Y Gododdin

Y Gododdin is a medieval Welsh poem honoring the men of the Brittonic kingdom of Gododdin and their allies, who, according to tradition, perished while battling the Angles of Deira and Bernicia around AD 600 at a place called Catraeth. It is attributed to the bard Aneirin and is preserved in the sole manuscript known as the “Book of Aneirin.”

Although the manuscript dates from the later 13th century, Y Gododdin is believed to have been composed between the 7th and early 11th centuries. The text exhibits a mix of Middle Welsh and Old Welsh orthography. The earlier dating suggests its oral composition soon after the battle, likely within the Hen Ogledd (“Old North”), and it likely originated in the Cumbric dialect of Common Brittonic. However, some scholars propose a later date, placing its composition in Wales during the 9th, 10th, or 11th centuries. Even if dated to the 9th century, it would rank among the oldest surviving Welsh poetic works.

The Gododdin, once known as the Votadini in Roman times, held territories in present-day southeast Scotland and Northumberland, forming part of the Hen Ogledd. The poem recounts the gathering of a force of 300 (or 363) elite warriors, some hailing from distant regions like Pictland and Gwynedd. After a year of feasting at Din Eidyn, now Edinburgh, they launched an assault on Catraeth, commonly identified as Catterick in North Yorkshire. Despite days of fierce combat against overwhelming odds, the vast majority of the warriors meet their end. While the poem shares the ethos of heroic poetry, focusing on heroes fighting for glory, it lacks a narrative structure. Additionally, the manuscript contains stanzas unrelated to the Gododdin, believed to be interpolations. One such stanza briefly mentions King Arthur, potentially constituting the earliest known reference to the legendary figure, if authentic.

The Gododdin – Book of Aneurin I

Man’s mettle, youth’s years,
Courage for combat:
Swift thick-maned stallions
Beneath a fine stripling’s thighs,
Broad lightweight buckler
On a slim steed’s crupper,
Glittering blue blades,
Gold-bordered garments.
Never will there be
Bitterness between us:
Rather I make of you
Song that will praise you.
The blood-soaked field
Before the marriage-feast,
Foodstuff for crows
Before the burial.
A dear comrade, Owain;
Vile, his cover of crows.
Ghastly to me that ground,
Slain, Marro’s only son.

Diademed, to the fore at all times,
Breathless before a maid, he earned mead.
Rent the front of his shield, when he heard
The war-cry, he spared none he pursued.
He’d not turn from a battle till blood
Flowed, like rushes hewed men who’d not flee.
At court the Gododdin say there came
Before Madawg’s tent on his return
But a single man in a hundred.

Diademed, border guard, setter of snares,
A sea-eagle’s his rush when aroused,
His bargain was kept to the letter.
He performed as planned, was not routed,
Before Gododdin’s forces was shunned,
Pressing hard for the land of Manawyd.
He would spare neither mail-shirt nor shield;
None could, on mead he was nourished,
Ward off the stroke of Cadfannan.

Diademed, to the fore, a wolf’s fury,
Amber beads he wore, collars, his meed
Was costly amber. For cups of wine
He drove back the attack, drenched inblood.
Though men of Gwynedd and Gogledd came
As Ysgyrran’s son counselled,
Shields were broken to bits.

Diademed, to the fore, armed for conflict,
Before his death, fierce man in a fray,
Champion charging at the head of hosts,
Five companies fell before his blades.
Of Deifr’s and Brennych’s men two thousand
Sank to their doom in a single hour.
Before the marriage-feast, meat for wolves.
Before the altar, tid-bit for crows.
Before his burial, the blood-soaked field.
For mead in the hall, a hundred hosts.
While song lasts, Hyfaidd Hir will be praised.

Men went to Gododdin, laughter-loving,
Bitter in battle, each blade in line.
A brief year they were quiet, in peace.
Bodgad’s son with his hand took revenge.
Though they went to churches for shriving,
Old men and young, noble and lowly,
True is the tale, death confronted them.

Men went to Gododdin, laughing warriors,
Assailants in a savage war-band
They slaughtered with swords in short order,
War-column of kind-hearted Rhaithfyw.

Men went to Catraeth, keen their war-band.
Pale mead their portion, it was poison.
Three hundred under orders to fight.
And after celebration, silence.
Though they went to churches for shriving,
True is the tale, death confronted them.

