Kestrel's Nest

The ‘Real’ Taliesin,
the man and the myth,

by Angela Grant.

Note: This is one of the two essays that accompanied my application to the University of Oxford. In retrospect I might have written it differently, but it covers the sources in a fairly accurate manner so I will let it speak for itself.

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Taliesin Monument at Llyn Geirionydd

The Taliesin Monument at Llyn Geirionydd
© Angela Grant 2005

For the Welsh to distinguish between myth and history has always been a difficult exercise. – Emyr Humphreys, The Taliesin Tradition (Bridgend, 1989), p.13.

 

This paper sets out to explore the connection between Teliessin Penn Beird of Arthur’s Court,1 the baby who was caught in Gwyddno’s weir,2 the companion who helped bring Bran’s head back from Ireland,3 and the man, real or imagined, who sang songs in the court of Urien, lord of Rheged, and his son Owein.4 In doing so it may be necessary to redefine the nature of ‘reality’ to include the ‘reality’ embodied in myth, and consider why the borderline between myth and history is often not clearly defined and how at one period myth may be regarded as history and at another the lightly drawn figures of history may achieve the colour and power of myth. The nature of myth may be defined as ‘a means of containing and transmitting cultural messages which has itself either no basis in reality or else transforms reality. This sense directly echoes the meaning of the original Greek word muthos, which signified a story told to entertain or to play upon emotion rather than a logical discourse.’5 In this paper I can only sketch in lightly the various sources that exist in an attempt to illustrate the range in which the bard’s name occurs. I will proceed in mythological time sequence rather than the estimated ages of the stories concerned. Mythological time is fortunate in that, unlike the time that governs our watches, it may be stretched or foreshortened or even folded back upon itself to suit the needs of a particular story or storyteller so that Taliesin may be a reincarnation of Myrddin in one story6 and holding a conversation with him in another.7

 

From the Mabinogi

In the Second Branch of the Mabinogi, Branwen Uerch Lyr, Taliesin is listed as one of the seven men who survived the final battle between the hosts of Ynys y Kedyrn and Matholwch and carried Bendigeitfran’s head to Anglesey, Harlech, Gwales and finally buried it in the White Mount in London with its face towards France.8 This exploit echoes the earlier9 obscure poem Preiddeu Annwn10 to which I will return below.

In the tale of Culhwch and Olwen, Taliesin, Chief of Bards, is one of those of Arthur’s Court whose names Culhwch invokes as sureties so that Arthur get for him the gift of Olwen daughter of Yspaddaden Chief Giant.11 This is almost certainly the earliest reference to Taliesin as ‘Pen Beirdd’.12

Taliesin is also listed in the Triads (Peniarth MS.252) as one of the Three Skilful Bards at Arthur’s Court, together with Myrddin vab Morvryn and Myrddin Emrys.13

 

Hanes Taliesin

The story of Gwion Bach, the little boy who was turned by the magic of the brew mixed by the witch Cerridwen into Tal Iesin, Shining Brow, the all-knowing bard, magician, and seer must be known by many children in Wales judging by the number of children’s books on the subject.14 We only have the story by the survival of two relatively recent manuscripts: that of Elis Gruffydd’s ‘Chronicle of the Six Ages of the World’ dating from the first half of the sixteenth century15 and the ‘Hanes Taliesin’ in the hand of John Jones of Gellilyfdy dated c.1607.16 However, it is quite clear from references to the story in poems in the Book of Taliesin,17 that the story must have been widespread far earlier than these two manuscripts would indicate.

