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The `stanzas of the months': maxims from late medieval Wales.

The late medieval Welsh text known as Englynion y Misoedd (`The stanzas of the months') comprises twelve stanzas, one for each month of the year, the name of each month forming the first two words of its stanza. The subject matter, like that of the larger body of gnomic poetry in three-line stanzas, consists of a mixture of natural observation, details of human activity, proverbial wisdom, and moral instruction: (1) a sample is given below in the appendix. The stanzas each consist of eight monorhymed heptasyllabic lines without formal cynghanedd, and thus bear no resemblance to englynion properly so called, (2) but they have gone by that title since at least the sixteenth century. Formally, the sequence bears a superficial resemblance to other medieval Welsh catalogue-poems: Englynion y Beddau (`The stanzas of the graves') from the Black Book of Carmarthen and other manuscripts, (3) and two poems by Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr (fl. 1157-95), Gwelygorddau Powys (`The tribes of Powys') and Breintiau Gwyr Powys (`The privileges of the men of Powys'), (4) together with a curious poem listing the properties of the regions of Wales. (5) Functionally, however, it is quite different from any of these. It neither serves a mnemonic purpose like the first and last of the poems mentioned (and those cited from Old English) nor is it celebratory or polemical as the two poems by Cynddelw appear to be. It provides comparatively little information about the months themselves, and that not of a kind that might need to be remembered; it is thus much closer to the rest of the corpus of Welsh gnomic poetry, in which the initial line of each stanza is used merely as a peg on which to hang two or more gnomic observations which for the most part are not closely connected with it. The nearest parallels are thus the sequence in Englynion Duad beginning `Calan tachwedd' (`First of November') and running through all but one of the following months, and the gnomic sequence beginning `Gnawt gwynt or deheu' (`Usual is the wind from the south'), and continuing with east and north, then sea and mountain, before abandoning the pattern altogether. (6) The first of these, like Englynion y Misoedd, provides some information about the ostensible subject; the second virtually none. A parallel outside Welsh might be the Old English and Norse runic poems, which offer brief accounts of the objects to which the rune-names refer; (7) here, however, there is a clear mnemonic function regarding the runic alphabet, whereas few would wish to argue that either of the Welsh month-sequences was intended to remind the ignorant of the order in which they fall.

The text, which was printed in the Gorchestion Beirdd Cymru in the eighteenth century and in the Mjvyrian Archaiology in the nineteenth, was first made available in a scholarly edition by T. H. Parry-Williams in Canu Rhydd Cynnar in 1932, and then, independently, by Kenneth Jackson in Early Welsh Gnomic Poems in 1935. (8) Jackson used twelve manuscripts, which date from 1545 to the late eighteenth century; Parry-Williams lists fifteen others, the earliest of which was written in 1527. Some forty others have since come to light, (9) though none of these appears to be earlier than 1500 and few add much to our understanding of the text or of its transmission, whatever their interest from the point of view of the history of Welsh literary scholarship from the Renaissance onwards.

Even with allowance made for the number of copies which are the product of antiquarian activity (given the tendency of antiquarians to take in one another's washing) the text is, at least in some respects, fairly stable. Apart from eccentricities of spelling and word division, whose effects in one or two manuscripts are bizarre without in any serious way obscuring the text, we may distinguish three main areas of variation: in ascending order of significance, at the level of word, line, and stanza. The text includes a number of rare or poetic words (10) which seem to have been obscure to many or in some cases all of the copyists, who responded sometimes by writing another attested word of similar shape whose meaning was familiar to them, but on other occasions by writing something else just as obscure to subsequent scholarship as the original word evidently was to them. Most such readings may be regarded as orthographical variants, the only problem being that we are not certain as to the norm from which they deviate, but they are of some interest in so far as they suggest that some elements of the text were felt to be archaic even by the time the earliest existing copies were made. This may suggest that the original text, or part of it, was considerably older than any of the existing manuscripts; it may, on the other hand, point merely to a text originally composed in a more highly wrought and artificial poetic diction which passed into a popular milieu, losing in the process those poetic archaisms which could be understood and preserving only those which gravelled the modernizers. The objection to the latter hypothesis is that the subject matter is almost entirely taken up with nature, everyday life, traditional wisdom, and straightforward morality: the material does not seem to allow scope for a more elaborate poetic texture than we now have.

Of greater significance are the frequent dislocations in the order of the lines within the stanzas. This type of variation is generally taken as evidence of oral transmission, (11) though the broader term `memorial transmission' would perhaps be more accurate, given that evidence of auditory errors occurs only in the odd copy here and there, and in its absence it is hard to distinguish between oral transmission proper and the reproduction from memory of a written copy. Given the popular nature of much of the material there is every reason to suppose both processes to have operated at different points. The second and last lines are rarely displaced, and the first never: these are the lines which are least likely to be disarranged when the text is recalled stanza by stanza. For the rest, the form of the monorhymed stanza, composed largely line by line with only occasional enjambment, tends to inconsequentiality and makes the existence of this kind of variation particularly easy to understand. It is, indeed, sometimes impossible to define with certainty the original order of the lines; the best an editor can do is to select a base text which appears reliable on other grounds.

One exception to the general stability of the text leads us on to the third level of variation, that in which a substantial number of lines within the stanza, and sometimes all of them, are entirely different. The National Library of Wales (Aberystwyth), MSS Peniarth 206 and Wrexham I (now NLW 872D), as selected by Parry-Williams and Jackson respectively as base text, reproduce the version preserved in the large majority of copies, that called A by Jackson. In the margin of three such copies, British Library, MSS Add. 14873 and 14973 and National Library of Wales, MS Panton 13 (NLW 1982B), we are provided with marginal notes which supply a large number of variants supposed to be derived from a manuscript called `Llyfr Hir Nyffryn', that is, `the Long Book of Nyffryn'. (12) These variants are in eighteenth-century hands; in the case of Add. 14873 and Panton 13 they are in the same hand as the main text (William Morris and Evan Evans respectively), while in the case of Add. 14973 they are a later addition to a copy of about 1640. (13) On the basis of these, supposing the lines for which no variant is given to be identical with the main text, it is possible to reconstruct all but the final stanza of a substantially different version of the poem, one which has evidently undergone much oral variation. This is the text called C by Jackson; (14) he knew of no complete version, nor has any come to light subsequently. Since the three manuscripts give virtually identical sets of variants it seems certain that they were copied as a set rather than generated by collation with a complete text; and one may conclude that if the `Llyfr Hir' ever came to light it might be found to have the variants only as marginalia. No complete written copy of the C text need ever have existed, and the absence of any variants at all for the December stanza suggests that only eleven stanzas were known to the scribe or annotator even in oral form, or that the manuscript was damaged. The most notable characteristic of this version is the tendency of the seven-syllable lines of the original to be extended into the octosyllables, generally with a strong trochaic rhythm, familiar from the penillion telyn and certainly already popular no later than the first half of the seventeenth century, as shown by Rhys Prichard's choice of them for the quatrains of Cannwyll y Gimpy. (15) No attempt has ever been made to edit the C text, though the variants are reproduced in the Myvyrian Archaiology. (16)