Men went to Catraeth, mead-nourished band,
Great the disgrace should I not praise them.
With huge dark-socketed crimson spears,
Stern and steadfast the battle-hounds fought.
Of Brennych’s band I’d hardly bear it
Should I leave a single man alive.
A comrade I lost, faithful I was,
Keen in combat, leaving him grieves me.
No desire had he for a dowry,
Y Cian’s young son, of Maen Gwyngwn.

Men went to Catraeth at dawn:
All their fears had been put to flight.
Three hundred clashed with ten thousand.
They stained their spears ruddy with blood.
He held firm, bravest in battle,
Before Mynyddawg Mwynfawr’s men.

Men went toCatraeth at dawn:
Their high spirits lessened their life-spans.
They drank mead, gold and sweet, ensnaring;
For a year the minstrels were merry.
Red their swords, let the blades remain
Uncleansed, white shields and four-sided spearheads,
Before Mynyddawg Mwynfawr’s men.

Men went toCatraeth at morn.
He made certain the shame of armies;
They made sure that a bier was needed.
The most savage blades in Christendom,
He contrived, no request for a truce,
A blood-path and death for his foeman.
When he was before Gododdin’s band
Neirthiad’s deeds showed a hero’s bold heart.

A man went toCatraeth at morn.
He guzzled mead-suppers at midnight.
A disaster, keening of comrades,
His campaign was, hot-blooded killer.
There marched on Catraeth
No hero whose heart
Aimed so high at a feast;
No man of such parts
Came from Eidin’s fort:
He drove the foe in flight,
Tudfwlch Hit, out of house and homeland.
He slew Saxons at least once a week.
Long will his courage be cherished,
Kept in mind by his noble comrades.
When Tudfwlch was there, his people’s strength,
Spearmen’s ranks were slaughtered, Cilydd’s son.

A man went to Catraeth at dawn.
Ringed round him a rampart of shields,
Sharp they press the attack, seize plunder,
Loud as thunder the crashing of shields.
Ardent,man, prudent man, champion,
He ripped and he pierced with his spearpoints,
Deep in blood he butchered with blades,
In the strife, heads under hard iron.
In the court this hewer bowed humbly.
Great hosts would groan, facing Erthgl.

Of the battle of Catraeth the tale
Is of fallen men, long lamented.
In hosts, in hordes, they fought for the land
With Godebawg’s sons, savage folk.
On long biers were borne men drenched inblood.
Wretched was the lot, fate’s stern demand,
Allotted Tudfwlch and Cyfwlch Hir.
Though by candles’ light we drank bright mead,
Though good was its taste, long detested.

First man out of Eidin’s bright fortress,
Loyal men-at-arms in attendance.
First in rank, on down pillows, he passed
The drinking-horn round in hispalace.
The first brewing of bragget was his;
First of all he loved gold and purple;
First pick of sleek steeds raced beneath him:
With a fierce cry, his high heart earned them.
First to raise the cry when ranks gave way,
Bear in the pathway, last to retreat.

Support in the front line,
Sunlight on the grass:
Where can heaven’s lord
of Britain be found?
Ford roiled by his rush,
Shield for a shelter.
Resplendent the lord
InEidin’s great hall,
Grandeur his glory.
His mead made men drunk;
He drank vintage wine.
A reaper in War,
He drank the sweet wine.
Mind bent on battle,
He reaped battle’s leeks.
Battle’s bright band
Sang a battle song
Armed for battle,
Battle’s pinions,
His shield was sheared thin
By spears in the strife.
Comrades were fallen
In battle-harness.
Stirring his war-cry,
Faultless his service,
Spellbound his frenzy,
Before green covered
Gwrfelling Fras’ grave.

They revere the right.
Three spears stain with blood
Fifty, five hundred.
Three hounds, three hundred:
Three stallions of war
From golden Eidin,
Three mail-clad war-bands,
Three gold-collared kings.
Three savage stallions,
Three peers in battle,
Three leaping as one,
They crushed foes fiercely,
Three in hard fighting,
Three lions hewed foes,
Gold in close combat,
Three monarchs of men
Who came from Britain,
Cynri and Cynon,
Cynrein of Aeron.
The cunning clansmen
Of Deifr demanded:
Have Britons a man
Better than Cynon,
Snake stinging his foe?

In the great hall I drank wine and mead.
Many were his spears;
In the clash of men
He fashioned a feast for eagles.
When Cadwal charged in the green of dawn
A cry went up wherever he came.
He would leave shields shattered, in splinters.
Stiff spears this splitter
Would slash inbattle,
Ripping the front rank.
Sywno’s son, a wizard foresaw it,
Sold his life to purchase
A high reputation.
He cut with a keen-edged blade.
He slaughtered both Athrwys and Affrel.
As agreed on, he aimed to attack:
He fashioned carcasses
Of men brave in battle,
Charged in Gwynedd’s front line.

