07 July, 2009

Cynddylan

A group of hauntingly beautiful Welsh poems lament the death of a leader named Cynddylan son of Cyndrwyn. On the internal evidence of the poems, he lived some time in the seventh century and was active in the areas that are now the north-west Midlands of England and the north-east of Wales. What do we know about him?

Evidence

Marwnad Cynddylan (The Lament for Cynddylan)

[…]
the king of Dogfeiling, oppressor of the Cadelling.
I shall lament until I would be in my oaken silence
for the slaying of Cynddylan, grievous loss.
[…]
Grandeur in battle! So good was the destiny
that Cynddylan, the battle leader, got
seven hundred chosen soldiers in his retinue,
When the son of Pyd requested, he was so ready!
[…]
They used to drive back the spoils from the dales of Taff.
Captives lamented; lame, cattle bellowed.
[…]
Before Lichfield they fought,
There was gore under ravens and keen attack.
Limed shields broke before the sons of the Cyndrwynyn.
I shall lament until I would be in the land of my resting place
for the slaying of Cynddylan, famed among chieftains.
[…]
--Marwnad Cynddylan

Canu Heledd (The Song of Heledd)

Maes Cogwy
On the ground of Maes [C]ogwy, I saw
armies, battle affliction:
Cynddylan was an ally.

Cynddylan
Come outside, maidens, and look at the land of Cynddylan.
The court of Pengwern is a raging fire:
[…]
Cynddylan, fiery supporter of the marches,
mail-wearing, stubborn in battle,
defending Tern, his patrimony.
[…]
Cynddylan Powys, you had a splendid purple cloak,
a storehouse to feed guests, like a lord;
the whelp of Cyndrwyn is mourned
[…]

Eglywsseu Bassa (Baschurch)
Baschurch is his resting place tonight.,
his final abode,
the support in battle, the heart of the people of Argoed.
Baschurch is crumbling tonight.
My tongue caused it.
It is red; my grief is too great.
Baschurch is confined tonight;
for the heir of the Cyndrwynin:
the land of the grave of Cynddylan the Fair.
[…]
Baschurch has lost its privilege,
after the English warriors slew
Cynddylan and Elfan Powys.
[…]
--Canu Heledd

Welsh Triads
Three Gate-Keepers at the Action of Bangor Orchard:
Gwgon Red Sword, and Madawg son of Rhun, and Gwiawn son of Cyndrwyn. And three others on the side of Lloegr:
Hawystyl the Arrogant, and Gwaetcym Herwuden, and Gwiner.
--Red Book of Hergest

The Action of Bangor Orchard may be another name for the Battle of Chester, on three grounds:
  • there is a Bangor (Bangor is-y-Coed) only a few miles from Chester

  • the Battle of Chester is known to have been a major engagement between at least one Brittonic king (Selyf ap Cynan of Powys) and at least one early English king (Aethelferth of Bernicia/Northumbria), which would explain the reference to Lloegr on the other side (Lloegr or Loegria was the medieval Welsh name for what is now England)

  • Bede refers to the presence of a large contingent of monks from Bangor is-y-Coed at the Battle of Chester (Ecclesiastical History Book II Ch. 3), which is a direct link between the battle and Bangor

See my earlier post for the likely date range for the battle.

Interpretation

Date

If the identification of the Battle of Chester as the Action of Bangor Orchard is correct, and if the Cyndrwyn in the Triad is the same as the man named as Cynddylan’s father in the Canu Heledd poetry, Cyndrwyn had a son of fighting age in 613/617. His other sons could have been older or younger than the Gwiawn in the Triad, but only within a couple of decades either side before biological possibility starts to get strained.

Maes Cogwy is the Battle of Cocboy, mentioned in Historia Brittonum as the battle in which Oswald of Northumbria was killed:
Penda, son of Pybba, reigned ten years; he first separated the kingdom of Mercia from that of the North-men, and slew by treachery Anna, king of the East Anglians, and St. Oswald, king of the North-men. He fought the battle of Cocboy, in which fell Eawa, son of Pybba, his brother, king of the Mercians, and Oswald, king of the North-men, and he gained the victory by diabolical agency.
--Historia Brittonum ch. 65

Bede gives the date of Oswald’s death as 642 AD and names the location as Maserfelth (Book III, Ch. 9). Maserfelth/Maes Cogwy is not definitively located; Oswestry in Shropshire is the usual candidate, based on the name (Oswestry is from the Old English “Oswald’s Tree”), but there are other possibilities.

