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The Barddas of Iolo Morganwg, Vol. I., ed. by J. Williams Ab Ithel, [1862], at

p. 9

Barddas. Bardism

p. 10 p. 11




MAY it please your information, my beloved teacher; pray, tell me who was the first that made a Letter?

Einiged the Giant, son of Huon, son of Alser, 1 son of Javan, 2 son of Japheth, son of Noah the Aged, after the death of his father, for the purpose of preserving a memorial of what he did, and of his praiseworthy actions, warranted in respect of credibility and information. And because it was on wood (pren) that such belief was first placed, both the letters, and what they were inscribed on, were called Coelbren3

p. 12 p. 13

Who was the first that made a Roll 1 in connection with letters?

p. 14 p. 15

Bran the Blessed, 1 son of Llyr of Defective Speech, learned that mode at Rome, and brought it with him to Britain, where he taught it to the Cymry, as well as the manner of dressing the skins of kids and goats, so as to be suitable for written letters. And that mode became customary, so that the Bards alone practised, as it were by bare rescue, the old style of inscribing letters on wood, for the purpose of preserving the memorials of the old and primitive sciences of the nation of the Cymry; thence it came to be called Coelbren of the Bards. At present there are only the Bards that keep it in memory, by engraving their songs and records on wood, according to the ancient art, with the view of preserving in reliable memory the primitive sciences of the nation of the Cymry.

Who was the first that made paper?

A man from Constantinople, named Moran; he ground flax, which on its being thinly spread out, became paper.

What is the virtue of letters?

They are mute organs that speak--a body without a soul, and without life, guiding thought--dead ones, knowing more than the living--a hand speaking better than the tongue--an eye hearing better than the ear, without either noise or sound--speech without a tongue--hearing without an ear--

p. 16 p. 17

language without words--form of voice--a messenger uttering the truth, without knowing it--the dead teaching the living--memory with no one guiding it--the understanding of the dead--the principal skill of the art of the living--the preservation of all arts and sciences--and the demonstration of all that is demonstrable.


11:1 p. 10 Probably the same as Elishah, in Gen. x. 4.

11:2 It is remarkable that, contrary to the popular notion which represents Gomer as the progenitor of the Cymry, Nennius, the Genealogy of Gruffydd ab Cynan, in the 2nd volume of the Myvyrian Archaiology--and other Pedigrees registered by Lewis Dwnn, all support the view of the text as to the descent of that people from Javan. Nennius, indeed, asserts positively that his information was derived "ex traditione veterum, qui incolæ in primo fuerunt Britanniæ."

11:3 That is, wood of credibility. The ancient mode of cutting letters on wood is frequently alluded to in the poems of the Bards, both early and medieval. Thus;

TALIESIN, 520--570.

Wyf llogell cerdd wyf lle ynydd (llëenydd),
Caraf y gorwydd a gorail clyd.

I am the depository of song, I am a reader,
I love the sprigs and the compact wattling.
                       Buarth y Beirdd.

p. 11

Gwydion ap Don--
A rithwys gorwyddawd y ar plagawd.

Gwydion, son of Don--
Formed wood knowledge upon plagawd.
                             Kadeir Keridwen.


Bu bwyall brenn bardd anghymmen
Yn naddu can i Wenllian.

The wooden axe of an unpolished bard
Has been hewing a song to Gwenllian.

CYNDDELW, 1150-1200.

O ffyrfioli tri o draethaut berffaith
Oe gwyded ieith oe gwydaur. p. 12

From composing three complete treatises
Of wood language--of wood letters.--Canu i Dduw.

DAVYDD AB GWILYM, 1300-1368.

Hwn fydd ar wydd i’w hannerch.

This will address them on wood.

O myn wawd orddawd arddof
Aed i’r coed i dorri cof.

If he would have an encomium of gentle character,
Let him go into the wood to cut a memorial.
                                           I Ruff. Grug.

Haws yw cael lle ho gwael gwydd
Saerni dwfn saer na defnydd.

It is easier to obtain, where the wood is poor,
The carpentry of a skilful wright, than materials.--Ib.

IOLO GOCH, 1315-1402.

Arwain i Owain a wnaf
Ar eiriau mydr ir araf
Peunydd nid naddiad gwydd gwern,
Pen saerwawd.

I will bear for Owain,
In metrical words, fresh and slow,
Continually, not the hewing of alder wood
By the chief carpenter of song.--I. O. Glyndwr.

RHYS GOCH ERYRI, 1330-1420.

