The Stanzas of the Graves
The Black Book of Carmarthen XIX
translation: The Four Ancient Books of Wales; commentary by AMJ
The graves which the rain bedews?
Men that were not accustomed to afflict me:--
Cerwyd, and Cywryd, and Caw.
The graves which the thicket covers?
They would not succumb without avenging themselves:--
Gwryen, Moriel, and Morial.
The graves which the shower bedews?
Men that would not succumb stealthily
Gwynn, and Gwrien, and Gwriad.
The grave of Tydain, father of the Muse,1 in the region of Bron Aren:
Where the wave makes a sullen sound
The grave of Dylan2 in Llan Beuno.
The grave of Ceri Gledyvhir, in the region of Hen Eglwys,
In a rugged steep place
Tarw Torment in the enclosure of Corbre.
The grave of Seithenhin3 the weak-minded
Between Caer Cenodir and the shore
Of the great sea and Cinran.
In Aber Gwenoli is the grave of Pryderi,4
Where the waves beat against the land
In Carrawg is the grave of Gwallawg Hir.
The grave of Gwalchmai5 is in Peryddon,
Where the ninth wave6 flows:
The grave of Cynon is in Llan Badarn.
The grave of Gwrwawd the honourable is
In a lofty region: in a lowly place of repose,
The grave of Cynon the son of Clydno Eiddyn.7
The grave of Rhun the son of Pyd is by the river Ergryd,
In a cold place in the earth.
The grave of Cynon is in Ryd Reon.
Whose is the grave beneath the hill?
The grave of a man mighty in the conflict--
The gravc of Cynon the son of Clydno Eiddyn.
The grave of the son of Osvran is in Carnlan,
After many a slaughter
The graveof Bedwyr8 is in Gallt Tryvan.
The grave of Owain ab Urien9 in a secluded part of the world,
Under the sod of Llan Morvael;
In Abererch, that of Rhydderch Hael.10
After wearing dark-brown clothes, and red, and splendid,
And riding magnificent steeds with sharp spears,
In Llan Heledd11 is the grave of Owain.
After wounds and bloody plains,
And wearing harness and riding white horses,
This, even this, is the grave of Cynddylan.12
Who owns the grave of good connections?
He who would attack Lloegyr13 of the compact host--
The grave of Gwen, the son of Llywarch Hen,14 is this.
Whose is the grave in the circular space,
Which is covered by the sea and the border of the valley?
The grave of Meigen, son of Rhun,15 the ruler of a hundred.
Whose is the grave in the island,
Which is covered by the sea with a border of tumult?
The grave of Meigen, the son of Rhun, the ruler of a court
Narrow is the grave and long,
With respect to many long every way
The grave of Meigen, the son of Rhun, the ruler of right.
The grave of the three serene persons on an elevated hill,
In the valley of Gwynn Gwynionawg--
Mor, and Meilyr, and Madawg.
The grave of Madawg, the splendid bulwark
In the meeting of contention, the grandson of Urien,
The best son to Gwyn of Gwynlliwg.
The grave of Mor, the magnificent, immovable sovereign,
The foremost pillar in the conflict,
The son of Peredur Penwedig.16
The grave of Meilyr Malwynawg of a sullenly-disposed mind.
The hastener of a fortunate career,
Son to Brwyn of Brycheinawg.
Whose is the grave in Ryd Vaen Ced
With its head in a downward direction?
The grave of Rhun, the son of Alun Dywed.
The grave of Alun Dywed in his own region,
Away lie would not retreat from a difficulty--
The son of Meigen, it was well when he was born.
The grave of Llia the Gwyddel is in the retreat of Ardudwy,
Under the grass and withered leaves;
The grave of Epynt is in the vale of Gewel.
The Grave of Dywel, thc son of Erbin,17 is in the plain of Caewaw
He would not be a vassal to a king;
Blameless, he would not shrink from battle.
The Grave of Gwrgi,18 a hero and a Gwyndodian lion;
And the grave of Llawr, the regulator of hosts.
In the upper part of Gwanas the men are!
The long graves in Gwanas--
Their history is not had,
Whose they are and what their deeds.
There has been the family of Oeth and Anoeth19--
Naked are their men and their youth--
Let him who seeks for them dig in Gwanas.
The grave of Llwch Llawengin20 is on the river Cerddenin,
The head of the Saxons of the district of Erbin;
He would not be three months without a battle.
The graves in the Long Mountain--
Multitudes well know it--
Are the graves of Gwryen, Gwryd Engwawd, and Llwyddawg the son of Lliwelydd.
Who owns the grave in the mountain?
One who marshalled armies--
It is the grave of Ffyrnvwel, the son of Hyvlydd.
Whose grave is this? The grave of Eiddiwlch the Tall,
In the upland of Pennant Twrch,
The son of Arthan, accustomed to slaughter.