A minority of manuscripts preserves another version, called B by Jackson, which, unlike C, is identical with A for the months up to and including August, but has four entirely different stanzas for the others. In most though not all cases the text is supplemented with the last four stanzas as they stand in A, and typically a note is appended to explain the existence of the variants. We are told that the stanzas were originally composed by Aneirin Gwawdrydd, (17) or sometimes Myrddin Gwawdrydd; as the epithet belongs properly to Aneirin (18) the attribution to Myrddin is evidently a secondary development, though it is hard to imagine how anyone familiar with the linguistically archaic poetry attributed to these figures in early manuscripts could have attributed the text to either. (19) The stanzas, it is asserted, were never written down, and in the course of time the last four were lost, or at least could not be found in Gwynedd or Powys; after a set of four stanzas had been composed by Gutun Owain (fl. c.1466-1500) (20) to fill the gap, the original stanzas were discovered in Deheubarth, that is, south Wales (more precisely, according to one manuscript, (21) in Gwent). By this account, the last four stanzas in the A text are the work of Gutun Owain and those in the B text the original ones. I know of only one late manuscript in which the reverse is claimed. (22) At the same time, too much credence should not be attached to the traditional account. Since the earliest surviving manuscript dates from the early sixteenth century, it is not a priori impossible that Gutun Owain was the author of the stanzas attributed to him, or indeed of the whole poem; but the memorandum is evidence only of what the scribe who first wrote it believed to be the case, and there is no independent evidence for supposing him to have been justified in his belief. Jackson's suggestion (23) that the inscription derives from a manuscript transcribed by Gutun himself, or associated with him, is plausible.

The B version must antedate 1553, the latest possible date for National Library of Wales, MS Llanstephan 117, the earliest copy in which it is preserved entire, and at least one stanza of it goes back as far as 1527, when it was copied in South Glamorgan Library (Cardiff), MS 3.4. (24) A combination of astrological and historical allusions in this stanza, which normally serves for September, may allow a more precise dating. The stanza begins `Mis menni mynaig planed' (`September, the planet indicates (it)'). This can hardly be a general statement about September; if we take `planet' in its astrological sense as including the sun, September is indeed defined by its apparent motion, but since the same is true of all months there can be no reason to single out one month for special notice. An astrological rather than a strictly astronomical observation may thus be assumed, and the historical reference in the fifth line supplies a context for this. There are two versions of this reference: one reads `Mab darogan a aned / An dwg on dygn gaethiwed / Gwir a ddyfod sain Bened / Ni chwsg Duw pan ro wared', that is, `A son of prophecy is born, who shall bring us out of our harsh captivity; it is true what St Benedict said: "God does not sleep when he gives deliverance"'; the other, `Merch frenhinol a aned / An dug on dygn gaethiwed', that is, `A royal daughter is born, who has brought us out of our harsh captivity', and so on. Given the currency of the concept of the `son of prophecy' in late medieval Wales, the latter version appears to be the lectio difficilior and thus, at first sight, more likely to be original. But the `royal daughter' is not easily identifiable. Since this stanza already existed by 1527, it cannot refer to the accession of Mary Tudor and her strenuous efforts to restore the old faith from 1553 onwards. The more commonplace mab darogan does, however, suggest a historical context in the birth on 19 September 1486 of Arthur, eldest son of Henry VII. The association of Henry himself with the hope of a `son of prophecy' is well known, and it would seem that the choice of the name Arthur for his first-born had the effect in Wales, at least for the partisans of the Tudors, (25) of reinforcing the identification, even if the name was primarily intended for an English audience who had come, like Malory a few years earlier, to think of Arthur as an English king.

The capacity of astrologers to concoct an explanation for almost anything is notorious, and there is little doubt that some appropriate planetary configuration could always have been calculated in order to provide an auspicious context for the birth in 1486 of an heir to the throne. But in fact we need not assume a great deal of ingenuity here, for on or about 19 September in that year the moon and Mars appear to have been less than half a degree from conjunction, while the positions of Venus and Mercury were close, respectively, to 60 and 120 degrees from the two others. (26) Since the moon necessarily comes into conjunction (in the astrological sense) with every other planet in the course of a month, its closeness to Mars is nothing out of the ordinary, but the configuration of Mars, Venus, and Mercury would have been of great interest to astrologers and one would expect the lunar conjunction to have been taken as adding significance to it. There seems thus to be no need to look further for an explanation of the September stanza of the B text. The hopes that a new King Arthur would restore a golden age in Wales were, of course, to be thwarted by the Prince's untimely death in 1502, and, while no one could have foreseen how leaden an age was in reality to follow, the reference would have lost its point once there was no longer an Arthur to look forward to. It would not be surprising if a theological allusion were to be substituted for a historical one, and it may be suggested that the royal daughter of the alternative version, who is not about to deliver the people from captivity but has already done so, is the Blessed Virgin herself, who was traditionally supposed (though not stated in the Gospels) (27) to be of the royal lineage of David, whose fiat was a necessary condition of the redemption of mankind, and whose nativity is commemorated on 8 September.

This leaves 1486 as a fairly firm terminus a quo for the existing September stanza of the B text. It does not, of course, follow that all four stanzas are so late: it may be that the other three are older, and indeed that the historical allusion is an interpolation in a pre-existing September stanza. It is interesting, for instance, that the November stanza rhymes on -awr, with no unhistorical -or rhymes; (28) if this is not fortuitous it could point to an origin in the fourteenth century or earlier. But, whereas the September stanza is sometimes preserved without the other three, the reverse is never the case, and there is thus some reason to believe that the four variant stanzas were composed together, or indeed that those for October to December are later. (29) If we wished to believe that the last four stanzas of the A version are a supplement composed by Gutun Owain, a date for the whole poem after 1486 would just allow time for that to have happened, though hardly time for the last four stanzas of the original text to have been lost, as we are informed, by effluxion of time.

