Friday, March 8, 2013

Day 8: More Dafydd ap Gwilym

What better way to end the week than with a couple more poems from Dafydd ap Gwilym?  We start with excerpts from “Morfudd’s Arms,” which provides a good example of the various poems he wrote to Morfudd. In “A Mendicant Friar’s Advice” he confronts a theme that will feature strongly among the Welsh in later centuries when the Baptist and Calvinistic Methodist preachers ruled from the pulpit—religion and sin. I don’t think Dafydd would have been at home in the Wales of the 18th and 19th centuries. Despite Dafydd’s sinful, wanton lifestyle, the Welsh literati of the 19th century recognized his genius. That said, they did draw the line at including his poem Y Gal in the anthologies. I’ll let you find that one (and the English translation) at


Twf y dyn tyfiad Enid,
Â’r tefyll aur, a’m tyf llid;
Tâl moeledd, talm o alaw,
Teyrnasaidd lariaidd law,
Dyn ŵyl dda ei dyniolaeth
A’i modd, gwell no neb ei maeth.
Ddwylaw mwnwgl dan ddeiloed
Ydd aeth i anghengaeth hoed,
Peth nid oeddwn gynefin,
A chael ymafael â’i min.
Gwanfardd addfwyndwf gwinfaeth
Oeddwn gynt iddi yn gaeth….

The girl’s shapely form like that of Enid,
with the golden locks, stirs passion in me;
bare forehead, an expanse of lily,
gentle, regal hand,
a modest girl, good-natured
and well-mannered, of breeding second to none.
She put her arms around my neck
in a woodland tryst causing overwhelming longing,
something I was not familiar with,
and being allowed to touch her lips.
A weak shapely wine-bred poet,
I was held captive by her once.

Unbelievable thought, there is now
(it was a gift, God is my witness)
a sort of love knot, though I may conceal it,
between us, indeed, I am bound.
Mofudd’s bright gentle snow-covered
arm (cheeks bright as the sun)
caught me (it was easy even if it were bold)
head to head in the shelter of a leaf-house;
the clasping of a knot of refined love,
the two wrists of a pure wise girl.
Good was that tall white girl of gentle courteous form
holding loving hands about me.
It was a full share of me, from my eager escapade,
a bold collar of clandestine love….


Yesterday in dire peril I heard
a fine englyn from an angel of heaven,
and the declaiming of solemn songs
and a rounded composition and Christ’s ode.
I was instructed by a disciple of the Son of Mary—
these were his words, facile praise:

‘Dafydd, seemingly of sober mind,
whose verse is unequalled, of good repute,
impose upon the inspiration of your tongue
God’s patronage, and lie no more.
In trees (three wretched trysts)
and leaves there is nothing but transitoriness.
Refrain from sleeping with girls,
for Mary’s sake do your best to despise mead.
Neither green treetops nor tavern were worth a bean,
it is only the Lord’s word that is truly worth.’

By the Man who rules this day,
in my head there’s a pain for a fine girl,
and in my brow a wound of distress
for a splendid maid, and I am dying.

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