Taliesin

I am old. I am young. I am Gwion, I am universal, I am possessed of penetrating wit...

Taliesin (or Taliessin; c. 534 – c. 599) is the earliest poet of the Welsh language whose work has survived. His name is associated with the Book of Taliesin, a book of poems that was written down in the Middle Ages. His name means "Radiant Brow" (tal iesin in Welsh).

QuotesEdit

Book of Taliesin (c. 1275?)Edit

Llyfr Taliesin, written down in the 13th or 14th century, many of these poems are thought to have originated with Taliesin, though later additions to them are thought likely. The Book of Taliesin in Welsh and English

The First Address of TaliesinEdit

Priv Cyfarch as translated by W. F. Skene (1858)
  • 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.
  • 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 Caer 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?
  • Whence come night and flood?
    How they disappear?
    Whither flies night from day;
    And how is it not seen?
  • Excellent in every way around the glens
    The two skilful ones make inquiries
  • The Cymry 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.
  • I am old. I am young. I am Gwion,
    I am universal, I am possessed of penetrating wit.
    • A tradition about Taliesin states that he was once a boy named "Gwion".
  • 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?
    Knowest thou the profound prediction domini?
  • Dominus virtutum
    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.

The Elegy of the Thousand SonsEdit

Marvnat y Vil Veib as translated by W. F. Skene (1858)
  • I will offer a prayer to the Trinity,
    May the Eternal grant me to praise thee!
    In the present course, dangerous
    Our work; destruction is a slight impulse of wrath.

    They reckon of the saints a tribe,
    King of heaven, may I be eloquent about thee!
    Before the separation of my soul from my flesh.
  • Heroic numberer of languages,
    A conspicuous sea-shoal of goodly increase.
    A number that God will watch with extreme love.
    In heaven, in earth, at the end,
    In straits, in expanse, in form,
    In body, in soul, in habit,
    Prudence far from the presence of kings.
    I adore thee, Ruler of the land of peace.
    Let my soul be in a condition of life;
    For ever in court;
    A servant of heaven, he will not refuse me.
Multitudes, of beautiful works, believed, served with us...
  • The number of saints in scores,
    Valiant men, golden their party.
    Before kings a career of praise,
    Warriors, no one was before them in demanding.
    In straits, in expanse, in every need,
    May they be a city to our body and our soul!
  • And entreating his exalted weight,
    Under the stars, saints he planted.
  • Multitudes, of beautiful works,
    Believed, served with us.
They worship, they deserve a portion,
In heaven they will not be angry.
  • The number of saints, a synod without desire,
    From God the divine prophesy.
    In every tongue they compose,
    About the earth they were,
    And so many wisely prophesied
    Christ, and before he was, they were.
  • Seven scores, seven scores, seven hundreds of saints,
    And seven thousands and seven ten scores,
    November a number implored,
    Though martyrs good they came.
  • Twelve thousand in the convention
    Believed through the voice of John.
    They worship, they deserve a portion,
    In heaven they will not be angry.
  • The number that have been, and will be,
    Above heaven, below heaven, how many there are.

    And as many as have believed in revelation,
    Believed through the will of the Lord.
    As many as are on wrath through the circles,
    Have mercy, God, on thy kindred.
    May I be meek, the turbulent Ruler,
    May I not endure, before I am without motion.
    Grievously complaineth every lost one,
    Hastily claimeth every needy one.
  • I will declare when I am in the gravel,
    From the maintenance of gifts,
    From being numbered, from going to be a martyr
    In the reckoning of Saint Segerno.
    From a word when sin may be to me,
    Let there be no sigh from those that hear me.

The Fold of the BardsEdit

Buarch Beird as translated by W. F. Skene (1858)
  • Meditating were my thoughts
    On the vain poetry of the bards of Brython.
    Making the best of themselves in the chief convention.
    Enough, the care of the smith’s sledge-hammer.
    I am in want of a stick, straitened in song,
    The fold of the bards, who knows it not?
  • I am a harmonious one; I am a clear singer.
    I am steel; I am a druid.
    I am an artificer; I am a scientific one.
    I am a serpent; I am love; I will indulge in feasting.