The grave of Llew Llawgyffes21 under the protection of the sea,
With which he was familiar
He was a man that never gave the truth to any one.
The grave of Beidawg the Ruddy in the vicinity of Riw Llyvnaw;
The grave of Lluosgar in Ceri;
And at Ryd Bridw the grave of Omni.
Far his turmoil and his seclusion
The sod of Machawe conceals him;
Long the lamentations for the prowess of Beidawg the Ruddy.
Far his turmoil and his fame--
The sod of Machawe is upon him--
This is Beidawg the Ruddy, the son of Einyr Llydaw.
The grave of a monarch of Prydain is in Lleudir Gwynasedd,
Where the flood enters the Llychwr;
In Celli Briafael, the grave of Gyrthmwl.
The grave in Ystyvachau,
Which everybody doubts.
The grave of Gwrtheyrn Gwrthenau.22
Clan wails in the waste of Cnud,
Yonder above the grave of the stranger--
The grave of Cynddilig, the son of Corcnud.
Truly did Elffin bring me
To try my primitive bardic lore
Over a chieftain--23
The grave of Rwvawn with the imperious aspect.
Truly did Elffin bring me
To try my bardic lore
Over an early chieftain--
The grave of Rwvawn, too early gone to the grave.
The grave of March, the grave of Gwythur;
The grave of Gwgawn Gleddyvrudd
A mystery to the world, the grave of Arthur.24
The grave of Elchwith is by the rain bedewed,
With the plain of Meweddawg under it
Cynon ought to bewail him there.
Who owns this grave? this grave? and this?
Ask me, I know it--
The grave of Ew, the grave of Eddew was this,
And the grave of Eidal with the lofty mien.
Eiddew and Eidal, the unflinching exiles,
The whelps of Cylchwydrai:
The sons of Meigen bred war-horses.
Whose is this grave? It is the grave of Brwyno the Tall,
Bold were his men in his region.
Where he would be, ther would be no flight.
Who owns this grave-not another?
Gwythiwch, the vehement in the conflict,
While he would kill thee, he would at thee laugh.
The grave of Silid the intrepid is in the locality of Edrywfy;
The grave of Lleminig25 in Llan Elwy,
In the swampy upland is the grave of Kilinwy.
The grave of a stately warrior; many a carcase
Was usual from his laud,
Before he became silent beneath the stones
Llachar, the son of Rhun, is in the valley of the Cain.
The grave of Talan Talyrth
Is at the contention of three battles,
A hewer down of the head of every force,
Liberal was lie, and open his gates.
The grave of Elisner, the son of Ner,
Is in the depth of the earth without fear, without concern
A commander of hosts was he, so long as his time lasted.
The grave of a hero vehement in his rage
Llachar the ruler of hosts, at the confluence of noisy waters,
Where the Tawne forms a wave.
Whose are graves in the fords?
What is the grave of a chieftain, the son of Rygenau,
A man whose arms had abundant success.
Whose is this grave? The grave of Braint
Between Llewin and Llednaint--
The grave of a man, the woe of his foes.
Whose is the grave on the slope of the hill?
Many who know it do not ask;
The grave of Coel, the son of Cynvelyn.26
The grave of Dehewaint is on the river Clewaint,
In the uplands of Mathavarn,
The support of mighty warriors.
The grave of Aron, the son of Dewinvin, is in the land of Gwenle;
He would not shout after thieves,
Nor disclose the truth to enemies.
The grave of Tavlogan, the son of Ludd,
Is far away in Trewrudd; and thus to us there is affliction
He who buried him obtained an advantage.
Who owns the grave on the banks of Ryddnant?
Rhun his name, his bounties were infinite
A chief he was! Rhiogan pierced him.
He was like Cyvnyssen to demand satisfaction for murder,
Ruddy was his lance, serene his aspect:
Who derived the benefit? The grave of Bradwen.
Whose is the quadrangular grave
With its four stones around the front?
The grave of Madawg the intrepid warrior.
In the soil of the region of Eivionydd,
There is a tall man of fine growth,
Who would kill all when he was greatly enraged.
The three graves on the ridge of Celvi,
Thu Awen has declared them to me
The grave of Cynon of the rugged brows,
The grave of Cynvael, and the grave of Cynveli.
The grave of Llwid Llednais in the land of Cemmaes,
Before his ribs had grown long,
The hull of conflict brought oppression thither.
The grave of the stately Siawn in Hirerw,
A mountain between the plain and the oaken forest;
Laughing, treacherous, and of bitter disposition was lie.
Who owns the grave in the sheltered place?
While he was, he was no weakling:--
It is the grave of Ebediw, the son of Maelur.
Whose is the grave in yonder woody cliff?
His hand was an enemy to many:--
The bull of battle-mercy to him!
The graves of the sea-marsh.
Slightly are they ornamented!
