THE ANATOMY OF PILGRIMAGE


We had not visited Beddgelert for years.

We remembered the winding, bosky drive

following the Glaslyn from Porthmadog,

slowly climbing as the swift river narrows;

the walk across the field to Gelert’s grave

with its slate marker his remorseful owner,

Prince Llywelyn the Great, erected

for the faithful hound he had killed in

frantic error, finding too late the dead wolf

and the saved baby. Who would not be moved

by such an irredeemable act!

The sounds of endless waters rush nearby.

 

What was new that hot August Bank Holiday

was a tumbled faux bothy at the edge

of the field with an under-sized bronze dog

eager in the doorway; the eerie whistle

of the tourist train on the re-opened

railway that carried the quarried slate

down to Porthmadog, across to Caernafon

through mountain passes of green and purple;

a coach from an EFL summer school

full of excited Chinese students;

an Orthodox Jewish family, mother

with headscarf, father with keppel and earlocks,

little girls in long skirts; two young women,

in hijabs, sitting on the river’s bank,

bathing their feet in the chilly shallows.

 

Dafyd Prytchard, the  landlord of Beddgelert’s

Royal Goat Hotel, invented the story

in the late eighteenth century. Gelert

was the saint for whom the village was named.

Wales was brimful with saints, their remains

unvisited post-reformation,

but who would pass by a doughty dog’s!

 

 

 

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