    I am not a confused bard drivelling,
    When songsters sing a song by memory,
    They will not make wonderful cries;
    May I be receiving them.
    Like receiving clothes without a hand,
    Like sinking in a lake without swimming
    The stream boldly rises tumultuously in degree.
  • The rock wave-surrounded, by great arrangement,
    Will convey for us a defence, a protection from the enemy.
    The rock of the chief proprietor, the head of tranquillity.
    The intoxication of meads will cause us to speak.
    I am a cell, I am a cleft, I am a restoration,
    I am the depository of song; I am a literary man;
    I love the high trees, that afford a protection above,
    And a bard that composes, without earning anger;
    I love not him that causes contention;
    He that speaks ill of the skilful shall not possess mead.
  • It is a fit time to go to the drinking,
    With the skilful men, about art,
    And a hundred knots, the custom of the country,
    The shepherd of the districts, support of gates,
    Like going without a foot to battle.
  • He would not journey without a foot.
    He would not breed nuts without trees,
    Like seeking for ants in the heath.
    Like an instrument of foolish spoil,
    Like the retinue of an army without a head,
    Like feeding the unsheltered on lichen.

The Pleasant Things of TaliesinEdit

Aduvyneu Taliesin as translated by W. F. Skene (1858)
Pleasant, the eagle on the shore of the sea when it flows;
Also pleasant, sea-gulls playing.
  • A pleasant virtue, extreme penance to an extreme course;
    Also pleasant, when God is delivering me.

    Pleasant, the carousal that hinders not mental exertion;
    Also pleasant, to drink together about horns.
  • Pleasant, berries in the time of harvest;
    Also pleasant, wheat upon the stalk.
    Pleasant the sun moving in the firmament;
    Also pleasant the retaliators of outcries.
Pleasant, a horse with gold-enamelled trappings;
Also pleasant to be honest in a breach.
  • Pleasant, a steed with a thick mane in a tangle;
    Also pleasant, crackling fuel.
    Pleasant, desire, and silver fringes;
    Also pleasant, the conjugal ring.
  • Pleasant, the eagle on the shore of the sea when it flows;
    Also pleasant, sea-gulls playing.
    Pleasant, a horse with gold-enamelled trappings;
    Also pleasant to be honest in a breach.
  • Pleasant, liquors of the mead-brewer to the multitude;
    Also pleasant, a songster generous, amiable.
    Pleasant, the open field to cuckoos and the nightingale;
    Also pleasant when the weather is serene.
Pleasant, the time when calves draw milk;
Also pleasant, foamy horsemanship.
  • Pleasant to bring back the divisions of a parish;
    Also pleasant to us the time of paradise.
    Pleasant, the moon, a luminary in the heavens;
    Also pleasant where there is a good rememberer.
Pleasant, the hero that destroys not the yielding...
  • Pleasant, summer, and slow long day;
    Also pleasant to pass out of chastisement
    Pleasant, the blossoms on the tops of the pear-trees;
    Also pleasant, friendship with the Creator.
  • Pleasant, a steed in a leather halter;
    Also pleasant, alliance with a king.
    Pleasant, the hero that destroys not the yielding;
    Also pleasant, the splendid Cymraec language.
  • Pleasant, the heath when it is green;
    Also pleasant, the salt marsh for cattle.
    Pleasant, the time when calves draw milk;
    Also pleasant, foamy horsemanship.
  • And what is pleasant to me is no worse.
    And the paternal horn by mead-nourished payment.
    Pleasant, the directing of fish in the pond;
    Also pleasant, calling about to play.
  • Pleasant, the word that utters the Trinity;
    Also pleasant, extreme penance for sin.
    Pleasant, the summer of pleasantness;
    Communion with the Lord, in the day of judgment.