To briefly précis the story, Gwion Bach is employed by Cerridwen to keep the fire going under her cauldron assisted by the blind Morda.18 Cerridwen is brewing a potion for a year and a day to give wisdom and knowledge to her fearfully ugly son Morvran (Sea Raven) who is also known as Y Vagddu (Utter Darkness).19 Just before the brew is ready three drops of it, either by intent or accident, touch Gwion’s hand and they contain all the knowledge in the cauldron, which promptly bursts. Gwion sucks his fingers because the brew was hot and receives the knowledge with which he realises Cerridwen will be after him. A chase ensues in which both go through various transformations ending with Cerridwen (as a black hen) swallowing Gwion (as a grain of corn). There he stays for nine months until he is reborn as Taliesin. He is so beautiful that Cerridwen cannot kill him so she casts him adrift in a coracle20 and he ends up caught in the fish-weir21 of Gwyddno Long-shank. Here Gwyddno’s son Elphin rescues him and, being surprised one so young can hold a conversation, he takes him home to become his bard and together they go through a number of adventures at the court of Maelgwn Gwynedd.22 It is at that court Taliesin reveals himself in his full glory:

Prifuardd kyffredin         Official chief-poet
    wyf J i Elffin,             to Elphin am I,
A’m bro gynneuin         And my native abode
    yw gwlad shieruwbin.             is the land of the Cherubim.
Shihannes ddewin         Johannes the prophet
    a’m gelwis J Merd[d]in;             called me Merlin,
Bellach poob prenin         But now all kings
    a’m geilw J Taliesin.23             Call me Taliesin.24

He then goes on to describe his presence at various times and places throughout biblical, historical and Welsh mythological time, one couplet of which will do for the flavour:

Myui a ddugum heon         I brought seed down
    J lawr Glyn Ebron;             to the vale of Hebron;
Myui a vum yn llys deon         I was in the court of Dôn
    kynn genni Gwidion;             before the birth of Gwydion;

Before he finishes with a flourish:

Myui a vu[m] ymlygiawd         I was revealed
    yngwlad y Drinidawd;             in the land of the Trinity;
A myui a vum ddysgogawd         And I was moved
    J’r holl uyddygawd;             through the entire universe;
A myui a vyddaf hyd dydd brawd         And I shall remain till doomsday,
    ar wynneb daiarawd;             upon the face of the earth.
Ac ni widdis beth yw vy nghnawd-         And no one knows what my flesh is-
    ai kig ai pisgawd;             whether meat or fish.25
A myui a uum naw mis haiach         And I was nearly nine months
    ynghroth Keridwen y wrach;             in the womb of the witch Ceridwen;
Myui a vum gyntt Wion Bach,         I was formerly Gwion Bach,
    Neithyr Taliesin wyf J bellach.26             But now I am Taliesin.27

So here we have a fully fledged and detailed myth or folktale, the basis which must have entered into Welsh folklore at the absolute latest by the first quarter of the fourteenth century and most probably considerably earlier than that.28 Myths are often based on fact. Now we move on to what remains to us of that fact.

 

Canu Taliesin

The Historia Brittonum, attributed to Nennius,29 has been dated to the year 828/9.30 It contains what the author describes as ‘a heap of all that I have found, both from the Annals of the Romans and from the Chronicles of the Holy Fathers, and from the writings of the Irish and the English, and out of the tradition of our elders’.31 In the section known as the Northern History,32 when talking of the reign of Ida of Northumbria who reigned in the late sixth century, he says:

[T]unc Dutigirn in illo tempore fortiter dimicabat contra gentem Anglorum. Tunc Talhaern Tat Aguen in poemate claruit ; et Neirin, et Taliessin, et Bluchbard, et Cian, qui vocatur Guenith Guaut, simul uno tempore in poemate Brittannico claruerunt.33

At that time Outigirn (Eudeyrn)34 then fought bravely against the English nation. Then Talhaearn Tad Awen was famed in poetry; and Aneirin and Taliesin and Bluchbard and Cian, known as Guenith Guaut, were all simultaneously famed in British verse.35

