Araith Iolo Goch

By an early reader of How Culhwch Got Olwen, The Mabinogi, and other tales 

Translated by John K. Bollard

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About Araith Iolo Goch

It is clear that the (15th or 16th century?) author of Araith Iolo Goch read or heard a version of How Culhwch Got Olwen, though perhaps not from one of the two surviving texts.  The names are recognizable, but a number of details differ from the surviving White Book and Red Book versions of the earlier tale.  He also knew something of The Mabinogi, at least the Fourth Branch.

Yr Areithiau Pros / The Prose Orations are short independent passages ranging from lists to brief narratives designed primarily to illustrate the author’s command of a rhetorical device or style that is familiar from The Mabinogi and other early Welsh tales, especially The Dream of Rhonabwy.  The key feature of this device is the piling up of compound adjectives and nouns.  In The Mabinogi and other early tales it is used sparingly and with good effect to convey a sense of liveliness and movement or descriptive precision, as in the description of Pwyll’s horse in the First Branch as y uarch drythyll, llamsachus ‘his spirited, prancing horse’.  The use of araith in the parodic Dream of Rhonabwy is much more extensive, verging (intentionally, no doubt) on the excessive, as in gwas ieuanc coch gobengrych gwineu llygadawc hydwf ‘a young, ruddy, very-curly-auburn- haired, keen-eyed, well-built lad.’ 

Yr Areithiau Pros carry this development to its ultimate extreme.  The date and authorship of these pieces is uncertain; the manuscripts date from the late sixteenth century to the eighteenth; the texts may range from the fifteenth to the seventeenth.  Araith Iolo Goch, the comic account of a lover’s difficulty in getting an answer from the girl he has his heart set on, was almost certainly not written by Iolo Goch himself, the fourteenth century poet who frequently and comically expressed his own frustrations in love.  Rather, the araith was in all likelihood fostered upon him precisely because it suits the persona he created for himself in his verse.

Araith Iolo Goch is of interest because it provides evidence of an early reader’s use – and parody – of references from The Mabinogi and especially How Culhwch Got Olwen, as well as other sources.  It also suggests that there were other stories or alternate versions of known stories about some of the characters listed.  But it is perhaps best to let it speak for itself.  The Welsh text following the translation is reprinted, with some minor editing, from D. Gwenallt Jones, Yr Areithiau Pros (Caerdydd, 1934), 12-17.

 © John K. Bollard, 2007

Araith Iolo Goch

from Mostyn 133.II.1-10
(For the original Welsh text, see below.)

Sion ap Wiliam ap Sion’s Book of Areithiau

Araith Iolo Goch, concerning an excellent girl

Gwynedd formerly was the realm of Rhuawn Befr son of Drothach Wledig*+, and Powys was the realm of Brochwel Ysgithrog. And an amorous-mannered, grief-pallored, pale-cheeked youth from the realm of Rhuawn Befr secretly loved a certain splendid ruddy-faced maiden of noble-prudent expression and royal mien of the sovereign lineage of Brochwel Ysgithrog, who excelled in face, form, beauty, and light over the two principal stars – none other than the Sun and the Moon, those which will give light to the four corners of the world – none other than to the South, East, North, and West.

A wretched state it was for a man to endure a languishing illness of love for the lady, since he would not take her against her will nor could he get her with her will.  Then he was advised in his council to send to her a diligent lad, wise-prudent, plain-spoken, and charming, who could charm the wild birds from the most desolate forest wilderness.

And forth went the lad from morning until tierce and from tierce until the sun was as high as the treetops.  And then he could see a great new marble fortress, with towers aplenty of excellent work and work like the fortress of Troy upon it.

And forth went the lad to where the lady was, who had been designing in various precious stones – ruby, pearl, and sapphire – and in excellent work of costly material of brocade as she did silken-work

And then the lad spoke thus to her, “May you prosper today in goods and in men, queen of beauty, mistress of riches, and empress of maidens. There is an amorous-mannered, grief-pallored, pale-cheeked youth from the realm of Rhuawn Befr who is languishing for your love. What is your counsel, noble gentle-maiden, regarding that?”

