Diffaith Aelwyd Rheged

 

Siân Echard, University of British Columbia

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Like Stafell Gynddylan (The Hall of Cynddylan), Diffaith Aelwyd Rheged is an example of saga englynion : 3-line stanzas recounting the histories of heroes or rulers. This poem belongs to the group called Canu Urien, because the englynion in this cycle recount events associated with Urien Rheged, an historical king of the late 5th and early 6th century. The Urien poems memorialize his death: Diffaith Aelwyd Rheged (The Ruin of the Hall of Rheged), like Stafell Gynddylan, uses the motif of the war-leader’s desolate hall in the service of elegy.

The Welsh text is drawn from Ifor Williams, ed., Canu Llywarch Hen (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1935), though I have followed Jenny Rowland, Early Welsh Saga Poetry: A Study and Edition of the Englynion. (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1990) and omitted what seems a miscellaneous, though related, stanza which Williams decided to represent as the start of the poem. My translation below is really just a working text: consult Rowland for the state of the art. I have sometimes indicated her solutions to vexed words or lines in square brackets.

 

Yr aelwyt honn a’e goglyt gawr,
Mwy gordyfnassei ar y llawr
Med a meduon yn eiriawl.

Yr aelwyt honn, neus kud dynat,
Tra vu vyw y gwercheitwat...

Yr aelwyt honn, neus cud glessin.
Ym myw Owein ac Elphin,
Berwassei y pheir breiddin.

Yr aelwyt honn, neus cud kallawdyr llwyt.
Mwy gordyfnassei am y bwyt
Cledyual dyual diarswyt.

 

Yr aelwyt honn, neus cud kein vieri.
Coet kynneuawc oed idi.
Gordyfnassei Reget rodi.

Yr aelwyt honn, neus cud drein.
Mwy gordyfnassei y chyngrein
Kymwynas kyweithas Owein.

Yr aelwyt honn, neus cud myr.
Mwy gordyfnassei babir
Gloew, a chyuedeu kywir.

Yr aelwyt honn, neus cud tauawl.
Mwy gordyfnassei ar yr llawr
Med a medwon yn eiryawl.

Yr aelwyt honn, neus clad hwch.
Mwy gordyfnassei elwch
Gwyr, ac am gyrn kyuedwch.

Yr aelwyt honn, neus clad kywen.
Nys eidigauei anghen
Ym myw Owein ac Vryen.

Yr ystwffwl hwnn, a’r hwnn draw.
Mwy gordyfnassei amdanaw
Elwch llu a llwybyr arnaw.

This hearth, grey its covering–
It was more accustomed on its floor
To mead and mead-drinkers in supplication.

This hearth, nettles cover it,
While its guardian was alive...

This hearth, bugloss [R: borage] covers it,
When Owein and Elphin lived,
Its cauldron overflowed with booty. [lit. used to boil booty]

This hearth, grey lichen covers it.
It was more accustomed during its feast
To bold and fearless swordplay.

[R: It would have been more accustomed to fierce, fearless swordfighting for its food]

This hearth, fine brambles cover it.
It had a fine custom:
Rheged was accustomed to giving.

This hearth, thorns cover it.
Its warriors were more accustomed
To the favour and friendship of Owein. [or, R: of Owein’s companions]

This hearth, ants [?] cover it.
It was more accustomed to bright candle,
And to loyal drinking-companions.

This hearth, dock covers it.
It was more accustomed on its floor
To mead and mead-drinkers in supplication.

This hearth, a sow roots in it.
It was more accustomed to the laughter
Of men, and carousal around the drinking-horn.

This hearth, a hen roots in it.
It did not suffer need
In the lifetime of Owein and Urien.

This pillar, and the one yonder
Were more accustomed
To the merriment of the host and the distribution of gifts. [R: around it the merry-making of the host and a path for gift-giving would have been more customary]

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┬ęSiân Echard. Not to be copied, used, or revised without explicit written permission from the copyright owner.