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active Arthur in Welsh literary tradition.[83] Particularly significant in this development were the three Welsh Arthurian romances, which are closely similar to those of Chrétien, albeit with some significant differences: Owain, or the Lady of the Fountain is related to Chrétien's Yvain; Geraint and Enid, to Erec and Enide; and Peredur son of Efrawg, to Perceval.[84] HP Mini 110-3103st Keyboard

Up to c. 1210, continental Arthurian romance was expressed primarily through poetry; after this date the tales began to be told in prose. The most significant of these 13th-century prose romances was the Vulgate Cycle (also known as the Lancelot-Grail Cycle), HP Mini 110-3104sa Keyboard

a series of five Middle French prose works written in the first half of that century.[85] These works were theEstoire del Saint Grail, the Estoire de Merlin, the Lancelot propre (or Prose Lancelot, which made up half the entire Vulgate Cycle on its own), the Queste del Saint Graal and the Mort Artu, HP Mini 110-3105ep Keyboard

which combine to form the first coherent version of the entire Arthurian legend. The cycle continued the trend towards reducing the role played by Arthur in his own legend, partly through the introduction of the character of Galahad and an expansion of the role of Merlin. HP Mini 110-3105es Keyboard

It also made Mordred the result of an incestuous relationship between Arthur and his sister and established the role of Camelot, first mentioned in passing in Chrétien's Lancelot, as Arthur's primary court.[86] This series of texts was quickly followed by the Post-Vulgate Cycle(c. 1230–40), HP Mini 110-3105sa Keyboard

of which the Suite du Merlin is a part, which greatly reduced the importance of Lancelot's affair with Guinevere but continued to sideline Arthur, now in order to focus more on the Grail quest.[85] As such, Arthur became even more of a relatively minor character in these French prose romances; in the Vulgate itself he only figures significantly in the Estoire de Merlin and the Mort Artu. HP Mini 110-3105sl Keyboard

The development of the medieval Arthurian cycle and the character of the "Arthur of romance" culminated in Le Morte d'Arthur, Thomas Malory's retelling of the entire legend in a single work in English in the late 15th century. Malory based his book—originally titled The Whole Book of King Arthur and of His Noble Knights of the Round Table—on the various previous romance versions, HP Mini 110-3105tu Keyboard

in particular the Vulgate Cycle, and appears to have aimed at creating a comprehensive and authoritative collection of Arthurian stories.[87] Perhaps as a result of this, and the fact that Le Morte D'Arthur was one of the earliest printed books in England, published by William Caxton in 1485, most later Arthurian works are derivative of Malory's.[88] HP Mini 110-3106es Keyboard

Post-medieval literature

The end of the Middle Ages brought with it a waning of interest in King Arthur. Although Malory's English version of the great French romances was popular, there were increasing attacks upon the truthfulness of the historical framework of the Arthurian romances—established since Geoffrey of Monmouth's time—and thus the legitimacy of the whole Matter of Britain. HP Mini 110-3106sl Keyboard

So, for example, the 16th-century humanist scholar Polydore Vergil famously rejected the claim that Arthur was the ruler of a post-Roman empire, found throughout the post-Galfridian medieval "chronicle tradition", to the horror of Welsh and English antiquarians.[89] HP Mini 110-3106tu Keyboard

cial changes associated with the end of the medieval period and the Renaissance also conspired to rob the character of Arthur and his associated legend of some of their power to enthral audiences, with the result that 1634 saw the last printing of Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur for nearly 200 years.[90HP Mini 110-3107sa Keyboard

]King Arthur and the Arthurian legend were not entirely abandoned, but until the early 19th century the material was taken less seriously and was often used simply as vehicle for allegories of 17th- and 18th-century politics.[91] Thus Richard Blackmore's epics Prince Arthur (1695) and King Arthur (1697) feature Arthur as an allegory for the struggles of William III against James II.[92]HP Mini 110-3107sl Keyboard

Similarly, the most popular Arthurian tale throughout this period seems to have been that of Tom Thumb, which was told first through chapbooks and later through the political plays of Henry Fielding; although the action is clearly set in Arthurian Britain, the treatment is humorous and Arthur appears as a primarily comedic version of his romance character.[93] HP Mini 110-3107tu Keyboard

John Dryden's masque King Arthur is still performed, largely thanks to Henry Purcell's music, though seldom unabridged.

