The Bards and Druids of Britain

by David William Nash | 1858 | 113,891 words

A Translation of the Remains of the Earliest Welsh Bards, and an Examination of the Bardic Mysteries....

Chapter IV - The Mythological Poems

We now come to those remains of the Welsh Bards which have been supposed to contain the mythology, superstition, and philosophy of the celebrated Druids.

The views of the Rev. Edward Davies on the subject of these poems are too well known to require recapitulation at any length. He represented the Druidic religion as a Helio-Arkite superstition, in which ceremonies commemorative of the Deluge, and certain mystical rites analogous to those of Bacchus, Ceres, and Isis, played an important part. The doctrines and ceremonies of this religion he supposed to have been preserved in songs and traditions by the inhabitants of Britain through the period of the Roman ascendancy, to have survived the introduction of Christianity into this island, and to have continued in a vital condition down to as late as the twelfth century, and produced from the writings attributed to the Bards of the sixth century abundant evidence, as he affirmed, of the truth of his positions.

In this sense he translated, or rather, minstranslated, a considerable number of the ancient Welsh poems, wresting the plainest and most obvious expressions from their simple meaning, in order to educe the mysteries which had no place save in his own imagination.

Where he met with expressions clearly indicative of Christian doctrine, as addresses to the “Merciful Trinity,” “Christ the Son,” “the Father,” “the day of judgment,” &c., which recur at every turn in these poems, he either omitted them altogether, treating them as interpolations, or gave them another and mysterious meaning, or declared them to have been introduced as a cloak, to deceive the uninitiated, and induce the outer world to believe that the Pagan Bard was in fact a good Christian.

The influence which these translations of Mr. Davies have exercised on all investigations into early British history, has been most extensive. His opinion has been widely adopted, and his translations taken as evidences of history. We have before alluded to one remarkable instance of the spread of this delusion, in the so-called translation given by Dr. Meyer of what he styles a hymn to the god Pryd in his character as god of the sun, as follows:—

“Pryd, God of Great Britain, splendid Hu, listen to me! King of Heaven, do not during my office hide thyself from me 1 A fair repast ia spread before thee by the castle between the two lakes (a religious expression for Great Britain); the lakes surround the wall; the wall sunounds the city; the city invokes thee, King Almighty; a pure offering stands before thee, a chosen victim in its sacrificial veil; a great serpent (a common epithet of the sun, referring to its circuitous course) encircles from above the place where the sacred vases stand.”[1]

This translation is hardly less absurd than that of Mr. Davies. The first two lines have no connection with the rest, but belong to the preceding piece, the Marwnad Uther Pendragon. They are in the same metre with those that precede, and are necessary to complete the sense.

Fy nhafawd i draethu fy Marwnad
Handid o meinad gwrthgloddiad byd
Pryd Prydain hu ysgein ymwhyllad
Gwledig Nef ynghennadeu nam doad,—

My tongue in reciting my elegy.[2]
Though the world should be surrounded with a wall of stone,
Over the surface of Britain would be spreading thy memory.
Lord of Heaven, grant oblivion for sin.

The following is the real poem, which the reader will be surprised to find, so far from being a description of these sacrificial mysteries, and the immolation of a victim in a castle between two lakes, is, in fact, neither more nor less than a Christmas carol, or song in honour of the Nativity of our Saviour:—



Kein gyfeddwch
Y am deulwch[3] lluch omplaid
Pleid am gaer
Caer yn ohaer ry yscrifiad
Virain fo rhagddaw
Ar llen[4] caw rawyedig Vein
Dreig amgyffreu
Odd uch lleeu llestreu Had
Llad yn eurgyrn
Eurgyrn yn llaw
Llaw yn ysci
Ysci ymodrydaf
Fur itti iolaf
Buddyg Velî
A Manhogan
Rhi rhygeidwei deithi
Ynys fei Feli
Teithiawg oedd iddi
Pump pennaeth dimbi
O wyddyl ffichti
O bechadur cadeithi
O genedl ysgi
Pump eraill dymbi
O Norddmyn mandi
Wheched ryfeddri
O hen hyd fedi
Seithfed o heni
I weryd tros li
Wythfed lin o Ddyfi
Nyd llwydded escori
Gynt gwaedd Venni
Galwawr Eryri
Anhawdd y deui
Iolwn Eloi
Pan yn bo gan Geli
Addef Nef dimbi.



A splendid feast
For the reconciliation of contending parties.
Contention in the city, 
Hateful violence.
Beautiful was his presence,
In linen swaddling clothes extremely delicate.
The chiefs around
Place on high the gift-vessels,
Gifts of golden goblets.
The goblet in the hand Full of liquor,
The liquor of the beehive.
I adore thy wisdom.
The victorious Beli,
Son of Manogan
The King, who was the chief guardian
Of the Island of Britain,[5]
Was journeying to thee.

This is the termination of the Christian hymn, for such it is evident that it is. The poet speaks of the gifts brought by the chiefs, the wise men from the East, and says that Beli the son of Manogan, one of the kings of Britain who reigned before the time of Julius Cæsar, was also present. The rest of the piece is of a predictive character, which evidently did not originally belong to the former part. The mention of the chiefs from Normandy is sufficieut to show its date.

Five chieftains there shall be
Of the Gwyddel Fichti,
Incorrigible sinners
Of a headlong race.
Five others there shall be
From Normandy,
The sixth a wondrous king
From his birth to his grave.
The seventh of these
From the country beyond the sea.
The eighth of the line of Ddyfi,
Not fortunate his enemies.
Before the shout of Menni
Calling upon Eryri (Snowdon),
Not easily shalt thou come.
Let us adore Eloi,
When, in being with Christ,
Our dwelling shall be in heaven.

This astounding fallacy of a hymn to the god Pryd in the Welsh language, being preserved among the works of the Cynveirdd, has been, together with the equally fantastic notion that “Ossian and Taliesin, i.e., Ua-sin and Tal-ua-sin, are mere mythological concentrations and personifications of the poetical activity and influence of the tribe of the Fena,” reprinted by M. Bunsen in his Outlines of the Philosophy of Universal History,[6] in the “Last Results of the Celtic Researches.”

Dr. Meyer, however, in preparing his Report for M. Bunsen’s work, has omitted the remarkable and amusing statement in that report, as published in 1847, concerning

“that interesting Siberian tribe U-sin, one of the principal tribes of the White Tartars, blue-eyed and fair-haired, as they are described by the Chinese chroniclers (who mention them, together with the Yueti, i.e. Goths), and the same, as I believe, with the Irish (or Fenish) Ua-sin, i.e. light fair tribe, celebrated in Irish legends for its cultivation of the arts alike of war and peace, and for the number of bards as well as heroes it has produced.”

But M. Bunsen has embalmed in his work, for European circulation, Dr. Meyer’s opinion, that “the Irish poem of Oigidh Llainne Uisnech (the death of the sons of Uasin)[7] contains, in a mythological and symbolical form, the story of the final destruction of this interesting Siberian tribe of White Tartars in the northern part of Ireland, in consequence of a long series of combats against the Picti or Cruithne.”

We are not at present concerned with the story of Ossian or the Fingalian heroes; but we may remark, that as the sons of Uisneach were slain by Conchobar Mac Nessa, King of Ulster, the tribe of White Tartars must have been revived to fight the battle of Gabhra with Cairbre son of Art, son of Conn of the Hundred Battles, more than two centuries later, according to all Irish tradition and chronology. Such statements as these of Dr. Meyer, published with such apparent authority, are real obstacles to all progress in investigating the true history and relations of the two great branches of the Celtic race. They have not even the merit of novelty to recommend them; for Strahlenberg in 1730, and Bochat in his Memoires Critiques sur l’Ancienne Suisse, derive the Keltæ from the Siberian Tungusi, the most powerful tribe of the Sabatzi Tungusi being theKeltakæ, that is the Keltai or Celts —an opinion which received the approbation of Vallancey, in his Irish Grammar.

Another song of Taliesin, called the Elegy of Aeddon, is one of Davies’s most prominent examples of Druidic lore.

Aeddon, on whose death the song is written, means, according to Mr. Davies, “Lord of the Din, a title of the Helio-Arkite god, which title is here transferred to his priest.”

Archaeddon, who according to the poem is certainly represented as an apostle or messenger surrounded by angels, means “the Ark of Aeddon.” He translates the succeeding stanzas of the first portion of the poem:—

“When Aeddon came from the land of Gwydion into Scon of the Strong Door, a pure poison diffused itself for four successive nights, wliilst the season was yet serene. His contemporaries fell. The woods afforded them no shelter, when the winds arose in their skirts. Then Math and Eunydd, masters of the magic wand, set the elements at large; but in the living Gwydion and Amaethon, there was a resource of counsel to impress the front of his shield with a prevalent form—a form irresistible. Thus the mighty combination of his chosen rank was not overwhelmed by the sea: and in every seat of presidency, the will of his mighty representations in the feast will be obeyed. The dear leader of the course; whilst my life continues he shall be commemorated.”

“We have here,” says Mr. Davies, “much Arkite mythology.”

“1. The patriarch came from the land of Hermes (Gwydŷm being Hermes in the Arkite system) or the old world.

“2. He entered the enclosure of Seon, or of thernine sacred damsels, which was guarded by a strong door or barrier. This enclosure was the ark.

“3. When he was shut up in this sanctuary, the Great Supreme sent forth a poisonous vapour to destroy the wicked world. But the messenger of death entered not the enclosure of Seon.

“4. By this pestilential vapour, which filled the whole atmosphere, the patriarch’s wicked contemporaries were destroyed. But the earth was still polluted.

“5. Then the great magicians, with their magic wands, set free the purifying elements; one of the effects of which, as described in the Triads, was the dreadful tempest of fire, which split the earth to the great deep, and consumed the greatest part of all that lived. Upon this, the waters of Llyn Llio n , or the abyss, burst forth.

“6. These powerful agents would have destroyed the patriarch and his family in Caer Seon, had not Hermes counselled him to impress a mystical form, or to strike a peculiar signal on his shield. This, I suppose, had the same effect as the horrid din with which the heathens pretended to save the moon at the hour of her eclipse.

“7. This device, together with the integrity of the just ones, preserved them from being overwhelmed by the deluge.

“8. Hence, an imitation of these adventures became a sacred institution, which was duly observed in the mysteries, and conducted by the presiding priest.”

A more unfortunate selection could scarcely have been made from the whole series of the poems attributed to Taliesin, for the purpose of exhibiting an example of Arkite or any other mysteries. The portion of thö poem which is so evidently Christian, Mr. Davies has, however, altogether ignored, and has not included in his translation. This he has done in accordance with his system, as explained in the Preface to his Mythology.

“I must here endeavour,” he says,[8]

“to obviate another objection. In the British poems which treat of heathenish superstitions, a sentence is often inserted containing the name of Christ, or some allusion to his religion, and having no connection with the matter which precedes or follows. Some of these sentences I have omitted, for obvious reasons. I have been not a little puzzled to account for their admission into the text; but, as all our remaining poems were composed or altered subsequent to the first introduction of Christianity, it is probable that St. Augustine supplies us with the true reason of such admixture—‘that those who endeavour to mislead by charms, incantations, or other devices of the enemy, insert the name of Christ in their incantations, adding, as it were, a portion of honey to their poisonous draught, so that its bitter may be concealed by that which is sweet, and may be quaffed to the destruction of those who drink it.’”

In this instance, however, if the title “Archaeddon” means in the fifth stanza,

“the Ark of Aeddon, Lord of the Din ,”

it must receive the same translation in the seventeenth, and should not have been omitted by Mr. Davies.

There can be no doubt that the poem is of modern date, written by a Christian poet, probably a monk of the island of Anglesey. Mr. Stephens, misled probably by the names of Math and Eunydd, two celebrated magicians of Welsh romance, supposes this poem to form a part of the Mabinogi , or history of Taliesin, composed by Thomas ap Einion Offeiriad. It is a genuine production of a religious, probably of the thirteenth or fourteenth century, who, acquainted with the current romance of the day, haa introduced allusions to the stories in vogue into his elegy upon his friend the Archdeacon of Anglesey, as Mr. Davies’s “Lord of the Din” undoubtedly was.



Echrys Ynyt gwawd hu Ynys gwrys

Mon Mad gogei
Gwrhyd erfei
      Menai ei dor

Lleweis wirawd
Gwin a bragawd
      Gan frawd esgor

Teyrn wofrwy
Diwedd pob rhwy
      Rhwyf rewintor.

Tristlawn ddeon
Yr Archaeddon
      Can rychior

Nid fu nid fi
      Ei gyfeissor

Pan ddoeth Aeddon
O wlad Gwydion
      Seon tewdor

Gwenwyn pur ddoeth
Pedair peunoeth
      Meinoeth tymhor

Cwyddynt gytoed
Ni bu clyd coed
      Gwynt yngoror

Math ag Eunydd
Hudwyd gelfydd
      Rydd elfinor

Ym myw[9] Gwydion
Ac Amaethon
      Atoedd cynghor

Erddygnawd wir
Ar fwr heb dir
      Hir eu trefra

Oi wironyn
Na ddigonyn
      Dim gofetra

Ceryddus wyf
Na chrybwyllwyf
      Am rywnel da

I lwrw lywy
Pwy gwaharddwy
      Pwy attrefna

Twll tal y rodawg
Ffyrf ffodiawg
      Ffyrf ddiachor

Cadarn gyfedd
Ymhob gorsedd
      Gwnelid ei fodd

Cu cynaethwy
Hyd tra fwy fyw

Cadarn gyngres
Ei faranres
      Ni bu werthfor

Am bwyf gan Grist
Hyd na bwyf trist
      Pan ebostol

Hael Archaeddon
Gan Engylion

Echrys ynys
Gwawd hwynys
      Gwrys gochymma

Y rhag buddwas
Cymry ddinas
      Aros ara

Draganawl ben
Priodawr perchen
      Ym Mretonia

Difa gwledig
Or bendefig
      Ae tu terra

Pedeir morwyn
Wedy eu cwyn
      Dygnawd eu tra

I lwrw Aeddon
Pwy gyneil Mon
      Mwyn gywala

Am bwyf gan Grist
Hyd na bwyf trist
      O ddrwg o dda

Khan trugaredd
I wlad rhiedd
      Buchedd gyfa.

     Taliesin .



Disturbed is the island,
Lamenting is the island,
      For its zealous ruler.

Fair Mona is shaken,
Agitated is the deep
      Of Menai its defence.

I have drunk the liquor,
The wine and the bragget,
      With the brethren of the convent.

Pervading Lord,
There is an end of all superfluity,
      Now the ruler is fallen.[10]

Sorrowful is the Dean
For the Archdeacon,
      The gifted in song;

Better than Gwydion
And Amaethon
      Was he in counsel.

Pierced is the front of the shield
Of the strong, the fortunate,
      The Ann inflexible one.

Supporter of festivity,
In every Gorsedd
      His will was performed.

Beloved of his family,
While I am in life
      He shall be commemorated.

There has not been, nor will be,
In time of trouble,
      His equal.

When Aeddon came[11]
From the land of Gwydion,
      The strong Seon,[12]

Pure damsels came,[13]
Four every night,
      Serene was the season.

The joined roofs fell in,
Nor was there shelter in the wood
      When the wind was on the coast.

Math and Eunydd,
Skilful in sorcery,
      Let loose the elements.

The supporter of mutual hospitality,
To him, rank
      Was not precious.

May I be with Christ,
So that I may not be sorrowful,
      When as an apostle

The bountiful Archdeacon,
With angels,
      Shall summon me.

The remainder of this poem, as printed in the Myvyrian Archæology , is most probably a distinct composition on the same subject, the death of the Archdeacon of Anglesey, written either by the same hand, or in imitation of the preceding.

Disturbed is the island,
Lamenting is the island,
      For its zealous ruler.

On account of the useful servant
Of the city of Wales
      And Boss-hir.[14]

A leading chief,
An hereditary proprietor
      In Britain.

Passing away is the prince,
And of the nobles
      Thou art in the earth.

Four damsels
Are uttering lamentations,
      Great was their affliction.

Very grievous in truth,
Going away without any certainty,
      How distant their abode.

In their helplessness
They could do nothing,
      On account of their grief.

I should be rebuked
If I did not commemorate,
      My benefactor.

In the place of Llywy,
Who shall make regulations,
      Who shall keep order ?

In the place of Aeddon,
Who shall sustain Mona
      With equal courtesy?

May I be with Christ,
So that I may not be sorrowful
      For evil or good.

May I obtain mercy
In the land of the Lord
      Of perfect life.

Upon the strength of the occurrence of the word “hu” in the first line of this poem, a great deal has been said by Mr. Davies and others about the worship of Hu, a supposed solar deity. But these writers have omitted to notice, that where this line is repeated in the 18th stanza, at which a second version of the poem commences, instead of “gwawd hu ynys,” it is printed “gwawd hwynys.” There is therefore an error of transcription in one of the two. This has not troubled Mr. Davies, who has printed both alike, and given “hu” a capital letter. The whole tenor of the poem shows us that Hu would be quite out of place in company with the Dean, Archdeacon, and Angels; and the “hu” or “hw” is most probably a mistake for “y w.” 1 have altered the word gwawd, "praise,” to gwaedd, “crying out,” which, though more in accordance with the sense of the preceding epithet, is not a necessary substitution.

With regard to the 5th stanza, there can be no doubt that the rendering I have given of the word “Deon” is the correct one:—

Sorrowful is the Dean.

In Richards’s Welsh Dictionary, 4to ed. 1839, we have the meaning, Deon, a “Dean .” Dr. Owen gives for it,

“the distributor or divider; the giver; he that sets aright; an epithet often applied to the Deity by the ancients; also as a plural: visitors, strangers, foreigners .”

The word has, no doubt, the meaning of “giver or distributor of gifts” in many instances; in others, apparently that of leader or ruler, as in the following lines from Cynddelw :—

Golchynt eu deurut dewr weissyon o cad
Gwastad gyraynad gymynogyon
Can etyw an llyw llew teyrnon
Teyrnet ohen dreic benn dragon
Canys dir hepcor dewrder deon
Deus Dominus duw boed gwiryon,—

Wet are their cheeks, the bold warriors,
The steady-striking battleaxe-men,
Because our chief, the princely lion, has departed.
The example of princes, the head chief of chiefs,
Because the bold leader has left the earth.
Deus Dominus God, may he be faultless (before thee).

     Cynddelw Marwnad Cadwallawn mab Madawc.

There is here no question of a distributor of gifts, but of a dead chieftain; though it must be admitted that the quality of “bestower of gifts” was inseparable, in the state of society which these poems refer to, from the condition of chieftain.

A curious triplet has been preserved by Dr. Owen, which contains this epithet. It is an incantation or charm to remove a disease of the tongue in cattle:—

Llawer aer llawes eon
Y triwyr duon a’r tri deon
A noror davawdwst ar yr eidion.

The first line Dr. Owen translates

The many bold grasping conflicts—

a strange beginning for a rustic charm. The line is, no doubt, corrupt, and was probably

Lloer air llawer seon;

and the whole incantation,

Bright moon, many stars,
The three black men and the three Deon,
May they break the tongue blister on the cattle.

But in the stanza of this elegy on Aeddon, where the word Deon occurs, its connection with the word Archaeddon, “an Archdeacon,” in the next line, clearly justifies the rendering it “Dean,” as it certainly had that meaning, among others.

As Davies has taken his version of many passages from Owen’s Dictionary, he must have laboured under a strong delusion when he translated Archaeddon, the ark of Aeddon; for Dr. Owen gives the true version under the word:—

The generous Archdeacon, may he be received by angels.

It is quite clear that there is no Druidism in this “Elegy upon Aeddon,” and we must pass on in search of it to other poems attributed to Taliesin.

One main and essential doctrine of the Druidic superstition has been said to be that of the metempsychosis, or transmigration of the soul, in other corporeal forms, through a succession of periods.

That the Druids of Gaul, and therefore probably of Britain, professed a belief in a future state of existence, appears to be sufficiently established by the testimony of the classical writers, but that this was a belief in the transmigration of the soul in the supposed Pythagorean sense, is very doubtful.

The words of Cæsar,

“In primis hoc volunt persuadere, non interire animas, sed ab aliis post mortem transire ad alios,”

certainly seem to give credit to the idea that they believed in actual transmigration. Diodorus Siculus, also, expressly refers to the doctrine of Pythagoras on that subject, and says, that the same belief obtained among the Druids. But some of the customs of the Gauls, related by the historians, rather point to the belief common to almost all known peoples, of a life after death in another and a better world, than to a return to this world in another form. Pom-ponius Mela relates, that the settlement of accounts and the payment of debts were sometimes adjourned to take place in the next world—in the words of Lucan, “orbe alio.” The same is mentioned by Valerius Maximus. And Diodorus relates a custom of throwing letters written by the relations of the deceased on the funeral pile, which might be read by the defunct, thus conveying to him in the next world the latest intelligence from his “own correspondent.” These customs are inconsistent with the notion of a metempsychosis, and return to earth in a different form, whether human or animal. The belief was more probably similar to that of the Scandinavian nations—an existence after death in another world, in which the pleasures and the business of life, such as they had been accustomed to, were to be more fully and constantly enjoyed.

This seems to be the meaning of Pomponius Mela, “æter-nas esse animas, vitamque alteram ad manes.” The Elysium of the Celts was no cold lifeless Hades like that of the Greeks, with its pale shadows that parted before the attempted embrace of the human form; but a real living life, with its bowls of mead, its songs, its bloody combats, stone circles, and human sacrifices.

Vobis auctoribus, umbræ
Non tacitas Erehi sedes Ditisque profundi
Pallida regna petunt; regit idem spiritus artus
Orbe alio; canitis ai cognita, vitae
Mors media est.[15]

In this other world, too, it is clear that friend and foe, debtor and creditor, expected to meet again, to recognise and be recognised as upon the present earth. This, however, is a very different thing from a belief in the transmigration of the soul through a variety of forms, human and animal, upon this earth itself. As far as the evidence on this subject goes, we know nothing of the pretended cycles of transmigration, and find no trace of belief that the soul passed into an animal form after death. On the contrary, the reason which Cæsar and Lucan give for the inculcation of this belief is, that it made its votaries the more bold, causing them to have no fear of death.

Felices errore suo, quos ille, timorum
Maximus baud urget lethi metus. Inde rucndi
In ferrum mens prona viris, animæque capaces
Mortis; et ignavum redituræ parcere vitæ.[16]

The warrior, however, who might look forward without regret to a renewal of his earthly life, or a continued festival in some Celtic Valhalla, would scarcely have contemplated with pleasure the return to existence in the form of a beast of burden, a bird, or a worm.

We ought also to find, if the doctrine of transmigration through animal forms were a part of the Druidical tenets, some trace of an indisposition to destroy animal life—a tenderness in dealing with creatures which might possibly be the temporary habitations of the souls of ancestors or kinsmen. Of this feeling also, which in other creeds accompanies the belief in transmigration, we find no trace, either in the historians or in the manners and customs of the Celtic race.

It has, however, been so repeatedly asserted that evidence of these doctrines is still extant, that the subject demands some further investigation.

We have already mentioned that the learned author of the Welsh Dictionary derived his statements respecting the Bardic polity and mythology from Edward Williams. This remarkable man has played an important part in the history of Welsh literature.

In his Poems, Lyrit and Pastoral, published in 1794, he presented to the public the following



“The patriarchal religion of Ancient Britain called Druidism, but by the Welsh most commonly Barddas , Bardism, though they also term it Derwyd-doniaeth , Druidism, is no more inimical to Christianity than the religion of Noah, Job, or Abraham; it has never, as some imagine, been quite extinct in Britain; the Welsh Bards have, through all ages down to the present, kept it alive. There is in my possession a manuscript synopsis of it by Llewelyn Sion, a Bard, written about the year 1560: its truth and accuracy are corroborated by innumerable notices and allusions in our Bardic manuscripts of every age up to Taliesin in the sixth century, whose poems exhibit a complete system of Druidism. By these (undoubtedly authentic) writings it will appear, that the Ancient British Christianity was strongly tinctured with Druidism.”

“The old Welsh Bards kept up a perpetual war with the Church of Rome, and from it experienced much persecution. Narrow understandings may conceive that they were the less Christians for having been Druids. The doctrine of the metempsychosis is that which, of all others, most clearly Vindicates the ways of God to man.

It is sufficiently countenanced by many passages in the. New Testament, and was believed by many of the primitive Christians and the Essenes among the Jews.”[17]

Upon this point we may observe, that one of the doctrines of the Barddas is,

“that a state of eternal punishment is in itself impossible; and the infliction of such punishment is the only thing which the Deity cannot do.”

The Bardic doctrine of the transmigration of the soul, supposed, on the authority of Edward WiHiams, to have been thus preserved, has attracted the attention of several learned writers who have not very strictly inquired after the proofs of its existence. Mr. Turner, in his celebrated work on these Welsh poems, thus noticed the doctrines of the Barddas:[18]

“Among the Welsh remains is a MS. of poetical triads. The MS. has been entitled ‘Barddas, or the Book of Bardism, or Cyvrinach Beirdd Ynys Piydain.’ The triads were collected together at different periods. Some of them state the Bardic doctrines about the Metempsychosis. These triads, of course, only prove that the bards of the middle ages had these notions; but it is highly probable, that what they believed on this point they derived from their ancestors; and, as we know that the Druids believed in transmigration, we may consider them as the source of the opinions.

