Friday, January 14, 2011

The Lament for Cynddylan

Cynddylan’s hall is dark tonight,
there burns no fire, no bed is made.
I weep a while, and then fall silent.

Cynddylan’s hall is dark tonight
No fire is lit, no candle burns.
Except for God, who will keep me sane?

Cynddylan’s hall: it pierces me
To see it roofless, fireless.
My lord is dead, but I am alive.

Cynddylan’s hall is dark tonight,
without a fire, without songs.
Tears wear away the cheeks.

Cynddylan’s hall is desolate tonight,
Where once I sat in honor.
Gone are the men who held it, gone the women.

Cynddylan’s hall: its roof is dark
since the English brought down
Cynddylan and his gold-torc’d men.

Welsh poem, perhaps dating to the 8th century. It describes the death of Cynddlan, king of a British realm centered on Wroxeter, who fell fighting against the Saxons around AD 656.


Unknown said...

Lovely. Where did you find it?

Interesting that the beloved lord in hall motif transcended the ethnic boundary so clearly, while still attaching itself to that boundary (the hall stood until the "English" destroyed it).

What do you make of the "torc-wearing" business? Did Welsh warriors of the seventh century really wear torcs? Or is it simply a poets' image?

John said...

I have found two wonderful collections of Welsh texts, at


I changed the translation a little in line with a translation of a few stanzas given in Morris's Arthurian Britain book -- he doesn't give a translator for his version.

Hard to tell with such poetry what is traditional and what realistic. This poetry didn't really exist until the 6th century, so I imagine they were wearing torcs then. How would they have known what their pre-Roman ancestors did?