Arthurian and Grail Poetry
Marwnad Cynddylan or The
Death-song of Cynddylan
This lament or elegy tells of Cynddylan fighting beyond the borders of Powys at Penawg;
indicating that he was one of the British kings at the siege of Bamburgh with Penda, later
at Caer Luitcoed (Litchfield), and having an unknown grave--strongly implying that he was
one of the British kings who fell with Penda at Winwaed/Gai in 635CE. The poem is addressed
to the king of Gwynedd, which if the other conjectures are true, would be Catamail, the
sole king to survive the slaughter at Winwaed. It plays on his hostility to the Cadelling
who were a rival Powys dynasty to Cynddylan's people, the Cyndrwynyn.
The elegy may be a genuine seventh-century elegy and may pre-date Canu Heledd. The story is
very different to that portrayed in Canu Heledd. David Dumville believes that the
Cadelling were a ninth century invention, which would indicate a later date for the elegy
or changes by a later bard. Note the reference to the great Arthur, the mighty defender (but
This poem comes from manuscript NLW4973 date around 1631-4; but the original source is
believed to be the now-lost Book of Thomas Gruffydd from the same period as the Llyfr Du
Caerfryddin. There may be one or more lines missing from the original as the first awdl
is the shortest and the only one without cymeriad, (Maured gymined -- The
greatness of swordplay).
Dyhedd deon diechir by[g]eledd
Rhiau a Rhirid a Rhiasedd
a Rhygywarch lary lyw eirassedd
ef cuiniw ini uuif im derwin fedd
o leas Cynddylan yn ei faured
Maured gymined a feddyliais
myned y fenai cyn nim bai fais
carafi am eneirch o dir kemeis
gwerling dogfeiling Cadelling trais
Ef cuiniw ini uuyf im derw llednais
o leas cynddylan colled annofais
Maured gymined ei feddyliaw
myned i fenai cyn nim bai naw
carafi am eneirch o Aberffraw
gwerling dogfeiling Cadelling ffrew
Ef cuinif ini uuyf im derwin taw
o leas Cynddylan a'i luyddaw
Maured gymined gwin waretawg
wyf coddedig wen hen hiraethawg
collais pan amuith alaf penawg
gwr dewr diachor diarbedawg
cyrchai drais tra Thren tir trahawg
ef cuinif ini uuyf yn ddaear fodawg
o leas Cynddylan clod Garadawg
Maured gymined mor fu da fawd
a gafas Cynddylan cynrhan cyffrawd
saith gant rhiallu in y speidiawd
pan fynnwys mab pyd mor fu parawd
ny darfu yn neithawr ni bu priawd
gan dduw py amgen plwyf py du daearawd
ef cuinif ini uuyf in erv vetrawd
o leas Cynddylan clod addwyndawd
Maured gymined mor wyf gnodaw
pob pysg a milyn yd fydd teccaw
i drais a gollais gwir echassaw
Rhiau Rhirid a Rhiadaw
a rhygyfarch lary lu pob eithaw
Dyrrynt eu preiddau a doleu taw
caith cwynynt brefynt grydynt alaw
ef cuinif ini uuyf i erv penylaw
o leas Cynddylan clod pob eithaw
Maured gymined a weli di hyn
yd lysg fynghalon fal ettewyn
hoffais mewredd eu gwyr ai gwragedd
ni ellynt fyn nwyn brodir am buiad gwell ban vythin
canawon artir wras dinas degyn
rhag Caer Luitcoed neus digonsyn
crau y dan frain a chrai gychwyn
briwynt calch ar gwyn feibion Cyndrwynyn
ef cuinif ini uuyf yn nhir gwelyddyn
o leas Cynddylan clodlawn vnbyn
Maured gymined mawr ysgafael
y rhag Caer Luitcoed neus dug moriael
Pymtheccant muhyn a phum gwriael
pedwar vgeinmeirch a seirch cychafael
pen esgob hunob ym mhedeirael
nis noddes myneich llyfr afael
a gwyddws yn eu creulan o gynrhan claer
nid engis or ffossawd brawd ar y chwaer
Diengynt ai herchyll ffrewyll yn taer
ef cuinif ini uuyf in erv tra gwael
o leas Cynddylan clodrydd pob hael.