“They mention three circles of existence:—1. The Cylch y Ceugant, or all-enclosing circle, which contains the Deity alone. 2. The circle of Gwynvydd or Felicity, the abode of good men who have passed through their terrestrial changes. S. The circle of Abred or Evil, that in which mankind pass through their various stages of existence beforç being qualified to enter the circle of felicity.

“All animated beings have three states of existence to pass through—the state of Abred or evil, in Annwn or the Great Deep; the state of freedom in the human form; and the state of love, which is happiness in the Nef or heaven. All beings but God must undergo three angen or necessities: they must have a beginning in Annwn or the great deep; a progression in Abred or the state of evil; and a completion in the circle of felicity in heaven.

“ In passing through the changes of being, attached to the state of Abred, it is possible for man by misconduct to fall retrograde into the lowest state from which he had emerged. There are three things which will inevitably plunge him back into the changes of Abred—

  1. Pride; for this he will fall to Annwn, which is the lowest point at which existence begins.
  2. Falsehood, which will replunge him in Obryn, or a transmigration into aome degrading form.
  3. Cruelty, which will consign him to Cydvil, or a transmigration into some ferocious beast.

From these he must proceed again in due course, through changes of being, up to humanity.

“Humanity was the limit of degrading transmigrations; all the changes above humanity were felicitating, and they were to be perpetual, with ever-increasing acquisitions of knowledge and happiness.”

When we ask for the authority for these statements, and the proofs of these doctrines of cycles of transmigration, through the circles of Ceugant, Gwynvydd, and Abred, having ever been held by any bard, Druid, or philosopher, at any time or in any place, we can get no farther back than the MSS. of Llywelyn Sion of Llangewyd, who died in a.d. 1616, though his MSS. are said to have been copied from others about a century older.

But even for this moderate antiquity of the commencement of the sixteenth century, the sources of information fail us.

The extracts which Sharon Turner supposed, on the authority of Edward Williams, to be contained in the Oyfrinach Beirdd, were taken by the former from the Lyric Poems, published by the latter in 1794.

The MS. of Llywelyn Sion was, according to the statement of Dr. Owen Pughe, last transcribed and revised by Edward Davydd of Margam, who died in 1690. The latter says, in his preface, that he compiled it from the books of bards and learned teachers, lest the materials should become lost; and more particularly from the books of Meyrig Davydd, Davydd Llwyd Mathew, Davydd Benwyn, and Llewellyn Sion, who were Bardic presidents of the Glamorgan chair from 1560 to 1580.

Llewellyn Sion, who died in 1616, says, that the authors, teachers, and judges, who sanctioned this system and code, were the Druids and Bards after they had come to the faith in Christ.

“The original manuscript of Edward Davydd is” (says Mr. Turner in 1803) “yet extant in the library of Llan Haran, in Glamorganshire; but there is nothing else to connect this remarkable system of psychology with the sixth century, unless it is to be found in the works of the ancient bards themselves.”

Mr. Turner thought, and such has been the general opinion, that this doctrine of transmigration is exhibited in many passages of Taliesin.

The Hanes Taliesin, which we shall presently give, is, ac-cording to this view,

“a recital of his pretended transmigrations ; and when we read in his other poems that he has been in various animal shapes—as a serpent, a wild sow, a buck, a crane, and such like—we must call to mind that those scenes of existence in Abred which were between Annwn and humanity were the changes of being in the bodies of different animals.”

Dr. Owen, in his Welsh Dictionary, quotes passages from the “Barddas”; but he does not cite it as authority for his statements in the Sketch of British Bardism. On the contrary, he gives a reason for not producing his authorities which is simply ludicrous.

“The first thing,” he says,

“ taught to disciples were the Bardic Institutes, which were retained only by tradition in aphorisms, poems, and adages of a peculiar cast. It is from those traditions that the present sketch of Bardism is formed, wherein is given the general scope of them. With respect to the traditions themselves, as one of the order, I feel a propensity (a pardonable one, I hope), in common with a few remaining members, to preserve amongst ourselves undisclosed, except at a Gorsedd, those very curious remains, as an incitement to preserve the system.”[19]

The only document, in fact, on this subject which Dr. Owen produces, is a proclamation dated in the year 1792:—

“When it was the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and ninety-two, and the sun in the point of the vernal equinox, a summons and invitation was given, in the hearing of the country and prince, under the period of a year and a day, with protection for all such as might seek for privilege and graduation appertaining to science and Bardism, to repair to the top of Pumlumon in Powys, at the expiration of the year and the day, in the hours of noon, when there will not be a naked weapon against them ; and then in the presence of Iolo Morganwg, Bard according to the privilege of the Bards of the Isle of Britain ; and with him W. Mecain, Hywel Eryri, and D. Ddu Eryrí; and they being all graduated Bards under the privilege and custom of the Bards of Britain, for the purposes of pronouncing the judgment of a Gorsedd, in the eye of the sun and face of the light, on all, with respect to genius and moral conduct, who may seek for presidency and privilege, according to the privilege and custom of the Bards of the Isle of Britain.

‘Y Gwir yn Erbyn y Byd.’ — ‘The truth against the world.’”

Whether Dr. Owen or any one else repaired to the top of Plinlimmon at the vernal equinox in 1793, in obedience to this summons, we are not informed; but the venerable society of Bards had shortly before that time fallen to so low an ebb, as to consist only of Edward Williams and the Rev. Edward Evans of Aberdare.

Mr. Turner, it will be observed, knew nothing of these Bardic Triads except from the publication of a portion of them by Edward Williams in the Lyric Poems. Unfortunately for the interests of Welsh literature, the same publication has been taken as a foundation for a learned commentary on the Druidical theology, by a writer whose reputation will give authority to assertions which have not been supported by any evidence.[20] As this is a matter of the first importance for the true understanding of the early Welsh poetry, being no less than a question of the independent existence of testimony to the transmission and preservation of these curious doctrines from a remote antiquity to the time of the seventeenth century, we must endeavour to trace the history of this supposed MS. a little further.

The Poems, Lyric and Pastoral, by Edward Williams, which contained the account- of the cycles of transmigration and the other Druidic doctrines, were published in 1794. In 1822, Edward Williams published and circulated prospectuses in English and Welsh in the following terms:—

“In the press, and speedily will be published, in the Welsh language, the Esoteric Literature of the Ancient British Bards, under the heads of—

“1. Canons of the poetical criticism of the Bards.

“2. Laws of Welsh versification, in all its varieties and singular peculiarities, from the remotest periods to the close of the sixteenth century.

“3. Laws, polity, and discipline of the ancient Bards.

“4. The esoteric mythology, and theology of the ancient British Bards or Druids. Compiled from ancient and authentic MS. documents, and from the Bardic voice conventional, or guarded oral tradition of the ancient British Bards, still from time immemorial retained in the Chair so termed, or Bardic Presidiality of Glamorgan, by Llywelyn Sion, about the year 1600, with augmentations by Edward Davyd about the year 1680, both Institutional Bards of the Chair of Glamorgan. With Explanatory Notes, and an Historical and Critical Introduction by the Editor.

Edward Williams died in 1826, not having brought out the work advertised.

In 1821, a selection from the Triads of Bardism had been published in the Cambro-Briton,[21] but they were confessedly taken from Edward Williams’s poems, and the editor had never seen them in the original MS. Only twenty-four out of the forty-six published by Edward Williams were given in the Cambro-Briton, “the remainder being so involved in metaphysical obscurity as to be for the most part unintelligible.” From this circumstance, and from their occasional reference to the doctrines of Christianity, the editor of the Cambro-Briton concludes that “they are not to be regarded throughout as genuine memorials of the primitive institution of Bardism, although they may in some degree be impregnated with its singular tenets.”

The Institutional Triads also were published in the Cambro-Briton, with the remark that they were copied from the lyric Poems. The editor observes, that “Mr. Williams gives the originals also, but does not state on what authority. It may be presumed, however, that he would not have ventured to make them public without being convinced of their genuineness as memorials of the singular system of Bardism, or, as it is more generally called, Druidism, which anciently prevailed in this island.”

In 1829, the Cyfrinach Beirdd Ynys Prydain was published by Taliesin Williams, son of Iolo Morganwg, in the Welsh language, and from the MS. of Llywelyn Sion.

But here, to our great surprise, we derive no information whatever on the subject of the Druidic doctrine of transmigration.

In fact, the doctrines represented by Iolo Morganwg to be contained in the Barddas are not to be found in the published work. It does indeed mention the “Ofydd” as one of the three kinds of singers (cerddor); and the editor has added a note stating that in Meyryg Dafydd’s MS. the Druid is mentioned among them. We are still therefore in the dark as to the source whence Iolo Morganwg at the close of the eighteenth century obtained the doctrines of the Bards and Druids of the sixth, and in doubt as to whether there ever were any documents in existence of the kind referred to by him. This doubt is not lessened by the fact that there is another copy of the Cyfrinach in the Hengwrt Library, and that it does not contain the esoteric mythology and theology of the Bards or Druids.

In 1848, the Welsh MSS. Society published a selection of the MSS. left behind him by Edward Williams, among which we find, the Voice Conventional of the Bards of Britain, from the MS. of Llywelyn Sion, one of the authorities noticed by Edward Williams in his Prospectus. But the EsotericMythologyand Theology of the Ancient Bards or Druids has not made its appearance.

The Welsh MSS. Society comprehends among its members the most learned Welsh scholars of the age. It is much to be lamented, that in making a selection from the Iolo MSS. of Edward Williams, they should have neglected, when publishing the Voice Conventional of the Bards of Britain, which forms part of the work advertised in 1822, to give to the world a document so interesting and important to European literature in general, and to the history of Britain and Welsh archaeology in particular, as the Esoteric Mythology and Theology of the Ancient Bards or Druids, giving an account of the Bardic views of the transmigration of the soul, and of a future state of rewards and punishments unknown to the Christian Church.[22] Until such a MS. shall be published, we may be justified in reserving our belief as to its genuineness, if not as to its existence.

The author of the Mythology and Rites of the Ancient Druids did not hesitate to assert that

“a slight inquiry into the credentials of the society (the Chair of Glamorgan, of which Edward Williams pretended to be the regularly inducted president) will discover some marks of gross misrepresentation, if not of absolute forgery, and consequently suggest the necessity of great caution in admitting its traditions.”[23]

One of the doctrines of Edward Williams’s Bardism, as given by Dr. Owen, was, that one man cannot assume authority over another; for if he may over one, by the same reason he may rule over a million or over a world. All men are necessarily equal; the four elements in their natural state, or everything not manufactured by art, is the common property of all.

“The principles here announced”, says Davies,

“seem to go rather beyond the levellers of the seventeenth century, and to savour strongly of a Druidism which originated in Gaul, and was then transplanted into some corners of Britain, not many ages before the year 1792, when the Memorials of Bardism made its appearance. It is not the Druidism of history or of the British Bards.”[24]

This Gallic origin, in the eighteenth century, of the pretended Druidic institutes of Edward Williams, hinted at by Davies, is, we believe, the true one.

As the Cyfrinach Beirdd Ynys Prydain has never been translated into English, and probably, from the peculiar and special nature of its contents, never will be, it may be useful to state what it really contains, in order to prevent future historians from citing it as a repertory of the Druidical philosophy and superstitions, and an evidence of the persistence of this philosophy and learning down to the seventeenth century of the Christian era. The Cyfrinach Beirdd is, in fact, a learned and copious Essay on poetical composition and the art of framing the Welsh metres, which are extremely numerous and complicated in their nature. It commences with a history of the nature and origin of the Welsh language, anti the nine qualities appertaining to song.

It informs us,[25] that there have been three languages:

“the first, that which Adam spoke in Paradise, and which he lost when he ate the apple through the deceit of the devil; the second was that of the prophet Moses when he passed through the Red Sea, and this tongue is that used by the prophets for 3000 years; the third language is that of the Cymry, which was that of Enos, son of Seth, son of Adam, who was the first man born after the expulsion of Adam from Paradise. It came to the Cymry through Japhet the son of Noah, whose descendants brought it from the ends of the world when the confusion of tongues took place among those who built the Castle of Babel, which was a town of prodigious size, and displeasing to the Holy Spirit; whence came to pass the corruption and imperfection of all tongues in the world except that of the Welsh. Of the three primeval tongues, the one is used in heaven, by God, the saints, and the angels; the second in the Holy Scriptures; and the third is the Cymraeg or Welsh, and is used at this day, in its genuine form and condition, by the Cymry of the Island of Britain. All other languages are imperfect, ignoble, and half-witted; and neither song nor poetry can be properly composed in them, because they were taught by the devil at the Tower of Babel. The consequence is, that the Awen, or poetical inspiration of the Welsh, is a divine inspiration proceeding from God; the poetry of the Saxon, English, and other corrupt tongues, is an inspiration of the devil, which was obtained from him at the Tower of Babel. The true or divine Awen was possessed by Adam in Paradise, but lost at the fall; again possessed by Enos the son of Seth after the expulsion from Paradise; it was enjoyed by the Hebrew prophets, and was brought by the Cymry to Britain, where it was used by the Bards and Druids in praising God, and in all good and wise things. In the course of time it was lost through the wickedness of men, who accepted an evil Awen or inspiration of the devil in its place, until the coming of Christ, when it was restored to the apostles, as Saint Paul tells us, as the Holy Spirit or divine inspiration; and this divine inspiration remains with us to the present day.”

The remainder of the work consists of an account of the different kinds of poetical composition; of the proper arrangement of topics in poems, in praise of the Deity, of ministers of religion, of learned persons, kings, queens, nobles, judges, young men, married men, married women, invisible things such as angels, every kind of animals or creatures, and all inanimate things. Lastly, the Canons of Song and Metre, which occupy the great bulk of the work, consisting of an elaborate exposition of the complex and difficult subject of Welsh metre.

Of the Druids and their mythology and philosophy, of Bardic religious mysteries, and psychological speculations, the “Cyfrinach Beirdd” has not a word. The only Triads contained in it are called the “Triads of Song,” which describe the nature, qualities, and qualifications of poetry and poets. The Cyfrinach Beirdd Ynys Prydain, published by Taliesin Williams, is not therefore the MS. referred to by his father Edward Williams as containing a synopsis of the Bardic or Druidic religion, written by Llywelyn Sion, and in his (Edward Williams’s) possession in the year 1792; and the manuscript of the “Barddas” is still a desideratum.

It was, of course, impossible to suppose that such doctrines as those of the Barddas should have been held by the Welsh Bards, without having left behind, evidence of its existence in their writings. Accordingly Mr. Edward Williams adduces an instance, among others, from the poems of Taliesin.

“I have,” he says,

“in one passage mentioned a qualified sense in which the Christian Bards and Druids believed the metempsychosis ; this was, that the depraved soul of man passes in a state beyond the grave into progressive modes of existence corresponding with the natures of earthly worms and brates, into whom, in the literal sense, the aboriginal or patriarchal Droids believed it passed. Taliesin places this probationary, divestigating, or purifying metempsychosis in the Hell of Christianity, whence the soul gradually rises again to Felicity, the way for it having been opened by Jesus Christ; for this is his obvious meaning when he says—

Nifer a fiiant yn anghyffred
     Uffem oer gwaredred
     Hyd bumoes byd

Hyd pan ddillyngwys Crist gaethiwed
     O ddyfnfais affwys Abred
     Maint dyddwg Duw trwy nodded:

i. e., multitudes were, ignorant of their state in Hell, in the miserable progression of deliverance, during the world’s five ages, until released by Christ from the captivities of the immense deep of the abyss of Abred: all those has God taken into his possession.”

This is not quite a literal interpretation of the passage, which runs thus:—

Numbers there were incomprehensible
     Kept in a cold hell,[26]
     Until the fifth age of the world.

Until Christ should release the captives
From the profound depths of evil;
Many God took under his protection.

Even if this passage stood alone, we should not see in it anything more than the views of a Christian writer of the middle ages, on the subject of the state of those who had lived and died, previous to the coming of Christ in the fifth age of the world. These souls, he says, were retained in a hell or place of ward, but not one of fiery punishment, until the coming of the Saviour broke the bonds of their captivity. We certainly may allow that a Christian may have entertained such opinions in the twelfth or thirteenth century, without having recourse to the phantom of a Druidical theology. The condition of the souls of those who had not heard the tidings of the Gospel, was a subject discussed by many writers who certainly were not acquainted with the Druidical philosophy.

But when we turn to the original piece from which the above extract was taken, we can only feel surprise that any writer with honest intentions should have quoted it as a work of Taliesin without further comment. It is entitled Marwnad y Milveib, or an Elegy on the Thousand Children or Saints; and in the Myvyrian Archæology there is appended to the title, “Taliesin ai cant, e ddy wedir”—“Taliesin sung it as it is said;” for, like the great majority of the Welsh poetical remains, it has been ascribed to that Bard. The following is a literal version of the commencement of the poem:—



I address a prayer to the Trinity,
May inspiration be given me in thy praise.
In the passing present state perilous is their condition
Who, by disobedience, are incurring wrath;
Very great truly is the society of the Saints.
King of Heaven, I will be eloquent in asserting,
Before my soul is separated from my flesh,
Before are made known my good deeds and my sins,
My entreaty before the paternal Lord,
That I may have mercy from the Trinity.
I revere, I earnestly long for, the elements of the blood ![27]
There are nine ranks of the myBtic troops of heaven,
And the tenth of the saints prepared for the seventh age.
*            *            *            *            *
Apostles and martyrs,
Youths of glorious appearance,
And Solomon served God,
Pure in speech, pure in walk, thy nature,
And in virtue shall be an example to me,[28]
As long as 1 shall retain my faculties.
Numbers there have been of a holy disposition,
Steps of the golden pillars of the church.
By many authors it is declared,
From the very profitable books of the Wise,
For those who love not thy service there is a precipice,
May my soul be protected from it.
Numbers there were incomprehensible
Kept in a cold hell,
Until the fifth age of the world,
Until Christ should release the captives
From the profound depths of evil,
Many God took under his protection,
Two thousand sons of the children of Elia.
Abimatu et infra.
*            *            *            *            *
There shall be at Jerusalem Many saints of Armorica,
And many of the rule of Tours,
Who broke through the city of Rome,
Apoli and Alexandria,
And Garanwys and Judæa,
Tres partes Divitia Asia, Affrica, Europa;
Many saints of Capharnaum, Maritnen, and Nain,
And Zebulon, and Cisen, and Nineveh, and Neptalim,
In Dubriatus and Zorim,
According to the prophecy of Christ, son of Mary, daughter of Joachim,
Upon the pinnacle of the Temple.
*            *            *            *            *
Many saints of Sioomorialis And the island of Defrophani.
*            *            *            *            *
Many saints of other regions,
Effectus re inferior,
A superare superioræ And Armonim and Thysor,
And the vales of Enor and Segor,
And Carthage the greater and less,
And the green island at the border of the sea.
Many saints of the island of Britain And Ireland, a blessed portion.
Many saints Oriento,
And the united people of Judah.
Language of Greek and Hebrew
And Latin, men will be speaking,
Seven score seven thousand saints,
And seven thousand and seven times ten score. 
*            *            *            *            *
Twelve thousand in one assembly
Believed through the word of John,
I pray they may receive their recompense.
In the heavens is no displeasure.
Nine thousand saints have received
Baptism, faith, and confession.
After death the punishment of the multitude is Are;
A cold hell is their refuge,[29]
Created by the Lord,
Through the chief (of the saints) Peter prepared for the destitute.
Qui venerunt Angeli
In natali Domini
Media nocte in laudem
Cum pastoribus in Bethlehem
Nivem Angeli de Ccelo
Cum Michaelo Archangelo
Qui præcedunt præcelio
Erga animns in mundo.
*            *            *            *            *
Quando fuit Christus crucifixus ut sibi
Ipse placuisset venissent ibi in auxilium
Plusquam duodecim legiones angelorum
Toto orbe terrarum
Jesus Christus videntem in agonia in muordo
Ut sint nostri auxilium
Duodecim millia millium
Anti tribunal stantium
Qui laudantie laudantium
Tues mores Rex Regum
*            *            *            *            *

The poem concludes with these lines:—

When I fall into a sinful word,
May neither you nor others hear me.

Such is the supposed repository of a qualified doctrine of the Druidical metempsychosis, preserved from the time of Julius Cæsar, and taught by the Christians of the sixth century. It seems probable, from other writings of Iolo Morganwg (Edward Williams), that he really believed this and other pieces of the same stamp to have been written by Taliesin in the sixth century.

A 8, however, the work in which the Bardic Triads were published was a collection of poems iu the English language, the author might very reasonably speculate on the ignorance of English readers on the subject of the Welsh poems, and almost equally so on that of his countrymen in general, since the Myvyrian Archæology was not published at the time “The Lyric Poems” issued from the press. Had the Myvyrian collection been then in print, it seems hardly possible that the above example of “evidence” in support of the “Barddas” should have been allowed to pass unnoticed.

Discarding altogether the pretended authority of the Barddas, the principal, if not the only source, from whence the notion that this doctrine of transmigration is to be found in the Welsh poems, is drawn, is the Romance of the History of Taliesin , and the pieces connected with it. In its present form, it has already been observed, this tale is not older than the thirteenth century; but it is evident that it was composed of materials which had previously existed in the shape of tales and traditions, and must have been current in popular fiction long before Thomas ap Einion reduced them to a consistent fortn.

The copy of this tale contained in the Red Book of Hergest, has been published with an excellent English translation, in the collection of Mabinogion, or Tales of the Welsh, by Lady Charlotte Guest, a work which marks an era in the history of Welsh literature. The prose portion of the following translation is abridged from that work; in the poetical part the versions of Lady Guest and of Mr. Stephens have also been partly made use of.



In times past there lived in Fenllyn a man of gentle lineage named Tegid Voel, and his dwelling was in the midst of the lake Tegid, and his wife was called Caridwen. And there was born to him of his wife a son named Morvran ab Tegid, and also a daughter, Creirwy, the fairest maiden in the world was she; and they had a brother the most ill-favoured man in the world, Avagddu. Now, Caridwen his mother thought that he was not likely to be admitted among men of noble birth, by reason of his ugliness, unless he had some exalted merits or knowledge.

For it was in the beginning of Arthur’s time and the Bound Table. So she resolved, according to the arts of the books of the Fferyllt, to boil a cauldron of Inspiration and Science for her son, that his reception might be honourable because of his knowledge of the mysteries of the future state of the world. Then she began to boil the cauldron, which from the beginning of its boiling might not cease to boil for a year and a day, until three blessed drops were obtained of the grace of inspiration. And she put Gwion Bach the son of Gwreang of Llanfair in Powys to stir the cauldron, and a blind man named Morda to kindle the fire beneath it, and she charged them that they should not suffer it to cease boiling for the space of a year and a day. And she herself, according to the books of the astronomers, and in planetary hours, gathered every day of all charm-bearing herbs. And one day towards the end of the year, as Caridwen was culling plants and making incantations, it chanced that three drops of the charmed liquor flew out of the cauldron and fell upon the finger of Gwion Bach. And by reason of their great heat he put his Anger to his mouth, and the instant he put those marvel-working drops into his mouth, he foresaw everything that was to come, and perceived that his chief care must be to guard against the wiles of Caridwen, for vast was her skill. And in very great fear he fled towards his own land. And the cauldron burst in two, because all the liquor within it, except the three charm-bearing drops, was poisonous, so that the horses of Gwyddno Garanhir were poisoned by the water of the stream into which the liquor of the cauldron ran; and the confluence of that stream was called the Poison of the Horses of Gwyddno, from that time forth.

Thereupon came in Caridwen, and saw all the toil of the whole year lost. And she seized a billet of wood, and struck tbe blind Morda on tbe head until one of his eyes fell out upon his cheek.

And he said,

“Wrongfully hast thou disfigured me, for I am innocent. Thy loss was not because of me”

“Thou speakest truth,” said Caridwen;

“it was Gwion Bach who robbed me.”

And she went forth after him running. And he saw her, and changed himself into a hare and fled. But she changed herself into a greyhound and turned him. And he ran towards a river and became a fish. And she, in the form of an otter biteh, chased him under the water, until he was fain to turn himself into a bird of the air. Then she, as a hawk, followed him, and gave him no rest in the sky. And just as she was about to stoop upon him and he was in fear of death, he espied a heap of winnowed wheat on the floor of a barn, and he dropped amongst the wheat and turned himself into one of the grains. Then she transformed herself into a high-crested black hen, and went to the wheat and scratched it with her feet, and found him out and swallowed him. And, as the story says, she bore him nine months, and when she was delivered of him, she could not find it in her heart to kill him by reason of his beauty. So she wrapped him in a leathern bag, and cast him into the sea to the mercy of God, on the twenty-ninth day of April. And at that time the weir of Gwyddno was on the strand between Dyvi and Aberystwith, near to his own castle, and the value of an hundred pounds was taken in that weir every May eve. And in those days Gwyddno had an only son named Elphin, the most hapless of youths, and the most needy. And it grieved his father sore, for he thought that he was born in an evil hour. And by the advice of his council, his father had granted him the drawing of the weir that year, to see if good luck would ever befal him, and to give him something wherewith to begin the world. And the next day, when Elphin went to look, there was nothing in the weir. But as he turned back he perceived the leathern bag upon a pole of the weir.

Then said one of the weir-wards unto Elphin,

“Thou wast never uhlucky until to-night, and now thou hast destroyed the virtues of the weir, which always yielded the value of an hundred pounds every May eve, and to-night there is nothing but this leathern skin within it.”

