The Elegy for Llywelyn ap Gruffudd (died 1282)

by Gruffudd ap yr Ynad Coch

The heart of oak is cold
behind the gates of Aberffraw.
The hand that gave gold
is still now – I cannot wear it,
the apparel he put about me.
This grief for my lord is a cloud on my soul
This grief for the fate that his wounds brought us
confounds the red spear of Cadwalader’s keeping.

For us now the darkness,
the hatred of Saxons
A time of lamenting
in the life left to us
A time now to praise him
to think of his glory
to reproach even God
who has left us without him;
For him life eternal.

What now for us left
with a full load of weeping?
The dark hand that felled him
haunts his kingdom; his hall now the grave.
A long vista of fear stretches before us.

Lord Christ deliver him
for the sake of our sorrow,
Heavy the sword blows that struck him to earth
Heir of brave princes, his flame
burned brightly: strong Lion of Gwynedd
Great was the need of the strength of his throne
All Britain was struck down with Nantcoel’s defender.

Tears running on maiden’s cheeks
Blood flowing from warriors gashes
and trodden into the mire of our land.
Widows keening with hearts broken
and sons without fathers, their homes
-charred ruins – fired and looted.
Not since Camlann has there been such weeping
Gone is our mainstay, his golden hair
stained with a death blow O Llywelyn!
My mind cannot grasp it.

Hearts chilled by a pall of fear
Our life-will withers like weeds in Winter
as the wind dashes the rains upon us
and the oaks clash
and the sea’s crash scours the land:
Do you not see?
The Sun falls and the stars are shrinking!
Can you not believe our world is ending?
O God, why does the sea not rush over the shore?
Why should this life trouble us more?
Wretched we are and clasped in fear
with no-where to turn and terror’s grip tightening
and only life’s shackles to loosen our burden.

All his followers now cast down,
his lords and his servants,
the weak and the strong, all of us suffer
Why should we value a head on our shoulders
when he is without one?

His head has fallen and with it our pride
Fear and surrender are all we have left
His head has fallen – a dragon’s head
Noble it was , fierce to our foes
His head is stuck with an iron pole
The searing pain of it runs through my soul,
This land is empty – our spirit cut down.
His head had honour in nine hundred lands
Proud king, swift hawk, fierce wolf
True Lord of Aberffraw
His only refuge
                        the Kingdom of Heaven.

First published in AGENDA (Vol 26, No. 3) and reprinted together with the original and the translations of Gwyn Williams and Tony Conran in Materion Dwyieithog/Bilingual Matters (1989).

Discussion of the context and limitations of this version can be found on my blog HERE