Introduction Edited text Manuscripts Cymraeg

16. Moliant i’r Seintiau

edited by Eurig Salisbury


In the absence of any context, very little can be said with certainty about this poem by Huw Cae Llwyd. In lines 19–24, the poet names Rhobert, a spiritual man praised for his ability to bendigo ‘bless’ who was active in his diocese and associated with St David. This man was surely Robert Tully (Rhobert Dwli), bishop of St David’s 1460–82.

Robert was born in Bristol (DWH ii 558). He studied theology at Oxford from 1451, becoming a bachelor and doctor of theology (Emden 1957–9: iii 1912; the information outlined below comes from this source unless noted otherwise). He was a monk at the Benedictine abbey of Gloucester before being appointed bishop of St David’s on 23 July 1460 (Jones 1910: 55), less than a month before the end of Henry VI’s first reign. He was prevented from entering his see at St David’s during the reign of Edward IV (he lived at Tre-fin and Tenby), and his Lancastrian sympathies came to the fore when he supported Henry VI’s disastrous second reign in 1470/1. He was in London when Edward IV regained the crown in April 1471 and was imprisoned in the Tower. Scofield (1923: ii 22) suggests that Tully found himself in hot water because he had assisted Jasper Tudor, who had played a prominent part in Henry VI’s brief readeption and had fled to Brittany from Tenby in May 1471 (as he had done before to Scotland in 1461). Tully was formally pardoned in September 1472, the last of a number of bishops who received the king’s pardon. By 1479 he was one of Edward’s commissioners in Wales (Griffiths 2014: 35). He facilitated building work at Gloucester and St David’s and (according to Williams 2002: 324) at Tenby. His links with Oxford seem to have continued, as he is noted as the Chancellor’s Commissary in 1469 and blessed the foundation-stone of Magdalen College in 1474. He died before 26 February 1482 (Jones 1910: 55), and Lewys Glyn Cothi composed an elegy in which he suggests that Tully had once been active in Orleans (GLGC poem 93 and p. 568). He was buried at St Mary’s church in Tenby. His heraldic bearings are detailed in DWH i 119, ii 558, iv 235.

Unfortunately, no records have survived from Tully’s period as bishop of St David’s, and later episcopal records mention him only twice. The first refers to his appointment of one Henry Matteston as keeper of the park at the bishop’s palace in Lamphey in 1477 (Roberts 1920: iii 3–4, 119). The second outlines a long-term dispute between the bishops of St David’s and the abbots of Talley concerning the appointment of the rector of Llanfihangel Pen-bryn in Ceredigion (ibid. 107–10). During Tully’s bishopric, one Syr Tomas ap Siancyn was appointed rector of the church by Abbot Dafydd of Talley, and the appointment was approved by the vicar general of St David’s, Morgan Wynter, in the bishop’s absence. Soon after, Tully unexpectedly called at the church for the first time on an official visit, with the intention of ousting the rector and appointing someone else in his place. He relented, however, when Syr Tomas petitioned him at Llwyndafydd.

What is known of Tully throws little light on this poem. In lines 1–28, Huw Cae Llwyd refers to some significant change that happened after the people were released from rhwym sentes ‘the bond of a sentence’ (7), namely some judgement referred to as rhwym y seintwar hen ‘the bond of the ancient sanctuary’ (6). The fact that the lifting of the sentence resulted in spiritual salvation, together with the references to David in lines 19–22 and 39–42, suggest that St David’s was the seintwar ‘sanctuary’ and that the poet is referring to a sentence enforced by the bishopric, such as excommunication. Unfortunately, no such case is known from Tully’s time as bishop.

In lines 19–20, Huw Cae Llwyd says that David had given Tully a rhybudd ‘warning’. Was this some reproach for enforcing the sentes ‘sentence’, or simply instruction on how best to deal with it? If it was the former, the poem may have been composed following Henry VI’s failure to regain the crown in 1470/1. Tully may have expelled Yorkists from his diocese and then had a change of heart after being pardoned by Edward IV. If it is the latter, the poem may have been composed to celebrate the beginning of Tully’s bishopric after the turbulent reign of his predecessor, John de la Bere. Unfortunately, no episcopal records have survived from the time of de la Bere either (Roberts 1920: iii 3; on this somewhat infamous bishop, see Williams 1976: 307–8).

The rest of the poem is a combative exhortation to live a spiritual life. The poet refers to the legend of ‘Cyfranc Lludd a Llefelys’ to demonstrate the importance of banishing gwall o’n plith ‘deceit from our midst’ and using Dŵr swyn i gloi drysau’n gwlad ‘holy water to lock the doors of our land’ (29–36). David is praised again for his ability to drive away a llu du ‘black host’ and to place a llu gwyn oll ‘entirely white host’ in its place (37–42). The military imagery is continued as the poet names two of David’s [c]apteniaid ‘captains’, namely Cynog and Cynidr, two saints from Brycheiniog (43–8), which may suggest that the poem was composed on behalf of patrons from that area, which was part of the diocese of St David’s. Christ is then depicted as a just warrior, and the people are urged to wear Arfau Iesu ar feysyddJesus’s weapons on fields’ as well as [g]wisg MairMary’s vestment’ to protect them from harm (49–60). The poem concludes by praising God for his adherence to his people, possibly in connection with St David’s, and by urging the people to praise God in return (61–6).

Sometime during Robert Tully’s time as bishop of St David’s, 1460–82.

Previous edition
HCLl poem XLIII.

Metre and cynghanedd
Cywydd, 66 lines. Cynghanedd: croes o gyswllt 12% (8 l.), croes 53% (35 l.), traws 21% (14 l.), sain 6% (4 l.), llusg 8% (5 l.). Note the significantly low number of cynganeddion sain.