Satire on the Men of Chester - Lewys Glyn Cothi
Edited by Helen Fulton
Dychan i Ŵyr o Gaer
There was a tradition, attested only from the evidence of poems by Lewys Glyn Cothi, that he spent some time in Chester and was badly treated there, resulting in his leaving the city in some disgruntlement. This is one of the poems that expresses his displeasure against the people of Chester. According to a note in one manuscript copy of the poem (Peniarth 75), the citizens of Chester vandalised Lewys’s wordly goods out of jealousy because he married a widow of the city without their permission; other manuscripts say that Lewys was thrown out of the city because he prophesied that Henry Tudor would take the throne, unpalatable news to the staunchly Yorkist city of Chester (Johnston 1995:,624).
Satire in this style – a long string of invective becoming increasingly strident and coarse – was one of the stock genres of Welsh bardic tradition. As a conventional form, often visited by the poets on each other, its function was mainly comic entertainment.
Author: Lewys Glyn Cothi
Printed Text: Johnston, 1995, no. 215.
Â’i onn, ŵyr
Einion, ar ais—i daeog
y dial ddwyn fy mhais,
15dwyn fy ngŵn, dragwn i drais
dan ei fawd, dwyn a fudais.
Iddi wedi i mi ym mhob modd
roi fy na yn nghwr fy neuadd,
gennyf nid oedd ar gynnydd
drannoeth ond yr ewinedd.
25Ôl ewin Rheinallt,
ôl ei wewyr—tân
ym mhen tai y bradwyr,
ôl ei ddwrn a laddai wėr
ar ei chyrrau a’i chaerwyr.
na llyffaint un fraint, na moch fryntach,
na chwain un lifrai, na chŵn lyfrach,
55na phlasau cyn ddryced, na ffalsach—dynion,
na thir fwy ladron, na thref leidrach,
na gwragedd Llundain
na gwŷr un floneg garnfileiniach,
na meibion gweinion gwannach—yn eu cred,
60na merched ar lled yn anlladach.
Ni aned carliaid anhirionach,
ni weled gwragedd anuwiolach,
na rhai cyn frynted o wŷr haeach—Cred,
na neb cyn ffoled o’r wythfed ach.
tref y saith bechod heb neb dlodach,
tref gaerog fylchog heb neb falchach,
tref Sieb 13 glothineb, glwthenach—eu pryd,
80tref lle cyfyd llyd a phob lledach.
Llawer cell yn hon ddiffaith bellach,
llawer ffau ellyll, llawer ffollach,
llawer cyw wythryw cyfathrach—dan lwyn,
llawer twyn o frwyn a chyfrinach,
85llawer mab dan gist a fydd tristach,
llawer bron gwiddon a fydd gweddwach,
llawer gwraig maelier gwamalach—wrth gâr,
llawer cymar wâr anniweiriach.
Anniweirion blant, anwiredd—a wnân
90yn wŷr ac yn wragedd.
Am a wnaethan’ â’m hannedd
cânt hwythau glapiau gan gledd.
- Rheinallt: this is the same Rheinallt fab Gruffydd fab Bleddyn who is the subject of the praise-poem by Tudur Penllyn (no. 2). The same legend reported in Peniarth 75 about Lewys’s stay in Chester (see introduction) adds that Lewys asked Rheinallt to take revenge on the men of Chester. This is certainly not the explanation for the violent attack made by Rheinallt (described in poem 2), an event which Lewys has appropriated for humorous effect. Back to context...
- Y Felallt, Beeston: the thirteenth-century Beeston castle lies a few miles to the south-east of the city. Built by one of the Earls of Chester, it reverted to Henry III in 1237 along with the earldom. It did not acquire the name Beeston until a new owner, Sir Hugh Beeston, bought it in 1602. The Welsh name, literally ‘Honey-hill’, refers to the land rather than the castle itself. Back to context...
- Gwenallt: literally, ‘white hill’, a generic place-name which may refer to a specific area outside the city. Back to context...
- Einion: Rheinallt was the great-grandson of Einion. For his genealogy, see Roberts (1958), 111. Back to context...
- delli, ‘blindness’: the evidence of this poem suggests that Lewys moved to Chester as an old man whose sight was failing, and his goods were stolen because he could not see. Back to context...
- Caer Lleon Gawr, ‘Chester the Giant’: this is an epithet commonly applied to Chester. The Welsh Caer Lleon is derived from Welsh caer ‘fortress’ and Latin legionis, ‘of the legions’. By analogy with other place-names such as Caerfyrddin (Carmarthen), wrongly construed as ‘the fortress of Merlin’, the second element Lleon became identified with a founding hero, to which the epithet gawr, ‘giant’, was then appended. Back to context...
- clerwr, ‘wandering poet’: generally a disparaging term for popular poets and minstrels who visited towns and public places to perform for money. They are particularly associated with satirical and comic songs, so Lewys may well be making a joking reference to himself, though in the pecking order of poets he was certainly well above the grade of clerwr. Back to context...
- Moel-y-Wyddfa, Bleddfach: Moel-y-Wyddfa is one of the highest peaks of Snowdonia. Bleddfach, now Bleddfa, is near Knighton in Powys, on the Welsh border. Lewys seems to be saying that he could steal goods from two widely different places, a clearly hyperbolic claim. Back to context...
- Uriel, Cyfelach: Uriel was one of the archangels, mentioned in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Cyfelach was an early British saint, whose name is commemorated in Llangyfelach near Swansea, south Wales. Back to context...
- Brynach, Non: Brynach was a sixth-century British saint associated with Pembrokeshire in south Wales. Non was the mother of St David. Back to context...
- Wiliam Briach: Johnston (1995) notes that this was probably a local identity in Chester, possibly one of the Irish of Connacht mentioned in ll. 75-6 Back to context...
- gwerin Connach, ‘folk from Connacht’: Chester’s links with Ireland were almost as close as those with Wales: 'as long as the Dee remained navigable, Ireland was Chester’s chief overseas trading partner, and as such the main source of Chester merchants’ prosperity in the later Middle Ages' (Lewis and Thacker, 2003, 4). Back to context...
- Sieb, ‘Cheap’: a borrowing from the Middle English cheap, meaning marketplace, especially where food is sold. The word occurs fairly often in Welsh poetry, especially in the fifteenth century, and normally implies a reference to London’s famous Cheapside with its wealth of goods. Back to context...