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HISTORICAL ACCOUNT OF THE BARD, TALIESIN.
Taliesin, who in one of his poems gives an honourable testimony to the fame of Aneurin?, was like him called Penbeirdd, Chief, or King of Bards. He lived in the reign and enjoyed the favour of Maelgwn Gwynedd, Sovereign of all Wales. He was found, when an infant, exposed in a wear, which Gwyddno Gorynhir, the King of Cantre'r Gwaelod, had granted as a maintenance to Prince Elphin his son. Elphin, with many amiable qualities, was extravagant; and, having little success at the wear, grew discontented and melancholy. At this juncture Taliesin was found by the fishermen of the prince, by whose command he was carefully fostered, and liberally educated. At a proper age the accomplished Bard was introduced by his princely patron at the court of his father Gwyddno, to whom he presented, on that occasion, a poem called Hanes Taliesin, or Taliesin's History; and at the same time another to the prince, called Dyhuddiant Elphin', the consolation of Elphin, which the Bard addresses to him in the person and character of an exposed infant. Taliesin lived to recompense the kindness of his benefactor: by the magic of his Song, he redeemed him from the castle of Teganwy, (where he was for some misunderstanding confined by his uncle Maelgwn,) and afterwards conferred upon him an illustrious immortality.
Taliesin was the master, or poetical preceptor of Myrddin ap Morvryn: he enriched the British Prosody with five new metres: and has transmitted in his poems such vestiges as throw new light on the history, knowledge, and manners of the ancient Britons, and their Druids, much of whose mystical learning he imbibed.
The first poem which I have chosen for a specimen of Taliesin's manner, is his description of the battle of Argoed Llwyvain, in Cumberland, fought about the year 548, by Goddcu, a King of North Britain, and Urien Reged, King of Cumbria, against Fflamddwyn, a Saxon general, supposed to be Ida, the first King of Northumberland. I am indebted to the late Mr. Whitehead, Poet Laureat, for the following faithful and animated versification of this valuable antiqueGwaith · Argoed Llwyfein.
The Battle of Argoed Llwyvain “.
A SONG TO URIEN. r bore ddyw fadwrn, câd fawr a fu,
Morning rose: the issuing fun
Saw the dreadful fight begun :
Clos'd the battle, clos'd the day.
Fflamddwyn pour’d' his rapid bands, Goddeu, a Reged, i ymddyllu,
Legions four, o'er Reged's lands. Dyfwy o Argoed hyd Arfynydd,
The numerous host from side to side,
Spread destruction wild and wide,
Atorelwis Fflamddwyn, fawr drybesławd,
Flush'd with conquest, Fflamddwyn said, A ddodynt gyngwystlon, a ynt parawd?
Boastful at his army's head ; Yr attebwys Owain, ddwyrain folawd,
“ Strive not to oppose the stream, Ni ddodynt iddynt, nid ynt parawd;
Redeem your lands, your lives redeem.
" Never”, Urien's son replied,
Kindling, as the hero spoke, Taliesin, in his poem called Anrheg Urien, has the two fol 4 This is one of the 12 great battles of Urien Reged, celelowing lines
brated by Taliesin, in poems now extant. See Carle's History of A în i enw Aneurin Gwawdrydd awenydd,
England, p. 211, and 213. where there is much valuable inforA minnau Daliefin o lan Llyn Geirionydd.
mation rəlating to the ancient Britons. I know the fame of the inspired genius, Aneurin Gwawdrydd, S A district of Cumberland, the country of Prince Llywarch And I am Taliesin, whose abode is by the Lake of Geirionydd. Hên, from whence he was driven by the Saxons.
• See this poem published, and tranflated in Evans's specimens. • Some place on the borders of Northumberland. See further account of Taliesin in the ad Volume of this work, ? Owen ap Urien acted as his father's general; and is called or Bardic Museum, p. 19.
in the British Triads, " one of the three Cavaliers of Battle."
