Sunday, May 06, 2012

Radnorshire Bardic Poems 47

Below is my poor translation of a 15C poem by the bard Llawdden, a man who once lived, by his own account, in the parish of Cefnllys. It is a request for a sallet - a type of helmet - made on behalf of Dafydd ap Maredudd Fychan of Garddfaelog, Llanbister (Caerfaelog on the OS map) to an uncle named Madog.

According to the modern day edition of Llawdden's work this Madog was one Madog ap Hywel ap Madog Fychan who according to Bartrum's genealogies was Dafydd's maternal grandfather rather than his uncle, see here.  It can also be seen that this Madog was not related by blood to Cadwgan ap Hywel Fychan of Elfael Uwch Mynydd, as line 13 suggests.

I would like to put forward another name, one Madog ap Maredudd ap Rhys whose pedigree can be found here (Elystan Glodrydd 10).  Like Dafydd, Madog was descended in the maternal line from Cadwgan.  His father Maredudd ap Rhys was also a first cousin of Glyndwr's lieutenant Rhys Gethin and therefore Madog was a second cousin of Sir Richard Gethin, a famous soldier in the 15C French Wars who, somehow or other, is ignored by the Dictionary of Welsh Biography.  While Dafydd was Cadwgan's great grandson, Madog was Cadwgan's grandson and a cousin to Dafydd of Garddfaelog's mother - what the old Radnorshire folk would have called a Welsh uncle.

The editor of Gwaith Llawdden makes a good case for the Llanfair of line 6 being Llanfair Trellwydion, a lost chapelry within Llanbister parish and fairly close to Garddfaelog.  If Madog ap Maredudd was the donor of the helmet then this Llanfair could instead be Builth, the descent group Elystan Glodrydd(10) holding land there and also in Diserth parish. This is just a suggestion but it would also solve the problem, identified by the editor, of the request poem starting, unusually, with a reference to the recipient of the gift rather than the donor.

Mae seiri yn mesuraw

Yonder the craftsmen
Measure out a mile of gold;
From fair houses it was worked
Heavenly colour on the river bank;
A place of good men beside the surge
The Land of Llanfair, behold a fair vale!

One of the goodmen of our island
Is the image of Maredudd ap Rhys
Who made the governance of the two lands
An advancement for Madog.
He's like a hawk or a falcon
He's a bird over Elfael.

Two kinsmen from the same Cadwgan,
Have made an exchange
For me there's  but a journey,
Rare purpose, between uncle and nephew.

This one has it, for me with his gift
A sallet like a swan's breast.
From the town a covering for the pate,
All blue like a young salmon's back.
A louver like the seven planets,
A lamp, lighting for my head.
A casket to be worn against a blow,
A bell that comes as far as the cheeks.
Round like a conqueror's crown,
A white bolster about a man's ears
I come with my poem and accompanying harp
Beaten steel through the crystal,
A sallet like St Silin's relic,
Shops of Sheen tassells,
Silver bordered burnished bar,
With a pennant like a fine banner.

The colour of ice on the sides,
Polished gold beside the jewel,
A moon fitted for the skull
Smoother than plate metal.
Sun or fire, it is thin,
A turned bowl set with a hat.
Its visor works as my shield
Like a box or a grey blue beast.
A place for the hair within a white cauldron,
A place to peep from an enemy's hand;
A visit seen, a man brought it,
Through two Ls sight penetrates.
A good gentle head like Dewi Mynyw,
Meugan's head, of silver.
Plate for the head against an ash spear,
A head-dress like an anchorite's white cap.

I'm a poet who dreams,
And a dream comes swiftly,
A ship for me or a white skillet,
Or Owain ab Urien's cauldron.
A cock's comb like a stone above the gro,
Or a scallop shell from Santiago.
It's bottom like a Maelor goblet,
With jaws like a great gun.
If it's to be had above my dark blue eyes
A steel head like St George's bonnet,
A hat of steel as broad as a plate,
A helmet in Madog's possession:
I name this for Dafydd
A helmet will be worn in Garddfaelog!

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