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

Wales: Dòl Ciog

The Lament of Llywarch

By Llywarch Hên (6th century)

  • Translated by Edward Jones
  • “Llywarch Hên, or Llywarch the aged, a Cumbrian prince, is the third great bard of the British annals. He passed his younger days at the court of King Arthur, with the honorable distinction of a free guest. When the British power was weakened by the death of Arthur, Llywarch was called to the aid of his kinsman Urien Reged, king of Cumbria, and the defence of his own principality, against the irruptions of the Saxons.
  • This princely bard had four-and-twenty sons, all invested with the golden torques, which appears to have been the ancient badge of British nobility. Many of them were slain in the Cumbrian wars, and the Saxons at length prevailed. The unfortunate Llywarch, and his few surviving sons, fled into Powys, there to revive the unequal and unsuccessful contest under the auspices of the Prince of Powys. Cynddylan having lost, in the issue of these wars, all his sons and friends, he retired to a hut at Aber Ciog in North Wales, to soothe with his harp the remembrance of misfortune, and vent with elegiac numbers the sorrows of old age in distress.”—Jones’s Welsh Bards.

  • THE CUCKOW sends forth her longing and complaining voice,

    When she has fled from the pursuit of the Hawk,

    And condoles with me at the waters of Ciog.

    In spring all nature is beautiful and glad:

    It is the season when heroes hasten to the field of war:

    But I cannot go; infirmity will not suffer me.

    The birds sing, and loud is the cry

    Of the strong-scented hounds in the desert:

    Again the birds are heard to warble.

    The birds sing, the brooks murmur,

    The moon shines out; it is the cold hour of midnight;

    And my heart droops under its lingering cares.

    Hear you not how the waves roar,

    And dash from rock to rock?

    O my weak heart! may my senses be granted me to-night!


    Before I used a staff, I was comely and eloquent:

    I was a free and welcome guest in the palace

    Of Powys, the paradise of Wales.

    Before I used a staff, I was splendidly apparelled:

    My spear was of the largest size; its thrust was terrible:

    But now my years are many; I am feeble, I am miserable.

    O my staff! in summer

    The furrows are red, and the tender blades spring forth:

    Thou art to me instead of my lost kindred, when I look upon thy beak.

    Valleys were thrown up for the trenches of the fortress:

    And I will arm myself with my shield.

    My mind must be disordered ere I give way.

    When danger overtakes thee, O Urien,

    Blow thou the horn which I gave thee,

    Whose mouth is tipped with gold.

    Ghastly was the wound when Pyll was slain:

    Blood streamed from his hair

    On the bank of the rapid Ffraw.

    Distinguished among all my sons

    When they singled out their adversaries,

    Pyll rushed with the violence of flames through the streams of Llifon.

    When, mounted on his prancing steed,

    He halted at the door of his tent,

    The wife of Pyll gloried in her husband.

    Gwên! how joyous did I behold thee last night!

    Thou hadst no roof to cover thee,

    But didst traverse, cold, the banks of Morlas.

    O Gwên! thou that wert dreadful in thine anger!

    My thoughts are bloody because thou art slain:

    Relentless was he that slew thee.

    O Gwên! sire of a powerful progeny!

    Thou wert the attack of an eagle

    At the mouths of mighty rivers.

    Let the waves cease to roar, the rivers to flow,

    Since this fatal deed has been perpetrated!

    Alas! my Gwên! in my trembling age have I lost thee.

    My son was a hero: the sun was below Gwên.

    He was the nephew of Urien.

    He was slain by the Ford of Morlas.

    I had four-and-twenty sons;

    All leaders of armies, all decked with the golden torques:

    Gwên was the bravest of them all.

    I had four-and-twenty sons,

    All princely chiefs, all decked with chains of gold.

    But compared with Gwên, the rest were children.

    These were my sons,

    The favorites of bards;

    And fair is their renown.