Photograph by Lisa Shambrook (please do not use without permission)
As the hunt over Snowdon’s craggy chaos roamed, Llewellyn pondered why his hound, Gelert, had not shown at the bugle call.
With a sigh and empty hands the hunt homeward hied, and Llewellyn stared in horror as Gelert bounded to greet him with blood dripping from his lips and fangs, and as Gelert crouched to lick his master’s feet, Llewellyn raced wildly beyond the bewildered dog to his babe’s crib found blood-stained and torn.
With fear surging he frantically sought his son, but found him not, and crazed with grief slid his vengeful sword deep into Gelert’s side.
As Gelert released a dying yelp, an infant’s cry was heard from beneath the couch; Llewellyn desperately lifted the chaise and seized his son in abounding joy… and then his blood ran cold and his heart stood still, as on the floor behind the couch he spied a tremendous wolf, bloodied in death.
Llewellyn fell to his knees in anguish as he discerned his faithful hound’s actions in saving his heir, and sorrow overcame the man who would be forever haunted by Gelert’s dying yell.
I cheated a bit with this one…I was stumped and couldn’t decide what to write then I came across a photograph of Gelert’s grave from our visit a few years ago to Beddgelert, North Wales. Gelert was the epitome of devotion and I decided to rewrite William Robert Spencer’s famous poem ‘Beth Gelert’ as five sentence prose…
I truly hope I’ve done it justice as it’s by a long, long way my most favourite poem.
Just in case you haven’t read it or come across it before…please, please, take a minute or two to read it through…(I wanted to post a link to the poem, but thought I’d post it myself as I love it so much! Note: I always cry when I read it…)
The spearman heard the bugle sound,
And cheerily smiled the morn;
And many a brach, and many a hound,
Attend Llewellyn’s horn:
And still he blew a louder blast,
And gave a louder cheer:
“Come, Gelert! Why art thou the last
Llewellyn’s horn to hear?
“Oh, where does faithful Gelert roam?
The flower of all his race!
So true, so brave, a lamb at home,
A lion in the chase!”
In sooth, he was a peerless hound,
The gift of royal John,
But now no Gelert could be found,
And all the chase rode on.
And now, as over rocks and dells,
The gallant chidings rise,
All Snowdon’s craggy chaos yells
With many mingled cries.
That day Llewellyn little loved
The chase of hart or hare,
And small and scant the booty proved,
For Gelert was not there.
Unpleased, Llewellyn homeward hied,
When near the portal-seat,
His truant Gelert he espied,
Bounding his lord to meet.
But when he gained the castle door,
Aghast the chieftain stood;
The hound was smeared with gouts of gore,
His lips and fangs ran blood.
Llewellyn gazed with wild surprise,
Unused such looks to meet;
His favorite checked his joyful guise,
And crouched and licked his feet.
Onward in haste Llewellyn passed,
And on went Gelert, too,
And still, where’er his eyes were cast,
Fresh blood-gouts shocked his view.
O’erturned his infant’s bed he found,
The blood-stained covert rent;
And all around, the walls and ground,
With recent blood besprent.
He called the child–no voice replied;
He searched, with terror wild;
Blood! Blood! He found on every side,
But nowhere found the child!
“Hell-hound! By thee my child’s devoured!”
The frantic father cried;
And to the hilt his vengeful sword
He plunged in Gelert’s side.
His suppliant, as to earth he fell,
No pity could impart,
But still his Gelert’s dying yell
Passed heavy o’er his heart.
Aroused by Gelert’s dying yell,
Some slumberer wakened nigh;
What words the parent’s joy can tell
To hear his infant cry!
Concealed beneath a mangled heap
His hurried search had missed,
All glowing from his rosy sleep,
His cherub-boy he kissed.
Nor scratch had he, nor harm, nor dread,
But, the same couch beneath,
Lay a great wolf, all torn and dead–
Tremendous still in death.
Ah! What was then Llewellyn’s pain!
For now the truth was clear:
The gallant hound the wolf had slain
To save Llewellyn’s heir.
Vain, vain was all Llewellyn’s woe;
“Best of thy kind, adieu!
The frantic deed which laid thee low
This heart shall ever rue!”
And now a gallant tomb they raise,
With costly sculpture decked,
And marbles, storied with his praise,
Poor Gelert’s bones protect.
Here never could the spearman pass,
Or forester, unmoved!
Here oft the tear-besprinkled grass
Llewellyn’s sorrow proved.
And here he hung his horn and spear,
And oft, as evening fell,
In fancy’s piercing sounds would hear
Poor Gelert’s dying yell.
And, till great Snowdon’s rocks grow old,
And cease the storm to brave,
The consecrated spot shall hold,
The name of ‘Gelert’s’ grave.
WILLIAM ROBERT SPENCER
Photograph of Gelert’s Grave in Beddgelert by Lisa Shambrook (please do not use without permission)
I remember visiting that grave when I was little, and the story has haunted me ever since! I don't know if I dare read the poem, I'm sure it will make me cry. Great retelling, anyway! 🙂
That is a heart wrencher, Lisa. Both the original and your lovely retelling. I didn't know it but I'm like Laura. I read both with a bit of an overview because I was afraid to start sobbing on my lunch hour at work!Always lovely writing. :))
Ah. Just so sad. What a great depiction of devotion. Nicely done.
Well that is a turn up for the books! As a native Welshman, it's a real treat to see the tale of tragic Gelert from the ancient tales of the Mabinogion. The full story if I remember rightly is called "Pryderi Lost and Found". Pryderi being Llewellyn's son. The tales of the Mabinogion are great although sometimes a little dense in content. I have always said that if we get a dog in the future, I'll call it Gelert. Yours is a lovely take on the telling. Dai iawn i chi! Well done to you!W.
Thanks Laura, I went to Beddgelert when I was small, and several times since. The story haunted me too so I sought out the poem and fell in love with it!
I'll be honest, I cannot read the poem, or even retell the story without welling up! I told it to my youngest and she was so taken we visited again and she did a class project on Gelert. Do read the poem when you have time it's gorgeous!
Was defintely devotion to me! Thanks for commenting CC 🙂
Thanks Wayne! We're in West Wales, Merlin's country, and the history is so rich, the legends are part of the country's tapestry and I love being part of it!My experience with the Mabinogion are varied…I'm not as well versed as I'd like to be, but I love the tales. Thanks for taking the time to comment!
Loved this! I was holding my breath as he was searching for his son. Such a sad mistake…
I really enjoyed your piece, and Spencer's poem fleshed it out to provide a very satisfying read. Very nice!
Heartbreaking isn't it? 😥
I adore the poem, thanks for reading and commenting Andrew!
This just broke my heart. But then, I'm an Old Yeller victim.
It breaks mine every time I read it…
Not having heard this tale before, I think you did it great justice in your 5SF interpretation, a haunting story of devotion that one will not easily forget. Disturbing and very well done!
Thanks Josie,I'm glad you liked it, such a beautiful legend I wanted to keep it true to the poem!
Cool, the imagery is really strong, a good reminder that loyalty isn't just a human quality. Are you Welsh yourself?
I appreciate your comment. I'm not Welsh, just adopted in! We've been in West Wales for almost twenty years, and I adore the Welsh beauty and history!
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