The likely historical allusion, however, gives the B stanza for September the appearance of a revision to an originally more emphatically gnomic text, and if we are justified as regarding the four distinctive B stanzas as part of a single composition (or if the stanzas from October to December are even later than that for September) we may disregard the story about Gutun Owain and suppose the A text to be the more primitive and the B text the revised version of the poem. This impression is strengthened by the fact that, while there is a fair amount of transposition of lines in the A text, there is only a single instance in the four B stanzas, and that in only two out of twenty copies. True, there are two passages in B where the sense runs on for three or four lines -- as in the passage just discussed -- and the conditions for transposition are thus absent for some of the text; but there are sufficient opportunities elsewhere for other lines to have got out of order. Further, in the stanzas which are shared by A and B, those copies which continue with the B stanzas show comparable variations in line order to those which follow A throughout. The implication -- perhaps a surprising one -- is that most of the oral disturbance of the text took place at an early stage and that the stanzas peculiar to B were composed, or at least incorporated, subsequently.

The reference to the mab darogan is not, indeed, the only topical reference to have been intruded into the text; another must antedate the separation of the A and B texts, since it appears in both, nor is any C variant recorded. The February stanza, exceptionally, contains nine rather than eight lines in the Wrexham manuscript used by Jackson as his base text and in three others. (30) The last two lines run thus: `Gwae a laddodd ei forwyn / Diwedd dyd da fydd ei fwyn' (`woe betide the man who killed his maidservant; the end of a good day is its profit'). The rather vague sententiousness of the closing line, (31) which appears to mean that it is only by finishing a day's work that one gains the benefit of it, or perhaps that a day's work done is its own reward, is characteristic of the stanza-endings in this poem, and the line has every appearance of priority; yet all the other manuscripts in which the stanza occurs omit it and conclude with the reference to the murder of a servant. The preterite indicative clearly points to a specific incident, and this, though no one could quarrel with the moral sentiment, suggests an interpolation. Three sixteenth-century manuscripts have, to be sure, the present subjunctive laddo rather than the preterite laddodd, thus continuing the gnomic tone, but this, if original, would not explain the vulgate reading; it must be a scribal improvement. It seems rather that the line with preterite verb was added to the text in the archetype of all the surviving copies and that in all but four the original closing line has been dropped -- perhaps independently more than once -- in order to bring the stanza down to the standard length.

The text may have been more fluid than the comparative stability of the A and B versions may now suggest. One of the earliest copies, that in MS Cardiff 3.4, dated 1527, preserves only five stanzas and a fragment of a sixth, but what remains is highly anomalous. We have first the latter part of the A version, beginning with the end of the September stanza, then a stanza for April which bears no relation either to A or to C, and finally the regular B stanza for September adapted to fit June. The last two are attributed in the manuscript to Tudur Aled (fl. 1489-1526), but there is no reason to take the attribution seriously, for, as in the case of Gutun Owain, they bear not the least resemblance to any of his genuine works. (33) Since one is derived from B and the other refers to a month for which there is otherwise no B version, it is always possible that they represent the detritus of a complete twelve-stanza B text, but this cannot be demonstrated, and it is more likely that the lines for April in Cardiff 3.4 simply represent an early variant stanza, perhaps the survivor of several now lost.

As was noted earlier, the C variants occur in no hand earlier than the eighteenth century. But the `Llyfr Hir' need not have been so late as that; moreover, it is possible that what we call the C text diverged from the main tradition at a relatively early stage. Some time towards the end of the sixteenth century the Flintshire poet Sion Tudur (fl. 1567-1602) composed an entertaining parody on Englynion y Misoedd, which appears with the text in a number of manuscripts. This parody was printed by Parry-Williams from two manuscripts in Canu Rhydd Cynnar, and in a full critical edition, giving a rather fuller version of the text, by Enid Roberts in Gwaith Sion Tudur. (34) At the level of content the parody is aimed at the obvious targets: trite and trivial statement, line-to-line inconsequentiality, and lack of connection between the gnomic statements and the seasons with which they are associated. These are all vices which might strike a sophisticated poet on reading the original. But the parody is also full of metrical faults. More often than not the stanza has nine or even ten lines, as if the incoherence of the material afforded no particular reason to stop at eight. Some fourteen of the lines are extended to eight syllables with a monotonous trochaic rhythm; in other cases the syllables can be extended to seven only by treating final w as syllabic, as in `da fydd kwrw gwell fydd bir' (`ale is good, beer is better'). On a further occasion there is the choice of producing an octosyllable by pronouncing epenthetic vowels and being left with a hexasyllable by ignoring them, as in `gorau llwdwn llwdwn dafad' (`the best young beast is a young sheep', a pearl of wisdom attributed to an unnamed priest). Non-standard rhymes include `kerwyn' `tub' rhymed with `dyffryn' (the fault called lleddf a thalgron) (35) and `kythrel' (in formal Welsh kythraul) rhymed with `echel'; the latter would today be associated with south-western, midland, or some north-eastern dialects, (36) but in Sion Tudur's time would probably have been undifferentiated colloquial speech. (37) The overall effect is reminiscent of the humorist J. C. Squire's parody of popular weather lore: `When from the Strand you see the Crystal Palace, Then is the time to take umbrellas', in that it neither rhymes nor scans, nor is it true. Since we know Sion to have been a careful and accomplished poet in the strict metres, it is reasonable to suppose that the metrical lapses are part of the parody, and that the text of the Misoedd was notorious for such solecisms in his time.

It is true that, as noted earlier, there are copies of the A and B texts with a nine-line stanza, and indeed the stray stanza in Cardiff 3.4 has only seven. Since we have no continuous text of C, we cannot be sure whether all the variant lines are alternatives or some additional to those of A, and thus whether or not C shows variation in length of stanza. Sion Tudur apparently knew the A text, if Gwenogvryn Evans was right in suggesting that his was the main hand in BL, MS Add. 14875, (38) so that it is not clear at this point what version is being mocked. But irregular length of line is certainly characteristic of C rather than A or B, and so are disyllabic pronunciations of words ending in a sonant: the scansion of C implies amal, llether, lleidir for standard aml, llethr, lleidr. The modern distribution of the latter two pronunciations is southerly, and Sion may here be mocking a dialect different from his own as well as non-standard metrical practice. There is no reason why he should not have known more than one version of the poem, and, granted his desire to make fun of the text, it would be natural for him to base his parody on a version on whose dialect he looked down and whose metrical disorder matched the incoherence, as he saw it, of its subject matter. Thus a version with some features in common with the C text may already have been in existence before 1600, though how close it may have been to the existing fragments cannot be determined. Some lines in the C text must be later, perhaps much later; note in particular I oe `pan f<e>id brasa brysia Gwyddel' (`when all is most prosperous, then the Irishman hastens (here)'), an apparent reference to the seasonal migration of labourers, which, at least on a significant scale, is a fairly late phenomenon. (39)

