Marwnad i Gaerlleon

In two manuscripts, Pen. 80 and BL Add. 14975, this poem has been mixed up with another poem by Tudur Aled. The first four lines in these manuscripts, beginning Sensio alarch Sain Silin, belong to the other poem and I have therefore omitted them. For further notes on the confusion of the two poems, see Jones 1926, 336.

The poem is ostensibly about the murder of a young poet on the way from Anglesey (Môn) to Chester, and, if taken literally, suggests the violence endemic to the roads of north Wales. It can be compared to a similar poem by Dafydd ab Edmwnd (fl. c. 1450-1498) lamenting the death of a harpist, Siôn Eos, who was hanged at Chirk for killing a man in a pub brawl. However, it can also be read as a metaphor of poetic competition: the poet was “killed” by being eliminated from the competition by those who ridiculed his verse. The poet mourns the fact that this is likely to be the end of his poetic career.

If Tudur Aled is not the author, and it seems unlikely that he is despite this attribution in a number of late manuscripts, then it is hard to date the poem though it is certainly not early. It is possible that the poem, read metaphorically, may be referring to one or other of the earliest formal eisteddfodau. Two were held at Caerwys in north-east Wales (Flintshire), close to Mold and not far from Chester, in 1523 and again in 1567 (Thomas 1968; Edwards, 1990). The aim of the Eisteddfod was to award certificates to master poets so that they could be distinguished from ordinary minstrels and entertainers who were not trained in the traditional bardic skills. Failure to be awarded the certificate must have meant the “death” of poetic ambition, and more importantly, the loss of any ability to earn money from composing praise-poems to patrons.

Author: Tudur Aled (attrib. doubtful)

Metre: Cywydd


Printed Text: Jones, 1926, 617

1Du sy ar feirdd da Sir Fôn, 1
Du sy gwbl i’r disgyblion; 2
Du arnom fu’r diwrnawd
Friw bronn freuber o wawd.

5Dirwy fu’r adwy ar wėr,
Distrywiwyd ystoriawyr,
Diwreiddio’n iaith drwy ddwyn oedd,
Dwyn dadl a dwned 3 ydoedd.
Mae isod ynfformasiwn, 4
10Medd talm am a wyddiad hwn.
Ni wybu’r un, ni bu rad,
Beth oedd bethau a wyddiad.

Yn iach canu’n Uwch Conwy, 5
Hwyr y gwnâ mab ryw gân mwy.
15Ystaeniwyd y testuniaw:
Ys da gwnâi osteg 6 â naw,
Nid âi gam yn wawd gymell,
Nid eiliai neb awdl yn well,
Gwŷdd fyr oedd i gywydd 7 fo -
20Eiddilach oedd wŷdd Iolo 8 ,
Eisiau gwawd eos y gwŷdd.
Ef a’r awen yn friwydd,
Eos im oedd, nid oes mwy.

Acw o Wynedd uwch Conwy,
25O llas fo, colles y farn,
Fo las gwawd felys gadarn.
Dyn ifanc aed i nefoedd,
Aelod y gerdd dafod 9 oedd.
Och na bawn ucho yn y bedd
30Ddoe o’i flaen o ddwy flynedd.
Mae deigr hallt im digio rhawg,
Rhy hidl, na bâi hir hoedlawg.
Brau doeth, lle bwriwyd ieithydd
Bwriadau ffeils im, brawd ffydd.
35Bwriwyd oedd o brydyddion
Ban friwai arf ben i fron,
Bwrw dieiddil brydyddiaeth:
Ni bu rwyg arf na briw gwaeth.
Gŵr o Fôn ag arf wynias
40Ger bron Caer Llion a’i llas.
Da Wiliam 10 a’i dialodd,
Dyna bwnc a wnaeth Duw’n bodd.
Dir aruthr, ar dŵr Eryr 11
Di-lesg y dialai wŵr.

45Mae olew ar wallt melyn,
Mae aur ar bridd Mair o’r bryn. 12
Merthyr gwyn Mair aeth a’r gŵr
Oll at Duw a’i lletywr:
Yno ydd aeth, awenydd oedd,
50Awn i’w ofyn i nefoedd.


Sir Fôn, Anglesey: in the far north-west of Wales, and presumably the home of the 'dead' poet. Back to context...
disgyblion, ‘apprentices’: the name given to bardic apprentices who studied under the master craftsmen. Back to context...
dwned, ‘grammar’: the word comes from the Latin name Donatus, a fourth-century grammarian whose books of Latin grammar were standard text-books for men of learning throughout the Middle Ages. The Welsh word encompasses more than grammar on its own, signifying the study of language and prosody as an art in themselves, and implying a high level of intellectual knowledge and learning. Back to context...
ynfformasiwn, ‘information’: this English borrowing is not attested in the Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru (University of Wales Dictionary) and this may be its earliest attestation in Welsh. In its borrowed form, the word suggests a technical meaning associated with English legal processes in towns such as Chester. Back to context...
Uwch Conwy: this is the area of north Wales west of the river Conwy, defining that part of the old kingdom of Gwynedd which was held by Llywelyn ap Gruffudd and his brother Owain, the last independent princes of Wales, until Llywelyn’s death in 1282. In the Middle Ages, it was one of the least anglicised areas of Wales. The same area is mentioned in line 24. Back to context...
gosteg, ‘opening’: this is a technical term from poetic composition and has no exact translation. Apprentices were required to know a certain number of these sequences of music and/or verse. Back to context...
awdl, cywydd: these are particular bardic metres which also signify poems composed in those metres. See the notes to metres. Back to context...
Iolo: this is probably a reference to Iolo Goch, the fourteenth-century poet who was famous for his praise-poetry. Back to context...
cerdd dafod, ‘poetry profession’: the term literally means ‘speech-craft’ and refers to the total set of rules and conventions governing bardic practice. Back to context...
Wiliam, ‘William’: possibly a fellow-poet. The well-known poets Wiliam Llŷn and Wiliam Cynwal both took part in the Caerwys Eisteddfod of 1567, and it was sponsored by William Mostyn who was appointed by the Royal Commission to provide trophies. Back to context...
tŵr Eryr, ‘tower of the Eagle’: this is one of the towers in Caernarfon Castle in north-west Wales, not far from Anglesey. Caernarfon castle was built by Edward I as part of his military occupation of north Wales and was therefore a symbol of English oppression. Back to context...
Mair o’r Bryn, ‘St Mary on the Hill': one of the churches in Chester. It appears that the dead poet is buried there, having been annointed with oil. Back to context...