The Gododdin of Aneirin is the first great poem produced in these islands, or at least the first one that survived the ravages of time. In it we are told the story of a seminal British battle – Catraeth – fought in the year 598 AD, in which the Gododdin are a contingent of warriors from the Lothian region about Edinburgh. Their gruesome fate was discovered in the pages of a single 13th century manuscript, containing poetry penned by the bard Aneirin, an actual eye-witness to the battle. In the poem he tells us of his march to Catreath with the British army, where he would become one of only four survivors of the slaughter. He further describes how he endured captivity at the hands of his enemies, before his ransom was paid by Ceneu, the son of the poet-king, Llywarch Hen.
Y Gododdin, as it is known in its original language, was – & still is – considered by the Welsh bards as the supreme poem of their species. It contains many parallels with the other surviving poetic masterpiece of British antiquity, Beowulf. As the latter poem is the pedigree literary representative of the early English, so Y Gododdin is the clear hallmark of the early Welsh. Aneirin’s consummate command of his language sprang from the Bardic school & its years of intensive training, endless compositive exercises & the memorizing of the vast canon of Welsh poems. His masterpiece tells us in the most beautiful fashion of a great meeting of the Kymric nobility, when;
From Eidyn’s fort no force like this e’er flow’d
The nature of the Gododdin is elegaic, a florid series of reports upon the heroes who fought & died at Catraeth. Of the 300 warriors who marched, Aneirin gives us the names of only 90, less than a third of those who fell, suggesting a great many stanzas are lost to us. The abrupt breaking off of the text at the end of page 38 of the manuscript surely indicates we have lost some of the text forever. What survives, however, is full of vibrant, militaristic bombast, & has been a joy to transcreate. During the process I found that many of the stanzas of the B recension were similar to those found in the A, & I have often merged them into a single new stanza, choosing the best passages from each. In addition, I have added select passages from Aneirin’s four Gwarchans & also certain passages from the poetry of Taleisin which concern the battle. The final production from my own pen consists of twelve cantos of twelve stanzas each, bringing an epic framework to the epic material to what is essentially the first epic poem of the British Isles.
Gododdin, should I breathe this breath for thee,
Let crowded courts appraise my bombast bold,
Weaving the words of Dwywai’s dashing son,
Whose single song, a poet’s privilege,
‘Midst vanquish’d places manifests itself,
For since this saint-like awesome soul was slain,
Since soil was swept across Aneirin,
Poetry has parted from Gododdin,
& as no soldier marches without arms,
No bard without this poem may contend…
…Y Gododdin, by Aneirin, begins.
Sharp points have punctur’d seas of swarming spears,
A shared defence of brutal foes defied,
Well-hidden men, before the shield-din’s onset,
Awake beneath Dun Eidyn’s lofty sphinx,
Alas, for this proud host Death spurns return,
So let those Bards of valour truthful sing,
When stubborn shields were split thro’ fearing fields,
Their victims seldom felt the spear-gift twice!
As early rose the reign of lamplit day,
Revolving sov’reign of the royal light
That shines high over heath & heavenly vales,
What sad march starts the shaking of the shield
Towards Victory’s vicinity, hoped-for,
Those hollow mead-horns bright in Eidyn’s hall
Excite, & invite intoxication,
Inciting with its crystal vintage clear,
When scything reapers sing of shining war,
& minstrels muse on battle-braided war.
The multi-colour’d coat of Tinagad,
Spun from the speckl’d skins of vaulting wolves,
Has framed his whistle-jerks & juggling jigs,
Disdainfully received by Eidyn’s sleighted slaves;
“Friends, when my daddy went out a-hunting,
Pole bourne on shoulders, foodstuffs in his hand,
Out to his same-sized canines would he call,
“Snatch it! Catch it! Tease it! Seize it! Fetch it!”
He kill’d the flippers in his coracle
Just as the princely lion slays its prey,
& when he moved up steep’ning mountain slopes,
Fresh heads well won of roebucks, stags & boar,
He caught a spotted, moor-hen from the hill,
& pull’d a fish from Derwent’s tumbling falls,
The flesh-hook of my father furrow’d far
Thro’ tusky boars, lone lions, foxes swift –
Whose noose none saved but those with nimblest bounds.”
Men gather’d in Gododdin gladly laughing,
But bitter in their battles blades display’d,
Between – what peaceful year had they enjoy’d,
But now brave Bogdad’s son sends bloodpulse rushing,
Tho’ all perform’d good penance in the church,
Both old & young, those hungry for glory,
Faced death’s inevitable penetrations!
As natives of a wine-fed land grow brave,
Gododdin’s Gwlyget inspires thro’ speech,
First fashioner of Mynyddawg’s fair feast,
Whose cost entails the carnage at Catraeth.
