Dafydd ap Gwilym

Dafydd ap Gwilym is one of the most distinguished literary figure of medieval Wales. Like all the poets of medieval Wales he was aware that he was the heir of a long and distinguished tradition. The earliest Welsh literature was that of the Cynfeirdd (the earliest poets), including those of the Welsh-speaking kingdoms of southern Scotland. The Gogynfeirdd (the not so early poets) belong to the period 1100 to 1300 and received the patronage of the Welsh princes. The elegy of Gruffudd ap Yr Ynad Goch to Llywelyn ap Gruffudd is probably the finest of the poems of the Gogynfeirdd. With the extinction of the princes, patronage passed to the gentry families. Their poets produced a distinguished body of verse, Of Beirdd yr Uchelwyr (the poets of the gentry), the outstanding figure is Dafydd ap Gwilym. He was born near Aberystwyth in 1320; he died c.1370 and was buried at the Cistercian Abbey of Strata Florida. He belonged to a family with a tradition of serving the English crown, a fact which may explain that, unlike the poets of the post-Glyndwr generation, there is little that is anti-English, or indeed political, in his work. Over 150 surviving poems have been confidently ascribed to him and there is a further substantial body of verse which some authorities consider may have been written by him. He was clearly influenced by Provencal notions of Courtly Love, for his chief theme is the pursuit of love. However, his work also includes elegies, satires, praise poems and celebrations of the beauty of nature. Most of his poems consist of cywyddau in full cynghanedd, each line consisting of seven syllables and arranged in couplets in which a stressed syllable rhymes with an unstressed one. His mastery of such a complicated medium is astonishing, and he gave such prestige to the cywydd that it was, for 300 years, the preferred poetic form of all ambitious Welsh poets.



Cywydd y Gâl

- Dafydd ap Gwilym