In the early 19th century, medievalism, Romanticism, and the Gothic Revival reawakened interest in Arthur and the medieval romances. A new code of ethics for 19th-century gentlemen was shaped around the chivalric ideals that the "Arthur of romance" embodied. HP Mini 110-3108sa Keyboard

This renewed interest first made itself felt in 1816, when Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur was reprinted for the first time since 1634.[94]Initially the medieval Arthurian legends were of particular interest to poets, inspiring, for example, William Wordsworth to write "The Egyptian Maid" (1835), an allegory of the Holy Grail.[95HP Mini 110-3108sl Keyboard

]Pre-eminent among these was Alfred Lord Tennyson, whose first Arthurian poem, "The Lady of Shalott", was published in 1832.[96] Although Arthur himself played a minor role in some of these works, following in the medieval romance tradition, Tennyson's Arthurian work reached its peak of popularity with Idylls of the King, which reworked the entire narrative of Arthur's life for the Victorian era. First published in 1859, it sold 10,000 copies within the first week.[97] HP Mini 110-3108tu Keyboard

In the Idylls, Arthur became a symbol of ideal manhood whose attempt to establish a perfect kingdom on earth fails, finally, through human weakness.[98] Tennyson's works prompted a large number of imitators, generated considerable public interest in the legends of Arthur and the character himself, HP Mini 110-3109ca Keyboard

and brought Malory’s tales to a wider audience.[99] Indeed, the first modernization of Malory's great compilation of Arthur's tales was published shortly after Idylls appeared, in 1862, and there were six further editions and five competitors before the century ended.[100] HP Mini 110-3109sa Keyboard

This interest in the "Arthur of romance" and his associated stories continued through the 19th century and into the 20th, and influenced poets such as William Morris and Pre-Raphaelite artists including Edward Burne-Jones.[101] Even the humorous tale of Tom Thumb, HP Mini 110-3109sl Keyboard

which had been the primary manifestation of Arthur's legend in the 18th century, was rewritten after the publication ofIdylls. While Tom maintained his small stature and remained a figure of comic relief, his story now included more elements from the medieval Arthurian romances, HP Mini 110-3110ee Keyboard

and Arthur is treated more seriously and historically in these new versions.[102] The revived Arthurian romance also proved influential in the United States, with such books as Sidney Lanier's The Boy's King Arthur (1880) reaching wide audiences and providing inspiration for Mark Twain's satiric A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1889).[103] HP Mini 110-3110eo Keyboard

Although the "Arthur of romance" was sometimes central to these new Arthurian works (as he was in Burne-Jones's The Last Sleep of Arthur in Avalon, 1881–1898), on other occasions he reverted back to his medieval status and is either marginalised or even missing entirely, HP Mini 110-3110ep Keyboard

with Wagner's Arthurian operas providing a notable instance of the latter.[104] Furthermore, the revival of interest in Arthur and the Arthurian tales did not continue unabated. By the end of the 19th century, it was confined mainly to Pre-Raphaelite imitators,[105] HP Mini 110-3110ev Keyboard

and it could not avoid being affected by the First World War, which damaged the reputation of chivalry and thus interest in its medieval manifestations and Arthur as chivalric role model.[106]HP Mini 110-3110ez Keyboard

The romance tradition did, however, remain sufficiently powerful to persuade Thomas Hardy, Laurence Binyon and John Masefield to compose Arthurian plays,[107] and T. S. Eliot alludes to the Arthur myth (but not Arthur) in his poem The Waste Land, which mentions the Fisher King.[108] HP Mini 110-3110nr Keyboard

Modern legend

In the latter half of the 20th century, the influence of the romance tradition of Arthur continued, through novels such as T. H. White's The Once and Future King (1958) and Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon (1982) in addition to comic strips such asPrince Valiant (from 1937 onward).[109] HP Mini 110-3110sa Keyboard