Since I drank, I crossed the border, sad fate.
Not harmless is a reckless heart.
Lavish the lion’s feast you fashioned,
Many the hostile spears you routed.
When all fell back, you leapt to attack.
Were it wine, the blood of those you speared,
For three years, for four, a huge store
For your steward, which you would decrease.
Heaven’s bliss be yours for not yielding:
World-famous was Breichiawl the steadfast.

Men went to Catraeth, they were renowned.
Wine and mead from gold cups was their drink,
A year in noble ceremonial,
Three hundred and sixty-three gold-torqued men.
Of all those who charged, after too much drink,
But three won free through courage in strife,
Aeron’s two war-hounds and tough Cynon,
And myself, soaked in blood, for my song s sake.

My kinsman, my comrade, never swayed
Except at a banquet, savage dragon.
At court he would not go short of mead.
He laid tile upon tile with his strokes,
Unbudged in battle, unbudged under stress.
When he charged on the border, great was his fame,
He earned his wine, gold-collared soldier.
He gave freely, bright ranks, fair hero,
Retained a hundred men, gracious lord.
Noble his nature, foreign horseman,
Cian’s one sonfrom beyond Mount Bannawg.
Gododdin could not say, after battle,
When there would come a keener than Llif.

Weapons scattered,
Columns shattered, standing their ground.
Great the havoc,
The hero turned back the English.
He planted shafts,
In the front ranks, in the spear-clash.
He laid men low,
Made wives widows, before he died.
Hoywgi’s son flamed
Before spears forming a rampart.

Hero, shield firm below his freckled forehead,
His stride a young stallion’s.
There was battle’s din, there was flame,
There were keen spears, there was sunlight,
There was crow’s food, a crow’s profit.
Before he was left at the ford,
As the dew fell, graceful eagle,
With the wave spreading beside him,
The world’s bards judge him great of heart.
His warfaring wasted his wealth;
Wiped out were his leaders and men.
Before burial beneath Eleirch
Fre, there was valour in his breast,
His blood poured over his armour,
Undaunted Buddfan fab Bleiddfan.

Wrong to leave him unsung, most valiant,
He did not leave a breach out of fear.
His court left no bards unrewarded,
He was ever mindful of New Year’s.
Unploughed his land though it lie waste,
Battle too bitter, mighty dragon.
Dragon in blood after a wine-feast,
Gwenabwy fab Gwen fights for Catraeth.

It was true, as Catlew would say,
No man’s horses could catch Marchlew.
He planted spears in a battle
From a leaping steed, sturdy-framed,
Though not bred for bearing burdens.
At his post, savage his sword-stroke.
He planted ashen shafts with squared
Hand, atop a steaming stallion.
Dear lord, he shared wine, unstinting;
He slashed with a sharp bloodstained blade.
As reapers reap when weather turns,
So Marchlew made the blood pour forth.

Issac, much-honoured man from the South,
Like the incoming ocean his ways,
Genial and generous,
Well-mannered over mead.
Where he buried his weapons
He called it quits.
Not stained, stainless; not faulty, faultless.
His sword rang in the heads of mothers.
A wall in war, Gwydneu’s son was praised.

Ceredig, cherished his renown.
He seized, he safeguarded fame.
Pet cub, peaceful before his time
Came, excelling incourtesy.
May he come, honoured friend of song,
To heaven’s landfamiliar home.

Ceredig, a cherished ruler,
A raging hero in combat,
Battlefield’s gold-fretted shield,
Spears broken to bits, in splinters,
Not meek, not feeble his sword-stroke,
Like a man he held the front line.
Before mortal grief, before anguish,
Firm in purpose, he kept his post.
May he be welcomed to the host,
Be made one with the Trinity.

When Caradawg charged in battle,
Like a wild boar, three lords’ killer,
War-band’s bull, in strife a slayer,
He gave the wolves food with his hand.
I swear this: Owain fab Eulad,
And Gwrien and Gwyn and Gwriad,
From Catraeth, from catastrophe,
From Bryn Hyddwn before it fell,
After holding bright mead in hand,
Never a one saw his father.

Men launched the assault, moving as one.
Short were their lives, made drunk by pure mead,
Mynyddawg’s band, renowned in battle.
For a feast of mead they gave their lives,
Caradawg and Madawg, Pyll and Ieuan,
Gwgan and Gwiawn, Gwyn and Cynfan,
Steel-weaponed Peredur, Gwawrddur and Aeddan,
A war-band steadfast in battle, shields shattered.
And though they were being slain, they slew.
Not one to his own region returned.

