Welsh, Unknown, Tenth Century
Under snow-bent trees
and by wintering fire,
I rise and give praise;
to Morfan, son of Tegid,
so robust in his ugliness,
no weapon dared strike him
not even in the battle of Camlan*,.
as all thought he was servant to a demon.
A river of hair roamed his face;
moon yellow teeth;
a cornered bull.
He fought at Camlan,
alongside Sandde Angel-Face,
so handsome a man
no spear came his way
as all thought he was servant to an angel.
I send a voice in this ice-dark:
to Henwas the Winged, son of Erim,
Henbeddestr son of Erim,
Scilti the Lightfooted, son of Erim.
All three were wind and blur,
Never taking a track when they
could gallop over a crest of trees,
leap the grey mountain,
skim the green stream.
Their whole lives,
not one rush was bent under their foot.
My heart flushes too
with the name of Teithi the Old,
son of Gwynham,
whose coast-bold castle
was shouldered into sand
by the teeth of the sea.
Who came to Arthur,
was gathered in, welcomed to table,
but whose arm was swift to anger
a man not fit for peace and rest,
and for that reason
grew sick with a gloom,
that took him down.
Ah, and Drem, son of Dremidydd,
the Big Seer,
his roaming vision loped from Celli Wig in Cornwall,
to the black north of Penn Blathaon
He could spy one green bud
under the hoare-frost
a hundred miles away.
He was firm with usefulness.
Osla of the Big Knife
the one who placed his vast sheathed blade
across any river that blocked Arthur’s path.
a sterling bridge
for the army of the three kingdoms of Britain.
I raise language to
that one who leapt
three hundred acres in
one swift bound.
Lord, I remember
The vast-bellied Erwm and Hir Atrwm,
and how we would have to raid
three hundred townships just to feed them.
They would feast steady till noon,
and blaze up again at dusk,
shaking their goblets.
When they staggered to bed, they yanked off the heads
of any wandering vermin,
as if no chop had ever glazed their lips.
They took the fat, they took the lean,
they took the hot, they took the cold,
they took the sour, they took the sweet,
they took the fresh, they took the salted.
If I quiet now, I think I can hear them chomping still.
Sol, Gwaddn Osol, and Gwaddn of the Bonfire,
that riotous bunch,
I raise the glass and remember –
Many a village is sleep-sore from his revels.
Sugn, son of Sugnedudd,
so plagued by heartburn
that he would suck up the ocean
with three hundred proud ships afloat,
and gulp it down,
till there was nothing but a dry stand.
Arthur’s own servant.
With his terrible iron flail.
who could take a barn –
robust with thirty ploughs,
and grind the cross beams and the posts,
and the rafters,
to nothing but oat-size crumbs on the floor,
No friend of farmers.
Gwefl, son of Gwastad,
our true Grief Man;
When in his blue dream,
he would let his bottom lip fall to his belly,
and the top he would fit over his head
as a cap.
A sorrowed mouth,– big enough for the world’s tears.
Uchdryd of the Cross-Beard,
who would wrap his bristly red beard
clear over the fifty rafters of Arthur’s Hall,
insulation for a sheep-white winter.
Clust, son of Clustfeinad:
even when we buried him,
seven leagues under dark soil,
he could hear an ant wander
fifty miles away, leaving its lair.
Ah, Medr son of Medredydd,
Gwiawan Cat’s Eye,
Cynyr of the Beautiful Beard –
Do you think we have forgotten you?
Listen across the Crow River at my speech.
Medr who could shoot a wren
right through its two legs,
Gwiawan who could cut the lid
from the eye of a gnat without hurting it.
Cynyr, of whom it is rumored
great Cai is his son.
And what of Cai?,
Cai of the strange gifting.
Nine nights and nine days he could lie
under the breathless waters,
a moon-track on the sea bed
Nine nights and nine days he could live
No doctor could cure a sword-cut
delivered by Cai;
He was a man of high skill,
as tall as the wood’s highest tree when he chose.
When caught by storm,
such was his body’s heat,
that a whole circle around him would remain dry.
When frozen in the iron-numb
gullies of Snowdon,
we would gather close
round Cai to dry our kindling.
Great ones, are you safely gathered in?
Let wild fawn
always be at your bow.
Let your white-bronze rings and broaches
glow by the yellow candle
Let the women
with the dark river hair
be your companions.
with my few wintered logs,
alone and old,
on the snowy hill
with nothing left
but my praise.
* Camlan is the site of Arthur’s final battle