As he was when he rode with his riders,
A bouncing ball rebounding back & forth,
So shall he be until the heart-warm hearth,
Whence from banded Gododdin’s goodly nest
In grand Dun Eidyn, with the sun-dress’d mead,
They offer’d firmest force to violent strife;
Cadfannon in command, steersman of steeds,
Careering crimson fillies with the dawn!
From native bed his fame spread far abroad,
From golden torque has vino fairly flow’d,
He gifted finest suits, clad those brave men
Who match’d his own heroic courtesy,
That sons of foreign soldiers full received,
Like Cian’s only boy from yon Bannawg,
No lad more ardent on the fosse did tread,
Ever, of Votadini, than Llivieu.
From yonder Sea of Iudeu, battle-bold,
Comes man thrice-times more fierce than fiercest lion,
Brave Bubon, mightiest in battle’s mire.
From Edina’s splendid, castellated crag,
He led his loyal men-at-arms to war,
Before… his happy palace saw him pour
The mead that made the Mordei joyful be,
The well-brew’d braggets blissful beverage,
Before… he wore the grand, gold, purple garb
& on plush horses him borne safe away,
Come lift up Gwrthleu, liquor on the tongue,
Whose vocal valour turn’d aside the tide,
Him restless bear e’er pacing down the path!
Hail warrior wolf! First prince of thy pack,
What beads of amber warmth drip from the brow,
More precious than a banquet, sipping mead,
Ye block’d in battle foes which pour’d with blood,
Both Gwynedd & the Hen Ogledd be yours,
For as the son of Ysgarran once counsel’d,
Thou art first bladesman of the broken shield.
Three centuries of ore-kiss’d soldiers speed,
Of valour fond, blown headlong down the course,
Three hundred haughty heroes of the heart
Unanimous! As one! A single sword
Has hasten’d forth upon three hundred horses;
Of these, none would return, O world of woe!
As battle approaches arms assembl’d
By warlike men, stood pois’d by noble chiefs,
& trenches bustle to the curv’d horns call,
A great king & his crew shall carnage cause,
Dark gore spreading from bush-stalk to the spear.
The men of Catraeth clambour’d with the dawn
About their long-successful Guledig,
This Urien arose the most respected,
His sov’reign seat sustain’d, & kept its ties,
Both warrior & perfect prince baptized,
The tribal pride of Prydain wide array’d
At Gwenystrad, & made a constant charge,
Not field nor wood the people could protect,
With shelter when this slaughter to them comes.
Enthused with day-dawn lifting up their limbs,
Men rose up, solid soldiers by their sides,
But whether them at beck & call or king,
Each seem’d as if them hundred men among,
With dispositions urging on attack
In measures same as merrying with mead,
Along thick hack-paths prick-blades spare no foes,
Of those held on a forward horse-flung course.
He roar’d to war while grass-fed cattle dozed,
Sporting a lion’s likeness heart & stern,
His mead-meant courage thro’ Gwanhanon moved
Battling for every inch, captain renown’d,
& as Aneirin his prowess prais’d,
All men should offer splendid-minded praise
To Eithinyin, brave Boddar Adaf’s son!
Geraint, from southern realms, has rais’d a shout,
Him by the blessed stream felt buckler pierced,
Sword-master & best lord of gentle mein,
Up mountains & oer oceans far regaled,
Leader of the Gododdin’s soldier’d youth,
Commander of true genorosity!
‘Tis best the bards praise tribes illustrious,
A message sent from Mynyddawg, man-lord,
As thro’ Gwanhanon Eudaf’s daughter scourged,
Those clad in purple robes would crush & mangle men.
O Lord of Rheged, dealer in daring,
What blades of rage have revel’d on thy brow,
Attacking foes with fury at the rock,
O sacred stone of blessed Galystem,
Forming a shield, defending thine own force,
Let battle settle in brave Owain’s soul.
Unyielding, with their broad shields flashing sunflame,
Such glory-greed demands harsh action’s fame,
Steeds fill the van as spears plant blood-stain’d bones,
While friends were struck so too were all our foes,
Spurning unendurable dishonour,
Firm at the ford they stood their stubborn ground,
Or dash’d at many courtly champions.
Before he left his life beside the ford,
A flight-wild eagle swept thro’ dewy morn
& scatter’d an advance on either side;
As bards must judge a man by noblest deeds,
No ransom war-mad blood-pursuits could prevent,
Or halt the devastations of his foes,
When under swan-white steed was he interr’d
& slept well him whom firm hearts could command,
His armour cover’d with a quart of gore,
Undaunted Buddvan, son of Bleiddvan bold.
As rolling waves oer shingle roaring wings,
Valiant men assault the foe in lines,
Them after morning mush to mangl’d flesh,a-
This day tumultuous three parts play’d out,
Until in front was heard an active shout
Before the key to Gwenystrad’s defence,
That barricading mound & sloping ground,
Gore-tinted men fell drooping by the ford-pass,
Dropping their arms in pallid misery,
Both peaceful & dejected with defeat!