Men launched the assault, nourished as one
A year over mead, grand their design.
How sad their tale, insatiable longing,
Bitter their home, no child to cherish it.
How long the grief for them and mourning,
For ardent men of wine-nourished lands.
Gododdin’s Gwlyged, warm in welcome,
Renowned Mynyddawg’s feast he fashioned,
And its cost, the battle of Catraeth.

Men went to Catraeth with a warcry,
Speedy steeds and dark armour and shields,
Spear-shafts held high and spear-points sharp-edged,
And glittering coats-of-mail and swords.
He led the way, he thrust through armies,
Five companies fell before his blades.
Rhufawn Hir gave gold to the altar,
And a rich reward to the minstrel.

Never was made a hall so acclaimed,
So mighty, so immense the slaughter.
You deserved your mead, Morien, fire-brand.
None said Cynon could not make corpses:
A loud-shouting spearman in armour,
His sword rang upon the rampart’s top.
No more than a broad-based rock will budge
Will he be budged, Gwyd son of Peithan.

Never was made a hall so renowned.
Except for Morien, second Caradawg,
There came from battle, noble hisways,
No man more fearsome than Fferawg’s son.
Brave in strife, a fort to the fearful,
Before Gododdin’s band his buckler
Was shattered; under stress he stood firm.
On the day of wrath he was quick, sad the cost.
Mynyddawg’s men merited mead-homs.

Never was made a hall so mighty.
There was never a warrior braver
Than kind-hearted Cynon, jewel-decked lord.
He was seated at the table’s head.
The man he struck was not struck again.
Very sharp his spears,
White shield rent, he ripped armies.
Very swift his steeds, racing in front,
On the day of wrath his blades were death
When Cynon charged in the green of dawn.

Never was made a hall so flawless.
So generous, giant lion’s rage,
Is kind-hearted Cynon, lord most fair.
A fort in combat, on the far wing,
War-band’s firm door, noblest of blessings.
Of all I’ve seen and see in the world
Wielding weapons of war, the bravest.
He slew the foe with a keen-edged blade,
Like rushes they fell before his hand.
Clydno’s son, long will I sing, lord, your praise,
Praise unstinted, unstilled.

He rushed in the front rank to battle.
He drove back the attack, drew the line,
Spear-thrusting lord, laughing in combat.
Enchanted his courage, like Elffin,
Renowned Eithinyn, war’s wall, strife’s bull.

He rushed in the front rank to battle.
In return for mead and wine at court
He planted his blades between two hosts,
Fine horseman before the Gododdin,
Renowned Eithinyn, war’s wall, strife’s bull.

He rushed to battle before cattle rose.
The likeness of a lion is yours,
At Gwananhon, for mead, highest courage,
And slow to give ground, splendid chieftain,
Renowned Eithinyn, Boddw Adaf’s son.

Excellent men, they left us.
On wine and mead they were nourished.
By Mynyddawg’s banquet
I am stricken with grief,
By a warrior’s loss:
Like peals of thunder
The shields resounded
From Eithinyn’s sword-strokes.

He rushed to battle before cattle rose.
A well-trained war-band, shields in tatters.
Shield rent before Beli’s blaring herd.
A lord deep in blood, guarding the flank,
Sustains us, grey-haired, from a charger,
A prancing steed, fierce golden-torqued ox.
The boar made a pact in the front of the line,
Fitting message, shout of rejection:
‘Lord who calls us to heaven, save us!’
He brandishes his spears for battle.
Cadfannan, name famous for plunder,
None denied hosts would be his pavement.

For a feast, most sad, most precious,
For settled, for desolate land,
For the falling of hair from the head,
Among soldiers, an eagle, Gwydyen.
With his spear he fought for Gwyddug,
A Planner, a tiller, its owner.
Three bristled boars, bent on destruction,
Morien carried off with his spear,
Myrddin of song, sharing the best
Part of his wealth, our strength and support.
Ramparts ringing, the war-band fighting
With the Saxons and Irish and Picts,
He bore the stiff red corpse of Bradwen,
Deft-handed Gwenabwy fab Gwen.

For a feast, most sad, most precious,
For settled, for desolate land,
Shattered the shields in combat.
Savage the stroke of sword on head,
In England men dead from three hundred lords,
His gauntlet performed good work
Against Saxons and Irish and Picts.
Though he seized a wolf ‘s pelt, without weapon,
Ever brave, in his bare hand,
From the battle of wrath and ruin
He perished, Bradwen did not come back.