“How now,” said Elphin;

“there may be therein the value of an hundred pounds.”

Well ! they took up the leathern bag, and he who opened it saw the forehead of the boy, and said to Elphin,

“Behold a radiant brow !”

“Taliesin be he called,” said Elphin. And he lifted the boy in his arms, and, lamenting his mischance, he placed him sorrowfully behind him. And he made his horse amble gently, that before had' been trotting, and he carried him as softly as if he had been sitting in the easiest chair in the world. And presently the boy made a “Consolation and praise to Elphin,” and foretold honour to Elphin; and this consolation was as you may see;—



Elphin deg taw a’th wylo
Na chabled neb yr eiddo
Ni wna lea drwg obeithio.
Ni wyl dyn dim ai portho
Ni bydd coeg gweddi Cynllo
Ni thyr Duw a’r addawo
Ni chaed yn ngored Wyddno
Erioed cystal a heno.
Elphin deg sycb dy ddeurudd
Ni weiyd vod yn rbybrudd
Cyd tybiaist na chevaist vudd
Ni wna les gormodd cystudd
Nag ammau wyrthiau Dovydd
Cyd bwyv bycban wyv gelvydd
O voroedd ac o vynydd
Ac o eigiawn avonydd
Y daw Duw a da i ddedwydd

Elphin gynneddvau diddan
Anwraidd yw dy amcan
Nid rbaid it ddirvawr gwynvan
Gwell Duw na drwg ddarogan
Cyd bwyv eiddil a bycban
Ar gorverw mor dylan
Mi a wnav yn nydd cyvran
It well no thrichan maran

Elphin gynneddvau hynod
Na for er dy gafaelod
Cyd bwyv wan ar lawr vy nghod
Mae rhinwedd ar vy nhavod
Tra bwyv vi i’th gyvragod
Nid rhaid it ddirvawr ovnod
Drwy gofa henwau’r Drindod
Ni ddichon neb dy orvod.



Fair Elphin, cease to lament!
Let no one be dissatisfied with bis own,
To despair will bring no advantage.
No man sees wbat supports him;
Tbe prayer of Cynllo will not be in vain,
God will not violate his promise.
Never in Gwyddno’s weir
Was there such good luck as this night.
Fair Elphin, diy thy cheeks!
Being too sad will not avail,
Although thou thinkest thou hast no gain.
Too much grief will bring thee no good;
Nor doubt the miracles of the Almighty;
Although I am but little, I am highly gifted;
From seas and from mountains,
And from the depths of rivers,
God brings wealth to the fortunate man.
Elphin of lively qualities,
Thy resolution is unmanly;
Thou must not be over sorrowful:
Better to trust in God than to forbode ill. 
Weak and small as I am,
On the foaming beach of the ocean,
In the day of trouble, I shall be
Of more service to thee than 300 salmon.
Elphin of notable qualities,
Be not displeased at thy misfortune;
Although reclined thus weak in my bag,
There lies a virtue in my tongue.
While I continue thy protector
Thou hast not much to fear;
Remembering the names of the Trinity,
None shall be able to harm thee.

And this was the first poem that Taliesin ever sang, being to console Elphin in his grief for that the produce of the weir was lost, and, what was worse, that all the world would consider that it was through his fault and ill luck. And then Elphin asked him what he was, whether man or spirit. Whereupon he sang this tale, and said:—



Knytaf im lluniwyd ar lyn dyn glwys
Yn llys Caridwen em penydiwys
Cyd bawn bach o’m gwlled gwyl fy
Oeddwn fawr uwch llawr llann am
Prid fum parwyden per awen Parwys
Ag ynghyfraith heb iaith am rhydd
Hen widdon ddulon pan lidiwys
Anghuriawl ei hawl pan hwyliwys
        Ffoes yn gadam
        Ffoes yn llyffan
        Ffoes yn rhith bran
             Braidd orphwys
        Ffoes yn derwyn
        Ffoes yn gadwyn
        Ffoes yn Iyrchwyn
             Mewn llwyn llychwys
        Ffoes yn fleiddyn
        Ffoes bleiddawr
             Yn niffaeth
        Ffoes yn fronfraith
             Cyfiaith Coelwys

        Ffoes yn gadno
        Cyd naid ystumau
        Ffoes yn Felau
             Fal na thycciwys
Ffoes yn wiwair ni chynnydd celwys
Ffoes yn Gem Hydd rhudd im
Ffoes yn haearn mewn tan towys
Ffoes yn ben gwayw gwae ai puchwys
Ffoes yn Darw taer ymladdwys
Ffoes yn faedd Gwrych mewn rhych
Ffoes yn ronyn gwyn Gwenith lwys
Ar ael lien carthen im carfaglwys
Cymmaint oedd ei gweled a chyfeb
A fai yn llenwi fal llong ar ddyfrwys
Mewn boly tywyll im tywalldwys
Mewn mor dylan im dychwelwys
Bu goelfain im pan im cain fygwys
Duw Arglwydd yn rhydd am rhyd-

Tal. ae cant .



Before I was formed into tbe form of a handsome man,
1 did penance in the hall of Caridwen.
Though small in appearance, a festival was my reception.
I was (placed) high above the floor of the hall of my chief;
My ransom was set apart by reason of my sweet song;
And by law without speech I was set at liberty.
The old hpg, black her appearance when irritated ;
Dreadful were her screams when pursuing me.
I fled with vigour, I fled aa a frog;
I fled in the semblance of a raven, scarcely finding rest;
I fled vehemently, I fled aa a chain ;
I fled as a roe into an entangled thicket;
I fled as a wolf cub, I fled as a wolf in a wilderness;
I fled as a thrush, the interpreter of omens;
I fled as a fox, leaping and turning;
I fled as a marten, which did not avail;
I fled as a squirrel, that vainly hides;
I fled as an antlered stag of free course;
I fled as iron in a glowing fire;
I fled as a spear-head, woe to him who desires it;
I fled as a bull fierce in fighting;
I fled as a bristly boar seen in a ravine;
I fled as a white grain of pure wheat,
On the skirt of a hempen sheet entangled,
.          .          .          .          .          .          . [30]
That seemed of the size of a mare’s foal,
.          .          .          .          .          .          . [30]
That was flowing in like a ship on the waters.
.          .          .          .          .          .          . [30]
Into a dark leather bag was I thrown,
And on a boundless sea was I set adrift.
It was good tidings to me when I was entangled in the branch.[31]
And God the Lord set me at liberty.

Then came Elphin to the house of Gwyddno his father, and Taliesin with him. And Gwyddno asked him if be had had a good haul at the weir; and he told him that he had got that which was better than fish. “What was that ?” said Gwyddno. “A Bard,” answered Elphin. Then said Gwyddno, “Alas! what will he profit thee?” And Taliesin himself replied and said, “He will profit him more than the weir ever profited thee.” Asked Gwyddno, “Art thou able to speak, and thou so little ?” And Taliesin answered him, “I am better able to speak than thou to question me.” “Let me hear what thou canst say,” quoth Gwyddno. Then Taliesin sang:[32]

Ar dwr mae cyflwr can fendigaw
Ar Duw mae iawnaf iawn synwyraw
Ar Duw mae cyfiawn gweddiaw’n brudd
        Can ny ellir lludd cael budd iwrthaw.

Teirgwaith i’m ganed gwn fyfyriaw
Truan oedd i ddyn na ddoe geisiaw
Holl gelfyddydau byd sy’n byddinaw i’m bru
        Canys gwn a fu ac a fydd rhagllaw.

Cyfarch i’m naf nawdd i’m ganthaw
Cyfarchwel i’m del dawn oi eiddaw
A’m crair Mab Mair mawr arnaw vy mryd
        Canys delir y byd bob awr iwrthaw.

Bu Duw i’m dyscu a’m disgwyllaw
Gwir greawdyr nef nawd i’m gantaw
Cywraint yw i’r saint weddiaw beunydd
        Canys Duw Dofydd a’u dwg attaw.
*        *        *        *        *        *



In water there is a quality endowed with a blessing.
On God it is most just to meditate aright.
To God it is proper to supplicate with seriousness,
Since no obstacle can there be to obtain a reward from him.
Three times have I been born, I know by meditation;
It were miserable for a person not to come and obtain
All the sciences in the world collected together in my breast.
For I know whaf has been, what in future will occur.
I will supplicate the Lord that I get refuge in him.
A regard I may obtain in his grace.
The Son of Mary is my trust, great in him is my delight;
For in him is the world continually upholden.
God has been to instruct me and to raise my expectation,
The true Creator of Heaven who affords me protection.
It is rightly intended that the saints should daily pray,
For God the renovator, will bring them to him.
*        *        *        *        *        *

Elphin, the protector of Taliesin, having been thrown into prison by Maelgwn Gwynedd, Taliesin undertook to procure his release; and in answer to the inquiry of the wife of Elphin, as to how he would bring this about, he sang the following.—


Pedestrie a wnaf
Ac ir porth mi a ddeuaf
Ar neuadd a gyrchaf
Am cerdd a gauaf
Am gwawd a draethaf
A Beirdd y Brenhin awaharddaf
Ger bronn y pennaf
Gogyfarch a wnaf
Ac arnyn mi dorraf
Ac Elphin yn rydd mi ollyngaf
A phan ddel yr Amryson
Yngwydd y Teyrnon
A gwys i’r beirddion
Am y gerdd gywir gysson
A gwyddbwyll Dewinion
A doethder Derwyddon
Yn Llys meibion Deiion
Mae rhai a ymrhithiason
O gyfrwys ddichellion
Ac ystrywgar foddion
Yngofldian gloesion
Am gamweddu ar y Gwirion.
Tawon ynfydion.
Mai pan fu waith Faddon

Arthur Benhaelion
Ei lafnau’n hir gochion
O waith gwyr gofwynion
Gwaith Rhi ar ei alon.
Gwae hwynt yn ynfydion
Pan ai del ddialon
Mi Daliesin ben Beirddion
A doeth Eirian Derwyddion
A ollwng Elphin dirion
O garchar y trabeilch trawsion.
Ei gofwynion gwaed aredd
O waith Gorwydd rhyfedd
O feith bellder Gogledd
Hwn a wna ei diwedd
Na bo rad na gwedd
Ar Faelgwn Gwynedd
Am drais a chamwedd
A dirfawr gyfrwysedd greulonedd
Dialedig ddiwedd
Ar Rhun ei etifedd
Poed fyrr fo ’i fuchedd
Poed diffaith ei diredd
Poed hir ddifroedd
Ar Faelgwn Gwynedd.



A journey will I perform,
And to the gate will I come,
Into the hall will I enter,
And my song I will sing;
My speech I will pronounce,
And I will silence the Bards of the King.
In the presence of the Chief
I will make a supplication,
And the chain[34] will I break,
And Elphin will I set free.
And when the contention shall arise
In the presence of the King,
And the Bards shall be summoned
For a truly harmonious song,
With the craft of the magicians,
And the wisdom of the Druids,
In the hall of the sons of Deiion
There shall be some who shall appear
With cunning tricks And subtle devices,
In grief and pain,
On account of the wronging of the innocent;
They shall be silent like fools.[35]
As when was in the battle of Badon,
Arthur, chief of liberal ones,
His blades on the tall red ones,[36]
For the purpose of assisting their memory,[37]
The work of a King to his enemies.
Woe to them on account of their playing the fool,
 When his vengeance comes.
I Taliesin, chief of Bards,
Who know the words of the Druids,
I will release fair Elphin
From the prison of the overproud unjust ones.
To him there shall be remembrance of the crime of blood.
By means of a wonderful steed,
Which shall appear from the distant North,
The same shall bring him to an end.
There shall be neither grace nor favour
To Maelgwn Gwynedd.
For this oppression and iniquity,
And very great subtle cruelty,
Fearful shall be the end
Of Bhun his son.
May his life be short,
May his lands be wasted;
Long may be the banishment
Of Maelgwn Gwynedd.

On arriving at the court of Maelgwn, Taliesin cast a spell upon the Bards, so that on appearing before the king, instead of reciting verses in his praise, they could only pout out their lips, make mouths at him, and play “Blerwm, blerwm,” on their lips with their fingers as they had seen Taliesin do.

Maelgwn, imagining them to be drunk with many liquors,

“ordered one of his squires to give a blow to the chief of them named Heinin Yardd; and the squire took a broom and struck him on the head, so that he fell back in his seat.”[38]

This seems to have broken the spell, for the chief Bard thereupon explains to Maelgwn that they were affected not by strong drink, but by the influence of a spirit sitting in the comer of the hall, in the form of a child.

“Forthwith the king commanded the squire to fetch him; and he went to the nook where Taliesin sat, and brought him before the king, who asked him what he was and whence he came; and he answered the king in verse.”



Prifard cyffredin
Wy fi i Elphin
Am gwlad gynhefio
Iw bro Gerubin

Joannes Dewin
Am gelwis i Merdin
Bellach pob Brenin
Am geilw Taliesin.

Mi a fum nawmis hayach
Yn mol Gridwen wrach
Mi a fum gynt Wion bach
Taliesin ydwy bellach

Mi a fum gyda’m ner
Yn y goruwchelder
Pan gwympiod Luciffer
1 Uffern dyfhder

My a fum yn dwyn banner
0 flaen Alecsander
Mi a wn enwau’r ser
Or gogledd hyd Awster

Mi a fum ynghaer Bedion
Mi a dygum Heon
1 lawr glyn Ebron

Mi a fum yn y Ganon
Pan las Absalon
Mi fum yn y Llyd don
Cyn geni Gwdion

Mi a fum bedrenog
I Eli ag Enog
Mi a film ar fan erog
Mab Duw Trugarog

Mi a film ben ceidwod
Ar wneuthur Twr Nimrod
Mi a fum dri chyferod
Ynghaer Eirianrhod

Mi a fum in Area
Gyda Noe ag Alpha
Mi a weleis difa
Sodoma a Gomorra

Mi a film yn Affrica
Gym adeilad Roma
Mi a ddoethym yma
Ar wedillion Troia

Mi fum gyda’m Rhen
In mhreseb yr asen
Mi a nerthais Foesen
Trwy dwr Urdonen

Mi a film ar yr Wybren
Gyda Mair Fadlen
Mi a gefais awen
O bair Gridwen

Mi a fum fardd telyn
I Theon Lychlyn
Mi a gefais newyn
Am fab y forwyn

Mi a fum yn y Gwynfryn
Yn llys Cynfelyn
Mewn cyff a gefyn
Undydd a blwyddyn

Mi a fum am Logawd
Yngwlad Drindawd
Ni wyddis beth yw y cnawd
Ai cig ai pysgawd

Mi a fum dysgawd
Ir holl fydysawd
Mi a fyda hyd dyd brawd
Ar wyneb daiarawd

Mi a film ynghadair flin
Uwch Caer Sidin
A honno yn troi fydd
Rhwng tri alfyd
Pand rhyfedd in byd
Nas argenydd.



An impartial Chief Bard
Am I to Elphin;
My accustomed country
Is the land of the Cherubim.

Johannes the Diviner
I was called by Merddin,[39]
At length every king
Will call me Taliesin.

I was nine months almost
In the belly of the hag Ceridwen;
I was at first little Gwion,
At length I am Taliesin.

I was with my Lord
In the highest sphere,
When Lucifer fell
Into the depths of Hell.

I carried the banner
Before Alexander;
I know the names of the stars
From the North to the South.

I was in Caer Bedion
I conveyed Heon[40]
Down to the vale of Ebron.

I was in Canaan
When Absalom was slain ;

I was Bard of the harp
To Deon of Llychlyn;
I have suffered hunger
With the Son of the Virgin.

I was in the White Hill[45]
In the hall of Cynvelyn,
In stocks and fetters,
A year and a half.

I have been in the buttery
In the land of the Trinity;
It is not known what is the nature
Of its meat and its fish.

I was in the Hall of Don
Before Gwydion was born.[41]

I was on the horse’s cropper[42]
Of Eli and Enoch;
I was on the high cross
Of the merciful Son of God.

I was the chief overseer
At the building of the tower of Nimrod
I have been three times resident
In the castle of Arianrhod.[43]

I was in the Ark
With Noah and Alpha;
I saw the destruction
Of Sodom and Gomorra.

I was in Africa
Before the building of Borne;
I am now come here
To the remnants of Troia.

I was with my King
In the manger of the ass;
I supported Moses
Through the waters of Jordan.

I was at the Cross
With Mary Magdalen;[44]
I obtained my inspiration
From the cauldron of Ceridwen.

I have been instructed
In the whole system of the universe;
I shall be till the day of judgment
On the face of the earth.

I have been in an uneasy chair
Above Caer Sidin,
And the whirling round without motion
Between three elements.

Is it not the wonder of the world
That cannot be discovered.

And when the king and his nobles had heard this song, they wondered much, for they had never heard the like from a boy so young as he. And when the king knew that he was the Bard of Elphin, he bade Heinin, his first and wisest Bard, to answer Taliesin, and to strive with him. But when he came he could do no other, but play “Blerwm” on his lips; and when he sent for the others of the four-and-twenty Bards, they all did likewise, and could do no other. And Maelgwn asked the boy Taliesin what was his errand, and he answered him in song:—


Cul Fardd ceisiaw ir wyf[46]
Cadw’r gamp nis gallwyf
Darogan dywettwyf
A rygeissio ir wyf
Y golled a gafwyf
Cwbl geissyd coelwyf
Elphin ynghystwy
O Gaer Deganwy,
Arnaw na ddoded rhwy,
Hual o Aerwy,
Elphin ap Gwyddno
Y sydd dan anrhaithdro
Dan dri ar ddeg clo
Am ganmawl ei athro.
Cadair Caer Deganwyf
Eilchwyl a archwyf,
Cadr fy ngorawen wyf
Cadam ym a geiswyf,
Trichan cerdd a mwyf
Yw’r gerddwawd a ganwyf,
Ni ddyly saw y lie ydd wyf
Na maen na modrwyf,
Na bydd im Cylchwy
Un Bardd nis Gwypwyf
A minnen iw Taliesin
Pen Beirdd y Gorllewin
A ollwng Elphin
O’r hual goreurin.



Puny Bards, I am trying
To secure the prize, if I can;
I am uttering a prophecy,
And I am earnestly seeking
That which is lost, and am obtaining
The whole of my quest, I believe.
Elphin is in punishment
In Caer Deganwy;
On him let there nob be laid
Too many chains and fetters;
The Chair of Caer Deganwy
Again I will demand.
Strong am I in my powerful lay,
Strong am I who demand.
Three hundred songs and more
Are in the song which I sing.[47]
There shall not hold him in the place where I am
Neither stone nor ring; [48]
Nor shall there be in my circles
One Bard upon whom I cannot cast a spell.
Elphin the son of Gwyddno
Is in an evil turn,
Under thirteen locks,
For praising his instructor;
And I am myself Taliesin,
Chief of the Bards of the West,
Who shall ddiver Elphin
From the golden fetter.


After this another composition is introduced into the tale as given in the Mabinogion, which forms part of a poem published in the Myvyrian Archaeology, under the same title as one before given, “The Consolation óf Elphin,” in which some transcriber has mixed together, as did most probably the Bard, so called, who sung it, portions of the Romance of Taliesin, with lines relating to Cynan and Cadwallader, and parts of a Gorchan, or song concerning the warriors who figured at the battle of Cattraeth. It illustrates, though even less forcibly than the “Prif Gyvarch” and some other productions hereafter to be mentioned, the lamentable state into which the Welsh Manuscripts had fallen as early as the fourteenth century. The romance collected by Thomas ap Einion, was, no doubt, written down. This was in the thirteenth century, and yet at the date of the collection made in the Bed Book of Hergest, in the fourteenth or beginning of the fifteenth century, we find the component parts of the romance in this corrupt state. Possibly the Clerwr and Storiawr varied the songs very much at pleasure, according to the powers of memory in each individual. Lady Guest has omitted the first part of this piece down to the line “Y mae pryf atcas”; but it is desirable to give these pieces in their entirety, as otherwise a false idea of the character of this literature is presented.



Gognawd gyrru
A gwawd dyfyrru
A thraethawd gedu
Pa fyd a ddyfu
Pwy a wyr canu
Gar bron yr Iessu
Yngwydd y tri llu
Pan foe’r yn barnu
Pa gerddor a gan
Pan alwer Cynan
I ddyfyn gader
Ger hron Cadwaladr
Pan fo’r dranc enaiar
At Cynan ap Bran
Os ywch brif feirddion
Crwyf celfyddon

Mor fryched arnaw
A noflant trwyddaw
Bu laith bualawn
Deifr ddonwy dyfr ddawn
Henwa'r tair ffynnawn
O ganawl Eigiawn
Un llwydd heli
Pan fo yn corini
1 edryd Iliant
Dros Moroedd difant
Yr ail yn ddinam
A ddigwydd aroam
Pan fo’r glaw allan
Drwy awyr dylan
Y drydedd a ddawedd
Trwy wythi Mynyddedd
Fal callestig wledd
o waith Bex Bexedd
Ydywch bosfeirdd
Mewn rhwyf ofeiliant
Ny wyddoch ddycbanu
Teyrnas y Brytannaec
Minneu yw Taliesin
Ben beirdd y Gorllewin
A ollwng Elphin
Oi hual Lurin
Aryf ag cynnil[49]
Ag cyman dull
Twryf yn agweud
Erac menwed
Erac maryed
Pan ysteyra gwem
Earn gamgym earn gamled
Y voli rhi alar peithiu racwed
Yd y gweles
Arhul tree Turdei galed
Dygochuiaur a chloi a phor
A pherth a pher
Arud morua
Ac ymorua
Ac Eivionyd
A goreu vulch
Ar van caereu
Gad vynydauc
Bn atveilyanc
Eu gwirodeu
Blwydyn hiraeth
Er gwyr Gattraeth
Am maeth yt meu
Treuthwcb oruchuddion
Or Mundi Maon
Y mae pryf atcas
Oi Kaer Satanas
A oresgynas
Bhwng dwfh a bas
Cyfled yw ei enau
A mynydd Mynnau
Nys gorfydd angeu
Na Daw na Uafheu
Mae Uwyth naw can maen
Yn rhawn dwy bawen
Un Dygad yn ei ben
Grwyrdd fal glas iaen
Tair fynnon y sydd
Yn ei wegorlydd

A Gwynheidyd
Cein edryssed
Trybedaut raut
Bac y Defaut
Eil dal rossed
Taiyannen ban amdal henfan[50]
Bu edryssed
Bleid y vynyt
Oedd bleidyat rhyd
Yn y deuredd
Pubal Peleidyr
Penyr pryd neidyr
O luch nadredd
Velyd yt wyd
Gwelydon rhuyt
Biein gared
Carut vreidun
Carun dyvuyn
Vur heyured
Cam hurauc daru
Cuynaf dy varu
Carut dyhed
Baran mor y goiyf guyt
Y am Gatpul yn man bran ygcynnyt
Tardei don gyu cyngon gouytawr byt
Aesawr yn uellt a llavyn yguallt dri o
Ur guylyas
Med meitin
Bre eych tutuulch baran ret tost ben
     guaed gwin
Yr med a fauiyf yd aethan aury dros
     eu haufin
Guyar van vaith
Er cadu cynrheith
Bu cynyeuin
Cynan cenon
Teithugir o Von
At vreint Goelin
Tutuulch cyuulch
Eu llafneu dur
Eu med eu bur
Eu hualeu
Aryf ag cynnul
Ag cyman dul
Turyf nis cigleu
Ac vely tervyna.




Pursue your custom,
Shorten your praises,
And give a discourse,
On what will come to pass.
What was it the men sang
In the presence of Jesus,
In the presence of three armies ?
When shall he come in judgment ?
What singer has sung,
When Cynan shall be called
By the strong summons
Into the presence of Cadwallader ?
When shall the earth be loosened,
Upon Cynan ap Bran?[51]
If ye are chief bards,
Strong in the sciences,
Relate the supreme powers
Of the inhabited world.
There is an odious worm
One is of the pale brine
Where it is breeding.
The sources of the floods
Dispersed through the seas.
The second certainly
Falls upon us,
When there is rain without,
Water coming through the air.
The third is gliding
Through the veins of the mountains,
From the stronghold of Satan,
And he rules
Between the deep and the shallow.
His jaws are as wide
As the mountains of Mynnau,
Death shall not overcome him,
Nor hand nor blade.
He is as heavy as nine hundred stones,
His two paws are covered with bristles,
One eye is in his head
As green as the green ice.
There are three fountains
In the back of his neck.
The sea was stained by him,
And, swimming through it,
Was the destruction of cattle.
Deifr, Donwy, Dyfrdawn,
The names of the three fountains,
From the midst of the sea.[52]
Like liquid flint,[53]
Of the work of the King of Kings.
Are you questioning bards ?
With all your excessive care
You do not know how to celebrate[54]
The kingdom of the Britons.
I am Taliesin,
Chief of the Bards of the West;
And I will deliver Elphin
From the golden fetter.

The remainder of this piece consists of a portion of the song called “ Gorchan Tutvwlch,[54] commencing with the lines which occur in the 23rd stanza of the Gododin,[55]

Aryf ag cynnul
Ag cyman dull, &c.

The twenty-four bards of Maelgwn appear to have had nothing to say in reply, and Taliesin proceeds with an objurgatory address, which, in the Myvyrian Archæology, is appended to the song called Fustl y Beirdd.