Oh God, the God of FormationEdit

Deus Duw Delwat as translated by W. F. Skene (1858)
  • O God, the God of formation,
    Ruler, strengthener of blood.

    Christ Jesus, that guards.
    Princes loud-proclaiming go their course
    For a decaying acquisition.
  • The praising thy mercy.
    There hath not been here;
    O supreme Ruler
    ;
    There hath not been; there will not be,
    One so good as the Lord.
    There hath not been born in the day of the people
    Any one equal to God.
    And no one will acknowledge
    Any one equal to him.
    Above heaven, below heaven,
    There is no Ruler but he.
    Above sea, below sea,
    He created us.
  • When God comes
    A great noise will pierce us,
    The day of judgment terribly.
    Messengers from the door,
    Wind, and sea, and fire.
    lightning and thunder
    A number without flattery.
    The people of the world groaning
    Will be concealed.
  • Kings will shudder [that] day,
    Woe awaits them!
    When the recompenser shall appear,
    Let the heaven appear below.
    A ruddy wind will be brought
    Out to the cinder,
    Until the world is as desolate
    As when created.
Do not thy passions counteract
What thy lips utter?
Thy going in thy course into valleys,
Dark without lights.
  • The love-diffusing [Lord] will separate us.
    The land of worldly weather,
    A wind will melt the trees:
    There will pass away every tranquillity
    When the mountains are burnt.
    There will be again inhabitants
    With horns before kings;
    The mighty One will send them,
    Sea, and land, and lake.
    There will be again a trembling terror,
    And a moving of the earth,
    And above every field,
    And ashes the rocks will be;
    With violent exertion, concealment,
    And burning of lake.
  • A wave do ye displace,
    A shield do ye extend
    To the travelling woe,
    And violent exertion through grief.
    And inflaming through fury
    Between heaven and earth.
I have not been without battle.
Bitter affliction was frequent
Between me and my cousins.
  • Songs and minstrels.
    And the hymns of angels,
    Will raise from the graves,
    They will entreat from the beginning.

    They will entreat together publicly,
    On so great a destiny.
    Those whom the sea has destroyed
    Will make a great shout,
    At the time when cometh
    He, that will separate them.
  • Do not thy passions counteract
    What thy lips utter?
    Thy going in thy course into valleys,
    Dark without lights.
    And mine were his words.
    And mine were his languages.
The lance was struck
And my side was pierced.
It will be struck to you also...
  • I have not been without battle.
    Bitter affliction was frequent
    Between me and my cousins.

    Frequent trials fell
    Between me and my fellow-countrymen.
    There was frequent contention
    Between me and the wretched.
  • Those that placed me on the cross
    I knew when young.

    That drove me on the tree,
    My head hung down.
    Stretched were my two feet,
    So sad their destiny.
    Stretched with extreme pain
    The bones of my feet.
    Stretched were my two arms,
    Their burden will not be.
    Stretched were my two shoulders,
    So diligently it was done.
    Stretched were the nails,
    Within my heart.
    Stretched was the spiking,
    Between my two eyes.
    Thick are the holes
    Of the crown of thorns in my head.
    The lance was struck
    And my side was pierced.
    It will be struck to you also,
    As your right hand (struck me).
    To you there will be no forgiveness,
    For piercing me with spears.
    And the Ruler we knew not
    When thou wert hung.
  • Ruler of heaven, Ruler of every people!
    We knew not, O Christ! that it was thou.
    If we had known thee,
    Christ, we should have refrained from thee.
Do not the brave know
The greatness of their progeny?
  • Ye have committed wickedness
    Against the Creator.

    A hundred thousand angels
    Are to me witnesses,
    Who came to conduct me
    After my hanging,
    When hanging cruelly,
    Myself to deliver me
    In heaven there was trembling
    When I had been hung.
    When I cried out Eli!
  • Do not the brave know
    The greatness of their progeny?

    A country present will meet thee,
    And while it may possibly be yours,
    Three hundred thousand years save one,
    A short hour of the day of everlasting life.