“Oh, lad,” said the maid, “that is a sudden rush, and I will have kindred and counselors about me, and when I get these together, you shall have an answer.”

“Lady,” said the lad, “when will that be?”

“When it may be as easy for Coch the Soap[maker] to couple with the wedded wife of Gwilym ap Iolo as it was for Uthr Bendragon+ to couple with Eigr, the wife of Gorlais, Earl of Cornwall.

“Lady,” said the lad, “when will that be?”

 “When the arm of Gomach the crwth-player is as long as the arm of Ca[d]wallon Long-Arm+, the man who could reach a stone from off the floor to hit a raven without bending his back, since his arm was as long as his side, and from his side to the floor.

“Lady,” said the lad, “when will that be?”

“When mean Gwallter the Angry of Maelor is as good as Absalom son of David the Prophet, the one whom the maids of India gave nine talents of nine-times-refined gold for a single strand of the hair of his head to make a work with honor around it.”

“Lady,” said the lad, “when will that be?”

“When the grip of Adcyn the Cripple is as strong as [that of] Glewlwyd Mighty-Grip,* + the man who lifted the cauldron down from the fire with one hand in the court of Toron of the three islands of Britain, with the sliced meat of seven oxen boiling in it.”

“Lady,” said the lad, “when will that be?”

“When the bed of Madoc Long-Pain after strong drink in Rhosyr in Môn is as good as [that of] Math ap Mathonwy,** + the man who could not sleep except with his feet in the lap of a young maiden, and he did not wake unless war woke him.”

“Lady,” said the lad, “when will that be?”

“When Deicyn the Feeble is as good a shooter as Mydr ap Mydrydd, the man who was able to shoot and hit a wren through the yoke of its two legs from Caenog in Dyffryn Clwyd as far as Esgair Oerfel in Ireland.”*

“Lady,” said the lad, “when will that be?”

“When Ffwg Lazy-Heels of Môn will be as good a walker as Edyrn ap Gwyddno Long-Shanks, the man who went with the speed of the wind when a great fleet came to take the wife of Finn MacCool by force.”

“Lady,” said the lad, “when will that be?”

“When Dafydd Bach ap Madog Wladaidd is as good a linguist after strong drink in Edeirnion as Uriel Constant-Language, the man who did not hear with his ears a language he could not deliver with his tongue as swiftly as he heard it.”

“Lady,” said the lad, “when will that be?”

“When Stephen the Crows is as fair as Sanddef Angel-Face, the man who escaped from the Battle of Camlan for his fairness, since none would attack him for supposing he was a winged angel from the heavens when he was seen.”*

“Lady,” said the lad, “when will that be?”

“When Madog Gloddaeth is as ugly as Morfran ap Tegid, the man who escaped from the Battle of Camlan for his ugliness, for everyone supposing he was a devil from Hell when he was seen.”* +

“Lady,” said the lad, “when will that be?”

“When the sight of Bleddyn Rhabi is as good as Sight son of Seer,* the man who could perceive a third of a gnat in a ray of the sun in the four corners of the world.”

“Lady,” said the lad, “when will that be?”

“When Deicyn the Bowlegged from Machynlleth is as good a listener as Clustfain ap Clustfeinir,* the man who could hear the sound of a dewdrop falling from a reed in the four corners of the world.”

“Lady,” said the lad, “when will that be?”

“When Generys Rhuthin is as chaste as St. Winifred, the one who suffered her head to be struck off, lest she once have intercourse with a man.”

“Lady,” said the lad, “when will that be?”

“When the track of lame Dwgen Du climbing Tomennydd y Bala is as fair as the track of Olwen daughter of Ysbaddaden Chief Giant, the one after whom four white clovers would grow in her footprints wherever she would walk.”*

And that is how the lad brought those answers to the amorous-mannered, grief-pallored, pale-cheeked youth from the realm of Rhuawn Befr.