Here Taliesin is clearly not being named as the most famous bard, that place being reserved for Talhaearn (Iron Brow) Tad Awen (Father of Inspiration). The appellation ‘Pen Beirdd’ has yet to appear. Ifor Williams, in his Canu Taliesin36 reduced the total canon of poetry attributed to Taliesin in the Book of Taliesin and other manuscripts down to twelve poems that he felt, on various criteria, could be safely attributed to the bard mentioned in the Historia Brittonum. One rather curiously worded praise poem is to Cynan Garwyn, Lord of Powys.37 Two are to Gwallawg,38 Lord of Elmet (Elfed), a kingdom in the angle between the Saxon kingdoms of Mercia and Northumbria. The remaining nine are to Urien,39 Lord of Rheged, and his son Owein. The exact area of Rheged is uncertain but it was probably centred somewhere near Carlisle and abutted the territory of Ystrad Clud (Strathclyde) in the north, covering part of the western lowlands of Scotland and modern Cumbria and may originally have extended as far south as the Mersey and the borders of Elmet.40 Urien is also described as ruler of Catraeth which indicates this poem41 to date earlier than the Gododdin of Aneirin.42 The same page of Historia Brittonum also mentions that:

Deodric contra illum Urbgen cum filiis dimicabat fortiter.43
Theodoric fought vigorously against Urien and his sons.44

Theodoric is usually listed as reigning in the years 572-9. The dates come from the Moore Memoranda45 compiled by Bishop John Moore (1646-1714) and attached to the so-called Moore Bede.46 These are somewhat shaky foundations on which to declare that there was a living bard called Taliesin who was bard to Urien, Lord of Rheged in the late sixth century, but that is all the evidence we have.47 So let us pass to the evidence of the poems themselves. Many of them end with:

Ac yny vallwyf y hen         And until I am old and ailing
ym dygyn agheu aghen.         in the dire necessity of death
Ny bydif yn dirwen.         I shall not be in my element
na molwyf i vryen.48         if I don’t praise Urien.49

Indeed, here we do have a bard’s praise for his lord:

glewhaf eissyllyd         Of most courageous stock
tydi goreu yssyd.         you are the best;
or a uu ac a uyd.         of all who have been and will be
nyth oes kystedlyd.50         you have no competitor.51

Comments on his war prowess:

Gweleis i ran reodic am vryen         I saw noble men about Urien
pan amwyth ae alon. Yn llech wen         When he cut down his foes in Llech Wen.
galystem y wytheint oed llafyn         Routing foes in wrath gave him joy,
aessawr gwyr goborhit wrth aghen.         Men’s bucklers were borne where needed:
Awyd kat a diffo eurwyn.52         Lust for battle never leaves Urien.53

And his lord is generous:

Meuedwys med y oruoled      Plenty of mead for revels,
a chein tired imi yn ryfed.      And fine estates for me as wealth.
A ryfed mawr ac aur ac awr.      Wealth galore, gilded and golden,
Ac awr a chet a chifriuet54      Gold and gifts and esteem55

And how do we know these poems are by Taliesin? Why, he says so:

Llwyfenyd van. Ac eirch achlan      Beautiful Llwyfenydd and all of Eirch,
yn vn trygan mawr a bychan      Great and small, in a single song,
taliessin gan tidi ae didan.56      Taliesin entertains you57

His name also appears in another poem:

Adunswn y ar orwyd ffysciolin
tut ynyeil gwerth yspeil taliessin.58
 
I would loved to have gone
on a frisky horse
with the foragers
for the spoils of Taliesin...59

The weight of scholarship would appear to support Sir Ifor Williams’ contention that these were written by a bard who lived in the late sixth century and who sang and fought for Urien, lord of Rheged.60 So let us pass on to what other evidence there is.

