Sunday, April 02, 2006

Radnorshire Bardic Poems, 11

This poem, a request for a mantle addressed to Elis Hol of Gladestry, is full of interest. The mantle is for Lewis Glyn Cothi's wife Gwenllian, a pair for the Arras cloth he had already received from Angharad vz Ieuan of Cefnllys Castle. The poem mixes classical mythology ( the Golden Fleece) with Celtic tradition (Tegau Eurfron). By the way Elis's name Hol (derived from Hywel) developed into the fixed surname Hole or Holl. Some lines are missing from the surviving manuscript and are marked ......... here.

No. 163 Request for a Mantle to Elis Hol

The best woman of twenty
With a proud dress on a slim waist.
Elis Hol, the saints call
That old age should come to her brow;
Daughter of John, of high nobility,
The best girl for beer and mead,
The maid is a grandchild of Hywel,
From his power she wears gold and precious stones;
The bright dawn of fair Maelienydd,
The colour of a nun’s gown,
Of the race of wealthy Madog,
A sun of generous Adam.
From these generous folk…………
Elis Hol…………..
And the praise of every confident tongue
Should go unto Elis.

Elis gives drink from her hand,
And then gifts with both hands.
In Maelor, Elis has a great name,
Yes, for her giving of mead.
May Derfel keep Elis
To pay out gold fleur d’lis.
Elis Hol has a summer jewel
That was woven in the winter;
A round mantle like a sail,
Furry from a fond cheek.
Bringing it to her with a dress,
To the beloved, why did I not request it?
The chasuble comes from a city,
The fairest between heaven and Knill.
About Gwenllian it will be the colour
Of God’s gown, or a deer’s coat;
A pair for the Arras cloth,
A hurdle of sunshine’s harsh fire.
A spear of gold like a cloak,
A shaggy web of fire;
Coloured with coral and water,
A forest of candles in a hidden veil,
An all encompassing shield,
A gules curtain in a bright glade.
Compare, with praise and approbation,
Her frieze, to the winding sheet of a saint,
To the bonfires of St John’s Eve,
To golden flames and pretty feathers.
Blessed was the fair weaver
Who gathered wool in Dublin,
Weaving tightly and trimly,
Setting it out like a priest’s vestment.

In Colcos they found
A lamb with a fleece of gold;
This is just as wondrous,
Its wool, its colour, its design.
A mantle of Tegau in the hall,
In all of Egypt there is none so fine;
They’re second, by Mary, to Elis,
With a coarser weave for the same price.
The mantle of Dewi in Caerleon
Was loved by the men of the Round Table;
I construct praise to the mantle
Of Elis Hol, which is better.
And to fetch it send a servant,
Order him to the city,
In haste to wear the woven frieze,
And pay its debt to Elis.

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