The Celtic Literature Collective

Gofara Braint
The Flooding of the Braint River

Gofara Braint
LlGC 9094 (i, ii) [Robert Vaughan's Notebook]
Peniarth 120 (iii) [Edward Lhuyd's copy of Vaughan's Notebook]

  1. Handid haus genyf gerdet yn ddigynvyl
    o adaw kymbry wrth ynghussyl

  2. Can dodyw pen Edwin lys Aberffraw
    a dyfod Cymru yn un andaw

  3. Neus duc Gwynedd gorvoled i Vrython


The Flooding of the Braint River

  1. Ease the flood without strife
    From Wales to forsake my council (?)

  2. The head of Edwin came to to the court at Aberffraw
    And the Welsh came in an assembly

  3. The lord of Gwynedd brought joy to the Britons

This five-line fragment of what we assume was a longer poem is found in only two manuscripts, the second a copy of the first. Robert Vaughan records it, but it's believed to be much older, at least before the 14th century, based on its orthography, and perhaps not much longer after the life of Cadwallon ap Cadfan, about whom this poem is apparently about. Cadwallon defeated King Edwin of England, whose was beheaded; Bede says the head was taken to York, but this poem claims it was taken to the royal court of Aberffraw on the Isle of Anglesey.

The title is difficult to understand on its own; it's believed that gofara should be amended to gorlifa, "flooding", and thus evokes the image of the Braint River on Anglesey, overflowing its banks after the death of Cadwallon.

The image of the river overflowing in grief--essentially the land weeping for its fallen lord--may have its origins in the old Celtic concept of the king marrying the goddess of sovereignty. The name of the river--Braint--is derived from Brigantia, the tutulary goddess of the Brigantes, the powerful tribe of North Britain. The name Brigantia, it is argued by scholars like D.A. Binchy, gave rise to the Welsh word for king, brenin, i.e. brenin < breenhin < *brigantīnos, "consort of of the goddess Brigantia". It certainly was the origin of the word braint, meaning "privilege", for instances privilieges concernting land grants (i.e. the Braint Teilo).

This possibly points to either a general wider worship of Brigantia, or to the settlement of Gwynedd by the legendary Cunedda from the part of North Britain where Brigantia was worshipped; however, this presupposes Cunedda to have still been pagan in the fifth century, which while possible is unlikely. It's also possible that the river was named by the Irish who settled North Wales, including Anglesey, in the fifth century; indeed the Llŷn Peninsula that stretches southeast from the area bordering Anglesey is named for the Laigin, i.e. the Leinstermen, who were likely descended of the Brigantes in Ireland (their territories overlap), and whose patron saint was, not coincidently, St. Brigit.

Gruffydd, R. Geraint. "Canu Cadwallon ap Cadfan". Astudiaethau ar yr Hengerdd: Studies in Old Welsh Poetry. Cardiff: University of Wales Press. 1978.

Translation by Mary Jones, 2010