Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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ELIDIR SAIS , a poet of the end of the 12th cent. and the first half of the 13th.

He composed elegies upon Rhodri ab Owain Gwynedd (d. 1195 ) , and Ednyfed Fychan (d. 1246 ) . He was not English , for we learn from Gwilym Ddu ( Myv. Arch. , 277b) that he sprang ‘from the wise men of Anglesey in the bosom of the sea.’ Gwilym Ddu ranks his work with that of other leading poets as a ‘correct canon’ or a model of poetry. Most of his poems are religious, and are to be found in Dr. Henry Lewis 's Hen Gerddi Crefyddol (together with a note on their authenticity in the introduction, xi). Elidir does not appear to have approved of Llywelyn the Great 's aggressive policy. He mourns the death of Rhodri very bitterly, and laments that there is no one left to ‘curb aggressors.’ Dafydd ab Owain Gwynedd was forced by the rise of his nephew, Llywelyn , to retreat to England , and this is considered by Elidir to be a tyranny second only to the capture of the Holy Sepulchre by Saladin ( Myv. Arch. , 243a). It is no wonder that he had to plead for Llywelyn 's favour, and in the latter's death in 1240 he sees only a further proof that the oppression of the weak does not pay. It is clear that he was out of sympathy with the main trend of history in the Wales of his day: local boundaries were not to be violated ( ‘Think what you are doing when you violate a border’ ). He gave of his best to his religious poetry. ‘I shall be a poet to God while I remain a man.’ He speaks of ‘learned books’ that are not to be doubted, and some of his ideas suggest that he was not without knowledge of the religious writings of his day. In his elegy upon Ednyfed Fychan , the tradition mentioned by Sir J. E. Lloyd ( Hist. W. , 684) that that statesman had had a military career is borne out. A son of the lordRhys ap Gruffydd ( 1132 - 1197 ) was called Hywel Sais (he d. 1204 ) because he had been forced to live for years in England ; and it is not inconceivable that the attitude of Elidir Sais towards Llywelyn the Great had compelled him to do the same. In Rec. Caern., 48 , Meilyr , Dafydd , and Elidir are given as the names of three sons of Gwalchmai . Gwilym Ddu 's words from the wise men of Anglesey ’ are very understandable if this Elidir is our poet .

Sources:

  • The Myvyrian Archaiology of Wales , 240b-5b;
  • The Poetry in the Red Book of Hergest , 1911 , 1143-6;
  • Hen Gerddi Crefyddol , Cardiff, 1931 (ed. Henry Lewis ).

Author:

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

Published date: 1959