The C text presents further evidence, of a different kind, for the variability of the text. Jackson's statement (40) that `the last four verses of C are variants on the A version, not on B' is strictly correct, but gives a somewhat misleading impression as it stands. It is true that the stanzas for September and October have the same basic rhyme as A; the same is true for the first six months of the year and for August, and in the case of January, March, August, and October, where no variant is given for the first line, that line may be inferred to have been identical with that in A. The first line for April differs only in one word. The stanzas for July and November, however, have an entirely different rhyme scheme from that of A, the July stanza rhyming on `chwys' rather than `gwair' and that for November on `dail' rather than `merydd'. Since only a trivial variant, which may not refer to C at all, is given for the sixth line of the July stanza, this line may be inferred to have resembled the A line `llwyr ddielid mefl mowrair', correctly `shame thoroughly avenges a boastful word' (though, as we shall see, the sentence may have been misconstrued) and can be confidently reconstructed with the substitution of `mawrflys' `excessive lust' for `mowrair'. The second line of the November stanza, `llednoeth coed bras anifail' (`the wood is half-bare, the animal is fat'), evidently stands in memorial relationship with its counterpart in A, `bras llydnod llednoeth koedydd' (`beasts are fat, woods half-bare'), and both versions refer to `kybydd' `a miser', in the fifth line, though the lines have no other resemblance. Nothing else in either stanza bears any relation to A, and as far as these two lines go there is no firm evidence even as to which has priority. (41) No variants at all are given for December, so that it is open to us to assume that the C stanza for that month was identical in all points with that in A, though it is also possible (and perhaps more likely) that there was a variant stanza which was not known to the annotator of the `Llyfr Hir' (or was missing from that manuscript by the time the variants came to be transmitted) and is irrecoverable. It appears, then, that C, even in the fragmentary form in which we have it, is a composite text, for at least two of its stanzas represent a version which has moved much further from A than that represented by the other nine. It might be supposed, though one cannot be certain even of that, that these two stanzas began to diverge from the main tradition at a considerably earlier point than the others; but we have no means of knowing when the traditions separated in either case, or whether there were ever two complete separate versions involved, or at what point such versions were conflated.

The evidence for the existence of variant stanzas at an early stage is thus patchy and equivocal. It can be summarized thus: the existence of an otherwise unknown stanza for April in what is now the earliest copy, MS Cardiff 3.4; the rather remote possibility that the variant stanzas in the B text, especially that for November, antedate in some form the apparent historical allusion to the birth of Prince Arthur in 1486; (42) and the likelihood that the stanzas for July and November in the C text represent an early stratum in a composite version. The possibility cannot be entirely ruled out that the existing texts are the product of a process of selection or tidying-up within a tradition which was once much more heterogeneous. On the other hand it is not possible to think in terms of systematic redactions, since, as has been seen, the dislocation of the order of lines attributable to oral or memorial tradition took place before the incorporation, in or after 1486, of the B stanzas. Any systematic redaction, whether before that date, which seems early for such things, or after it, would be expected to have reduced the lines to a more stable order than that in which they now appear. The most that may be said is that a sketchy canon of stanzas defined by their opening lines may at some time have emerged from a more fluid tradition.

How much earlier than 1486 Englynion y Misoedd were in existence is not clear. Jackson pointed to two rhymes which, he claimed, were `not early': this statement must be understood in relation to the mid-twelfth-century date which he regarded as the later limit for the gnomic poems of the Red Book of Hergest. (43) These are the rhymes `modryda', earlier modrydaf, with `morfa', and `eos', earlier eaws, with `rhos'; to which may be added `achos', earlier achaws. Since the first of these is well attested in the rhymes of the early cywyddwyr and the second in the Red Book itself, (44) it would still be possible, if other evidence permitted, to date the text as early as the fourteenth century. In support of an earlier rather than a later date Jackson refers only to the presence of some rare words already unfamiliar to the seventeenth-century scribes -- and, one might add, some sixteenth-century ones as well. (45)

We may go a little further than this, though the evidence is very tenuous. The fifth line of the July stanza, `Ltwyr ddielid mefl mowrair', provides an additional archaism. If `dielid' is taken as the impersonal imperfect of dial, the tense is unsatisfactory: `the shame of boastful words used to be or would be fully avenged'; and it is undoubtedly for this reason that some manuscripts alter to `ddielir', giving the sense `is or will be fully avenged'. But this does not explain how the other form comes to be in the text, and it seems rather that it is in fact the old third-person present-future with absolute flexion (46) and that `mefl' is its subject, thus `shame thoroughly avenges a boastful word'. The line appears with a different verb in the same form in the list of proverbs appended by John Davies, Mallwyd, to his dictionary, (47) and the formation clearly survived beyond the Middle Welsh period in gnomic contexts, much as `Thirty days hath September' does in England to this day. The line, however, is evidently derived from one in the `Eiry mynydd' series in the Red Book of Hergest, Early Welsh Gnomic Poems, III. 32c `chwenneckyt meuyl mawreir' `a boastful word increases shame'. It is likely enough that this is the origin of the line in Misoedd as well, yet because the syntax as well as the wording has been changed it remains possible that that line is a relic of an earlier form of the text independent of the Red Book sequence. A possible comparable case may lie behind the third line of the September stanza, which reads variously `gwae/ gwaew/gwyw gan hiraeth fy nghalon'. Jackson prints `gwae', with the sense `woe is to my heart for longing', though favouring in his notes `gwyw' (`withered is my heart ...'), comparing `gwyw callon rac hiraeth' in the sequence commonly called Claf Abercuawg. (48) Neither reading explains the lectio difficilior, `gwaew', literally `spear', figuratively `pain', then `anguish', whereas both are explicable as rationalizations of it. The reading could be explained, and the incongruously personal expression circumvented, by supposing the existing line to be a clumsy modernization of an archaic sentence with copula such as `*ys gwaew hiraeth ir galon' (`longing is anguish to the heart'). (49) This, like the line with `dielid', would be typical both in form and in content of the earlier gnomic poetry, and might allow us to suppose some continuity between that and Englynion y Misoedd.

Yet Jackson's instinct in placing the poem as we have it in `the middle or later part of the fifteenth century' (50) was surely sound. Whatever archaic forms or constructions may be preserved here and there, it does not feel remotely like the early gnomic poetry of the Red Book sequences. The expansion of the stanza to eight lines intensifies the inherent tendency to inconsequentiality which is kept in check by the constraints of the three-line englyn, while compounding it with diffuseness; and the proverbial wisdom tends towards the heavy-handedness of the late `Eiry mynydd' (`Mountain snow') sequences, some of them composed in six- or eight-line stanzas, that are scattered through the poetic manuscripts of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. (51) The Misoedd are saved from the monotonous moralism of the worst of these by their frequent touches of sharp observation and occasional wry humour, which they share with the penillion telyn; but there is no evading the conclusion that they belong to the gnomic apocrypha of the end of the Middle Ages rather than the tradition in its full vigour.