Tewch chwi Bosfeirddion ffeilsion anhylwydd
Ni wyddoch i farnu rhwng gwira chelwydd
Odych bryfeirdd ffydd o waith Duw ofydd
Dywedwch i’ch Brenin beth fydd ei dramgwydd
Myfi fydd Dewin a phrif Fardd cyffredin
A wyr bob gorfln yngwlad eich Brenin
Mi a rhyddaf Elphin o fol twr meinin
Ag a dywedda i’ch Brenin bethc i gyffrin
Fe ddaw pryf rhyfedd iar Forfa Hhianedd
I ddial anwiredd ar Faelgwn Gwynedd
Ai flew ai ddanedd ai lyged yn eurwedd
A hwnnw a wna ddial ar Faelgwn Gwynedd.

Another copy of the latter part of the same address, with some slight variations, is appended to the “Prif Cyfarch Taliesin”

Myfi sydd Ddewin
A Phrifardd cyffredin
Mi adwaen bob corfin
Yn gogof gorthewin
My a ryddhaf Elphin
O fol y Twr Meinin
Mi a fynagaf ich Brenin
Ac hir bobl gyffredin
I ddaw pryf rhyfedd
O Forfa rhiancdd
I ddial enwiredd
Ar Faelgwn Gwynedd
Ai flew ai ddanedd
Ai lygaid yn eurcdd
A hun a una ddiwcdd
Ai Faelgwn Gwynedd.



Be silent, unlucky, mistaken , catechising Bards,[56]
Ye know not how to judge between truth and falsehood.
If ye are chief bards of the work of the Lord,
Tell your king what will be his fate.
I am a diviner and an impartial chief Bard,
And I know every doorpost in the land of your king.[57]
I will liberate Elphin from the cavern of the tower of stone,
And I will tell to your king something that will trouble hirn.
There shall come a wonderful worm from the sea-marsh of Rhianedd,
To take vengeance for iniquity upon Maelgwn Gwynedd.
His hair, his teeth, his eyes of a golden form,
And he shall take vengeance on Maelgwn Gwynedd.

This threat on the part of the Bard, not being accompanied by any overt act, produced no effect on Maelgwn.

Taliesin then appears to have left the hall, and standing at the gate, to have uttered an invocation to the wind, which was followed by a miraculous or magical intervention in his favour. The note in the Myvyrian Archæology states that Taliesin made the song at the door of Castle Teganwy, praying the Almighty that he might obtain a wind which should break open the prison of Elphin.



Dychymic di pwy yw
Creadur cadam eyn dilyw
Heb gig heb asgwrn heb wythen heb waed
Heb peu a heb draet
Ni bydd hyn ni byd iau
Nog yn y dechreu
Er ofn nag ny ddifoes eisiau
Gan greaduriau
Mawr Dduw mor wynneu
Ban ddaw o ddechreu
Mawr ei fretheiriau
Pan ddel or dehau
Mawr ei ferthidau
Y gur gan goreu
Ef yn maes ef ynghoct
Heb law ac heb droet
Heb henaint heb hoet
Ac ef yn gyfoed
A phumoes pymhoed
A hefyd y sydd hyn
Pet pemwnt flwyddyn
Ag ef in gyfled
Ag wyneb tudwed
Ag ef in anet
Ag ef in weled
Ef a nona gythrudd
Lie mynno Dofydd
Ef ar for ef ar dir
Ni wyl ni welir
Ag ef yn anghy wir

Ef yn wlyb ef yn sych
Ef a ddaw ’n fynych
0 wres haul ac oerfel
Lloer yn hanhel
Lloer yn anlles
Handid llai ei gwres
Un gwr ai goreu
Yr holl greadwrieu
Drwy ddirfawr awel
I wneuthur dialedd
     Ar Faelgwn Gwynedd.

Drwg y gwr goreu
Ef biau dechreu
A diwedd diheu
Yr hwn a roddes
Yr oerfel ar gwres
Yr huan ar tes
Ar Lloer llwyr achles
Nyd cerddor celfydd
Ny molwy Ddofydd
Nyd cywir eeinad
Ni molwy y Tad
Ny nawd fydd arad
Heb heyrn heb had
Ny bu oleuad
Cyn Celi cread
Ni ddaw pan fynnir
Ef ar dir ef ar for
Ef yn anhepcor
Ef yn diesor
Ef yn beteiror
Ef yn ddi achor
Ef yn ddieisor
Ef o bedeiror
Ni bydd wrth gyngor
Ni fydd heb gyngor
Ef cychwyn agor
O dduch maen mynor
Ef yn llafar ef yn fud
Ef yn fynud
Ef yn wrdd ef yn ddrut
Pan drenyn drosdud
Ef myd ef llafar
Ef yn orddear
Mwyaf y amar
Ar wyneb daear
Ef yn dda ef yn ddrwg
Ef yn orddwc
Ef yn anamlwc
Cannis gwyl golwc
Ef yn ddrwg ef yn dda
Ef hwnt ef yma
Ef a anrhefna
Ni ddiwg a wna
Ni ddwg a wnech
Ec ef yn ddibech

Ny bydd offeiriad
Na bendicco afrllad
Ny wybydd anygnad
Y saith lafanad
Dengwlat darmarthad
Yn yngylaw wlad
Degvet digarad
Digarwys eu tad
Digaru cawat
Yn rhwy rhewiniat
Llucuffer Llygrad
Eisor eisyf wlad
Saith seren y sydd
O seithnawn Dofydd
Seon a Sywedydd
A wyr eu defnydd
Marca mercedus
Ola olumis
Luna lafurus
Jupiter Venerus
O Haul o hyd yrfer
Hyd gylch lloer leufer
Nyt cof yn ofer
Nyt crog ny chreter
Ein Tad ein pater
An car an cymer
An tad an Rhen nin rhaner
Gan hu Lucuffer.



Discover thou what it is,
The strong creature from before the flood,
Without flesh, without bone,
Without head, without feet;
It will neither be older nor younger
Than at the beginning.
It has no fear nor the rude wants
Of created things.
Great God ! how the sea whitens
When first it comes !
Great are its gusts,
When it comes from the south

It is making a perturbation
In the place where God wills.
On the sea, on the land,
It sees not nor is seen.
And it is not fickle,
It does not come when desired.
On land, on sea,
It is indispensable,
It is unequalled.
It is in the four quarters,
It is fierce,
It is unequalled.
It is from the four quarters,
It will not be advised to the contrary;
It sets out to the cave,
Above the marble rock;
It is noisy, it is dumb,
It is mild,
It is strong, it is bold,
When it glances over the land.
It is dumb, it is noisy,
It is the most active thing
Great is the exhaustion
Of man from its rapid motion.
It is in the field, it is in the wood,
Without hand and without foot,
Without age, without season;
And it is always of the same age
With the five ages of ages,
And likewise it is old,
Some ages of years;
And it is of equal breadth
With the surface of the earth,
And it was not lorn,
And is not seen.

On the face of the earth.
It is good, it is bad.
It is a great oppressor,
It is not manifest,
For the eye cannot see it.
It is bad, it is good,
It is there, it is here ;
It is in innumerable places.
Jt has no form,
It bears no burden,
For it is void of sin.
It is wet, it is diy,
And it frequently came
With the heat of the sun and the cold.
Proceeding from the moon,
The moon void of benefit,
Less is her heat.
There is one God, and he rules
Over all creatures.
By a dreadful blast
Vengeance shall be wreaked
     On Maelgwn Gwynedd.

The copy of this poem, as printed in the Hanes Taliesin, concludes with these lines, and the story proceeds to say, that(?),

“while he was thus singing his verse near the door, there arose a mighty storm of wind, so that the King and all his nobles thought that the castle would fall upon their heads. And the King caused them to fetch Elphin in haste from his dungeon, and placed him before Taliesin. And it is said, that immediately he sang a verse, so that the chains opened from about his feet.”

In the Myvyrian Arch oology , however, the poem to the wind is continued.

God has created
Evil creatures.
He appoints the beginning of life,
And a certain end.
He himself has given
The cold and the heat,
It would not be easy to plough
Without iron and without seed.
Nor was there light
Before the creation of heaven.
There was no priest
Nor blessed wafer,
Nor witnessing before the judge.
The seven senses.[58]
God appointed a region
In the country of the angels.
The tenth part were forsaken.
Ceasing to love their Father,
The discarded ones were shut up
In utter destruction,
With Lucifer the spoiler,
Like his progeny.
The sun for warmth,
Aud the protecting moon.
There is no skiiful singer
Who does not praise the Lord.
There is none truly wise
Who does not praise the Father.
There are seven stars,
The seven gifts of the Lord,
Wise men and astronomers
Know of what they are made.
Marca mercedus,
Ola olumis,
Luna lafurus,
Jupiter Venerus.
From the sun it is a vast length
To the circle of the shining moon.
Do not call to mind useless things.
No cross, no faith,
One Father, one Pater.
Let not friend nor companion,
Nor father, nor king, have the lot
To be with Lucifer.

The song given in the Mabinogion, as that which caused the fetters of Elphin to fall from around him, is the "Mead Song,” one of the most poetic and most elegant of the series.



Golychaf wledig pendefig pob wa
Gwr a gynneil y Nef Arglwydd pob tra
Gwr a wnaeth y dwfr i bawb yn dda
Gwr a wnaeth pob llad ac ai Uwydda
Meddwer Maelgwn Mon ag an meddwa
Ai feddgorn ewyn gwerlyn gwymha
As gynnull gwenyn ac nis mwynha
Med hidleid moleid molud i bob tra
Lleaws Creadur a fag terra
A wnaeth Duw i ddyn er ei ddonha
Rhai drud rhai mud ef ai mwynha
Rhai gwyllt rhai dof Dofydd ai gwna
Yn dillig iddynt yn ddillad ydd a
Yn fwyd yn ddiawd hyd frawd yd barha
Golychaf y wledig pendefig gwlad hedd
I ddillwng Elphin o alltudded
Y gwr am rhoddes y gwin ar cwrwf ar medd
Ar mcirch mawr modur mirein eu gwedd
Am rothwy etwa mal diwedd
Trwy fodd Duw y rhydd trwy enrhydedd
Pump pemhwnt calan ynghaman hedd
Elffinawg farchawg medd hwyr dy Ogledd.



I pray the Lord, the ruler of every place,
He who sustains the heavens, the Lord over all,
He who made the waters and all things good,
He who bestows every gift and all prosperity.
A giver of mead is Maelgwn of Mona, and at his mead-board
His mead-horns circulate wine of the right colour.
The bee has collected it and has not used it.
For the distilling of the luscious mead,[59] praised be it above all
The numerous creatures the earth has produced.
God made it as a gift to man.
The wise and the foolish enjoy it.
Some wild, some tame, God has made them,
They produce good clothing.
I entreat the prinee, the chief of a peaceful land,
For/the release of Elphin from banishment.
He who has given me wine and ale and mead,
And large powerful horses of beautiful shape,
And would give me anything at my request,
By the will of God, if set free through respect
(There shall be) five times five hundred festivals in perfect peace,
Should Elphin the keen warrior possess thy confidence.[60]

And afterwards he sang the ode which is called “Gorchestion y Beirdd,” The great Achievements of the Bards.

Pwy ddoethai ddillad
Pwy a ddug ymwad
O ystryw gwlad
Yn y dechreuad
Paham i mae caled maen
Paham i mae blaenllym draen
Pwy sydd galed fal Malen
Pwy yn hallt fal halen
Pwy yn felus fal mel
Pwy a ferchyg yr awel
Paham i mae cefhog y trwyn
Paham y mae cronn yr olwyn
Paham y traeth y tafawd
Amgen nag arall aclawd
O medri di a’th feirdd Henin
Atteb attebant i mi Daliesin.



Who was the first man
Whom the God of Heaven made ?
What was the fairest flattering speech
Which was prepared by Jeuaf?[61]
What meat, what drink,
What roof his covering,
What his first shelter?[62]
With what did he first board it ?[63]
Who taught him his clothing P
Whose the design of a roof
For the habitations of the land
In the commencement ?[63]
Why is a stone hard ?
Why is a thorn sharp-pointed ?
What is as hard as steel ?
What is as salt as brine ?
What is as sweet as honey ?
Who rides on the gale ?
Why is the nose ridged ?
Why is a wheel round ?
Why is speech (given to) the tongue
Different from every other gift ?
If you and your bards are able, O
Let them give an answer to me,

Neither Heinin or his bards replied to this invitation to answer the above comprehensive series of riddles, upon which Taliesin proceeds finally to overwhelm the unfortunate Heinin in the following address:—

“And after that he sang the address which is called


Os Ydwyt di Fardd cyfrisgin
O awen ddisgethrin
Na fydd yn ddisoethrin
Yn Llys dy frenhin
Oni wyppir dy henw rimin
Gorthaw di Henin
A henw rimiad
A henw rainiad
A henw dy hendad
Cyn ei fedyddiad
A henw dy furment
A henw yr element
A henw dy iaith
A henw’r dalaith.
Gosco feirdd uchod[64]
Gosco feirdd isod
Fy anwyl i sydd isod
Dan hual arianrhod
Ni wyddoch chwi ynddiau
Ddeall y gan y min mau
Na dosparth diau
Rhwng y gwir ar gau
Beirddion bychain ei bro
Paham nad ewch chwi ar ffo
Y Bardd nim gostecco
Gostec nis caffo
Oni ei mewn gortho
Dan raian a gro
Y sawl ym gwrandawo
Gwrandewid Duw fo.



If thou art a bard capable of striving,[65]
Imbued with the mysteries of the muse,
Be not ungentle In the hall of thy King.
Unless thou art acquainted with the powerful name,
Be thou silent, Heinin,
As to the powerful name,
And the lofty name,
And the name of thy grandsire,
Before he was baptised;
And the name of the firmament,
And the name of the elements,
And the name of the[66] languages,
And the name of the headband.[67]
Avaunt, ye bards above,
Avaunt, ye bards below;
My friend is below
In the fetter of Arianrhod.
You know not, certainly,
The meaning of the song in my mouth ;
Nor can you distinguish clearly
Between the true and the false.
Bards of little repute in the land,
Why do you not take flight ?
A bard who will not pay attention to me
Shall not obtain attention
Until he is under the covering
Of gravel and pebbles.
Whosoever shall listen to me,
May God listen to him.

“Then he sung the piece called



Cler o gam arfer a ymarferant
Cathlau aneddfol fydd eu moliant
Clod drwas ddiflas a ddatcanant
Cehvydd bob amser a ymarferant
Gorchmynau deddfau Duw a dorant
Gwragedd priodol wrth ei moliant
Drwy feddwl drygbwyll a fawr dwyllant
Morwynion gwynion mair a lygrant
A goelio iddynt a gwilyddiant
A gwirion ddynion a ddyfalant
Ai hoes ai hamser yn ofer y treuliant
Y nos y meddwant y dydd y cysgant
Segur heb lafur yr ymborthiant
Yr Eglwys a gashantar Dafarn a gyrchant
A Hadron ffeilsion y cydsyniant
Llysoedd a gwleddoedd a ymofynant
Pob parabl dibwyll a grybwyllant
Pob pechod rnarwol a ganmolant
Pob pentre pob tre pob tir a dreiglant
Pob salwedd ofer a ymarferant
Gorchmynau y Prindod a ddifrodant
Gwiliau na suliau nis addolant
Am ddydiau angau nis gofalant
A phob glothineb nis arbedant
Gormod o fwyddyd i diodydd a fynant
Degwm ag Otfrwm teulwng nis talant
Deddfolion ddynion a ddyfalant
Adar a hedant gwenyn a felant
Pysgod a nofiant pryfed a’mlysgant
Pob beth a ymdaith i gynull i borthiant
Ond cler ag Oedion a Hadron diswyniant
Ni cbabla i’ch mysg dysg na cherdwriaeth
Can’s Duw ai rhoes gloes ar gyllaeth
Ond sawl syn arfer o gam arfaeth
Am watwar Jesu ai wasanaeth.



Strolling minstrels are addicted to evil habits.
Immoral songs are their delight.
In a tasteless manner they rehearse the praises of heroes.
Falsehood at all times they use.
The commandments and ordinances of God they break.
Married women they lay hold of.
With evil intentions, they are very deceiving.
The fair virgins of Mary they corrupt.
Those who put trust in them they bring to shame,
And true men they laugh to scorn,
And times and seasons they spend in vanities.
At night they get drank, by day they sleep.
In ease without work they support themselves.
The church they hate, the tavern they frequent.
With false thieves they associate.
Halls and banquets they seek after.
All kinds of senseless stories they relate.
All kinds of mortal sins they praise.
Through every village, town, and countiy, they stroll.
All filthy vanities they indulge in.
The ordinances of the Trinity they deny;
Neither on holidays or on Sundays do they worship.
Of the day of death they think not.
From all kinds of gluttony they do not refrain.
Fond of excess in eating and drinking.
Tithes and household offerings they do not pay.
Legally appointed persons they mock at.
Birds fly, and bees collect honey;
Fish swim, and worms crawl:
All creatures are journeying after food,
Except minstrels and idle fellows, and manifest thieves.
Do not disparage mixed learning or minstrelsy;
For God has given us (enough of) pain and sorrow;
But those who put them to a bad use,
In blaspheming Jesus and his service.

It is astonishing that this piece should ever have been considered to be a composition of the sixth century. It is an attack upon the Cler or strolling minstrels, for whose better regulation, as we have before mentioued, so many ordinances were enacted, as well by the Welsh princes as by the English sovereigns, from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries. The whole, style of the piece is of the fourteenth century; and it is now recognised as the production of Jonas Athraw, or Doctor, a monk of St. David’s, who, according to the Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Welshmen, flourished in the tenth, but must most undoubtedly (if the author of the pieces attributed to him) have lived in the thirteenth or fourteenth century. The remaining composition, included in the Mabinogi of Taliesin, is also the production of this same Jonas Athraw. It is entitled “Awdyl Vraith,” and has no proper connection with the story. It will be given under the religious poems attributed to Taliesin.

The tale itself concludes with au account of a horserace, in which Elphin, the patron of the bard, contends against the twenty-four horses of Maelgwn. Through the magic assistance of Taliesin, Elphin was victorious; and the bard not only thus assists his patron, but also enables him to discover upon the site of the racecourse a large cauldron full of gold.

It is very probable that the “Canu y Meireh,” or Song of the Horses, which will be given hereafter, belongs to this place, and was originally sung as part of the Mabinogi of Taliesin.

Reverting to the doctrine of the Metempsychosis, which has been supposed to be contained in this stoiy, we see that there are two sets of statements ascribed to Taliesin. The first relates his change of form into various shapes while endeavouring to escape the pursuit of the enraged sorceress Ceridwen.

In the other he asserts his having been in various places at remote periods of time.

With regard to the former of these, it seems quite clear that the supporters of that theory have not made a distinction between transmigration and transformation.

We cannot agree with Mr. Stephens,[70] that “it is very possible that the changes said to have been undergone by the Taliesin of the tale, may have reference to the doctrine of transmigration, though we have here the romance of the metempsychosis, and not an exposition of the doctrine itself.” It is, on the contrary, abundantly evident, on reference to the Mabinogion, which are but a remnant of an abundant romance literature which belonged to the Welsh, that we have here nothing to do with the doctrine of a transmigration of the soul after death. In these tales we find a machinery of necromancers and magic, such as has probably been possessed by all people in all ages, more or less abundantly. Math, the son of Mathonwy, was a necromancer of power, and with his magic wand he changed Gwydion ap Don, himself a skilful enchanter, and Gilvaethwy ap Don, into the forms of deer, of swine, and of wolves successively.

Gwydion ap Don was the most celebrated of the magicians introduced into these tales, and his name frequently appears in the poems attributed to Taliesin. In the deception which he practised upon Pryderi, in the matter of the swine of Annwn, he proceeded in a way familiar to every reader of fairy tales.

“Then he betook himself to his arts, and began to work a charm. And he caused twelve chargers to appear, and twelve black greyhounds, each of them white-breasted, and having upon them twelve collars and twelve leashes, such as no one that saw them could know to be other than gold. And upon the horses twelve saddles; and every part which sho u ld have been of iron was entirely of gold, and the bridles were of the same workmanship. Now these he had formed of fungus .”

With these fairy productions he deceived Piyderi into an exchange for the swine.

“Then Gwydion and his men took their leave and began to journey forth with the pigs. ‘Ah, my comrades,’ said Gwydion, ‘it is needful that we journey with speed. The illusion will not last but from the one hour to the same to-morrow.’”

On another occasion Gwydion went to walk on the seashore,—

“And there he saw some sedges and seaweed, and he turned them iuto a boat. And out of dry sticks and sedges he made some cordovan leather,”

which afterwards returned again into seaweed and sedges. He changes the form of himself and Llew Llaw Gyffes, produces illusory spectacles, and creates a woman out of flowers, all by the aid of the art magic:—

“In the early twilight Gwydion arose, and he called unto him his magic and his power. And by the time the day dawned, there was resounded through the land uproar and trumpets and shouts.”

“He took the blossoms of the oak, and the blossoms of the broom, and the blossoms of the meadow-sweet, and produced from them a maiden the fairest and most graceful that man ever saw. And they baptized her and gave her the name of Blodeuwedd .”

The conduct of Blodeuwedd not proving satisfactory, Gwydion, by way of punishment, turned her into an owl, while Llew Llaw Gyffes was changed into an eagle.

Kai, the steward and companion of Arthur, could render himself when he pleased as tall as the highest tree in the forest. Menw, the son of Teirgwaedd, could cast a charm and illusion so as to render himself and his companions invisible. The tale of Kilhwch and Olwen, or the Twrch Trwyth, luxuriates in magical and supernatural wonders.

In the story of Manawydden, the son of Llyr, we have an enchanted castle into which Pryderi is tempted to enter.

“In the centre of the castle floor he beheld a fountain with marble-work around it, and on the margin of the fountain a golden bowl upon a marble slab, and chains hanging from the air, to which he saw no end. And he was greatly pleased with the beauty of the gold, and with the rich workmanship of the bowl. And be went up to the bowl and laid hold of it; and when he bad taken hold of it, bis hands stuck to the bowl, and his feet to the slab on which the bowl was placed, and all his joyousness forsook him, so that he could not utter a word. And thus he stood.”

His wife Rhiannon followed him, with the same consequences :—

“And with that, as it became night, lo! there came thunder upon them, and a fall of mist, and thereupon the castle vanished, and they with it.”

The enchanter who performed this feat, Llwyd, the son of Kilcoed, transformed his whole household into mice, for the purpose of destroying Manawydden’s corn, and himself appeared before him in various forms. It is needless to multiply instances to show that the exercise of supernatural power in the transforming of human beings into the shape of animals, was as favourite a component part of these talcs as of those of Oriental origin.

There is no perceptible difference between the supernatural power, the necromancy or magic, represented as being exerted in these tales, and the same power ascribed to the magicians and sorcerers in the Arabian Nights . The belief in such a power appears to have existed in all communities, and the relation of its wonders to satisfy a natural craving in the human mind for the marvellous. It will be scarcely contended that the Arab storytellers derived their machinery from the Welsh; and certainly we shall not look for a Druidic origin for the tale of the Princess and the Genie, which, in the transformations the parties undergo in their mortal combat, has some curious coincidences with the transformations of Taliesin.[71]

There is no more necessity for seeking for a hidden meaning in the tale of Taliesin than in that of Cinderella. Tales of the same kind are found in the popular traditions or ballads of all nations. In the Eddaic poems, Loki changes himself into a salmon to avoid the wrath of the Asi, and his son Narfì is changed into a wolf.

How little meaning was attached to these relations of the forms pretended to have been assumed, may be seen from another piece, of the same style and age as all the rest, in vvhich the bard, instead of saying that he had been, declares that he is, a variety of strange things:—

I am water, I am a wren;
I am a workman, I am a star;
I am a serpent;
I am a cell, I am a chink;
I am a depositary of song, I am a learned person, &c.[72]

The Irish tales are even more prodigal of necromancy and magic transformations than the Welsh, and are more full and connected in their details.

There may be a remote foundation of these stories in the natural and universal belief, in all climes and in all ages, in the existence of supernatural beings—the denizens of the air, the forest, or the lake, sometimes hostile, sometimes friendly to man; but we must not distort the wonders added by the genius of the poet into evidences of a lost philosophy or theology. The Ousel of Cilgwri, the Stag of Redynore, and the Salmon of Llyn Llyw, may be allowed the gift of human speech and to hold converse with Bedwyr and the blessed Kai, without furnishing themes for a treatise on the Druidic belief. How similar are the creations of the human mind in times and places the most remote, may be seen in the remarkable similarity of these Celtic stories with an Egyptian tale, which, if known to the Welsh antiquarians, would have furnished a theme for unbounded comment. We see in it only an evidence of the existence of a common stock of ideas, variously developed according to the formative pressure of external circumstances.

Thus, amongst the tales recited by the Irish Bards, we have the story of Tuan Mac Coireall,[73] who was first a man, then lived three hundred years in the shape of a deer, three hundred years as a wild boar, three hundred in the shape of a bird, and three hundred more in the shape of a salmon, which, being caught by a fisherman, was presented to the Queen of Ireland, who, immediately when she tasted it, conceived and brought forth the noted Tuan Mac Coireall, who narrated the history of the antediluvian colonization of Ireland by Ceasair and her people.

Another remarkable Irish legend connected with this subject is given in the “Tale of Festivities at the House of Conan,” in which the history and adventures of the celebrated Fionn or Fingal are collected and related in the form of a dialogue.