And thus ends the tale of the lad of Iolo Goch from the maid.

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Note: An asterisk * indicates a name, and sometimes the accompanying description, drawn from the tale of How Culhwch Got Olwen.  A double asterisk ** indicates a name found in The Mabinogi, but not in Culhwch. A cross + indicates a name found in Trioedd Ynys Prydein / The Triads of the Island of Britain.

© John K. Bollard, 2007

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Araith Iolo Goch
(Mostyn 133.II.1-10)

Llyfr Sion ap Wiliam ap Sion o Araetheu

Areith Iolo Goch am y rriain ardderchog

Cyfoeth Ruawn Befr vab Drothach Wledig oedd Wynedd gynt, a chyvoeth Brochwel Ysgithroc oedd Bywys. A makwy serchowgddeddf kystuddliw deuruddlas o gyvoeth Rruawn Befr oedd yn lladrad garu nebun rriain ardderchawc ddissymlgall barablau ruddelldrem dehyrneiddliw o deyrnlwyth Brochwel Ysgithroc, yr honn oedd yn rragori pryd gosgedd glendyd a goleuni rrac y ddwy seren arbennic – nid amgen yr Haul a’r Lleuad, y rrai fydd yn rroi goleuad i bedwar ban byd – nid amgen i Ddeau Dwyrain Gogledd a Gorllewin.

Lle drwc oedd i ddyn arwain nychglwyf o gariad yr unbennes, kans ni allai i dwyn o’i hanvodd, ni chae yntau hithau o’i bodd. Yna y kavas yn ei gyngor anvon atti ddiwydwas synnhwyrgall parablgroyw ehudaidd a hudai yr adar gwylltion or diffeithgoed anialaf.

A rragddo y kerddodd y gwas o’r borau hyd anterth ac o anterth oni oedd gyvuwch haul a blaen gwydd.  Ag yna ef a welai newyddgaer vawr vynor, thyrau amlwc o odidowgwaith a gwaith kaer dro arni.

A rragddo ir aeth i gwas hyd y lle yr oedd yr un bennes gwedy ymgyvansoddi mewn ymravaelion vain gwyrthvawr, Rubi, Perl, a Saffir, mewn odidowgwaith o bali didlawdwaith yn gwneuthur sidanwaith.

Ac yna y dywad y gwas val hynn wrthi, “Henffych well heddyw o dda ac o ddyn, arglwyddes y tegwch, meistres y goludoedd, ac ymherodres y rrianedd.  Y mae makwy serchowgddeddf gystuddliw deuruddlas o gyvoeth Rruawn Befr sydd yn nychu o’th gariad. Mae dy gyngor voneddigaiddverch vonheddic wrth hynny?”

“O was,” heb y verch, “hwyl ddissyvyd yw honno, a minnau sydd a chenedl ac a chynghorwyr ym a phann gaffwyf vi y rreini ynghyd ti a gai atteb.”

“Arglwyddes,” heb y gwas, “pa bryd vydd hynny?”

“Pann vo kynn rrydded i Goch y sebon ordderchu gwraic priod Gwilym ap Iolo ac a vu i Uthr Benndragon ordderchu Eigr, gwraic Gwrlais, iarll Kernyw.”

“Arglwyddes,” heb y gwas, “pa bryd vydd hynny?”

“Pan vo kyhyd braich Gomach Grythor a braich Kaswallon Lawhir, y gwr a gyrhaeddai y maen odd’ar y llawr i ladd y vran heb ostwng i gefn, kans kyhyd oedd i vraich a’i ystlys, ac o’i ystlys hyd y llawr.”

“Arglwyddes,” heb y gwas, “pa bryd vydd hynny?”

“Pann vo kystal Gwalltwr Monni Grach o Vaelor ac Abssalon ap Davydd Broffwyd, yr hwnn y rroe verched yr India naw talent o aur nowtawdd am un blewyn o wallt i benn i wneuthur gwaith ac anrrydedd yn i gylch.”