The Battle of the TreesEdit

Cad Goddeu or Kat Godeu adapted from the translations in The Four Ancient Books of Wales (1858) by W. F. Skene
I have been in a multitude of shapes,
Before I assumed a consistent form...
  • I have been in a multitude of shapes,
    Before I assumed a consistent form.
    I have been a sword, narrow, variegated,
    I will believe when it is apparent.
    I have been a tear in the air,
    I have been the dullest of stars.
    I have been a word among letters,
    I have been a book in the origin.

    I have been the light of lanterns,
    A year and a half.
    I have been a continuing bridge,
    Over three score river mouths.


  • I have been a course, I have been an eagle.
    I have been a coracle in the seas:
    I have been compliant in the banquet.
    I have been a drop in a shower;
    I have been a sword in the grasp of the hand
    I have been a shield in battle.
    I have been a string in a harp,
    Disguised for nine years,
    in water, in foam.

    I have been sponge in the fire,
    I have been wood in the covert
In the expectation of not being trees,
The trees uttered their voices
From strings of harmony,
The disputes ceased.
  • There was a calling on the Creator,
    Upon Christ for causes,
    Until when the Eternal
    Should deliver those whom he had made.

    The Lord answered them,
    Through language and elements:
    Take the forms of the principal trees,
    Arranging yourselves in battle array,
    And restraining the public.
  • When the trees were enchanted,
    In the expectation of not being trees,
    The trees uttered their voices
    From strings of harmony,
    The disputes ceased.

    Let us cut short heavy days,
    A female restrained the din.
    She came forth altogether lovely.
    The head of the line, the head was a female.
    The advantage of a sleepless cow
    Would not make us give way.
    The blood of men up to our thighs,
    The greatest of importunate mental exertions
    Sported in the world.
    And one has ended
    From considering the deluge,
    And Christ crucified
    And the day of judgement near at hand.
  • The heath was victorious, keeping off on all sides.
    The common people were charmed,
    During time proceeding of the men.
    The oak, quickly moving,
    Before him, tremble heaven and earth.
    A valiant door-keeper against an enemy,
    his name is considered.
    The blue-bells combined,
    And caused a consternation.
    In rejecting, were rejected,
    Others, that were perforated
Englynion Cad GoddauEdit
Fragments from Cad Goddeu in Y Myvyrian Archaiology as translated by Lady Charlotte Guest, in her notes on The Mabinogion.
  • Sure-hoofed is my steed impelled by the spur;
    The high sprigs of alder are on thy shield;
    Bran art thou called, of the glittering branches.
  • Sure-hoofed is my steed in the day of battle:
    The high sprigs of alder are on thy hand:
    Bran by the branch thou bearest
    Has Amathaon the good prevailed.

The Song of the HorsesEdit

Torrit anuyndawl as translated by W. F. Skene (1858)
Fire, the fiery meteor of the dawn. Above the high gale, Higher than every cloud. Great his animal.
  • It broke out with matchless fury.
    The rapid vehement fire.

    Him we praise above the earth,
    Fire, the fiery meteor of the dawn.
    Above the high gale,
    Higher than every cloud.
    Great his animal.
The dawn smiles, repelling gloom...
  • The dawn smiles, repelling gloom,
    At the dawn with violence,
    At every meet season,
    At the meet season of his turnings,
    At the four stages of his course,
    I will extol him that judges violence,
    Of the strong din, deep his wrath.
    I am not a man, cowardly, gray,
    A scum near the wattle.
I have been a torrent on the slope,
I have been a wave on the extended shore...
  • Thrice three protections,
    Returning to the old places,
    With a steed used to the field.
  • I have been a sow, I have been a buck,
    I have been a sage, I have been a snout,
    I have been a horn, I have been a wild sow,
    I have been a shout in battle.

