GWALES – glimpses of Welsh history in literary texts


A painted inscription by David Jones



Am drynni drylaw drylen

Men called him an eagle – Gwyddien –
Deadly to his prey;

The land he fought for was fair
But ravaged – Morien – Myrddin was his bard;

Women called after him – Bradwen –
He faced death like a man
Who would hold a wolf-mane weaponless.

These and many more
Bitten by that sad battle –
An end of boldness.

Who was it sang for them?: Aneirin,
And not Aneirin, fluid as Taliesin
Who also knew this awen.



dyuot tri aderyn, a dechreu canu udunt ryw

Seven years they feasted on birdsong
At at the end of the seventh
Took the head to Gwales.

Sweet voices of Rhiannon
In chants of forgetfulness
For eighty years of the world’s time.

Heilyn opened the door
To end the song;
He had no choice
But to choose sorrow.

The raven croak
Brought back the black
Head to them.
They took it to the White Hill
The world moved on.



Nyt oes le y kyrcher rac carchar braw

To quench the fire of the dragon,
Cut off his head
But do not bury it
For the grave is a refuge from fear,
A place of resurrection

His head is stuck with an iron pole
The searing pain of it runs through my

His people must weep to be broken.

We took his head
To rot in the sun
But didn’t cut out
The phoenix tongue

The bird flew
From the embers to teach
His scattered people
With fiery speech.

In homesteads the hearth flame flickered
To nurture the soul of a nation.



Annhebyg i’r mis dig du
A gerydd i bawb garu

It is May and the speckled thrush
Chatters in the greening bush.

Castle walls stand against the sun.

In the wood the filtered light gleams
On brindled shade and it all seems
Such a hush as I await the welcome
Of a gown against the leaves
foretelling love’s bustle

The thrush’s silver song
Trills on
And even the crow
Brings no memory
Of black winter.

Castle men penetrate
Their conquered land

My love finds no rebuke.



Na gwall, na newyn, na gwarth
Na syched fyth yn Sycharth

Gold gleams in his gift hand
Rich morsels for retainers
Bright mead for a bard
Each to his rightful portion
No court is nearer heaven!

So his bard sings
His praise,
But Sycharth falls

He raises his standard
In other halls.

A prince of mist
And castles in the air

They blew each one away

Made a cage
Of his mountains
For a bird
That had flown.

“No-one knows
Where he lays his head”.

Gwales is the island in the second of the
Mabinogi tales, where the head of Bran is taken after
the  return from Ireland, and where those who return
spend eighty years of repose while time stands still.

Quotations at the head of each section from the following
early or medieval Welsh texts :

I The Gododdin of Aneirin, elegies for warriors slain in a sixth century battle between Brythons and Angles at Catraeth, one of the earliest texts in Welsh ;
II The Mabinogi;
III  The Elegy of Gruffudd ap yr Ynad Coch
following the death and beheading of Lywelyn;

IV Dafydd apGwilym;
V Owain Glyndwr’s bard Iolo Goch .