“‘Tell me,’ says Conan to Fionn, ‘who among the Fenian heroes is he who leaps over his own gravestone every day, whose own daughter is his mother, and who is demanding eric and reparation from the man who killed him, though he is himself alive ?’

“‘I will tell you about that,’ says Fionn. ‘Two Fenian chiefs of my people, namely, Oscur the son of Criomthann, and Daolgas son of Cairrill Cas, one day quarrelled about a fight that occurred between two dogs, and Daolgas was slain upon that occasion. The beautiful marriageable daughter of Daolgas came over him, and having stooped down to kiss him, a red spark of fire flew from his mouth into hers, and she became pregnant in consequence, and brought forth a broad-crowned son in due time; and, since no other name was found for him, he was called by the name of his father. He was nurtured in a fitting manner until his seventh year; and the first feat of youthful folly that he performed was to leap over his own gravestone; and he is now demanding eric from Oscur, son of Criomthann.’”[74]

How very similar were the tales of wonder which delighted the dwellers on the banks of the Nile, 1600 years before the Christian era, may be seen in a genuine Egyptian romance, translated by M. De Rouge from a Hieratic papyrus of that date. In this story the hero successively takes the form of a flower, a bull, and a Persea tree. The latter being cut down, a splinter from it enters the mouth of a princess. She becomes pregnant, and ultimately is delivered of a son, in whom the hero again assumes the human form.

The assertions of Taliesin, that he was present with Noah in the ark, at the Tower of Babel, and with Alexander of Macedon, we may fairly ascribe to the poetic fancy of the Christian priest of the thirteenth century, who brought this romance into its present form. We may compare these statements of the universal presence of the wonder-working magician with those of the gleeman who recites the Anglo-Saxon metrical tale called, the “Traveller’s Song.”[75] After exhausting the names of every possible tribe and kingdom which he had visited, he says:—

I have been with the Israelites and with the Exsyringi,
With the Hebrews and with the Indians and with the Egyptians.
I hare been with the Medes and with the Persians and with the Myrgings.

The object is the same in both—to excite wonder by the recital of marvels, and thereby to enhance the pleasure to be derived from the entertainment.

The address of Glewlwyd Gavaelvawr to Arthur, in the tale of “Kilhwch and Olwen,” is of the same character.

“Then Glewlwyd went into the hall. And Arthur said to him, ‘Hast thou news from the gate?’—‘Half my life is passed, and half of thine. I was heretofore in Kaer Se and Asse, in Sach and Salach, in Lotor and Fotor; and I have been in India the Great and India the Lesser; and I was in the battle of Dau Ynyr, when the twelve hostages were brought ficpm Uychlyn. And I have also been in Europe and in Africa, and in the Islands of Corsica, and in Caer Brythwych and Brythach and Verthach; and I was present when formerly thou didst slay the family of Clis the son of Merin, and when thou didst slay Mil Du, the son of Ducum, and when thou didst conquer Greece in the East. And I have been in Caer Oeth and Annoeth, and in Caer Nevenhyr; nine supreme sovereigns, handsome men, saw we there, but never did I behold a man of equal dignity with him who is now at the door of the portal.”

The gleeman here, as in the “Traveller’s Song,” evidently exhausts his store of localities; and it is very probable that the names of the places differed in recitals by different persons.

We must hold the same opinion of Ceridwen as of the fictitious Taliesin. She is a creation of the fancy, a sorceress, or enchantress, and nothing more.

According to the author of the Biographical Dictionary of Eminent Welshmen , published so lately as 1852, Ceridwen was a British goddess, and a well-known personage in the Druidical Pantheon.

Ceridwen .” the author says,

“ is a celebrated character in Druidical mythology whose attributes were, in many respects, similar to those of Ceres. Davies, in his Mythology of the British Druids, has collected much information respecting her from the earliest Welsh poets. In them we find her described as a fury, a botanist, the first of womankind, a giantess, the goddess of com, the modeller of youth, the moon, a mystic goddess, the ruler of Bardism, a sailing-vessel, and as transforming herself into a bird. He has also advanced arguments to prove that she was worshipped, as late as the twelfth century, conjointly with the moon.

“Pair Ceridwen, ‘the cauldron of Ceridwen,’ is frequently alluded to by the ancient poets. In a poem of Taliesin, we find the goddess Ceridwen preparing the water of this sacred vessel, which contained a decoction of potent herbs, collected with due observation of the planetary.hours. So efficacious was the medicated water, that no sooner had three drops of it touched the lips of the bard, than all futurity was displayed to his view. Her temple was at Caergyvylchi, in Caernarvonshire.”

This statement, that the goddess Ceridwen had a temple at Caergy vylchi in Caernarvonshire, is made with all the historical seriousness with which we might affirm that there was a temple of Dian i at Ephesus, or of Jupiter at Rome. It is, nevertheless, destitute of the slightest foundation, and affords another example of the modern manufacture of the Druidical mythology. The editor of the Biographical Dictionary has, however, persisted in adopting the absurdities enunciated by Davies on the subject of two short poems by Howel ab Owain[76] in the twelfth century, though Mr. Stephens[77] had conclusively shown that the whole of the supposed mythological allusions in those poems to Ceridwen and her temple, had no existence except in the imagination of Mr. Davies. The name “Ceridwen” does not, in fact, appear in tbe poems in question, Mr. Davies having converted the word Cecidtoen, “white-necked”—an epithet applied by the bard to the fair object of his affections—into “Ceridwen,” and founded on this correction his statement,

“that the proud-wrought enclosure of the Cyvylchir, in the desert of Arvon- near Snowdon, and towards the shore, was the Caer, or sanctuary of the mystical goddess, and the chosen place of her daughter Llywy, or the British Proserpine.”

Nothing, in fact, can be more clear, on a perusal of these pieces, than that the princely bard, the son of Owain Gwynedd, sovereign of North Wales, is speaking of an earthly fair one, whose charms he celebrates in elegant and appropriate language, without the remotest allusion to pagan goddesses of any description whatsoever.

The lines are:[78]

I love the fort of proud workmanship in the Cyvylchi,
Where my own assuming form is wont to intrude;
The high of renown eagerly seek admittance there,
And near ft speaks the mad resounding wave.
It is the chosen place of a luminary of splendid qualities, and fair.
Glorious her rising from the verge of the torrent,
And the fair one shines on the now progressing year,
In the wilds of Arvon, among the Snowdonian hills.
The tent does not attract, the glossy silk is not looked on
By her I love with passing tenderness.
If her conquest could be wrought by the muse’s aid,
Ere the coming night I should next to her be found.

I love the time of summer when the steed
Of the exulting chief prances in the presence of a gallant lord,
When the nimbly moving wave is covered with foam,
When the apple-tree wears another aspect,
And when the white shield is borne upon my shoulders in the conflict.
I have loved ardently, but unsuccessfully,
A tall and white-necked fair of slowly languid gait;
Her complexion vies with the mild light of the evening hour,
Bright, slightly formed, feebly bending, white-hued knowing one.
In stepping over a rush she would nearly fall,
The small and delicate one of feeble step;
But though small she is older than a ten-year old youth;
And though child-like in appearance is full of propriety.
From her childhood she has learned to give freely;
And the virgin would rather impede her own prosperity
Than utter one sentence of unseemly import.
I will be a pilgrim worshipper at the place of meeting.
How long shall I worship thee ? Stop and think of thine office.
If I am unskilful through the dotage of love,
Jesus the well-informed will not rebuke me.”

The lady celebrated in these lines presents an appearance so different from that of the “black screaming hag” who pursued Gwion and brought forth Taliesin, that Mr. Davies remarks,

“If we may judge from Howel’s description, Ceridwen had greatly improved in her person and manners since the sixth century; but still, she is the samë object of idolatrous veneration; she still communicates her mystical laws to the devoted aspirant.”

A poem in the Myvyrian Archæology, entitled “ Cadair Ceridwen,” is supposed to contain evidence of the mythological character of this enchantress.



Rhen rym awyr titheu
Cerreifant on correddeu
Yn Newaint yn mhlygeieu
Llewychawd yn lleufereu
Mynawg hoedl Minawg ap Lieu
A welais i yma gynneu
Diwedd yn llechwedd Lieu
Bu gurdd ei hurdd ynghadeu
Afagddu fy mab inneu
Dedwydd Dofydd rhwy goreu
Ynghyfamryson Kerddeu
Oedd gwell ei Synwyr no’r fau
Celfyddaf gwr a gigleu
Gwydion ap Don dygnferthau
A hudwys gwraig a Elodeu
A dyddwg Moch o Ddebeu
Can ni bu iddaw disgoreu
Drud ymyd a gwiyd pletheu
A rithwys gorwyddawd y ar plagawd lys
Ac enwerys cyfrwyau
Pan famer y Cadeiriau
Arbennig uddun y fau
Fynghadair am pair am deddfon
Am Araith drwyadl gadair gysson
Rym gelwir gyfrwys yn Ilya Don
Mi ag Euronwy ag Euron
Gweleis ymladd taer yn Nant ffranoon
Duw sul pryd pylgeint
Rhwng wythaint a Gwydion
Dyfieu yn geugant ydd aethan Von
I geissaw yscut a hudolion
Aran rbod drem dot a gwawr hinon
Mwyaf gwarth y marth o barth Brython
Dybrys am ei Lys Enfys Afon
Afon ai hechrys gurys gwrth terra
Gwenwyn ei chynbyd cylch byd eda
Nid wydywaid geu llyfrau Breda
Cadair gedwiddedd yssyd yma
A hyd frawd parawd yn Europa
An rothwy y drindawt
Trugaredd Dyddbrawd
Cein gardawd gan wyrda.



Lord, I especially seek of thee
Forgiveness of my sins,
At midnight and at early dawn,
And in the brightness of the light.
Courteous in Ids lifetime was Minawg, the son of Llew;
And I saw him here a short time since,
At the finishing of the grave mounds of Llew.
Strong was his assault in battle.
Afagddu my son,
Blessed of the most powerful God,
In the competitions of the Bards,
There was no wiser man in the land.
The most skilful man ever heard of
(Was) Gwydion ap Don, a hard toiler,
Who made by enchantment, a woman from flowers,
And brought the swine out of the South;
For it was not difficult to him.
A strong enclosure (he made) out of plaited twigs,
And the appearance of a troop of horses out of the buds of flowers,
And such-like wonders.
If a judgment should be given on the chairs,[79]
He was the chief magician in the land.
For my chair, my cauldron, and my ordinances,,
And the active rule of my harmonious Cadair,
It is mine to be called skilful in the Court of Don,
I and Euronwy and Euron.
I saw a fierce fight in Nant Ffrancon,
On Sunday at the dawn of day,
Between Gwythaint and Gwydion;
On Thursday, truly, they went to Mona,
Seeking charms[80] and illusions.
Arianrhod of beautiful aspect.[81]
Not falsely is it related in the books of Breda.[82]
The guardian of the chair is here,
And until the day of judgment, it shall continue in Europe.
May the Trinity give me
Mercy in the day of judgment.
A handsome donation from the gentry.

With reference to the last three lines of this song, Davies says:—

“This poem was evidently intended to be sung or recited in the ceremonies of a heathen solemnity, by a priest or priestess who personated Ceridwen; but some paltry and mendicant minstrel, who only chanted it as an old song, has tacked on three lines in a style and measure totally different from the preceding verses.”

The publication of the Mabino-gion has, however, furnished the true key to all these supposed mysteries. The story of Gwydion and the Swine of Pryderi, of Llew Llaw Gyffes, Arianrhod and Blodeuwedd, must have been well known to the audience before whom this ballad was recited, and the allusions in it well understood. It must necessarily have been composed long after these tales had been current among the people.

The “books of Breda,” mentioned in this song, do not give us any information as to its date. The same name occurs in the “Song of the Months,” attributed to Aneurin, though written partly in the fourteenth and partly in the fifteenth century.[83] In reference to this latter poem, Mr. Stephens says:—“There is no saint of the name of Breda; this must, therefore, be either Brenda or Beda.” Saint Brenda was the son of Helig Voel, son of Glanog ab Gwgan Gleddyv Rhudd, or Gwgan Redsword, who was one of the three sentinels at the battle of Bangor Iscoed in a.d. 607. This Brenda is not, however, a person of any celebrity; and probably, therefore, the proper reading is Beda, the venerable Bede of the eighth century.

The Cauldron of Ceridwen, and a number of allusions to the romances, are also found in a poem entitled “A Song concerning the Sons of Llyr, Son of BrochwaefPowys.” By the latter is generally understood Brochwael Ysgythrog, Prince of Powys, who commanded at the battle of Bangor in A.D. 607. It is not known whether he had a son named Llyr, and it would seem that the title has been taken from the names found in the poem, and was originally, perhaps, “Cerdd am Veib Llyr a Brochwael Powys”—a song concerning the sons of Llyr and Brochwael Powys. The sons of Llyr are, no doubt, the brethren of Bran the Blessed, four of whom, according to the Irish romances, were changed into swans by their stepmother. This poem has no further reference to them than the mention of a battle against them.



Golychaf i gulwydd Arglwydd pob echen
Arbennig torfoedd ynhyoedd am Ordden
Ceint yn yspyddawd uch gwirawd aflawen
Ceint rac meibon Llyr ym ebyr Henfelen
Gweleis treis trydar ac afar ac anghen
Yd lethiynt lafnawr ar bennawr disgywen
Ceint rhag udd clodeu yn noleu Hafren
Rhag Brochwel Powys a garwys fy Awen
Ceint yn addfwyn rodle ym more rhag Urien
Yn ewydd am antraed gwaed ar ddien
Neud amug ynghadeir o t)eir Ceridwen
Handid rydd fy nhafawd
Yn addawd gwawd Ogyrwen
Gwawd Ogyrwen Uferen rwy ddigones arnunt
A llefrith a gwlith a mes
Ystyriem yn llwyr cyn clwyr cyffes
Dyfod yn ddiheu angen neses
Ac am diredd Enlli dyvi dylles
Dyrchawr llongawr ar glawr aches
A golwn ar y gwr andigones
An nothwy rhag gwyth llwyth Anghes
Pan alwer ynys Von tirion vaes
Gwyn eu byd hwy gwleiddon Saesson artres
Doddwyf Deganhwy i amrysson
Ellyngais fy Aglwydd yngwydd Deon
A Maelgwn fwyaf ei Achwysson
Elphin pendefig ry hodigion
Yssid imi deir Cadeir cyweir cysson
Ac yd vrawd parhawd gan Gerddorion
Bum ynghat Goddeu gan Llew a Gwydion
Wy a rithwys gwydd Elfydd ac Elestron
Bum i gan Vran yn Iwerddon
Gwleis pan lladdwyd morddwyd tyllon
Cigleu gyfarfod am gerddorion
A gwyddyl diefyl uiferogion
O Benryn wleth hyd Luch Reon
Cymru yn unfryd gerhyd Wrion
Gwret dy Cymry yghymeiri
Teir cenedl gwythlawn o iawn deithi
Gwyddyl a Brython a Rhomani
A wahan dyhedd a Dyuysgi
Ac am derfyn Prydein cein ei threfi
Ceint rhag Teyrnedd nch medd lestri
Yngheinion Deon im ai dyroddi
An dwy beu sywed . . . . ced ryferthi
Ys cy weir fy nghadeir ynghaer Sidi
Nis plawdd haint a henaint a fo yndi
Ys gwyr Manawyd a Phryderi
Tair Orian y am dan a gan rhegddi
Ac am ei bannau ffrydieu gweilgi
Ar ffynnawn ffrwythlawn yssyd odduchti
Ys whegach nor gwin gwyn y llyn indi
Ac wedi ath iolaf Oruchaf cyn gweryd Gorod cymmod a thi.



I adore the love-diffusiug Lord of all nations.
Lord of Hosts, may he delay my appointed time.
There was a battle at the banquet over the joyless beverage;
A battle against the sons of Llyr, on the banks of Hen Felen.
I saw the fierce tumult and wrath and calamity,
The falchions gleaming on the bright helmets.
There was a battle against the renowned chief in the vales of Severn,
Against Brochwel Powys, who loved my song.
A battle in the pleasant meadow, in the morning against Urien,
Fresh around the feet was the blood of the slain.
Not inglorious is my Chair of the Cauldron of Ceridwen.
My tongne shall be free,
In declaring the praise of Ogyrwen.[84]
For praising Ogyrwen, the water of the brook will suffice,
And new milk, dew, and acorns.
Let us ponder deeply before onr last confession is heard,
Death is certainly approaching nearer and nearer.
And on the shores of Enlli there shall be an overwhelming,
Ships shall be riding on the water.
Let us call upon the Lord who can aid us,
Our refuge against the violence of the stranger tribes.
When the Island of Mon shall be called a pleasant field,
Happy shall they be who are under the yoke of the gentle Saxons.[85]
I am come to Teganwy to contend
With Maelgwn, the greatest of criminals.
I have liberated my Lord in the presence of Peon,
Elphin the prince, king of magicians.[86]
I have three Cadeirs, in right tune harmonious.
And until the day of judgment they shall remain with the singers.
I was in the Cad Goddeu with Llew and Gwydion.
He who changed the form of trees, earth, and plants.
I was with Bran in Ireland.
I saw when Morddwydtyllon was slain.
I heard the meeting of the singers,
With the Irish, furious devils,[87]
From Penrhyn Bleth to Loch Reon,
Were the Cymry of one mind, there would be a multitude of heroes.
Deliver thy Cymry from the oppression
Of three tribes of truly cruel nature,
Irish, and Britons, and Romans,
Who make disturbance and confusion.
And around the borders of Britain, with its fair dwellings,
Brawling in the presence of princes over the cups of mead,
At the feast of the chieftains who have bestowed gifts on me,
And loaded with gifts the two chief astrologers.
Tuneful is my Cadeir in Caer Sidi,
Neither disease nor old age affects those who are there.
It is known to Manawyd, and Pryderi.
Three utterances around the fire shall be sung before it ;
And around its borders are the streams of the ocean ;
And sweet is its fruitful fountain,
Sweeter than the bright wine is the liquor therein,
And after I have worshipped thee,
O Most High, before I am covered with the sod,
Grant I may be in covenant with thee.

It is not clear what is meant by Ogyrwen. Ur. Owen translates it, “an angelic form, a personified idea.” It seems to be another name for Ceridwen, as is seen in the “Cadeir Teyrnon,” and to mean “a giantess.” Gogyrfan Gawr, the giant, belongs to the Arthurian romance. The word seems to have descended to our nursery tales, as the ogre or giant of the Cornish stories.

In the “Angar Cyvyndawd” it is said, “There are seven score Ogyrfen in Awen,”—that is, apparently, seven score sources of poetic inspiration, or Muses.

The recovery of more of the Mabinogion , or Fairy Tales of the Welsh, can alone furnish an explanation of this and numerous other allusions of a similar character.

It is evident that in the original story, the cauldron of Ceridwen is a true witch’s cauldron, the magical contents of which are compounded according to the directions given in the books of the Feryllt, or wise men, just as in all other stories of a similar character. The níagic liquor intended for Afaggdu, but drunk by Gwion, bestows upon the latter magical powers, not only gifting him with extraordinary knowledge, but enabling him to transform himself into a variety of shapes at pleasure. These transformations of Gwion have no connection with the passage of the soul liberated by death from one body to another, but are voluntary changes of form assumed to escape the pursuit of a magician of greater power than himself. The details of these supernatural events, and the number and variety of these transformations, varied with the ingenuity and imagination of the minstrels. In the “Angar Cyvyndawd,” the “Song of the Horses,” and the “Battle of the Trees,” they differ from those related in the Ilanes Taliesin.

This magic cauldron, and the story of its miraculous gifts, was adopted by the later bards as a representation of the Greek Helicon, or fountain of the Muses, the source and well of poetic inspiration. This is clearly shown in the “Preiddeu Annwn ,” where the cauldron is said to be warmed by the breath of nine damsels, a detail unknown to the original and genuine tale, and which exhibits the workmanship of a very different class of persons from the minstrels who framed the original story. The later bards constantly speak of. the cauldron of inspiration, and of the Awen or inspiration itself, which in the seventeenth century we have seen Llywelyn Sion in the “Cyfrinach Beirdd” represents as derived from the Holy Ghost itself. The Christian bards of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, indeed, repeatedly refer to the Virgin Mary herself, as the cauldron or source of inspiration, to which they were led, as it seems, partly by a play on the word “pair,” a cauldron, and the secondary form of that word, on assuming the soft form of its initial “mair,” which also means Mary. Mary was “Mair,” the mother of Christ, the mystical receptacle of the Holy Spirit, and “Pair,” the cauldron or receptacle and fountain of Christian inspiration.

Thus we have in a poem of Davyd Benvras, in the thirteenth century,

Crist mab Mair am Pair pur vonhedd,—
Christ, son of Mary, my cauldron of pure descent.

But all this is Christian, and not Druidic mysticism, and an adaptation of popular ideas, which forms another phase in the employment of this symbol. The terms “cauldron of Ceridwen,” “cauldron of the muse, of song, or of poetic inspiration,” were convertible, and the same image was adopted to express the fount of holiness and the source of religious inspiration, or the gift to be employed in praise of God.

In some cases “Awen” means simply a song, poesy, and nothing more, as in the “Cerdd am Veib Llyr”:—

Ceint rhag udd clodeu yn noleu Hafren
Rhag Brochwel Powys a garwys fy Awen,—

I have sung before the glorious chief in the dales of Severn,
Before Brochwel Powys who loved my song.

It.is impossible to read this romance of the History of Taliesin, and his transactions with Maelgwn, without observing a strong resemblance between this story and that told by Nennius and Geoffrey of Monmouth, of Merlin Emmrys and Vortigern.

In both instances, the magician, prophet, and bard, is one born without a father. As the boy Merlin puts to the wise men or magicians of Vortigern, questions which they are unable to answer, “but were ashamed, and made no reply,” so the child Taliesin casts a spell on the twenty-four bards of Maelgwn, overwhelms them with questions, and convicts them of ignorance. Merlin foretells to Vortigern the coming of the son9 of Constantine to revenge the murder of their father, and Taliesin prophesies the destruction of Maelgwn by means of the sea-serpent from the Morva Rhianedd.

This mystery of a child born without a father, appears to have been a favourite theme of Welsh romance, both secular and ecclesiastical.

Merlin the wizard was born of a nun. “His mother was daughter to the King of Demetia, and she lived in Saint Peter’s Church among the nuns of the city of Caermarthen.”[88] Saint David, the greatest of the Welsh saints, was born of a nun, violated by Sandde Bryd Angel, one of the heroes of the Battle of Camlan; in other respects his birth was miraculous; in fact, his birth had been foretold to Sandde thirty years before, by an angel. His mother was, both before and after this occurrence, a most chaste person, both in mind and body.

Saint Dubricius, almost the equal of Saint David in saintly reputation, had no visible father.[89] His mother, Eurddil, was the daughter of Pebiau, King of the region of Ergyng (Archen-field), and being discovered by her father to be pregnant, was by his command placed alive upon a funeral pile. Unhurt by the flames, she gave birth to Dubricius, who instantly commenced the performance of various miracles, and became a most pious and saintly bishop.

Dylan Ail Ton, and Llew Llaw Gyffes, were also born in a mysterious manner, and without any visible father. We should be tempted to assign the introduction of this quality of “son of a virgin” to the influence of Christian ideas, though a similar mysterious origin has, no doubt, been ascribed to their heroes by other nations, before the date of the Christian era.

The coincidence between the story of Taliesin and that of Merlin is the more worthy of observation, since there has evidently been some confusion between those two personages.

Taliesin himself, in the copy of the romance published by Lady Guest, says,

Idno and Heidin called me Merddin,
At length every king will call me Taliesin.

The story in Nennius and Geoffrey is older by some centuries than the version of Thomas ab Einion. But neither the original Nennius nor Geoffrey mention Taliesin, nor docs his name occur in the Brut y Tysilio, which some will have to be the original of Geoffrey. His fame as a hero of romance, and Chief Bard of the West, cannot, it would seem, have arisen before the eleventh century at the earliest. In the tale of Bronwen the Daughter of Llyr he is mentioned by name, in a casual way, as one of the seven who returned from the Irish expedition, and is certainly very much out of place in company with Bran, his son Caractacus, and Caswallon, the Cassibelau-nus of Cæsar. In the Arthurian romance however, as developed by the bards of South Wales in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, after the introduction of the History of the Round Table from Britanny by Rhys ab Tewdur, Taliesin plays a far more important part. In the tale of Kilhwch and Olwen Taliesin is called the Chief of the Bards of Arthur’s Court, and the legends which remain of him all connect him with the Arthurian heroes. It seems, therefore, that if a Taliesin the Bard of Urien Rheged lived in the sixth century, the Taliesin of the romance of Thomas ab Einion is altogether a poetic fiction unknown to the traditional or historical literature of the country before the eleventh century at the earliest, and that his name must have been sufficiently in repute as a bard to have been selected, in preference to any other, as the Chief Bard of Arthur, and that it was this reputation, derived from this source, that caused him to be made the hero of those ballads afterwards worked up into the History of Taliesin, such as we find in the collection of the Mabinogion.

We have already observed, that there are many songs in the Myvyrian collection which were probably printed as part of the History of Taliesin, though not found in the copy in the Red Book of Hergest. These are so similar in character to those before given, that there can be no doubt of their belonging to the same series. Such is the “Song of the Ale,” a portion of which was probably made in imitation of the “Song of the Mead,” and the so-called Chairs, the “Cadair Teyr-non,” and “Cadair Taliesin.”



