The Celtic Literature Collective

A rumour has come to me from Calchvynyd
Book of Taliesin XVIII

A rumour has come to me from Calchvynyd,
A disgrace in the south country, a praiseworthy pillage.
And he will give to a lion the fierceness of his baptism.
Full is his strath of joyful produce.
The people are satiated with warfare, the strangers are satiated,
A battle of encroachment, during the excessive heat of the country,
A wonder of Cymry that relate it.
Let the cattle of the son of Idno come to Dyved.
And let no one dare not to come.
To pay a hundred cows I will give one calf.
The slaughter of thy foes about thy country,
Like fire it heats a vapour where it happens to be.
When we made an expedition to the land of Gwydno1,
There was a corpse delicately fair between the gravel and the pebbles on the bank.
When he returned in the autumn from the country of Clydesmen,2
The cow did not low to her calf.
Will greet Mabon3 from another country,
A battle, when Owain4 defends the cattle of his country.
A battle in the ford of Alclud,5 a battle in the Gwen,
A battle, in conjunction of tumult to them.
A battle against Rodawys of snowy-white aspect,
Brandishing of spears and black, and bright sheets,
A battle on this side of the gleaming guiding heart of oak.
A shield in hand, the camp trembling,
Saw Mabon on the fair portion of Reidol.
Against the kine6 of Reged they engaged,
If they had wings they would have flown.
Against Mabon without corpses they would not go.
Meeting, they descend and commence the battle.
The country of Mabon7 is pierced with destructive slaughter.
When Owain descends for the kine of his father,
There broke out lime, and wax, and hawthorn.
Is it not fair prey for any one to take a bald cow?
Support each other against men with ruddy spears.
Against the four-way-spreading conflagration,
Against the mighty rising.
Against gore on flesh,
Against a dismal straining.
A rumour came to me,
From the bright lands of the South.
Splendid and liberal chiefs declare
That thou shalt not be addressed by vulgar ones.
About the ford of the boundary, about the alders his battle-places.
When was caused the battle of the king, sovereign, prince,
Very wild will the kine be before Mabon.
From the meeting of Gwrgun.
The resting-place of the corpses of some was in Run.
There was joy, there will be for ravens.
Loud the talk of men after
Battle. Escaped not the shield of Owain.
With notched shield an opposing in battle tumult,
Cattle would not run about without crimson faces.
Crimson were the kine of Bender, and great his grace,
Gore surrounding the top of his head.
And a white face conspicuous the gasping.
The golden saddle (was) drenched in gore, as to its appearance.
The Gwentians praise the booty, the booty was extended,
The booty in front of the eager battle of the eager strangers.
A booty of heads with forked branches. On the shields
Awfully the blades are falling about the head.
A battle in front of Owain, great, great his rage.
A fine day, they fell, men, defending (their) country.
There rested the extreme-impelling advantage of their father.


1. Gwydno: Possibly Gwyddno Garanhir of Ceredigion, the father of Elphin, the mythical Taliesin's patron.

2. Clydesment: that is, men of Strathclyde, ruled by Rhydderch the Generous.

3. Mabon: the young god, identified with Apollo in Roman times for his patronage of art and music. Mabon is also a great hunter in the story of "Culhwch and Olwen". Here, Owain ap Urien is identified with Mabon, which may in part be because of the legend that Owain's mother was the goddess Modron, who is the mother of Mabon.

4. Owain: Owain ap Urien, the Arthurian Yvain who is famous for rescuing maidens and befriending lions. In reality, he was a fierce warrior against the Northumbrians, who were encroaching on his kingdom of Rheged. When Urien was assassinated (ca. 590), he was only able to maintain the kingdom for a few years before he was betrayed by other British kings, one even his brother.

5. Alclud: modern Dumbarton.

6. kine: plural of cow; the term "bull of battle" was often used in early Welsh poetry, and so this may be another instance of comparing warriors and bovine-type animals.

7. "country of Mabon": either refering to Rheged, the country of Owain, or to a section of what is now Scotland which apparently was called "Mabon," though whether it was for the god or not is unknown.

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