Tennyson had reworked the romance tales of Arthur to suit and comment upon the issues of his day, and the same is often the case with modern treatments too. Bradley's tale, for example, takes a feminist approach to Arthur and his legend, in contrast to the narratives of Arthur found in medieval materials,[110] HP Mini 110-3110se Keyboard

and American authors often rework the story of Arthur to be more consistent with values such as equality and democracy.[111] The romance Arthur has become popular in film and theatre as well. T. H. White's novel was adapted into the Lerner-Loewe stage musical Camelot (1960) and the Disney animated film The Sword in the Stone (1963); HP Mini 110-3110so Keyboard

Camelot, with its focus on the love of Lancelot and Guinevere and the cuckolding of Arthur, was itself made into a film of the same name in 1967. The romance tradition of Arthur is particularly evident and, according to critics, HP Mini 110-3110sp Keyboard

successfully handled in Robert Bresson's Lancelot du Lac (1974), Eric Rohmer's Perceval le Gallois (1978) and perhaps John Boorman's fantasy film Excalibur (1981); it is also the main source of the material utilised in the Arthurian spoof Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975).[112] HP Mini 110-3110sq Keyboard

Re-tellings and re-imaginings of the romance tradition are not the only important aspect of the modern legend of King Arthur. Attempts to portray Arthur as a genuine historical figure of c. 500 AD, stripping away the "romance", have also emerged. As Taylor and Brewer have noted, HP Mini 110-3110ss Keyboard

this return to the medieval "chronicle tradition"' of Geoffrey of Monmouth and the Historia Brittonum is a recent trend which became dominant in Arthurian literature in the years following the outbreak of the Second World War, when Arthur's legendary resistance to Germanic invaders struck a chord in Britain.[113]HP Mini 110-3110st Keyboard

Clemence Dane's series of radio plays, The Saviours (1942), used a historical Arthur to embody the spirit of heroic resistance against desperate odds, and Robert Sherriff's play The Long Sunset (1955) saw Arthur rallying Romano-British resistance against the Germanic invaders.[114]HP Mini 110-3110sv Keyboard

This trend towards placing Arthur in a historical setting is also apparent in historical and fantasy novels published during this period.[115] In recent years the portrayal of Arthur as a real hero of the 5th century has also made its way into film versions of the Arthurian legend, most notably the TV seriesArthur of the Britons[116]HP Mini 110-3111ee Keyboard

and the feature films King Arthur (2004) and The Last Legion (2007).[117] The 2008 BBC series Merlin is a reimagining of the legend in which the future King Arthur and Merlin are young contemporaries. Camelot (2011) [118]HP Mini 110-3111ei Keyboard

is an exclusive short series of episodes which depict Arthur in ancient Briton and his struggle for the throne. Also, a recent Disney film, Avalon High has been released, the story about a modern day King Arthur and his knights of the round table. HP Mini 110-3111eo Keyboard

Legacy as a role model

During the Middle Ages, Arthur was made a member of the Nine Worthies, a group of heroes encapsulating all the ideal qualities of chivalry. His life was thus proposed as a valuable subject for study by those aspiring to chivalric status. This aspect of Arthur in the Nine Worthies was popularised firstly through literature and was thereafter adopted as a frequent subject by painters and sculptors. Arthur has also been used as a model for modern-day behaviour. HP Mini 110-3111sa Keyboard

In the 1930s, the Order of the Fellowship of the Knights of the Round Table was formed in Britain to promote Christian ideals and Arthurian notions of medieval chivalry.[119] In the United States, hundreds of thousands of boys and girls joined Arthurian youth groups, such as the Knights of King Arthur, in which Arthur and his legends were promoted as wholesome exemplars.[120] HP Mini 110-3111se Keyboard

Arthur's diffusion within contemporary culture goes beyond obviously Arthurian endeavours, with Arthurian names being regularly attached to objects, buildings and places. As Norris J. Lacy has observed, "The popular notion of Arthur appears to be limited, not surprisingly, to a few motifs and names, but there can be no doubt of the extent to which a legend born many centuries ago is profoundly embedded in modern culture at every level."[121] HP Mini 110-3111ss Keyboard