Men wail upon the walls of Gwanhanon,
Invoking Christ, knights of enrich’d descent,
Clothes clotted with blood, toiling in battle,
All thoughts of flight flown from their mighty minds.
Gore-waging war has ravaged his retreat
Far from the warm, safe hearthside of the hall,
His cellars full of sweet ensnaring mead;
To battle’s clash has Gwrys dash’d at the dawn,
Giving the Angles interesting gifts,
Til Karma comes, inflicting cruel pain,
Soon Gwynned’s sons shall of his glory sing
& weep for his grave at Gwanhannon,
Where clutching the buck-lance of Cadwallon,
He bull-like wrought the Battle of Princes,
Until slumbering under muddy sod
Gododdin’s foremost border knows his grave!
This is the cataclysm of Catraeth,
So many souls in sorrow sigh its song,
A kingless county & a smoking land;
The clan of Old King Cole did savage reeve
Long biers of streaming blood, what wretched fate
Awaits in miserable necessity,
Cyvwlch the Tall & Tudvwlch’s doom decreed,
Together they had sunk the torchlit mead,
Tho’ pleasant then, its taste detested now.
Come rise as one, Gododdin’s golden sons,
Go flow to Catraeth, go with eager speed
& there encounter how affects ye mead,
When bloody blades shall scatter between teams
Of Knights illustrious, & at thy front
Ardent Eithinyin, far his name’s fame known.
A bear in battle & a stone in stress,
Across the border roars a famous man,
Torque blushing in the flush of well-earn’d wine,
A century of stainless men retain’d,
O noble-natured knight from distant heights,
Yon Bannawg’s hoary peak, Lord Cian’s single son,
Of whom the bards Gododdin none compare
In ardency, when musing on Llivieu.
From Loth’s rock thro’ Loth’s lands to Liddesdale
Gododdin by the course of Ragno go,
Whose hands directed the splendid slaughter
& clutch’d the branch of Caerwys long before
It shatter’d in the storm of the season;
From overseas roar’d tempests, vessels tore,
Whose full-mann’d, nourish’d navy sail’d the waves,
Fetching successful warriors to war,
The wild hosts of Heibilyawn, & the host
Of Meidlyawn, more animals than men,
From deep Dindywydd march’d, but shatter’d soon,
Some batter’d shield neath conflict’s evil hooves,
Broken afore war’s vacuums fill’d the van.
Men moved to Catraeth, marching with the morn,
The foam of flagons quaff’d on quiet nights
Their prophesied success would falsely prove,
Mission ambitious, men must maim & slay;
Rush’d standards blazing wond’rously to war,
From Eidyn’s fort no force like this e’er flow’d
To scatter battle-horsemen form’d abroad.
Men went to Catraeth, company & keen,
Whose drunken mead would soon sick poison prove,
Three hundred caught the cataclysmic storm,
Where sportive celebrations silenced cries
& tho’ stood at the altar, penitent,
Inevitable Death confronted them.
Tis important noble retinues to raise.
Whose sword-shafts falcon-thirsts shall satisfy
& other birds of prey foodstuffs prepare;
Of those who march’d on Catraeth, golden chain’d,
Under the sov’reign rod of Mynyddawg,
No better Briton march’d on their behalf,
Than Cynon, to Gododdin, from afar.
What waves of woe have burst across the world,
Them mirror’d in the mead which blue horns fill,
He wears the purple robes & foes defies,
Come praise Tudvwlch, garb’d in a stern aspect,
Whose banners fly with colours of good wine.
In jollity men gather’d for Gododdin,
O mighty force approaching certain doom,
Swords in silent slaughter slay in shortest order,
Carve stillnesses pillar’d by mighty laws of life!
Those men had march’d on Catraeth neath the sun,
Whose fearsome foes must pierce their perfect peace,
Ten thousand seek three hundred’s overthrow,
Where crimson-chrism’d under lances dancing,
What gallant, manful war-post fearless held,
By Mynyddawg Mwynfawr & his braw men.
The men had gone to Catraeth with the dawn,
Those left behind regret their absent charms,
Ensnar’d by lustrous mead of luscious gold,
Them baned by year of song & minstrelsy,
Swords running redder than the thickest plumes,
Long blades lime white, helms cloven in quarters,
Comes the onslaught of Mynyddawg Mwynfawr.
With spirit siezed by easy drunken mead,
A multitude moved across the border,
Their goal the preservation of the law,
Acting to higher call, accordingly
Tudvwlch & Cyvwlch carv’d breaches in Caers;
Disastrous proves the feast of Mynyddawg!
