The Celtic Literature Collective

The Praise of Tenby
Book of Taliesin XXI 

Taliesin ae Cant {"Taliesin sang this"} 

I make a request to God, Shepherd of the people, 
Ruler of heaven and earth, supreme in wisdom. 

There is a fair fort upon the sea; 
A splendid rise, joyful on holidays. 
And when the sea is extremely turbulent, 
The clamour of bards over cups of mead is customery. 
Comes a swift wave toward it, 
They leave the gray-green1 ocean to the Picts. 
And may I have, O God, through my prayer, 
When I may keep terms, reconciliation with thee. 

There is a fair fort upon the wide water,
An impregnable fortress, surrounded by sea. 
Ask, Britain, whose home is this? 
O leader of the line of Ab Erbin, let it be yours! 
There was a company and there was a song 
In the fortification and an eagle on high 
On the path of the white-faced. 
Before a splendid lord, starting up against the foe, 
A warrior of widespread fame, they assembled. 

There is a fair fort upon the ninth wave; 
Fair its folk in resting themselves. 
They do not make their pleasant life through shame; 
'Tis not their custom to be stingy. 
I shall not speak falsely of my welcome;
Better the captive of Dyfed than the yeoman of Deudraeth! 
A host of the free in the midst of a feast; 
Narrow between two of the best of people. 

There is a fair fort, whose company fosters pleasure 
And praise and the cry of birds. 
Joy and songs on its holidays, 
around a ready lord, a radiant distributor. 
Before his going into an oaken chest, 
he gave me mead and wine from a glass cup.

There is a fair fort on the coast; 
pleasantly, each is given his share. 
I know in Tenby, pure white the seagull, 
the host of Bleiddudd, lord of the fort. 
It was my custom on holidays, 
appeasement by the bright king of battle 
and a heather-coloured mantle and courtly privilege, 
until I held tongue over the bards of Britain. 

There is a fair fort, which abounds in song; 
the freedoms I sought were mine. 
I do not speak of rights: the law I kept; 
he who does not know this deserves no gifts. 
The writings of Britain were its chief concern, 
Where the waves toss. Let it last long, the cell I visited! 

There is a fair fort standing on high. 
Excellent its pleasures, its praise lofty. 
Fair all around it, enclosure of champions, 
relentless sea-spume comes to me, far-reaching its fingers, 
it explodes to the top of the rock; raucous the little sea-bird. 
Anger forsworn, let it flee beyond the mountains. 
And to Bleiddudd the best prosperity there may be. 
I shall be burdened over beer with the task of memories. 
The blessing of the lord of harmonious heaven will endure. 
He who will not make us fellow-countrymen of the descendant of Owain. 

There is a fair fort upon the sea-shore. 
Pleasantly, each is given his desire. 
Ask Gwynedd, let it be yours. 
Rough, stiff spears they earned. 
On Wednesday, I saw men in conflict; 
on Thursday, it was reproaches they contended with. 
And hair was red with blood, and lamenting on harps. 
Weary were the men of Gwynedd the day they came, 
and atop the stone of Maelwy they shelter shields. 
A host of kinsmen fell by the descendant {of Owain?}. 

1. "green-gray sea": Interestingly enough, the word for blue, grey, and green in Welsh are the same--glas (Glas is also an Irish word for both grey and green). It has been supposed that the Green Knight of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight may have originally been the Grey Knight, linking him to Arawn Lord of Annwfn (the Otherworld) from the story of "Pwyll Pendeuc Dyfed"; meanwhile, green is equally associated with death in Irish myth. This has no real bearing on the text at hand, except to show the problems of translation--that the words for green and grey are the same in Welsh, causing a little confusion. 

Glas also means "pale, young, raw" as well as "blue, green, grey." 

Alternate words are gwyrdd for green, llwyd for grey. Llwyd is also one of Manawyddan's enemies in "Manawyddan vab Llyr." Glas is the only word for blue. 

Tenby is a sea-town in Dyfed, in Pembrokeshire. From the fifth century until the high middle ages, it was ruled by the Irish, which may account for the mention of "the ninth wave," a symbol from Irish mythology which otherwise doesn't appear in Wales, and for the heavily Irish elements of "Pwyll Pendeuc Dyfed" in The Mabinogion. 

Some have speculated that the historical Taliesin may have been from Tenby, or from South Wales at any rate, as this area shows up in his poetry (or the poetry attributed to him).