The Abbot sat high in his raftered hall,
The monks of old Vanner they made good cheer;
To-morrow, to-morrow, whatever befall,
Will Owen Glendower go hunting the deer.
Right merry goes forward the feasting hour,
And Mawddach merrily murmurs near,
But Owen Glendower, his brows still lower,
And Howel of Nannau keeps hold of his spear.
The harpers up in the gallery played
Till the song, like wine, through the heart’s blood ran;
They sang of the joyaunce that peace had made,
And the sorrow of war since the feud began;
Loud, loud was the laughter and clatter of plate,
The clanking of trencher and clinking of can,
As they cursed the devil that caused the hate,
And blessed the good hunt that had broken the ban.
The stars had scarce faded, the hounds were away,
The herons of Hengwrt with clamour awoke,
But the sun cannot shine o’er the shallows to-day,
The shoulders of Idris with clouds are a-smoke;
There are sounds in the branches and sighs in the air,
And hoarsely the ravens far over them croak,
Glendower’s dark eyes, they are restless with care,
And Howel rides on, but no word has he spoke.
“Now halt ye,” cries Howell, “my merry men, here,
Keep the horses in shelter, the hounds by the wall;
Glendower and I will go follow the deer,—
At need, through the woodland, our bugles shall call.”
They are lost in the forest, and up springs a doe
And dances snow-shite through the bracken fern tall:
“Shoot, Howel! yon beauty shall count to thy bow,
They shall bless thee who feast with the Abbot in hall.”
There’s a twang like a harp-string that breaks, and the sound
Of a bolt, on a breastplate that harmlessly fell;
Glendower, escaped from a treacherous wound,
Has turned on his murd’rer full face in the dell.
Though the bolt of his vengeance may err as it fly,
There’s a sword at his girdle shall yet serve him well;
For Owen Glendower, fair fighting, will die,
Or Howel of Nannau go swift into hell.
Not a word from their lips—there is speech in their eyes!
All the wrongs of past years to the combat upstart;
They reel at the onset—they fall but to rise,
Their blades fly to shivers, they stagger apart!
Then Owen Glendower went back for a pace,—
A bull in his fury, a fox in his art,—
And Howel of Nannau sank stabbed to the heart!
Now haste thee, Glendower, for red is thy hand,
And Howel’s brave riders are under the lea;
Long as priest by the altar in Vanner shall stand,
No shriving of soul for thy clansman or thee.
Though the curlew may call, and the raven may croak,
No tongue shall cry murder when eyes cannot see;
For a coffin, hard by thee, stands hollow the oak,—
Hide the heart thou hast hushed in the heart of a tree!
With the strength of a giant he shouldered the corse,
Climbed up to the rent the fierce lightning had made,
There flung him, feet forward, with pitiless force,
And cast in the hollow his bow and his blade.
“False traitor!” he cried, “though the oak may keep well
Thy bones and thy deed of dark shame in the glade.
It shall groan with thy groans of remorse down in hell
Till the ghost, made in Nannau this morn, shall be laid.”
For centuries four, from the oak on the hill
Came the sounds of the moaning of men when the die,
And the woodpecker stopped as he tapped with his bill,
And the jay with a scream from its branches would fly;
All the deer in the forest went scampering past,
The hound to its groaning would utter a cry,
The huntsman who heard it, he galloped more fast,
And the stout-hearted woodsman sped silently by,
But the tree kept the secret shut up in its heart,
Till a wind from the west, at the fall of the year,
Plucked the roots from the ground, tore the great trunk apart,
And cast from its bosom the load of its fear;
And there, with his bones bleached to white as he stood,
With the dirk through his ribs and the dagger-wound clear,
Was Howel of Nannau, who died in the wood
When Owen Glendower went hunting the deer.
(Pall Mall Magazine, 3 (July 1894), 353-61)