Y Gododdin (pronounced ɡɔˈdɔðɪn]) is a medieval Welsh poem consisting of a series of elegies to the men of theBritonnic kingdom of Gododdin and its allies who, according to the conventional interpretation, died fighting theAngles of Deira and Bernicia at a place named Catraeth in ca. AD 600. It is traditionally ascribed to the bardAneirin, and survives only in one manuscript, known as the Book of Aneirin. HP Mini 110-3111st Keyboard

The poem is recorded in a manuscript of the second half of the 13th century, and it has been dated to anywhere between the 7th and the early 11th centuries. The text is partly written in Middle Welsh orthography and partly inOld Welsh. The early date would place its oral composition to soon after the battle, presumably in the Hen Ogledd("Old North")HP Mini 110-3111tu Keyboard

in what would have been the Cumbric variety of Brythonic.[1][2] Others consider it the work of a poet in medieval Wales, composed in the 9th, 10th or 11th century. Even a 9th-century date would make it one of the oldest surviving Welsh works of poetry. HP Mini 110-3112ei Keyboard

The Gododdin, known in Roman times as the Votadini, held territories in what is now southeast Scotland andNorthumberland, part of the Hen Ogledd (Old North). The poem tells how a force of 300 (or 363) picked warriors were assembled, some from as far afield as Pictland and Gwynedd. HP Mini 110-3112eo Keyboard

After a year of feasting at Din Eidyn, now Edinburgh, they attacked Catraeth, which is usually identified with Catterick, North Yorkshire. After several days of fighting against overwhelming odds, nearly all the warriors are killed. The poem is similar in ethos to heroic poetry, HP Mini 110-3112sa Keyboard

with the emphasis on the heroes fighting primarily for glory, but is not a narrative. The manuscript contains several stanzas which have no connection with the Gododdin and are considered to be interpolations. One stanza in particular has received attention because it mentions King Arthur, HP Mini 110-3112so Keyboard

which, if not an interpolation, would be the earliest known reference to that character, as outside of this poem, Welsh Arthurian legend is known to develop only from ca. the early 12th century. HP Mini 110-3112st Keyboard


There is only one early manuscript of Y Gododdin, the Book of Aneirin, thought to date from the second half of the 13th century. The currently accepted view is that this manuscript contains the work of two scribes, usually known as A and B. Scribe A wrote down 88 stanzas of the poem,[3] HP Mini 110-3112tu Keyboard

then left a blank page before writing down four related poems known as Gorchanau.[4] This scribe wrote the material down in Middle Welsh orthography. Scribe B added material later, and apparently had access to an earlier manuscript since the material added by this scribe is in Old Welsh orthography. HP Mini 110-3113eo Keyboard

nime Scribe B wrote 35 stanzas, some of which are variants of stanzas also given by Scribe A while others are not given by A. The last stanza is incomplete and three folios are missing from the end of the manuscript, so some material may have been lost.[5] HP Mini 110-3113sa Keyboard

There are differences within the material added by Scribe B. The first 23 stanzas of the B material shows signs of partial modernisation of the orthography, while the remainder show much more retention of Old Welsh features. Jarman explains this by suggesting that Scribe B started by partially modernising the orthography as he copied the stanzas, HP Mini 110-3113sj Keyboard

but after a while tired of this and copied the remaining stanzas as they were in the older manuscript. Isaac suggested that Scribe B was using two sources, called B1 and B2.[6] If this is correct, the material in the Books of Aneirin is from three sources. HP Mini 110-3113tu Keyboard

The stanzas that make up the poem[7] are a series of elegies for warriors who fell in battle against vastly superior numbers. Some of the verses refer to the entire host, others eulogize individual heroes. They tell how the ruler of the Gododdin, Mynyddog Mwynfawr, HP Mini 110-3114tu Keyboard

gathered warriors from several Brythonic kingdoms and provided them with a year's feasting and drinking mead in his halls at Din Eidyn, before launching a campaign in which almost all of them were killed fighting against overwhelming odds.[8] The poetry is based on a fixed number of syllables, HP Mini 110-3115sg Keyboard

though there is some irregularity which may be due to modernisation of the language during oral transmission. It uses rhyme, both end-rhyme and internal, and some parts use alliteration. A number of stanzas may open with the same words, for example "Gwyr a aeth gatraeth gan wawr" ("Men went to Catraeth at dawn").HP Mini 110-3115tu Keyboard

