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From no grim ancient headland blossom-crowned,
Seen ever through a fleeting foamy veil,
Where the wind's threats and clamors pause and fall,
The Sirens' voices in a landward hail,
Of old the Sirens promised peace and rest
To men with many a weary league forlorn,
For heaving deck and sail storm-lashed and torn,
Fair slopes of joyous grass and fields of corn,
But we whom careless fate in life has set
Like ships becalmed beneath a windless sky, Who, wrapped in irksome ease, still chafe and fret
While void of noble deeds the days go by,
Life owes to Youth while yet his blood is high-
Songs that the shock of meeting waves repeat,
Splash of the spray, hiss of the plunging prow, Roar of the trade winds going with steady feet,
Glamor of tropic coasts and fields of snow, And of the line where sky and water meet
Past which lies all the world to see and knowThrough these with smile austere looks Danger's face Charming our hearts to draw to her embrace.
Lured by the chant, the ancient sailor found
Death waiting on the green melodious shore, The sweet song swelled to triumph as he drowned,
And the tides roll his bones forevermore.
That sing to us, beside Death's very door.
Walter Hogg. The Corohill Magazine.
A HILL-TOP FUNERAL.
To every dweller on the Little Mountain there comes a day when his neighbors, far and near, make their arrangements with him and him alone, in their thoughts. Up to that moment he may bave been one of the most insignificant among them, one of the least regarded among the gray emmets which move over the naked fields as you look down upon the country from some bald, rocky height; but to him, on that day, the most pressing business, the most enticing pleasure, must give way. For him, as the season may run, the plough will stand still in mid-furrow; for him the precious hay will be uncarried on upland pastures, though gusty blasts whistle down the rocky valleys and moan round the gray stone of the hilltop cairn, and the wild cry of sea-birds flocking inland comes down the wind, and storm is near; for him, the scanty corn will lie unbound in the yellow sunshine, though days are shortening and autumn is dying fast.
Yet this situation is not exempt from the irony of things. On the day that the mountain to a man waits upon him, he will be unconscious of it all, for it will be the day of his funeral. Many customs have waned, many old ceremonials have fallen upon neglect and evil days, but the funeral to which the whole countryside gathers, still flourishes in the remoter parts of Wales as vigorously as ever; it is easily the greatest function in peasant and yeoman life.
A Welsh funeral begins, as it were, the night before, when a religious service is held at the house of the deceased person. This is usually fixed for halfpast six in the evening, and about five o'clock small knots of men begin to cross the mountain towards the church.
Their task is to fetch the bier, and
Towards midday, then, on the mor-
On every side you see people converg. ing on the place, the nearer of them tiny, dark figures, sharp against the gray of the mountain, the farther mere dots, but all dropping down the encircling hillsides and running together to fall into the little black pool of people which surrounds
whitewashed farmhouse and its knot of wind-beaten trees. You push on and slip into the throng yourself. Everything is very quiet. A faint voice comes to your ears through the open window of the kitchen, and you know that some one is preaching there, but you do not move towards the sound; the house has been packed long ago. Not a tithe of the concourse could get in or even near the window, and you see long lines of brown-faced men clad in the dark mountain homespun and seated quietly under the hedgerows or leaning against the dry-stone, lichen-spotted walls and whispering to each other, for on these occasions one-half of the countryside meets the other half and has much to say. You also lean leisurely over a wall and survey the scene. The part of
the farmyard before the house has four tall men walk together, four short been kept clear, and is neatly swept, men drop into line. This is for convenbut the lower end is filled with vehicles ience when their turn comes to carry and saddle-horses, for many people the bier, any marked inequality in have ridden or driven long distances to height among the bearers resulting in be present. After a while there is a stir great awkwardness and uneasiness about the door, and the women begin over the rough broken roads and steep to stream out. Upon this the whispering slopes lying between us and the churchmen, and those who have gone farther yard. When every man has dropped away to talk more freely, cease their into his rank and stepped away with conversation and cluster together and slow, regular stride, the four mourners, move into the yard. Now all eyes are shouldering the bier, follow, and now fixed on the door, and presently the the women prepare to march. They coffin is borne out shoulder-high. It is walk behind the coffin, and, as they fastened firmly to the bier, and the have not to carry, their ranks are not latter is carried by four mourners, and formed with the exactness of the these are always the four nearest male men's. After them the vehicles move relations of the deceased. The bier is forward in single file, and finally, the set down in the middle of the yard, horsemen fall in, usually two abreast, and the whole crowd, for whom there and bring up the rear. Thus it will be is now plenty of room, gather round in seen that the bearers are all before the a close-packed ring. The officiating coffin, the non-bearers all behind it. minister gives out one of the fine hymns Everything has been reduced to an exof which there is such a noble store in act system, and the labor of bearingWelsh, and they sing-ah, how they no slight task under a heavy load over sing!