Ni welir mwy ol bwyall
Flodau saer ar gerddgaer gall.

No longer will be seen the mark of the axe
Of the flower of carpenters on a song-loving and wise one.
                                                Mar. Gruff. Llwyd.


Pan glywyf hiraethwyf hoed
Pensaergerdd pain is irgoed.

When I hear, I regret the delay,
The chief carpenter of song--a peacock beneath the green wood.

GWILYM TEW, 1430-1470.

Llun ei gorph yn darllain gwydd.

The form of his person reading wood.

IEUAN DU’R BILWG, 1460-1500.

Aed dy fawl, ydwyd filwr,
Ar wydd hyd mae dydd a dwr.

May thy praise go--thou art a soldier
Upon wood, as long as day and water continue.

p. 13

LEWYS MON, 1480-1520.

Bwyall gerdd pan ballai gant
Byth naddai beth ni wyddant.

The axe of song, when a hundred failed,
Always hewed what they knew not.
                             Mar. Rhys Nanmor.

SION TUDUR, 1560-1602.

Ni wnai brydydd na brawdwr
Roi gwydd gwael ar gywydd gwr.

No poet or judge
Used better wood for a poem to man.
                         Mar. Sion Brwynog.

RHYS CAIN, 1580.

Yscerbwd mewn cwd, nid min call--a’i mawl,
Llyfr moliant bardd cibddall,
Anhawdd yw ei iawn ddeall,
Fe wna i ddyn a fo’n ddall.

A skeleton in a bag--the lips of the wise will not praise it,
The eulogistic book of a purblind bard,
It is difficult to rightly understand it,
It will do for a man who is blind.--I lyfr pren.

A long string of similar quotations might be adduced, but the foregoing are sufficient to show that the practice in question was known to the Bards from the 6th down to the 17th century.

It may be observed that several words in the Cymric language, which relate to knowledge or literature, have a primary reference to wood. Thus; arwydd, a sign; cyfarwydd, skilful; cyfarwyddyd, information; cywydd, a species of versification, also revelation; dedwydd, having recovered knowledge, happy; derwydd, a Druid; egwyddawr, a rudiment, an alphabet; gwgddawr, a rudiment; gwyddon, a man of science; gwynwyddigion, men of sacred knowledge.

13:1 Though Roll, as in the text, primarily refers to the schedule that was turned up with the hand in the form of a pipe, it came also to denote a system, or arrangement, as in the phraseologies, Rhol y Crythor, Rhol y Telynor, Rhol y Mesurau, Rhol Iolo Goch, Rhol Achau, Rhol Cof a Chyfrif, and Rhol y Beirdd. It is alluded to by many of the Bards; thus--

DAVYDD AB GWILYM, 1300-1368.

Bydd yr un Rhol ag Iolo
Ddefod hardd, hen fardd y fro.

He will be of the same Roll as Iolo,
Fair usage--the old Bard of the district.


Y rhai na wyppont eu Rhol
Yu csgud aent i ysgol. p. 14

They who know not their Roll,
Let them quickly go to school.


Goreuro Rhol geiriau rhawg,
Grafio dadl gref odidawg.

He gilt a Roll of long words,
He engraved a controversy, strong and excellent.
                                          Mar. Tudur Aled.


Graddau a Rhol gorwyddawd,
Gwraidd gwybodau er gwau gwawd.

The degrees and Roll of wood-knowledge,
The root of sciences, for the weaving of a song of praise.
                                  Mar. Gwilym ap Ieuan Hen.

DAVYDD BENWYN, 1550-1600.

Eurai bwnc oran bencerdd,
Arail gwawd a Rhol y gerdd. p. 15

He embellished a subject--the best chief of song--
He attended to encomium, and the Roll of song.
                                    Mar. Lewys Morgan.

LEWYS AP HYWEL, 1560-1600.

Rhin gwawdiaith a’i rhoi’n gadarn,
Rhol beirdd yn rheoli barn.

The charm of panegyric, firmly placed,
The Roll of the Bards ruling judgment.
                       Mar. Iorwerth Vynglwyd.

SION TUDUR, 1560-1602.

Ai Rhol achau rhy lychwin.

And their Roll of pedigrees, too much covered with mould.

15:1 Father of the celebrated Caractacus. Bran is said to have remained at Rome for seven years as hostage for his son. (Tr. 35. Third Series). It was then that be acquired the information imputed to him in the text.

Next: The Origin and Progress of Letters.--The Name of God.--The Bardic Secret