Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Radnorshire Bardic Poems, 15

This Wedding Ode was composed for the marriage of Robert Whitney of the tiny Marcher lordship of Whitney, now just across the English border in Herefordshire, and Elis, the daughter of Tomas Fychan and Elen Gethin of Hergest, Kington. The neithior, wedding feast held before the marriage was an important element in the bardic tradition, for it was here that the apprentice bard graduated. This long and perhaps, for the casual reader, tedious awdl is full of historical interest.

123. Wedding Ode to Robert Whitney and Elis vz Tomas Fychan

Oh God, who on the Wye bank has wit?
Master Robert of Whitney,
Staunch eagles from the houses of the cross,
From the line of Trussell, with no lesser blood.

The line of marriage causes no more worry,
The daughter of Tomas ap Rhosier,
Mistress Elis, is chosen,
It is like choosing a sun from a company of stars.

Every courser of their court is a star
Food and drink fill the table,
I feel a chill when I see his ward,
Strange to be without Robert’s tower.

In his father’s tower, Robert
Is surrounded by money, more than in Newgate,
By stallions and spearmen in the embrace of battle,
More numerous than parishes, in their plate armour.

In her curtained tower, Mistress Elis
Has money and treasure, jewels and dresses;
On Monday she’ll wear clothes of damask silk,
Matching chamlet and velvet,
With a train of gold over her head and cheek,
She’ll wear garlands and scarlet,
And pray to Jesus for a fruitful life,
Nine lives she’ll bring to estate.

Generous Master Robert calls Elfael his country,
A master who shares his wealth freely with me.
Here he is a fair and equitable magistrate,
He sits on many councils of escheat,
No treachery may be proved against him,
None ever will be, no case would stand,
While there is a boat or a ship anchored at sea,
While the sky has colour, while the moon exists.

In the lord’s court everyone has their place,
Henchmen and yeomen are not refused,
Golden coursers whinnying,
Trumpets, bowmen, stags bleating,
The greyhounds of Whitney, a hundred hunting dogs,
A host of huntsmen in uniform,
The Epiphany kitchen busy with cooks, butler, cellar men, chattering carpenters,
And outside the court laughing peasants,
And outside the tower a minstrel without an invitation;
And from the bride, progeny and a supreme lineage,
And from the groom issue and lineage and seed.

Amen! Seed and lineage as she would desire
From the Lord of Whitney;
In their court a place of Alsace wine,
In their white towers and their houses.

The contracted court of my lady,
The courts of my lord like sunshine,
Her saintly tower is a sanctuary.

The tower of Master Robert, an ash,
A better tower than the White Tower,
A brilliant-white square storybook tower.

What house is that in the shape of five dice
Yonder, like Sandwich?
Is it not Elis’s court upon a headland?

A citadel on the Wye bank,
With her it is greater than
The tower of Joshua, than Caesar’s tower.

Set on a beach it is no less,
This Nudd’s house in fair Whitney,
Than the houses of charity that Lazarus built.

These two are no less,
With their wine for me,
Than the flowers of the south through all the earth.

More free the gifts
From his hand, as hers,
Than the flow of a river, to a guileless scholar.

Fair the gifting
Of gold given to Mary,
Like snow for Jesus from Balthasar.

From their mine of gold and their mead,
From their goods in like manner,
From their feats, the two friends would not refuse me.

The rents of their lands
I’d have and gowns,
Various vegetables, food on a spit.

A variety of sea food,
The wealth of vale and mountain,
More spirits, various birds.

An Arthur will not refuse me,
As tall as an ash tree,
And she, too, is Gwenhwyfar.

Ugh! To the Saxon up
From their stronghold which he hates,
A cold life to him who loves not the Welshman.

Deiniol, St Denis,
Cedwyn has protected them,
Dewi, Non, Elis, Dwynwen, Ilar.

To them the life of Moses,
As long as Old Noah,
Two lives of two trees, an oak tree and an oak wood.

A start in good health
Mary, grant them,
Long their conquest and a distant parting.

Let their parting be distant, let their lifetime
Be longer than the oldest unto Monmouth,
To scatter gold upon the Arrow,
To fill the banks of the Wye with wine!

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