Being the first part of the tale of the Dream of Rhonabwy, in which Rhonabwy sets out on his quest for the rebellious Iorwerth, during the course of which he rests the night at the house of Heilyn Goch where he falls asleep on the 'yellow calf-skin'. In his sleep he dreams of travelling with his companions, and meets the character known as Iddawc Cordd Prydain.
Madog ap Maredudd possessed Powys within its boundaries, from Perfedd to Gwaun in the uplands of Arwystli. And at that time he had a brother, Iorwerth ap Maredudd, in rank not equal to himself. And Iorwerth had great sorrow and heaviness because of the honour and power that his brother enjoyed, of which he had no share. He sought the advice of his friends and his foster-brothers 1, and they resolved to send some of their number to go and seek a position for him. Then Madog offered him to the post of Master of the Household 2 and to have horses, and arms, and honour, and to be treated just as he was himself. But Iorwerth refused this.
And Iorwerth raided England 3, killing the inhabitants, and burning houses, and carrying away prisoners. And Madog sought advice from the men of Powys, and they decided to place an hundred men in each of the three Commotes of Powys to look for him. And this they did in the plains of Powys from Aberceirawc, and in Allictwn Fer, and in Rhyd Wilure, on the Vyrnwy, the three best Commotes of Powys. So he was none the better, he nor his household, in Powys, nor in the plains thereof. And they spread these men over the plains as far as Nillystwn Trefan.
Now one of the men who was on this quest was called Rhonabwy. And Rhonabwy and Cynwrig Frychgoch, a man of Mawddwy, and Cadwgan Fras, a man of Moelfre in Cynlleith, came together to the house of Heilyn Goch the son of Cadwgan ab Iddon. And when they came near to the house, they saw an old hall, very black and having an upright gable, whence issued a great smoke; and on entering, they found the floor full of puddles and mounds; and it was difficult to stand, so slippery was it with the mire of cattle. Amd where the puddles were, a man might go up to his ankles in water and dirt. And there were boughs of holly spread over the floor, where the cattle had browsed the sprigs. When they came to the hall of the house, they beheld cells full of dust, and very gloomy, and on one side an old hag making a fire. And whenever she felt cold, she cast a lapful of chaff on the fire, and raised such a smoke, that it could hardly be borne, as it rose up the nostrils. And on the other side was a yellow calf-skin on the floor; a great privilege was it for any one who should get upon that hide.
And when they had sat down, they asked the hag where were the people of the house. And the hag did not speek, but muttered. Then the people of the house entered; a ruddy, clownish, curly-headed man, with a burthen of faggots on his back, and a pale slender woman, also carrying a bundle under her arm. And they barely welcomed the men, and kindled a fire with the boughs. And the woman cooked something, and gave them to eat, barley bread, and cheese, and milk and water.
And there arose a storm of wind and rain, so that it was hardly possible to go forth with safety. And being weary with their journey, they laid themselves down and tried to sleep. And when they looked at the couch, it seemed to be made but of a little coarse straw full of dust and vermin, with the stems of boughs sticking up there through, for the cattle had eaten all the straw that was placed at the head and the foot. And on it was stretched an old russet-coloured rug, threadbare and ragged; and on the rug was a coarse sheet, full of slits, and an ill-stuffed pillow, and a worn-out cover upon the sheet. And after much suffering from the vermin, and from the discomfort of their couch, a heavy sleep fell on Rhonabwy's companions. But Rhonabwy, not being able either to sleep or to rest, thought he should suffer less if he went to lie upon the yellow calf-skin that was stretched out on the floor. And there he slept.
