Dictionary of Welsh Biography


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DAFYDD LLWYD ap LLYWELYN ap GRUFFUDD , of Mathafarn ( c. 1420 - c. 1500 ), poet .

He is best known as the author of some fifty of the 200 extant vaticinatory poems ( cywyddau brud ) of his generation. In his day he was also famed as an interpreter of the old Welsh prophetic books . His home was in Llanwrin parish, and the pedigrees record that both he and Margaret , his wife, were sprung from leading families in that part of the country. He outlived his children, of whom three sons were named Ieuan , Meredudd , and Llywelyn , mention being also made of a daughter named after her mother ( Powys Fadog , vi, 37), and possibly of other sons. Besides the vaticinatory poems, there remain poems of controversy between him and Llywelyn ap Gutun (q.v.) and others. Not having to compose for a living, he did not leave many petition poems, panegyrics, or elegies. The objects of his praise, moreover, are men whom he really admired, usually from anaoeg the leading Welshmen of the day, and some of his finest work is to be found in his elegies. His cywydd to S. Tydecho (q.v.) is valuable as the only extant ‘vita’ of that saint , and his poem to the river Dovey is a work of great beauty, and fine passages of natural description revealing acute observation are by no means rare in his other poems. The earliest of his poems which can be dated is his elegy to Sir Gruffudd Vaughan (d. 1447 ) , and the poet lived to sing the praises of Arthur , son of Henry VII , who was born in 1486 -if we can accept the testimony given in Mont. Coll. , xxxi, 195. he was composing as late as 1497 . No elegy by him Arthur (d. 1501 ) is known, nor to Henry VII (d. 1509 ) , the poet's greatest hero. Contemporary poets praised Dafydd Llwyd as a soldier , a huntsman , an esquire (an honour bestowed on him after the victory at Bosworth ), as a poet , and as an upholder of the prophetic tradition of Merlin .

In his vaticinatory poems, he puts into verse much traditional material, but often as political propaganda . He is capable of praising Dafydd ap Ieuan ab Einion (q.v.) , as well as his enemy William Herbert (q.v.) , but there is no inconsistency in this as he cared little for the English dynastic struggle of the day, except in so far as the Wars of the Roses might give his chance to a liberator of the Welsh nation. The main sources of inspiration for Dafydd Llwyd were the yearning for the unity and freedom of his people, and resentment towards the English for the disabilities which they had imposed on the Welsh . Apart from his cywyddau there remain only his awdl to S. David (which is also vaticinatory) and a few englynion . There is a tradition that Henry Tudor spent a night with Dafydd Llwyd at Mathafarn on his journey to Bosworth , and that the poet's wife advised him (as if that were necessary) to foretell that prince's good fortune.

Sources:

  • Unpublished M.A. thesis by Leslie Richards ;
  • Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies , iv, 310;
  • Collections Historical and Archaeological relating to Montgomeryshire , xxx, 195;
  • Heraldic Visitations of Wales and Part of the Marches , 1846 , i, 296;
  • H. T. Evans , Wales and the Wars of the Roses , 1915 ;
  • Garmon Jones , ‘Welsh Nationalism and Henry Tudor’ in The Transactions of the Honourable Society of Cymmrodorion , 1917-8 .

Author:

David Myrddin Lloyd, M.A., (1909-81), Aberystwyth / Scotland

Published date: 1959