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Gerald of Wales

places mentioned

Book II, Ch. 9: Snowdonia

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Of the mountains of Eryri

I must not pass over in silence the mountains called by the Welsh Eryri, but by the English Snowdon, or Mountains of Snow, which gradually increasing from the land of the sons of Conan, and extending themselves northwards near Deganwy, seem to rear their lofty summits even to the clouds, when viewed from the opposite coast of Anglesey. They are said to be of so great an extent, that according to an ancient proverb, "As Mona could supply corn for all the inhabitants of Wales, so could the Eryri mountains afford sufficient pasture for all the herds, if collected together." Hence these lines of Virgil may be applied to them:-

"Et quantum longis carpent armenta diebus,
Exigua tautum gelidus ros nocte reponet."

"And what is cropt by day the night renews,
Shedding refreshful stores of cooling dews."

On the highest parts of these mountains are two lakes worthy of admiration. The one has a floating island in it, which is often driven from one side to the other by the force of the winds; and the shepherds behold with astonishment their cattle, whilst feeding, carried to the distant parts of the lake. A part of the bank naturally bound together by the roots of willows and other shrubs may have been broken off, and increased by the alluvion of the earth from the shore; and being continually agitated by the winds, which in so elevated a situation blow with great violence, it cannot reunite itself firmly with the banks. The other lake is noted for a wonderful and singular miracle. It contains three sorts of fish - eels, trout, and perch, all of which have only one eye, the left being wanting; but if the curious reader should demand of me the explanation of so extraordinary a circumstance, I cannot presume to satisfy him. It is remarkable also, that in two places in Scotland, one near the eastern, the other near the western sea, the fish called mullets possess the same defect, having no left eye. According to vulgar tradition, these mountains are frequented by an eagle who, perching on a fatal stone every fifth holiday, in order to satiate her hunger with the carcases of the slain, is said to expect war on that same day, and to have almost perforated the stone by cleaning and sharpening her beak.

Gerald of Wales, The Itinerary of Archbishop Baldwin through Wales (Oxford, Mississippi, 1997)

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