The subject of the poem is William Herbert (d. 1469), the most prominent Welsh supporter of the Yorkists during the Wars of the Roses. The son of Sir William ap Thomas of Raglan, he was made Lord Herbert of Raglan by Edward IV in 1461. A further elevation, as the Earl of Pembroke in 1468, precipitated the defection of the Earl of Warwick to the Lancastrian party, and Herbert was killed by Warwick at the battle of Banbury in 1469.

During the 1460s, Herbert led a number of raids on Lancastrian centres in Wales. The poem refers to his capture of Harlech castle in 1468, the stronghold of Jasper Tudor and the Lancastrian faction in Wales. Herbert’s army attacked from the north, via Chester and Denbigh, ravaging Snowdonia, and from the south, in Pembroke (previously captured by Herbert), heading north along the old Roman road, Sarn Elen.

Though Chester is not specifically mentioned in the poem, Herbert was supported by men of Chester, a city staunchly loyal to the Yorkist king. Compare Poem 2 which gives the perspective of the Lancastrian leader Rheinallt ap Gruffydd, one of the soldiers who held Harlech against the Yorkists. In this poem, Guto pleads with Herbert ( a Welsh-speaking Welshman) not to foster the enmity between the different regions of Wales brought about by English factionalism, but to unite Wales as one nation, empowered to resist English rule.

Author: Guto’r Glyn

Metre: Cywydd


Printed Text: Williams, 1939, no. 48; Parry, 1962, no. 70.

Printed Translation: Clancy, 1965, 207.

I Wiliam Herbart

To William Herbert

1Tri llu aeth o Gymru 1 gynt,
Trwy Wynedd y trywenynt. 2
Llu’r Pil, 3 llu’r Arglwydd Wiliam,
Llu’r Vicwnt, bu hwnt baham.
5Tair ffordd clawdd tir Offa hen, 4
Siwrnai Wiliam, Sarn Elen. 5
Arglwydd Herbart a’th gerti
A’th lu, Duw a’th lywio di.
Glaw gynt a gâi lu ac ost,
10Hindda weithian pan ddaethost.
Dewiniais y caud Wynedd,
A dwyn Môn i’r dyn a’i medd.
Pobl Loegr, pawb rhoi lygaid,
Pe ceisiech Harddlech, o chaid.
15Chwedl benfras o gas i gyd,
Blaenfain fu i’r bobl ynfyd.
Chwedl blaenfain fu’ch train a’ch tro,
Benfras Arglwydd o Benfro.
Ba well castell rhag cysteg
20 Ban friwyd wal Benfro 6 deg?
Bwriaist, ysgydwaist godwm,
Ben Carreg Cennen 7 i’r cwm.
Ni ddaliawdd na’i chlawdd achlân
Uwch Harddlech mwy no chorddlan.
25Ni’th ery na thŷ, na thŵr,
Na chancaer, na chwncwerwr.
Tair cad aeth o’r teirgwlad tau
Trwy Wynedd fel taranau.
Teirplaid yn gapteiniaid tyn,
30Tair mil nawmil yn iwmyn.
Dy frodyr, milwyr y medd,
Dy genedl, Deau a Gwynedd.
Dy werin oll, dewrion ŷnt,
Drwy goedydd dreigiau ydynt.
35Dringai, lle nid elai’r da,
D’orwyddfeirch dor y Wyddfa.
Dros greigiau mae d’olau di,
Tir âr y gwnaut Eryri.
Torres dy wŷr mewn tair stâl
40Trwy weunydd a’r tir ynial.
Od enynnaist dân ennyd
Drwy ladd ac ymladd i gyd,
Dyrnod anufydd-dod fu,
Darnio Gwynedd a’i dyrnu.
45O bu’r tir, Herbart wrawl,
Eb gredu, fal y bu Bawl 8 ,
A fu ar fai o fâr fydd,
O phaid, ef a gaiff fedydd.
Chwithau na fyddwch weithian
50Greulon wrth ddynion â thân.
Na ladd weilch a wnâi wledd yn,
Gwynedd fal Pedr y gwenyn. 9
Na fwrw dreth yn y fro draw
Ni aller ei chynullaw.
55Na friw Wynedd yn franar,
Nâd i Fôn fyned i fâr.
Nâd y gweiniaid i gwynaw
Na brad na lledrad rhag llaw.
Nâd trwy Wynedd blant Ronwen 10
60 Na phlant Hors yn y Fflint hen.
Na ad, f’arglwydd, swydd i Sais,
Na’i bardwn i un bwrdais. 11
Barn yn iawn, brenin ein iaith,
Bwrw yn tân eu braint unwaith.
65Cymer wŷr Cymru’r awron,
Cwnstabl o Farnstabl i Fôn.
Dwg Forgannwg a Gwynedd,
Gwna’n un o Gonwy i Nedd.
O digia Lloegr a’i dugiaid,
70 Cymru a dry yn dy raid.

