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


There are three series of symbols of literary sciences: the symbols of Coelbren; 2 the symbols of music; 3 and the symbols of number.

The symbols of Coelbren are the most ancient of all, and were known to the Gwyddoniaid from their first arrival in the island of Britain. The primaries were ten, and were under the secret of the Bards. After that, ten others were added, and the form and appearance of each of the sixteen were totally altered from those of the ten primaries, so that the secret could not be known. The sixteen were divulged in the time of Dyvnwal Moelmud; and in the time of Beli the Great, son of Manogan, they were included in the domestic instruction and sciences, and came under the office and art of the domestic teacher, who was a Chaired Bard, that is to say, a Druid; for the domestic Bards were called Druids in the early times of the occupation of the island of Britain; it being incumbent upon the nation of the Cymry to keep up the sciences of symbol and literature. In the time of Arthur the symbols of Coelbren were eighteen notches in number; and in the time of Geraint, the Blue Bard, twenty; nor are there more than twenty of the primaries. After that, mixed symbols were devised; that is to say, by means of a notch was made the sign of sighing or breathing; and these were improved from time to time until the time of Ieuan, son of the Dewless, 4 the time when Robert, earl of Gloucester, was prince of Glamorgan; and

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from thence to the time of the last Clare but one, prince of Glamorgan. It was the monks of Pen Rhys in the vale of Rhondde that arranged them as they are at present, when Gwilym, son of Howel the Savage, called Gwilym Tew, bore the Chair of vocal song there in right of the primary Bards of the nation of the ancient Cymry. No other improvement of the symbols of Coelbren ever took place, nor did what was done there obtain the efficient judgment of active Chairs, as far as the third, or, if it might be obtained, as far as the ninth, but where nine cannot be had, as far as the seventh, and if seven cannot be had, as far as the fifth, and where five cannot be had, as far as the third, and when there are not three, as far as the one that there is; for individuals ought to be unequal in number in order to have the judgment of a majority, that is, the number that is above half, which cannot be the case, of irrevocable fixedness, but where individuals are of unequal number, when they are divided into two parts. Others of the ancient teachers say that a majority may be obtained where the individuals are of equal numbers, by conferring it as a privilege upon the first of the two halves that is counted, under the condition of giving and taking the same as a claim, before it is put to the verdict, and not otherwise. And it is in this manner that the judgment of Chairs has been had upon the number of the cut symbols of Coelbren,--that is, no judgment as far as the efficiency of nine active Chairs, has been obtained upon the last improvement of the cut symbols, and their number; nevertheless, the improvement has the privilege of time beyond the memory of the ninth generation, and it cannot be opposed. About the same time, namely, the time when Owain Glyndwr was opposing the king of London, that is, in the time of King Henry the Fifth, there was an Eisteddvod Chair in the monastery of Pen Rhys, where the canons of the metres of vocal song were settled, among which that of Gwilym Tew was adjudged the best, namely, the Ode which he composed to Mary of Pen Rhys. 1 After that he improved the number and arrangement

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of the metres and consonancies. It was in it (the Ode) that, by privilege of Chair, parallel rhymes were first used. That Ode was exhibited in the first Eisteddvod Chair of Caermarthen, under the patronage of Gruffydd, son of Nicholas, 1 and under the privilege of leave and license from Saint Henry the King, of Windsor, that is the fourth of the name; and it continued under the privilege of Chair and Country until the time of the second Eisteddvod there, where the canon of Davydd, son of Edmund, 2 was pronounced the best, in the time of Henry, the fifth of the name. When the year of Christ was one thousand, four hundred, and fourteen, the monastery of Pen Rhys was dispossessed, and its property sold, because it sided with Owain Glyndwr.


89:2 p. 88 Al. "voice."

89:3 Al. "harmony."

89:4 He was living somewhere from 1160 to 1180. See a brief notice of him in Iolo MSS. p. 88.

91:1 p. 90 This Ode is printed in "Cyfrinach Beirdd Ynys Prydain," p. 213.

93:1 p. 92 Gruffydd, son of Nicholas, was illustrious for his power, riches, and family, was a great patron of the Bards, and extremely popular throughout the principality. He latterly joined the Yorkists, in whose cause he fought, and was fatally wounded at the battle of Mortimer's Cross, in 1461.

93:2 Davydd, son of Edmund, was a native of Hanmer, in Flintshire, and is celebrated as the reformer of Welsh Prosody, having compiled the twenty-four p. 93 new canons of poetry, which are still adopted by the Bards of North Wales, though they have been protested against by those of Gwent and Morganwg as innovations.

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