 

Llyfr Taliesin

If we assume from the title ‘Book of Taliesin’ that the contents are to be regarded as attributed to the bard,61 then once we have extracted Sir Ifor’s Canu Taliesin and the poems connected with the Hanes Taliesin we are left with a somewhat motley collection. According to Sir Ifor, after deductions, there are seven religious poems, ten prophecies, five eulogies to Tenby, Alexander, Arthur, and Hercules, five elegies to Madawg ac Erof, Corroi m. Dayry, Dylan, Aeddon, and Cunedda, and Songs of the Macrocosm and the Microcosm.62 However Sir Ifor included in the poems related to the Hanes a poem called ‘Preiddeu Annwn’, which may be translated as the ‘Spoils or Booty of Annwn’, in which there is no reference to any of the characters of the folktale.63 It refers to a cauldron:

yg kynneir or peir         My poetry, from the cauldron
   pan leferit.            it was uttered.
Oanadyl naw morwyn         From the breath of nine maidens
   gochyneuit.            it was kindled.
Neu peir pen annwfyn         The cauldron of the chief of Annwfyn:
   pwy y vynut.            What is its fashion?
gwrym am yoror         A dark ridge around its border
   amererit.            and pearls.64

It also has a number of references to only seven returning from the expedition:

nam seith ny dyrreith         Except seven none rose up
   ogaer sidi.            from the Fortress of the Mound.

Which links it to the story in ‘Branwen Uerch Lyr’ that I referred to above. However, in this case, it is Arthur, rather than Bendigeituran, that leads the expedition, which is to Annwn rather than Ireland. This is clearly entertainment with overtones of comparing the deeds of the mythic past with the lesser deeds of the speaker’s time. However, the speaker has taken the persona of Taliesin, one of the founding fathers of the Bardic order. He playfully contrasts the learning of the Bards, sourced from the cauldron, with the learning of monks. As Marged Haycock says:

‘By stressing the omniscience of the Taliesin figure, his familiarity with mythology and legend, his Otherworld connections, his mastery of exotic learning, they would, in a way, be swelling their own prestige and emphasizing the archaic origins of their poetic order’.65

As has been said, many of the poems in Llyfr Taliesin are prophetic in nature, which ties in very well with an entry in the Welsh Laws:66

19. Tri swyddawc a wasnaetha y brenin o’i heiste: ynat; a throedyawc a phencerdd, sef yw hynny bardd cadeiriawc a wypo peth a ddel rhag llaw o gerdd Taliessyn.

Three officers who serve the king sitting: a judge, and a foot-holder and a chief poet, namely a seated poet who knows what may happen in the future by means of a poem of Taliesin.

And again:

23. Tri dyn sydd well eu breint o’e heiste noc o’e sefyll: ynat y frawdle o sarheir o weli tafawt; pencerdd, sef yw hwnnw bardd a ynillo cadeir, sef yw hwnnw a wyppo daro(n)gangerdd Talyessin a gwerth pob canu; troydyawc y freint yw eiste dan driet y brenin, ac yna y mae nawdd iddaw.

Three persons whose status is better when sitting than when standing: a judge in his judgement-place if he is injured with a tongue-wound; a chief poet, namely a poet who gains a chair, that is, someone who knows a prophetic poem of Taliesin and the value of every poem; a foot-holder’s privilege is to sit beneath the king’s foot, and then he can give safe-conduct.

Taliesin, from being the bard of one of the wild kingdoms of the sixth century north, has become a Welsh medieval institution.

 

Conclusion

I would like to believe that the twelve poems that Sir Ifor Williams selected were indeed composed by a sixth century bard even though their language had mutated somewhat before they were written down. Three centuries later, however, it is clear that successive generations of Bards that followed him, as well as mutating the language, had mutated the man. If he had been flesh and blood originally, by the ninth century he had been granted the status of demigod. If the Bardic class needed a mythic father-figure to refer back to, they now had one. Someone to hold forward, to say this is where our skills and learning have come from. Whether or not he deserved the epithet ‘Chief of Bards’ originally, he did so in the eyes of his medieval successors. Why it was Taliesin that achieved this status rather than the other four listed by Nennius we shall probably never know. Of three we have no poetry at all; of Aneirin we have one major work and no more. It is Taliesin’s name that has shone out like a beacon from the troubled age that created the separate cultures of England and Wales. It is he, and he alone, who has been elevated by successive generations to the rank of ‘Taliesin Pen Beirdd’. Long may his songs be sung, whoever wrote them.