Wherever the location, the reference to Maes Cogwy indicates that Cynddylan was a contemporary of Penda of Mercia and was of fighting age in 642. The reference to the “son of Pyd” in the Lament for Cynddylan may refer to Penda, who was the son of a king named Pybba, and if so this would be consistent with Cynddylan as a contemporary and ally of Penda. If we take fighting age to be from 15 to 50, Cynddylan’s conjectural birth date would be in the range 592 – 627, and Gwiawn’s conjectural birth date would be in the range 563 – 601. There is enough overlap in these ranges for them to have been sons of the same father. If Gwiawn was in his 20s at the Action of Bangor Orchard and Cynddylan in his 40s at Maes Cogwy, they could have been approximate contemporaries, both born around the turn of the century.

Cynddylan’s territory

The poetry gives Cynddylan the following territorial associations and titles:
  • King of Dogfeiling

  • Oppressor of the Cadelling

  • Court of Pengwern

  • Tren, his patrimony

  • Cynddylan Powys

  • Fought a battle at Maes Cogwy

  • Fought a battle at Lichfield

  • Buried at Baschurch

  • Cattle raid on the dales of Taff

The dales of Taff refers to the River Taff, which flows through Cardiff in South Wales, but as the poem clearly describes it as a cattle raid it probably was not in Cynddylan’s own territory.

Dogfeiling was in what is now north-central Wales, somewhere in the valley of the River Elwy near modern Denbigh. Its associations are with Gwynedd, and it may have been a sub-kingdom of Gwynedd or an independent unit, or both at different times.

The Cadellings were the main royal dynasty of Powys, named after a founding figure called Cadell or Catell according to a story in Historia Brittonum. Appending the name of a territory to its ruler’s name was common practice, so “Cynddylan Powys” implies that Cynddylan was king of Powys. As he was also called “oppressor of the Cadelling”, this may indicate that he was either a king from a rival kingdom who had taken over Powys, or an internal rival from a different dynasty. The territory of medieval Powys was in the uplands of east-central Wales; early medieval Powys may well have been larger, but there’s no reason to assume it was in a different place altogether (more on this in a later post).

The location of Cynddylan’s court, Pengwern, is not known. There are several places called Pengwern in modern Wales (type “Pengwern” into Streetmap UK), and there may well have been others in the past whose names have since changed or been lost. The name is a topographical one, meaning something like “head of the swamp” or “head of the alder grove”. Gerald of Wales identifies Pengwern with Shrewsbury, but Gerald’s account was written in the 1190s, well over half a millennium after Cynddylan’s likely lifetime.

“Tren” has been argued to be a territory based on the catchment of the River Tern, the area surrounding Wroxeter (White and Barker 2002). One of the verses in Canu Heledd refers to “Dinlleu Vrecon” (the city of Wroxeter). Baschurch is in Shropshire, about 15 miles from Wroxeter on the other side of Shrewsbury, and Lichfield is about 40 miles away to the east. As mentioned above, the location of Maes Cogwy is not known, but if it is Oswestry it is also in Shropshire.

So, these associations indicate that Cynddylan was active in north Wales, in east-central Wales, in the Shropshire Plain around Wroxeter (and perhaps Shrewsbury), and as far east as Lichfield. If Gwiawn in the Triads was his brother, this may indicate the family also had connections with the area of Bangor is-y-Coed and Chester. All these places fall into a reasonably coherent area, covering the counties of what is now Cheshire and Shropshire and the uplands of eastern Wales.

This would be consistent with early medieval Powys having been a considerably larger kingdom than its medieval counterpart, including the lowlands of Cheshire and Shropshire in addition to the uplands of medieval Powys. However, I don’t think it necessarily proves the case. Cynddylan need not have inherited all of these areas, nor need he have ruled all of them for his whole career. He may have started as ruler of one region and expanded his influence, perhaps temporarily, into neighbouring areas. Bede’s pages are full of early medieval English kings doing just that. Taliesin’s poetry refers to a king of Powys in the previous generation, Cynan Garwyn (whose son Selyf was killed in 613/617 at the Battle of Chester), as fighting battles across the length and breadth of what is now Wales, from Gwynedd in the north-west to Gwent in the south-east. It seems likely that Cynddylan would have followed the same behaviour.

