THE BATTLE OF THE TREES







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The Battle of the Trees (Cad Goddeu) by Taliesin

I have been in many shapes,
Before I attained a congenial form.
I have been a narrow blade of a sword.
I will believe when it appears.1
I have been a drop in the air.
I have been a shining star.
I have been a word in a book.
I have been a book originally.
I have been a light in a lantern
A year and a half.
I have been a bridge for passing over
Three score rivers.
I have journeyed as an eagle.
I have been a boat on the sea.
I have been a director in battle.
I have been the string of a child's swaddling clout.
1 This line is evidently an interpolation.
I have been a sword in the hand.
I have been a shield in fight.
I have been the string of a harp,
Enchanted for a year
In the foam of water.
I have been a poker in the fire.
I have been a tree in a covert.
There is nothing in which I have not been.
I have fought, though small,
In the Battle of Godeu Brig,
Before the ruler of Britain,
Abounding in fleets.
Indifferent bards pretend,1
They pretend a monstrous beast,
With a hundred heads,
And a grievous combat
At the root of his tongue.
And another fight there is
At the back of his head.
A toad having on his thighs
A hundred claws,
A spotted crested snake,
For punishing in their flesh
A hundred souk on account of their sins.
I was in Caer Fefenydd,
Thither were hastening grass and tree.
Wayfarers perceive them,
Warriors are astonished
At a renewal of the conflicts
Such as Gwydion made.
There is calling on Heaven,
And on Christ that he would effect
Their deliverance,
The all-powerful Lord.
If the Lord had answered,
Through charms and magic skill,
1 This line is evidently an interpolation.
In Gomer, part ii. p. 74, this is translated :
Before the ruler of Britain
There hastily passed midland horses,
Fleets full of wealth.
But the lines are evidently wrongly placed, and " feirch " has been writ
for " feirdd." The above restoration renders the passage intelligible.
Assume the forms of the principal trees,
With you in array
Restrain the people
Inexperienced in battle.
When the trees were enchanted
There was hope for the trees,
That they should frustrate the intention
Of the surrounding fires.
The eight following lines, commencing 'The chiefs are falling, ending with Blood of men up to the hips',
the intermediate lines appear unintelligible, belong, as it seems to me, to some of the Gododin Gorchans. The poem continues :
Better are three in unison,
And enjoying themselves in a circle,
And one of them relating
The story of the deluge,
And of the cross of Christ,
And of the day of judgment near at hand.
The alder-trees in the first line,1
They made the commencement.
Willow and quicken tree,
They were slow in their array.
The plum is a tree
Not beloved of men ;
The medlar of a like nature,
Overcoming severe toil.
The bean bearing in its. shade
An army of phantoms.
The raspberry makes
Not the best of food.
In shelter live,
The privet and the woodbine,
And the ivy in its season.
Great is the gorse in battle.
The cherry-tree had been reproached.
1 The subject of the enchanted trees here commences again.
The birch, though very magnanimous,
Was late in arraying himself;
It was not through cowardice,
But on account of his great size.
The appearance of the . . .
Is that of a foreigner and a savage.
The pine-tree in the court,
Strong in battle,
By me greatly exalted
In the presence of kings,
The elm-trees are his subjects.
He turns not aside the measure of a foot,
But strikes right in the middle,
And at the farthest end.
The hazel is the judge,
His berries are thy dowry.
The privet is blessed.
Strong chiefs in war
Are the . . . and the mulberry.
Prosperous the beech-tree.
The holly dark green,
He was very courageous :
Defended with spikes on every side,
Wounding the hands.
The long-enduring poplars1
Very much broken in fight.
The plundered fern ;
The brooms with their offspring :
The furze was not well behaved
Until he was tamed.
The heath was giving consolation,
Comforting the people.
The black cherry-tree was pursuing.
The oak-tree swiftly moving,
Before him tremble heaven and earth,
Stout doorkeeper against the foe
Is his name in all lands.
The corn-cockle2 bound together,
Was given to be burnt.3
1The light wood of the poplar was used in making shields.
2Clafuswydd —the sick or diseased wood. Dr. Owen translates it "cyanus, or blue corn-cockle."
3 Or cut down.