As soon as he fell asleep, it seemed to him that he was journeying with his companions across the plain of Argyngrog, and he thought that he went towards Rhyd y Groes on the Severn. As he journeyed, he heard a mighty noise, the like of which he had never heard before; and looking behind him he saw a youth with yellow curling hair, and with his beard newly trimmed, mounted on a chestnut horse, whose the legs were grey from the top of the forelegs, and from the bend of the hindlegs downwards. And the rider wore a coat of yellow satin sewn with green silk, and on his thigh was a gold-hilted sword, with a scabbard of new leather of Cordova, belted with the skin of the deer, and clasped with gold. And over this was a scarf of yellow satin wrought with green silk, the borders whereof were likewise green. And the green of the caparison of the horse, and of green his rider, was as green as the leaves of the fir-tree, and the yellow was as yellow as the blossom of the broom. So fierce was the aspect of the knight, that fear seized upon them, and they began to flee. And the knight pursued them. And when the horse breathed forth, the men became distant from him, and when he drew in his breath, they were drawn near to him, even to the horse's chest. And when he had over-taken them, they begged his mercy.
"You have it gladly," he said, "you need not fear anything."
"Chieftain, since you have granted us your mercy, tell me also who you are," said Rhonabwy.
"I will not conceal my lineage from you, I am Iddawc ap Mynyo, yet not by my name, but by my nickname am I best known."
"And will you tell us what your nickname is?"
"I will tell you; it is Iddawc Cordd Prydain.4"
"Chieftain," said Rhonabwy, "why are you so called?"
"I will tell you. I was one of the messengers between Arthur and Medrawd his nephew, at the battle of Camlan; and I was then a reckless youth, and through my desire for battle, I kindled strife between them, and stirred up wrath, when I was sent by Arthur the Emperor to reason with Medrawd, and to show him, that he was his foster-father and his uncle, and to seek for peace, lest the sons of the Kings of the Island of Britain; and of the nobles, should be killed. And whereas Arthur charged me with the fairest sayings he could think of, I uttered unto Medrawd the harshest I could devise. And therefore am I called Iddawc Cordd Prydain, for from this did the battle of Camlan ensue. And three nights before the end of the battle of Camlan I left them, and went to the Llech Las in North Britain to do penance. And there I remained doing penance seven years, and after that I gained pardon."
Then they heard a mighty sound which was much louder than that which they had heard before, and when they looked round towards the sound, they saw a ruddy youth, without beard or whiskers, noble of face, and mounted on a stately courser. And from the shoulders and the front of the knees downwards the horse was bay. And upon the man was a dress of red satin wrought with yellow silk, and yellow were the borders of his scarf. And such parts of his apparel and of the trappings of his horse as were yellow, as yellow were they as the blossom of the broom, and such as were red, were as ruddy as the ruddiest blood in the world.
Then the horseman overtook them, and he asked of Iddawc a share of the little men that were with him. 5
"That which is fitting for me to grant I will grant, and you shall be a companion to them as I have been." And the horseman went away.
"Iddawc," inquired Rhonawby, "who was that horseman?"
"Rhufawn Pebyr the son of Prince Deorthach."
And they journeyed over the plain of Argyngrog as far as the ford of Rhyd y Groes on the Severn. And for a mile around the ford on both sides of the road, they saw tents and encampments, and there was the clamour of a mighty host. And they came to the edge of the ford, and there they beheld Arthur sitting on a flat island below the ford, having Bedwin the Bishop on one side of him, and Gwarthegyd ap Caw on the other. And a tall, auburn-haired youth stood before him, with his sheathed sword in his hand, and clad in a coat and cap of jet black satin. And his face was white as ivory, and his eyebrows black as jet, and such part of his wrist as could be seen between his glove and his sleeve, was whiter than the lily, and thicker than a warrior's ankle.
1 It was a common practice within medieval Wales for royal families to foster out sons to neighbouring kingdoms as a means of strengthening kinship ties.
2 The Master of the household or 'penteulu' being the leader of the kings warband.
3The original Guest transaltion has 'Loegria' an obvious angliciastion of Lloegr, which is simply the Welsh for England and not some fabulous mythical country.
4 'Iddawc Cordd Prydain' or Iddawc 'the fuse of Britain' for reasons that will become apparent.
5 Asking for a "share of the little men" implies that Rhufawn Pebyr thought that they had been captured and made slaves. Slavery was relatively common in medieval Wales and persisted a good deal longer than it did in the rest of Britain.