Since the poem specifies Tren as Cynddylan’s patrimony, I would take that as an indication that his original family lands were in the area near Wroxeter. This would be consistent with his burial at Baschurch, if family and/or friends retrieved his body from whatever battlefield he died on and brought him home for burial. He may have controlled the city of Wroxeter as well, or it may have been semi-independent. The titles of King of Dogfeiling and King of Powys could have been gained later in his career (perhaps temporarily), by marriage, inheritance or military force. The battle at Lichfield may have further added to his territory or may have been merely a raid on a neighbour.

The poetry refers to “Cynddylan and Elfan Powys”. This may indicate that Elfan was king of Powys at the time and Cynddylan was not, which would be consistent with the suggestion above that Cynddylan was only temporarily king of Powys. Or it may indicate a shared title, suggesting that Powys could have multiple kings (which was known among the West Saxons in the seventh century). Whether this represents a form of joint kingship, some kind of confederation, or reflected the partitioning of a territory among heirs, is open to question.

It is also possible that Tren has been misidentified, and that Cynddylan was a king or sub-king of Dogfeiling who conquered some or all of Powys, raiding as far as Lichfield and Cardiff, and perhaps being buried at Baschurch because it happened to be near his place of death rather than for family associations. And no doubt many other permutations can be argued.

Eventual fate

It’s clear from the poetry that Cynddylan was killed in a disastrous battle, perhaps along with most of his adult male relatives, that the opposing side included English, and that his kingdom was lost to his surviving family.

There is not enough internal evidence from the poetry to identify the site of Cynddylan’s fatal battle definitively.

However, if Cynddylan is correctly identified as an ally of Penda of Mercia, the battle of Winwaed must be a likely candidate. Winwaed was fought at an unknown location between Oswy of Northumbria on one side and Penda of Mercia with thirty allies on the other (Bede, Book III Ch. 24). Bede doesn’t list the allies, but Historia Brittonum says that “kings of the Britons” were killed there along with Penda. The battle was a colossal disaster for Penda and his Brittonic allies. Bede says that Penda and almost all his thirty allied commanders were killed, and Historia Brittonum calls it “the slaughter of the field of Gai”. Cynddylan had fought with Penda of Mercia against Oswy’s brother Oswald at Maes Cogwy. It must be at least a strong possibility that he was among Penda’s allies at Winwaed and died there.

References
Full-text sources available online are linked in the text.
White R, Barker P. Wroxeter: Life and death of a Roman city. Tempus, 2002, ISBN 0-7524-1409-7.
Bede, Ecclesiastical history of the English people. Translated by Leo Sherley-Price. Penguin Classics, 1968, ISBN 0-14-044565-X.



Map links

Approximate location of Dogfeiling
Baschurch
Lichfield
Chester
Bangor is-y-Coed
Cardiff

22 comments:

Rick said...

Someone obviously mourned him, but presumably not the Cadellings, which raises questions about the whole situation of Powys at the time. (And is the OE-sounding 'ings' ending a coincidence, or much later convention?)

The fact that Cynddylan's territory might have included Wroxeter naturally gets my attention, but I assume he is quite some time after the period of classical style architecture there.

Carla said...

The original Welsh is "Cadelling", so it isn't an artefact of translation. Presuambly it reflected usage either at the time the poem was written down or in whatever the source material was, or both. I've said before that I think the early English and Brittonic heroic warrior classes had a lot more in common with each other than modern stereotypes make out, and it wouldn't surprise me if a few language constructions had hopped across.

More on the situation in Powys in a later post (this one had already got quite long enough!)

The last grand rebuilding at Wroxeter can't be dated precisely (alas, no coins!) but the excavators thought it was built some time in the range of 530 to 580. It would presumably then have stood for some time before falling down or being dismantled.

If Cynddylan was Penda's ally at Maes Cogwy/Maserfelth in 642, and was killed at Winwaed in 655, we can reasonably say that he lived somewhere in the 600-650 period, approximately. So if the last grand rebuilding at Wroxeter was built towards the later end of the archaeologists' estimate and stood for 70 years or so, or was built at the early end of the range and stood for 120 years or so (easily possible given that some medieval timber buildings are still standing today having survived 500+ years), then it could well have been contemporary with Cynddylan. One could speculate that if Cynddylan ruled Wroxeter, then it could have been his death in battle that finished off the town as a major power centre and left it to dwindle down to the small village it is today.

Rick said...

Not knowing any Welsh, I suppose 'Cadelling' could be sheer coincidence, but it sure caught my eye. And Cynddylan himself evidently fell fighting alongside Penda with a bunch of other Welsh rulers.