The collection appears to have been compiled from two different versions: according to some verses there were 300 men of the Gododdin, and only one, HP Mini 110-3116tu Keyboard

Cynon fab Clytno, survived; in others there were 363 warriors and three survivors, in addition to the poet, who as a bard would have almost certainly not have been counted as one of the warriors. The names of about eighty warriors are given in the poem.[9] HP Mini 110-3117tu Keyboard

Another stanza appears to be part of the separate cycle of poems associated with Llywarch Hen. The third interpolation is a poem entitled "Dinogad's Smock", a cradle-song addressed to a baby named Dinogad, describing how his father goes hunting and fishing.[25] HP Mini 110-3118cl Keyboard

The interpolations are thought to have been added to the poem after it had been written down, these stanzas first being written down where there was a space in the manuscript, then being incorporated in the poem by a later copier who failed to realise that they did not belong. HP Mini 110-3118tu Keyboard

The Strathcarron stanza, for example, is the first stanza in the B text of the Book of Aneirin, andJackson suggested that it had probably been inserted on a blank space at the top of the first page of the original manuscript.[26] According to Koch's reconstruction, this stanza was deliberately added to the text in Strathclyde. HP Mini 110-3119la Keyboard


The date of Y Gododdin has been the subject of debate among scholars since the early 19th century.[27] If the poem was composed soon after the battle, it must predate 638, when the fall of Din Eidyn was recorded in the reign of Oswy king of Bernicia, an event which is thought to have meant the collapse of the kingdom of the Gododdin.[28]HP Mini 110-3119tu Keyboard

If it is a later composition, the latest date which could be ascribed to it is determined by the orthography of the second part of Scribe B's text. This is usually considered to be that of the ninth or tenth centuries, although some scholars consider that it could be from the 11th century.[29] HP Mini 110-3120eb Keyboard

Most of the debate about the date of the poem has employed linguistic arguments. It is believed that around the time of the battle, the British language was transitioning into its daughter languages: the primitive form of Welsh in Wales, of Cornish and Breton in southwestern Britain and Brittany, HP Mini 110-3120ee Keyboard

and Cumbric in northern Britain.[30] Kenneth Jackson concludes that the majority of the changes that transformed British into Primitive Welsh belong to the period from the middle of the 5th to the end of the 6th century.[31] This involved syncope and the loss of final syllables. HP Mini 110-3120ek Keyboard

If the poem dates to this time, it would have been written in an early form of Cumbric, the usual name for the Brythonic speech of the Hen Ogledd.[1] Jackson suggested the name "Primitive Cumbric" for the dialect spoken at the time.[32] HP Mini 110-3120ev Keyboard

Sweetser gives the example of the name Cynfelyn found in the Gododdin; in British this would have been Cunobelinos. The middle unstressed o and the final unstressed os have been lost.[33] Ifor Williams, whose 1938 text laid the foundations for modern scholarly study of the poetry, considered that part of it could be regarded as being of likely late 6th century origin. HP Mini 110-3120la Keyboard

This would have been orally transmitted for a period before being written down.[34] Dillon cast doubt on the date of composition, arguing that it is unlikely that by the end of the 6th century Primitive Welsh would have developed into a language "not notably earlier than that of the ninth century". HP Mini 110-3120se Keyboard

He suggests that the poetry may have been composed in the 9th century on traditional themes and attributed to Aneirin.[35] Jackson however considers that there is "no real substance" in these arguments, and points out that the poetry would have been transmitted orally for a long period before being written down, HP Mini 110-3120sk Keyboard

and would have been modernised by reciters, and that there is in any case nothing in the language used which would rule out a date around 600.[36] Koch suggests a rather earlier date, about 570, and also suggests that the poem may have existed in written form by the 7th century, much earlier than usually thought. Koch, reviewing the arguments about the date of the poetry in 1997, states: HP Mini 110-3120sp Keyboard

Today, the possibility of an outright forgery - which would amount to the anachronistic imposition of a modern literary concept onto early Welsh tradition - is no longer in serious contention. HP Mini 110-3120ss Keyboard

