it, to the wild and small, but truly characteristic village of Llanwrtyd. A rude bridge, a well wooded vale, with the
river Irvon winding away into the defiles of some romantic mountains, embosoming all its course, - cottages of true Welsh character, with piles of peat larger than the houses, with that sort of green cool light which approaching mountains cast over valley landscapes, form that scene. Following the river by a bowered road, he soon stands in front of a somewhat antique-looking mansion, so delightfully close to the cool leafy-shaded pastoral kind of river, that only a walk's breadth intervenes ; so that a “ brother of the angle” can sit and pursue his sport from the window in a sunny shower. Let the visitor peep in at the handsomely carved wainscots and ceilings of the rooms, and hold his way, directly he finds on one hand (only parted by trees and leafy underwood) the rocky, brawling, or smoothly flowing reaches of the Irvon, on the other, a fine turfy slope,-a natural grass-plot, where stands the humble rustic temple which guards the spring.
But if he be a lover of nature he will overlook that object, seeing only the truly Alpine recess into which he has suddenly penetrated after traversing a waste. Indeed, I remember no spot in the whole Principality that so imposes its own peace and deep yet soft solemnity on the mind as this. The extent of the vale, at least what seems its whole extent, is not above a mile; for, at that distance, a noble slope on either hand forms a sublime bwlch, or Alpine pass, through which the egress is not apparent, the hollow being occupied by a church, so close to a bridge that from this point it seems to stand upon the arch, while a mountainous wood of pines rises so close and so abruptly behind, that by twilight this great mass of foliage gives the idea of black plumes nodding over its solemn grey antiquity as it stretches up quite from the level of the vale to the sky. The mile of valley between is filled with little patches of meadow on each side of the river, aged trees, mossed knolls of rock, and thickets, through which peeps here and there a cottage, grotesque, and green-roofed, and ancient-looking, as a hermitage.
Nothing can be finer, more grand, and more peacebreathing than this short perspective, walled in by the majestic heights, viewed by a fine evening of summer, when the sun has just made
golden set;"—the last note of the cuckoo has been heard, the first of the owl comes from the woody shade or rock, the smokes of the few cottage-fires bespeak supper-doings and comforts for the tired poor man
within, and all is fast fading and swimming away from sight in the rich but darkening haze, till at last nothing remains distinct but that sable precipice and the square solitary grey body at its base, and one brilliant star come forth over the pine-wood top, near to a crescent moon, both there shining, seated as on a throne above, with that solemn lone and old place of God and prayer, and the dead below, adding its moral sublime of melancholy to that natural, which is alone so impressive.
But supposing it broad day or early evening, and the visitor bent on a ramble, let him proceed. He will find that black and bold barrier admits him through into a defile, which soon (though still jealously) expands into a valley four miles long, the most truly Welsh in its character that Wales presents, and as truly pastoral, sweet, and wild at once, as the Alps can reveal to him. Nothing but added height, though the hills here are stupendous, is wanting, and woden houses, which I confess to me are less picturesque far than these old stone ones, to make him believe himself in Switzerland. His craggy mossy road ('tis not for a carriage, though carriages may proceed there) conducts him so close by the pretty rustic farms, that he walks or rides almost under the weedy eaves of the thatches, and quite in the midst of girls milking cows in the little fold or barton (Anglicé, farm-yard) of each ; the river Irvon, (growing wilder, and full of falls and brawls in that wilder vale,) bending about close on the other hand, giving him variety of front views by its sinuosity, though his way is still in one profound valley. Amused by all varieties of grand or fantastic forms in the mountains on each hand, shutting him in with these hermit homes—their small hay-fields, flocks, cattle, and shy, not rude dwellers—the traveller reaches the end of this vale of Irvon. Two small churches in the wild place (Abergwessyn) present themselves on each side of the river, and a public, or tavarn,” a welcome thing in this region. But let the Saison reader, the mere Saxon, note well the single letter “a” in this last word ! or who can foresee his flights of hope and bitterness of disappointment, should he take it for a word of Sassenach, and strut into the humble hostelry of “mine host” (civil and intelligent,) of Pentwyn“ public” at Abergwessyn, calling about him, " Waiter ! Boots! Ostler !- what the devil” — actually taking it for the tavern talked about in the Cambrian Quarterly.