The First Address of Taliesin
Book of Taliesin I

A primitive and ingenious address, when thoroughly elucidated.
Which was first, is it darkness, is it light?
Or Adam, when he existed, on what day was he created?
Or under the earth’s surface, what the foundation?
He who is a legionary will receive no instruction.
Est qui peccator1 in many things,
Will lose the heavenly country, the community of priests.
In the morning no one comes
If they sing of three spheres.
Angles and Gallwydel,2
Let them make their war.
Whence come night and day?
Whence will the eagle become gray?
Whence is it that night is dark?
Whence is it that the linnet is green?
The ebullition of the sea,
How is it not seen?
There are three fountains
In the mountain of roses,
There is a Caer3 of defence
Under the ocean’s wave.
Illusive greeter,
What is the porter’s name?
Who was confessor
To the gracious Son of Mary?
What was the most beneficial measure
Which Adam accomplished?
Who will measure Uffern?4
How thick its veil?
How wide its mouth?
What the size of its stones?
Or the tops of its whirling trees?
Who bends them so crooked?
Or what fumes may be
About their stems?
Is it Lleu and Gwydyon5
That perform their arts?
Or do they know books
When they do?
Whence come night and flood?
How they disappear?
Whither flies night from day;
And how is it not seen?
Pater noster ambulo
Gentis tonans in adjuvando
Sibilem signum
Rogantes fortium.

Excellent in every way around the glens
The two skilful ones make inquiries
About Caer Oerindan Oerindydd
For the draught-horses of pector David.
They have enjoyment--they move about--
May they find me greatly expanding.
The Cymry6 will be lamenting
While their souls will be tried
Before a horde of ravagers.
The Cymry, chief wicked ones,
On account of the loss of holy wafers.
There will long be crying and wailing,
And gore will be conspicuous.
There came by sea
The wood-steeds of the strand.
The Angles in council
Shall see signs of
Exultation over Saxons.
The praises of the rulers
Will be celebrated in Sion.
Let the chief builders be
Against the fierce Ffichti,7
The Morini Brython.
Their fate has been predicted;
And the reaping of heroes
About the river Severn.
The stealing is disguised of Ken and Masswy
Ffls amala, ffur, ffir, sel, {sic--AMJ}
Thou wilt discern the Trinity beyond my age
I implore the Creator, hai
Huai, that the Gentile may vanish
From the Gospel Equally worthy
With the retinue of the wall
Cornu ameni dur.
I have been with skilful men,
With Matheu and Govannon,8
With Eunydd and Elestron,
In company with Achwyson,
For a year in Caer Gofannon.9
I am old. I am young. I am Gwion,10
I am universal, I am possessed of penetrating wit.
Thou wilt remember thy old Brython,
(And) the Gwyddyl, kiln distillers,
Intoxicating the drunkards.11
I am a bard; I will not disclose secrets to slaves;
I am a guide: I am expert in contests.
If he would sow, he would plough; he would plough, he would not reap.
If a brother among brothers,
Didactic Bards with swelling breasts will arise
Who will meet around mead-vessels,
And sing wrong poetry
And seek rewards that will not be,
Without law, without regulation, without gifts.
And afterwards will become angry.
There will be commotions and turbulent times~,
Seek no peace-it will not accrue to thee.
The Ruler of Heaven knows thy prayer.
From his ardent wrath thy praise has propitiated him
The Sovereign King of Glory addresses me with wisdom
Hast thou seen the dominus fortis?12
Knowest thou the profound prediction domini?
To the advantage of Uffern
Hic nemo in por progenie13
He has liberated its tumultuous multitude.
Dominus virtutum14
Has gathered together those that were in slavery,
And before I existed He had perceived me.
May I be ardently devoted to God!
And before I desire the end of existence,
And before the broken foam shall come upon my lips,
And before I become connected with wooden boards,
May there be festivals to my soul!
Book-learning scarcely tells me
Of severe afflictions after death-bed;
And such as have heard my bardic books
They shall obtain the region of heaven, the best of all abodes.

NOTE: I have left certain passages in the original Latin; the translation above is not mine, but that found in The Four Ancient Books of Wales. I have kept with leaving certain passages in Latin, so as to contrast with the rest of the poem, which was written in Welsh.

1. Est qui peccator: It is in that way sinful

2. Angles and Gallwydel: English and Irish

3. Caer: a fortified city

4. Uffern: lit. "hell" from the Latin inferno (see w/u on Uffern)

5. Lleu and Gwydion: figures from the fourth branch of the Mabinogi, "Math vab Mathonwy"; see individual w/us for elucidation. These two figures often appear in the Book of Taliesin's poems.

6. Cymry: Welshmen. See w/u on Cymru.

7. Ffichti: Picts.

8. Matheu and Govannon: Math ap Mathonwy and his nephew Gofannon also appear in the Mabinogion; Math is the patriarch and ruler of Gwynedd, and Gofannon is the smith god.

9. Eunydd and Elestron...Caer Gofannon: The name Eunydd does appear elsewhere in the poems, but I have yet to discover who this person is. The other names are unfamiliar. "Caer Gofannon" refers to the smith god, and I know of no real place called "Caer Gofannon."

10. Gwion: Taliesin's birth name, according to Hanes Taliesin. Briefly, Gwion Bach (lit. "Fair or Blessed Boy") is forced by Cerridwen to stir the magic cauldron to produced awen--divine inspiration. After a year and a day, the three drops of awen splatter out onto Gwion's thumb, which he promptly puts in his mouth. He recieves the awen, and is chased by Cerridwen, both of them shapeshifting, until he becomes a grain, and she a hen, swallowing him. She gives birth to him and sets him out to sea. Elphin ap Gwyddno Garanhir finds him, and names him Taliesin for his "shining brow."

The first half of the story has more than a passing resemblence to the story of Finn mac Cumhill and the Salmon of Wisdom; moreover, "Fionn" and "Gwion" are the same name, when one takes into consideration the "Q-Celtic" and "P-Celtic" forms.

11. Gwyddyl... drunkards: The Irish/Scots are portrayed as drunkards, distilling whiskey, as, presumably, opposed to the Welsh who drink mead. Interesting how old some stereotypes are.

12. dominus fortis: strong lord.

13. Hic nemo in por progenie: This no one on which to bring forth offspring (?)

14. Dominus virtutum: Virtuous Lord