Rather, the narrowing spectrum of alternatives ranges from a Gododdin corpus which is mostly a literary creation of mediaeval Wales based on a fairly slender thread of traditions from the old Brittonic North to a corpus which is in large part recoverable as a text actually composed in that earlier time and place."[37] HP Mini 110-3120sv Keyboard

Koch himself believes that a considerable part of the poem can be dated to the 6th century. Greene in 1971 considered that the language of the poem was 9th century rather than 6th century,[38] and Isaac, writing in 1999, stated that the linguistic evidence did not necessitate dating the poem as a whole before the 9th or 10th century.[39] HP Mini 110-3120tu Keyboard

The other approach to dating the poetry has been to look at it from a historical point of view. Charles-Edwards writing in 1978 concluded that: HP Mini 110-3121ee Keyboard

The historical arguments, therefore, suggest that the poem is the authentic work of Aneirin; that we can establish the essential nature of the poem from the two surviving versions; but that we cannot, except in favourable circumstances, establish the wording of the original.[40] HP Mini 110-3121la Keyboard

Dumville, commenting on these attempts to establish the historicity of the poem in 1988, said, "The case for authenticity, whatever exactly we mean by that, is not proven; but that does not mean that it cannot be."[41] The fact that the great majority of the warriors mentioned in the poem are not known from other sources has been put forward by several authors as an argument against the idea that the poem could be a later composition. HP Mini 110-3121se Keyboard

The poems which are known to be later "forgeries" have clearly been written for a purpose, for example to strengthen the claims of a particular dynasty. The men commemorated in Y Gododdin do not appear in the pedigrees of any Welsh dynasty.[42] Breeze comments, "it is difficult to see why a later poet should take the trouble to commemorate men who, but for the poem, would be forgotten".[43] HP Mini 110-3121tu Keyboard


The poem is set in the area which is now southern Scotland and north-east England. Around the year 600 this area included a number of Brythonic kingdoms. Apart from the Gododdin, the kingdom of Alt Clut occupied the Strathclyde area and Rhegedcovered parts of Galloway, Lancashire and Cumbria. HP Mini 110-3122tu Keyboard

Further south lay the kingdom of Elmet in the Leeds area. These areas made up what was later known in Welsh as Yr Hen Ogledd (The Old North). The Gododdin, known as the Votadini in the Romano-British period, occupied a territory from the area around the head of the Firth of Forth as far south as the River Wear. HP Mini 110-3123tu Keyboard

In modern terms their lands included much of Clackmannanshire and the Lothian and Borders regions. Their capital at this period may have been called Din Eidyn, now known as Edinburgh. By this time the area that later became Northumbria had been invaded and increasingly occupied by the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia.[44] HP Mini 110-3124la Keyboard

In the Historia Brittonum, attributed to Nennius, there is a reference to several poets in this area during the 6th century. Having mentioned Ida of Bernicia, the founder of the Northumbrian royal line who ruled between 547 and 559, the Historia goes on to say: HP Mini 110-3125tu Keyboard

At that time Talhaearn the Father of the Muse was famous in poetry, and Neirin, Taliesin, Blwchfardd and Cian who is called Gweinthgwawd, at one and the same time were renowned in British poetry."[45] HP Mini 110-3126tu Keyboard

Nothing has been preserved of the work of Talhaearn, Blwchfardd and Cian, but poems attributed to Taliesin were published by Ifor Williams in Canu Taliesin and were considered by him to be comparable in antiquity to the Gododdin. This poetry praises Urien of Rheged and his son Owain, and refers to Urien as lord of Catraeth.[46] HP Mini 110-3127tu Keyboard


Y Gododdin is not a narrative poem but a series of elegies for heroes who died in a battle whose history would have been familiar to the original listeners. The context of the poem has to be worked out from the text itself. There have been various interpretations of the events recorded in the poem. HP Mini 110-3128ei Keyboard

The 19th-century Welsh scholar Thomas Stephens identified the Gododdin with the Votadini and Catraeth as Catterick in North Yorkshire.[47] He linked the poem to the Battle of Degsastan in c.603 between king Æthelfrith of Bernicia and the Gaels under Áedán mac Gabráin, HP Mini 110-3128si Keyboard

king of Dál Riada. Gwenogvryn Evans in his 1922 edition and translation of the Book of Aneirin claimed that the poem referred to a battle around the Menai Strait in 1098, emending the text to fit the theory.[48] The generally accepted interpretation for the Battle of Catraeth is that put forward by Ifor Williams in his Canu Aneirin first published in 1938. HP Mini 110-3129si Keyboard

