Dictionary of Welsh Biography

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WILIAM LLYN ( 1534 or 1535 - 1580 ), ‘a poet from Llŷn ’,

according to contemporary references. Like Simwnt Fychan , Wiliam Cynwal , and Siôn Tudur , he was Gruffudd Hiraethog 's (q.v.) pupil, and his name appears as one of the four poets who graduated as chief bards at the Caerwys eisteddfod , 1568 . It may be inferred that most of his patrons lived in Merioneth , Montgomeryshire , Denbighshire , and Caernarvonshire , but he addressed eulogies to families as widely separated as those of Caehywel , Salop ; Penmynydd , Anglesey ; Madryn and Bodwrda , Llŷn ; Golden Grove and Abermarlais in the vale of Towy ; and Aberbrân , Brecknock . He also sang the praises of a number of clergymen , among them those of Wiliam Hughes , bishop of S. Asaph , and Richard Davies , bishop of S. Davids , whose palace at Abergwili he said he had visited. In his elegy on his friend Owain ap Gwilym , the poet and clergyman of Tal-y-llyn, Mer. , he recalls that they journeyed together to South Wales . According to a note written in a hand that belongs to about the latter half of the 17th cent. , Wiliam Llŷn also was a cleric , but this can scarcely be true. In his will he leaves his house at Oswestry to his wife and expresses the desire to be buried in the churchyard there. In the church register of that parish there are records not only of the death of the poet on the last day of Aug. 1580 , but also of the christening of his son Richard in 1569 , of the death of his daughter Jane in 1585 , and of the death of ‘ Richard Llŷn , Miller ’ in 1587 . It may, therefore, be inferred that he lived at Oswestry , at least for the last eleven years of his life. Rhys Cain and Morris Kyffin were his pupils and it was to Rhys that he left his books. Both Siôn Phylip and Rhys Cain wrote elegies for him, and he is said to have d. before attaining the age of 46.

More than half the poems in J. C. Morrice 's edition of his poetry ( Phillipps 21559 in the Cardiff Free Library ) were copied from manuscripts believed to have been in the poet 's own handwriting. This collection comprises sixteen awdlau , fifty panegyric and elegiac cywyddau , two cywyddau seeking a reconciliation with patrons who were vexed with him, a flyting addressed to Owain Gwynedd ( fl. 1550-90 ) (q.v.) concerning the welcome given the ‘fox from Lleyn ’ at Caergynyr , some eight begging cywyddau , a few cywyddau on love, and a number of englynion . His awdlau , his cywyddau of praise, and his begging cywyddau , all show that he was one of the greatest exponents of the traditional forms of poetry, but his elegies are his most notable achievements — particularly the masterly cywyddau he wrote in memory of Siôn Brwynog (q.v.) (‘ y gwr mwya gerais ’), of his old master Gruffudd Hiraethog , and of Owain ap Gwilym , poets every one. Of these three cywyddau , which are among the best elegies in the language, the last two referred to, as well as that to Gruffudd ap Tomas of Madryn , are in the form of a dialogue between the author and the dead man — a style which was quite new at that time. Apart from his poetry there still survive in the manuscripts pedigrees and coats of arms done by the poet's own hand as well as a glossary prepared by him.


  • Barddoniaeth Wiliam Llyn , 1908 (ed. J. C. Morrice ), 1908 ;
  • Reports on Manuscripts in the Welsh Language . Historical Manuscripts Commission, 1898–1910


Brinley Rees, ( -2001), M.A., Bangor

Published date: 1959