1Three warbands went into Wales 1 ,
they thrust their way through Gwynedd 2 ,
An army of the pillage, Lord William's army, 3
The Viscount’s army, that was their goal.
5Three roads on the dyke of old Offa's land, 4
William journeys, on Sarn Elen. 5
Lord Herbert, with your wagons
and your warband, may God be your guide:
army and host once had rain,
10but now there's fair weather when you came.
I foresaw you would take Gwynedd,
and bring Anglesey to the man who owns it.
The English, they’d give their eyes,
if you attacked Harlech, to have it.
15Hard-headed tale of enmity among all,
it was sharp-pointed for foolish people:
a sharp tale and hard-headed was your course
and your journey, ruler of Pembroke.
What better fort aginst siege,
20when fair Pembroke’s wall 6 was broken?
You hurled, shook till it fell,
the peak of Carreg Cennen 7 to the valley.
Its deep ditches above Harlech
held no better than a wicker pen.
25No house impedes you, no tower,
no white fort, no conqueror.
Three armies went from your three lands
through Gwynedd like thunderclaps.
Three bands with proud captains,
30three and nine thousand as yeomen.
Your brothers, soldiers who rule,
Your people, the South and Gwynedd.
All your folk, they are heroes,
they are dragons through the woods.
35Your great steeds, where sheep would not go,
climbed the rockface of Snowdon.
Over crags are your tracks,
you would make Snowdonia into arable land.
Your men split in three sections
40through moorland and wildnerness.
If you kindled a fire then
through total war and slaughter,
it was a punishment for insurrection,
tearing Gwynedd and beating it.
45If the land has been, brave Herbert,
faithless, as once was St Paul 8 ,
wrath is to blame for what has been;
if that ends, they’ll be christened.
And you on your part be not now
50Brutal, using fire on men.
Kill not the hawks of Gwynned who make
a feast of us Gwynedd like Peter did the bees. 9
Put no tax on that region
which cannot be collected.
55Do not destroy Gwynedd until its laid waste,
nor give Anglesey up to wrath.
Do not let the feeble complain
of treachery or theft from now on.
Do not allow Ronwen’s children 10 through Gwynedd.
60nor Horsa’s offspring into old Flint;
do not allow, my lord, jobs for the English
nor any pardon for a burgess. 11
Judge rightly, king of our tongue,
throw into the fire their former status.
65Take men of Wales, this moment,
lord from Barnstaple to Anglesey,
take Morgannwg and Gwynedd,
make one land from Conwy to Neath.
If England and its dukes are angered,
70 Wales will be there in your need.


o Gymru, ‘from Wales’: a number of manuscripts read aeth i Gymru, 'went to Wales'. Going 'from' Wales indicates that most of Herbert’s army was assembled in Wales and the March, travelling to Harlech from points within Wales itself. The poet is making the point that it was the Welsh fighting the Welsh in their own version of the civil war. Back to context...
Gwynedd: the northern province of Wales. Back to context...
llu’r pil, ‘army of the pillage’: the poem says that the army was in three sections, a ground force of 'pillagers' sent ahead to ravage and terrorise, another led by Lord William himself and a third by the 'Viscount', William’s brother Sir Richard. Welsh pil is borrowed from Middle English pile, ‘to pillage, plunder.’ The phrase llu’r pil appears in a number of fifteenty-century poems (see GPC under llu for references). Back to context...
tir Offa hen: ‘land of old Offa’, the 8th-century Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia who constructed a barricade in the form of a dyke along the border between Mercia and Powys, forming an unofficial border between England and Wales. Clawdd Offa, 'Offa’s Dyke', is still used in contemporary literature as a powerful metonymy of Wales’s relationship with England. Back to context...
Sarn Elen: the Welsh name given to sections of Roman road in south and mid-Wales. The road was named after Elen, the British wife of the 4th-century Roman governor of Britain, Magnus Maximus. Back to context...
gwal Benfro, ‘Pembroke’s wall’: Pembroke castle, held by Jasper Tudor, had been captured by Herbert in 1461. Back to context...
Carreg Cennen: a fortress on a high hill in Carmarthenshire, associated with the twelfth-century prince of south Wales, Rhys ap Gruffudd, this was another of Jasper Tudor’s strongholds which had been seized by Herbert. Back to context...
Pawl, ‘St Paul’: this is a reference to the conversion of St Paul on the road to Damascus where he received a vision of Christ. Back to context...
Pedr y gwenyn: literally, ‘Peter of the bees’ or ‘Peter’s bees’. This reference is obscure. There are no biblical references which connect St Peter with bees, and the image may refer to a local legend of Peter ridding the land (or a person) of a swarm of bees. The poet is asking Herbert to spare Gwynedd from his ravages. Back to context...
plant Ronwen, ‘Rhonwen’s children’: Rhonwen, or Rowena, was the daughter of Hengist, according to Nennius (Historia Brittonum, c. 37) and Geoffrey of Monmouth (Historia Regum Britanniae, VI. 12). Hengist and Horsa were the Saxon brothers who were held responsible for the Germanic invasions and conquest of England. Rhonwen was married to Vortigern, the British leader who invited the Saxons to Britain. Rhonwen’s 'children' mean the descendants of that union, i.e. the Anglo-Saxons. Back to context...
bwrdais, ‘burgess’: a citizen of one of the borough towns in north Wales and the March, such as Flint, Denbigh and Chester. Since these towns were English foundations from which the Welsh were largely excluded, at least until the later part of the fourteenth century, the term bwrdais is more or less synonymous with Sais, 'an Englishman'. Back to context...