Reply To: The last verse of The Story of Taliesin


    Hi Richard,

    This is a vast topic indeed, I’ll try to be as brief as I can. 😀

    First and foremost, there are two ‘Taliesins’, at least in terms of literary history and historiography. We have the Taliesin of the 6th century and whose works deal with the trials and tribulations of the Hen Ogledd (The Old North) and so on, and then we have the ‘Taliesin’ of a later Mediaeval period, around the 12th century. It seems that Welsh bards may have adopted the persona, perhaps even ‘channelled’ Taliesin, so to speak, in producing some of the works that have been attributed to the famous bard. What you have quoted, from Hanes Taliesin, dates from the later period, at least in terms of when it was written down.

    To my eyes, it almost sounds nationalist,

    Simply put, well, it is. The Britons, later divided into Welsh, Cornish, Bretons and Cumbrians/People of the Old North, were generally speaking pretty aggrieved with what they perceived as Anglo-Saxon treachery, and theft at sword point of their lands. Furthermore, during the early period, the Britons/Romano-Britons were Christians and the Anglo-Saxons were not – adding all the more to the hostility. Needless to say, the feelings of mutual dislike – at least at a socio-political level – were fairly strong and fairly mutual. These were warring, tribal societies of the Middle Ages, warrior societies with notions of divine kingship and immortality through fame. In terms of the aristocracy – warrior elites – the ethos was along the lines of live fast, die gloriously, and leave a good sounding poem! Now, it wasn’t all swords, castles, and fighting, but a big part of it was, and that’s what you’ll often see reflected in the literature of this period.

    As an extra note, the Cymry are the ‘compatriots’. The Cornish are the Kernowyon, Cornovians, Cornwall – West Wales or the land of the Cornubian Welsh. The Bretons are Britons. The word Welsh, on the other hand, comes from an Anglo-Saxon word for ‘foreigners’ or ‘strangers’ and, at various periods in history, had pejorative senses.

    Anyway, I hope that helps a little.