Ancient British/Welsh nursery rhyme

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      This ancient British/Welsh nursery rhyme, Pais Dinogad, from the 7th century and found, somewhat oddly perhaps, included with Y Gododdin, is believed to be one of the earliest surviving examples of poetry in Welsh, and thus probably the closest to ancient British that we have. I’ve copied and pasted the original version and a translation of it English below, with a link to my source and references as well as a link to a sung version in Welsh.

      The lullaby recounts the deeds of a child’s father, who was a great hunter. What particularly strikes me about this is that the animals in the poem are also animals that figure a lot in Celtic mythology, along with the reference to the club and a spear which never misses in the hands of Dinogad as well as the “eight in chains” (slaves? poetic reference to hunting dogs?). It’s a tantalising thought, albeit pure conjecture, to wonder whether this may hark back to older folk memories of divine figures such as Cernunnos, Hercules or Ogmios.

      Ancient Version

      Peis dinogat e vreith vreith.
      o grwyn balaot ban wreith.
      chwit chwit chwidogeith.
      gochanwn gochenyn wythgeith.
      pan elei dy dat ty e helya;
      llath ar y ysgwyd llory eny law.
      ef gelwi gwn gogyhwc.
      giff gaff. dhaly dhaly dhwg dhwg.
      ef lledi bysc yng corwc.
      mal ban llad. llew llywywg.
      pan elei dy dat ty e vynyd.
      dydygai ef penn ywrch penn gwythwch pen hyd.
      penn grugyar vreith o venyd.
      penn pysc o rayadyr derwennyd.
      or sawl yt gyrhaedei dy dat ty ae gicwein
      o wythwch a llewyn a llwyuein.
      nyt anghei oll ny uei oradein.


      Dinogad’s smock is speckled, speckled,
      It was made from the pelts of martens.

      Wee! Wee!' Whistling.
      We call, they call, the eight in chains.
      When your father went out to hunt -
      A spear on his shoulder, a club in his hand -
      He called on his lively dogs,

      Giff! Gaff! Take, take! Fetch, fetch!’
      He killed fish from his coracle
      Like the lion killing small animals.
      When your father went to the mountains
      He would bring back a roebuck, a boar, a stag,
      A speckled grouse from the mountain,
      And a fish from the Derwennydd falls.
      At whatever your father aimed his spear –
      Be it a boar, a wild cat, or a fox –
      None would escape but that had strong wings.

      Here’s a sung version with some extra lines using old shepherd’s counting “yan, tan, tethera …”


        For some reason it won’t let me post the link. If you look up Pais Dinogad, you can find it online, the version is by Ffynnon.


        david poole

          Thank you for sharing this with us Dowrgi. I have now met Ogmios in my listening to the Book Of Invasions. That is an interesting tale in that it is about a war between the Children of Danu and the Fomorri, most of the gods appear to be warriors and it is not clear whether there is a line being drawn between warriors and gods.


            … it is not clear whether there is a line being drawn between warriors and gods.

            This is one that has puzzled many for a long time. There is a theory that the Christian monks who transcribed these stories downplayed the pagan “divinities” in order to suit the sensibilities of the time, however, given the content of a lot of the stories – with their magic, sorcery, risqué themes and suchlike, I wouldn’t be so sure. Perhaps, and this is a big perhaps, there was no line being drawn between warriors, gods, demi-gods and preternatural/supernatural entities. Perhaps we are trying to box in these stories according to our own modern view, very much shaped by Classical Greek and Roman thought and overlaid with Judaeo-Christian notions of what is and what isn’t a “god”. Just a thought …


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