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St Asaph, Denbighshire. The road from Bangor, leaving its fork to Rhuddlan on one side, drops with a descent of 1 in 14 and comes to Llanelwy, better known to English ears as St Asaph. It is a quiet and detached place on a hill between the Clwyd and the Elwy rivers. Its one feature is the Cathedral, to which it subordinates every other interest. The name, said to be either Asa or Asaph, belonged to a grandson of a ruler called Pabo in the days when the Church followed the Celtic form of belief. He was not the first founder that distinction belonged to a Kentigern who took refuge from persecution in Wales and originated a monastery that Asaph was appointed to administer after Kentigern's death. Since Asaph himself is presumed to have died about 596, at the time when St Augustine entered Britain to summon it to the Catholic faith, the foundation must be reckoned among the earliest. The Cathedral is, nevertheless, the smallest in the country and also the plainest, keeping the austerity proper to the early saints. It is only 182 ft long and 68 ft wide; Owain Glyndwr burnt the building out in the early 15th century, though the exterior keeps its l3th century style and structure. In 1715 the tower was repaired; in 1875 Gilbert Scott refashioned the whole of the Cathedral. Literary monuments area tablet to the memory of Mrs Felicia Hemans, who did much to imprint her version of Welsh romantic legends on the English mind, and the dictionary of Welsh-Greek-Hebrew compiled by Dic Aberdaron, who lies buried here.

But the modern mind is more likely to recall that Gerard Manley Hopkins spent much time in the neighbourhood of St Asaph, and took up the Welsh language and Welsh verse-structure. He wrote to Robert Bridges telling him what interest he found in this unfamiliar language and what difficulty in mastering it. The rules of metrical form in Welsh poetry are ancient, subtle, and strict; the simple rhyming and alliteration familiar to the older schools of English verse in no way compare with the sain, llusg, croes, traws of cynghanedd, which call on the poet to exercise the utmost skill and ingenuity. William Barnes, the poet of the West Country, attempted one of these Welsh devices in his well-known lines:
And there for me the apple-tree
Do lean down low on Linden Lea,
in whose last phrase the consonants l, n, d, n, l are repeated in parallel order and only the vowels are allowed to change. Difficult as this is to apply, it is perhaps the easiest of the rules to follow; yet the even more difficult art of “penillion” of alternating not only words but also musical successions can be seen to be done at any small village Eisteddfod in rural Wales. The art of Gerard Manley Hopkins, which has transformed the style and mental content of English poetry for all time, deliberately adopted the methods and manner of these Welsh traditions, particularly in the case of The Wreck of the Deutschland, as Professor Bell has shown.

Hopkins may well have been chiefly drawn to study what was to revolutionize English poetry by finding the work of the tramp, Dic Aberdaron. But he was also influenced by the work of William Morgan, the former Bishop of St Asaph, who translated the Bible into Welsh twenty years after permission to do so was granted by Elizabeth Tudor in 1567. Bishop Morgan is commemorated together with William Salesbury, Bishop Richard Davies, and Thomas Huet, who in that year put out their Welsh translation of the New Testament by a monument outside the Cathedral. Between them, they shaped the Welsh language into its present form.

Nearby towns: Abergele, Denbigh, Flint, Holywell, Prestatyn, Rhyl

Nearby villages: Betws-yn-Rhos, Bodelwyddan, Bodfari, Caerwys, Cwm, Dinorben, Dyserth, Foryd, Greenfield, Gwaenynog, Gwytherin, Henllan, Kinmel, Llanasa, Llanddulas, Llandyrnog, Llanelwy, Llanfair Talhaiarn, Llanferres, Llangynhafal, Llannefydd, Llannerch-y-Mor, Llanrhaiadr, Llansannan, Llysfaen, Meliden, Mostyn, Nannerch, Nantglyn, Rhuddlan, Ruthin, Talacre, Trefnant, Tremeirchion, Whitford

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