Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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MEREDUDD ap RHYS ( DWB , 627-8).

In l.3 read ‘the books of pedigrees’.

Author:

Corrections and additions:

MEREDUDD ap RHYS ( fl. 1450-1485 ), gentleman, cleric, and poet .

His name is certainly that which is found in the book of pedigrees of Robert Vaughan of Hengwrt and Edward ap Roger of Ruabon Meredudd ap Rhys m. Angharad , daughter of Madog ap Robert of Cristionydd in the parish of Ruabon . His pedigree is traced back to Rhys Sais and Tudur Trefor , who were the ancestors of many of the gentle families in the Maelors and the Marches : Meredudd ap Rhys ap Gruffudd ap Madog Llwyd [ap Gruffudd] ap Iorwerth Foel ap Iorwerth Fychan ab Iorwerth Hen … ap Rhys Sais … ap Tudur Trefor . Other manuscripts connect his great-grandfather, Madog Llwyd of Plas Nanheudwy , and his father Rhys ap Gruffudd , with Plas HalchdunHalkyn near Chirk probably. But Meredudd lived at Ruabon in Welsh Maelor , where he was the parish priest — in 1430 , according to the historian of the diocese of S. Asaph , though no evidence has been found that he became vicar so early in the century. It is also noted that he was rector of Meifod and rector of Welshpool in 1450 , both livings being probably sinecures.

Meredudd had a long life. He was living in 1483 when he wrote an elegy for king Edward IV . And about this time, i.e. probably in the 80's, he is accused by Guto'r Glyn (q.v.) of envying him and coveting his place in Valle Crucis abbey where he was spending his old age with the abbot , Dafydd ap Ieuan ap Iorwerth (q.v.) . We shall probably not be far off the mark if we attribute the period of his activity to the years 1440-50 to 1485 . Meredudd ap Rhys won distinction not only as a poet but as a teacher of poets . It was he who taught Dafydd ab Edmwnd (q.v.) who later became the greatest authority of the 15th cent. on the classical metres and cynghanedd . No fewer than twenty-one cywyddau which can be attributed with certainty to him are to be found in various MSS. — these are poems of love and nature , private poems and social poems , prophetic poems , and poems in adoration of God and the Virgin Mary . Only some five have ever been printed. He had a lively imagination and his love poems are as fanciful as those of his distinguished pupil. He had made a careful study of the works of the earlier poets and had appreciated the greatness of Dafydd ap Gwilym . He had, like the master, written a cywydd to the wind, a cywydd which is an outstanding example of his craft at its best. He was moved by the death of two of his priestly friends to write lyrical cywyddau — one in disparagement of winter which had prevented them from meeting more often and one in praise of spring which had been their ally.

His descriptive poems are excellent — an amusing and witty example is that on the coracle. Another admirable cywydd was that which asked for a fishing-net — an instance of the ‘begging poem’ at its best. Meredudd was fond of fishing in the river Alun and because of his hobby would compare himself with Madog ab Owain Gwynedd ‘ who sought nor lands nor flocks nor herds save in the vasty deep .’ These were the words so utterly misused by Theophilus Evans (q.v.) in Drych y Prif Oesoedd to bolster up the tradition that Madog had discovered America in the 12th cent.

Moreover, Meredudd ap Rhys must be numbered among the seers of the 15th cent. He provides evidence of the distress and anarchy prevailing in Wales in his day and is sometimes inclined to doubt the teaching of the book of fate that things will take a turn for the better. He was sick of interminable warfare, of the disorder on every hand, of hearing every day of the killing of this lord or that. Accordingly, he wrote of the uncertainty of life but continued to hope that some day all would be well. He praised king Edward IV who, he hoped, would put an end to anarchy and restore peace. He also wrote an elegy for him, for was there not some tiny trickle of Welsh princely blood in his veins, thanks to his descent from Gwladus Ddu , daughter of Llywelyn the Great ?

As might have been expected, Meredudd wrote a number of religious cywyddau . In his didactic poems he wrote of God as the creator of the world, of the passion of Christ , and of the intercession of the Virgin Mary . He was a firm believer in the miraculous powers of the images and relics worshipped in the churches, and tells the story of the man who was cured of an agonising pain in his hip through the miraculous intervention of the ‘Living Image’ at S. John's , Chester ; and he asserts that in that church hearing was restored to the deaf, speech to the dumb, sight to the blind, and life to the dead. He warned his people against avarice and pride, and against coveting land and wealth; he also urged them to worship God and to be charitable to the poor, that in the end they might save their eternal souls.

Sources:

  • Peniarth Manuscripts at the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth) 74, 128, 132, 267, and other manuscripts;
  • D. R. Thomas , A History of the Diocese of St. Asaph .

Author:

Thomas Roberts, M.A., (1885-1960) Bangor

Published date: 2001