Williams interpreted mynydawc mwynvawr in the text to refer to a person, Mynyddog Mwynfawr in modern Welsh. Mynyddog, in his version, was the king of the Gododdin, with his chief seat at Din Eidyn (modern Edinburgh). Around the year 600 Mynyddog gathered about 300 selected warriors, HP Mini 110-3130ee Keyboard

some from as far afield as Gwynedd. He feasted them at Din Eidyn for a year, then launched an attack on Catraeth, which Williams agrees with Stephens in identifying as Catterick, which was in Anglo-Saxon hands. They were opposed by a larger army from the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Deira and Bernicia.[49] HP Mini 110-3130ev Keyboard

The battle at Catraeth has been seen as an attempt to resist the advance of the Angles, who had probably by then occupied the former Votadini lands of Bryneich in modern north-eastern England and made it their kingdom of Bernicia. At some time after the battle, the Angles absorbed the Gododdin kingdom, possibly after the fall of their capital Din Eidyn in 638, and incorporated it into the kingdom of Northumbria. HP Mini 110-3130nr Keyboard

This interpretation has been accepted by most modern scholars. Jackson accepts the interpretation but suggests that a force of 300 men would be much too small to undertake the task demanded of them. He considers that the 300 mounted warriors would have been accompanied by a larger number of foot soldiers, HP Mini 110-3130sb Keyboard

not considered worthy of mention in the poem.[50] Jarman also follows Williams' interpretation.[51] Jackson suggested that after the fall of the kingdom of Gododdin, in or about 638, the poem was preserved in Strathclyde, which maintained its independence for several centuries. HP Mini 110-3130se Keyboard

He considers that it was first written down in Strathclyde after a period of oral transmission, and may have reached Wales in manuscript form between the end of the 8th and the end of the 9th century.[52]There would be particular interest in matters relating to the Gododdin in Gwynedd, since the founding myth of the kingdom involved the coming of Cunedda Wledigfrom Manaw Gododdin. HP Mini 110-3130ss Keyboard

Alternative interpretation

In 1997, John Koch published a new study of Y Gododdin which involved an attempt to reconstruct the original poetry written in what Koch terms "Archaic Neo-Brittonic". This work also included a new and very different interpretation of the background of the poetry. He draws attention to a poem in Canu Taliesinentitled Gweith Gwen Ystrat (The Battle of Gwen Ystrat): HP Mini 110-3130sv Keyboard

The men of Catraeth arise with the day around a battle-victorious, cattle-rich sovereign this is Uryen by name, the most senior leader."[53] HP Mini 110-3130tu Keyboard


There is also a reference to Catraeth in the slightly later poem Moliant Cadwallon, a panegyric addressed to Cadwallon ap Cadfan of Gwynedd, thought to have been composed in about 633.[54] Two lines in this poem are translated by Koch as "fierce Gwallawc wrought the great and renowned mortality at Catraeth". HP Mini 110-3131ee Keyboard

He identifies Gwallawc as the "Guallauc" who was one of the kings who fought against Bernicia in alliance with Urien. Koch draws attention to the mention ofmeibion Godebawc (the sons of Godebog) as an enemy in stanza 15 of the Gododdin and points out that according to old Welsh genealogies Urien and other Brittonic kings were descendants of "Coïl Hen Guotepauc".[55]HP Mini 110-3131se Keyboard

He considers that, in view of the references in the three poems, there is a case for identifying the attack on Catraeth recorded in Y Gododdin with the Battle of Gwen Ystrat. This would date the poem to about 570 rather than the c. 600 favoured by Williams and others. HP Mini 110-3131ss Keyboard

He interprets the Gododdin as having fought the Brythons of Rheged and Alt Clut over a power struggle in Elmet, with Anglian allies on both sides, Rheged being in an alliance with Deira. HP Mini 110-3131sz Keyboard

