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


Pray, my skilful and discreet teacher, if it be fair to ask, how was the knowledge of letters first obtained?

I will exhibit the information of men of wisdom and pro-found knowledge, thus;--When God pronounced His name, with the word sprang the light and the life; for previously there was no life except God Himself. And the mode in which it was spoken was of God's direction. His name was pronounced, and with the utterance was the springing of light and vitality, and man, and every other living thing; that is to say, each and all sprang together. And Menw 1 the Aged, son of Menwyd, 1 beheld the springing of the light, and its form and appearance, not otherwise than thus, , in three columns; and in the rays of light the vocalization--for one were the hearing and seeing, one unitedly the form and sound; and one unitedly with the form and sound was life, and one unitedly with these three was power, which power was God the Father. And since each of these was one unitedly, he understood that every voice, and hearing, and living, and being, and sight, and seeing, were one unitedly with God; nor is the least thing other than God. And by seeing the form, and in it hearing the voice--not otherwise--he knew what form and appearance voice should have. And having obtained earth under him coinstantaneously with the light, he drew the form of the voice and light

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on the earth. And it was on hearing the sound of the voice, which had in it the kind and utterance of three notes, that he obtained the three letters, and knew the sign that was suitable to one and other of them. Thus he made in form and sign the Name of God, after the semblance of rays of light, and perceived that they were the figure and form and sign of life; one also with them was life, and in life was God, that is to say, God is one with life, and there is no life but God, and there is no God but life.

It was from the understanding thus obtained in respect of this voice, that he was able to assimilate mutually every other voice as to kind, quality, and reason, and could make a letter suitable to the utterance of every sound and voice. Thus were obtained the Cymraeg, and every other language. And it was from the three primary letters that were constructed every other letter,--which is the principal secret of the Bards of the Isle of Britain; and from this secret comes every knowledge of letters that is possible.

Thus was the voice, that was heard, placed on record in the symbol, and meaning attached to each of the three notes:--the sense of O was given to the first column, the sense of I to the second or middle column, and the sense of V to the third; whence the word OIV. That is to say, it was by means of this word that God declared His existence, life, knowledge, power, eternity, and universality. And in the declaration was His love, that is, coinstantaneously with it sprang like lightening all the universe into life and existence, co-vocally and co jubilantly with the uttered Name of God, in one united song of exultation and joy--then all the worlds to the extremities of Annwn. It was thus, then, that God made the worlds, namely, He declared His Name and existence .

Why is it not right that a man should commit the Name of God to vocalization, and the sound of language and tongue

Because it cannot be done without misnaming God, for

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no man ever heard the vocalization of His Name, and no one knows how to pronounce it; but it is represented by letters, that it may be known what is meant, and for Whom it stands. Formerly signs were employed, namely, the three elements of vocal letters. However, to prevent disrespect and dishonour to God, a Bard is forbidden to name Him, except inwardly and in thought.

Pray, my beloved and discreet teacher, show me the signs that stand for the Name of God, and the manner in which they are made.

Thus are they made;--the first of the signs is a small cutting or line inclining with the sun at eventide, thus, ; the second is another cutting, in the form of a perpendicular, upright post, thus, ; and the third is a cutting of the same amount of inclination as the first, but in an opposite direction, that is, against the sun, thus ; and the three placed together, thus, . But instead of, and as substitutes for these, are placed the three letters O I W. And it was in this manner that the Bard inserted this name in his stanza, thus,

The Eternal, Origin, Self-existent, Distributor,--holy be the lips
That canonically pronounce them;
Another name, in full word,
Is O. I. and W--OIW 1 the word.--Ieuan Rudd sang it. 2

This name God gave to Himself, to show that He is in existence, and that there is no one but Himself, except by gift and permission; for truly all of us men, and other living beings, are and exist only by the gift and permission

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of God. It is considered presumptuous to utter this name in the hearing of any man in the world. Nevertheless, every thing calls Him inwardly by this name--the sea and land, earth and air, and all the visibles and invisibles of the world, whether on the earth or in the sky--all the worlds of all the celestials and terrestrials--every intellectual being and existence--every thing animate and inanimate; wherefore none that honours God, will call Him by this name, except inwardly.

The three mystic letters signify the three attributes of God, namely, love, knowledge, and truth; and it is out of these three that justice springs, and without one of the three there can be no justice. Which one so ever of the three stands up, the other two will incline towards it; and every two of them whatsoever will yield precedency and pre-eminence to the third, whichever of the three it may be. It was according to this order and principle that three degrees were conferred upon the Bards of the Isle of Britain, and each of the three was invested with privilege, precedency, and pre-eminence, in respect of the particularity of necessity, over the other two, whichsoever they might be. Out of the three attributes of God spring every power and will and law.