rough country—is distributed to a nicety This hymn is called "emyn cyn codi," among the marching column. At the the "hymn before lifting," because at head of the procession walks the man its close the body will be lifted and set to whom this duty is entrusted, usually down no more till the church is reached. a patriarch of the mountain, whose As the hymn dies away the men begin bowed shoulders are no longer equal to to move steadily off, and the women the burden of the bier. He walks along, stand on one side, and the four who his great silver watch in his hand, and carried out the bier receive it once at intervals-the exact length settled more on their shoulders. It is theirs by his judgment of the varying condito carry their dead the first stage away tions, such as the roughness or steepfrom home, it is theirs to carry the last ness of the road, the heat of the day stage to the church and set the bier and the like points-he waves his staff down before the altar, it is theirs to above his head. Instantly obedient to carry from the church to the grave. this signal, the front rank drops out, For the rest they walk immediately be- two on each side, and stands still while hind the coffin, and the bier is borne in the procession of men moves past them, turns by the friends and neighbors who As the bier approaches they step forhave gathered to pay this last token of ward, and the load is transferred with regard.
wonderful dexterity, the one party You will observe that as the men move slipping out and the other slipoff they form in ranks of four abreast; ping in so swiftly and surely that the you will also see that these ranks march is not delayed an instant. Nor are formed on a principle, and this is is the bier lowered for moment. that any given four are much of a size; Shoulder-high the dead are borne out
of their homes, and shoulder-high they the march is made without pause. remain until the bier is set down before An old' custom, now disused, checked the altar in the little church. The re- the march at every place where roads lieved party step forward and form the crossed, and a prayer was offered up. rear rank of the men. Thus the front It is said that this had reference to the line is continually falling out and the ancient custom of burying evil-doers at rear is continually forging forward such points, a practice which resemuntil it is the turn of the latter to step bled the old English custom with suiaside once more, and the result is per- cides. It was believed that the spirits fect equality in the distribution of the of these evil-folk haunted the spot work.
where their bodies had been laid, but It will be seen that the large con- the prayer offered up saved the departcourse is absolutely inseparable from ed from becoming their prey. this kind of a funeral. Often the burden Sometimes on the march the people has to be carried for miles over rough sing, and the effect is often fine beyond country and by the rudest of roads, and description. I remember a few years the members of a small body of men ago, attending a funeral, perhaps the would be called upon too often. The largest in my experience, when I heard idea of a hearse, or a substitute for a some of the noblest singing I have hearse, is regarded with the keenest ever listened to in my life. There were repugnance. In their opinion it is so circumstances of sad and special intercold, so heartless a way of conveying a est in connection with the occasion, dead friend to his grave; and to carry and a concourse, great for so thinly out their beloved custom they will sup- inhabited a countryside, had come to port unmurmuringly a high degree of gether. Horse and foot, full five hundiscomfort and inconvenience. I have dred, preceded or followed the bier that seen a bier patiently borne mile after day. It was very hot, and to escape mile at midday when the mountain was the dust I had walked ahead a little at a-shimmer under the sultriest blaze of one point where a very steep hill stood a July sun. I have seen eight or ten up like a wall across the country. The men wrestling fiercely to keep their road mounted it directly, and at the top footing and hold up their precious bur- I turned to look over the funeral train den on a precipitous slope coated with in the valley below. The advance ice, utterly impassable under such a guard was almost at the foot of the load, had not the great square nails in ascent, while the horses were still filing their heavy boots given them some sort round a distant bend where the road of grip. I have known a journey of disappeared. Midway the uncovered six miles made to a distant churchyard coffin of polished oak glittering in the over the hills, and every inch of it, sun was the only point of light along save the first quarter-mile, done at the the far-extended sable line. From this usual snail's pace under a hissing beight and distance it had the downpour, which speedily reduced the appearance of little boat borne clothes of the procession to mere sops smoothly forward
the dark of cloth upon their bodies.