 

© Angela Grant, 2006.

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Notes:

(1) Rachel Bromwich and D. Simon Evans (eds.), Culhwch and Olwen, An Edition and Study of the Oldest Arthurian Tale (Cardiff, 1992), henceforth CO, p. 8. (back)

(2) Patrick K. Ford (ed.), Ystoria Taliesin (Cardiff, 1992), henceforth YT, p. 45 et seq. (back)

(3) Derick S. Thomson (ed.), Branwen Uerch Lyr (Dublin, 2003), henceforth BUL, p. 15. (back)

(4) Sir Ifor Williams (ed.), The Poems of Taliesin, English Version by J. E. Caerwyn Williams (Dublin, 1987), henceforth PT, p. xviii et seq. (back)

(5) Ronald Hutton, Witches, Druids and King Arthur (Hambledon, 2003), p. 1. (back)

(6) YT, p. 76; Patrick K. Ford (trans.), The Mabinogi and other Medieval Welsh Tales (Berkeley CA, 1977), henceforth TMMWT, p. 172. (back)

(7) A. O. H. Jarman (ed.), Ymddiddan Myrddin a Thaliesin (Cardiff, 1967); Meirion Pennar (trans.), The Black Book of Carmarthen (Llanerch, 1989), pp. 34-42. (back)

(8) BUL, p. 15; TMMWT, p. 70. (back)

(9) Marged Haycock refers to the Book of Taliesin as being of the first quarter of the fourteenth century in ‘Preiddeu Annwn and the Figure of Taliesin’ in Studia Celtica 18/19 (1983/84), pp.52-78, henceforth Preiddeu. However, Sir Ifor Williams lists the datable poems as being written c.875-c.1100, PT, p. xxvi. (back)

(10) J. Gwenogvryn Evans (ed.), Facsimile & Text of the Book of Taliessin (Llanbedrog, 1910), henceforth BT, pp. 54-56. (back)

(11) CO, p. 8; TMMWT, p. 127. (back)

(12) The relative dating of the various sources is a matter of argument. CO dates the MS of the White Book of Rhydderch to c.1350 (p. ix) though the language of ‘Culhwch ac Olwen’ is clearly more archaic than other stories, i.e. the Four Branches, which occur in the same MS. See also T. M. Charles-Edwards, ‘The Date of the Four Branches of the Mabinogi’ in Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorian, Session 1970, pp. 263-298. (back)

(13) Rachel Bromwich (ed.), Trioedd Ynys Prydein, The Triads of the Island of Britain (Cardiff, 2006) Triad 87, p. 228, henceforth TYP. The MS sources for this Triad were dated by J. Gwenogvryn Evans in his Report on manuscripts in the Welsh Language (London, 1898-1905) as being from the sixteenth century onwards copying earlier manuscripts now lost. The original date of the Triad is therefore uncertain. One imagines, since the two Myrddins are separate and distinct, that it must predate the conflation of the two in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Vita Merlini in 1150 but it is possible that a popular oral tradition of two separate Myrddin’s could have continued alongside Geoffrey’s literary conflation (see note in TYP p. 458). (back)

(14) Tegwyn Jones & Jac Jones, Gwion a’r Wrach (Llandysul, 1996) and Gwyn Thomas, Chwedl Taliesin (Cardiff, 1992) to name but two. (back)

(15) NLW 5276D; YT, p.vii. (back)

(16) Peniarth MS 111, pp. 1-12; YT, p. 133. (back)

