The Barddas of Iolo Morganwg, Vol. I., ed. by J. Williams Ab Ithel, , at sacred-texts.com
Pray, who was the first that made a vocal song in Cymraeg?
Hu the Mighty, 1 the man who first brought the Cymry into the Isle of Britain; and he made the song to be a memorial of what happened to the nation of the Cymry from the age of ages. And he inserted in it the praise of God for what the Cymry had received at His hand, by way of protection and deliverance, also the sciences and regulations of the nation of the Cymry. It was from that song that instruction in vocal song, and the understanding of just memorials, were first obtained. After that came Tydain, father of Awen, 2 who improved the sciences and art of vocal song, and reduced it to an artistic system, that it might be the more easily learned, understood, and remembered, and be the more pleasantly recited and listened to.
Pray, who were they that first preserved the memory and sciences of Bardism, and gave instruction in wisdom?
The Gwyddoniaid, namely, the sages of the nation of the Cymry; they preserved the memory in vocal song of the sciences and wisdom of Bardism, and gave instruction in them; nevertheless the sciences of the Gwyddoniaid possessed neither privilege nor license, except by courtesy--neither system nor chair. 3
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Who were the first that conferred system and chair on Bards and Bardism, and on Poets and vocal song?
The three primary Bards, namely, Plennydd, Alawn, and Gwron, 1 who lived in the time of Prydain, son of Aedd the Great, and in the time of Dyvnvarth ap Prydain, his son. That is, they devised a Chair and Gorsedd, and regulated teachers and aspirants, and pupilage; and introduced instruction in sciences, and fixed and just memorials in respect of the knowledge of Bardism, and vocal song, with its appurtenances, and in respect of usages, that, of justice, and according to the requirements of wisdom, were suitable to Bards and Poets, as would be most requisite for the benefit and praise of the nation of the Cymry.
Pray, my accomplished teacher, instruct me as to the regulation and system of Chair and Gorsedd, which the three primary Bards introduced in respect of Bards and Poets?
Prydain, son of Aedd the Great, did, of his acute and sagacious sense and meditation, what he saw the best in every act and event for the benefit and praise of the might of the nation of the Cymry. He then called to him the Gwyddoniaid, and requested judgment by ballot as to the three who should be found to be the wisest and best of them in respect of sciences, when Plennydd, Alawn, and Gwron, were found to be the best in respect of sciences, and wisdom, and secrecy, and the art of vocal song. Then they conferred the privilege of country and nation upon those whom they perceived to be the best in respect of the sciences, and art of Bardism and vocal song, and upon the instruction which they gave, and which was regulated by system and art. And these are the order and system which they devised.
Pray, on what were letters first made, and in what manner?
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They were first made on trees, that is, wood was hewn into four sided staves, on each of which were cut small notches, and it was by means of as many notches as were necessary, that letters were formed. After that, on a slate stone, that is, letters were engraved on it with a steel pencil, or a flint. When it was done on wood, it was called coelbren, and hence the grooves of the letters were called coelbren; and the lettered stone was called coelvain. 1 There was a different way in which letters were made on wood, other than by means of notches, namely, with black or any other colour that might be most ready at hand. And this was practised by the Cymry for ages before memory. When this island was won by the men of Rome, they brought over here a plant, called plagawd, that is, a sedge, which was obtained from the land of Asia, and the land of Canaan, and wrote upon it. After that, art was applied to the skins of calves, the skins of goats, and the skins of sheep, and plagawd was made from them, and it is the best of all manufactures for books. Nevertheless, the Bards of the Isle of Britain retain in memory and history the mode of making the ancient books, in order to rescue the Cymraeg from the misunderstanding, to which it would otherwise be liable. Another reason is, that wood and stone can be procured where and when plagawd cannot; wherefore there is no proper Gorsedd or Chair, where the ancient usages and the ancient sciences, according to understanding and art, are not exhibited. On that account there ought to be wood in every Gorsedd and Chair, and besides a Roll of plagawd; that is, there ought to be an exhibition of all the sciences of letters in the Gorsedd and Chair of the Bards of the Isle
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of Britain; and where there is no wood, then lettered stones.
Pray, how were letters first understood in respect of form and sound?
Thus, God, when there was in life and existence only Himself, proclaimed His Name, and co-instantaneously with the word all living and existing things burst wholly into a shout of joy; and that voice was the most melodious that ever was heard in music. Co-instantaneously with the voice was light, and in the light, form; and the voice 1 was in three tones, three vocalizations, pronounced together at the same moment. And in the vision were three forms and colours, which were the form of light; and one with the voice, and the colour and form of that voice, were the three first letters. It was from a combination of their vocalizations that every other vocalization was formed in letters. He who heard the voice was Menw the Aged, son of the Three Shouts; but others say that it was Einigan the Giant that first made a letter, the same being the form of the Name of God, when he found himself alive and existing co-momentaneously and co-instantaneously with the voice.
Pray, my eloquent and learned teacher, how many men, that were Menws, have there been in the nation of the Cymry, for I find mention and account of others of the name of Menw?
Three persons, within memory and knowledge, have been of that name, that is to say, Menw, son of the Three Shouts, the second was Menw the Tall from the North, and the other, Menw, son of Menwad, of Arvon, the man who was the first of the nation of the Cymry that made dramatic representations.
41:1 p. 40 Conformably with this statement is that of the Triads, where Hu the Mighty is called one of "the three cultivators of song and thought," because it was he that " first applied to vocal song the preservation of memory and thought." Tr. 91. Third Series.
41:2 He was the third of "the cultivators of song and thought," so considered, because it was he that "first conferred art upon vocal song, and system upon thought." Id. Geraint the Blue Bard, who flourished about A.D. 900, has recorded his achievement in this respect;--
The achievement of Tydain, the father of Awen,
Of his vast and wise meditation,
Was the securing of memory by eloquent verse.
Iolo MSS. pp. 262, 669.
41:3 "There were previously Bards and Bardism, but they had no licensed system, p. 42 nor privileges or usages, but what were obtained by kindness and courtesy, under the protection of country and nation, before the time of these three," i.e. Plennydd, Alawn, and Gwron. Tr. 58, Third Series.
43:1 p. 42 "The three primary Bards of the Isle of Britain: Plennydd, Alawn, and Gwron; that is to say, they were the persons who devised the privileges and p. 43 usages of Bards and Bardism. Therefore are they called the three primaries. * * * Some say that they lived in the time of Prydain son of Aedd the Great; but others say that they lived in the time of Dyvnwal Moelmud, his son, who in some old Books is called Dyvnvarth ab Prydain." Id.
45:1 p. 44 Stone of credibility. The poets frequently allude to the coelvain, thus,--
A kind Ovate to Bards was his large stone of credibility.
To Owain Cyveiliog.
GRUFFYDD AB DAVYDD AB TUDUR, 1290-1340.
The pillar of Prestatyn, the belief stones of Overton.
GRUFFYDD AB MEREDYDD AB DAVYDD, 1310-1360.
Cor Ior aur drefnad
Cyw aint wneuthuriad
Mawr uchelfab rhad
Of Mary, and her stone of credibility:
The Choir of the Lord, of golden order,
And of skilful workmanship,
The great, high and gracious Son
In reading an ingenious stone of credibility,
Or the nine tropes on a wooden chronicle.
47:1 p. 46 Al. "Name."