Introduction Edited text Manuscripts Cymraeg

14. Moliant i seintiau Morgannwg

edited by Eurig Salisbury


Very little can be said with any certainty about this poem by Rhisiart ap Rhys. He addresses Curig directly in the first six lines as he expounds the patron’s good reputation. This man, who is not named, regarded Curig as his patron saint. Later references to places in Morgannwg suggest that he lived near the church of Llanilid by Pen-coed, which is dedicated to both Curig and his mother, but other locations in Morgannwg are possible. In lines 7–10 the poet somewhat surprisingly refers to the gwewyr ‘anguish’ of three men, namely Einion, Gronwy and Owain, and then to two others, Cynwrig and Cadrod, all of whom are unidentifiable for certain. The poet then focuses on the patron’s adventures in London, where he bore arms, feasted with Beirdd breiniol bwrdd y brenin ‘the priviliged poets of the king’s table’ and, most interestingly, saved both Henry VII and queen Elizabeth from a fire that destroyed the palace of Sheen on 23 December 1497 (11–20). The patron may have been one of a number of Welshmen who served in the king’s personal guard (see l. 15n). One of the Yeomen of the Guard, John Thomas (fl. c.1485–c.1531), was receiver of Ogmore and may have lived at one time in Cowbridge but, unfortunately, there is no further evidence to link him to this poem (Hewerdine 2012: 207–9). Another possibility is that the patron had been a poet-harpist for the royal family (see ll. 57–8n).

Rhisiart ap Rhys then mentions the patron’s physical suffering in a religious context by comparing him to Anthony (ll. 21–8n). He lists eight religious figures in lines 29–40, calling upon them to heal his patron. The first is Christ, in the form of the famous rood of Chester, but six of the other seven can be located in Morgannwg: Mary in the form of a famous image at Pen-rhys, Cadog in Llancarfan, Teilo in Llandaff, Tyfodwg in Llandyfodwg and Ystradyfodwg, Barwg in Barry and Bedwas, and Ellteyrn in Llanilltern. One other saint, Derfel, can be located in Llandderfel near Cwm-brân in Gwent.

If the poet is referring to the patron in lines 41–8 (see ll. 41–2n, 43–8n), he may have lived near a place called ⁠y Groes Wen⁠ (see l. 48n). The poet then calls on two saints from the Vale of Glamorgan, Sanwyr and Ceinwyr, to heal his patron (49–52). The next lines (53–4, 57‒8) seem to suggest that the patron had injured his torso, perhaps his arm specifically (cf. references to the patron’s hand in ll. 11–14, and to his breast in l. 26). The poet concludes his poem defiantly, insisting that he patron will eventually overcome his injury (59–62). In contrast to much of the poetry of Rhisiart ap Rhys’s more talented contemporaries, this quite unrefined poem provides very little background information about the interesting events to which it alludes. It may never have crossed Rhisiart’s mind that his poem would be known to anyone except its immediate audience, to whom the context would have been quite obvious.

Sometime between Christmas 1497 and the end of Rhisiart ap Rhys’s floruit, c.1515 (GRhB viii). If the patron was injured as he saved the king and queen from the fire at Sheen in 1497, the reference in line 24 to [p]um mlynedd ‘five years’ may suggest that the poem was composed in 1502.

Previous edition
GRhB poem 8.

Metre and cynghanedd
Cywydd, 62 lines. Cynghanedd: croes o gyswllt 3% (2 l.), croes 56% (35 ll.), traws 27% (17 ll.), sain 3% (2 l.), llusg 9% (6 ll.). Note the extremely low number of cynganeddion sain. Lines 7 and 59 are counted as cynganeddion croes, but they could also be counted as cynganeddion llusg. Line 30 is counted as a cynghanedd groes, but it could also be counted as a cynghanedd sain.