Maured gymined mor oedd eitun
gan fy mryd pan athreiddwn pwll ac Alun
ir uruin y dan fy nrhaed hyd bryd cyntun
plwde y danaf hyd ymhen fynghlun
a chyn eithuiue yno im bro fy hun
nid oes vn car neud adar iu warafun
a chynim dyccer i dduw ir digfryn
ni ddigones neb o bechawd cyhawal i mi hun
|The Death-song of Cynddylan
Unyielding battle lords of the world --
Rhiau and Rhirid and Rhiosedd and Rhigyfarch, the generous chieftain of the golden [?]chariot,
I shall lament until I lie in my oaken coffin
for the slaying of Cynddylan in his grandeur.
Grandeur in battle! Did I think of going as far as Menai, though there was no ford for me?
I love those of the land of Cemais who give me welcome,
the king of Dogfeiling, oppressor of descendants of Cadell.
I shall lament until I would be in my oaken silence
for the slaying of Cynddylan, grievous loss.
Grandeur in battle! To think of going as far as Menai, though I cannot swim!
I love those who welcome me to Aberffraw,
the king of Dogfeiling, terror to the descendants of Cadell.
I shall lament until I would be in my oaken silence
for the slaying of Cynddylan and his mustering of hosts. Grandeur in battle, civilized wine!
[Now] I beseech sorrowfully, old and filled with hiraeth.
When he raided the cattle of Pennawg [near Lindisfarne], I lost a brave, unyielding,
He used to make campaigns across Tren, the proud land.
I shall lament until I would be in the unmoving earth
for the slaying of Cynddylan beloved of fame.
Grandeur in battle! So good was the destiny
that Cynddylan, the battle leader, got --
700 chosen soldiers in his retinue.
When the son of Pyd [ie Panna fab Pyd = Penda] requested, he was so ready!
He did not go to the wedding feast; he was not married.
O God! What different company [shall he keep now], what sorrowful burial?
I shall lament until I would be with the throng under the earth for the slaying of
Cynddylan, of majestic fame. Grandeur in battle! I am so very well accustomed
to all the finest fishes and beasts.
Through violence I have lost the finest warriors,
Rhiau and Rhirid and Rhiosedd
and Rhigyfarch, generous ruler of every borderland.
They used to drive the spoils back from the dales of the river Taff.
Captives would lament. Cattle would be lame and bellow.
I shall lament until I would be in the most constricted plot
for the slaying of Cynddylan, famed at the border. Grandeur in battle! Do you see this?
My heart burns like a firebrand.
I enjoyed the wealth of their men and women.
They could not repay me enough!
I used to have brothers. It was better when they were
the young whelps of great Arthur, the mighty defender.
Before Caer-lwytgoed [Lichfield] they caused
gore under ravens and keen attack.
Lime-white shields broke before the sons of Cyndrwynyn.
I shall lament until I would be in the land of my resting place for the slaying of
Cynddylan, famed among chieftains.
Grandeur in battle, extensive spoils
Morial bore off before Caer-lwytgoed:
1500 cattle from the front of battle,
80 stallions and equal harness.
The chief bishop wretched in his four-cornered robe.
The book-keeping monks did not protect
those who fell in the battle before the splendid warrior.
No brother escaped from the battle to his sister.
They escaped from the uproar with grievous wounds.
I shall lament until I would be in my hideous grave plot
for the slaying of Cynddylan, whose fame was supreme to every generous man.
Grandeur in battle! so pleasant it was,
so I recall, when I visited Pwll and Alun!
Fresh rushes under foot until bedtime,
feather pillows under me, as far down as my knees!
And though I may go there, to my own country,
there is not one fosterbrother left: [carrion] birds have claimed them.
And though I have not [yet] been brought to God at the Mount of Judgement,
None has sinned as I have.