Do, they, nevertheless, have roots in the earlier tradition, just as the late `Eiry mynydd' poems do? The first four of the stanzas in Canu Llywarch Hen beginning `Baglan brenn' (in which the speaker apostrophizes his wooden crook or crutch) (52) run through the four seasons, the second line of each being either a seasonal statement about nature or a human gnome, in one case possibly though not certainly comprising both, but there is little to connect them with the Misoedd stanzas. The sequence of three-line englynion on the months in Englynion Duad, which may go back to the tenth or (perhaps better) eleventh century, affords a somewhat more likely prototype. These appear in the middle (or perhaps at the end) of a series of `Kalan gaeaf' (`first day of winter') stanzas, which supplement and to a limited extent overlap with the better-known sequence in the Red Book of Hergest; (53) Dr Rowland is undoubtedly correct in regarding this as a composite sequence. Evidently the existence of a sequence beginning `Kalan gaeaf' suggested the composition of a series of twelve englynion beginning `Kalan' followed by the name of the month; either the former sequence served a poet as an introduction to the latter, or else it prompted a copyist to conflate the two. As it is, we have eleven stanzas beginning `Kalan tachwedd' and running through to `Kalan hyddfref', that is from November to October, the stanza for December being absent, then one more beginning `Kalan gaeaf'. The starting point is appropriate as marking the traditional beginning of the year; (54) Englynion y Misoedd, by contrast, has moved decisively outside the Celtic orbit and starts with January, suggesting in itself a difference in date between the two texts. Conceivably `Kalan tachwedd' is a substitution for earlier `Kalan gaeaf', and conceivably the closing `Kalan gaeaf' stanza, which is a variant of one from the Red Book and appears at first sight distinct from the sequence, is designed to close it. If so, that would mark an initial point of difference from Englynion y Misoedd, in which there is no suggestion of a dunad (that is, closure with an identical line or stanza) of any kind. (55)

Though much of the sequence is corrupt beyond the hope of reconstruction, enough survives to make clear that no element in Englynion y Misoedd derives from it, nor anything beyond the bare principle of the month-by-month structure. There are no lines in common, and the only parallel of detail, at any rate with the A text, is that, not surprisingly, there is reference to the cuckoo in both; but the reference comes in different stanzas, that in Duad referring to the bird's imminent arrival in April, that in Misoedd to the vigour of its song in May. There is a further reference to the cuckoo in the passage from Canu Lllywarch Hen, referred to above, though in a notorious crux which leaves its precise significance unclear. (56) This lack of overlap should not be a surprise: in a similar way the late six-line and eight-line `Eiry mynydd' stanzas owe nothing to the Red Book englynion beside their opening formula. It is, indeed, impossible to determine whether any text earlier than the fifteenth century lies behind Englynion y Misoedd. There are indeed lines which might go back to the fourteenth century or even beyond, or at least cannot be proved to be later though most of them presumably are, but only two with the real appearance of antiquity; there is nothing in particular to connect either with a sequence based on the months, and either could come from more or less any gnomic poem. If there is an earlier poem in three-line stanzas buried somewhere in the text we have, there is no means of disinterring it.

One small point of interest, nevertheless, is that, while there is no parallel with the inferentially earlier A text of the Misoedd, the Duad sequence shares with the B text the unusual form Menni for Medi `September', (57) and with the C text Hyddfref for Hydref `October', though neither form is as rare as is sometimes supposed; and `Kalan hyddfre(f)' occurs as an opening formula in two poems by Gwalchmai ap Meilyr (fl. 1130-80) and Llywarch `Prydydd y Moch' (fl. 1175-1220). (58) Furthermore, the relevant stanzas of both the Duad sequence and the B text of the Misoedd appear to refer to the rutting season, (59) to which the form Hyddfref `belling of stags', whether a genuine or (as more probably) a spurious etymology for Hydref, (60) obviously refers. There thus remains a tantalizing suggestion of the Duad sequence, or something like it, as a shadowy presence, perhaps at the level of oral tradition or folk memory, behind the fifteenth-century text of Englynion y Misoedd, but it cannot be regarded as a source or even a serious influence, and even as a shadowy presence it remains, like so many speculations about that elusive poem, no more than a possibility.


As an example of the text I give the November stanza in its three versions, together with a fairly literal translation.

 mis tachwedd tvchan merydd
 bras llydnod llednoeth koedydd
 awr a ddaw drwy lawenydd
 awr drist drosti a ddyfydd
 y da nid eiddo'r kybydd
 yr hael ai rrydd <ai> pieifydd
 dyn a da'r byd a dderfydd
 da nefol tragwyddol fydd.

(November, sluggard grumbles; beasts are fat, woods half-naked. For an hour that passes in happiness, a sad hour shall come in return for it. Wealth is not the miser's own; the generous man who gives it shall possess it. Man and worldly wealth shall perish; heavenly riches shall endure for ever.)

 Mis tachwedd moch mehinvawr
 aed bugail deled kerddawr
 gwaedlyd llafn llawn ysgubawr
 llon mor merllyd pob callawr
 hir nos heinvs karcharawr
 parchus pawb a fedd drysawr
 tri dyn nid aml ai diddawr
 trist blwng a chybydd angawr

(November, pigs are fat; away shepherd, welcome musician! Blade is bloody, barn full; sea is lively, every cauldron greasy. Night is long, prisoner sickly; honoured each who possesses treasure. Three men not many care for: the sad, the surly, and the grasping miser.)

 Mis Tachwedd diwedd dail
 llednoeth coed bras anifail
 llawen dedwydd hylwydd hael
 clyd nyth diwyd i ochsael
 diged fydd ffau cybydd gwael
 ni erys nwyfus dan wiael
 a dyrro y dyn anhael
 cyffelyppa ir cassa eu cael.

(November, end of leaves; woods are half-naked, beast fat. Happy is the fortunate man, successful the generous. Snug is the nest of the industrious (or open-handed) man, bare of gifts the den of the wretched miser. The man of spirit will not remain long under the rod. Whatever goods the stingy man piles up, most likely it is the one he would least wish who will get them.)

Jesus College


A version of this paper was delivered at the 11th International Congress of Celtic Studies, Cork, 1999.

