Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  The Hirlas Horn

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
England: Vols. I–IV. 1876–79.

Wales: Introductory

The Hirlas Horn

By Owain Cyfeiliog (c. 1130–1197)

  • Translated by Robert Williams
  • “This instrument was sometimes called Corn Hirlas, Corn Cyweithas, and Corn Cychwin; names which signify the long blue horn, the horn of the household, and the marching horn. It was made, and received its general appellation, from the horn of the buffalo, bugle, or wild ox, an animal formerly common in Wales. In the time of King Howel it was the office of the master of the royal hounds to sound his bugle-horn, in war, for a march, and to give the alarm and signal of battle. He likewise used it in hunting, to animate the hunters and the dogs, and to call the latter together…. There were three bugle-horns belonging to the King: his drinking-horn, the horn for calling together the household, and the horn of the master of the hounds.”—Jones’s Relicks of the Welsh Bards.

  • UPROSE the ruddy dawn of day;

    The armies met in dread array

    On Maelor Drefred’s field:

    Loud the British clarions sound,

    The Saxons, gasping on the ground,

    The bloody contest yield.

    By Owen’s arm the valiant bled;

    From Owen’s arm the coward fled

    Aghast with wild affright:

    Let then their haughty lords beware

    How Owen’s just revenge they dare,

    And tremble at his sight.

    Fill the Hirlas Horn, my boy,

    Nor let the tuneful lips be dry

    That warble Owen’s praise;

    Those walls with warlike spoils are hung,

    And open wide his gates are flung

    In Cambria’s peaceful days.

    This hour we dedicate to joy;

    Then fill the Hirlas Horn, my boy,

    That shineth like the sea;

    Whose azure handle, tipped with gold,

    Invites the grasp of Britons bold,

    The sons of liberty.

    Fill it higher still, and higher,

    Mead with noblest deeds inspire.

    Now the battle ’s lost and won,

    Give the horn to Gronwy’s son;

    Put it into Gwgan’s hand,

    Bulwark of his native land,

    Guardian of Sabrina’s flood,

    Who oft has dyed his spear in blood.

    When they hear their chieftain’s voice,

    Then his gallant friends rejoice;

    But when to fight he goes, no more

    The festal shout resounds on Severn’s winding shore.

    Fill the gold-tipped horn with speed

    (We must drink, it is decreed).

    Badge of honor, badge of mirth,

    That calls the soul of music forth!

    As thou wilt thy life prolong,

    Fill it with Metheglin strong.

    Gruffudd thirsts, to Gruffudd fill;

    Whose bloody lance is used to kill;

    Matchless in the field of strife,

    His glory ends not with his life:

    Dragon-son of Cynvyn’s race,

    Owen’s shield, Arwystli’s grace,

    To purchase fame the warriors flew,

    Dire, and more dire, the conflict grew;

    When flushed with mead they bravely fought,

    Like Belyn’s warlike sons, that Edwin’s downfall wrought.

    Fill the horn with foaming liquor,

    Fill it up, my boy, be quicker;

    Hence away, despair and sorrow!

    Time enough to sigh to-morrow.

    Let the brimming goblet smile,

    And Ednyfed’s care beguile;

    Gallant youth, unused to fear,

    Master of the broken spear,

    And the arrow-pierced shield,

    Brought with honor from the field.

    Like an hurricane is he,

    Bursting on the troubled sea.

    See their spears distained with gore!

    Hear the din of battle roar.

    Bucklers, swords, together clashing,

    Sparkles from their helmets flashing!

    Hear ye not their loud alarms?

    Hark! they shout,—to arms! to arms!

    Thus were Garthen’s plains defended,

    Maelor fight began and ended.

    There two princes fought, and there

    Was Morach Vorvran’s feast exchanged for rout and fear.

    Fill the horn: ’t is my delight,

    When my friends return from fight,

    Champions of their country’s glory,

    To record each gallant story.