    I have been a torrent on the slope,
    I have been a wave on the extended shore.
    I have been the light sprinkling of a deluge,
    I have been a cat with a speckled head on three trees.
    I have been a circumference, I have been a head.
    A goat on an elder-tree.
    I have been a crane well filled, a sight to behold.
    Very ardent the animals of Morial,
    They kept a good stock.
    Of what is below the air, say the hateful men,
    Too many do not live, of those that know me.

The Spoils of Taliesin, a Song to UrienEdit

Yspeil Taliessin as translated by W. F. Skene (1858)
The extensive booty of the ashen shaft is my fair Awen
  • In manliness he will greet my trouble,
    Should I be bled, I should evidently get better;
    Truly I saw no one before, who saw not in me
    Every indisposition, he will cultivate his business.
  • I saw a feeding about a lion for plants,
    I saw leaves of luxuriant growth.
    I saw a branch with equal blossoms.
    Did I not see a prince? most liberal his customs,
    I saw the ruler of Cathraeth beyond the plains
    Be my oak the gleaming spirit of the Cymry.
One is the country where a son is born,
And of one form and one sound is the battle-place of warriors.
  • The value of my cry great will be its advantage to degrees.
    The chief of men, shield of warriors.
    The extensive booty of the ashen shaft is my fair Awen.
    A shield before a prince, bright his smile,
    Heroic, aspiring, the most heroic is Urien
  • Eagle of the land, extensive thy glance.
    I would have requested an active courser
    Of vigorous trot, the price of the spoil of Taliesin.
    One is the violent course on the bottom and the summit,
    One is the gift of a baron to a lord.
    One is the herd of stags in their fight.
    One is the wolf not covetous of broom,
    One is the country where a son is born,
    And of one form and one sound is the battle-place of warriors.

The Death-song of Uther PendragonEdit

A song about Uther Pendragon, legendary father of the legendary King Arthur, Marwnat Vthyr Pen as translated by W. F. Skene (1858)
I gave to an old chief very great swords of protection.
  • Am I not with hosts making a din?
    I would not cease, between two hosts, without gore.
    Am I not he that is called Gorlassar?
    My belt was a rainbow to my foe.
  • I shared my shelter,
    a ninth share in Arthur's valour.
    I broke a hundred forts.
    I slew a hundred stewards.
    I bestowed a hundred mantles.
    I cut off a hundred heads.
    I gave to an old chief
    very great swords of protection.
  • To my deprivation, to my sorrow, sinew was brave.
    The world would not be if not for my offspring.
    I am a bard to be praised. The unskilful
    May he be possessed by the ravens and eagle and bird of wrath.
  • Abiding in heaven was he, my desire,
    Against the eagle, against the fear of the unskilful.
    I am a bard, and I am a harper,
    I am a piper, and I am a crowder.
    Of seven score musicians the very great enchanter.
  • May the countenance of Prydain be bright for my guidance.
    Sovereign of heaven, let my messages not be rejected.

The Tale of TaleisinEdit

Poetry attributed to Taliesin as adapted in "The Tale of Taliesin" by Jennifer Cochrane, at Encyclopedia Mythica
It is not evil to hope
Nor does any man see what supports him...
  • Fair Elphin, cease your lament!
    Swearing profits no-one.
    It is not evil to hope
    Nor does any man see what supports him
    ,
    Not an empty treasure is the prayer of Cynllo,
    Nor does God break his promise.
  • Fair Elphin, dry your cheeks!
    Such sorrow does not become you,
    Although you consider yourself cheated
    Excessive sorrow gains nothing,
    Nor will doubting God's miracles.
  • Although I am small, I am skilful.
    From the sea and the mountain,
    From the river's depth
    God gives His gifts to the blessed.
You must not grieve so heavily.
Better are good than evil omens.
  • You must not grieve so heavily.
    Better are good than evil omens.

    though I am weak and small,
    Spumed with Dylan's wave,
    I shall be better for you
    Than three hundred shares of salmon.
  • Elphin of noble generosity,
    Do not sorrow at your catch.
    Though I am weak on the floor of my basket,
    There are wonders on my tongue.
  • While I am watching over you,
    no great need will overcome you.
    be mindful of the name of the Trinity
    And none shall overcome you.
  • While I was held prisoner, sweet inspiration educated me
    and laws were imparted to me in a speech which had no words...
  • I have fled in the shape of a raven of prophetic speech,
    in the shape of a satirizing fox,
    in the shape of a sure swift,
    in the shape of a squirrel vainly hiding.

