Monday, January 09, 2012

Goodbye to all that

This blog is six years old which seems a long enough run.

When I started back in 2006 there wasn't a lot of Radnorshire history on the web and some of it was nonsense.

Now we have this and this and this. More than enough to be getting on with.

By all means check back occasionally, I'll probably post something but not on a regular basis.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Bedo Brwynllys

Note: This is an old post but since the new super improved blogger deletes posts without warning  I've had to republish. Lost six comments though. 

For me Welsh lessons in Llandrindod Grammar School lasted for the five minutes or so it took the headmaster E. V. Howells to ask the newly arrived first formers if they wanted to take French or Welsh. I chose French because that was what my pals from the National School were signing up for. My father, who like many working-class Radnorians wished he could speak the language, was disappointed and as it turned out I hated French. I would probably have hated Welsh as well, if I'd taken that. Years later when I'd picked up a bit of the lingo I translated a load of bardic poems with the help of Geiriadur Mawr. I suppose what I'm trying to say is that the three translations below probably include some howlers. Perhaps I should take another look at them with the help of the online Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru but I really can't spare the time. What can't be translated, of course, is the intricate metre and craftmanship of these poems.

They are examples of the type of poem composed by young bards advising brides not to wed and married women to take a lover. I'd guess they were just a bit of fun and performed for the amusement of the assembly in the presence of the potential or actual spouse. I'd doubt if they expressed any real romantic attachment, these bards were in the business of making a living, not parading their emotions. The first certainly sounds as if it was being declaimed to a bride and groom at a wedding feast, the second laments the cutting down of a wood by a jealous husband and the third is an example of dyfalu, the piling up of metaphor, in this case to describe an eyebrow.

The poems are by the 15C bard Bedo Brwynllys who the experts say was from Bronllys near Talgarth. Why couldn't he be from the township of Brwynllys in Llanbister parish?

Y fun ddifai, fwyn ddwyfes

The blameless girl, a gentle goddess
White-necked, bright as the sun on the gable,
Jet brows upon two rosy cheeks,
With a face like fresh snow;
For beauty and grace,
There’s no seabird as fair as you!
God placed a roof of burnished gold
Upon your hair, newly roofed gold.
Is it any wonder then
That love has me in its thrall,
Has me languishing with sickness,
Fair one, my world’s without comfort!
Fair one, the girl who makes me ill,
Gentle fair one, should make me well!
Come fair one with your hair of gold,
To the greenwood, you with the golden hair,
For fear of misfortune, some sheltered bank,
Fair one, your husband has an evil nature.

Your kindred, fair brilliant girl,
Would love to sell you, fair one:
Come, to me, I’d not turn you away,
Look he’s an old man!
Don’t strike a bargain with an old miser
And upon false promises;
When he has you, the arch-miser will break his oath,
You’ll never be free of him.
You’ll never enjoy happiness again
Not one day in ten,
Only scolding each day, and anger,
That will leave you pining.

Graceful fair one, gossamer of light,
You have a beautiful face,
Love a young man who loves you,
Well respected in his country,
Place your faith in hands that respect you,
Avoid the hands of anger;
Fair one, for your life, don’t of your own free will
Seek foolish servitude, not even if you’re forced.

Y ddyn fwyn addwyn feinawl

The slim, gentle, kindly girl,
My plighted love, my rightful goddess;
Such terrible work, alas for lovers,
May your husband be speared, an easy task?
There’s no single spot in creation
Where he does not have his spies!
Yet my desire is greater
And he fears me, more and more.

There was, for those who would make love,
A pleasant grove, just ready for May;
He’s killed that pretty thicket -
A slaughter like that of wretched Troy!
Two fellows, yesterday, with axes
Came to the wood, two stupid men,
And death came to the innocent crowd.
It was Eiddig and his servant
Who left the fair vale naked,
Those enemies of the ash lined brook.
This was their cruel purpose,
(Let them be chased by devils!
A thief whom all despise)
To murder with evil hands.
A bad life for such filthy wretches,
Let Eiddig’s house suffer,
Let a swollen rumped hangman’s horse
Sit under his evil servant.

He grew bitter about a fair spoken girl,
He grew eager for fire,
(Oh see the place where love once was whispered)
The desolate grove is now a clearing
Full of stumps and pathways,
Where once there was wood,
Tree stumps and tangled roots,
Woodchips from some yokel’s axe.
Little wonder that on yonder slope
Eiddig is left bereft of birch trees,
He keeps no wooded parkland,
He tolerates no branches.
This very day the man has
Felled a woodland to the ground.
He’d cut down the Lord’s prayer itself
With his great sword in his hand!
That very hand cut down the wood.
A shelter for every gentle person
Brought there by desire.

There’s an evil about his house,
A spear for his belly, the arch villain,
Oh let summer give sprout to it.
A disaster‘s overtaken the world,
There’ll be no small saplings,
Isn’t it wretched, a stockpile of logs
Which will never bear their need of leaves?
Where a poet was once beneath the hazels,
In a shady place with a message of love,
A bare expanse has now been created.

Yet there’s a means, let me recite,
To take revenge when summer comes:
I’ll love the maid more than ever
The churl will pay for burning the wood!

Gwelais mewn ffair ddisgleirddyn

I saw a radiant girl at a fair,
She had the look of a bright mirror.
I saw fine brows like a squirrel’s,
How wretched there’s no better word!
I saw in the wink of her eye,
A sweet smile, shining and frownless.
I saw again a slim-browed maid,
A queen playing tricks on her lord,
I responded to Olwen’s gesture,
I’m mocked, caught by a fair girl.
A girl’s lashes made me weep,
Alas I was ever born!
Not a red brow, a quiet spoken girl,
Not blond nor yellow, by Mary:
A slim, black brow mocked me,
And left me lost for words.

It’s colour was drawn with berry juice,
A thin line like a rainbow;
A black circle on chalk,
An elegant wheel rim;
Appointed, from fine velvet,
To a high place, a tiny brow.
Black placed in a prominent place
On the sweet-wise queen, a pure black straw,
A shallow boss, a compass line on chalk,
The fresh hue of the blackbird,
A girl’s brow (let her come to the greenwood)
Of smithy soot, exceedingly thin,
A handle of gleaming black marble
Beneath a radiant osier chaplet.
God was good, he was blameless,
Placing a seal on a girl’s temple.
A rod’s trace on her forehead,
Part of the head’s hair,
A black sign as the forehead’s seam.
A fresh weld of crystal.
Prettily the party placed on a maid,
A pleated and divided mane;
A slim guard over a blush,
Gossamer on the vine’s face,
And the colour, like chalk on a sheet
Spattered with blackberry.
A round of silk, a chosen dress,
The soldered brow, a discreet mark.
The tip of a wing in the snow,
A barely visible string of jet beads.
Slim-browed queen, a glove seam,
A silk loom, fair silver brow,
An untwisted thread
Over the rose petals.
Your brow is faultless, powder of Liere,
Poppy seed blackening paper;
Not a mark on a sheet,
No such thing, that’s too thick.
A copy of a chapel print,
An exquisite stitch around a ball,
An ink-crest, God’s cross,
The merest wand of a round letter.

I received a memorable wink,
A subtle smile from a whinberry brow.
My surmise on receiving the pretty nod
Was that the girl would fall into my arms.
She loved to play tricks on her lord,
She’d not cheapen her body with a fool.
Despite her winking she seeks no tryst,
She’ll not come, she never said she would!