Arthurian and Grail Poetry

Marwnat Owein or the Elegy for Owain

This poem is taken from the Llyfr Taliesin as provided by Sir Ifor Williams. It concerns the period of the late sixth century when Urien Rheged's alliance against the rise of Northumbria struggled and failed. Urien was assassinated and even though Owein struggled to hold the alliance together, he too died in battle in his struggle against Fflamddwyn (Flame Bearer) somewhere around 594-595 CE. This poem is attributed to Taliesin, the court poet of Urien's kingdom who survived the carnage and defeat of the alliance.


Marwnat Owein

Eneit owein ap vryen.
gobwyllit y ren oe reit.
Reget ud ae cud tromlas.
nyt oed vas y gywydeit.
Iscell kerdglyt clot uawr
escyll gawr gwaywawr llifeit.
canycheffir kystedlyd.
y vd llewenyd llatreit.
Medel galon geueilat.
eissylut y tat ae teit.
Pan ladawd Owein fflamdwyn.
Nyt oed uwy noc et kysceit.
kyscit lloegyr llydan nifer
a leuuer yn eu llygeit.
A rei ny ffoynt hayach.
a oedynt [hya]ch no reit.
Owein ae cospes yn drut
mal cnut [y]n dylut deueit.
Gwr gwiw uch y amliw seirch.
a rodei veirch y eircheit.
kyt as cronyei mal calet.
ny rannet rac y eneit.
Eneit. O. ap vryen.

Elegy for Owain

God, consider the soul's need
of Owain son of Urien!
Rheged's prince, secret in loam:
No shallow work shall praise him.
A straight grave, a man much praised,
His whetted spear the wings of dawn:
That lord of bright Llwyfenydd,
Where is his peer?
Reaper of enemies; strong of grip;
One kind with his fathers;
Owain, to slay Fflamddwyn,
Thought it no more than sleep.
Sleepeth the wide host of England
With the light in their eyes,
And those that had not fled
Were braver than were wise.
Owain dealt them doom
As the wolves devour sheep;
That warrior, bright of harness,
Gave stallions for the bard.
Though he hoarded wealth like a miser
For his soul's sake he gave it.
God, consider the soul's need of Owain son of Urien.