As for survival times of wooden buildings, we were just talking about the 'temporary' East Bergholt bellhouse, going on 500 years old.

Meghan said...

I love lines like "oaken silence" and "stubborn in battle."

As usual you provide us with so much interesting information! Thank you again!

Rex Icelingas said...

I always believe Powys to have been pretty fragmented until possibly the rule of Cyngen Glodrydd(5th Cent).Naturally theres the Vortigern dynasty we associate nr Builth,the dynasty of Casnauth along the Marches posibly and that of Cadell around the area of Llangollen,but I do think there were possibly more that got annexed over time.

Im thinking that Cynddylan`s nickname of `Powys `dosent refer to his origin,especially given the evidence moving towards his association with the Gwynedd dynasty.Would `Powys `perhaps be added to his name in the way `Germanicus` or `Gothicus` was added to the name of a Roman Emperor after he had defeated a foe?

Constance said...

Is there anywhere to hear these read? I know enough about Welsh pronunciation to tangle my tongue. I'd love to hear the poems read by someone able to do so properly, with feeling. Like hearing Rilke in German, even if I don't know all the words, it sounds ...right.

Carla said...

Rick - Penda's alliance with various Brittonic kings lasted from at least 633 to Winwaed in 655. It's the best documented inter-ethnic alliance, in part because it fought against Northumbria so Bede knew the details and wrote them down, but I very much doubt it was the only one.

Meghan - yes, the lines are beautiful.

Rex Icelingas - I agree that the title of 'Powys' may well refer to Cynddylan's de facto power rather than to his origin, and if so he may well have acquired it by conquest, especially as he is stated to be 'oppressor of the Cadelling'. In that context it may be significant that the poetry refers specifically to 'Tren' as his patrimony and doesn't say that Powys was. Whether the suffix indicated conquest is an interesting question. It certainly seems to have indicated rulership, because you find it applied to e.g. Urien Rheged at the same sort of period. My guess is that it was applied to the boss, whether he got the job by inheritance or conquest. Given the importance of warfare in early medieval Britain they might have amounted to much the same thing! Even a son and heir might have to defeat assorted uncles, cousins and brothers before he was acknowledged as ruler - this applied in medieval Wales (Llewellyn Fawr in the 12th C leaps to mind, and didn't Owain Gwynedd also have a troublesome brother?) - and may well have applied in earlier centuries as well.

Constance - I don't know of any, but if you Google for Welsh poetry sites you might find something, or someone who can help.

Rick said...

Conquest -> Rulership. Not always, of course, but not a bad way to bet!

And not just 'the importance of warfare' - in the later Heroic Age all of these guys must have been warlords, because what else was there?

In the earlier Heroic Age there was still some tradition of Roman legitimacy, at least among Britons, as reflected in Gildas' account of Ambrosius. But by the later Heroic Age all of that was gone. No Welsh ruler even claimed to be a rightful successor to Ambrosius or Arthur.

The English had the concept of a Bretwald, but that was an aspirational claim, not an established one. I've speculated on the possibility that the title or concept had roots in a would-be English Stilicho, but if there ever was one he is lost not only to history but legend; Bede has no such concept.

Over time the new dynasties would acquire traditional legitimacy, but that takes time, and a degree of stability. I doubt there was much of it yet in the period that we are discussing.

Carla said...

True about Ambrosius and Arthur, but the dynasty of Powys traced its descent back to Magnus Maximus via Vortigern. It may have been entirely fictitious (!), but nevertheless somebody was still trying to claim it. And the genealogy of the kings of the East Angles contains Caesar, which must surely be about as historical as the name of Woden immediately before it, but which is still an indication that Roman legitimacy was considered a good thing to have, or pretend to have. Even if for all practical purposes a warband was what mattered, claiming membership of an illustrious dynasty was evidently also important, at least to some.

I think it's worth considering whether Roman rule was necessarily viewed the same way by everyone in the Roman province. The standard modern approach is to lump the whole province into a homogenous culture labelled "Romano-British" and assume it was much the same from Kent to Anglesey and Cornwall to Carlisle. But before the Romans show up what you see is local and regional variation in material culture going right back to the Neolithic - the one consistent feature is inconsistency, as I once saw it described. The various tribes had different attitudes to the Romans when Caesars 1 and 2 arrived, and only a few tribes joined Boudica's revolt. It would not be surprising if different attitudes and cultures carried on prevailing right through Roman government, so that some areas of Britain bought in to Roman rule (mostly the lowlands, where you get towns and villas, and perhaps also the areas with a lot of retired soldiers and/or locals working for and dependent on the army), while other areas regarded Rome as a military occupier and conceded grudging respect at best. If different attitudes to Roman rule existed, that might affect whether successor rulers wanted to claim Roman legitimacy.