    I have fled in the shape of a red deer,
    in the shape of iron in a fierce fire,
    in the shape of a sword sowing death and disaster,
    in the shape of a bull, relentlessly struggling.
Primary chief poet
Am I to Elphin.
And my native country
Is the place of the Summer Stars.
  • I have come to salvage Elphin's honor and his freedom. Taliesin am I, primary chief bard to Elphin.

    Primary chief poet
    Am I to Elphin.
    And my native country
    Is the place of the Summer Stars.
    John the Divine
    Called me Merlin,
    But all future kings
    Shall call me Taliesin.
  • I was nine full months
    In the womb of Ceridwen.
    Before that I was Gwion,
    But now I am Taliesin.
  • I was with my king
    In the heavens
    When Lucifer fell
    Into the deepest hell.

    I carried the banner
    Before Alexander.
    I know the names of the stars
    From the North to the South.
  • I was in the canon
    When Absalom was slain.
    I was in Llys Don
    Before the birth of Gwydion.
I was instructor
To the whole universe.
I shall be until the judgement
On the face of the Earth.
  • I was patriarch
    To Elijah and Elijah.
    I was there at the crucifixion
    Of the merciful Mabon.
  • I was in Africa
    Before the building of Rome.
    I came here
    To the remnant of Troy.
  • I was with the Lord
    In the manger of the ass.

    I upheld Moses
    Through the water of Jordan.
  • I was at the Cross
    With Mary Magdalene.
    I received the muse
    From Ceridwen's cauldron.
  • I was instructor
    To the whole universe.
    I shall be until the judgement
    On the face of the Earth.
  • I have sat in the perilous seat
    Above Caer sidi.
    I shall continue to revolve
    Between the three elements.

Quotes about TaliesinEdit

I have been all men known to history,
Wondering at the world and at time passing;
I have seen evil, and the light blessing
Innocent love under a spring sky. ~ R. S. Thomas
  • The Cauldron of Wisdom and Inspiration must be kept boiling for a year and a day, and then the first three drops from it would impart ultimate knowledge to the one who drank them. But the rest of the liquid would be deadly poison.
    Long labored Ceridwen, roaming far to find the rare and exotic herbs she required, and so it chanced that she fell asleep on the last day of the spell. The boy Gwion was stirring the brew when three drops flew out onto his thumb, and they were scalding hot, so that he thrust it into his mouth to stop the burning. Instantly, he had the wisdom and inspiration of ages, and the first thing that occurred to him was that Ceridwen would be very angry.
  • Hear from the grave, great Taliessin, hear;
    They breathe a soul to animate thy clay.
    Bright Rapture calls, and soaring, as she sings,
    Waves in the eye of Heav'n her many-colour'd wings.
King, beggar and fool, I have been all by turns,
Knowing the body’s sweetness, the mind’s treason;
Taliesin still, I show you a new world, risen,
Stubborn with beauty, out of the heart’s need. ~ R. S. Thomas
  • I have been all men known to history,
    Wondering at the world and at time passing;
    I have seen evil, and the light blessing
    Innocent love under a spring sky.
  • I have been Merlin wandering in the woods
    Of a far country, where the winds waken
    Unnatural voices, my mind broken
    By a sudden acquaintance with man’s rage.
  • I have known exile and a wild passion
    Of longing changing to a cold ache.
    King, beggar and fool, I have been all by turns,
    Knowing the body’s sweetness, the mind’s treason;
    Taliesin still, I show you a new world, risen,
    Stubborn with beauty, out of the heart’s need.

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Last modified on 9 January 2014, at 19:50