The Celtic Literature Collective

The First Address of Taliesin
The Book of Taliesin I
The Red Book of Hergest XXIII
From The Four Ancient Books of Wales

A PRIMITIVE and ingenious address, when thoroughly elucidated.
Which was first, is it darkness, is it light?
Or Adam, when he existed, on what day was he created?
Or under the earthís surface, what the foundation?
He who is a legionary will receive no instruction.
Est qui peccator1 in many things,
Will lose the heavenly country, the community of priests.
In the morning no one comes
If they sing of three spheres.
Angles and Gallwydel,
Let them make their war.
Whence come night and day?
Whence will the eagle become gray?
Whence is it that night is dark?
Whence is it that the linnet is green?
The ebullition of the sea,
How is it not seen?
There are three fountains
In the mountain of roses,
There is a Caer of defence
Under the oceanís wave.
Illusive greeter,
What is the porterís name?
Who was confessor
To the gracious Son of Mary?
What was the most beneficial measure
Which Adam accomplished?
Who will measure Uffern?2
How thick its veil?
How wide its mouth?
What the size of its stones?
Or the tops of its whirling trees?
Who bends them so crooked?
Or what fumes may be
About their stems?
Is it Lleu and Gwydyon3
That perform their arts?
Or do they know books
When they do?
Whence come night and flood?
How they disappear?
Whither flies night from day;
And how is it not seen?
Pater noster ambulo
Gentis tonans in adjuvando
Sibilem signum
Rogantes fortium.
Excellent in every way around the glens
The two skilful ones make inquiries
About Caer Oerindan Oerindydd5
For the draught-horses of pector David.
They have enjoyment-they move about- 
May they find me greatly expanding.
The Cymry will be lamenting
While their souls will be tried
Before a horde of ravagers.
The Cymry, chief wicked ones,
On account of the loss of holy wafers.6
There will long be crying and wailing,
And gore will be conspicuous.
There came by sea
The wood-steeds7 of the strand. The Angles in council
Shall see signs of
Exultation over Saxons.
The praises of the rulers
Will be celebrated in Sion8.
Let the chief builders be
Against the fierce Ffichti,9
The Morini Brython.
Their fate has been predicted;
And the reaping of heroes
About the river Severn.
The stealing is disguised of Ken and Masswy
Ffls amala, ffur, ffir, sel,10
Thou wilt discern the Trinity beyond my age
I implore the Creator, hai
Huai11, that the Gentile may vanish
From the Gospel Equally worthy
With the retinue of the wall
Cornu ameni dur.12
I have been with skilful men,
With Matheu and Govannon,
With Eunydd and Elestron,
In company with Achwyson,
For a year in Caer Gofannon.13
I am old. I am young. I am Gwion,
I am universal, I am possessed of penetrating wit.
Thou wilt remember thy old Brython I (And) the Gwyddyl14, kiln distillers,
Intoxicating the drunkards.
I am a bard; I will not disclose secrets to slaves;
I am a guide: I am expert in contests.
If he would sow, he would plough; he would plough, he would not reap.
If a brother among brothers,
Didactic Bards with swelling breasts will arise
Who will meet around mead-vessels,
And sing wrong poetry
And seek rewards that will not be,
Without law, without regulation, without gifts.
And afterwards will become angry.
There will be commotions and turbulent times,
Seek no peace-it will not accrue to thee.
The Ruler of Heaven knows thy prayer.
From his ardent wrath thy praise has propitiated him
The Sovereign King of Glory addresses me with wisdom
Hast thou seen the dominus fortis?
Knowest thou the profound prediction domini?
To the advantage of Uffern
Hic nemo in por progenie15
He has liberated its tumultuous multitude.
Dominus virtutum16
Has gathered together those that were in slavery,
And before I existed He had perceived me.17
May I be ardently devoted to God!
And before I desire the end of existence,
And before the broken foam shall come upon my lips,
And before I become connected with wooden boards,
May there be festivals to my soul!
Book-learning scarcely tells me
Of severe afflictions after death-bed;
And such as have heard my bardic books
They shall obtain the region of heaven, the best of all abodes.


1. Est qui peccator:

2. Uffern: "Hell," derived from the Latin inferno.

3. Lleu and Gwydyon: the main figures of the Mabinogi branch "Math vab Mathonwy." Gwydion is a magician and bard, while his son Lleu is the skillful king who is betrayed by his flower-created wife.


5. Caer Oerindan Oerindydd: this location is obscure

6. lost of holy wafers: is this an interpolated reference to the interdict of 1208?

7. wood-steeds: ships

8. Sion: Zion, Jerusalem.

9. Ffichti: Picts

10. Ffls amala, ffur, ffir, sel,: looks like nonsense

11. hai Huai: again, may be poetic nonsense.

12. Matheu... Caer Govannon:


14. Gwyddyl: Irish, here said to be drunkards.


16. Dominus virtutum: Virtuous Lord

17. see Jeremiah 1.5: ""Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

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