The Death-song of Cynddylan
MS NLW4973

Unyielding battle of menacing lords,
Rhiau and Rhirid and Rhiosedd and Rhigyfarch, 
the generous chieftain, the chariot driver.
I shall lament until I lie in my oaken coffin
for the slaying of Cynddylan in his grandeur.

Grandeur in battle! Did I think 
of going to Menai, though there was no ford for me?
I love those of the land of Cemais who give me welcome,
the king of Dogfeiling, oppressor of the Cadelling.
I shall lament until I would be in my oaken silence
for the slaying of Cynddylan, grievous loss.

Grandeur in battle! To thinkof going 
to Menai, though I cannot swim!
I love those who welcome me to Aberffraw,
the king of Dogfeiling, terror to the Cadelling.
I shall lament until I would be in my oaken silence
for the slaying of Cynddylan and his mustering of hosts.

Grandeur in battle! Civilised wine!
I beseech sorrowfully, old and filled with hiraeth.
When he raided the cattle of Pennawg, I lost
a brave, unyielding, unforgiving hero.
He used to make campaigns beyond Tern, the proud land.
I shall lament until I would be in the unmoving earth
for the slaying of Cynddylan, of the fame of Caradog.

Grandeur in battle! So good was the destiny
that Cynddylan, the battle leader, got
seven hundred chosen soldiers in his retinue,
When the son of Pyd requested, he was so ready!
He did not go to the wedding feast; he was not married.
O God! What different company, what black burial?
I shall lament until I would be with the throng under the earth
for the slaying of Cynddylan, of majestic fame.

Grandeur in battle! I am so very well accustomed
to all the finest fishes and beasts,
through violence I have lost the finest warriors,
Rhiau and Rhirid and Rhioseddand Rhigyfarch, 
generous [ruler] of every borderland.
They used to drive back the spoils from the dales of Taff.
Captives lamented; lame, cattle bellowed.
I shall lament until I would be in the most constricted plot
for the slaying of Cynddylan, famed at the border.

Grandeur in battle! Do you see this?
My heart burns like a firebrand.
I enjoyed the wealth of their men and women. 
They could not repay me enough.
I used to have brothers. It was better when they were
the young whelps of great Arthur, the mighty fortress.

Before Lichfield they fought,
There was gore under ravens and keen attack.
Limed shields broke before the sons of the Cyndrwynyn.
I shall lament until I would be in the land of my resting place
for the slaying of Cynddylan, famed among chieftains.

Grandeur in battle! Extensive spoils
Morial bore off from in front of Lichfield.
Fifteen hundred cattle from the front of battle;
four twenties of stallions and equal harness.
The chief bishop wretched in his four-cornered house (?),
the book-keeping monks did not protect.
Those who fell in the blood before the splendid warrior
no brother escaped from the entrenchment to his sister.
They escaped from the uproar with grievous wounds.
I shall lament until I would be in my lowly grave plot
for the slaying of Cynddylan, famous to every generous man.

Grandeur in battle! So pleasant it was
in my soul when I visited Pwll and Alun!
Fresh rushes under foot until bedtime;
feather pillows under me, as far down as my knees.
And though I have gone there, to my own country,
there is not one kinsman left: birds have claimed them.
And though I am not led to God at the Judgment Mount,
None has sinned as I have.

Though it is found in a fragmentary form in MS NLW4973, which is usually dated from 1631-1641, "The Death-song of Cynddlyan" is thought to be older than the "Song of Heledd", which is generally dated to the tenth century (IIRC). It is actually believed to ultimately derive from the lost Book of Thomas Gruffydd, contemporaneous with the Black Book of Carmarthen. According to Rowland, it was likely composed in East Powys(now Shropshire) not long after Cynddylan's death in 655, and what we have is a fairly accurate copy of the Thomas copy of that original.


Rowland, Jenny. Early Welsh Saga Poetry: a Study and Edition of the Englynion. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1990.

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