Gold on the wall
Bold the assault,
Sin not to press the attack.
One shouting Saxon
Was food for the birds,
High-hearted the war-cry.
Those who live will tell
Of the spearmen’s lord,
Of one like a lightning-bolt.
None who live will say
On the day of slaughter
Cynhafal withheld his support.

When you were a famous fighter
Defending the highland fields of grain,
By right we were known as men of note.
He was a strong door, strong fort in defeat,
Gracious to those who implored his aid,
Fort to an army that trusted him.
Where he was, was called Paradise.

I’m no weary lord,
I avenge no wrong,
I laugh no laughter,
Under crawlers’ feet,
My legs at full length
In a house of earth,
A chain of iron
About both ankles,
Caused by mead, by horn,
By Catraeth’s raiders.
I, not I, Aneirin,
Taliesin knows it,
Master of word-craft,
Sang to Gododdin
Before the day dawned.

The North’s true valour one man possessed,
Kind-hearted, magnanimous nature.
None walk the earth, no mother has borne
One so fair and strong, dark as iron.
From a war-band his bright blade saved me,
From a fell cell of earth he bore me,
From a place of death, from a harsh land,
Cenan fab Llywarch, bold, undaunted.

No shame was borne by Senyllt’s
Court and its cups filled with mead.
He devoted his sword to kinsman,
He devoted his strides to warfare.
He bore bloodstained men in his arms
Before Deifr’s and Brennych’s army.
The way of his court: swift steed,
Spears and dark gear of battle,
Long brown shaft in his hand,
And rushing in his wrath,
Smile giving way to a frown,
Sullen and sweet by turns.
Men did not see his feet in flight,
Cup-bearer, each land’s preserver.

His foe trembles before his blade,
Fierce eagle, laughing in battle.
Sharp his stags’ horns, sharper his stag-horn.
Stained fingers crush a head.
Varied his moods, genial, baneful,
Varied his moods, thoughtful, mirthful.
Briskly Rhys strode on the hill of battle,
Not like men whose assault may falter.
None may escape what overtakes him.

A shame the shield was pierced
Of kind-hearted Cynwal.
A shame he set his thighs
On a long-legged steed.
Dark his brown spear-shaft,
Darker his saddle.
In his den a Saxon
munches on a goat’s
Legmay he seldom
Have spoils in his purse.

It went well, Addonwy, as you vowed to me.
What Bradwen did, you did: you slew, you burned.
You did no worse than Morien.
You held neither far wing nor front line:
Steady eye, unblinking,
You saw not the great surge of horsemen.
They slaughtered, they did not spare Saxons.

Warriors rose together, well-trained,
For Catraeth, a swift eager war-band.
A wave is beating, bright wayfarer,
Where the noblest young stags are gathered:
Not a plank of the pale can you see.
A lord’s merit bows to no pressures
Morial permits no shame to follow,
Savage sword-blade, ready for bloodshed.

Warriors rose together, well-trained.
A strong land will be heard to follow.
He has slaughtered with shaft and with blade
And with savage hooves men in battle.

Warriors rose together, formed ranks.
With a single mind they assaulted.
Short their lives, long their kinsmen long for them.
Seven times their sum of English they slew:
Their fighting turned wives into widows;
Many a mother with tear-filled eyelids.

For wine-feast and mead-feast
They swore towreak havoc.
Praiseworthy lad of his word,
He made before the hill,
Before Buddugre’s slope,
Crows arise, a cloud climbing.
Soldiers were falling
Like a swarm upon him:
Not a move towards fleeing.
Far-sighted, quick-moving,
From white steeds a sword’s edge,
And from the wall a sword-stroke.
First in feasting, sleepless,
Not sleepless today,
Rheiddun’s son, lord of battle.

Because of wine-feast and mead-feast they left us,
Mail-coated men, I know death’s anguish.
Before their grey hairs came their slaughter.
Of Mynyddawg’s men, great is the grief,
Of three hundred, but one man returned.

Because of wine-feast and mead-feast they charged,
Men famed in fighting, heedless of life.
Bright ranks around cups, they joined to feast.
Wine and mead and bragget, these were theirs.
From Mynyddawg’s banquet, grief-stricken my mind,
Many I lost of my true comrades.
Of three hundred champions who charged on Catraeth,
It is tragic, but one man came back.

As he was when they rose together,
Like a bouncing ball,
Thus he’d be until his return.
Thus had the Gododdin
Wine and mead in Eidin,
Ruthless in strife, firm ranks.
And under Cadfannan a herd
Of red steeds, wild rider, at dawn.