It was out of the knowledge and understanding of the vocalization of language and speech, by reason of the three principal letters, that sixteen letters were formed, constructed from the primary columns, namely, the three principal letters in the form of rays of light. And it was thus that form and appearance could be imparted to every vocalization of language and speech, and to every primary sound, and symbolic forms of memory be made visible on wood and stone. Accordingly the memory of seeing could thus take place simultaneously with the memory of hearing; and, by means of signs, every sound of voice could be rendered visible to the eye, as far as the ear could hear what the tongue spoke, and what awen from God was capable of. Then when sixteen letters were constructed out of the principal

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columns, namely these --since no letter can be found on the Coelbren, or in the Secret of the Bards of the Isle of Britain, that has not its elements and modifications derived from one or other of the three principal columns--and because these signs were cut on wood, they were called llythyrau1 And when every one of the letters was cut on wood, each of them received a name and meaning in respect of sound and voice, warranted and systematized; that is to say, each had its own peculiar vocalization, confirmed by art. Thus were obtained the signs and rudiments of war-ranted speech, which is called Abic, 2 but others call it Abcedilros. 3 Thus was ocular and manual art applied to speech and thought, whence arose ocular memorials and the materials of knowledge. Then wise men and aspirants engaged themselves in improving sciences and language and speech, and in discriminating vocalization and the variety of sound with greater skill and minuteness; and they elaborated them, until they were able to make two more letters, so that the Alphabet consisted of eighteen letters. After that the need of two more was observed, until they became twenty; 4 then twenty-two; and to complete the work, twenty-four principal letters; nor are there more in the Alphabet of the Coelbren that are simple, that is to say, of primary sound. Nevertheless, there are others that are compound letters, significative of the mutation of voice, and of the accentuation of letters, of which, according to highly skilful teachers, there are sixteen in number, whilst others will have them to be eighteen. Some of them cannot have authority or warrant, at least they cannot have necessity, in virtue of indispensable reason; nevertheless it is not allowable to forbid the improvement of sciences, whilst every awen and art are free, provided they do not injure, obscure, or confound laudable sciences.

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It is by means of letters that sciences and history are committed to rational memory. The three foundations of sciences are memory, understanding, and reason, and without the memory little is the utility of memory, understanding, and reason. After the discovery of the knowledge of letters it was that every understanding, and consideration, and every meditation of awen were committed to the memorial of letters; and from long acquaintance therewith room was seen for improving, amplifying, and varying the order and system of language and speech, and the art of letters, that letters might be warranted, which should be suitable to every circumstance of language and speech, and for the purpose of showing visibly every sound and utterance of word, voice, and speech, that they might harmonize with the ratiocination of the art of language and letters, and that speech might agree with speech between man and man, in respect of the sound and meaning of a sentence, the effort of language, and the encounter of the art and sciences of language and letters. Hence easy and warranted became the understanding, and understanding arose from understanding, and all men became of one judgment in respect of the meaning of word and sentence, and in respect of the sense, accent, and signification of letters. And hence fixed confirmation was bestowed upon the sciences of letters, and upon all sciences that were committed to the memory and under the auspices of letters; and it became easy, also, to learn and understand what was thus arranged systematically and with a fixed meaning; and it was easy for all men to be of one judgment, and of one sense in respect of such. That is to say, from the long co-reasoning of wise men and aspirants, 1 and men of art, improvement and fixedness of meaning and system, are obtained, in respect of all sciences, and in respect of every one of them. After letters had been improved and amplified, as occasion required, in respect of meaning and number, there were exhibited twenty-four primaries--in the opinion of others, the three nines, that is to say, twenty-seven; nor is there any need or occasion

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for more primaries, for, say they, there cannot be symbols of every sound of word and speech in the Cymraeg under twenty-seven letters--but they formed secondaries and two primary letters.

Pray, my far knowing teacher, why is it said that only a Bard of thorough secrecy knows how the Name of God is to be spoken audibly, that is to say, by means of the three principal columns of letters?

Because only a Bard of secrecy knows properly the old system of letters, and their meaning, accent, and powers, in respect of their stability in the system of the eighteen letters; for when the system of the eighteen was established, new letters were employed for the Name of God, namely O I U, but previously, during the era of the sixteen, no letters stood for the Name of God, other than the three columns of primary letters, that is , which was called the system of God and light, and only a Bard of thorough secrecy now knows properly either the one or the other of the two old systems, which I have mentioned.

Why is not that secret 1 committed to letter and audible speech, that it may be known of all?

Because it is misjudged by him who would have credence from another for more than he knows, and it is the wicked man, with the view of pillaging belief from the ignorant, that does so, and that bestows unjust imaginations upon a letter, and its meaning, accent, pronunciation, and sound, rather than the true and just. It is by such men that divine sciences are and have been corrupted, therefore the secret ought not to be divulged to other than to him who, in the judgment and sight of man, is warranted as having awen from God. Nor is there any other who knows the vocalization of the Name of God, without telling a falsehood, and the greatest falsehood is to falsify God and His Name.

Why is it not free from falsehood to commit the Name of God to speech and the hearing of the ear?

