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

in Scotland

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

Gilla Stag-Leg

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 –

Gwallgoig too.

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.

Beloved Cachamwri,

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

without sleep

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.

And I,

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

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