The Secret Pages: Sarn Badrig

This is a Ledge of Rocks, very narrow and steep too, on the North Side, but with regular soundings on the other : It comes dry on Spring-tides, for Twenty Miles to Sea, from the coast of Merionethshire; lying about E.N.E and W.S.W.
Lewis Morris.
Sarn Bardig or Patrick’s Causeway, Plans in St George’s Channel (1748).

The waters of Cardigan Bay roll over Sarn Badrig,
but that foul ground comes dry last Quarter Ebb
resulting in an abundance of vessels lost.

Many centuries ago (shall we say, fifteen?)
this causeway, with its towers and warning bells,
warded Cantref y Gwaelod from the sea.

The encircled land was full and fertile:
hundred-fold cornfields, fattening pastures,
neat orchards of apple, damson, cherry, pear.

But Seithenyn, warden of the wall
and one-third of Britain’s immortal drunkards,
neglected the sluices, and sent no peals of warning

as the spring flood rang remorseless changes
that split apart the timbers and the stones
until only the causeway and its drowned bells remain.

The fathomed ground took a Genoese vessel;
its seven hundred tons delivered
Carrera marble to the sea-lost fields.

One block breathes beside Abermaw’s harbour;
three carved fishermen the price
of rescue from the swallowed cantref.

The rest wait the return of long-drowned builders
to be cut, carved, and set shining seaward
on fresh-built towers, the ship’s bell free to sound.


Cantref y Gwaelod: a productive, but mythical, area of low land to the west of the current coastline that was lost to flooding as a result of neglect of its protective causeway. Usually translated as the Bottom Hundreds. One third: Welsh triads list things in threes, one triad being the three immortal drunkards of the British Isles.

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