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nor a domestic bard, as far as the king and his partisans knew, who might teach the people to read and write Welsh; for be it known, that until that time, the bards and poets alone taught the knowledge of letters and figures to the Welsh; and in the monasteries nothing but French and Latin was taught. In consequence of this untoward circumstance that befell the country and nation, the knowlege of vocal song and of letters was nearly lost, and very few were found who had received any education, and still fewer who would make a show of it, for fear of treachery and conspiracy. Indeed it is currently believed that many of the poets disappeared, without having ever afterwards been heard of. Schools and all writing materials were prohibited. On that account want of system and great ignorance prevailed amongst the Welsh, and every vice and immorality became rampant. And scarcely could there be presented to the sight and knowledge of country and clan any one that was an adept in vocal song, or a song artistically composed; none but certain itinerant minstrels that perambulated the country; there was nothing in the form of vocal song, but abusive and satirical lyrics against every discreet and orderly person; possessing the merit of neither genius, knowledge, nor art.
Llawdden the bard, a man from Llandeilo Tal y Bont, in Gower, happened one morning to be in the company of his kinsman and intimate friend, GrufFydd ab Nicholas, at Abermarlais, when an itinerant minstrel entered the hall under the name of bard, with a song of eulogy, such as it was, addressed to Gruffydd, in which he celebrated him for evils that had never entered his mind to commit, which he called heroic exploits. Gruffydd placed the ballad in Llawdden's hand, and Llawdden read it, and it was in English, and having read it he composed the following Englyn:—
Every saucy, ungracious word, every song of spite,
Every slander and filthiness;
Every ill savour, every mischievousness,
Have been conveyed to our country.
"That is true," said Gruffydd, "but how can it be otherwise?" "Very easily," answered Llawdden, "let Eisteddvodau and chairs be convened under notice and proclamation of a year and a day, according to ancient usage, for the purpose of renewing the former knowledge of letters and vocal song peculiar to the Welsh nation, and of confirming the privilege of vocal song; and then it will be seen that the deficiency of genius and conscience will be but scanty." Gruffydd replied, "that is not permitted in the present day by the king's law." "It will be permitted," rejoined Llawdden, "if prudently asked." "It may be," said Gruffydd, "yet, where is there any hope?" "With you, my lord," answered Llawdden, "if you will but make an application; and if you do apply, I predict that you will succeed to your heart's content." "I will apply," said Gruffydd. He did apply, and obtained a warrant and privilege to go and return, under the protection of the king's license, that is, of St. Henry of Windsor. And in the twenty-first year of his coronation, the first great Eisteddvod of Carmarthen was held, and as many bards and poets as could be found were invited thither, and they were feasted, and were received with the welcome accorded by one gentleman to another. The respect of hall was paid to every composer of vocal song, and gifts and silk robes were presented to each, also a horse and a gold noble: they had their board free and their lodging gratuitous, and this over the space of forty days. And Llawdden from the land of Gower and from the family of Gruffydd Gower, and blood relation of Gruffydd ab Nicholas, and GwilymTew from Tir Iarll, and Davydd Nanmor, were found to excel in knowledge and genius; and they were required to exhibit the old sciences and usages which the ancient Cymry knew and understood in respect of the memorial of country, and the code of letters. And Llawdden was required to investigate and shew the Cynghaneddau (consonancy), and how they might be improved where necessary. And Llawdden was judged to be the best framer of consonancy in Wales; Gwilym Tew was judged to be the best in regard to old usages, and the ancient science of vocal song; and the most practically expert at vocal song, as well as the most skilful in regard to the customs of the courts of the Princes of Wales, as long as they existed, was considered to be Davydd Nanmor.
The session was held in the hall of the king's court; Gruffydd ap Nicholas was the judge, and the aforesaid three poets were privileged and chaired masters of song. And when they proceeded to exhibit, Gwilym Tew was pronounced to be the best in regard to the old sciences of vocal song and the old metres, and the usages of the Emperors of the isle of Britain, and the usages of the Round Table; and Davydd Nanmor was judged to be the best in regard to the knowledge and customs of the courts of the Princes, and the most skilful in the metres of vocal song. And of the old usages, the system of the Round Table was found to be the best, as it existed under the Emperor Arthur, at Caerleon upon Usk, who had brought one Rhys ab Tewdwi over from Armorica, on his return from Constantinople to Wales, when he had by conquest gained his province and the privilege of a prince. And that was the one of the Round Table, different in its arrangements from the one of Tir Iarll, which had been there established, under privilege, by Robert, Earl of Gloucester, ab Nest ab Rhys ab Tewdwr; and lord and prince of Glamorgan, in right of his wife; she was Mabli, the daughter of Sir Robert ab Amon, and the most beautiful lady that ever was seen: hence the proverb, "to seek to become a Mabli before a Lleucu," spoken of one who would court respect as the head, before she was anything better than a fag-end. And when the exhibition was over, the Eisteddvod was published and proclaimed under a year and a day from year to year until the expiration of the third year; and from three years to three years, until the end of the ninth year, then was obtained the privilege of efficiency. In the tenth year was held the second great Eisteddvod of Carmarthen, where Davydd ab Edmund won the silver chair for his exploits, which were pronounced by the bards of Glamorgan to be the nonsense of art; and Llawdden, who was the chaired master of song, received the golden axe for his improvements in the consonancies, so that there was never any further need of improving them. And at that Eisteddvod the bards of Glamorgan entered their protest against the system of Davydd ab Edmund's twenty-four metres, which had there received the sanction of the chair, because the superior number of the bards of North Wales were too much for the bards of the territory of Dynevor and those of the lordship of Glamorgan. From henceforth the chair of Glamorgan became isolated from the rest, under the privilege of the bards of the isle of Britain, and it embosomed the system of the Round Table, as it had been established there by Robert, Earl of Gloucester, and Mabli his wife, on the day that they were married in the castle of Cardiff, where the commot of Maesmawr was bestowed as a dowry upon the wife of Robert, Earl of Gloucester, and on that account was the name Tir Iarll (the earl's land) given to the commot.
When the privilege of efficiency was thus obtained, there was no further need of the king's license in respect of the chair of the territory of Dynevor, since it was now an open chair. And after this privilege had been attained, it was resolved to form a law and statute as nearly as possible in conformity with the ancient statutes of the Emperor Arthur and others, at the end of nine years, which had been imposed as a task upon Llawdden. He gave notice and proclamation thereof, under a year and a day, before the second Eisteddvod; that was required of Llawdden, as well as to arrange a system out of the directions and knowledge that were exhibited at the first Eisteddvod. And thus ends the history of that Eisteddvod.
ARCH. CAMB., NEW SERIES, VOL. IV.