For Catraeth’s throng I cherish long revenge,
For blades of steel, for mead, for vehemence
& for our fetters, those assembl’d arms
War-forces form, tis right to kill Angles with anger!
Tis just to crush those that are crushing!
The lads were led to Catreath at the dawn,
A cirque of shields their certain doom delays,
Esteem’d in armour’s gleaming & blood-greedy,
What clash of arms! What mighty thunder made
When men of low-born breeding basely find,
This hero & his halberd, as them hewn
From higher point, this rampant champion
Lays low the foe, this captain clad in steel,
Lord of all Mordei, whose rich homage paid
To Erthai, as the grandest armies groan’d!
There was a fight that first glimpse of the dawn,
At the river fall, fought in front of the wall,
Both pass & knoll in flashing flames there flared,
While lusting tusker rushes up the hill,
Bent on the city’s priceless treasure chests,
Blood ochreing to hues of moon-dark hawks.
The men rise early, time a moment’s instant,
The confluence aflame, he found the fence,
With loyal lads behind him lion-led,
He fought a hundred, tho’ their foremost slain,
What sadness agues us as his bloodspill pools,
Like quaffing liquer-mead in laughter’s midst,
How brave were you who slew that little man,
With bitter stroke of sword impetuous,
Extol my lord’s irresistible ocean
When not one foe his fair fight could afford!
This hero fell’d the foe with sling & spear
& in the slaughter no quarter requir’d,
Repell’d by pools of gore, his goblet’s glass
Flung off with all its mead before his king,
Whom armies single-handedly overthrew,
By every soul his counsel was approved,
For cowards from his company removed
Before bleak battle’s onset, when sharp swords
By banners waving azure silver shone.
By dream-lit Dawn mens’ might in marching sped
Unto the cutting, captain at their crown,
Gore-fields greet Gwair’s ungodly gobsmack’d stare,
When as thro’ day’s distress my friend fought on
He made a brave defence of the mountain,
But murky was his forward beam of war
& men made weepy for his gentile heart,
Him queen amid we fluid flights of bees,
Before his bones lay buried under sward,
Lord Mynyddawg made Mordei’s sword-mead flow.
Eyes flicker in the rosy-finger’d dawn,
Legs quicken in a battle-loving band,
Such gallant fellows follow from his lead,
Who, fronting hundreds, lungblast rais’d the bouts,
Eager to beprove himself in battle
As if him hungry for the wine & mead,
How savage did ye slice & slaughter foes,
Bold Ithael, audacious in attack!
Aedan has donn’d the hero’s double-shield
Of varied front, a stallion in stride,
Him hurricane of hurt & blazing fire,
His dashing lances dancing in the sun
Drew carrion, fat profit for the crows.
The Guledig shall lads to battle lead,
This mallet of the land their reapings loved,
But youth’s ebbulience by blood bestain’d,
Their armours trampl’d-garments crimson-dyed,
Death’s Angel made a merry desolation,
When lances dancing at the first advance,
Clove spear-path kinks of light thru phalanx’d foes.
The border cross’d, a belly full of mead,
Deem them not harmless when them reckless-hearted,
Ye fashion’d lavish feasts of lion’s fare
& flung back those who flock’d to fling a spear,
If friends fell back ye yell’d on the attack,
Blood flows as finest wine from gaping gore,
More than the three-year store thy steward pour’d,
That on the fourth in volume did decrease,
Ambrosia to all defiant stood,
Against such odds – globe-gloried Breichiawl.
More mightier a hall was never made
As that of Cynon, sainted sovereign,
He sits no longer at his table’s head
& those struck down are never struck again,
His sharp-apical’d spear-points penetrate
& perforate the blood-serrated foe,
His armour’d chargers fly off in the van,
His blasting blade this raid of wrath attends,
When Cynon rush’d to battle one green dawn.
Three charging chieftans Novantean led,
Five centuries of loyal soldiery,
Tree leaders of three hundred hunting hounds,
All clad in gold, from Eidyn’s riches rode,
Chasing their fleeing foes with bitter face,
Three kings of towns fae Britain’s crown came forth;
Cynon, Cynrig, & Cynrain of Aeron,
Smashing the ashen lances of Deivyr,
In Britain was no better knight e’er rais’d
Than Cynon, stinging serpent to all his sullen foes.
Full never was feast-hall more flawless made,
Nor kinder, nor majestic lion born
Than comely Cynon, gentle-breasted lord,
Flesh-castle of the combat on the flank,
To parts remote his city’s fame extends,
A shelter for the soldiers & their songs,
Of all oor heroes seen, or seen hereafter
On earth who war-cry when the combat comes,
Thou art the bravest at the weapon’s wield,
Thy keen-edg’d axeheads scythe thro’ fields of blood,
Splicing men down, bull-rushes bracken low,
Slaying the pillage-crew with courage keen,
E’er-soaring praise I sing for Clydno’s son,
His praises swept unslated & unstill’d!