Bar to Deifr’s horde,
Snake with fierce sting,
Steadfast boulder
Before the host,
Terrible bear,
Killer, crusher,
He trod on spears
When battle came
In an alder trench.
Lord Nedig’s heir,
His anger served
A feast for birds
From battle’s din.
You are rightly called, for your savage deed,
The foremost lord, wall of the war-band,
Merin ap Madain, blessed your birth.

Splendid the song, a war-band there was,
Soldiers surrounding Catraeth made war.
Bloody motley, trampled, was trod on.
Warriors were trampled,
Vengeance, mead’s wages,
With corpses, though great was the cost.
Cipno will not declare, after battle,
Though he took communion, he had his due.

Splendid the song, noble war-band,
A roar of fire and thunder and flood.
Superb courage, strife-embroiled rider,
Red reaper, he hungered for battle.
Fervent fighter, wherever he heard
The clash with that country’s horde he charged,
Shield upon shield. He would lift a spear
Like a glass of sparkling wine. Silver
His vessels for mead: he deserved gold.
Wine-fed was Gwaednerth fab Llywri.

Splendid the song, bright the war-bands.
Before ruin came, Aeron’s door-bolt,
Grey eagles gave praise to the chieftain’s
Hand: he furnished food for birds of prey.
For Mynyddawg’s sake, ruler of men,
He set himself against hostile spears.
Before Catraeth, keen were gold-torqued men:
They thrust, they slaughtered those who stood firm.
There came from their lands, whelps of warfare,
There fought but seldom, of Gododdin’s
Britons, a better man than Cynon.

Splendid the song, well-trained war-band.
A cheerful chamber, he was s endthrift,
He won from all sides the praise of bards
For gold and great steeds and besotting mead.
But when he came from battle they praised
Cyndilig of Aeron, bloodstained men.

Splendid the song, bright were the war-bands.
In Mynyddawg’s campaign, lord of men,
And Eudaf’s daughter’s, Gwananhon’s strife,
There was one clad in purple, crushed men’s land.

No cowards could bear the hall’s uproar.
Before battle a battle broke out
Like a fire that rages when kindled.
On Tuesday they donned their dark armour,
On Wednesday, bitter their meeting,
On Thursday, terms were agreed on,
On Friday, dead men without number,
On Saturday, fearless, they worked as one,
On Sunday, crimson blades were their lot,
On Monday, men were seen waist-deep in blood.
After defeat, the Gododdin say,
Before Madawg’s tent on his return
There came but one man in a hundred.

Early he roseat dawning,
For a spear-fight before the line.
A breach, a blazing breakthrough,
Like a boar he charged the hill.
He was courteous, he was grave.
Savage were his dark spear-shafts.

Early he rose, at matins.
When warriors charge in a band,
In the lead, leading, following,
Before hundreds the first to charge.
He was as eager for slaughter
As for drinking mead and wine.
So savage he was,
He slaughtered the foe,
Ithael, bold in attack.

He plunged into the pit, head first,
Not a thought in his clever head.
Bright his fame for slaughter on the wall,
Owain’s exploit, mounting the rampart,
He plied his spear-shaft before he fell,
Pursuing death, songs of destruction.
Graceful hisgestures, to give and to grieve.
Pallid death, the task of his gauntlet,
He bore in his hand, mail-coats emptied.
No pouring a lord’s prize
From his coffin in earth.
Chill and bitter his fame, pallid cheeks,
Handsome when a maiden passed judgement,
Owner of steeds and dark trappings and ice-bright shields,
Comrade in combat, climbing, falling.

War-leader, he leads to battle.
The land’s war-band loved fierce reaping.
Bloody soil for a fresh grave,
War-gear for his crimson garment.
Trampling on armour, armour trampled,
Weariness descends like death.
Spears splintered when battle began,
No clear path for the spear-stroke.

I sang nobly how ravaged your room
And your chamber would be.
Worthy of sweet ensnaring mead,
A champion’s charge at dawn.
Splendid prize, an English war-band
He scourges while he’s kept alive.
Gwynedd’s folk will hear of his glory,
Gwananhon will be his grave.
Gwynedd’s steadfast Cadafwy,
War-band’s bull in a conflict of kings.
Before a bed of earth, before slumber,
A grave on Gododdin’s border.