(1) Most of the corpus of medieval Welsh gnomic poetry may be read in Kenneth Jackson, Early Welsh Gnomic Poems, 2nd edn (Cambridge, 1960); for a translation, id., Studies in Early Celtic Nature Poetry (Cambridge, 1935). These are supplemented by Jenny Rowland, "`Englynion Duad'", Journal of Celtic Studies, 3 (1981), 59-87. Materials for a comparison of the gnomic matter in Old English, Irish, Old Norse, and Welsh are set out, albeit not in very digestible form, in P. L. Henry, The Early English and Celtic Lyric (London, 1966), pp. 91-132. For the Old English material, see T. A. Shippey, Poems of Wisdom and Learning in Old English (Cambridge, 1976); for a comparison with the Old Norse material, Carolyne Larrington, A Store of Common Sense: Gnomic Theme and Style in Old Icelandic and Old English Wisdom Poetry (Oxford, 1993); for early Irish wisdom-literature, Fergus Kelly, A Guide to Early Irish Law (Dublin, 1988), pp. 284-6, and Colin Ireland, Old Irish Wisdom Attributed to Aldfrith of Northumbria: An Edition of `Briathra Flainn Fhina maic Osiu' (Tempe, Ariz., 1999); for a wider survey of gnomography in general, Hesiod, Works and Days, ed. M. L. West (Oxford, 1978), pp. 3-25.

(2) Cynghanedd is the name for the elaborate system of alliterative correspondences characteristic of Welsh strict-metre poetry; the englyn is a stanza of three or four lines defined by syllable-count, rhyme and, in varying degrees, cynghanedd. The classic description of cynghaneddis in John Morris-Jones, Cerdd Dafod (Oxford, 1925), pp. 143-309, and of the various types of englyn, pp. 319-27; for a convenient summary in English, see Gwyn Williams, An Introduction to Welsh Poetry (London, 1953), pp. 232-47. Gnomic poetry is typically composed in three-line englynion, but four lines are not unknown.

(3) See Thomas Jones, `The Black Book of Carmarthen "Stanzas of the graves'", PBA, 53 0967), 97-138, for text and English translation.

(4) Ed. Nerys Ann Jones and Ann Parry Owen, Gwaith Cynddelw Brydydd Mawr, vol. I (Cardiff, 1991), pp. 113-42. I follow the editors in their interpretation of the functions of these poems.

(5) Ed. Dafydd Ifans, `Cyneddfau Amryw Barthau Cymru', in Essays and Poems Presented to Daniel Huws, ed. Tegwyn Jones and E. B. Fryde (Aberystwyth, 1994), pp. 19-102. The type is exemplified also in Old English in the Menologium and Seasons for Fasting (ed. E. van K. Dobbie, The Anglo-Saxon Minor Poems, ASPR vi (New York, 1942), pp. 49-55, 98-104), besides Widsith (ed. R. W. Chambers, Widsith: A Study in Old English Heroic Tradition (Cambridge, 1912)), which consists essentially of three catalogues of the kings and tribes of Germanic tradition. See also Nicholas Howe, The Old English Catalogue Poems, Anglistica 23 (Copenhagen, 1985).

(6) Rowland, "`Englynion Duad'", 111.8-18; Jackson, Early Welsh Gnomic Poems, IV = Early Celtic Nature Poetry, pp. 62-3; see below, pp. 260-1, for a discussion of the Duad sequence.

(7) See Runic and Heroic Poems of the Old Teutonic Peoples, ed. Bruce Dickins (Cambridge, 1915), pp. 12-23 (English), 24-7 (Norwegian, end of thirteenth century), 28-33 (Icelandic, date uncertain but probably from Viking period). The Norwegian distichs are of interest in including in the second line gnomic, mythical, or Christian material unrelated to that in the first, in a way strikingly reminiscent of the earlier Welsh material.

(8) Rhys Jones, Gorchestion Beirdd Cymru (Shrewsbury, 1773), pp. 1-5; Owen Jones, Edward Williams, and William Owen [Pughe], The Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales (1801; 2nd edn Denbigh, 1870), pp. 21-2; T. H. Parry-Williams, Canu Rhydd Cynnar (Cardiff, 1932); Jackson, Early Welsh Gnomic Poems, pp. 37-42, 66-7, 78-9; Early Celtic Nature Poetry, pp. 72-5, for an English translation of the A text (see below).

(9) Some of these are listed in N. Jacobs, `"Englynion" y Misoedd: Testun B neu Fersiwn Llansteffan 117 a Pheniarth 155', Dwned, 6 (2000), 9-24; it is hoped to list the remainder in a new edition in progress of the A text (i.e. that edited by Parry-Williams and Jackson).

(10) e.g. 3e `arynaig' `dreads', besides 5b `maranedd' or `marianedd', 8a `molwynog', both of uncertain meaning. (I follow the principle of Ifor Williams in Canu Llywarch Hen (Cardiff, 1935) in numbering the lines first by stanza, and then within stanzas according to the English alphabet.)

(11) I am pleased to acknowledge here the work of Professor Dafydd Johnston, in particular his paper `Oral transmission in medieval Welsh poetry', delivered at the 10th International Congress of Celtic Studies, Edinburgh, 1995.

(12) Nyffryn is the name of a small mansion in the parish of Tudweiliog, Llyn (Caernarfonshire).

(13) The annotations are probably in the hand of Dafydd Jones, Trefriw, and written about 1760.

(14) Jackson, Early Welsh Gnomic Poems, p. 16.

(15) The penillion telyn (literally `stanzas for the harp') are popular quatrains whose subject matter ranges from traditional wit or wisdom to nature, human society, and love, being most commonly composed in trochaic octosyllables rhyming aabb; for examples and brief discussion see T. H. Parry-Williams, Hen Benillion (Llandysul, 1940), or Cennard Davies, in A Guide to Welsh Literature, III: c.1530-1700, ed. R. Geraint Gruffydd (Cardiff, 1997), pp. 85-6, though the latter refers only to the subject of love. They appear to have been transmitted orally down to the eighteenth century; some of them may go back to the sixteenth or even earlier. On Rhys Prichard (b. c.1580, d. 1644 or 1645), see D. Gwenallt Jones, Y Ficer Prichard a `Canwyll y Cymry' (Caernarfon, [1946]); Nesta Lloyd, in A Guide to Welsh Literature, III, 114-19. The work was published posthumously, 1659-60, and frequently reprinted over the following century; it was translated into incongruously genteel contemporary English by William Evans under the title The Welshman's Candle or the Divine Poems of Mr Rees Prichard (Carmarthen, 1771).

(16) An edition of this version is forthcoming in Hen Cymru, 25 (2002).

(17) The epithet is a compound of gwawd `poetry, praise' and rhydd' `free', hence `fluent in verse'. There may be overtones of inspiration in gwawd, which is cognate with Latin uates `poet, prophet'; arguments for a shamanistic element in early Welsh poetry should, however, be treated with extreme caution. The modern sense `satire, mockery' is not recorded before the Bible translation of 1588.