About the beginning of the sixth century, Urien, son of Cynvarch ab Meirchion, King of Reged, (a territory in Caledonia, bordering on the Yjtradclwyd Britons ', to the south,) was bred in King Arthur's Court, and was one of his knights ; he had great experience in war, and great power in the country by the largeness of his dominion, and the number of his vassals ; he was still greater by his reputation and wisdom; and by his valour in defending his country against the encroaching Saxons. After several engagements, with various success, he at last prevailed so far against Theodoric, son of Ida, as to force him to fly into the Holy Island for safety. Urien, the glory of his country, who had braved death so often in the field, and sought it in vain among the thickest of his enemies, fell at last in the midst of his own men, in the year 560, by the treachery of Morgant, brother to Rhydderch, from mere envy, on
* Cenau led to the alfistance of Urien Reged, the forces of his Lewis's History of Britain, p. 201. and Carte's Hiftory of England. father Coel Godhebog, king of a northern tract, called Goddeu, 9 The Strath-clwyd Britons inhabited the west part of Scota probably inhabited by the Godini of Ptolemy. Owen ap Urien land : and the Cumbrians dwelt from the wall southward as far and Cenau ap Coel were in the number of Arthur's Knights. See as the Ribble, in Lancashire.
THE BATTLE OF GWENYSTRAD, BY TALIESIN.
account of his superior merit. The names of the two affallins, suborned to commit this execrable deed, were Dywnwal, son of Mynyddawg, and Llovan llawdino, of Edinburg, who were both Britons that served in his troops, and are recorded in the Triads, where this is reckoned to be one of the three villainous murders committed in Britain, and which contributed most to its ruin. Urien is also celebrated, in the Triads, as one of the three Bulls of War. Taliesin dedicated to him upwards of twelve poems, in which he describes most of his battles; and he likewise wrote an Elegy on his Death. Also, Prince Llowarch Hên composed a Lamentation, on the loss of this distinguished Hero.
The Battle of Gwenyítrad.
The British host, impatient for the fray,
Ac yn y fallwyfi hén,
But near the Fort the conflict fiercer raged,
See Reged's dauntless Christian Chief appear !
Though they were successful, it may be said in the words of SHakespeare, to have been among those viktories,
“ For which the congurrors mourn'd, fo many fell.".
CANU Y MEDD.
THE MEAD SONG, by Taliesin. It appears, that Prince Elphin had been invited by his uncle, King Maelgwyn, to keep his Christmas at his Court, at the Castle of Digar Wy, in Caernarvonshire: where fome dispute arising between them about Religion, or Politics. (probably when heated with Mead,) Elphin was thrown into prison, and remained confined, until his Bard Taliesin obtained his release, by the following celebrated Song, addressed to Maelgwyn; to which I have subjoined an English version. Golychaf wledig pendefig pób fa,
To him that rules supreme ;-- our Sovereign Lord, Gzir gynnail y néf, Arglwydd pob tra ;
Creation's Chiefby all that lives ador'd. Gura wnaeth y dwfr i bawb
Who made the waters, and sustains the skies; Gúr a wnaeth pob llåd, ac a'i llwydda :
Who gives, and prospers all that's good and wise. Meddwer Maelgwyn Món, ac a'n meddwa,
To him I'll pray, that Maelgwn ne'er may need, Ai féddgorn, ewyn gwerlyn gwymha,
Exhaustless stores of sparkling, nea'rous, mead: As gynnull gwenyn ac nis mwynha.
Such as with mirth our hours has often crown'd,
Midd bidlaid, molaid, molud i bob tra,
Delicious Mead! Man's folace and his pride,
Golychaf i wledig pendefig gwlad hedd,
Oh, Power Supreme! Prince of the Realm of Peace;
appears to have
Llywarch Hên, or Llywarch the aged, a Cumbrian prince, is the third noted Bard of the British annals. He passed his younger days at the Court of King Arthur, with the honourable distinction of a free guest. When the British power was weakened by the death of Arthur, Llywarch was called to the aid of his Kinsman Urien Reged, King of Cumbria, and the defence of his own principality, against the irruptions of the Saxons. This princely Bard had four and twenty fons, all invested with the golden torques, ,
which been the ancient badge of British nobility'. Many of them were flain in the Cumbrian wars, and the Saxons at length prevailed. The unfortunate Llywarch, with his few surviving fons, fled into Powys, there to revive the unequal and unsuccessful contest, under the auspices of the Prince of Powys, Cynddylan. Having lost, in the issue of these wars, all his sons, and friends, he retired to a hut at Aber Cing', in North Wales, to footh with his harp the remembrance of misfortune, and vent with elegiac numbers the sorrows of old age in distress. His poems are in some places rather unintelligible: not because they want fimplicity, which
• Taliefin likewise wrote Canu y Cwrw, or The Ale song: South Wales is Ofai, for any kind of liquor that is made of the Proverbial Sayings in Wales.
juice of fruit, such as Cyder, Perry, Rasberry-wine, CurrantA vgnno vôd yn Llawen--yved Win!
wine, Gooseberry-wine, Cowllip-wine, Elder.wine, Service wine, A vynno vôd yn Gryo-yved Gwrw !
