Transcribed from the Book of Taliesin which is found in William Skene’s anthology of dark-age Welsh Bardic poetry – The Four Ancient Books of Wales. “Often cited, but difficult to obtain, this book contains every remaining piece of Bardic poetry known. The poems are translated from four manuscripts – the Black Book of Caermarthen, the Red Book of Hergest (which is also the source of the Mabinogion), the Book of Taliessin and the Book of Aneurin, all of which date from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries A.D. The poems themselves date from much earlier, probably from the sixth century by internal evidence. This corpus is one of the treasures of world literature. It is also the only true source material for the study of Bardic lore, which reputedly preserved the esoteric (and long-lost) beliefs of the Druids. Largely written to satisfy wealthy patrons, much of the subject matter is related to mead-inspired battles, particularly the renowned Gododin cycle. However, the poetry rises above the gory combat and toadying to achieve an artistic height that would not be reached for many centuries. Some of the later works, which use Christian themes as a jumping-off point, have an almost haiku-like quality. The poems are infused throughout with mystic clarity, strange flashes of wisdom, and insight into humanity and nature.”
SONG OF THE LITTLE WORLD
The beautiful I sing of, I will sing.
The world one day more.
Much I reason,
And I meditate.
I will address the bards of the world,
Since it is not told me
What supports the world,
That it falls not into vacancy.
Or if the world should fall,
On what would it fall?
Who would uphold it?
The world, how it comes again,
When it falls in decay,
Again in the enclosing circle.
The world, how wonderful it is,
That it falls not at once.
The world, how peculiar it is,
So great was it trampled on.
Lucas, and Marcus,
They sustain the world
Through the grace of the Spirit.
SONG TO MEAD
I WILL adore the Ruler, chief of every place,
Him, that supports the heaven: Lord of everything.
Him, that made the water for every one good,
Him, that made every gift, and prospers it.
May Maelgwn of Mona be affected with mead, and affect us,
From the foaming mead-horns, with the choicest pure liquor,
Which the bees collect, and do not enjoy.
Mead distilled sparkling, its praise is everywhere.
The multitude of creatures which the earth nourishes,
God made for man to enrich him.
Some fierce, some mute, he enjoys them.
Some wild, some tame, the Lord makes them.
Their coverings become clothing.
For food, for drink, till doom they will continue.
I will implore the Ruler, sovereign of the country of peace,
To liberate Elphin from banishment.
The man who gave me wine and ale and mead.
And the great princely steeds, beautiful their appearance,
May he yet give me bounty to the end.
By the will of God, he will give in honour,
Five five-hundred festivals in the way of peace.
Elphinian knight of mead, late be thy time of rest.
AR CLAWR ELUYD
On the face of the earth his equal was not born,
Three persons of God, one Son gentle, strong Trinity.
Son of the Godhead, Son of the Manhood, one son wonderful.
Son of God, a fortress, Son of the blessed Mary, a good son to see.
Great his destiny, great God supreme, a glorious portion.
Of the race of Adam, and Abraham he was born.
Of the race of the Lord, a portion of the eloquent host,
was he born.
He brought by a word the blind and deaf from every ailment.
A people gluttonous, vain, iniquitous, vile, perverse,
We have risen against the Trinity, after redemption.
The Cross of Christ clearly, a breastplate gleaming
against every ailment.
Against every hardship may it be certainly a city of protection.
THE FOLD OF THE BARDS
MEDITATING were my thoughts
On the vain poetry of the bards of Brython.
Making the best of themselves in the chief convention.
Enough, the care of the smith’s sledge-hammer.
I am in want of a stick, straitened in song,
The fold of the bards, who knows it not?
Fifteen thousand over it
I am a harmonious one; I am a clear singer.
I am steel; I am a druid.
I am an artificer; I am a scientific one.
I am a serpent; I am love; I will indulge in feasting.
I am not a confused bard drivelling,
When songsters sing a song by memory,
They will not make wonderful cries;
May I be receiving them.
Like receiving clothes without a hand,
Like sinking in a lake without swimming
The stream boldly rises tumultuously in degree.
High in the blood of sea-board towns.
The rock wave-surrounded, by great arrangement,
Will convey for us a defence, a protection from the enemy.
The rock of the chief proprietor, the head of tranquillity.
The intoxication of meads will cause us to speak.
I am a cell, I am a cleft, I am a restoration,
I am the depository of song; I am a literary man;
I love the high trees, that afford a protection above,
And a bard that composes, without earning anger;
I love not him that causes contention;
He that speaks ill of the skilful shall not possess mead.
It is a fit time to go to the drinking,
With the skilful men, about art,
And a hundred knots, the custom of the country,
The shepherd of the districts, support of gates,
Like going without a foot to battle.
He would not journey without a foot.
He would not breed nuts without trees,
Like seeking for ants in the heath.
Like an instrument of foolish spoil,
Like the retinue of an army without a head,
Like feeding the unsheltered on lichen.
Like ridging furrows from the country
Like reaching the sky with a hook,
Like deprecating with the blood of thistles,
Like making light for the blind,
Like sharing clothes to the naked,
Like spreading buttermilk on the sands,
Like feeding fish upon milk,
Like roofing a hail with leaves,
Like killing a tortoise with rods.
Like dissolving riches before a word.
I am a bard of the hail, I am a chick of the chair.
I will cause to loquacious bards a hindrance.
Before I am dragged to my harsh reward,
May we buy thee, that wilt protect us, thou son of Mary.