(18) Jackson, Early Welsh Gnomic Poems, p. 13.

(19) The material with the best claim to represent the work of the sixth-century poet Aneirin consists of the heroic elegies in the so-called Book of Aneirin, now Cardiff, South Glamorgan Library, MS 2.81; see A. O. H. Jarman, Aneirin; The Gododdin: Britain's Oldest Heroic Poem (Llandysul, 1990) for text and English translation. The two hands in the MS are now thought to date from the second half of the thirteenth century; see the introduction by Daniel Huws to Llyfr Aneirin: A Facsimile ([Aberystwyth], 1989), pp. 34-6; linguistic and palaeographical evidence, however, points to an exemplar written before 1100 (David N. Dumville, `Palaeographical considerations in the dating of early Welsh verse', Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies, 27 (1967-8), 246-51). How much, if any, of the text represents the putative sixth-century composition remains a matter of contention; see David Greene, `Linguistic considerations in the dating of early Welsh verse', Studia Celtica, 6 (1970, 1-11, for the classic statement of scepticism; John T. Koch, The Gododdin of Aneirin: Text and Context from Dark-Age North Britain (Cardiff, 1997) for a recent argument for a genuine sixth-century core. Vigorous dissension continues. But whatever the date of the matter in the Book of Aneirin, it is by any criterion highly archaic by comparison with Englynion y Misoedd. An approximate English parallel (though with a smaller chronological gap) might be the attribution to Alfred the Great of the early Middle English Proverbs of Alfred. Aneirin may, like Taliesin, have been an authoritative figure to whom anonymous matter could plausibly be attributed by scribes who had never seen a text of the Gododdin nor would have understood it if they had; though it is more surprising to find the attribution accepted by so learned an antiquarian as Dr John Davies, Mallwyd. Morfydd E. Owen, "`Hwn yw e Gododin. Aneirin ae Cant'", in Astudiaethau ar yr Hengerdd cyflwynedig i Syr Idris Foster, ed. Rachel Bromwich and R. Brinley Jones (Cardiff, 1978), pp. 123-50, ad fin., argues that the inclusion of a short and, exceptionally, easily intelligible gnomic poem, Gwarchan Adebon, in the Book of Aneirin may have prompted the attribution to Aneirin of other gnomic material. Poetry (possibly eleventh or twelfth century) attributed to Myrddin is preserved in the Black Book of Carmarthen (NLW, MS Peniarth 1) and the Red Book of Hergest (Oxford, Jesus College, MS 111). Myrddin corresponds to the Merlin of the Arthurian legend, the name being changed to avoid the scatological overtones of the Latin form *Merdinus. Whether there was ever a historical poet Myrddin independent of the later legend is disputed; see A. O. H. Jarman, `The Merlin legend and the Welsh tradition of prophecy', in The Arthur of the Welsh: The Arthurian Legend in Medieval Welsh Literature, ed. Rachel Bromwich, A. O. H. Jarman, and Brynley F. Roberts (Cardiff, 1991), pp. 117-45 (further references at p. 145). Whatever its authorship or date, the poetry attributed to him in these two MSS is again markedly archaic beside the Misoedd.

(20) For his genuine works, see E. Bachellery, L'OEuvre pogtique de Gutun Owain (Paris, 1950-1).

(21) Sotheby A. I (NLW).

(22) NLW 1247D (eighteenth century).

(23) Jackson, Early Welsh Gnomic Poems, p. 16.

(24) This is the current shelfmark of the `Book of Elis Gruffydd', described by J. Gwenogvryn Evans, Report on Manuscripts in the Welsh Language (London, 1898-1910), II, 96-105, under the shelfmark Cardiff 5.

(25) The reference to birth excludes the identification of Henry himself as the mab darogan. The name most commonly associated with the mab darogan is Owain; but note the poem by Dafydd Llwyd of Mathafarn to Henry on his acquisition of the throne and Arthur on his birth (see Gwaith Dafydd Llwyd o Fathafarn, ed. W. Leslie Richards (Cardiff, 1964), no. 3), in which the new Arthur is explicitly compared to the old and credited in advance with even wider conquests.

(26) For details of the positions of the various heavenly bodies together with fuller references, see Jacobs, "`Englynion" y Misoedd, Testun B'. I am grateful to Professor Raymond Hide and the Library of the Royal Astronomical Society, London, for the relevant information.

(27) The Gospels of Matthew (i.1-16) and Luke (iii.23-38) give the descent of Jesus only through Joseph. The belief that Matthew's genealogy refers to Mary is referred to by Victorinus of Pettau (end of third century) in his commentary on Rev. iv.7: `hominis [sc. figura] Matthaeus enititur enuntiare nobis genus Mariae, unde carnem accepit Christus' (see J. Haussleiter, Victorini Episcopi Petavionis opera, CSEL 49 (1916), 50-1). It seems a virtually inevitable development once the belief that Jesus was not Joseph's son became firm doctrine.

(28) See n. 43, below.

(29) It may be significant that the MSS (NLW, MS Peniarth 111, Panton 18 and 33, BL, MS Add. 14976, and Cardiff, MS 2.615) which read mab darogan rather than merch frenhinawl have only the September stanza of the B sequence, though these probably derive from a single sixteenth-century MS (see Jacobs, "`Englynion" y Misoedd, Testun B', p. 11). The oldest surviving MS, Cardiff 3.4 (before 1527), has, uniquely, the mixed reading merch ddyrogan, which may suggest that both versions were current early in the sixteenth century.

(30) The A MS Peniarth 65 and the B MSS Panton 1 and 18 (all NLW).

(31) The line has the appearance of a proverb, but it is not represented in the extensive compilation of proverb collections, William Hay, Diarhebion Cymru (Liverpool, 1955).

(32) BL, MS Add. 14885; Cardiff, MS Hafod 17 and NLW, MS Peniarth 155.

(33) See T. Gwynn Jones, Gwaith Tudur Aled (Cardiff, 1926) for these and for details of his career.

(34) Parry-Williams, Canu Rhydd Cynnar, pp. 243-52; Enid Roberts, Gwaith Sion Tudur (Cardiff, 1980), I, 844-9.

(35) Cerdd Dafod, [subsection] 417-21.

(36) For the most reliable account of an often oversimplified matter, see Beth Thomas and Peter Wynn Thomas, Cymraeg Cymrag, Cymreg: Cyflwyno'r Tafodieithoedd (Cardiff, 1989), p. 40 (map p. 41).

(37) The a- sound which replaces -e in north-western and in what remains of southeastern dialects appears to be a subsequent development from -e.

