in October 1854 George Borrow is walking through Wales, and has reached the village of Llansilin, where the bard Eos Ceiriog, the Nightingale of Ceiriog (Huw Morris) lived and is buried.
Having discussed my ale, I asked the landlord if he would show me the grave of Huw Morris. “With pleasure, sir,” said he; “pray follow me.” He led me to the churchyard, in which several enormous yew trees were standing, probably of an antiquity which reached as far back as the days of Henry the Eighth, when the yew bow was still the favourite weapon of the men of Britain.
The innkeeper led me directly up to the southern wall, then pointing to a broad discoloured slab, which lay on the ground just outside the wall, he said: “Underneath this stone lies Huw Morris, sir.”
Forthwith taking off my hat, I went down on my knees and kissed the cold slab covering the cold remains of the mighty Huw, and then, still on my knees, proceeded to examine it attentively. It is covered over with letters three parts defaced. All I could make out of the inscription was the date of the poet’s death, 1709. “A great genius, a very great genius, sir,” said the innkeeper, after I had got on my feet and put on my hat. “He was indeed,” said I; “are you acquainted with his poetry?” “O yes,” said the innkeeper,” from Wild Wales by George Borrow.
If anyone had dared suggest to George Borrow that this respect for a poet’s grave was on a par with Papist superstition, Borrow would have been mighty vexed. He held that Catholics put ‘their hope of salvation on outward forms and superstitious observances’*, and no doubt would have included venerating saints’ relics as one of those observances. He himself went out of his way to visit Llansilin, for the sake of a poet.
*The Bible in Spain.
Photograph by Plucas58 via Wikipedia. Free to use.