Monday, 25 January 2010

St Dwynwens day - Welsh Patron Saint of Lovers

Today is St Dwynwens day. She lived in the fifth century and was one of the prettiest of Brychan Brycheinions 24 daugters. She fell in love with a prince called Maelon Dafodil unfortunately her father had arranged that she marry someone else.
At Llanddwyn in Anglesey there was once the well of St Dwynwen, revered by the islands romatics, St Dwynwen became known as the Welsh patron saint of lovers - the Celtic Aphrodite.
In a dream there came to her a vision. It told of a magic potion which would dispel all her thoughts of love. So from the dells of Newborough Forest she gathered rare herbs and mixed them with her lover's tears and beads of dew from the petals of the snapdragon. Together , she and herlover drank the potion, and Dwynwen drifted into forgetfulness while ythe young prince turned into a pillar of stone.
A while later a vision came to Dwynwen and she was granted three wishes.She restored Maelon from his granite tomb and wished also to be rescued from the tangles of love. Her final wish was that all faithful lovers should have their dreams fulfilled.
So legeng has it , that on the ground where her lover had once stood , a pool of fresh water appeared. In time a wall was built around it and it became the lovers' well.
Many years ago there was a young philanderer of Cerig Mawr who admired a fisherman's daughter from LLandwyn. Often during the summer evenings they would stroll together along the cliff paths and gaze at the sunset over Caernarfon Bay.
Although he was a good-looking young man with a winsome smile, she had heard stories of his hilandering from as far north as Llangefni.
One evening when they were out walking they lingered a while at the well of St Dwynwn. There he told her of its mystic powers, and her eyes sparkled with interest.
" Sometimes, when you are alone and all is quiet, you can hear a voice ccalling from the darkness," he began.
Then he unfolded one ofthe mysteries of Lovers' Well. He lowered his voice in reverence, and she tingled all over with excitement.
"If the name of a girl's lover is called into the cavern of the well," he told her, " and if his love is true, then after a while, his name will echo three times from below." But he warned, the test of fidelity would have to be performed at the witching hour on mid-summer's eve.
June wore on until, at last, mid-summer's day dawned. Eagerly the fisherman's daughter waited for the sunset. And, as midnight approached, she stole along the paths with a lantern to light her way.
The well of St Dwynwen stood before her, silent as a grave. Her heart was beating fast as she leaned over the low stone wall and looked down into the darkness.
"Gwil...ym," she called into the cavern, for Gwilym was the name of the lover, the woodman of Cerig Mawr.
She listened. Moments passed. Then, from the depths of the well, a voice came back, resonant, haunting.
"Gwil...ymmm - Gwil...ymmm - Gwil...ymmm."
The girl gasped at the wonder of it all. She called again, and three times the echo drifted back to her. Fascinated, she peered closer into the well, and the glow of her lamp showed someone hiding there. It was Gwilym who clung to the wall in the cavern of the well.
With a startled cry the girl dropped the lantern over the wall and ran of home. As Gwilym looked up he saw a ball of flame come hurtling toward him. He lost his footing and went tumbling into the chill water of St Dwynwen's well.
No one remember how long he stuggled there, or who answered his cries for help. But folk say that his escape at lovers' Well brought an end to his days of philandering.
Today the well is choked with sand, and its votaries are few. But sometimes, when hearts are near to breaking, love-lorn girls moon at its rined walls.

Tales of North Wales ; Ken Radford (1982)


As I was washing under a span
of the bridge of Cardigan
and in my hand my lover's shirt
with a golden beetle to drub the dirt,
a man came to me on a steed,
broad in shoulder, proud in speed,
and he asked me if I'd sell
the shirt of the lad I love so well.
But said I wouldn't sell
for a hundred pounds and packs as well,
nor if the grass of two ridges were deep
in wethers and the whitest sheep,
nor if two hay meadows were choked
with oxen which were ready yoked,
nor if St David's nave were filled
with herbs all pressed but not distilled.
Not even for all that would I sell
the shirt of the lad I love so well

ANONYMOUS, 16th century
trans.Gwyn Williams

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