Wave which flowed beneath and To the on-looker from a distance, around it. Of a sudden the men in especially if he be on some adjacent front began to sing. They sang, of height, the long, dark train looks won- course, “O fryniau Caersalem," and the derfully picturesque as it winds slowly fine old verse was never more nobly by narrow road and open mountain rendered. The parts for the various towards the churchyard. Nowadays voices were taken up with the utmost
precision, and the stately harmonies, ex- before, indeed, any one goes away. A quisite at once in their lofty melan- bundle of the queer, long-handled shovcholy, their tender beauty and the deep els they use is fetched from behind a sadness which was breathed into every tombstone near at hand, where they note, rang back from cliff and woody have been stowed in readiness; three scaur with a thousand echoes as if or four seize them and the filling-in hill and valley recalled the strain-as goes steadily forward. This final touch well they might-and chanted it back often deeply affects the easily-moved to the chanting train. Faintly at times Celtic throng, so keenly alive to sentione caught the high sweet notes of the ment, so quick to feel, so prone to weepwomen in the distance. As in "The ing. Death strikes with a deeper, Princess":
sharper bolt among these solitudes than
in busier places. Where but few are to “And the women sang
be found a familiar figure is the more Between the rougher voices of the men keenly missed. Age after age, generaLike linnets in the pauses of the wind.” tion after generation, the people have
married and intermarried until, within But for the most part the rich, sonor
a little, every one is related to every one ous voices of the men filled the valley
else, and the mountain is inhabited by and rolled up the hillside in a massy
one great family. The loss is personal billow of full and sustained harmony. to a degree unknown in busy towns From "O fryniau" they passed to “Bydd
where people look on each other with myrdd," another air compact of most cold and careless eyes. And as the admirable effects and as finely ren- clods and stones fall with hollow rattle dered. Heard amid alien scenes this and dull, sullen blows into the open music is striking in a high degree, but gráve, often a song of farewell is only amid such a setting and on such
raised, the strain breathing such feelan occasion as this can its last drop ing and passion as to produce an effect of sweetness be drained. The wild, inexpressibly striking and affecting. wailing note of some of the airs sung When the last spadeful has been on these marches are in such keeping thrown on the mound, the assembly with the mournful beauty of the gray, begins slowly to melt away, striking to desolate mountains, that it is easy to
every point of the compass, and the see how among like scenes they must funeral is over. have crept into the heart of the first There is the fine simplicity of immesinger-often a long-forgotten singer morial custom about this rite. Through of a far-off day, for many of the airs the dim mist of tradition nothing is are traditional and of great antiquity. seen more clearly than the meeting of
When the funeral procession reaches the people to march in solemn procesthe church the majority stretch thein- sion with their dead, whether a hero selves on the grass, if the day be fine, was borne to the hill-top to be laid unto rest after their journey, for the tiny der a mighty cairn, or one of humbler building will hold but part of the array. rank was buried in the valley below. The service concluded, the coffin is car- So did the old Welsh carry the ashes ried to the grave, where it is lowered of their departed to place under the and the final prayers are read. It is ancient barrows found on many an the invariable custom to fill in the English hillside, and so do their degrave while the relatives remain about scendants to this day on the Little it, backed by the thick-standing crowd, Mountain.