Englynion y Beddau

from Gwasg Carreg Gwalch:
A gem of early medieval Welsh poetry
in both the original Welsh and English translation

Englynion y Beddau | The Stanzas of the Graves is a new, sumptuously illustrated edition and translation of verses from the famous Black Book of Carmarthen (c. 1250) and three later manuscripts. These stanzas, composed in the ninth or tenth century, name over a hundred heroes from the traditional, legendary, and mythological Welsh past. The Welsh text is presented in modern Welsh spelling, alongside a close English translation. Extensive notes are provided giving information about names and places, and a brief essay explores various aspects of the poem's composition, function, and cultural context.

Here are heroes from The Mabinogi, from Arthurian legend, and from the heroic age of the fifth to eighth centuries.

Yn Aber Gwenoli                                                      At Aber Gwenoli
y mae bedd Pryderi.                                                   is the grave of Pryderi.
Yn y tery tonnau tir                                                   Where the waves strike the land
yng Ngarrog -- bed Gwallog Hir.                              at Carrog -- the grave of Gwallog the Tall.

* * *

Bedd Owain ab Urien ym mhedryael byd                The grave of Owain son of Urien in a four-sided world
      dan weryd Llanforfael.                                              under the earth of Llanforfael.
   Yn Abererch – Rhydderch Hael.                               At Abererch – Rhydderch the Generous.

The graves of more than 100 figures (including four women) are mentioned, though only about two-thirds of their graves are given named locations. This suggests that the englynion, especially those in the Black Book, have a raison d'etre beyond that of serving as a catalogue of names and gravesites. Taken as poetic expression, Englynion y Beddau in the Black Book are perhaps best read as a meditation on the permanence of the grave. The recognition of the ineluctable finality of death is a persistent feature that all of these stanzas share. Such a reading is also consistent with an interest in the subject of death that the scribe of the Black Book reveals in other poems he collected, as well.

The text, notes, and afterword are illuminated by 80 photographs by Anthony Griffiths of cromlechs, standing stones, stone circles, streams, rivers, and mountains to which the traditions of the earliest Welsh heroes became attached.

Copies are available in the US from the author, from the Broadside Bookshop in Northampton, Massachusetts, or from Amazon.com. It is also available in bookstores throughout Wales and from the publisher, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch.

To go to The Mabinogi home page, click here.