After the wine & feastings’ flavours flown,
Enrich’d on first fat fruits of slaughter’s spoil,
Energetic Eidol mounts the hill
Where ravens hover sensing victory,
Ascending skies oer spears wide thickening,
That him surround, some virgin barley-crop,
Offering not one semblance of retreat,
While warring-wonders shock stiff javelins,
Lips pallid grown, & pouting, lances carve
Banquets of blood, tho’ dim from lack of sleep,
Men surge from under Heiddun’s sword-sharp son,
Tough leader of the din tumultuous!
Blood-frigid Eidol, pallid skin-stretch pale,
Regaling judgement as his carnage spread,
Him owning horses, captain of their trappings,
He makes an instantaneous onset,
Descending & ascending as he flies.
Correct it is to praise those skillful men
Who lusting life leapt from the craven halls,
Eidol’s ambition moves bards every side,
“Praise goblets full of mead, good steeds & gold!”
O Quiet Soul! O Conqueror! O King!
Sea-roving foemen spy thy streamers blue,
Thee tiger on the tides, whose swarming host
Charg’d manfully by thy broad-beating breast,
Twas custom’ry for ye nine companies to lead
Into the blood for love of lands & tribe,
O throne victorious, hear strains harmonious,
Cynddilig praising, Aeron’s lion-cub,
& Enovant’s grandson, loved the world the most.
As harnesses his charging horses held,
Them gut-gore drench’d on Catraeth’s crimson field,
His was the foremost hillfort-hewing shaft,
Whose battle-hounds harried the hoary highlands,
Behind his barks men hearken to the post,
Hard beckon’d to by Heiddun, steel-clad chief!
When fairly met good men must meet life’s loss;
Arvon’s Dialgur brought the golden torque,
Beyond brave battles fought by Brythons bold,
Him by Cynon’s own riders wide renown’d.
No shame by Senylt’s court was ever felt,
Far-famed for filling brimming bowls of mead,
Whose sword-arm earn’d the holiest devotions,
For as he bray’d & barg’d into battle,
Supporting blood-soak’d soldiers in his arms,
Before Gododdin, Brennych & Deivyr,
What hooves of Hermes hied between the hosts,
When spear-gore stream’d over battle-black gear
& beams of bow-thread gleam from outstretch’d hands,
Praise Gwen, him like a hunter in the haar,
When foemen fought in mutual reproach,
When not one foot would turn its toes in flight,
Defending every region generally!
Tis right for bards to relish such renown
The Zeus-blast, & the Sunstorm, & the Tempest
Swells with this gallant & talented knight ,
Whose ruddy reapers ache for breakneck war,
A manly lion leading pens of sheep,
All Britain lauds his firth-broad battle-sword,
Fields cleaving clearly ‘neath broadshoulder’d shields,
Blood flowing as liquer leaves vessel’d glass;
If mead be money, deem gold thine to claim,
Wine-nourish’d was Gwaednerth, old Llywri’s son!
As native acres received invaders
He fix’d a front against the coming foe,
Then drove them off, those laughing chiefs of war,
Even as far as Ephyd, Elphin-famed,
A bull of battle Eithinyin became!
From realms about with qualities acclaim’d
Thro’ combat, & to Catraeth, with a cry,
Mix speedy steed,s with shields, broad armours dark,
Uplifted javelins, lances sharp-pointing,
Mailcoats a-glittering & with swords;
Excelling, he would penetrate the host
Blade felling a full five battalions:
As altars took the gold of Rhuvawn Hir,
We minstrels, too, receiv’d a rich reward.
Again has Angor blown away the brave,
Pike fierce, some widely-piercing serpentine,
An army’s immovable monument,
Proposing plentied pain & punishment,
Prize-giver to the best assaulting lance,
Thou art perfection’s lawful pinnacle,
Thou cometh careful to thy faithfull’s call,
Protecting all our Cymric progeny;
Praise Tudvwlch, Castle slayer, battle-lord:
Praise Meryn, Madyen’s son, a boy man-born!
The grey wolf roars as water, & was caught
By Gwolowy, as Angor scatters slain,
This bold, unbroken rock defends his ain,
Main guardian Gododdin loved to love,
Whose ruddy horses, radiance & swords,
Have heard the song that rises rapidly
From Cymry’s famous bard, who stands in front
Of Garth Meryn, Tottarth with taleful tongue!
It was his heart’s first custom to defend,
Gododdin versus very best of foes,
In battle’s van avenging vehemence,
It was his body’s custom, lion-swift,
To run on predatory shifting hordes,
Custom it was for Golstan’s sov’reign son
To listen to his father’s worldly words,
Custom was kept when Mynyydawg him held
To ruin regal shield & redden lance
Before the lord of Eidyn, Urfai, sworn.
