Saturday, January 21, 2006

Radnorshire Bardic Poems, 3

This is another poem by Lewis Glyn Cothi, no doubt commissioned by Elen Gethin of Hergest for the funeral of her son Rhisiart, Lord of Bleddfa, who was killed in the aftermath of the battle of Banbury and who was buried, like his father, in St Mary's Church, Kington.

No 128 The Elegy of Rhisiart Fychan

A sermon to Elen Gethin,
All my life I’ve spoken my mind:
Think about God, Elen,
And Mary his gentle, holy mother;
Mary who witnessed the death
Of Jesus, her son and her redeemer.
Elen , too, has witnessed, for her sake,
The cruel death of her prince.
From the court she brought him to the church,
Oh God, such a burden, Rhisiart Fychan!

I am sad from studying
The sadness of his mother for him,
Elen has grieved for two lands,
All the fair court of Herast has grieved.
Herast, oh more’s the pity, is saddened,
It was a good place for feasting;
In two days Maelienydd became
Weak, now it is worse;
Cedewain has run to gorse,
Ceri has become a withered forest;
In a hundred lands no man is praised,
Montgomery is nothing but a battlefield;
Llinwent, which was the world’s pattern,
Llinwent is less than nothing now,
The storm ravages Llinwent in the wake
Of this nephew of Tristan of Gwent.

Master Rhisiart, a powerful treasure,
Hidden at the edge of the choir,
A secret curtain over yellow hair,
There is white marble on his hair:
It is not unpleasing to Elen’s gaze,
The sight of her son in his white helm.
She sees him next to his father’s bed,
Lying together in a single love,
Two angels from the same house
Have gone to two rented beds.
God for better, between two altars,
Has taken a champion and a great soldier,
And she went to God himself,
High on the wind, Mary of Kington.

When Tomas ap Rhosier went
To God and the saints through the stars,
He was wise, my blessing to him,
Wishing his son to follow him.
The wood of Moreiddig is a bare pasture
Since every branch was blown down;
Yet there shall grow once more,
From a single sprout, two thousand trees.
Although men are brought down like twigs,
Tall ashes will grow again at Herast.
Master Watcyn desires such a world,
Master Rhosier will also be counted.
What God gives from the root
Both God and Mary desire.
If Tomas and Rhisiart have been taken,
The one Holy God has brought them to his ward.
A praiseworthy father and son,
Mary and her father will help them,
On her throne, as a protector
Of father and son, the Virgin Mary.


Unknown said...

This blog is amazing and you're a total lifesaver. I'm currently looking for English translations of the Welsh poems associated with Elen Gethin and you seem to have a few. While you mention the sources of some translations, either yourself or others, some posts do not have a translator listed. I would very much like to use your translations as part of a small paper I am working on, though I would need more information on their translators/sources before I can go forward. Looking forward to hearing more.

Unknown said...

Dear Ken,

Apologies for the double post. Thought the first one hadn't sent.

I would be more than happy to send the paper over to you.

Your reference to Gethin as olive skinned is interesting. Elen's 'terrible' status appears to be primary folkloric. She was said to have avenged the death of her brother by not only sneaking into an archery contest dressed as a man, but also to have then shot her brother's killer before she escaped. The references for this beyond legend appear to be vague at best.

Thank you again for your help in the matter. I'll be sure to keep in touch.