Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Wild Wales

Every holiday I look forward to reading - but there was a limited choice in this year's house. The owner's (late) mother was a big Dickens fan and I've never found him particularly digestible. The Mills and Boons I skipped, read a couple of dreadful thrillers before discovering George Borrow's Lavengro, The Romany Rye and Wild Wales. I'd read them all before but there's so much to enjoy nth time round.

Linguist, walker, passionate lover of poetry, the Anglican Church and good beer - what a life that man led. When he was summoned to London for an interview (the job, translating the Bible into Manchu, would take him to St Petersburg for two years) he walked from Norwich in twenty-seven hours.

Lavengro is fascinating autobiography, The Romany Rye is his record of his travels with gypsies, and Wild Wales records his epic walk from Chester to Chepstow via Llangollen, Anglesey, Bala and Swansea.

We had taken the scenic route to the coast via the Abergewesyn Pass to Tregaron, then down through Llandewi Brefi.

Nowadays the village is famous as the home of Daffyd, but its true fame comes from sixteen hundred years before. In Borrow's words :

It is not without reason that Llan Ddewi Brefi has been called a place of old renown. In the fifth century, one of the most remarkable ecclesiastical convocations which the world has ever seen was held in this secluded spot. It was for the purpose of refuting certain doctrines, which had for some time past caused much agitation in the Church, and which originated with one Morgan, a native of North Wales, who left his country at an early age and repaired to Italy, where having adopted the appellation of Pelagius, which is a Latin translation of his own name Morgan, which signifies "by the seashore," he soon became noted as a theological writer. It is not necessary to enter into any detailed exposition of his opinions; it will, however, be as well to state that one of the points which he was chiefly anxious to inculcate was that it is possible for a man to lead a life entirely free from sin by obeying the dictates of his own reason without any assistance from the grace of God - a dogma certainly to the last degree delusive and dangerous. When the convocation met there were a great many sermons preached by various learned and eloquent divines, but nothing was produced which was pronounced by the general voice a satisfactory answer to the doctrines of the heresiarch. At length it was resolved to send for Dewi, a celebrated teacher of theology at Mynyw in Pembrokeshire, who from motives of humility had not appeared in the assembly. Messengers therefore were despatched to Dewi, who, after repeated entreaties, was induced to repair to the place of meeting, where after three days' labour in a cell he produced a treatise in writing in which the tenets of Morgan were so triumphantly overthrown that the convocation unanimously adopted it and sent it into the world with a testimony of approbation as an antidote to the heresy, and so great was its efficacy that from that moment the doctrines of Morgan fell gradually into disrepute.

The Pelagian heresy, that man is basically good and perfectible, is what Rousseau taught and what hippies and Guardianistas believe. (Rousseau was indeed so good and perfectible that he dumped his five children in an orphanage as soon as they were weaned.)

Dewi later became the patron Saint of what is now the Land Of Bastards.

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