(38) Evans, Report on Manuscripts, II, 1039.

(39) See Anne O'Dowd, Spalpeens and Tattie Hokers: History and Folklore of the Irish Migratory Agricultural Worker in Ireland and Britain (Dublin, 1991), pp. 2-4; I am grateful to Professor Roy Foster for this reference. O'Dowd suggests that seasonal migration began on a large scale as a result of the Law of Settlement of 1662, and more particularly of the statute of 1743 which provided for paupers from Scotland and Ireland to be repatriated at the expense of the parishes or ports from which they were dispatched; she refers also to a sequence of bad harvests in Ireland in 1726-8, 1739-41, and 1744-5. Migrations of the kind could have occasioned much ill-feeling, especially in the western parts of Wales which would have borne the brunt of the expenses of repatriation; this would give the disparaging line in question topical significance if it had been added after the text reached Llyn, see n. 12, above. But since evidence is given for the sporadic presence of Irish migrant labour at a much earlier date, the lateness of the line is not beyond dispute.

(40) Jackson, Early Welsh Gnomic Poems, p. 16.

(41) The cynghanedd between `llydnod' and `llednoeth' may be thought to favour the priority of A.

(42) As was argued above (p. 254), the reverse is equally if not more likely.

(43) Jackson, Early Welsh Gnomic Poems, p. 14. He resiles to some extent from so dogmatic an assertion in his addenda and corrigenda, pp. 71-2.

(44) As Kenneth Jackson points out, Language and History in Early, Britain (Edinburgh, 1953), [section] 12, the change began as early as the late eleventh century, but was evidently regarded as vulgar by professional poets and so avoided until well on into the later Middle Ages. It may well have been more acceptable at an earlier date in poetry in a lower register, including gnomic verse, but the evidence is fragmentary.

(45) See n. 10, above.

(46) See D. Simon Evans, A Grammar of Medieval Welsh (Dublin, 1964), [section] 129 (d)(1); for the absolute-conjunct distinction in Celtic, cf. Rudolf Thurneysen, A Grammar of Old Irish, trans. D. A. Binchy and Osborn Bergin (Dublin, 1946), [section] 542. It occurs in Welsh almost exclusively in the present tense, where it fell into desuetude in the course of the medieval period; a functionally corresponding distinction survives in Modern Irish verbs with suppletion, mostly in the past tense, but the double flexion remains as a regular feature of the present in Scots Gaelic.

(47) Antiqua lingua Britannica ... et lingua Latinae dictionarium duplex ... (London, 1632), sig. (Hhh3) verso, col. 1 `Anghwanecgid mefl mowrair'; and see also s.v. `mefl'.

(48) See Jenny Rowland, Early Welsh Saga Poetry (Cambridge, 1990), p. 449.

(49) Jackson refers in addition (Early Welsh Gnomic Poems, addenda and corrigenda, p. 78) to Parry-Williams, Canu Rhydd Cynnar, p. 294. 87 (in a Body and Soul dialogue) `gwae fy nghalon rrag hiraeth'. Here, as in Claf Abercuawg, personal expression is more obviously appropriate, and in the latter case the line clearly antedates that under discussion. The simultaneous existence of two superficially similar lines, which would in effect have been conflated here, cannot be altogether ruled out, but the principle of economy perhaps weighs against the hypothesis.

(50) Rowland, Early Welsh Saga Poetry, p. 14.

(51) For texts of some of these, see Jones, Williams, and Owen, The Myvyrian Archaiology, pp. 358-62; they are modelled on the earlier sequence in the Red Book of Hergest, printed in Jackson, Early Welsh Gnomic Poems, pp. 22-6.

(52) Jackson, Early Welsh Gnomic Poems, p. 416.

(53) Rowland "`Englynion Duad'", pp. 67-9, translated pp. 73-5; on the date, pp. 64-5. For the Red Book stanzas, see Jackson, Early Welsh Gnomic Poems, pp. 27-8, Early Celtic Nature Poetry, pp. 63-4 for translation.

(54) That is, the first of the four Celtic seasonal festivals, Welsh Calangaeaf' `winter kalends', Irish Samhain.

(55) This, as the name (verbal noun of dunaid `closes') implies, is a characteristically Irish device; see Gerard Murphy, Early Irish Metrics (Dublin, 1961), pp. 43-5. But it is not unknown in Welsh poetry of the earlier period; see Ifor Williams, trans. J. E. Caerwyn Williams, The Poems of Taliesin (Dublin, 1975), pp. 1, 12, 16, 118; Marged Haycock, Blodeugerdd Barddas o Ganu Crefyddol Cynnar (Llandybie, 1994), pp. 42-4, 73-4, 79, 284-5.

(56) Rowland, Early Welsh Saga Poetry, p. 416; the MS reads `rud kogeu' (`cuckoos are red'), which they patently are not, nor even, pace Dr Rowland and Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, s.v. `rhudd', brown. Thomas Jones, BBCS, 13 (1948), 14-15, suggested emending to `kud' (`hidden'), which gives good sense in that it is commoner to hear the cuckoo than to see it. Gwyn Thomas, `Can yr Henwr', in Astudiaethau ar yr Hengerdd: Studies in Old Welsh Poetry cyflwynedig i Syr Idris Foster (Cardiff, 1978), pp. 266-80, at pp. 274-6, would banish the cuckoos from the text altogether, offering instead the translation `[mae] cogyddion yn wynepgoch' (`cooks are red-faced'); this rendering has not won unqualified support. See Nicolas Jacobs, `Red, brown and grey cuckoos: a problem in poetic ornithology', Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies, 40 (Winter 2000), 27-33.

(57) On this form, see Thomas Jones, BBCS, 8 (1935-7), 332-3; 9 0937-9), 39-40.

(58) J. E. Caerwyn Williams (with Peredur I. Lynch), Gwaith Meilyr Brydydd a'i Ddisgynyddion (Cardiff, 1994), p. 263; Elin M. Jones (with Nerys Ann Jones), Gwaith Llywarch apn Llywelyn `Prydydd y Moch' (Cardiff, 1991), p. 25.

(59) Rowland, "`Englynion Duad'", III.18b (though the editor fails to understand the line and so needlessly emends `gwynwyl' `rut'); Jones, Williams, and Owen, The Myvyrian Archaiology, p. 22, cf. Jacobs, "`Englynion" y Misoedd, Testun B', pp. 20-1.

(60) See Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, s. vv. `hydref, hyddfref'; the cognate forms in Cornish and Breton suggest that the second form is indeed a sophisticated re-formation.
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Author:Jacobs, Nicolas
Publication:Medium Aevum
Article Type:Critical Essay
Date:Sep 22, 2001
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