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
but who would pass by a doughty dog’s!