Come rise as one, rise warriors, uprise
& wick with one accord gan sally forth;
From shorter lives are longer grieftimes wept,
Tho’ seven times their number had they slain,
Each woman on love’s ending day laments,
With weeping tears a-line the lashes of wild eyes.
Wreath-leader midst conflict’s cacophony,
Observ’d by most on the murderous moor,
Chief champion acharge & head of hosts,
Beneath whose blades fell five battalions,
Men of Brennych & Deivyr utter’d moans,
Two thousand slain in just one single hour,
Alas, his flesh wolf-won before him wed,
Alas, him ravens’ prey before love’s vows,
His spear laid low upon the blood-soaked soil,
The mead-price of the hero-teeming hall,
Praise Hyveidd Hir while still the minstrel’s play.
Men went to Catreath, inebriated,
Both firm & strong, tis wrong to spurn their praises
As about the blackening, blood-red blades,
Full fierce & tough the stern, rough war-dogs roar’d,
When if a soldier was judged to be of Brennych
Of him no single phantom left alive;
A friend is fallen, but I still breathe air,
He terrors of the father-chief defied,
Too noble to accept his bridal dowry,
Cian’s son, born of Maen Gwygwyn’s soil
Were I to lose lands thro lewd extortions,
This crude calamity would lay me low,
No hall-housed hero braver than him born,
None steadier in slaughter’s awful pity,
On Penclwyd’s ford his horses foremost strove,
His fame far-flung, pock’d armour, riddl’d shield,
Before his corpse by reed-long copse-grass stor’d,
The only fawn of Fermarch pour’d the mead.
Thro’ every region wrack & ruin reign’d,
As over all his fetter’d valour rose,
His shield-front yielding to the piercing point,
Protected, he, Rhuvoniawg, with pomp,
Beside the banks of Heledd’s stream were seen
Horses of scarlet-harness’d war once more,
A mass of arms there form’d immovable,
That when affronted, reddening the field,
Would slash & slaughter at the battle’s clash;
Such sadness in the news was wrested home,
What teary dirges bards this New Year sung;
Erthai, the son of Aedan, show’d his blade
Aedan, who pierced the Boar with haughty roar!
Ye Kings stand firm twyx Dremrudd’s ruddy glances,
Whose purposes times pillages obscure,
Men plough the seas with pure impunity,
Of these, the palest first is satisfied,
A wee bit crazed & yet his crown complete,
Before him garden-cover’d, Gownddelw,
Right worthy, lived as tall as did Maelderw,
Wielded his spears as such we bards must praise
How his soul-strength pervaded many lands;
Into the hill-ravine that charge descends,
Full flesh & bone not shadows following.
For Abedon a gwarchan I shall sing,
An apple not far fallen from its tree,
Rent naked, render’d bold among thistles,
This death, his death, shall not again occur,
Effeminate, horses were his dainties,
Now peace is lost in the grieving mansion,
Thou hero wert in the day of conflict,
Ye were a seeker, seeking things to fear!
The rich mead of the Mordei I consumed,
Some spear-fest in the crest-encrusted hall,
A feast for eagles he did fashion fair,
When Cydwal sallied forth he rais’d a shout,
The verdant dawn observ’d his hardening trials,
As shards of splinter’d shields by him bestrewn,
Darts flown with heartless cruelty men slay,
In conflict’s foremost quarter did he stand,
First son of Syvno, soothsayers had seen
Him deign’d to sell his life, tho’ dearly warn’d
Of slaughter’s price & of his massing foesm
Whom with barb-crosses & sharp spears struck down,
Both Athrwys & Affrel fell in bits,
A carcass phalanx hung from Gwynedd’s gallant line.
I wish I would have been the first to fall,
The price of all those courtly quarts of wine,
I wish I could have buckl’d neath the blade
Before he fell on Elphin’s fertile plain,
I loved his fame who forced the blood to flow,
Who thrust his sword thro those who violence loved
Could ever a valourous tale regaling
Leave out the son of Keidyaw, man of war!
No shield unwielded in that spear-flung field,
They met war-waging equals, eye for eye,
In gory battle’s struggle raging fall,
Unshaken in the shield-storm surged his shout,
Full faultless honour as he fought his foes
In phrenzied force until his will there fail’d
Before the grave of Gwrvelling the gargant,
Some swardy heap of green fore’er became.
To never lower his athletic shield,
Was his life’s lot, to not encourage wrong,
His rush for horses bluster’d thro’ the gates,
Til holly lances brush’d the gold with gore,
If friends fell by him foemen too would fall,
Him on his kith could never shower shame,
Whose valour’s brave activity display’d,
When slain was Mordei’s far-famed Chyhuran.
