In Douglas Monroe
's stinking pile of shit--er, I mean, book--The 21 Lessons of Merlyn
, he mentions a "Gorchan of Maldrew
," a magic book
of spells. Of course, there is no such thing, just as there is no Book of Fferllyt
. However, there is a "Gwarchan of Maeldderew," attributed to Taliesin
but occuring in the Book of Anuerin
. It is a type of elegy
, sometimes called a lai
, and commemorates a fallen warrior at the Battle of Catterick
. It is preceded in the book by the following rubric
Every ode of the Gododdin is equivalent to a single song, according to the privilege of poetical composition. Each of the Gwarchans is equal to three hundred and sixty-three songs, because the number of the men who went to Catraeth is commemorated in the Gwarchans; and as no man should go to battle without arms, so no bard ought to contend without that poem.
Here now begins the Gwarchan of Maelderw. Taliesin sung it, and it is a privileged ode. His three Gwarchans are equal in poetical competition to all the odes in the Gododdin.
The noise of two Abers1 around the Caer2!
Arouse thyself to arms and splendour!
Cold is the passing and repassing of the breach of battle.
Lover of fame, seekest thou to sleep?
The variegated texture, the covering of heroism,
For the shelterless assault shall be woven.
The breach that has been attempted will not be effected.
Bear the patient exertion of heroism.
Sharply in arms he used to frown,
But mildly allured he the intellectual world. (10)
A man that will run when thou pursuest,
Will have the rounded house of the sepulchre for his bed.
Call together, but do not reproach the over-anxious;
And meddle not with the fierce and violent.
Let him who has a just claim break the boundary.
He does not calculate upon praise
Who defends his shelter.
Praise is the meed of those who have made impressions.
The victor gazed towards the fair one.
Of bright and prominent uplifted front, (20)
On the ruddy dragon, the palladium of Pharaon3,
Which will in the air accompany the people.
Dead is every one that fell on his mouth
In the repulsion of the march of Teth and Teddyd.
Courteous was the great retinue of the wall, of ashen spears.
To the sea thou mayst not come;
But neither thy retreat nor thy counsel will fail,
Thou magnanimous soul in the defence of his boundaries.
No more can they extricate themselves,
Extricate themselves before the barrier of Eiddyn4. (30)
Cenan, the fair wall of excellence,
Placed a sword on the entrenchment of warriors.
Victorious was the chief
In disposing the sovereign, I
Gray-headed chief of ministers,
Whose counsels were deep.
The mutually sweet will not produce the mutually bitter.
I have mutually wished,
I do mutually wish for the repose of Enlli (40)
The fair aspect of which is filled with deep interest,
On the course on a serene morning.
It allures me, it plays upon my strong desire.
I will ask the men for a dwelling,
In order to lessen the loss.
Happiness was lost and recovered.
The northern Rhun, chieftain, thou hast caused to withdraw;
The fat one in returning thou wilt cause to return to me.
They call more for large trees than for honeysuckles.
(Three lines untranslated).
Let the sovereign stand firm between the looks of Dremrudd,
The ruddy glancer, whose purpose cannot be viewed for a sufficient time,
Whose purpose cannot be viewed for a sufficient time,
By those who with impunity plough the noisy sea.
First to be satisfied is the pale one,
The eccentric, whose throne is of complete form.
Before he was covered, Gwenddelw5
Was a tall man of great worth like Maelderw. (60)
I will extol him who wields the spear,
Whose course is like that of the ruler of the mount,
The pervader of the land, by whose influence I am moved.
With active tumult did he descend to the ravine between the hills,
Nor was his presence a running shadow.
Whatever may befall the high land,
Disgrace shall never happen to the assembled train.
1. aber: the mouth of a river
2. caer: a walled, fortified city; in Latin, a castra, in Gaelic, a cathair (pronounced CA-haer, not unlike the Welsh caer, which is prounounced more or less as it is spelled).
3. Pharaon is also Dinas Emrys or Dinas Emrais, Vortigern's fort in Snowdonia, which collapsed due to the fighting dragons buried underneith generations before by Lludd and Llefelys. This is the same tower where the young Myrddin Emrys--Merlin--was to be sacrificed. The "ruddy dragon" refered to here is one of the two dragons which were buried, namely the Red Dragon of Wales which is the national symbol and supposed banner of King Arthur.
4. Eiddyn is Dunedin, or in English, Edinburgh.
5. Gwenddelw is the possibly the Gwenddolau of Vita Merlini fame, the slain pagan king who fought Peredur, Maelgwn Gwynedd, Rhydderch Hael, and Aedan mac Gabhran at the Battle of Arthuret in 545 or so.
The translation is that which is given in The Four Ancient Books of Wales
. It is the only somewhat-complete translation that I know of, since the text itself is very obscure and difficult to translate. I don't even attempt it if Ifor Williams (a noted Welsh translator) can't seem to.