The Celtic Literature Collective

Juvenile Ornaments of Taliesin
Book of Taliesin IX

I will address my Lord,
To consider the Awen.
What brought necessity
Before the time of Cerridwen.1
Primarily through my life
Poverty has been.
The wealthy monks
Why will they not speak to me?
Why will they not cause me to tremble?
One hour that I was not followed,
What disappearance of smoke?
why sang he evil?
What fountain breaks out
Above the covert of darkness?
When the reed is white,
When it is moonlight night.
Another was not sung,
It was shaken out,
When is apt to be forward
The noise of waves on the shore.
In the vengeance of the ocean,
A day will reach them.
When a stone is so heavy,
When a thorn is so sharp.
Knowest thou which is best?
Its base or its point,
Who caused a partition
Between man and frigidity?
Whose is the wholesomest sore?
The young or the old?
Kuowest thou what thou art
When thou art sleeping?
Whether a body or a soul,
Or a secresy [sic] of perception?
The ingenious minstrel,
Why does he not inform me?
Knowest thou where should be
The night waiting the passing of the day?
Knowest thou a sign,
How many leaves there are?
Who uplifted the mountain,
Before the elements fell?
Who supports-the structure
Of the earth for a habitation?
The soul of whom is complained of?
Who has seen it, who knows?
I wonder in books
That they know not truly
The soul, what is its seat.
What form its limbs,
Through what part it pours out,
What air it respires?
A war petulant,
A sinner endangered.
A wonder in mockery,
What were its dregs.
Which is the best intoxication,
Of mead or of bragget?
When their happiness
Was protected by the God of Trinity
Why should I utter a treatise,
Except of thee?
Who caused coin
Of current silver?
When is so current
A car so prickly;
Death having a foundation,
In every country is shared.
Death above our head,
Wide is its covering,
High above the canopy of heaven.
Man is oldest when he is born.
And is younger (and) younger continually.2
What is there to be anxious about,
Of the present attainment?
After a want of property,
Does it not make to us a shortness of life?
Enough of sadness,
The visitation of the grave.
And the One that made us,
From the supreme country,
Be he our God, and bring us
To him at the end!


This is one of the many "question" poems ascribed to the young Taliesin, who displays his knowledge by asking questions of the reader; the same can be seen in Amergin's famous poem from the Lebor Gabala Erenn.

1. Cerridwen: goddess of awen, divine inspiration

2. Man... younger continually: an example of Celtic paradox, something found quite a bit in medieval Welsh literature.

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