He fought with a savage foe,
Black slayer, a pirate host.
He was not in hiding, an outlaw,
He was not a bittersweet comrade.
Grey steeds in his care snorted.
Nothing was gained of Pobddelw’s ground,
He gave up, war’s bull, not an acre,
Steadfast his stand, Llywyrddelw.

His war-steeds bore bloody trappings of war,
Red herd at Catraeth.
Blaenwydd feeds a hot-blooded host,
Wrathful war-hound charging the slope.
Renown, bright honour, isours.
From Hedyn’s hand, iron is sown.

A lord of Gododdin is honoured,
A noble patron is lamented.
To Eidin, flame’s force, he will not come.
He placed his picked men in the front line,
Formed a wall before battle.
With savage force he launched the assault.
Since he ate, he drank, heavy burden.
Of Mynyddawg’s war-band there returned
But a single blade, bitter, dripping.

With Moried lost, a shield was missing.
They carried, they honoured a hero.
He bore blue blades in his hand,
Heavy spears portending peril.
From a dappled grey, arching his neck,
Dreadful the slaughter before his blades.
When he comes from battle, not one to flee,
He merits praise, sweet ensnaring mead.

Lucky, triumphant, fearful men’s lithe backbone,
With his blue blade pressing the foreign foe back,
Stalwart powerful, mighty his hand,
Stout-hearted, shrewd, they thrust against him.
His feat, to leap forward
Against nine champions,
Amid friends and foes,
And challenge them.
I love the triumphant seat that is his,
Cyndilig of Aeron, bold hero.

I loved his front-line charge against Catraeth
In return for mead and wine at court.
I loved his lack of scorn for a blade
Before he was slain for his green Uffin.
I loved, further praise, his bearing bloodshed.
He lay down his sword at the wood’s edge.
Gwrlydr said before the Gododdin
That Ceidiaw’s son excelled in battle.

Wretched am I, my strength worn away,
Bearing the pain of death in anguish,
And more, the heavy grief of seeing
Our warriors falling head over heels.
And long the moaning and the mourning
For the countryside’s stalwart soldiers,
Rhufawn and Gwgawn, Gwiawn and Gwlyged,
At the hardest posts, staunch under stress.
May their souls be, after the battle,
Welcomed to heaven’s land of plenty.

He drove the press back over flowing blood.
He slew likea hero ranks that stood firm.
Quick toss of the hand, he tossed off a glass
Of meadbefore monarchs tossed armies.
He sought battle where many remained
Silent: though hard-pressed, he did not yield
Before the rush of axes and sharp-edged swords.

His stock is seen,
Loud he’s proclaimed
Haven of troops,
Haven, his blade.
Host in the van,
Post of honour
On battle’s day,
Closed in combat.
They were wrathful,
Having been drunk
And drinking mead.
No salvation
In holding off
Strong-rushing foes.
When the tale’s told,
Broken the charge
Of steeds and soldiers,
Sworn men’s fate.

When thoughts in throngs
Come upon me, moumful of mind,
My breath is faint
Asin running, and then I weep.
One dear I mourn,
One dear whom I loved, noble stag,
Grief for the man
Who was ever in Argoed’s ranks.
He gave his all
For countrymen, for a lord’s sake,
For rough-hewn wood,
For a flood of grief, for the feasts.
Friends about him he bore us to a blazing fire,
And to seats of white skins and to sparkling wine.
Gereint from the South gave the war-cry,
Bright and fairfair-formed was his face,
Generous spear-lord, praiseworthy lord,
So gracious, well I know his nature,
Well I knew Gereint: kind, noble, he was.

Ungrudging praise for a hero,
Unbudging anchor in combat.
Mighty eagle of wrathful men,
Bearing the brunt, Eldef shone bright.
He led the charge on stallions swift
In battle, cub nursed from wine-cups.
Before a fresh grave, cheek turned pale,
He was one for feasts above bright mead.

Unstemmed the tide’s flow to each shore:
To Hafal, the same profusion.
Rent his buckler’s front,
Rhywoniawg’s guardian.
Once more were seen on Aled’s banks
War-horses with bloody harness.
Let them be steadfast,
Let their gifts be great,
Savage fighters
When they are roused.
Stern in strife, he’d slash with his sword:
Sharp tokens of war a hundred
Would bear. He’d shape song for New Year’s;
There go up to the flawless lad,
There go up to the haughty boar,
Like a girl, maiden and monarch.
And since he was son of a true king,
Gwynedd’s lord, Cilydd Gwaredawg’s blood,
Before earth covered his cheek,
Bountiful, prudent, fearless,
Quick with present and praise.
A grave has Garthwys Hir of Rhywoniawg.