Gododdin, I respectfully demand
The dales beyond Drum Essyd’s ridgey range,
Where money’s love-slaves own no self-control
& Dwywai’s son inspires our valours’ shining;
The site all settl’d on for conference
Was not degrading, in Llanveithin’s front
We danced an airy shimmy between twilights,
Puff’d-up upon the pilgrim’s splendid purple,
Alas! Defenceless Gwaws was slit & slain,
Whose sweet voice vied Aneirin’s in song.
I glanced on gather’d hosts from Hyddwyn high,
Conflagaration’s ghostly sacrifice,
I saw two leaders from their stations fall,
Gore spills thro’ Nwython’s orders under sword,
Men marching on harmonious… a shout,
When the heads of Brych & Dyvynwal raven-gnaw’d!
Uprise as one, Gododdin’s silver sons,
About the stranger of this crimson robe,
Thou gorgeous pilgrim, ye who broke the camp,
Where young bucks sing raw-throated melodies,
Where Brych’s spears shone no rods there could be seen,
Men win no merit milling in the rear,
Morial suffer’d not their evil deeds,
His steel-edge ready for red flows of blood.
Foes languish in a sad & trembling sorrow;
Since that mad battle’s impetuous tumult,
About the battling borders of Ban Carw,
Brych’s fingers bullied by his spear shaft hurl’d,
Defending Pwyll of Disteir & Distar,
Rychwardd of Rodri, & Rhys of Rhiwdrech,
Spending the bow & bending stout & strong,
Thro’ courage true his targets were attain’d,
When none escaped, o’ertaken by the shaft!
The noise of rivers meeting ‘neath the fort
Arouses men to splendour, & to arms,
As chillness ebbs & flows thro’ battle’s breach,
Do those that lust for fame now seek death’s dreams,
When bodies lay cover’d by rugs of heroes’
After the best of shelterless assaults
The breach lies unafflicted by the surge,
Men must bear great exertions with much patience,
Yet frown at arms, while intellect allures,
& if caught fleeing by pursuing foes
The grass-roof’d grave a slumber-house would be!
No hall was ever made more eminent,
Nor mightier, for slaughters more immense;
The mead of Morien has turn’d to flame
& none could say that Cynon can’t carve corpses,
Whose hero-sword resounds around the ramparts,
No more than we can move a massive boulder,
Will Gwid, the son of Peithan, too be moved!
It was as true as the old songs tell us,
When no mans’ mare dare overtake Marchleu,
Whose lances, hurl’d by this grand Earl, commanding
From prancing stallion, thick hack-paths form;
A soldier rear’d for slaughter & support,
Full furious his sword’s defensive arc,
Whose grasp sent ashen shafts a-shattering,
Atop the stony pile in solemn stance
He spreads destruction with a dark delight,
With blade well-bloodied midst the verdant furze,
As when the reapers in fine weather flock,
So Marchleu made the sleepers’ life-streams flow
The mull’d mead of the Mordei did I drink,
Such liquer led me to the rampart’s edge
To spy & praise Colwedd’s heroic prowess,
When all were fallen he would also fall,
When sinless souls in sweeter judgement proved,
His was a rare arm, daring, on that field,
Those swords & spears are splinter’d, strewn & still,
That used to pierce the large, Lloegrian horde,
Shields at the entrance, shields amid lances,
Men weaving weeping widows as they died,
While blazing spears of Graid, great Hoewgi’s son
Caus’d blood to pour in rude effusions crude.
When thou, first nameling of the flames of fame,
Defending highland harvests was observ’d,
Twas said we fled thy fury like mark’d men,
Yet yonder gaurdless doorway to Din Drei,
With summit spilling silver, jade & gold,
When enemies dared venture to the entranc,e
Gwynwydd’s face there unseen, his name unheard!
Round Neimyn’s name no glory gain’d today,
Tho’ noble men descended share the shade,
When deed-songs these endeavours far deserve,
Now Nwython’s son is dead, his golden ring
Shared by three hundred chieftans, furious
Large-hearted heroes, bellies full of mead,
The army loved his energetic arms,
On Cavall’s ridge-crown foemen fiercely fell’d,
No man among a thousand soldiers strong
No spear, shield, sword or dagger better handle’d,
Than by our bravest Neimyn, Nwython’s son.
Three centuries of soldiery lay slain,
All slaughter’d from the centre to the edge,
His leadership inspired & gentle glow’d,
As thro’ harsh winters barley fill’d his horses,
Now sable ravens cloak those fortress walls
Of choking fire, & there an Arthur fought,
Right at the heart of warring’s weariness,
Heroic pass-defender, Gwenor praise!
Upon the fort aflame with blazing mail,
Both sure & slow his cureless slaughter grows,
One weak, wan man with feeble cries fends off
The local birdlife, like Pelloid Mirain,
No living soul shall ever demonstrate
What happen’d on that brash, unhappy bank
Of Llwch Livanad, in the lands of Lliw,
No soul on earth now living could e’er name,
A man in conflict Cyvnal could not match!
