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The Celtic Pages

Y Gododdin

Celtic Historic Literature by Aneirin


Welsh literature has extended in an unbroken tradition from about the middle of the 6th century to the present day, but, except for two or three short pieces, all pre-Norman poetry has survived only in 12th to 13th century manuscripts. Welsh had developed from the older Brythonic by the middle of the 6th century. In the Historia Brittonum (c. 800) references are made to Welsh poets who, if the synchronism is correct, sang in the 6th century. Works by two of them, Taliesin and Aneirin, have survived. Taleisin wrote odes, or awadlau, in praise of the warlike deeds of his lord, Urien of Rheged, a kingdom in present day south west Scotland and north west England.

To Aneirin is attributed a long poem, Y Gododdin, commemorating in elegies an ill-starred expedition sent from Gododdin, the region where Edinburgh stands today, to take Catraeth (Catterick, North Yorkshire) from the invading Saxons. The background, inspiration, and social conventions of the poems of Taleisin and Aneirin are typically heroic, the language is direct and simple, and the expression terse and vigorous. These poems, and others that have not been preserved, set standards for later ages. The alliterative verse and internal rhyme found here were developed by the 13th century into the intricate system of consonant and vowel correspondence and internal rhyme, called cynghanedd.

At the very end of Aneirin's Y Gododdin is the first refering to King Arthur by name. Apart from that, there is a reference to a 'boar', Artos (the Roman version of Arthur) means 'boar', in various tales he is refered to in the same manner.
Apart from that, there's mentioning of 'Peredur' who also shows up in The Mabinogion and who is now generally accepted as Perceval. The song of Peredur is also known as being one of the "Arthurian Mabonigi".
However, let's not forget that Taliesin and Aneirin lived in the same time and it is acceptable to presume that they knew each other.

The Historical & Geographical Background