Mynyddog Mwynfawr was not a person's name but a personal description meaning 'mountain feast' or 'mountain chief'.[57HP Mini 110-3132ss Keyboard

]Some aspects of Koch's view of the historical context have been criticised by both Oliver Padel and Tim Clarkson. Clarkson, for example, makes the point that the reference in Gweith Gwen Ystrat is to "the men of Catraeth"; it does not state that the battle was fought at Catraeth, and also that according to Bede it was Paulinus, not Rhun, who baptized the Deirans.[58] HP Mini 110-3133ez Keyboard

Editions and translations

The first known translation of Y Gododdin was by Evan Evans ("Ieuan Fardd") who printed ten stanzas with a Latin translation in his book Some Specimens of the Poetry of the Antient Welsh Bards published in 1764.[59] The full text was printed for the first time by Owen Jones in the Myvyrian Archaiology in 1801. HP Mini 110-3133ss Keyboard

English translations of the poem were published by William Probert in 1820 and by John Williams (Ab Ithel) in 1852, followed by translations by William Forbes Skene in his Four Ancient Books of Wales (1866) and by Thomas Stephens for the Cymmrodorion Society in 1888. Gwenogvryn Evans produced a facsimile copy of the Book of Aneirin in 1908 and an edition with a translation in 1922. HP Mini 110-3135dx Keyboard

The first reliable edition was Canu Aneirin by Ifor Williams with notes in Welsh, published in 1938. New translations based on this work were published by Kenneth H. Jackson in 1969 and, with modernized Welsh text and glossary, by A.O.H. Jarman in 1988. HP Mini 110-3135sz Keyboard

A colour facsimile edition of the manuscript with an introduction by Daniel Huws was published by South Glamorgan County Council and the National Library of Wales in 1989. John Koch's new edition, which aimed to recreate the original text, appeared in 1997. HP Mini 110-3136tu Keyboard

There have also been a number of translations which aim to present the Gododdin as literature rather than as a subject of scholarly study. Examples are the translation by Joseph P. Clancy in The earliest Welsh poetry (1970) and Steve Short's 1994 translation. HP Mini 110-3138tu Keyboard

Cultural influence

There are a number of references to Y Gododdin in later Medieval Welsh poetry. The well-known 12th-century poem Hirlas Owain by Owain Cyfeiliog, in which Owain praises his own war-band, likens them to the heroes of the Gododdin and uses Y Gododdin as a model. HP Mini 110-3140ee Keyboard

A slightly later poet, Dafydd Benfras, in a eulogy addressed to Llywelyn the Great, wishes to be inspired "to sing as Aneirin sang / The day he sang the Gododdin".HP Mini 110-3140se Keyboard

After this period this poetry seems to have been forgotten in Wales for centuries until Evan Evans (Ieuan Fardd) discovered the manuscript in the late 18th century. From the early 19th century onwards there are many allusions in Welsh poetry. HP Mini 110-3140ss Keyboard

In English, Y Gododdin was a major influence on the long poem In Parenthesis (1937) by David Jones, in which he reflects on the carnage he witnessed in the First World War.[60] Jones put a quotation from the Gododdin at the beginning of each of the seven sections of In Parenthesis. HP Mini 110-3141ss Keyboard

Another poet writing in English,Richard Caddel, used 'Y Gododdin' as the basis of his difficult but much-admired poem For the Fallen (1997), written in memory of his son Tom.[61] Tony Conran's Poem 'Elegy for the Welsh Dead, in the Falklands Islands, 1982' opens with the line 'Men went to Catraeth', using the original poem to comment on a contemporary conflict. HP Mini 110-3141tu Keyboard

The poem has also inspired a number of historical novels, including Men Went to Cattraeth (1969) by John James, The Shining Company (1990) by Rosemary Sutcliffand The Amber Treasure (2009) by Richard J Denning. In 1989 the British industrial band Test Dept brought out an album entitled Gododdin, HP Mini 110-3142ss Keyboard

in which the words of the poem were set to music, part in the original and part in English translation. This was a collaboration with the Welsh avant-garde theatre company Brith Gof and was performed in Wales, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Scotland.[62] HP Mini 110-3142tu Keyboard

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