In the Fourth Song, the rivers of Wales sing in praise of their country’s ancient heroes, including the wondrous Merlin. According to medieval legend, Merlin was a prophet and magician who aided the Britons against their enemies. Many of the tales about him, including the story that he transported Stonehenge from Ireland to Salisbury plain, were devised by the twelfth-century historian Geoffrey of Monmouth. Drayton seems especially interested by the story that Merlin employed fiends to build a wall of brass around his native town of Carmarthen. This was not an old legend, but the invention of another Elizabethan poet, Edmund Spenser.
When out the English cried to interrupt their song,
But they, which knew to this more matter must belong,
Not out at all for that, nor any whit dismayed,
But to their well-tuned harps their fingers closely laid,
Twixt every one of which they placed their country’s crowd,
And with courageous spirits thus boldly sang aloud:
How Merlin by his skill, and magic’s wondrous might,
From Ireland hither brought the Stonehenge in a night,
And for Carmarthen’s sake, would fain have brought to pass,
About it to have built a wall of solid brass;
And set his fiends to work upon the mighty frame,
Some to the anvil, some, that still enforced the flame,
But whilst it was in hand, by loving of an elf
(For all his wondrous skill) was cozened by himself.
For, walking with his Fay, her to the rock he brought
In which he oft before his necromancies wrought;
And going in thereat his magics to have shown,
She stopped the cavern’s mouth with an enchanted stone,
Whose cunning strongly crossed, amazed whilst he did stand,
She captive him conveyed unto the Fairy Land.
Then, how the labouring spirits, to rocks by fetters bound,
With bellows rumbling groans, and hammers thundering sound,
A fearful horrid din still in the earth do keep,
Their master to awake, supposed by them to sleep;
As at their work how still the grieved spirits repine,
Tormented in the fire, and tired at the mine.