(17) Sir Ifor Williams states that no less than 15 poems in BT owe their existence to the story (PT, p. xviii) particularly Angar Kyfyndawt: BT, pp. 18-23. For discussions of this poem see Sir John Morris-Jones, Taliesin in Y Cymmrodor, 28 (London, 1918), pp. 241-242, henceforth Tal.; PT, pp. xv-xvi; Marged Haycock, ‘Taliesin’s Questions’, in Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies, 33 (1997), pp. 19-79; and particularly Sarah Lynn Higley, Between Languages, The Uncooperative Text in Early Welsh and Old English Nature Poetry (Pennsylvania, 1993), trans. pp. 284-292. For the date of the MS see Marged Haycock, ‘Llyfr Taliesin’ in National Library of Wales Journal, 25 (1988), pp. 357-386. On dating see also note 9 above. (back)

(18) Only named in Peniarth 111. (back)

(19) In CO he is named as surviving the battle of Camlan because he was so ugly the attackers thought him an attendant demon so left him alone. (CO, pp. 8-9; TMMWT, p. 127). (back)

(20) There are overtones here of Moses in the bulrushes. There is also the question of the Celtic tradition of children of doubtful parentage being tested by being allowed to sink or swim in the river, those who sank being regarded as bastards and those who survived as legitimate. See W. J. Gruffydd, Math vab Mathonwy (Cardiff, 1928), p. 230. However, an alternative idea might be that the coracle or bag is the residue of a transformation into a seal. See: Sarah Larratt Keefer, ‘The lost tale of Dylan in the Fourth Branch of The Mabinogi’ in Studia Celtica, 24/25 (1989-90), pp. 26-37. (back)

(21) ‘ar lan Konwy ynn gyuagos J’r mor’ (on a bank of the Conwy near to the sea) at ‘nos galangaiaf’ (All-Hallows Eve) according to Elis Gruffydd (YT, p. 68) and ‘yn y traeth rrwng Dyfi ag Aberystwyth’ (on the beach between Dyfi and Aberystwyth) at ‘nos kalan Mai’ (May Eve) according to John Jones (YT, p. 135) mythical geography apparently being as elastic as mythical time. This could indicate that there were northern and southern versions of the story. (back)

(22) See YT and TMMWT for the whole story. (back)

(23) YT, p. 76. (back)

(24) TMMWT, p. 172. (back)

(25) The meaning of this curious phrase is uncertain. However, it does remind me of the passage in CO concerning the wisdom and knowledge of the ‘oldest animals’, the oldest and wisest being the Salmon of Llyn Llyw. See CO, pp. 31-33; TMMWT, pp. 147-149; also W. J. Gruffydd, ‘Mabon vab Modron’ in Y Cymmrodor, 42 (1931), pp. 129-147. (back)

(26) YT, p. 78. (back)

(27) TMMWT, p. 173. (back)

(28) See notes 9 and 17 above. (back)

(29) David Dumville has indicated that Nennius is not the compiler and that his name was not associated with the text until the 11th century. See ‘Nennius and the Historia Brittonum’, in Studia Celtica 10/11 (1975/6), pp. 78-95. (back)

(30) John Morris (ed.), Nennius, British History and the Welsh Annals (Chichester, 1980), henceforth Nennius, p. 1. (back)

(31) Nennius, p. 9. (back)

(32) Only found in one manuscript, Harleian MS 3859. The relevant page, fol. 188b, is reproduced as a frontispiece to Rachel Bromwich (ed.), The Beginnings of Welsh Poetry, Studies by Sir Ifor Williams (Cardiff, 1972), henceforth BWP. (back)

(33) PT, p. xi corrected by reference to the photo in BWP. (back)

(34) See Ivor Williams, ‘Notes on Nennius’, note 4, in Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, henceforth BBCS, 7, pp. 387-388 for an explanation of how he arrived at the name Eudeyrn from the Dutigirn of the manuscript. (back)

(35) Nennius, p. 37; PT, p. xi. (back)

(36) (Cardiff, 1960) Translated into English as PT, see note 4 above. (back)

(37) PT poem I. (back)

(38) PT poems XI and XII. (back)