Teithi edmynt
Gwr a gadwynt gwynt
Pan del ei rihudd
Gorfloeddawg Elfydd
Menhyd yn dragywydd
Ys tydi a fedydd
Dylif deweint a dydd
Oedd ym amogawr
Nos yn Orphowyssawr
Maswedd a folhawr
Y wrth wledig mawr
Mawr Ddaw digones
Heul haf ai ry wres
Ag ef digones
Budd Coed a Maes
Galwettawr Yraches

Dyddyccawr o gell
Dyddyccawr rhag rhieu
Ynghein gyfeddeu
Nis gwrthiyn pob dau
Y mel ai goreu
Duw edwynt ynof
Ydd fydd yn ei fodd
Llaryaf yw trindawd
Gorwyth meddw meddwhawd
O fynud pysgawd meint y godrefi
Grayan mor heli y dan dywawd
Am cudd y ar teithiawg
Mi hun am gwarawd
Ni ddigonir nebawd
Heb gyfoeth y Drindawd
Teithi edmygant
Yn Nyffiryn Garant
Gallawg gallwgyd anchwant
Sybwll symudant
Ban erddefel tant
Neu nos cwdd dyfydd
Cwdd dirgel rhag dydd
A wyr cerdd Gelfydd
Py gel Kallofydd
Am dyro amde
Or porth pan ddwyre
Py ddyddng llyw gayaf
Py gyd ddechreu lie[90]
Yn dewis eichiawg
Ffus ffons ffodiawg[91]
Ef dyhun hunawg
Ef gobryn Carawg
Cymry Caemeddawg
Ytat Garadawg
Dear meneiuon
Dear Mynawg Mon
Mawr erch anudon
Ar eilig angbymes
Gallwellawr pob neges
Dcus dymgwares
Achyn dybyddyn
Llwyth byd i’r unbryn
Ni ellynt ronyn
Heb gyfoeth Mechdeyrn
Ef ai tawdd yn llyn
Hyn y vo Eginyn
Ef ai tawdd waith arall
Hyn y fo yn fall
Drehawg dydderfydd
Dysgofag yr Elfydd
Golchettawr ei lestri
Bid gloyw ei frecci
A phan fo anawell

Gwenhwys gwallthirion
Am Gaer Wyrangon
Pwy a dal y Ceinon
Ai Maelgwn o Von
Ai dyfydd o Aeron
Ai Coel ai Canawon
Ai gwrweddw ai feibion
Nid anchwardd ei Alon
0 Ynyr Wystlon
Ef cyrch cerddorion
Se Syberw Seon
Neu’r dierfeia i rin
Ymordei Uffin
Ymhorroedd Gododin
Ys geirfrith cyfrenhin
Bran bore ddewin
Wyf carddenhin hen
Wyf cyfreu llawen
Athaw y dygen
Meu molawd Urien
Eirian eirioes
Llyminawg llumoes
Ehuddfedel afwys
Bhuddyn ai llynwys
Cad yn Harddnenwys
Ynyr ai briwys
Cant calan cynnwys
Can car amyuwys
Gweleis wyr gorfawr
A ddygyrchynt awr
Gweleis waed ar llawr
Rhag ruthr cleddyfawr
Glessynt esgyll gwawr
Esgorynt yn waeywawr
Tryehant calan cyman clodfawr
Ynyr ar dir yn wir Cochawr.



He was a quick traveller,
The man who harnessed the wind;
How much did he soar above
The noisy earth.
Eternal happiness[92]
Is for thee who art baptized.
Passing is the night, and the day
Has been opening.
The night is for taking rest.
Vain discourse and folly
Are unpleasing to the Almighty.
The great God made
The summer sun and its great heat,
And he made
The fruits of the wood and the field.
He is the efficient cause of the river
Abundantly flowing;
He is the efficient cause of all things:
The redeeming God.
And before he caused to grow,
All the inhabitants of the earth were in famine,
They could not procure a single graiu
Without the power of the Lord.
He shall steep it in the lake[93]
Until it shall have sprouted.
He shall steep it again
Until it shall have become soft;
After a time it will be accomplished,
The juice which is the delight of the earth.[94]
Let his vessels be washed clean;
Let his wort be bright;
And when there shall be song,
Bring it from the cellar,
Bring it before kings
In brilliant festivals.
Without dispute of all good things,
It is by far the best.
God has given it to us.
It will be in his pleasure.
Most beneficent is the Trinity,
But very wrathful with the drunkard.[95]
Of the manners of fishes and the size of their habitations,
The sand of the salt sea is in the recital.[96]
Of my secret for journeying to them
I myself am the guardian.
No one shall be possessed of it
Without the assistance of the Trinity.
They commend the journey
In Dyffryn Garant.
The mighty ones careless of prudence,
They dash through the pools
When the lash is used.
Will not the night be a shelter,
A secret retreat for them
Who know the secrets of song ?
What is the retreat of the Callofydd,
Wrapped up in his robe
When he rises in the gate ?
Who took the falsest oath ?
Who commenced the tumult
In the noisy election ?
Fortunate was his hasty flight.
He will awake the sleeper.
He will redeem the wild boar[97]
Of Wales spread over with cities,[98]
At the coming again of Caradawg.[99]
Sad are the men of Menevia,
Sad is fair Mona.
Very dreadful the peijuiy
Of the long-haired men of Gwenf.
For Caer Wyrangon,[100]
Who will pay the ransom ?[101]
Is it Maelgwn of Mona ?
Is it Dyfydd of Aeron ?
Is it Cod, is it Cenau ?
Is it Gwrweddw and his sons ?
Not unlaughable his foes,
The hostages from Ynyr.[102]
He is the resort of minstrels,
The star of proud Seon.[103]
Have I not proclaimed the secret
On the seashore of Uffin,
By the waters of Gododin?
He is a true diviner,
The raven prophesying in the morning.
I am an old wanderer,
I am a promoter of joyousness,
And I am silent through anger,
That there is no praise of Urien.
Beautifully splendid,
Keenly sharp,
A fierce blood-reaper,
Like heart of oak his body.
At the battle of Harddnenwys[104]
He wounded Ynyr.[105]
Admitted to a hundred festivals,
Sought after by a hundred friends.
I saw the mighty ones
Approaching at the shout.
I saw blood on the ground,
From the onset of the swordsmen.
The splinters caused anguish to the warrior,
Scattered about like lances.
In three hundred perfect festivals shall be celebrated,
Ynyr, who is in truth the reddener of the earth.[106]
I saw the warriors of dread appearance
Rushing together to the shout of war;
I saw the ground strewed with blood
From the conflict of the men of swords.
They tinged with blue the wings of the morning,
When they poured forth their ashen messengers of pain.
In three hundred festivals will be sung the high fame
Of Ynyr, whose feats are seen on the crimson-tinted earth.

The lines in italics are certainly poetic, but they cannot be accepted as a translation of the original. The word esgyll, no doubt, generally meana wings , being the plural of asgell, a wing; but it has also a technical meaning in these descriptions of battle scenes. The root of the word, according to Owen, is asg, “a piece split off,” “a splinter”; and in this sense it is used in a passage of Llywarch Hen, and another of Taliesin.

In the poem of Llywarch Hen on the loss of his sons, he says of Pyll,

Dychonad ystavell o esgyll ysgwydawr
Tra vydded yn sevyll
A vriwed ar angad Pyll.

A room might be formed from the wings of shields,
Which would hold one standing upright,
That were broken in the grasp of Pyll.

In this instance esgyll , the wings, must be taken to mean some portion of a shield; but the context shows that broken shields are meant, and the line should be,

A room might be formed with the splinters (broken pieces) of shields.

The other instance is in the Elegy on Owain ap Urien:—

Isgell cerddglyd dodfawr
Esgyll gwaywawr Llifeid.—

A corpse is the renowned protector of song.
In splinters is his sharpened spear.

Where the rendering “wings” is evidently impossible.



Mydwyf Merwerydd
Molawd Duw dofydd
Llwrw cyfranc cywydd
Cyfreu dyfynwedydd
Bardd bron Sywedydd
Pan atleferydd
Awen cud echwydd
Ar feinoetji feinydd
Beirdd llafar lluc de
Eu gwawd nym gre
Ar ystrawd ar ystre
Ystiyw mawr mire
Ac mi wyf oerdd fud
Gogyfarch feirdd tud
Ryd ebrwyddaf drud
Ry talmaf ehud
Ryddy hunaf dremud
Teym terwyn wolud
Nid mi wyf cerdd fas
Gogyfarch feirdd tras
Bath vadawl idas
Doth eigiawn addas
Pwy am lenwis cas
Gamp ymhob noethas
Pan y w dien gwlith
A lladd gwenith
A gwlid Gwenyn
A glud ac ystor
Ac elyw tramor
O Rufein hyd Rossedd
A dwfnddwfr echwydd
Dawn ei lif Dofydd
Neu pren purawr fydd
Ffrwythlon ei gynnydd
Rei iaa berwidydd
Oedd uch pair pumwydd
Ac aur bib lieu
A Don ariant gwiw
A rhudd em a grawn
Ac ewyn eigiawn
Py ddyfrys fynnawn
Berwr byryrddawn
Py gysswllt gwerin
Breed bonedd llynn
A llwyth lloer wehyn
Lledaf lloned verbyn
A synion synhwyr
A sewyd am loer
A gofirwy gwedd gwyr
Gwrth awel awyr
A maU a merin
A gwadawl tra merin
A chorwg gwydrin
Ar llaw pererin
A phybyr a phyg
Ag urddawl segyrffyg
A Uyseu Meddyg
Lie aUwyr Venffyg
A Beirdd a blodeu
A guddig bertheu
A briallu a briwddail
A blaen gwydd goddeu
A mail ameuedd
A mynych adneuedd
A gwin tal cibedd
A gwiawn afon
A gofwy hinon
A mel a meiDion
A meddgyrn meddwon
Addwyn i Ddragon
Ddawn y Dderwyddon.



I am apt in composing
Praise of God the Creator.
On account of my contests in song,
Shining with jewels[107]
Is the breast of the bard gifted with a knowledge of the stars;
When is recited
The song in the evening,
Or in the fine night of a fine day.
Bards of rapid utterance,
Your encomiums are not pleasing to me,
Passing from point to point
With a great appearance of skill.
I am not a mute bard.[108]
Conspicuous among the bards of the land,
I hasten on the course of the bold;
I rouse the heedless,
I keep sleep from the eyes
In praising valiant princes.
I am not a shallow artist,
Conspicuous among my kindred bards.
My emblem is the subtle snake,
Fitted for the deep waters of the ocean.
Who is there can fill me with envy,
Contesting in every science?
Whence is the deadly dew
That kills the wheat?
And the moisture of the bee,
And the paste which it stores up,
And its abundant provision,[109]
And the colour of the golden herb,[110]
And the proper form of silver,
And the ruby berries,
And the foam of the sea?
What hastens the (course of) the spring,
Producing the watercresses ?
How can men procure
Wort of a noble liquor ?
What burthen is it that is separate from the moon
Against its crescent form ?
And the reason of the appearances
Of the stars scattered around the moon,
And the universal nature of men ?
Of the opposing currents of air,
And plague and famine ?
And what is deposited by rain,
And the glass vessel,
In the hand of the pilgrim ?
And of valour and honour,
And nobility and false nobility,
And medicinal plants,
And a place entirely poisonous,
And bards and flowers,
And the secret qualities
Of primroses and small herbs,
And the shoots of trees and shrubs ?
And the evils of idleness,
And of frequent pledging?
And wine overflowing the brim,
From Rome to Rossed;
And the deep still water,
Its stream is the gift of God.
Is there not a tree of pore gold,
Fruitful its nature;
Very hot is its boiling,
In the sweet cauldron of the five trees,
Of the water of Gwion.
And what Bends fine weather,
And honey and trefoils,
And the mead-horns of the mead-drinkers ?
Blessed to the chief,
If the gift of the Druids.[111]



Areit awdl eglur
Awen tra messur
Am gwr deu awdwr
0 echen aladwr
Ai ffonsai ai ffwr
Ai reon rechdur
Ai ri rhwyfiadur
Ai rif ysgrythwr
Ai goch gochlesswr
Ai ergyr dros fwr
Ai Kadair gymmesswr
Ymlith gosgordd mur
Neus dug o gawrmwr
Meirch gwelw gostrodwr
Teyrnon henwr
Heilyn pasgadwr
Traded dofh doethur
I fendigaw Arthur
Arthur fendigad
Ar gerdd gyfaenad
Arwyneb ynghad
Arnaw bystylad
Pwy y try chynweissad
A werchedwis gwlad
Pwy y tri chyfarwydd
A gedwis Arwydd
A ddaw wrth awydd
Erbyn eu Harglwydd
Ban rinwedd rotwydd
Ban sydd hyn hoywedd
Ban corn cerddetrwyd
Ban biw wrth echwydd
Ban guir pan ddisglair
O Leon luryg
Dyrchafawd Gwledig
Am derwyn hen enwig
Brenhawd bragawd brig
Breuhawl eissorig
Orig a Merin
Am derfyn chwefrin
Bannach pan lefair
Ban pan ddoeth o bair
Ogyrwen Awen teir
Bum Mynawg mynweir
Ynghorn im neddair
Yy ddyly cadeir
Ni gatwo fy ngair
Cadeir gennyf glaer
Awen hyawdl daer
Pwy yw enw y teircaer
Rhwng lliant a llaer
Nis gwyr ni fo taer
Eissillut eu Maer
Pedair caer yssydd
Ym Mrydain powyssedd
Rhieu Merwerydd
Am nid fo nid fydd
Nid fydd am nid fo
Llynghessawr a fo
Tohid Gwaneg tra gro
Tir dylyn dirbo
Nag Aillt nag ado
Na bryn na thyno
Na rhynnawd godo
Rhag gwynt pan sorho
Cadeira Teyrnon
Celfydd rwy catwo
Ceissitor yngno
Ceissitor Cedig
Cedwyr colledig
Tebygaf ddull dig
O ddifa Pendefig
O ddull difynnig
Ieithoedd eddein
Aches ffyagiolin
Mordwyaid Merin
O blan Seraphin
Dogyn dwfa diwerin
Dyllyngein Elphin.



Sing a brilliant song
Of boundless inspiration,
Concerning the Man who is to come[112]
To destroy the nations,
And his staff and his intrenchment,
And his swift devastations,
And his ruling leadership,
And his written number,
And his red purple robes,
And his assault against the rampart,
And his appropriate seat
Amid the great assembly.
Has he not brought from hell
The horses of the pale burden-bearer,
The princely old man,
The cupbearing feeder ?
The third deeply wise one,
Is the blessed Arthur.
Arthur the blessed,
Renowned in song,
In the front of the battle,
He was full of activity.
Who were the three chief ministers

Between the sea and the land?
No one knows who is not earnest,
The offspring of their lord.
There are four cities
In peaceful Britain.
Tumultuous chiefs
Have not been nor shall be,
Shall not be nor have been.[115]
There shall be a conductor of fleets.
The billows shall cover the strand,
Overwhelming the land;
Nor rock nor roof,
Nor hill nor dale,
Nor the least shelter
From the wind when it shall rage.
The Cadeir Teyrnon,
Skilful is he who keeps it.
Is there here one who is inquiring,
Who guarded the land ?
Who were the three skilful ones
Who preserved the token,
And came with eagerness
To receive their Lord ?
Great is the mystery of the circular course.[113]
Conspicuous is the gaiety of the old.
Loud is the horn of the traveller.
Loud the cattle towards evening.
Conspicuous is truth when it appears,
More so when spoken.
Conspicuous when came from the cauldron
The three inspirations of Ogyrwen.
I have been Mynawg wearing the collar,[114]
With a horn in my hand.
He does not merit the chair,
Who does not preserve my word.
Mine is the splendid chair,
The inspiration of my ardent song.
What are the names of the three cities

A bounteous inquirer,
For the lost warriors ?[116]
I think with wrathful gesture
Of the destroyed Chieftain,
Of the lacerated form
Of the corslet-wearing Leon.[117]
Exalted be the Lord,
To the end be his name celebrated.
Brittle are the young shootsof the tree,
Frail like them,
A little while and we melt away;
At the end of our toil,
languages shall pass away.
The ardent soul
Shall be voyaging through the clouds
With the children of the Seraphim,
Gliding on shall be thy people,
To the liberation of Elphin.[118]

One of the most interesting and instructive pieces in this collection, and one which gives us a complete clew to the nature of most of the compositions, is that entitled “Preiddeu Annwn,”—the Victims of Annwn, or the Spoils of Hell, as it has been called. It has generally been considered to overflow with mythology and Druidic lore. Mr. Davies declared the subject of the poem to be “the mythology of the Deluge, and the mysteries which were celebrated in commemoration of it.” Turner declared it to be utterly incomprehensible, and even Mr. Stephens says, that “it is one of the least intelligible of the mythological poems” and Lady Charlotte Guest calls it “a mystical poem which appears to be full of allusions to traditions now no longer intelligible.” The following translation is taken from Mr. Stephens, with some few alterations:—



Golych wledig pendefig gwad ri
Pe ledas y pennaeth tros draeth Mundi
Bu cywair carchar Gwair ynghaer Sidi
Trwy ebostol Pwyll a Phryderi
Neb cyn nog ef nid aeth iddi
Yr gadwyn dromlas cywirwas ai oedwi
A rhac Preiddieu Annwn tost yt geni
Ac yd frawd parahawd yn barddweddi
Tri lloneid prydwen ydd aetham ni iddi
Nam saith ni dyrraith o Gaer Sidi.

Neud wyf glod geymyn cerdd o chlywir
Ynghaer Pedryfan pedyr y chwelyd
Ynghynueir or pair pan leferid
O anadl naw morwyn gochynnessid
Neu pair pen annwfh pwy vynud
Gwiym am ei oror a Mererid
Ni beirw bwyd llwrf ni rydyngid
Kleddyf lluch lleawc iddaw rhyddychid
Ac yn llaw Lleminawg ydd edewid
A rhag drws porth Uffem llugyrn lloscid
A phan aetham ni gan Arthur trafferth llethrid
Namyn saith ni ddyrraith o Gaer Vediuid.

Neud wyf glod geimyn cerdd glywanawr
Ynghaer Pedryfan Ynys Pybyrddor
Echwydd a muchydd cymysgettor
Gwyn gloyw eu gwirawd rhag ei gosgordd
Tri lloneid Prydwen ydd aetham ni ar for
Namyn saith ni ddyrraith o Gaer Rigor.

Ni obrynaf lawyr lien llywiadur
Tra chaer wydr m welsynt wrhyd Arthur
Tri ugeint canhwr a sefi ar y mur
Oedd anawdd ymadrawdd ai gwiliadur
Tri lloneid Prydwen ydd aeth gan Arthur
Namyn saith ni ddyrraith a Gaer Golndd.

Ni obrynaf i lawyr lines eu cylchwy
Ni wyddant hwy py ddydd peridydd pwy
Py awr ym meinddydd y ganed Cwy
Pwy gwnaeth ar nid aeth dolan Defwy
Ny wyddant hwy yr ych brych bras ei benrhwy
Seith ugein cygwn yn ei aerwy
A phan aetham ni gan Arthur afrddwl gofwy
Namyn saith ni ddyrraith o Gaer Vandwy.

Ni obrynaf lawyr llaes ei geben
Ni wddant py ddydd peridydd pen
Py awr ym meinddydd y ganed perchen
Py fil a gaiwant ariant y pen
Pan aetham ni gan Arthur afrddwl gynhen
Namyn saith ni dyrraith a Gaer Ochren.

Mynaich dychnud fal cunin oor
O gyfranc uddydd ai Gwiddanhor
Ai un hynt gwynt ai un dwfr mor
Ai un ufel tan twrwf diachor
Myneich dychnud fab bleiddawr
O gyfranc uddydd ai gwyddyanhawr
Ni wddant pan ysgar deweint a gwawr
Neu wynt pwy hynt pwy ei rynnawd
Py va ddifa py dir a plawdd
Bed Sant yn ddifant o bet allawr
Golychaf i wledig pendefig mawr
Na bwyf trist Crist am gwaddawl.



Praise to the Lord, Supreme Baler of the high region,
Who hath extended his dominion to the shores of the world.
Complete was the prison of Gwair in Caer Sidi;
Through the permission of Pwyll and Fryderi,
No one before him went to it.
A heavy bine chain firmly held the youth;
And for the spoils of Annwn gloomily he sings,
And till doom shall continue his lay.
Thrice the fulness of Prydwen we went into it.
Except seven, none returned from Caer Sidi.

Am I not a candidate for fame to be heard in the song,
In Caer Pediyvan four times revolving ?
The first word from the cauldron, when was it spoken?
By the breath of nine damsels gently warmed.
Is it not the cauldron of the Chief of Annwn which is social ?
With a ridge round its edge of pearls,
It will not boil the food of a coward nor of one excommunicated.
A sword bright flashing to him will be brought,
And left in the hand of Llyminawg.
And before the door of the porch of hell a lantern is burning.
And when we went with Arthur in his splendid labours,
Except seven, none returned from Caer Vendiwid.

Am I not a candidate for fame, to be heard in song ?
In Caer Pedryfan, the island of Pybyrdor,
Twilight and darkness meet together.
Bright wine was their drink in their assembly.
Thrice the burden of Prydwen we went on the sea.
Except seven, none returned from Caer Rigor.

I will not allow great merit to the directors of learning.
Beyond Caer Wydr they have not beheld the prowess of Arthur.
Three score hundred men were placed upon the wall;
It was difficult to converse with the sentinel.
Thrice the fulness of Prydwen we went with Arthur.
Except seven, none returned from Caer Golur.

I will not allow merit to the multitude trailing on the circuit;[119]
They know not on what day or who caused it,
Nor what hour in the splendid day Cwy was born,
Nor who prevented him from going to the vales of Deowy.
They know not the brindled ox, with this thick headband,
And seven score knobs in his collar.
And when we went with Arthur of mournful memory,
Except seven, none returned from Caer Vandwy.

I will not allow merit to the mnltitnde with their weak effusions;
They know not what day the head was made,
Nor what hour in the fine day the owner was born.
What anim«] they guard with a silver head.
When we went with Arthur of mournful contention,
Except seven, none returned fiton Caer Ochren.

This is the end of this poem. The remaining lines consist merely of the ordinary abuse of the monks, and have evidently been added by a very inferior hand, and at a later date.

Monks pack together like dogs in the choir,
From their meetings with their witches.
Is there but one oourse to the wind, one to the water of the sea?
Is there but one spark to the fire of unbounded tumult ?
Monks pack together like wolves,
From their meetings with their witches.
They know not when the twilight and dawn divide,
Nor what the oourse of the wind, nor who agitates it ;
In what place it dies, on what region it roan.
The grave of the Saint is vanishing from the foot of the altar.
I pray to the Lord the Great Supreme,
That I may not be wretched ; may Christ be my portion.

All the difficulty which has arisen in comprehending the meaning of this poem, lies in the error of not distinguishing between tradition and what we may, for want of a better term, call romance. The allusions in this song are not to traditions, but to works of fiction, stories or tales of adventure, many of which were, no doubt, purely works of imagination; in others, if originally founded on tradition, the thread of tradition had been altogether lost in the materials with which it had been worked up.

We may, in the first place, observe, that this is a song with a burden that is not uncommon with many old English ballads. The singer commences with the story of Gwair, who was confined in Annwn, and continually sings the lay which forms the burden of the song. The story of Gwair we do not possess, though it appears to be alluded to in one of the triads. Gweir Gwrhyd Vawr was one of the knights who accompanied Geraint into Cornwall. After an allusion to the Pair Ceridwen, or fountain of Bardic inspiration, the singer intimates his superiority to the most learned who are not acquainted with the further adventures of Arthur, after his entry into Caer Wydr, or Glastonbury; that is, no doubt, after his removal to the Isle of Avallon, to be cured of the wounds received at the battle of Camlan. As to the mass of bards and minstrels, he asserts that they are not acquainted with a number of tales which he mentions. One relates to the brindled bull, who is probably the one mentioned in the tale of Kilhwch and Olwen. Indeed it is only necessary to read this latter tale, to see what a multitude of stories there must have been, which are now lost. The allusions in the “Preiddeu Annwn” are to romances sung or recited by the minstrels, and not to either mythology or traditions, as such.

We can give an example which will make this perfectly dear. Let us suppose there had been this line in the “Preiddeu Annwn,”—

They know not who it was that divided the apples,

which would be in perfect keeping with those of the two last stanzas.

In such a line, imaginative persons might easily see a reference to Greek mythology,—the apple of Paris, or the fruit of the Hesperides. But we should be able to point out the source of the allusion, though we could not explain its meaning.

It is in the story of “Peredur mab Evrauc.”

“And one day they saw three knights coming along the horse-road on the borders of the forest. And the three knights were Gwalchmai the son of Gwyar, and Geneir Gwystyl, and Owain the son of Urien. And Owain kept on the track of the knight who bad divided the apples in Arthur’s court, whom they were in pursuit of.”

The story of the Knight who divided the Apples is lost, like many others; but we see at once that there is no reference to mythology, but to some romantic adventure of the heroes of Arthur and the Round Table. It is precisely the same with the story of the Cwy, of the Brindled Ox, and of the Animal with the Silver Head. There were once extant stories relating to them which were well known when the “Preiddeu Annwn” was composed, though it was not every minstrel that was capable of reciting them. The singer in this ballad boasts that he was acquainted with them. When we come to examine the prose Triads, we shall find abundant evidence of the former existence of a host of similar inventions, which have unfortunately perished.