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Because that cannot be done without its being falsely spoken, by any man or living being and existence possessed of soul and intellect, but by God Himself;--to exhibit and pronounce it in speech otherwise is falsehood, and the devastation and spoliation of God, for there is no being but God and in God, and whoso says otherwise speaks falsehood, which is falsehood against God, and depredatory usurpation over Him. But he who possesses awen from God will perceive the secret, and will know it, and wherever a man may have awen from God, warranted in respect of reason and conduct, it is not unjust to divulge to him the secret, but it is not just to do so to any other, lest the Name of God be spoken erroneously, falsely, and through unjust and vain imagination, and thereby be mocked, disparaged, and dishonoured. There is also another cause, namely, to induce a man to excercise his understanding and reason upon just and firm meditation; for he who does so, will understand the character and meaning of the primitive system of sixteen letters, and the subsequent system of eighteen, and hence will perceive and understand the Name of God, and the just reverence due to Him; for he who does truth will do justice.

When the system of letters was improved in respect of number and pronunciation, was employed where there could be no proper vocalization of , and Ll as producing L, or as producing ; and by observing kind and quality, one could well perceive the priority of Ll, that is, , inasmuch as that letter is the root, and a primary word, which cannot be the case with , according to the fixedness given to the Cymraeg by wise and clear sighted teachers. And where the Cymraeg stands on the eighteen, the three vocal letters OIV, written variously by some thus , were fixedly and authoritatively arranged; and, without the violation of secrecy, there cannot be another system arising from the improvement of the three letters, and their accent and meaning.

It was from these three things that they began to exhibit sciences in Triads, that is to say;--

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The three principal signs of sciences, namely,--the three rays of light, for from them were obtained appearance and colour and form--the three voices of light, and from them were obtained hearing and speech and vocal song--and the three symbolic letters, and from them were obtained the memory of sight, and the form of voice, visibly, and.. mental understanding in regard to what can have no colour, or form, or voice. And it was from these three that fixedness and authority were obtained for sciences and art.


17:1 p. 16 The words Menw and Menwyd, which are here used as proper names, signify the source of intellect and happiness, the mind, or the soul, being derived from men, an active principle, There are several words growing out of the same root, such as, menwad, menwawl, menwedig, menwi, menwin, menwydaidd, menwydaw, menwydawg, menwydawl, menwydedd, menwydiad, menwydig, menwydus, menwydusaw, menwyn, through all of which the original idea of intellect and bliss runs. "Tri menwedigion teyrnedd," the three beneficent sovereigns; " tri menwydagion Duw," the three blessed ones of God. (Tr.)

Diwahardd i fardd ei fenwyd,

Unrestricted to the bard his talent.--Cynddelw.

[paragraph continues] p. 17 The English words man and mind, and the Latin mens, seem to be of cognate origin.

21:1 Al. is.

21:2 The Name is alluded to by Iolo Goch;--

Oho Dduw! o waedd hyorn
Pa beth yw y gyfryw gorn?

Oho God! from the sound of the bold horn,
What is such a horn?

And by Sion Cent, 1380-1420,

Pannon ar ganon gannaid ai gelwir
Da gwelwn ef o’n plaid,
O. I. ac W. yw a gaid
Om beunydd i pob enaid.

He is called Pannon in the holy canon;
We behold Him favourable on our side-- p. 21
O. I. and W. is He found to be,
OIW always to every soul.

Llywelyn ap Hywel ap Ieuan ap Gronw, 1500-1540, makes use of the term, thus,

OIO Ddyn byw i ddwyn byd.

OIO man alive, to bear the world.

[paragraph continues] And Davydd Nanmor, who died A.D. 1460, observes,--

O. I. ag W. yw ag Oen.

He is O. I. and W. and a Lamb.

25:1 p. 24 Al. llythyr; a cutting, from the prefix lly, signifying what is manifold, various, or manifest, and tyr, (torri,) to cut. Or it may be from lleu, to explain, or to read; or else from llw, an exclamation, an oath, and tyr.

25:2 That is, A. B. C., the I being inserted with the view of giving B its proper pronunciation, or of filling up the vowel sound between B and C.

25:3 A word composed entirely of the ten primary letters. See further on.

25:4 p. 25 Taliesin observes,

Iaith ugain ogyrfen y sydd yn awen.

The language of twenty letters is in Awen.

27:1 p. 26 The word "Awenyddion" here translated aspirants, generally stands for Bardic disciples, but it literally means persons endowed with poetic genius, being derived from Awen.

29:1 p. 28 Cyfrinach, from cyd and rhin; what is known to some, but not to all. The word occurs in the poetical compositions of the Bards. Rhys Goch yr Eryri has a whole poem entitled "Cywydd Cyfrinach," in which there are allusions to the "Awen," "Einigan," "Pont Hu" (the bridge of Hu,) "tair llythyren " (three letters,) "Menw," "Gair heb wybod" (the unknown word,) and other esoteric doctrines of the Bards.

Lewis Mon, in his elegy on Tudur Aled, refers to the Bardic secret,--

Yn iach brigyn awch breugerdd
Yn iach cael cyfrinach cerdd. p. 29

Farewell sprig--ardency of the short-lived song,
Farewell to having the secret of song.

Next: The First Inventors of Letters.--Improvers of the Alphabet.--Invention of the Roll and Plagawd.--Obligation of a Bard to Hold a Chair and Gorsedd