“Arglwyddes,” heb y gwas, “pa bryd vydd hynny?”

“Pann vo kystal gavael Atkyn Grupl, a Glewlwyd Gavaelvawr, y gwr a ddyrchavodd y pair i lawr oddi ar y tan yn i unllaw yn llys Toron tair ynys Brydain, a chic llenn saith ychen ynddaw yn verwedic.”

“Arglwyddes,” heb y gwas, “pa bryd vydd hynny?”

“Pann vo kystal gwely Madoc Hirgir ar adlaw llynn gwerth yn Rrossyr y Mon, a Math vab Mathonwy, y gwr ni chysgai ond a’i draed y mlonec morwyn ieuank ac nis deffroe onis kyffroe rryvel.”

“Arglwyddes,” heb y gwas, “pa bryd vydd hynny?”

“Pann vo kystal seithydd Deikyn Ddiffrwyth a Mydr vab Mydrydd, y gwr a vedrodd saethu a tharaw y dryw drwy ieuyn i ddwygoes o Gaenoc y Nyffryn Klwyd hyd yn Esgair Oervel yn y Werddon.”

“Arglwyddes,” heb y gwas, “pa bryd vydd hynny?”

“Pann vo kystal pedystr Ffwc Sodlau Segur o Von ac Edyrn vab Gwyddno Garanhir, y gwr a aeth i ymgyfredec ar gwynt pann ddoeth dirvawr lynges i ddwyn gwraic Ffin vab Koed i drais.”

“Arglwyddes,” heb y gwas, “pa bryd vydd hynny?”

“Pann vo kystal ieithydd Davydd Bach ap Madoc Wladaidd ar oll llyn gwerth yn y Deyrnion ac Uriel Wastadiaith, y gwr ni chlybu iaith a’i glustiau nas traehai a’i davod kynn gyflymed ac y klywai.”

“Arglwyddes,” heb y gwas, “pa bryd vydd hynny?”

“Pann vo kynn deked Ystifn y Brain a Sanddef Bryd Angel, y gwr a ddiengys o’r Gadgamlan rrac i deked, kans nid ymyrrai neb arnaw gan dybiaid mae angel adeinoc o’r nefoedd pann i gwelid.”

“Arglwyddes,” heb y gwas, “pa bryd vydd hynny?”

“Pann vo kynn hakred Madoc Kloddaith a Morvran vab Tegid, y gwr a ddiengys o’r Gadgamlan rrac i hakred, gann bawb yn tybiaid mae kythraul o Uffern oedd ef pann i gwelid.”

“Arglwyddes,” heb y gwas, “pa bryd vydd hynny?”

“Pan vo kystal drem Bleddyn Rrabi a Dremyn ap Dremhidydd, y gwr a ganvyddai drayan y gwybedyn ymhelydr yr haul ymhedwar bann y byd.”

“Arglwyddes,” heb y gwas, “pa bryd vydd hynny?”

“Pann vo kystal klustiwr Deikyn Vongam o Vachynllaith a Chlustvain vab Klustveinir, y gwr a glywai drwst y gwlithyn yn syrthio oddi ar y gownen ymhedwar bann y byd.”

“Arglwyddes,” heb y gwas, “pa bryd vydd hynny?”

“Pann vo kynn ddiweiried Generys Rruthyn a Gwenvrewy, yr honn a ddioddevodd lladd i phenn rrac bod iddi achos unwaith a gwr.”

“Arglwyddes,” heb y gwas, “pa bryd vydd hynny?”

“Pann vo kynn deked ol Dwgen Ddugloff yn kerdded Tomenydd y Bala ac ol Olwen verch Yspadaden Penn Kawr, yr honn y tyvai pedair meillionen gwynion yn olau i thraed pa le bynnac y kerddai hi.”

Ac val hynn y doeth y gwas a’r attebion hynny at y makwy serchogddeddf deuruddlas o gyvoeth Rruawn Befr.

Ac velly y terfyn chwedl gwas Iolo Goch oddi wrth y verch.