There is Sanawg, a stately maid;
There is Rhun, ardent in war;
There is Earwen, the daughter of Hennini;
There are Lledin and Llywy.
The grave of Hennin Henben is in the heart of Dinorben;
The grave of Aergwl in Dyved,
At the ford of Cynan Gyhored.
Every one that is not dilatory inquires--
Whose is the mausoleum that is here?
It is the grave of Einyawn, the son of Cunedda;27
It is a disgrace that in Prydain he should have been slain.
Who owns the grave in the great plain?
Proud his hand upon his lance
The grave of Beli, the son of Benlli Gawr.
1. Muse: lit. "Awen"--the Welsh concept of divine inspiration, similar to the Irish imbas.
2. Dylan: possibly Dylan Eil Ton (Dylan Second Wave), the twin of Lleu Llawgyffes, and son of Gwydion ap Don and
Arianrhod uerch Don. His story is found in "Math vab Mathonwy," the fourth branch of the Mabinogi.
3. Seithenhin: according to "The Drowning of the Bottom Hundred" and the poem "Seithenhin", he is the individual responsible for letting the waters of Cardigan bay overtake the Cantref of Gwyddno Garanhir, drowning all the citizens.
4. Pryderi: he of the Mabinogion, which lists his grave as being "at Maen Tyryawg above Y Velen Rhyd."
5. Gwalchmai: who is better known as Sir Gawain. Thomas Malory gives his resting place as Dover Castle.
6. "the ninth wave": in Celtic myth, particularly Irish myth, the ninth wave is a symbolic boundary between this world and the Otherworld.
7. Cynon son of Clydno Eiddyn: according to some genealogies, Cynon married Morfudd uerch Urien, sister of Owain. There is a satire on him in the Lyfr Taliesin.
8. Bedwyr: Sir Bedevere
9. Owain ab Urien: Sir Yvain or Ywain of Arthurian romance. A historical prince of the sixth century who lead the Britons against the Saxons. Often mentioned by the poets of the sixth century (Taliesin particularly).
10. Rhydderch Hael: king of Strathclyde in the sixth century, contemporaneous with Urien and Owein. According to legend, he was the patron of St. Kentigern, and brother-in-law of Myrddin.
11. Llan Heledd: lit. "the Church of Heledd." What connection this has to the figure of Heledd in the Red Book of Hergest poem "Canu Heledd" is unknown to me.
12. Cynddylan: warlord and brother of Heledd.
13. Lloegyr: the Welsh name for England.
14. Gwen, the son of Llwyarch Hen: his name figures
prominently in the poems attributed to Llwyarch. Presumably, he may have been the eldest.
15. Meigen, son of Rhun: possibly the bard who is attributed two poems in the Black Book.
16. Mor... Peredur: Mor son of Peredur is an interesting case, when one examines the story of "Sir Morien." Here, Sir Morien is a Moor who is the son of Sir Perceval. The creation of such a character may have ultimately been derived first from the Parzival of Wolfram von Eschenbach, who says that Perceval had a Muslim half-brother, while compounding that with the figure of Mor, whose name sounds like "Moor."
17. Erbin: Father of Gereint, and, I have been told, ruler of Devon.
18. Gwrgi: Usually named as brother of Peredur.
19. Oeth and Anoeth: elsewhere called the prison where Arthur was kept, until freed by his cousin Goreu ap Custennin. Iolo Morgannwg believed that it was a prison constructed of the bones of a defeated Roman legion. In truth, it is not known exactly what "Oeth and Anoeth" means, but seems to be another name for the Otherworld.
20. Llwch Llawengin: Perhaps no relation ot Llwch Lleminawg of "Culhwch and Olwen"
21. Llew Llawgyffes: he of the Mabinogion branch "Math vab Mathonwy."
22. Gwrtheyrn Gwrthenau: King Vortigern.
23. "Truly did Elffin bring me...": Does this and the following stanza represent an attempt to put this poem in the mouth of Taliesin? It does seem to reference--however obliquely--to the tradition of Taliesin besting the bards of Maelgwn.
24. "March... Arthur": March: King Mark of Tristan and Iseult. I'm not sure about the other two. Arthur of course is King Arthur. The exact words of this line: "anoeth bid bet y Arthur" are variously translated:
"A wonder of the world is the grave of Arthur"
"a difficult thing is the grave of Arthur"
"Impossible to find in this world is the grave of Arthur"
It is worth noting that the world anoeth appears, being the world "wonder" "myster" "difficult" etc. It is the name of Arthur's prison in the triads, and is reverenced a little earlier in the stanzas. What it all means, though, I can't tell you.
25. Lleminig: This is probably the Llwch Lleminawg of "Culhwch and Olwen"
Coel, the son of Cynvelyn: Old King Cole, and a founder of a dynastic line.
Cunedda: another founder of a dynastic line.