It may well have been a warlord free-for-all in some areas at some times, but by the late sixth/early seventh century traces of dynasties are starting to appear fairly widely. There are theories that the appearance of very rich ('princely') graves in 'Anglo-Saxon' cemeteries, which starts about 550 AD give or take, is a physical manifestation of stable dynasties starting to take root. Although being a capable warlord was almost certainly still necessary, it may not have been sufficient. I think a case can be made for the late sixth/early seventh century marking the emergence of the sort of traditional legitimacy you mention.

Rick said...

I stand corrected. For this purpose it doesn't matter that a genealogy is dubious or fictitious; its existence is enough to show the desire for continuity with the past.

And plausibly, from the successions you've mentioned, traditional legitimacy was taking hold before 600. Broadly I'd expect it to emerge effectively by the third generation; by then, in everyday human terms, a dynasty has 'always' ruled.

Though in different historical contexts dynasties have often run down by the third generation, from getting lazy so to speak. Ibn-Khaldun regarded three generations as the 'normal' lifetime of a dynasty of emirs.

Carla said...

It's more a matter of interpretation than correction as such! Your point that nobody was trying to claim descent from Ambrosius or Arthur still stands, as does the observation that Gwynedd's dynasty claims Cunedda (who came from Manau Gododdin, outside the Roman province) as its founder, not a Roman figure. (More on Powys in a later post).

The grandfather as the equivalent of "since forever" dovetails very nicely with a common feature of early English genealogies, that the founder figure is very often the grandfather of the first really important king. E.g. the East Angles called themselves Wuffingas according to Bede, and Wuffa was the grandfather of Raedwald (who was Bretwalda in the 620s and very likely the Sutton Hoo man).

The tendency for dynasties to fall apart through laziness or general ineptitude is encapsulated in a saying from northern England: "Clogs to clogs in three generations".

I rather suspect that the same sort of thing applied to early medieval dynasties, and the neat lists of father-to-son successions for hundreds of years in the genealogies contain a fair dollop of polite fiction, or at best a messy succession with a lot of fights between brothers and half-brothers.

Rick said...

Another possibility is that Ambrosius and Arthur weren't regarded as so relevant in the generations just following - at any rate in Gwynedd - as they came to be later on. Which segues neatly to your earlier point about attitudes toward Roman rule. People in Gwynedd might have regarded the whole A-A enterprise as a costly nuisance, only deciding much later that it was a glorious struggle against the English pig-dogs. :-)

I have heard a variant of the clogs-to-clogs proverb - 'rags to riches to rags in three generations.'

And yes, genealogies could easily be retrospectively cleaned up!

Carla said...

Quite so, and it could also be consistent with regional variation; if Ambrosius and/or Arthur were associated with, say, the south and east of the Roman province, the people of the north and west may not have been all that interested in them (or may even have been hostile) until they became figures of legend. It's noticeable that HB has very little to say about Ambrosius. He gets a mention twice (if indeed they are the same individual), once as the magical boy with no father - but who then says his father was a Roman consul - who frightens Vortigern with prophecy, and once in passing as "the great king among the kings of Britain". HB has much more to say about Vortigern, and to a lesser extent about Arthur and Vortigern's sons. It's also noticeable that HB brackets Ambrosius with the Picts, Scots and Romans as one of the three dreads of the people of Britain during Vortigern's rule, "In his time, the natives had cause of dread, not only from the inroads of the Scots and Picts, but also from the Romans, and their apprehensions of Ambrosius." This would fit with the material having been derived from a region (or faction) that was hostile to Romans in general and Ambrosius in particular. Conversely, Gildas was clearly pro-Roman and pro-Ambrosius and has nothing good to say about anyone or anything else.

It can be taken as evidence that there was a massive faction fight in post-Roman Britain between a sort of British/Celtic anti-Roman party led by Vortigern, and a pro-Roman party led by Ambrosius, and that is certainly one interpretation. I think it can also be seen as a conflict between regions with different attitudes to Rome (rather than a conflict between political factions spanning the entire province), with Gildas and HB drawing their material from different regions. As usual, the two interpretations aren't mutually exclusive; regional leaders each with a voice of some sort on some kind of national council covers both.

