The Secret Key and Other Verses


George Essex Evans

DIM in the mist of ages, seeking a resting-place,
Broke on the shores of Britain the wave of an Aryan race.
Clear thro’ the mist of ages, ere ever the White Christ came,
Songs of the Cymric singers have chanted the Brython fame.
Dark with the fate of nations, and swift as a broadspear hurled,
The breath of the God of Battles swept o’er the western world.
Where are the old-time peoples, men of the war-like front,
From the surge of the wild Atlantic to the shores of the Hellespont?
Come and gone like the breezes, ebbed and flowed like the tide
Race and feature and language are lost in that vortex wide!
Rich is thy soil, O Cymru, drenched with thy heroes’ blood,
Where ’mid the changeful æons changeless thy people stood!

Land of the birch and buckthorn, home of the hoary oak,
Where the songs of Llywarch linger, and the words that Merlin spoke!
Land of the tarn and torrent, where broods by the rock-bound springs
The spirit of stern Cunedda, the first of the Brython Kings!
Land of the mellow marshes, deep valley, and barren scar,
Sweet with the dreams of Cadoc, and the lore of Howel Dda!
Where upon dark Pymlimmon the snowy cloudwreaths rest!
Where wild Demetia’s forelands spurn the billows from her breast!
Comes to the heart that loves thee, under the changeful skies,
Rich with a rhythmic measure the surge of the centuries—
Days when the Cymric armies, marching in thousands strong,
Followed the fierce Aneurin, chanting his battle-song—
Deeds of a desperate valour that turned thro’ the wavering years
The thrust of the Roman pila, the rush of the Saxon spears,
The charge of the Norman barons, met by the stern reply
Of a land that had taught the Caesars whether her sons could die.

Men of the blood of Meuric, of Maelgwn, the leonine,
Who smile at the Saxon hierarchs, who laugh at the Norman line,
Who are sprung from the loins of hunters who followed the mighty Hu
Wherever the broad-spear glittered, wherever the battle grew—
Kin of the warrior-princes who sank in the bloody tide
That raged on the field at Hexham where brave Cadwallon died—
Forget not the land that bore you! Be true to the breath that fills
The heart of her singing valleys, the heights of her storm-crowned hills!
The soul of the nation stirreth yet as it did of old
When the helm of the great Pendragon flamed o’er his torque of gold!

The myths of the Greek and Roman dim in the Eastward grew,
And o’er the realms of Asia the banner of Islam blew—
High in the halls of honour, bright on the scroll of fame,
Deep in the hearts of heroes, is written great Arthur’s name.
A star on the heights of morning, clear in the pearl of dawn,
It carried the White Christ’s message wherever a sword was drawn;
It flashed on the heathen darkness, it nursed with its golden ray
The strength of the early Churches that grew under David’s sway.
Ill shall the oak have blossomed and warped shall its branches be,
When Britain forgets to honour the dawn of her chivalry!

Wherever grows Britain’s glory, wherever her power is felt,
’Tis won by the fire that flushes the blood of the restless Celt—
Scottish, or Welsh, or Irish, whatever the branches be,
The Gael and the Brython together are stems of the self-same tree—
In song, in battle, in council, by land or by stormy tide,
They move in the van of progress wherever her realms are wide.
The seed of the self-same people still dwell by the Cambrian shore;
The tramp of the Roman legions is heard on the hills no more.
Saxon and Dane and Norman, the spirit you could not quell,
Deem not it died in darkness when the last Llewelyn fell!

Hemmed and harried and fettered, ever it rose anew!
’Twas first ’neath the Cambrian Tudors the greatness of England grew!
Now, torque, and lance, and tarian, hang high in the castle hall:
The bay of the Cymric war-hound is mute ’neath the Roman wall,
The voice of the Seer is silent in dim vast forest aisles,
By grove and haunted streamlet no white procession files.
Past are the days of prowess, the fame of the strong right hand;
But the hearts of the Cambrian peasants still cleave to the motherland.
Still, with the stern persistence that kept them a race apart,
They live for a Nation’s glory, they toil for a Nation’s art.

True to a high ideal, never to falter nor swerve,
The fire of a strong endeavour glows thro’ their calm reserve.
Still to the living Present the power of the Past can reach:
The spring of a Nation’s culture wells thro’ their pensive speech.
Burns, and rises, and surges, thro’ class and order and sect,
The thirst for a wider knowledge, the passion of intellect—
From the fenlands of Tremadoc to where Severn’s waters fall,
The many are one with the purpose, the purpose is one with all!

Far from the Cambrian mountains, far from the Tivyside,
Or Penmaenmawr uplifted above the foaming tide—
Where the stars above calm Gwynant watch while the waters sleep,
Or where Conwy darts its arrow by Degannwy’s rocky steep—
Far from that gloomy chasm where the weirs with thundershake,
And the rocks of dark Llyn Idwal frown o’er the darker lake—
Far from the Mercian Marches, where the rivers keep their tryst,
Or where the corn is waving down the vale of sweet Llanrwst—
Wherever their fate may lead them, wherever their footsteps fare,
The soul of the Cambrian people is free as their mountain air.
However our days may darken, our dreams of that land shall be,
As the glint of a sunbeam shining at dawn on a wintry sea!

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