(39) Possibly more correctly Urföen. See PT, p. xlviii. (back)

(40) In his speculation on the meaning of the ‘Mor Terwyn’ of CO, p. 11 (BBCS, 30, pp. 296-303), John T. Koch suggested that the Mersey was the original boundary between Rheged and Powys and served later as the border between Mercia and Northumbria. (back)

(41) PT poem VIII, 9, and p. xlviii. (back)

(42) The Battle of Catraeth to which the poem refers is conjecturally dated c.600. See A.O.H. Jarman Aneirin: Y Gododdin, Britain’s Oldest Heroic Poem (Llandysul, 1990) p. xiii. (back)

(43) Nennius, p. 79. (back)

(44) Nennius, p. 38. (back)

(45) PT, p. xii. (back)

(46) Cambridge, University Library, Kk. 5. 16, f. 128v. (back)

(47) Some have shown reasons to doubt the antiquity of the so-called ‘historical’ poetry. See Graham R. Isaac, ‘Gweith Gwen Ystrat and the northern heroic age of the sixth century’ in Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies, 36 (1998). (back)

(48) PT poems II-VII, IX. (back)

(49) Meirion Pennar, Taliesin Poems (Llanerch, 1988), henceforth TP, p. 64. (back)

(50) PT, poem III, 21-22, p. 3. (back)

(51) TP, p. 58. (back)

(52) PT, poem II, 28-32, pp. 2-3. (back)

(53) Joseph P. Clancy, The Earliest Welsh Poetry (London, 1970), p. 25. (back)

(54) PT, poem IV, 3-6, p. 4. (back)

(55) Patrick K. Ford, The Celtic Poets (Belmont MA, 1999), henceforth CP, p. 166. (back)

(56) PT, poem IV, 21-24, p. 4-5. (back)

(57) CP, p. 167. (back)

(58) PT, poem VIII, 36-37, p. 10. (back)

(59) TP, p. 93. (back)

(60) PT, p. xviii. Against this solid weight I have only been able to track the article in note 47 above and a single triad that states that Tristfardd was the bard of Urien (TYP 11, pp. 20-21). Of course Urien could have had more than one bard. There is also J. Gwenogvryn Evans’ ‘imaginative’ attempt in the foreword to BT to move Aneirin, Taliesin and the others to the twelfth century. This was clinically demolished by Sir John Morris-Jones in his Tal. including the memorable phrase ‘that all this trash should be printed in the best ink on the finest paper … is sad indeed’ (See YT, p. 7). Evans’ best editions are indeed magnificent examples of the bookbinder’s skill as I can confirm from personal inspection. We also have to be eternally grateful to Dr. Evans for producing his diplomatic editions and thereby making the texts of the major manuscripts available to Welsh scholars. (back)

(61) Marged Haycock indicates this name was not applied to the manuscript until the eighteenth century. See Preiddeu, p. 58, note 19. However, she clearly supports the idea that Taliesin is the pivotal figure throughout the manuscript. Preiddeu, pp.53-54. (back)

(62) PT, pp. xviii-xix. There is also a considerable corpus of poems in other manuscripts attributed to Taliesin. See Elizabeth J. Louis Jones and Henry Lewis, Mynegai i Fardioniaeth y Llawsgrifau (Cardiff, 1928). (back)

(63) Marged Haycock has suggested a date of composition between the ninth and twelfth centuries. Preiddeu, p. 57. (back)

(64) Sarah Lynn Higley ‘The Spoils of Annwn: Taliesin and Material Poetry’ in A Celtic Florilegium: Studies in memory of Brendan O Hehir, ed. Kathryn A. Klar et al. (Lawrence MA, 1997), p. 50. (back)

(65) Preiddeu, p. 58 (back)

(66) Aneurin Owen (ed.), Ancient Laws and Institutes of Wales (London, 1841), Vol II, pp.586-9.

© Angela Grant, 2006, 2009.

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