Sorrow comes upon me, unsought-for,
Never will there come a heavier:
Never was nourished at court a braver
Than he, nor one firmer in battle.
And at Rhyd Benclwyd his steeds were foremost,
Far-reaching his fame, riddled his shield.
And before Gwair Hir was beneath the grass,
He earned mead-horns, sole son of Fferfarch.

Three hundred golden-torqued men attacked:
Contending for the land was cruel.
Although they were being slain, they slew;
Till the world ends, they will be honoured.
Of the comrades who went together,
Tragic, but a single man returned.

Three hundred, gold-torqued,
War-like, well-trained,
Three hundred, haughty, in harmony, armed.
Three hundred fierce steeds
Bore them to battle.
Three hounds, three hundred:
Tragic, no return.

Savage in war, stubborn in distress,
In a battle no truce would he make.
The day of wrath he did not shun strife,
A boar’s rage had Bleiddig mab Eli.
He guzzled wine from bowls made of glass.
The day of strife he performed a feat
On a white stallion before he died:
Crimson corpses he left behind him.

Shield flashing fire, he bowed before no one,
He nursed his thirst for glory.
Harsh demands, steeds inthe van of battle,
They planted spears, bloodstained foes.
When my comrade was struck, he struck others:
No dishonour would he bear.
He stood firm at the ford: he was proud
When his was the champion’s share at courts.

God’s haven of heaven, longed-for land,
Woe’s ours, from weeping and ceaseless grief.
When lords came from Din Eidin,
A host of picked men from each region,
In strife with the English, splendid army,
Nine companies on each man for a roof,
Piled-up steeds and armour and silk garments,
Gwaednerth held his own in the battle.

Gododdin’s war-band on shaggy mounts,
Steeds the hue of swans, infull harness,
Fighting for Eidin’s treasure and mead.
On Mynyddawg’s orders
Shields were battered to bits,
Sword-blades descended
On pallid cheeks.
They loved combat, broad lineof attack:
They bore no disgrace, men who stood firm.

I drank deeply of mead in my turn,
Wine-fed before Catraeth, in one gulp.
When he butchered with blades, unbudging,
He was no sorry sight in combat.
He was no wretch, safeguarding spectre,
Baneful shield-bearing Madawg Elfed.

When the conflict came,
His life was not spared,
Arfon’s avenger.
They charged, golden gems,
Defiant Briton,
Cynon’s swift horses.

Who comes as the heir
With Heinif missing?
One above the throng,
Of the noblest name,
He cut down many
For the sake of fame.
He killed, Nwython’s son,
With collars of gold,
A hundred princes
To win himself praise.
Better when he went
With men to Catraeth,
A wine-nourished man,
Ample his belly,
A brisk grey-haired man,
Coat-of-mall spread wide,
Savage and sudden
On his stallion’s back.
There armed for battle,
Quick his spear and his shield,
His sword and his dagger,
No better man
Than Heinif fab Nwython.

Beyond Iudew’s sea, bold in battle,
Thrice as fierce as a fierce lion,
Bubon wrought, mighty in wrath.

His way: on a swift steed
To fight for Gododdin
Leading war-loving men;
His way: he was like a fleet young stag;
His way: against Deifr’s war-band he charged;
His way: Galystan’s son, though not the lord,
When he spoke his father listened;
His way: for Mynyddawg’s sake, shields shattered;
His way: a red spear before Eidin’s lord.

I saw his blades in the swarm
Fighting with a savage foe.
Before the shields’ clangour men cowered.
They fled before Eidin’s force, countless men.
The ones his hand found
Could not escape it.
A candle for him, a chant.
Stubborn, shield battered,
When he was pressed, he pressed back.
He stabbed but once.
He stabbed, he was stabbed.
Frequent after a feast
His gift to a stranger.
He was grim in combat.
And before he was covered with clods of earth
Edar earned the right to drink his mead.

He thrust beyond three hundred, most bold,
He cut down the centre and far wing.
He proved worthy, leading noble men;
He gave from his herd steeds for winter.
He brought black crows to a fort’s
Wall, though he was not Arthur.
He made his strength a refuge,
The front line’s bulwark, Gwawrddur.

His hand made a banquet for birds,
I praise him, a man who stood firm,
A savage man, a slasher.
His garb was gold
In the front line,
In the fierce clash of steadfast men.
Strife’s freckled wine-steward,
Third Terrible One,
Dreadful bear inthe onslaught,
Strife’s pursuer,
War-band’s fierce shouter,
The long line’s leader,
Glorious was Cipno fab Gwengad.