Text: To the Court of Owain Glyndwr in Sycharth

Iolo Goch [“Iolo the Red”] (c.1320 – c.1398) was born in the Vale of Clwyd (in north-east Wales) to a family slowly losing its economic and political power due to the ascendency of the English. He helped Welsh poetic tradition to adjust to the new social order, seeking out patrons amongst the remnants of the Welsh gentry throughout the country, and even composing one poem to English King Edward III. This poem was composed to Owain Glyndwr, the Welsh prince of Powys, who revolted against English occupation in 1400.

The text below is from Johnston, Iolo Goch, pp. 38-42 and used here by kind permission of the translator.

§ 1. I have promised twice before now, fair promise, promising a journey;
let everyone fulfill, as much as is due,
his promise which he promises.
A very great pilgrimage,
certain prosperity, such a dear destination,
is going, swift promise,
It is beneficial, towards Owain’s court;
swiftly will I go there,
not bad, there will I dwell
to bring honour into my life
by exchanging greetings with him;
my liege can, highest lineage,
bright golden head, receive an old codger;
it is praiseworthy, though it is but alms,
Course without shame, to be kind to the old.
I will go to his court in haste,
The most splendid of the two hundred;
a baron’s court, place of refinement,
Where many poets come, place of the good life; queen of great Powys, Maig’s land,
promise of good hope.

§ 2. This is its manner and its form
In the bright circle of water within an embankment: (isn’t the court fine?) a bridge on the lake,
and one gate through which would go a hundred loads; there are couples, they are couple work,
every couple is coupled together;
Patrick’s bell house, French fruit,
the cloister of Westminster, comfortable enclosure;
each corner is bound together in the same way,
golden chancel, it is entirely symmetrical,
bonds side by side above,
cheek-to-cheek like an earth house,
and every one looking like a tight knot
Is tied fast to the next one,
nine-plated buildings on the scale of eighteen mansions, fair wooden buildings on top of a green hill;
on four wonderful pillars
his court is nearer to heaven;
on top of each stout wooden pillar
a loft built firmly on the summit of a croft,
and the four lofts of loveliness
coupled together where poets sleep;
the four bright lofts turned,
a very fair nest load, into eight lofts;
a tiled roof on every house with frowning forehead, And a chimney from which the smoke would grow;
nine symmetrical identical halls,
and nine wardrobes by each one,
bright fair shops with fine contents,
a lovely full shop like London’s Cheapside;
a cross-shaped church with a fair chalk-coloured exterior chapels with splendid glass windows;
a full bakehouse on every side of the court, an orchard, a vineyard by a white court;
a lovely mill on flowing water,
and his dovecot with bright stone tower;
a fishpond, hollow enclosure,
what is needed to cast nets;
place most abounding, not for dispute;
In pike and fine sewin [sea-trout],
and his bordland and his live birds,
peacocks, splendid herons;
bright meadows of grass and hay,
grain in well-kept fields,
the rabbit park of our patriarch,
ploughs and sturdy horses, great words;
by the court, outshining the other,
stags graze in another park;
his serfs perform all fitting tasks,
those are the necessities of an estate,
bringing the best brew of beer from Shrewsbury,
liquors of foaming bragget [spiced liquor of ale and honey], every drink, white bread and wine,
and his meat and his fire for his kitchen;
shelter of poets, everyone wherever he be,
were it daily, he will have everyone there,
loveliest wooden court, chief without fault,
of the kingdom, may God protect it,
and the best woman of all women,
blessed am I by her wine and her mead!
Fair girl from the line of a knightly ruler,
she is dignified and noble by nature;
and his children come in pairs,
a fine nestful of chieftains.

§ 3. Very rarely was bolt or lock
to be seen there,
nor did anyone act as porter;
there will be no want, beneficial gift, nor lack not hunger nor shame,
Nor ever thirst in Sycharth.
The best Welshman, valorous feat, owns the country, of Pywer Lew’s line,
slender strong man, best spot,
and owns the court, splendid is the place.

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