Thursday, July 26, 2012

Shades of Anni Goch

The Radnorshire village of Norton may have a war memorial (in the form of a horse trough) with an inscription commemorating "its faithful sons who fought and died for England" but it also has a place in the history of Welsh literature.

There was a time when some might have claimed that Anni Goch, the subject of four (or is it five?) poems by the bard Ieuan Dyfi, wasn't a real person but a type, a stock figure.  The researches of academic Llinos Beverley Smith in the early 16C records of the Leominster Consistory Court have shown that Anni was real enough. She was the wife of John Lippard of Norton and her adulterous affairs, together with accusations of rape and attempted murder were enough to have her bardic paramour whipped around Presteigne church, while hubby John received similar exercise at Presteigne, Noron and Byton.

It's said that some 160 bardic poems addressed to Radnorshire patrons have survived, to which should be added nearly 30 more for patrons living just across the border in what is now Herefordshire.  Hopefully these will one day be brought to wider Radnorian attention by someone qualified to do so.  In the meantime here's a rough translation of one of the poems to Anni Goch.  As Ieuan Dyfi's work found it's way into the manuscripts Anni's connection with Norton was forgotten and copyists substituted another placename that met the requirements of cynghanedd - Overton in Flintshire.  One manuscript did get it right though - Nortyn:

Cynydd ydwyf yn canu

I am a huntsman blowing the horn
That musters the host.
I'll hunt with my swift hounds,
Finding the scent is not easy,
It was a hind with a bright form,
That escaped me from a nearby forest .
Everywhere there are snares
I've set for my girl.
Ni wn ar hynt yn y rhwyd
Yn nydd antur na ddeintiwyd.*
She stirs like a hart stirs
Retreating and leaving the covert.
And I'm like a huntsman's pup
Pursuing her like a rampant stag.

From Norton, colour of hazy sunshine,
Out there she was lost.
I don't know what land or region
She makes for from my pursuit.
Maybe she heads down south to the two Gwents
To escape her confinement.
The symbol of the island and my chieftain,
Sir Water, allow me the field;
And if the doe comes from the south,
Then, Sir Rhys, allow me to yoke;
Not to a wild beast or a tame creature
But one who flies with your birds.
If to Builth between turf and wind,
Sir Wiliam, allow me to hunt.
If  Gwynedd's your intention,
Sir Tomos, allow me a prison.
If to Powys, I'd spy you
After the chase and settling the hounds,
Further thanks will be paid,
To tall Mr. Richard Herbert.
If to Hereford, perchance, the fair one
Flees, for fear of being mocked,
In that land there's a chief,
Mr. Owain Pwl, allow me a pure fist,
May Ovid not forsake me,
This is my complaint, she's hiding.
From following the banks of the Wye,
Nor a step above Monmouth,
If she escapes from this lawsuit,
Then to the Vaughans I'll present my case.
If to England she tries to flee,
I know judgement will come there:
the barons of my king,
The men of the guard who love wine,
Will find the slim, upright girl
In one of the winehouses of London.
Or failing that, there's a long task
To find the girl who I'm seeking,
If she's disappeared completely then Dyfi
will seek the girl throughout the world.

Before the time comes to sing
I lose the scent in the hazels.
I'm sorrowful like Uthur for Eigr
It nurses a pain.
Oh for the wizards of Merddin
To give me high magic for her!
Like Gwdion who they often kept
Working endlessly for Huan.
If she resists the sorcerers' enchantments
Is there a magic word she doesn't know?

Beware she doesn't come on a bier
To Edmund from the mount to the sea.
Was there in the tale of Taliesin
A girl from Greece of such great sorcery?
In daylight she rules
In purgatory her face will be!

* Maybe someone can come up with a translation of this couplet which makes sense.

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