See forces flow forwards on swan-colour’d horses,
With manes all a-quiver & harnesses low,
Beside men descending the heavy host heaving,
Defending brave Mynyddawg manship & mead,
Shields float, & lances fall on fairest brows,
Men languid dropp’d like fruit lopp’d from a tree,
& skulkless fall, reproachless them remember’d.
Cynvelyn rises high on pillar’d wrath,
Who left the milling birds a filling meal,
Lord sovereign of lands of awesome songs,
His death hall I’ll lament until I die;
His blade is lost, his region’s sadness grieves,
For Gwynned’s strongest torn from kindred parts,
Lament the brave, & let Dun Eidyn fear
The dreaded Pictii painted naked-blue!
O Maiden! O Virgin! O Legend!
Since ye was rais’d from birth a sov’reign son,
The lordly lad of Cilydd, Gwynedd-born,
Before the turf had cloak’d thy face with furze,
To him was given treasure, praise & fame,
That sleeps within this grave… brave Garthwys Hir!
His native place invasions grievous gain’d,
The price of vine-wrapt feastings in the hall,
Blades lying still between embattl’d hosts,
Gododdin praise thy knights illustrious,
Brave Eithinyin a battle’s bull becomes,
Whose swordthumbs bounce like thunder off the shield,
Until, men growing stricken at the loss,
Another death-foul’d fighter there must fade!
Bleiddiad’s wolfish boldness unrestrain’d,
Whose shining shafts shall snake-like sky-flow glow,
Him kings & women smitten wounded lies,
Life-lover! How I wish that ye had lived,
Thy zest victorious oppress’d unjustly,
Whose death despised, for combat did ye crave!
In brazen battle & in tumult tall,
The conflict craws thro’ him cacophonous,
No brand of angry combat could he shun,
Brave Bleiddig, Eli’s son, a bounding boar,
Whose flasks of glassy wine guts gulp’d down deep,
Upon this combat-day his fame ensured,
On Arvwl Cann, before our man expired,
Such bloody, ruddy carnage did he crave.
From him has sprung a thousand mountain streams,
Whose crimson fluid flow’d down from the front,
His was a weapon wanton in the war,
Prevailing in well-made, unfailing mail,
Whose ambidextrous blade remain’d unseen,
To confidenceless swords, unmanifest,
Whose flashing slashing blasts them to ashes,
When wives are in a moment widows made,
Before his death would Breint, proud Bleiddig’s son,
Send blood up-gushing from his deadly spear.
For the murder of a man most learned
Such sorrows follow bleeding bodyfall,
All for the hewing of his hairy head
Shall Gwydien, sky-eagle steep’d in gore,
Defend the field with ever brutal spear,
Wherehonour’d by his master’s trembling semblance,
Morien rais’d his ancyent saintly lance,
He, with a roar, unbent a stiff, strong bow,
Morien of the sacred song protects
The ruin’d hall, & cleaves the triple heads,
Of first in youth, of strength, of later age,
Equal to them was the maid-like Bradwen,
Equal to twelve, Gwenabwy, son of Gwen!
For the guttings of his talented master
A servant bore the shield into the fray,
To help her vital blade off-hack the heads
Of Saxon churls who cut their chieftain’s tracks,
She grasps a wolfish mane without a club,
In hands hard held, she sorely brave must be,
At Catraeth’s carnage & its wrath engaged,
Has Bradwen perish’d like a sand-lock’d fish.
For a feast, most sad, most very precious,
For settl’d land, for land made desolate,
Shields shatter in the battle as them strewn
About the swordswirls of three hundred lords,
Them riding ramparts as the warbands fought
With Saxons, them with Irish, them Pictii,
& one, without a weapon in his hand,
Would raise aloft fair Bradwen’s stiff-red corpse,
Where midst the wrath & ruin of the rout,
Gwenabwy, son of Gwen, deft-handed raved.
Tis wrong to leave his memory unsung,
Fearless, he never fail’d to block the breach,
Whose court no British minstrel ever quitted;
Last January this man made a plan,
To leave the land untill’d, make waste & wild,
A dragon of indignant disposition,
Commander of the field, after the wine,
Gwen’s son, Gwenabwy, fell for Catraeth fought,
Grief lauds his lovely, slender blood-stain’d corpse!
How well it was Adonwy went to Gwen,
Him made bereft when stripp’d of Bradwen brave,
Och aye, he fought, & murder’d men, & burn’d,
Tho’ Morien he never would surpass;
Regardless of the warline & the rear,
His towering & helmetless presence
Had not observ’d the seaswell chivalry,
Him mangling Angles all no quarter gave!