Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Radnorshire Bardic Poems, 2

In the Fifteenth Century the Welsh speaking lands extended into districts which are now part of Herefordshire. In 1469 Tomas Fychan of Hergest was killed at the battle of Banbury. His wife, the formidable Elen Gethin of Llinwent, brought his body home and constructed the alabaster tomb which can still be seen in St Mary's Church, Kington. Lewis Glyn Cothi was no doubt well rewarded for composing this cywydd. Here is my translation.

No . 125 The Tomb of Tomas ap Rhosier Fychan

Without an hour to waste, greetings
To the land and houses of Herast,
Houses of obligation, stone towers
A land with eight homes that serve wine,
The close of Tomas ap Rhosier,
Houses like the tower of Alaher.

When gold-embossed Tomas was killed
At Banbury, in a golden crest,
That Sunday his lady
Brought him back to his glass-windowed home.
Did Rhodes make, or her eight ancient men
In eight halls, what Elen has wrought?
A grave that cost as much as a distant conquest,
It cost more than a castle wall.
There is writing above the grave,
Two names joined together:
The name of generous Tomas, who alas is no more,
And then the name of Elen.
Every part of the grave is dressed
With posts of white alabaster,
And on them, a man of ancient gold
And a fair woman under a covering of gold.
There are angels set one by one,
And has not each a multi-coloured shield?
It was good work, work for a day, two such days.
The relic chests are gilded,
A pregnant bed with colour in the heights,
A gleaming square like the church of St Curig,
Cut rock like a white crag,
A stone cradle from the choir of St David’s,
A white coffer that no-one stirs,
A pale citadel closing over a face,
Steel about a soldier,
A screen circle of a man’s bones,
A stone altar like a full moon,
With golden light falling on the floor,
The form of a wooden chest under bright candles,
The form of a stall closing over the brother of an earl.

How futile the grave under a thick wall,
Next to the tomb of Tomas.
By chance the grave of Tomas
Is a cairn of gold in an elegant fortress.
Another grave like that of Huail,
A Canterbury for the deer of Kington,
As powerful as Thomas the Martyr,
He was a miracle for his men.

Master Watcyn is a graceful root,
The maintainer of Tomas’s yeomen,
A wise eagle over his father’s men,
A lamb of God for our two lands.
The root and branch of Moreiddig,
Head of the eighth part of Elystan’s line,
The foundation stone of Bleddyn ap Maenyrch,
The seal of Einion Sais, beloved spear.
Holy God preserve Watcyn and his tenement,
This Monday, the Eagles of Llinwent,
Was there born within its shelter
Any better than the falcon of Hergest court?
If the sun goes down into the salt sea,
If the sunshine goes with it,
If a stag runs on the hill slope,
If the roebuck wanders the river cliff,
If falcons go in threes to the forest,
A long life will go to the lion of Herast.

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