There is a poem, more elegantly written and better preserved than most of these pieces, to which the unmeaning title of “Mic Dinbych” has been given—the Prospect or Glory of Tenby.

According to Archdeacon Williams,

“Notices continually recur in the older Bards, of a mystic city situated on and among the waters, to which worshippers went in procession on great festivals with sacred songs and hymns.”

The following poem the Archdeacon supposes to have been

“a long hymn, which was evidently to be sung as a ‘Prosodos’ on approaching the holy spot in procession. As we know from other sources that the great temple on Salisbury Plain was supposed to be surrounded by a boundless sea, we may easily suppose that this ‘Prosodos’ might have been sung by the Bards and Druids, when leading the band of worshippers along the spacious avenues to Abury and Stonehenge.”

As, in order to support this view, the learned writer gives only two or three lines out of each stanza, we must see what the entire poem contains, to appreciate the value of the Druidical character assigned to it.



Archaf y wen i Dduw plwyf esgori
Perchen nef a llawr pwyll fawr wofri.
Addfwyn Gaer y sydd ar Glawr gweilgi
Bid lawen Ynghalan eirian yri
Ac amser pan wna mor maw wrhydri
Ys gnawd gorun beirdd uch medd lestri
Dyddybydd gwaneg ar frys dybrys iddi
Addaw hwynt y werlas o Glas Ffichti
Ac am bwyf o Ddews dros fy ngweddi
Pan gattwyf ammod cymod athi.

Addfwyn Gaer y sydd ar lydan Lynn
Dinas diachor mor ai cylchyn
Gogyfarch ty Prydain cwdd gyngein hyn
Blaen Llyn ap Erbin boed teu voyn
Bu gosgordd a bu cerdd yn eil mebyn
Ac eryr uch wybr a llwybr granwyn
Rhag udd ffelyg nag esgar gychwyn
Clod wasgar a Gwanar ydd ymdidlyn.

Addfwyn Gaer y sydd ar don nawfed
Addfwyn ei gwerin yn ymwared
Ni wnant eu dwyn cyt trwy festhaSd
Nid ef eu defawd bod yn galed
Ni lefaraf an ar fy nhrwydded
Nog eillon deudraeth gwell caeth Dyfet
Cyweithydd o rydd wledd waredied
Cynnwys rhwng pob ddau goreu ciwed.

Addfwyn Gaer y sydd ai gwna cyman
Meddut a Molut ac adar ban
Llyfh ei cherddau yn ei chalan
Am arglwydd hywydd hewr eiran
Cyn ei fyned yn ei adwyd yn derfyn llan
Ef am rhoddes medd a gwin o wydrin ban.

Addfwyn Gaer y sydd yn yr eglan
Addfwyn y rhoddir i bawb ei ran
Adwen yn Ninbycb gorwen gwylan
Cyweithydd wleiddydd udd erlyssan
Oedd ef fy nefawd i Nos Galan
Lleddfawd y gan ri ryfel eiran
A lien lliw ehoeg ameddu prain
Hyn y fwyaf tafawd ar feirdd Piydain.

Addfwyn Gaer y sydd ai cyffrwy cedau
Oedd mew ei rhydan a ddewisswn
Ni lafaraf i daith rhaith rysgattwn
Ni ddyly celennig ni wpo hwn
Ysgrifen Brydain bryder briffwn
Yn yd wna tonneu eu hamgyffryn
Pereit hyd bell y Gell attreidwn.

Addfwyn Gaer y sydd yn arddwyrein
Gocbawn y meddut y molut gyfrein
Addfwyn ar ei hor esgor gynrhein
Godde gwrych dymbi hir ei hadain
Dychyrch bar carreg creg ei hadnein
Llid ymywn tynged treidded troth mein
A bleiddud gorllwyd goreu affein
Dimpyner o dduch pwy Had cofein
Bendith culwydd Nef gydlef afein
Arnyn gunel yn firowyr gorwyr Owein.

Addfwyn Gaer ysydd ar llan lliant
Addfwyn yd roddir i bawb i cbwant
Gogyfarch ti fyned boed teu fwyant
Gwaywawr ryn rein a dderilyssant
Duw Merchyr gweleis wyr ynghyfnofant
Dyfieu bu gwarthau a amugant
Ac ydd oedd friger coch ac och ardant
Oedd lludwed fyned dydd y doethant
Ac am gefn llech Vaelwy cylchwy friwant
Cwyddyn y gan gefn Hu o garant.

The last stanza of this poem is found in the Black Book of Caermarthen. It affords a good specimen of the orthography of that MS. and of the changes which the poems have undergone at the hands of subsequent transcribers.

Adwin caer yssit an Han llyant. Adwin yd rotir
y pawb y chwant. Gogywarch de gwinet boed tev wy-
ant. Gwaewaur rrin. Bei adarwant Dyv merch
ir. gneleisse guir yg cvinowant. Dyv iev bv. ir
guarth. itadcorssant. Ad oet bryger coch ac och
ardant. Oet llutedic guir guinet. Dit ydeuthant.
Ac am kewin llech vaelwy kylchwy wriwant
Cuytin y can keiwin llu ocarant.



I pray to the Son of God to deliver the people;
Lord of heaven and earth, in intelligence so wise.
There is a pleasant city on the surface of the sea,
Joyous its festival, beautiful its king.
And in the time when the sea is very tumultuous,
Customary is the noise of bards over their cups of mead.
The day is passing on in haste, there is hastening to thee;
Promised to them are the drinking-cups of painted glass.
And may I be of the elect through my supplication,
Since I keep the covenant entered on with thee.

There is a pleasant city by the broad lake,
A fortress without a boundary, very great its circuit;
Formerly Llyn ap Erbin was its courteous chief.
There was a concourse and songs in their turn;
Like an eagle in the sky was his shining path.
Before the ruling chief no enemy was stirring;
It is my duty to spread the praise of the ruler.

There is a pleasant city by the ninth wave;
Courteous are its people in their diversions.
They are not accustomed to suffer disgrace;
They do not employ their tongues with severity;
I will not say a falsehood on my admission.
Better than other shores is captivity in Dyfed.[120]
Fellowship is preserved by liberal festivities.
Admission given to all brings a great multitude.

There is a pleasant city, it is made complete
(With) mead and songs and white birds.
Smooth are its songs in its festival.
My intelligent lord, the splendid chief,
Before he came to his grave within the bounds of the enclosure.
He gave me mead and wine from the glass goblet.

There is a pleasant city upon the shore of the gulf,
Pleasant things there are given to every one his share.
I know in Dinbych the white sea-mew;
Courteous the assembly, beneficent[121] the chief.
It was my custom on the eve of the festival,
To soothe with song the king brilliant in war;
And to have a robe of green colour, and mead in the palace,
That is the greatest privilege of the Bards of Britain.

There is a pleasant city, and its blessings I know,
Mine were its gifts, whatever I might choose.
I will not tell the journey (to it), it is just that I retain it.
He who knows not this does not merit the festival.
The writings of Britain are my primitive care;
And lest the waves should be agitated around them,
Long has it been commanded that I should penetrate to their repository.[122]

There is a pleasant city greatly exalted,
I speak scornfully of its mead and its mutual praise.
Pleasant on its border the separation of kindred.
There shall be a cormorant, long his wings,
Resorting to the summit of the rock, hoarse his screams.
The wrath destined (for it) penetrates its walls;
And the wolf is prospering successful in conflicts,
And no covering above him who is asking a blessing.
Blessed love-prospering heaven, there is a united cry,
Give us for our leader the grandson of Owain.

     8. There is a pleasant city on the banks of the stream.
Pleasantly is given to each his desire.
I salute thy coming, mayest thou be prosperous.[123]
Spearmen with vibrating spears are spreading about.
On Wednesday I saw them mutually enjoying themselves.
On Thursday there was disgrace, and they were dishonoured,
Red (with blood) were their hair and their teeth.
Their coming was opposed on the day they came,
And shields were broken at the back of the stone of Maelwy.
Fallen upon their backs was the army of Geraint.

All that appears mysterious in this poem may be reasonably attributed to the imagery employed by a poetic fancy, and the ordinary scope which must be allowed for a play of the imagination in such compositions in any age or country.

It seems probable that these stanzas are the production of different authors, and have been framed by minstrels singing in turn (after the fashion mentioned by Camden) upon a given theme, viz. “There is a pleasant city.” The last stanza is very inferior to the rest. The bard had partaken of the Awen of the cauldron of Ceridwen in so slight a degree that his imagination failed him, and he was obliged to fall back on the old model of the Gododin stanza. Both in the second and last stanza the family of Erbin are mentioned, and perhaps also in the second, Gwanar is a proper name, as Mr. Williams ab Ithel supposes it to be in the Gododin.

It is possible that a careful examination of Welsh history would enable us to ascertain the individuals alluded to in these stanzas. The “grandson of Owain,” mentioned in the 7th stanza, is probably Cadwaladr, second son of Gruffyd ab Cynan, who in the twelfth century distinguished himself by a series of brilliant victories over the Norman invaders of the principality, but was afterwards compelled to fly at one time to Ireland, at another to England. He was grandson of Owain ab Edwyn.

Another poem ascribed to Taliesin, and supposed to be full of mystic lore, is the “Cad Goddeu,” or “Battle of the Trees.” It is unnecessary to say that in Mr. Davies’s commentary upon this piece, we have the wildest notions of a Helio-Arkite superstition, the metempsychosis of a Chief Druid, and a symbolical account of the Deluge. Even Lady Charlotte Guest describes it as “a long mystical poem by Taliesin.” It is, I believe, one of the very latest of these productions, very inferior in style and spirit to the compositions worked up by Thomas ab Einion. Like most others, the subject from which it takes its title forms but a small portion of the whole piece, which is made up of several unconnected fragments.

There was, it appears, a story or romance on a subject called “Cad Goddeu,” or “Battle of the Trees,” of which only a fragment has been preserved in the Myvyrian Archæology. This real Cad Goddeu must not be confounded with the Cad Goddeu ascribed to Taliesin, which, though often represented as treating of the same subject, has, in fact, not the slightest connection with it. The fragment in the Myvyrian collection is entitled “Englynion, or Verses on the Cad Goddeu,” and is thus prefaced:—

“These are the Englyns that were sung at the Cad Goddeu, or, as others call it, the Battle of Achren, which was on account of a white roebuck, and a whelp; and they came from Annwn, and Amathaon ap Don brought them. And therefore Ama-thaon ap Don and Arawn King of Annwn fought. And there was a man in that battle, unless his name were known, he could not be overcome; and there was on the other side a woman called Achren, and unless her name were known, her party could not be overcome. And Gwydion ap Don guessed the name of the man, and sang the two Englyns following:”—

Carngraf vy march rhagotoyw
Benn Olgen gwera ar yasfoyw
Bran ith elwir briger loy w
     Ac fal hyn.

Carngraff dy farch yn y dydd cad
Bann blaen gwera ar dy angad
Bran lorgrio ai vrig araad
Y gorfu Amathaon mad.


Sure-hoofed is my steed before the spur;
The high sprigs of aider are on thy shield ;
Bran art thou called of the glittering branches.

And thus:—

Sure-hoofed is thy steed in the day of battle;
The high sprigs of alder are in thy hand,
Bran with the coat of mail and the branches with thee,
Amathaon the good has prevailed.

This battle is styled in the Triads one of the three frivolous battles of the Island of Britain, and is said to have been on account of a bitch, a hind, and a lapwing; and it is added that it cost the lives of seventy-one-thousand men.

We have here all that remains of a lost romance, belonging to that earlier series in which Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table are not introduced, and which are full of magic and necromancy. Probably it was the sequel to the stories of Pwyll, Prince of Dyved, and Math ab Mathonwy.

Pwyll Prince of Dyved was the sworn friend of Arawn King of Annwn, one of the combatants in this Gad Goddeu; and Pryderi the son of Pwyll had received from Arawn some remarkable swine of a breed theretofore unknown. Gwydion the son of Don, brother of the Amathaon here mentioned, by magic art, obtained these swine from Pryderi, and in a battle which ensued, Pryderi was slain by Gwydion, owing to the magical devices employed by his adversary. In the “Cad Goddeu,” Amathaon appears to have carried away, probably by fraud and sorcery, a white roebuck and a whelp from the same Annwn whence the swine of Pryderi were obtained, and in the contest which ensues he prevails over Arawn by the aid of his brother Gwydion, who was the most celebrated of the many magicians known to the Welsh circle of romance.

The more modern piece, which has taken the name of “Cad Goddeu,” is as follows:—



Bum yn lliaws rhith
Cyn bum dysgyfrith
Bum cleddyl culfrith
Credaf pan urith
Bum deigr yn awyr
Bum senoaw syr
Bum geir yn llythyr
Bum llyfir ym mhrifder
Bum Uugyrn lleufer
Blwyddyn a banner
Bum pont ar trigar
Ar drugain Haber
Bum hynt am Eryr
Bum corwg emyr
Bum darwedd yn llad
Arnaw ydd oedd canpenn
A chad er ddy gnawd
Dan fon y tafawd
A chad anil y sydd
Yn ei wegilydd
Llyffan du gaflaw
Cantewin arnaw
Neidr fraith gribawg
Cant enaid trwy bechawd
Bum ynghaer Fefenydd
Yt gryssynt wellt y gwydd
Cenynt Gerddorion
Eryssynt cad faon
Dadwyrain i Fiytbron
A oren gwydion
Gelwysaid ar Neifon
Ar Grist o acbwysson
Hyd pan y gwarettai
Y rben rwy digonesai
Os attebwy Dofydd
Trwy ieith ag elfydd
Rhithwch rbieddawg wydd
Gantaw yn llwydd
A rbwystraw peblig
Cad ar llaw annefig
Pan swynhwyd godeu
Y gobeitb an goddeu
Dygottoroynt godeu
O bedryddant danbeu
Cwyddynt am aereu
Brychwn trym ddieu
Dyar gardei bun
Boddiant bucb anbun
Blaen llin blaen bum
Tarddei am at gun
Nim gwnei amellun
Gwaed gwyr byd an dun
Mwyaf tail argyfryd
A cbweris ymmyd
Ac un a dderyw
O ystyT dilyw
A Christ y croccaw
A ddydd brawd rhag llaw
Gwem blaen lin
Eithin ni bu fad
Er hynny gwerinad
Grug bu ddydd amnad
Dy werin swynad
Hyd gwyr erlyniad
Derw buanawr
Rhagddaw cryneu nef a llawr
Gelyn glew dryasiawr
Ei enw ym peullawr
Clafuswydd cymgrea
Cymnaw a roddes
Gwrthodi gwrthodes
Ereill o tyllea
Per goreu gormes
Yn mhlymnwyd maea
Gorwythawg Cywydd
Aches feilon wydd
Castan cywilydd
Gwrthriad ffenwydd
Handud dn rauchudd
Handid crum Mynydd
Handid kyl Koetdydd
Handid cynt myr mawr
Er pan gigleu’r awr
An deilas blaen bedw
An datritb an datedw
An maglas blaen derw
O warchan mael derw
Wbertbiniawg tn creig
Ner[125] nid Ystereig
Nid o Fam a Thad
Pan ymddigonad
Am creu am cread
O nawrhith llafanad
O ffrwyth o ffrwytheu
O ffrwyth Duw dechreu
O Friallu blodeu bre
O Flawd gwydd a Goddeu
O bridd o briddredd
Pan ym digoned
O Flawd danet
O ddwfr ton nawfed
O dof yn uchel
Bum neidr faith ym mryn
Bum gwiber yn llyn
Bum ser gam gymbyn
Bum bwysfer hyn
Fy ughaasul am Cawg
Armaaf nid yn ddrwg
Peduar ngeint mwg
Ar bawb a ddyddwg
Pom pemhwnt angell
A ymdal am cyliell
Whech March Meiyneli
Canwaith y sydd well
Fy March melyngan
Cyfired a gwylan
Mi hnn nid Eban
Cyfrwng mor a glan
Neu gorwyf gwaed lan
Arnaw cant cynrhan
Bhndd em fy nghylchwy
Eur fy yagwydrwy
Ni ganed yn adwy
A yu im gowy
Bum das ynghawad
Bum cleddyf yn angad
Bum Ysgwyd ynghad
Bum tant yn nhelyn
Lledrithiawg blwyddyn
Yn nwfr yn Ewyn
Bnm yspwng yn nban
Bum gwydd ynguartban
Nid mi wyf ni gan
Ceint er yn fychan
Keint ynghad goden brig
Bbag Prydein wledig
Gweint feirch canholig
Llyngbeaaoed meuedig
Gweint mil mawrem
A wnaent gyssevin
Helyg a cherddin
Buant hwyr ir fyddin
Eirinwydd ys prin
Auchwant o dynin
Keri cywrenbin
Gurtbrycbiad gnrtbrin
Ffaonwydd eithyt
Ertwyn llu o Gewryt
Afanwydd gwndtbyt
Ni goreu emwyt
Er amgdwcb bywyd
Bhyswydd a Gwydd-fyd
Ac eiddo ar ei bryd
Mor eitbin ir gryd
Sirian senyssid
Bedw er ei fawr fryd
Bu bwyr gwisgyssid
Nid er ei lyfrder
Namyn er ei fawredd
Anron delis bryd
Allmyr uch allfryd
Ffeinidwydd yngbyntedd
Cadeir gyngwiysedd
Omi goreu arddyrchedd
Ger bron teyrnedd
Llwyf ar ei farannedd
Nid osgoes troedfedd
Ef laddei a pberfedd
Ac eithaf a diwedd
Collwydd barnyssid
Eiryf dy argyfryd
Gwyros gwyn ei fyd
Tarw trin teyrn byd
Morawg a moryd
Ffawydd ffyniessyd
Celyn glessysid
Bu ef y gwrbyd
Yspyddad amuad
Heint ech i angad
Gwiwydd gorthorrad
Gortborryssid ynghad
Rbedyn anreithad
Banadl rbag bragad
Am swynwysei Math
Kyn bum diaered
Am swynwys i Wydion
Mawrnwr o Biytbon
O Eurwys o Eurwn
O Enron o Fedron
O bump pumhwnt Celfyddon
Atbrawon ail Math
Pan ymdygaid
Am swynwys i wledig
Pan fu led losgedig
Am swynwys sywydd
Sywydon cyn byd
Pan fei gennyf fi vot
Pan fei faint byd
Hardd bardd budd an gnawd
Ar gwawd y tueddaf a draetbo tafawd
Gwaiyeis yn Llychwr
Cysgais ym mborpbor
Neu bum yn ysgor
Gan ddylan ail mor
Yngbylcbedd ymherfedd
Ehevng deulin teyrnedd
Yn deu wayw ancbwant
O nef pan ddoetbant
Yn annwfh llifeiriant
Wrth frwydin dybyddant
Peduar ugein Kant
A Gweint ar eu chuant
Nid ynt byn nid ynt iau
No mi ym eu banau
Arial cannwr a geni pawb o naw cant
Oedd gennyf inneu
Yngbledyf brith gwaed
Bri am darwedd
O Ddofydd o Goto lie ydd oedd
O dof byd las baedd
Ef gwrith ef datwrith
Ef gwrith ieithoedd
Llachar ei enw Llawffer
Llucb llywei Nifer
Ys gein ynt yn ufel
Namyn Goronwy
O Ddoien Ediywy
Hirwyn fy myssawr
Pell na bum beussawr
Treiglais y mewn llawr
Cyn bum lleenawr
Treiglaia cylchyneis
Kysgeis Cant Ynya
Cant Kaer a thrugys
Derwyddon doethur
Darogenwch i Arthur
Yssid y sydd gynt
Neu’r mi ergenhynt
A Christ y Crocaw
A dydd brawd rhagllaw
Ac am un a dderyw
O ystyr dilyw
Eurem yn euryll
Mi hydwyf bertbyll
Ac ydwyf diythyll
O ormes ffeiyll.




I have been in many shapes,
Before I attained a congenial form.
I have been a narrow blade of a sword.
I will believe when it appears.[126]
I have been a drop in the air.
I have been a shining star.
I have been a word in a book.
I have been a book originally.
I have been a light in a lantern
A year and a half.
I have been a bridge for passing over
Three score rivers.
I have journeyed as an eagle.
I have been a boat on the sea.
I have been a director in battle.
I have been the string of a child’s swaddling clout.
I have been a sword in the hand.
I have been a shield in fight.
I have been the string of a harp,
Enchanted for a year
In the foam of water.
I have been a poker in the fire.
I have been a tree in a covert.
There ia nothing in which I have not been.
I have fought, though small,
In the Battle of Godeu Brig,
Before the ruler of Britain,
Abounding in fleets.
Indifferent bards pretend,[127]
They pretend a monstrous beast,
With a hundred heads,
And a grievous combat
At the root of his tongue.
And another fight there is
At the back of his head.
A toad having on his thighs
A hundred daws,
A spotted crested snake,
Por punishing in their flesh
A hundred souls on account of their sins.
I was in Caer Fefenydd,
Thither were hastening grass and tree.
Wayfarers perceive them,
Warriors are astonished
At a renewal of the conflicts
8uch as Gwydion made.
There is calling on Heaven,
And on Christ that he would effect
Their deliverance,
The all-powerful Lord.
If the Lord had answered,
Through charms and magic skill,
Before the ruler of Britain
There hastily passed midland horses,
Fleets full of wealth.

But the lines are evidently wrongly placed, and “feirch” has been written for “feirdd.” The above restoration renders the passage intelligible.

Assume the forms of the principal trees,
With you in array
Restrain the people
Inexperienced in battle.
When the trees were enchanted
There was hope for the trees,
That they should frustrate the intention
Of the surrounding fires.

The eight following lines, commencing

The chiefs are falling,

and ending with

Blood of men up to the hips,

though the intermediate lines appear unintelligible, belong, as it seems to me, to some of the Gododin Gorchans. The poem then continues:—

Better are three in unison,
And enjoying themselves in a circle,
And one of them relating
The story of the deluge,
And of the cross of Christ,
And of the day of judgment near at hand.
The alder-trees in the first line,[128]
They made the commencement.
Willow and quicken tree,
They were alow in their array.
The plum is a tree
Not beloved of men;
The medlar of a like nature,
Overcoming severe toil.
The bean bearing in its shade
An army of phantoms.
The raspberry makes
Not the best of food.
In shelter live,
The privet and the woodbine,
And the ivy in its season.
Great is the gone in battle.
The cherry-tree had been reproached.
The birch, though very magnanimous,
Was late in arraying himself;
It was not through cowardice,
But on account of his great size.
The appearance of the . . .
Is that of a foreigner and a savage.
The pine-tree in the court,
Strong in battle,
By me greatly exalted
In the presence of kings,
The elm-treea are his subjects.
He turns not aside the measure of a foot,
But strikes right in the middle,
And at the farthest end.
The hazel is the judge,
His berries are thy dowry.
The privet is blessed.
Strong chiefs in war
Are the . . . and the mulberry.
Prosperous the beech-tree.
The holly dark green,
He was very courageous:
Defended with spikes on every side,
Wounding the hands.
The long-enduring poplars[129]
Very much broken in fight.
The plundered fern;
The brooms with their offspring:
The furze was not well behaved
Until he was tamed.
The heath was giving consolation,
Comforting the people.
The black cherry-tree was pursuing.
The oak-tree swiftly moving,
Before him tremble heaven and earth,
Stout doorkeeper against the foe
Is his name in all lands.
The corn-cockle[130] bound together,
Was given to be burnt.[131]
Others were rejected
On account of the holes made
By great violence
In the field of battle.
Very wrathful the . . .
Cruel the gloomy ash.
Bashful the chestnut-tree,
Retreating from happiness.
There shall be a black darkness,[132]
There shall be a shaking of the mountain,
There shall be a purifying furnace,
There shall first be a great wave,
And when the shout shall be heard—
Putting forth new leaves are the tops of the beech,
Changing form and being renewed from a withered state;
Entangled are the tops of the oak.
' From the Gorchan of Maelderw.
Smiling at the side of the rock
(Was) the pear-tree not of an ardent nature.[133]
Neither of mother or father,
When I was made,
Was my blood or body;
Of nine kinds of faculties,
Of fruit of fruits,
Of fruit God made me,
Of the blossoms of the mountain primrose,
Of the buds of trees and shrubs,
Of earth of earthly kind.
When I was made
Of the blossoms of the nettle,
Of the water of the ninth wave,
I was spell-bound by Math
Before I became immortal.[134]
I was spell-bound by Gwydion,
Great enchanter of the Britons,
Of Eulys, of Eurwn,
Of Euron, of Medron,
In myriads of secrets,
I am as learned as Math.
I know about the Emperor
When he was half burnt.
I know the star-knowledge
Of stars before the earth (was made),
Whence I was born,
How many worlds there are.
It is the custom of accomplished bards
To recite the praise of their country.
I have played in Lloughor,[135]
1 have slept in purple.
Was I not in the enclosure
With Dylan Ail Mor,
In the centre of the enclosure,
Between the two knees of the prince
Upon two blunt spears ?[136]
When from heaven came
The torrents into the deep,
Bushing with violent impulse.
(I know) four score songs,
For administering to their pleasure.
There is neither old nor young,
Except me as to their poems,
Any other singer who knows the whole of the nine hundred
Which are known to me,
Concerning the blood-spotted sword.[137]
Honour is my guide.
Profitable learning is from the Lord.
(I know) of the slaying of the boar,
Its appearing, its disappearing,
Its knowledge of languages.[138]
(I know) the light whose name is Splendour,
And the number of the ruling lights
That scatter rays of fire
High above the deep.
I have been a spotted snake upon a hill;
I have been a viper in a lake;
I have been an evil star formerly.
I have been a weight (in a mill. (?)
My cassock is red all over.[139]
I prophesy no evil.
Pour score puffs of smoke
To every one who will carry them away;
And a million of angels,
On the point of my knife.[140]
Handsome is the yellow steed,[141]
But a hundred times better
Is my cream-coloured horse,
Swift as the sea-mew,
Which cannot pass me
Between the sea and the shore.
Am I not pre-eminent in the field of blood ?
I have a hundred shares of the spoil.
My wreath is of red jewels,
Of gold is the border of my shield.
There has not been born one so good as me,
Or ever known,
Except Goronwy,
From the dales of Ediywy.
Long and white are my fingers,
It is long since I was a herdsman.
I travelled over the earth
Before I became a learned person.
I have travelled, I have made a circuit;
I have slept in a hundred islands;
I have dwelt in a hundred cities.
Learned Druids,
Prophesy ye of Arthur ?
Or is it me they celebrate,
And the Crucifixion of Christ,
And the Day of Judgment near at hand,
And one relating
The history of the Deluge ?
With a golden jewel set in gold
I am enriched;
And I am indulging in pleasure
Out of the oppressive toil of the goldsmith.

