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"The Saxons cried amain,
And came with fire and sword, the scared fane
CRAIG-Y-DINAS, in the Vale of Neath, is a lofty rock of very remarkable aspect, its elevated summit commanding the surrounding country, and presenting a magnificent appearance. The traditions of the locality point to the old days when Romans contended with the Britons, and Saxon Pagans rushed like a swollen torrent on those of our ancient forefathers who sought to preserve their religion and their liberty amid the rocky fastnesses of Wales.
Reverting to these circumstances, the mind calls up the brilliant array and martial bearing of the proud legions of Rome. Their polished helmets and brestplates are glittering in the sun, and to the sound of trumpets they advance towards us at a stately pace. Troops of light cavalry, armed with javelin; others with long lances and oval shields; bodies of infantry, bearing a forest of spears and carrying standards which have been borne invincible all over the world, next approach,- one thinks that iron wall could never be broken; and here are baggage and provision waggons, and sutlers and servants, and a mixed multitude, hovering around the camp, skirting the march of the troops, ready to share the spoil if not the struggle. This proud array-covering the fair landscape, suggests at once the order and regularity of the invasion. They come not as a wild horde bent on wanton slaughter and useless destruction, and making the air resound with their deafening shouts, but as a well-ordered company who have come to conquer.
Very different were those invaders who five centuries later poured into the Welsh provinces, beating their shields with their spears, and calling on the wild birds to eat of the feast of their providing :-a fair-haired, blue-eyed race, but as savage as the cruel creed they held, and bent not only on subjugating their enemies but on crushing the religion they professed.
When the Romans descended on our coasts, they found us given up to a faith which was strange to them, and unlike that which they held. The gorgeous splendor of their Heathenism was not to be seen in our Pagan idolatry The rude altar of stone, the oak-crowned, white robed priest the awful sacrifices which bled and burned-were all unlike the service of those magnificent structures the ruins of which are still regarded as models of grace and beauty.
Before the Romans our Druidical idolatries passed away. Our altars were broken down, and our groves were destroyed, but the Pagan religion of Rome never took root in our soil. With the spears of the conquerors there came indeed a faith which found a home in our country-a faith which swept away the relics of our barbarous heathnism more effectually than Roman edict or the sword of the centurian. Christianity began to prevail and rapidly spread, and when the Romans withdrew they left a Christian people.
No sympathy, however, had the Saxons with the religion of the Cross. The knife to the throat and the fire to the roof-tree of those who held that creed! The Christians suffered fearfully from the ferocious superstition of their conquerors -and nowhere did they suffer more than in Wales, and nowhere in Wales than in this part of the Principality. Gildar tells us:-"From east to west nothing was to be seen but churches burnt and destroyed to their foundations. The inhabitants were extirpated by the sword, and burned under the ruins of their own houses. The altars were daily profaned by the blood of those who were slain thereon." "The priests," says Bede, "were murdered at the altar; the bishop and his flock perished by fire and sword without any distinction." The time, however, at last arrived when the conquerors themselves were converted to the faith they had trampelled on, and all Britain was brought within the pale of Christianity.