Rick said...

I think I've seen mentions elsewhere of the 'party' interpretation.

Also I find it interesting that the 'dreads of the people of Britain' are the Scots (presumably then meaning Irish), Picts, and Romans ... but not the Saxons. Unless this refers to the period before Vortigern, in the tradition, invited them over. (Even if Lundenwic was full of Saxons, presumably they weren't the troublemaking kind that made the news.)

And yes, regional and 'national' disputes are not mutually exclusive!

Gabriele C. said...

Wow, you put a lot of research into that. Is there a novel lurking, lol?

The Welsh seemed to have been proud of their - mostly alleged - Roman heritage all the way to Edward I who deliberately modeled Cearnarfon Castle after Constantinople in an attempt to claim that tradition for his own rule.

Carla said...

Rick - If I remember rightly, Mary Stewart took up the opposing factions theme in The Crystal Cave, which features a power struggle between Vortigern and the family of Ambrosius.

Yes, Scots at the time would have meant Irish. Who you dreaded very likely depended on where you lived and who was therefore most likely to show up demanding money with menaces :-) HB was probably written in Gwynedd, and if the source material came from the same region it may just indicate that the local bogeymen in north-west Wales came from what's now Ireland and Scotland rather than from Germany and the Low Countries, which is entirely likely just from geography. It may not necessarily be generalisable to the whole province. HB gives the list in the context of a period of upheaval "for forty years" and in the next sentence says Hengest and Horsa arrived "In the meantime...". So it isn't entirely clear which is supposed to have come first or whether both were supposed to have happened at about the same time (I favour the latter, myself), and it's entirely likely that nobody knew the order of events by the time HB was written, which was 400 years or so after the fact.

Gabriele - about Cynddylan in particular? Never say never (and the Heledd poetry has tremendous scope for a story) but this isn't specifically directed to that end. It's part of trying to understand how seventh century Britain worked. The other day I was typing up another post, which came to 1100 words after I'd summarised all the notes, and it turns out that underlies all of one line in Exile. This may very well be similar :-)

Gabriele C. said...

Lol yes, I know that sort of research.

But Welsh history would provide some fine plotbunnies. :)

Rick said...

Lurking in this discussion is the question of how much the whole image of an Anglo-Saxon invasion or conquest, resisted by the Britons, was 'reconstructed' at a much later date. Obviously the language of lowland Britain eventually became English, but for all we know, proto-English troops in 450 regarded themselves as 'Romans' and Vortigern as a 'barbarian' interloper. :-)

CSAWales said...

That translation of Marwnad Cynddylan is far from universally accepted.

1. The lines immediately above the refrain "I shall lament..." refer to those "who give me welcome", not to Cynddylan.

2. "gwerling Dogfeiling, Cadelling ffaw" (and Cadelling trais) hardly justifies a reading of "the king of Dogfeiling, oppressor (and terror to) the Cadelling". I read it as "the people (gwerin) of Dogfeiling, in the den (ffau) of the Cadelling" whom the author loved as they welcomed him to visit their lands or travel through them to visit more distant places.

3. To conclude that Cynddylan was "King of Dogfeiling" based on this poem is unwarranted.

Carla said...

Gabriele - most history does :-)

Rick - Indeed! Maybe some of the English considered themselves more 'Roman' than some of the Britons did. We will never really know, of course, but I do think the situation was likely to have been a lot messier and more complicated than a simple mono-ethnic conflict (Most conflicts are). The whole issue of what 'Roman', 'Briton', 'Saxon', 'Angle', etc meant at the time, and to whom, is a fascinating subject.

CSAWales - Hello and welcome. There are many interpretations of the poetry (see this earlier post for a commenter arguing equally passionately for Cynddylan as a king of Dogfeiling!). Many historians don't consider the poetry historical at all, and they have a point. As is usually the case in this period, many different interpretations are possible.

Elizabeth Chadwick said...

Not bringing anything of historical strength or intellect to this discussion, but to say that I read Cynddylan and a lot of other early Welsh poetry in translation many years ago and even in translation it all had a haunting resonance. I can't recall the name of the book - borrowed it from the library, but I copied several poems down into my research notes, such as Cynddylan, Dingodad's Speckled Petticoat, and one that eludes me about a seagull crossing the waters to a man's love. They were evocative and had a strong impact on my inspiration to write.

Carla said...

Elizabeth - yes, I can see how the poetry would have inspired you. It has a haunting romantic quality that stays in the mind.