Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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EINION ap GWALCHMAI ( fl. 1203-1223 ), poet .

A portion of an awdl by him to Llywelyn ap Iorwerth mentions that prince as fighting against the English , and was therefore probably composed after the turn of the century. He also composed a beautiful elegy to Nest , daughter of Hywel , of Towyn, Mer. , and three awdlau to God. In one of these he refers to his intention to go on a pilgrimage over the Alps to the Holy Land . References in his poems indicate that he had been prominent in the courts of Welsh princes , but that after the ‘service of chieftains’ he felt drawn to the praising of God, and he states that ‘blessed are monks in churches.’ He wishes to end his days in Bardsey , and in another pious awdl there is the suggestion that he became a monk , for he sings, ‘Let us keep the midnight devotions, according to the practice. Let us not sleep, let us chant the canonical prayers.’ His religious poems, like his elegy to Nest , are melodious and graphic, and it is evident that in his day he was a popular poet . Gwilym Ddu o Arfon (q.v.) states ( Myv. Arch. , 277b) that his poems ‘caught on’ ‘like a surging fountain.’ Another indication of his popularity is to be found in the fact that he became a character in folk-lore. A tale is told of his having made a leap of fifty feet at Abernodwydd in the presence of his beloved when he was a young man, and according to another tale he went on pilgrimage, remained away from home for twenty-one years, and on returning immediately after the marriage of his wife (who, according to the story, was Angharad , daughter of Ednyfed Fychan , q.v.) , was recognized by her on playing the harp and producing half the wedding ring which he had kept. There is another tale of his being cured by ‘ Friar Gwryd ’ of a seven years’ affliction. In an englyn in which part of the second tale is told, Einion is definitely described as the son of Gwalchmai ap Meilyr (q.v.) , and this is probably correct.

Sources:

  • Llawysgrif Hendregadredd (N.L.W. MS. 6680) 14b-19a;
  • The Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales , 230-2; R.B.H., 1177-81;
  • Angharad Llwyd , A history of the island of Mona, or Anglesey including an account of its natural productions, Druidical antiquities, lives of eminent men, the customs of the court of the ancient welsh princes, &c. :being the prize essay to which was adjudged the first premium at the Royal Beaumaris Eisteddfod, held in the month of August, 1832 , Rhuthun, 1833 ;
  • NLW MSS 1553 (542) and other manuscripts in N.L.W.;
  • T. Gwynn Jones , Welsh Folklore and Folk Custom , London, 1930 ;
  • John Rhys , Celtic Folklore, Welsh and Manx, a review of Annals of the Magic Isle , Oxford, 1901 ;
  • Cambrian Register , three volumes, 1795–1818 , iii, 1800 ;
  • J. Lloyd-Jones , The Court Poets of the Welsh Princes .

Author:

David Myrddin Lloyd, M.A., (1909-81), Aberystwyth / Scotland

Published date: 1959