    To Ynyr’s comely offsprings fill,

    Foremost in the battle still;

    Two blooming youths, in counsel sage,

    As heroes of maturer age;

    In peace and war alike renowned;

    Be their brows with garlands crowned,

    Decked with glory let them shine,

    The ornament and pride of Ynyr’s ancient line!

    To Selyf fill, of Eagle-heart,

    Skilled to hurl the fatal dart:

    With the Wolf’s impetuous force

    He urgeth on his headlong course.

    To Tudor next, great Madoc’s son,

    They the race of honor run

    Together in the tented field,

    And both alike disdain to yield.

    Like a lion in the fray,

    Tudor darts upon his prey.

    Rivals in the feats of war,

    Where danger called they rushed from far;

    Till shattered by some hostile stroke,

    With horrid clang their shields were broke;

    Loud as the foaming billows roar,

    Or fierce contending winds on Talgath’s stormy shore.

    Fill the horn with rosy wine,

    Brave Moreiddig claims it now,

    Chieftain of an ancient line,

    Dauntless heart, and open brow.

    To the warrior it belongs,

    Prince of battles, theme of songs!

    Pride of Powys, Mochnant’s boast!

    Guardian of his native coast!—

    But ah! his short-lived triumph ’s o’er,

    Brave Moreiddig is no more!

    To his pensive ghost we ’ll give

    Due remembrance, while we live;

    And in fairy fiction dressed,

    Flowing hair, and sable vest,

    The tragic Muse shall grace our songs,

    While brave Moreiddig’s name the mournful strain prolongs.

    Pour out the horn (though he desire it not),

    And heave a sigh on Morgan’s early grave;

    Doomed in his clay-cold tenement to rot,

    While we revere the memory of the brave.

    Fill again the Hirlas Horn.

    On that ever-glorious morn,

    The Britons and their foes between,

    What prodigies of might were seen!

    On Gwestyn’s plain the fight began;

    But Gronwy sure was more than man!

    Him to resist, on Gwestyn’s plain,

    A hundred Saxons strove in vain.

    To set the noble Meyric free,

    And change his bonds to liberty,

    The warriors vowed. The God of day

    Scarce darted his meridian ray,

    When he beheld the conquerors steeped in gore,

    And Gwestyn’s bloody fight, ere highest, noon was o’er.

    Now a due libation pour

    To the spirits of the dead,

    Who, that memorable hour,

    Made the hostile plain their bed.

    There the glittering steel was seen,

    There the twanging bow was heard;

    There the mighty pressed the green,

    Recorded by the faithful Bard.

    Madoc there, and Meilir brave,

    Sent many a Saxon to his grave.

    Their drink was mead; their hearts were true;

    And to the head their shafts they drew;

    But Owen’s guards, in terrible array,

    Resistless march along, and make the world give way.

    Pour the sweet transparent mead

    (The spear is red in time of need),

    And give to each departed spirit

    The honor and reward of merit.

    What cares surround the regal state,

    What anxious thoughts molest the great,

    None but a prince himself can know,

    And Heaven, that ruleth kings, and lays the mighty low.

    For Daniel fill the horn so green,

    Of haughty brow and angry mien;

    While the lessening tapers shine

    Fill it up with generous wine.

    He nor quarter takes nor gives,

    But by spoils and rapine lives.

    Comely is the youth, and brave;

    But obdurate as the grave.

    Hadst thou seen, in Maelor fight,

    How we put the foe to flight!

    Hadst thou seen the chiefs in arms,

    When the foe rushed on in swarms!

    Round about their prince they stood,

    And stained their swords with hostile blood.

    Glorious bulwarks! To their praise

    Their prince devotes his latest lays.—

    Now, my boy, thy task is o’er;

    Thou shalt fill the horn no more.

    Long may the King of kings protect,

    And crown with bliss, my friends elect;

    Where Liberty and Truth reside,

    And Virtue, Truth’s immortal bride!

    There may we all together meet,

    And former times renew in heavenly converse sweet!