Birch-wine, Mulberry-wine, Clary.wine; and Ebulonn, which is A vynno vôd yn lach-yved Védd !
made of old Ale, and Elder-wine. He that would be merry-drink Wine!
· Hybarch yw mâb y marchog,
(în aur) yn arian, golérog, Dorchog. He that would be strong-drink Ale!
We find allo, in the Book of Numbers, Chap, xxxi. ver. 50. He that would be Healthy - drink Mead !
that chief commanders wore chains of gold. The following were the customary beverages of the ancient Now, Dol Giog, near Machynllaith, in Montgomeryshire. There Britons to quench thirst.
Llywarch died, near the age of 150, about the year 634; and Dwr, Water. - Gwin, Wine.-Carw, Ale.— Bir, Strong probably was buried at Llanvawr, near Bala in Meric-nechshire, Beer. Medd. Meddyglyn, Bragod, or Mead, Metheglyn, and where in the weit window of the church, is a ttone with an Bragget.--Avaleulyn, Cyder.-Maidd glás; Whey. Schola Salerni. inscription, but not now legible. Llywarch Hen, was the son of They also ule various other wines, and the general term in Eliayr Llydanwyn, of Yfirad Clwyd, in the North.
OF PRINCE LLYWARCH, THE AGED BARD.
is their characteristic beauty, but from the antiquity of the language, which is partly the Venedotian, and partly the Cumbrian dialect, and from scantiness of information concerning the facts. The compositions of Llywarch are pure nature, unmixed with that learning and contrivance which appears in the writings of 7 aliesin : he did not, like that great Bard, extend the bounds of British poetry, but followed implicitly the works of the Druids, closing many of his stanzas with their venerable maxims. · He wrote in such a simple, undisguised, pathetic manner, that it is impossible to suspect himn of nifrepresentation ; he has no fictions, no embellishments, no display of art; but gives an affecting narrative of events, and circumstances. Since I published the first Edition of this Book, Mr. Francis Percival Eliot, of Shenstone Moss near Litchfield, has favoured me with the following version of several stanzas in the first, and second of the poems, of Llywarch Hên; which I with pleasure present my readers, (instead of the former profe transla. tion,) as an elegant, and animated specimen of the poetry of that princely Bard !.
The Lamentations of Prince Llywarch Hên. Hark! the cuckow's plaintive note,
Yet once again, ye tuneful choir Doth thro' the wild vale sadly float;
Sing, but me, no joys inspire ; As from the rav'nous hawk's pursuit,
The babbling brook that murmurs by, · In Ciog rests her weary foot ;
The filver moon that shines on high, And there wi.h mournful sounds and low,
Sees me tremble, hears me sigh : Echoes my harp's responsive woe.
How cold the midnight hour appears !
How droops my heart with ling’ring cares !
And hear'lt thou not yon wild wave's roar,
Dashing on the rocky shore ? To rouse the brethren of the war ;
And the hollow midnight blast, When, as each youthful hero's breast
Lost sensation binding fast, Gloweth for the glorious test,
In the adamantine chain
Of Terror ?--Hark! it howls again.
And lo! what scenes invade my sight,
Fear-form'd shadows of the night! Monarch of an hundred ifles.
See great Urien's princely shade, And Snowdon from his awful height,
Cambria's monarch, shoots the glade; His hoas head waves propitious to the fight.
Gory drops his locks distil,
Ever flows the fanguine rill, But I--no more in youthful pride,
Yet, feated still as it was wont;
Valour crowns his awful front.
Next Cynddylan treads the plain,
Raise, my harp, to him the strain : Keeps me far from the field away.
Powys' prince, and Llywarch's host,
Llivon's pride, and Morlas' boast : Hark! how. the songsters of the vale,
Great as Caradoc in war; Spring's glad return with carols hail ;
Swift as Howel's fcythed car;
Still the Saxons seem to fear
Next a warlike train advance,
Skill'd to poize the pondrous lance; Again they sing ; again they cry;
Golden chains their breasts adorn; But low in grief my soul doth lye.
Sure for conquest they were born.
: Those who may be incited to a further acquaintance with the beauties of Prince Llywarch Hên, may now have access to them in an octavo edition of all his works extant, with a prose translation, and notes ; published by Mr, William Owen.