Others were rejected
On account of the holes made
By great violence
In the field of battle.
Very wrathful the . . .
Cruel the gloomy ash.
Bashful the chestnut-tree,
Retreating from happiness.
There shall be a black darkness,1
There shall be a shaking of the mountain,
There shall be a purifying furnace,
There shall first be a great wave,
And when the shout shall be heard
Putting forth new leaves are the tops of the beech,
Changing form and being renewed from a withered state ;
Entangled are the tops of the oak.
From the Gorchan of Maelderw.
Smiling at the side of the rock
(Was) the pear-tree not of an ardent nature.2
Neither of mother or father,
When I was made,
Was my blood or body ;
Of nine kinds of faculties,
Of fruit of fruits,
Of fruit God made me,
Of the blossoms of the mountain primrose,
It appears to me that the lines beginning " There shall be," &c. belong
that part of this piece which mentions the discourse concerning the Deluge
the Day of Judgment; that the line "O gwarchan Maelderw" was
initially a marginal note to the lines beginning "Cwyddynt a maereu;"
that the three lines
An deilas blaen bedw
An datrith an datedw
An maglas blaen derw,
belong to the following fragment, which is an imitation of the creation of the
woman from flowers by the enchanter Gwydion.
Then we see that the two following lines have clearly been displaced from
list of the trees, this suggestion, which clears away many of the difficulties
hereto met with in the explanation of this piece, will appear to be right.
2Dr. Owen's copy gives " per," a, pear-tree, instead of " ner," a lord, as
in Myvyrian Archaeology, which renders the line intelligible.
Of the buds of trees and shrubs,
Of earth of earthly kind.
When I was made
Of the blossoms of the nettle,
Of the water of the ninth wave,
I was spell-bound by Math
Before I became immortal.1
I was spell-bound by Gwydion,
Great enchanter of the Britons,
Of Eurys, of Eurwn,
Of Euron, of Medron,
In myriads of secrets,
I am as learned as Math.
I know about the Emperor
When he was half burnt.
I know the star-knowledge
Of stars before the earth (was made),
Whence I was born,
How many worlds there are.
It is the custom of accomplished bards
To recite the praise of their country.
I have played in Lloughor,2
I have slept in purple.
Was I not in the enclosure
With Dylan Ail Mor,
In the centre of the enclosure,
Between the two knees of the prince
Upon two blunt spears ?3
When from heaven came
The torrents into the deep,
Hushing with violent impulse.
(I know) four score songs,
For administering to their pleasure.
There is neither old nor young;
Except me as to their poems,
Any other singer who knows the whole of the nine hundred
Which are known to me,
Concerning the blood-spotted sword.4
1Owen, Dictionary.
2The castle of Urien Rheged at Aber Llychwr.
3The story of Dylan Ail Mor, or Ail Ton, is lost. A very short notice ofhim is given in the tale of Math ab Mathonwy.
4Perhaps the blood-dropping lance in the tale of Peredur mab Evrau
Honour is my guide.
Profitable learning is from the Lord.
(I know) of the slaying of the boar,
Its appearing, its disappearing,
Its knowledge of languages.1
(I know) the light whose name is Splendour,
And the number of the ruling lights
That scatter rays of fire
High above the deep.
I have been a spotted snake upon a hill ;
I have been a viper in a lake ;
I have been an evil star formerly.
I have been a weight (in a mill. (?)
My cassock is red all over.2
I prophesy no evil.
Four score puffs of smoke
To every one who will carry them away;
And a million of angels,
On the point of my knife.3
Handsome is the yellow steed,4
But a hundred times better
Is my cream-coloured horse,
Swift as the sea-mew,
Which cannot pass me
Between the sea and the shore.
Am I not pre-eminent in the field of blood ?
I have a hundred shares of the spoil.
My wreath is of red jewels,
1refers to the Twrch Trwyth in the tale of Kilhwch and Olwen.
2Stephens quotes two lines from Cynddelw to show that a red robe
most honourable dress among the Welsh (p. 32). This explains the
. of the minstrel in this line.
3this was one of the questions entertained by the middle age monks: how many legions of angels could stand on the point of a pin
4Owen translates this,
Six steeds of yellow hue ;
irch " is in the singular, and the first word is falsely written for
'brave, fine."
lines are in the same style as the "Song of the Horses," and perhaps
to them. The horse-race of Elphin and Maelgwn is probably the reference
Owen translates this,
Six steeds of yellow hue ;
"irch " is in the singular, and the first word is falsely written for
'brave, fine.'
lines are in the same style as the "Song of the Horses," and perhaps
to them. The horse-race of Elphin and Maelgwn is probably ?
Of gold is the border of my shield.
There has not been born one so good as me,
Or ever known,
Except Goronwy,
From the dales of Edry wy.
Long and white are my fingers,
It is long since I was a herdsman.
I travelled over the earth
Before I became a learned person.
I have travelled, I have made a circuit ;
I have slept in a hundred islands ;
I have dwelt in a hundred cities.
Learned Druids,
Prophesy ye of Arthur ?
Or is it me they celebrate,
And the Crucifixion of Christ,
And the Day of Judgment near at hand,
And one relating
The history of the Deluge?
With a golden jewel set in gold
I am enriched ;
And I am indulging in pleasure
Out of the oppressive toil of the goldsmith.

Dr. Owen Pughe translates the last three lines : —
" I am splendid, I am wanton from the oppression of the chemist."
The Rev. E. Davies gives :
" With my precious golden device upon my piece of gold, lo ! I am that splendid one who sportively comes from the invading host of the Fferyll."

It is quite evident that the mystery and Druidism of this passage is in the translation, and not in the original. Fferyfl
is a worker in metals, a metallurgist, or artist in general, and, as the subject here is a golden jewel, may very fairly be trans-
lated " goldsmith. "

We cannot see in that portion of this poem which relates to the personification of the trees, any reference to the employment of sprigs or branches of trees, in the formation of a symbolical alphabet. We cannot here go at length into the question of the origin of the written characters employed by the Welsh Bards, but may assert that there is no evidence that they ever possessed any other alphabet than that of the Roman form called the " set Saxon," or that they had, like
the Irish, an alphabet in which the names of the letters were derived from those of trees. We have already mentioned the Alphabet of Nemnivus, the history of which speaks for itself, and does not pretend to be older than the ninth century at the earliest. We need say no more about the Coelbren y Beirdd of Edward and Taliesin Williams, than that if Triads can be kept in a private repository, to be produced for the first time in the nineteenth century, to prove the existence and employment of a Bardic alphabet any number of centuries earlier, there can be no difficulty in proving anything which may be deemed desirable.

This later "Battle of the Trees" may hae been derived from an earlier work that was worked into Christian allegory.

That the story of the real Cad Goddeu was known to the minstrels, is shown by the allusion in the " Cerdd am Veib Llyr":
I was in the Cad Goddeu with Llew and Gwydion,
He who changed the form of wood, earth, and plants.
I was with Bran in Ireland ;
I saw when Mordwydtyllon was slain, &c.

Archdeacon Williams has entertained the idea that the word Derwydd, " a Druid," is compounded of derw, "an oak," and gwydd, " knowledge." We do not, however, know the form of the word earlier than the twelfth century. But the Archdeacon connects the word through dar, " an oak," with taran"a thunderbolt."



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