Dr. Owen Pughe translates the last three lines:—

“I am splendid, I am wanton from the oppression of the chemist.”

The Rev. B. Davies gives:—

“With my precious golden device upon my piece of gold, lo 1 I am that splendid one who sportively comes from the invading host of the Fferyll.”

It is quite evident that the mystery and Druidism of this passage is in the translation, and not in the original. Fferyll is a worker in metals, a metallurgist, or artist in general, and, as the subject here is a golden jewel, may very fairly be translated “goldsmith.”

We cannot see in that portion of this poem which relates to the personification of the trees, any reference to the employment of sprigs or branches of trees, in the formation of a symbolical alphabet. We cannot here go at length into the question of the origin of the written characters employed by the Welsh Bards, but may assert that there is no evidence that they ever possessed any other alphabet than that of the Roman form called the “set Saxon,” or that they hail, like the Irish, an alphabet in which the names of the letters were derived from those of trees. We have already mentioned the Alphabet of Nemnivus, the history of which speaks for itself, and does not pretend to be older than the ninth century at the earliest. We need say no more about the Coelbren y Beirdd of Edward and Taliesin Williams, than that if Triads can be kept in a private repository, to be produced for the first time in the nineteenth eentury, to prove the existence and employment of a Bardic alphabet any number of centuries earlier, there can be no difficulty in proving anything which may be deemed desirable.

This later “Battle of the Trees” appears to be a very unimaginative work of fiction, which probably, in its original state, terminated with some moral application of the allegory which it was intended to relate.

That the story of the real Cad Goddeu was known to the minstrels, is shown by the allusion in the “Cerdd am Veib Llyr.”

I was in the Cad Goddeu with Llew and Gwydion,
He who changed the form of wood, earth, and plants.
I was with Bran in Ireland;
I saw when Mordwydtyllon was slain, &c.

Archdeacon Williams has entertained the idea that the word Derwydd, “a Druid,” is compounded of derw, “an oak,” and gwydd, “knowledge.” We do not, however, know the form of the word earlier than the twelfth century. But the Archdeacon connects the word through dar, “an oak,” with laran, “a thunderbolt,” and supposes daron and daronwy to be synonymous with taranon and taranter, “the thunderer.” He says, that in the “Song of Daronwy” we have ample proof that the thunderer is identified with the oak.

This identification is derived from two lines in this song:—

Py pren a to mwy
Nog ef Daronwy,

the literal translation of which is—

What tree has been greater
Than he, Daronwy?

But, on reading the whole song, we can see no reason for the introduction of the word pren, “a tree,” into these lines. Daronwy was, according to the Triads, one of the three plagues of Anglesey. According to one legend, he was the son of Umach the Irishman, and grandfather of Don, King of Lochlin and Dublin. As the song goes on to speak of the magic wand of Mathonwy, and of Goronwy, there can be no doubt that the Daronwy here mentioned is a man and not a tree—Daronwy of the family of the great necromancers of North Wales, Don and Gwydion. The word pren, “a tree,” is therefore most probably an error of transcription for pen, “a chief,” and as such we restore it in the translation.



Duw differ Nefwy
Rhag llanw lied ofirwy
Cyntaf attarwy
Atreis tros fordwy
Py pren a fo mwy
Nog ef Daronwy
Nid wy am noddwy
Am gylch balch nefwy
Yssid rin y sydd fwy
Gwawr gwyr Goronwy
Odid ai gwypwy
Hutlath Fathonwy
Ynghoed pan dyfwy
Ffrwytheu mwy cymrwy
Arlan Gwillionwy
Kynon ai kaffwy
Pryd pan wledychwy
Dyddenant et waeth
Tros drei a tbros draeth
March i iynniaw
Eidion a wân
Hwch i dyrvu
Pymhed Uwyn gwyn a wnaeth Iesu
O wisg Adaf i ymtrau
Gwydded coed cain eu syllu
Hyd yd fuant a hyd yd fu
Pan wnel Cymry camfalhau
Ceir arall fro pwy caro fu
Pedair prif Bennaeth
Ar pummed nid gwaeth
Gwyr gwrdd ehelaeth
Ar Brydain arfaeth
Gwragedd a fu ffraeth
Eillon a fi caeth
Ryferthwy hiraeth
Medd a marchogaeth
Dydden dwy rain
Gweddw a gwriog fain
Ileyrn eu hadain
Ar wyr yn goriein
Dydden cynrain
O am dir Ehufain
Eu cerdd a gyngein
Eu gwawd a ysgain
Anan derw a drain
Ar Gerdd yn gyngain
Ki i dynnu
Llemais i lâm o lam eglwg
Hewssit da nir gabo drwg
Mygedorth Run ys ef a ddiwg
Rhwng caer Rian a chaer Rywg
Rhwng Dineiddyn a Dineiddwg
Eglur dremynt a wyl golwg
Rhag rhynnawd tan dychyffrwymwg
Ar rheu Duw ann ry amwg.



O God, protect the sanctuary
From the widely spreading flood:
First, in driving back
The oppression across the sea.
What chief has been greater
Than be, Daronwy ?
He is not my protection
Around the lofty sanctuary.
Is there a mystery which is greater
Than the darting of the spear of Goronwy ?[142]
Wonderful its magic lore.
The magic wand of Mathonwy,
When it came into the wood,
Caused an abundance of fruit (to appear)
On the banks of Gwillionwy.
Kynon obtained it
At the time when he ruled.[143]
There are coming again,
Over tide, over strand,
Four chief rulers,
The fifth, not inferior,
A hero strong and mighty,
Nourished in Britain.
Women shall be eloquent (about him).
To others in captivity (shall come)
The long-desired abundance
Of mead and horsemanship.
There shall come two queens,
A widow and a fair bride,
With iron wings,
To rule over men.
There shall come a race
From the land of Rome,
Their songs and chants,
Their hymns and sprinklings,
Under oak and thorn,
With their songs in tune.
A dog to pull,
A horse to run,
A steer to gore,
A hog to burrow.
The fifth fair form he made was Jesus,[144]
Of the clothing of Adam originally,
The foliage of trees, fair their appearance;
An apt covering they were and have been.
When the Cymry shall be unjustly driven out,
Another land shall be obtained where they shall be loved.
I have leaped, leap by leap, over the crag.
A boot is good lest hurt be taken.
The funeral pile of Khun is, by his desire,
Between Caer Rian and Caer Rywg,
Between Din Eiddyn and Din Eiddwg.
They see clearly who see its appearance.
From a very little fire there is a great production of smoke.
In the eternal God is my great defence.

Footnotes and references:


Report of the British Association for the Advancement of Science. Oxford, 1847. P. 304.


The Elegy of Uther Pendragon.






Ynys Feli, the Honey Island, said in the Triads to be one of the names of Britain. It has a very suspicious resemblance to Inis-fail, the old name of Ireland.


Vol. i. pp. 143—171. Loudon, 1854.


Called Uisneach in the original Irish. The poem itself is called Oidhe Chloinne Uisneach.


Page VII.




Under the word “gwofrwy,” Dr. Owen gives as the translation of this stanza,

The universal tyrant ends every energy;
Sovereign of destruction;

but under the word “rhewintor” he gives,

The end of every leader is to be falling.



Caernarvon, Caer Seiont. The land of Gwydion, son of Don, was in Gwyned.


Gwenwyn. This word is translated by Dr. Owen “poison,” being evidently a corruption of the Latin Venenum; but it cannot have that meaning here any more than where it occurs in the names of individuals, as Gwen-wynwyn. Gwen is a common component in the names both of males and females. The other stanza lower down, beginning “Pedeir morwyn,” shows the true meaning here to be that which I have given above.


Rosshir or Rhosyr, one of the three cantrefs or hundreds of Mon, or Anglesey.


Lucan, Pharsalia, 1. v. 454.


Ibid. 459.


Poem , Lyric and Pastoral, vol. ii. p. 194.


Vindication of the Ancient British Poem , page 226.


Llywarch Hen, Preface, p. xxxiv.


La Mystère des Bardes de l’Ile de Bretagne, ou la Doctrine des Bardes Gallois du Moyen Age, tur Dieu, la Vie Future et la Tratunsmigration des Ames. Par Adolphe Pictét. Génève, 1856.


Vol. ii. page 339.


It is to be presumed tbat the editors of the Welsh MSS. Society satisfied themselves of the genuineness of the MS. called the Voice Conventional of the Bards of Britain before publication; but it is remarkable, that neither in the body of the work of Dr. J. D. Rhys, published in 1592, in which the works of tìie earlier Bards are frequently cited, nor in the dedication, or the preface by Humphrey Prichard, is there any mention of Druids or of the tissue of absurdities contained in the Voice Conventional.


Page 83.


Page 57.


Oyfrinach, page 29.


Mr. E. Williams does not translate the word oer “cold” in his version, though the whole sense of the passage depends on it.


  The cup, which was withheld from the laity. If this is the true meaning of the passage, it marks it as of the thirteenth century at the earliest.


Yn dawn glas. The word “glas” is here the English word “glass,” a mirror.


We have here the explanation of the former passage cited by Mr. Williams} and can see that it is connected with the doctrine of purgatoiy.


It is evident from the story that several lines are wanting in these places, describing the black-crested hen, her swallowing him, &c.


The branch of the pole of the weir, “im cainge faglwys,” which is con-a&atent with the story. Stephens reads,

Which was to me an omen of being tenderly nursed.


This is printed in the Myvyrian Archæology, p. 76, with the title Cann Cyntaf Taliesin—“The First Song of Taliesin.”


From the Mabinogion, vol. iii. p. 363.


“Upon them will I break.”—Lady C. G. Break what? If it is written “Ac arayn,” in mistake for “A caduyn,” this makes the passage consistent with the story.


As the story goes on to relate what Taliesin afterwards did to the Bards of Maelgwn, it is evident that his promises in this song to the wife of Elphin must correspond with his subsequent acts. The translation in the Mabinogion destroys this necessary connection.


i.e. the Bards of Maelgwn. It appears to mean that Maelgwn shall be as fierce with his Bards as Arthur was in the battle of Badon against his enemies; and so it happened, only that Heinin the bard was struck with a broomstick instead of a sword. Maelgwn did not hold bards in much respect.


“Cofweinion,” instead of “cofwynion.”


Perhaps it was on this occasion that Heinin composed the verse attributed to him in the “Sayings of the Wise Men.”

A glywaist ti chwedl Heinin
Fardd o Nangor Llanfeithin
Gwrawl ni fydd disgethrin.

Hast thou heard the saying of Heinin,
The Bard of the College of Llanveithin?
The brave is never cruel!

There is a prophetic poem preserved in the Myvyrian Archæology attributed to this Bard.


“Idno and Heinin called me Merddin.”—Mabmogion .


“The divine Spirit.”—Mabinogion. This may be the meaning; but it is not a Welsh word, and ought not to be translated, as by so doing the peculiar jargon of these poems is lost, and an air of unnecessary mysticism given to them.


The famous necromancer. See the tale of “Math ab Mathmwy.”


Both of whom were taken up to heaven in a chariot.


The constellation called the Northern Crown, according to Dr. Owen; but there can be no doubt that there is here an allusion to the romances relating to Arianrhod.


“Wybren,” the sky or firmament; as the line stands, therefore, it ought to be translated,

I was in the firmament
With Mary Magdalen;

which is nonsense; but if the line was originally, “Mi a fum ar y bren,” the meaning corresponds with the rest of the allusions.


The Tower of London, where the head of Bran was buried.


This song is not contained in the Myvyrian Archæology , but is taken from the “Hanes Taliesin” in the Mabinogion of Lady Guest. It is probable that the songs sung by the minstrels in the course of the relation of this celebrated story varied a good deal in details, retaining the general idea of the contest of Taliesin with the Bards of Maelgwn, their signal discomfiture, and the ultimate release of Elphin from prison by the agency of the Bard.


This is probably an allusion to the great Bardic test of excellence, the capability of singing the three hundred and sixty-three stanzas in which the heroes of the Gododin were enumerated, or the Gorchan, which was equivalent to them, and which eveiy Bard was required to know who pretended to enter into a musical contest.


That is, Elphin. Lady Guest translates these four lines,

There ought not to stand where I am
Neither stone, neither ring;
And there ought not to be about me
Any bard who may not know
That Elphin, &c.

According to the stoTy, Taliesin had cast a spell on the Bards of Maelgwn; and the word gtoypwyf evidently refers, m its grammatical form, as well as by reference to the preceding lines, where the bard is speaking in the first person, to something doing or to be done by Taliesin.






Cynan and Cadwallader, like Arthur, were to return and expel the Saxons from Britain.


Lady Guest’s translation of this passage is,—

Three springs arise
In the nape of his neck,
Sea roughs thereon
Swim through it.
There was the dissolution of the oxen
Of Deifrdonwy the water-gifted.
The names of the three springs
From the midst of the ocean,
One generated brine,
Which is from the Corina,
To replenish the flood, &c.

But this does not furnish the names of the three fountains; and Deifrdowny and his oxen are altogether a novelty. In Owen’s Dictionary, Dyvrdonwy is said to mean “the virtue-giving water”—one of the names of the river Dee, not the name of a person.


Gwlaidd—flowing gently, moist.


It is printed “dychanu,” to revile or lampoon, in the Myvyr. Arch.


Rev. J. Williams ab Ithel’s arrangement.


Posfeirddion—according to Dr. Owen, “teaching bards, preceptors;” in the Mabinogion, translated “rhyming bards”; but the word is derived from porian,“to question,” and refers to the practice of the bards of putti n g questions to their audience on a variety of subjects, of which numerous instances appear in these poems. It is here, though not always, used in a taunting sense.


In the copy appended to the “Prif Cyfarch Taliesin” it is,

“I know every doorpost in the cave of the great diviner.”


This line is wrongly inserted.


Moleid, “concrete, full of particles,” alluding to the appearance of honey.


This last line has been translated,

“Elphin, knight of mead, late be thy dissolution.”—Mabinog.


“Elphinian knight of mead! Thou ’It yet be free.”—Stephens.


This and the five following lines refer to some unknown story, if we are to read Jeuaf (the youngest). Most probably it should be Adaf—Adam, which renders the whole intelligible.


Ei nodd.


Translated in the Mabinogien.

What the first impression
Of his primary thinking ?
What became his clothing,
Who carried on a design
Owing to the wiles of the country
In the beginning ?


The fragment in the Myvyrian Archæology, p. 47, belongs to this place, but differs considerably from the above. I have adopted this from the Mabinogion, with Lady C. Guest’s translation.




“Thy,” as printed, but the context shows that this is an error.


This was one of the famous questions of the “Questioners”:—“They know not the bridled ox with the thick headband.”—Preiddeu Annwn.


This piece, from the Myvyrian Archæology, differs considerably from that published in tbe Mabinogion.


More properly, “ The Flail of the Bards.”


Literature of the Kymry, p. 188.


In the tale of “Branwen the Daughter of Llyr,” there is an adventure most curiously similar to one in the story of “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves.”


Buarth Beirdd, Myv. Arch . p. 27.


In the book of Lecane, Trans, of Ossianie Society , vol. i. 1853.


Transactions of Ossianie Society , vol. ii. 1854.


Rev. Archaol. vol. ix. p. 385.


Myvyr. Archceol. vol. i. pp. 275,


Literature of the Kymry,. p. 120.


Dr. Owen Pughe’s translation. Literature qf the Kymry, p. 120.


This must mean, “If we may judge from the Cadairs, i.e. the poetry so called, which has been written on these subjects, Gwydion was the greatest of magicians.”


Yscut, “darkness,” “shadow,”—perhaps the mist which the enchantress, such as Menw ab Tairgwaedd, used to render himseif invisible.


The next four lines I cannot understand. If Brython is put by mistake for Gwydion, they may relate to the story of the appearance of Dylan Ail Ton, and Llew Llaw Gyffes, in the romance of "Math ab Mathonwy,” to which the preceding portion relates.

“Great was the scandal made evident on the part of Gwydion.”


Or, according to one version, Beda.


Literature of the Kymri, p. 298.


These lines are corrupt, as appears by the incongruity of the terminations of the lines, and the change of rhythm. It seems probable that the words “Gwawd Ogyrwen” have been repeated from the last line, and “araunt” inserted, owing to a confusion in the MS., as the sense of the passage refers to the fare of a hermit or religious, and the whole of this stanza breathes the complaining prophetic spirit so common in these productions.


That is, I presume, never; it is a sarcasm.


“The sovereign of those who carry ears of corn.”— Davies.


Perhaps alluding to tbe Eisteddfod held by Gruffydd ab Kynan in 1100, at which the Irish and Welsh Bards and Musicians assembled to frame laws for the regulation of their craft.


Geoffrey’s British History, ch. 17.


Life of Saint Dubricius in Liber Landav. p. 323.


“Llef,” in Jones’s copy.


“Ffysg ffous ffodiaws,” id.


Mentoyd, “happiness.” It is written menhyd, which would be “There is a place in eternity for thee,” See.


Here commences the part which relates to the Ale, the subject, according to the title, of the song.


That is, if it may be permitted to alter the words to “Dws gorffawg yr Elfydd.”


Here the “Song of the Ale” properly terminates. The next seven lines belong to some other ballad, and the following form what is sometimes called the “Battle of Dyffryn Garant.”


As numerous as the sands of the sea.


The tale of the Boar’s Head, which Caradawg alone was able to carve, is probably alluded to. See the note to stanza 30, in the Eev. J. Williams’s translation of the Gododin .


In some copies it would appear that this epithet is written Cameddawg, “stone-piled,” or “abounding with stones”; but in the Mgvyrian Archæology it is “Caemeddawg.”


Dr. Owen’s translation of these lines, beginning with“A wyr cerdd gelfydd,” is as follows:—

“That knows the ingenious art that is concealed by the discreet Ovate will give me a splendid garment when he ascends from the gate.—Caradawg will purchase Wales abounding with heaps of stones.”




Perhaps it should be “ceinion.” Then,

At Caer Wyrangon,

Who will give the first drink at the feast.


The tale to which this passage relates is noticed in the Mabinogion of Kilhwch and Olwen. Glewlwyd Gavaelwawr says,

“I was in the battle of Dau Ynyr when the twelve hostages were brought from Llychlyn.”

If we had a complete collection of the romances of the Welsh, we should have no difficulty in understanding the greater part of the allusions in these poems, which are so obscure, but which must have been perfectly intelligible to those before whom they were recited.


Seon. Caer Seiont, near Caernarvon, the Segontium of the Bomans, once the most famous city in North Wales.


The men of Harddnen, the beautiful roof—probably a castle so called.


Or shattered the land of Ynyr.


These lines have been very differently translated by Edward Jones, whose version has for the most part been followed by Mr. Stephens. It is:—




“Mi” must be wrongly written here for “ni.”


“And frankincense and myrrh, and transmarine aloes.”—Owen’s Diet.


No doubt the Herbe d’or, alluded to in the Breton poems aa a herb of great medicinal power. Villemarqué says it is the Selago. See Barzaz Breis, t. i. page 62.


I have translated the word Derwyddon “Druids,” in deference to general usage, though it will be seen that it had no other meaning in these compositions than philosopher, sage, or magician, and is quite unconnected with any mythological notions.


Gwr deu awdwr. Davies and Herbert translate it “the man of two authors,” which they say is a great mystery. This part is certainly very obscure: it may relate to Christ, or to the anticipated return of Arthur. It is a question whether the word in the fourth line is “lladwr,” a blesser, or “lladdwr,” a destroyer. I have given it the latter sense, because there seems a reference to the number of the destroyers in the Revelation. After all, it may be a reference to some lost romance of Arthur.


Here begins a different subject altogether.


Or the courteous Mynweir; that is, Rhiannon. See the “Tale of Manawyddan ab Llyr.”


“‘As for what may not be, it will not be; it will not be because it may not be,’—a curious specimen of Druidical logic,” says Mr. Davies.

Dr. Owen, connecting the next line, makes it,

He will not be on account that he shall not be an admiral.


“Seeking would be there, seeking the munificent departed warriors.”—Owen, Diet.


Dr. Owen gives these lines as a quotation from Lewis Glyn CothL If this is not a mere accidental error, it would be a curious circumstance, as that bard lived in the end of the fifteenth century. They seem out of place here.


It is probable that some mystical sense is involved hen*. Dr. Owen translates it,—

“(?) briskly moving plain of the water voyagers” (of the children of the(?)) “pure and profound the spell to liberate Elphin.”


“Trailing shields,” Mr. Stephens gives. But it is clear that the persons who did not know these things were not warriors with shields, but bards, apparently Clerwr, who are said to be unacquainted with the songs and recitations in which these circumstances were mentioned.


This very natural and patriotic remark has been supposed to contain some allusion to the eminence of Dyfed as a chief seat of the Druidical worship.


Erlyssan. Dr. Owen makes this a proper name.


“If necessary to the centre I would penetrate the chamber.”—Owen.


Mr. Davies's note on these lines is truly remarkable. He says:—“After the Bard had received the omen from the cormorant and concealed his memorials, he still persists in celebrating his holy sanctuary, till he is interrupted by a repeated message from some bird of augury, protecting spirit, or brother Druid, vho seems to speak to the end of the stanza.”


From the Mabinogion , vol. ii. notes, p. 848. The translation of the two first lines is certainly not satisfactory.


According to Dr. Owen, “Per.”


This line is evidently an interpolation.


In Gomer, part ii. p. 74, this is translated:—


The subject of the enchanted trees here commences again.


The light wood of the poplar was used in making shields.


Clafuswydd —the sick or diseased wood. Dr. Owen translates it “the cyanus, or blue corn-cockle.”


Or cut down.


It appears to me that the lines beginning “There shall be,” &c. belong to that part of this piece which mentions the discourse concerning the Deluge and the Day of Judgment; that the line “O gwarchan Maelderw” was originally a marginal note to the lines beginning “Cwyddynt a maereu;” and that the three lines

An deilas blaen bedw
An datrith an datedw
An maglas blaen derw,

belong to the following fragment, which is an imitation of the creation of the woman from flowers by the enchanter Gwydion.

When we see that the two following lines have clearly been displaced from the list of the trees, this suggestion, which clears away many of the difficulties hitherto met with in the explanation of this piece, will appear to be well founded.


Dr. Owen’s copy gives “per,” a pear-tree, instead of “ner,” a lord, as in the Myvyrian Archæology, which renders the line intelligible.


Owen, Dictionary.


The castle of Urien Bheged at Aber Llychwr.


The story of Dylan Ail Mor, or Ail Ton, is lost. A very short notice of him is given in the tale of Math ab Mathonwy.


Perhaps the blood-dropping lance in the tale of Peredur mab Evrauc.


This refers to the Twrch Trwyth in the tale of Kilhwch and Olwen.


Mr. Stephens quotes two lines from Cynddelw to show that a red robe was the most honourable dress among the Welsh (p. 32). This explains the assertion of the minstrel in this line.


This was one of the questions entertained by the middle-age controversialists—how many legions of angels could stand on the point of a knife >


Dr. Owen translates this,

Six steeds of yellow hue;

but “march” is in tbe singular, and the first word is falsely written for Gwach, “brave, fine.”

These lines are in the same style as the “Song of the Horses,” and perhaps belonged to them. The horse-race of Elphin and Maelgwn is probably the subject.


That is, supposing “gwawr gwyr” to be an error for “gwaewawr.” The present reading, “the light of the men of Goronwy,” affords no sensible meaning; but that proposed is quite dear, and is found in the tale of “Math ab Mathonwy,” where the assassination of Llew Llaw Gyffes is detailed.


The subject here breaks off to enter upon a prophecy of the expected prince of British descent, probably Owen Gwynedd or Llewellyn ap Lorwerth.


This extraordinary collocation of lines must be the result of the same kind of errors in transcription which have so frequently occurred in these pieces. It is a striking instance of the mutilated condition in which they have come down to us.

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