Y Gododdin – A Poem to stir yer Heart

Dodgy re-enactment shot  :) - as in...  I don't have a photo of the real battle!  But the re-eanactors are loverly people -  xxx Much is being talked about Beowulfjust now ..  the oldest Anglo Saxon written poem…  but as one who hails from the Lothians, I was always aware of another poem…  Y Goddodin…  a poem consisting of a series of elegies to the men of the Brythonic kingdom of Gododdin and its allies who, according to the conventional interpretation, died fighting the Angles of Deira and Bernicia at a place named Catraeth.

There is general agreement among scholars that the battle commemorated would have happened around the year 600, but there is debate about the date of the poetry. Some scholars consider that it was composed in southern Scotland soon after the battle, while others believe that it originated in Wales in the ninth or the tenth century. If it is the ninth century, it is one of the earliest poems written in a form of Welsh, and the oldest surviving poem from modern-day Scotland. It is traditionally ascribed to the bard Aneirin.

The Gododdin, known in Roman times as the Votadini, held territories in what is now southeast Scotland. The poem tells how a force of 300 picked warriors were assembled in Edinburgh…  drank for a year in the Mead Hall and left to fight an overwhelming force of Saxons.  (No wonder they lost after a party like that!)   Each man is praised for the fight, of the 300 only 3 survive..  and 2 were damned for running, the last was the poet, who was told to sing the praises..  and so they did, so that names ring out over the years, the centuries the millennia ..  for 1400 years !   Some parts of the poem, you can tell the poet was there,  so vivid the description of the brave death… 

A shame the shield was pierced
Of kind-hearted Cynwal.
A shame he set his thighs
On a long-legged steed.
Dark his brown spear-shaft,
Darker his saddle.
In his den a Saxon
munches on a goat’s
Leg: may he seldom
Have spoils in his purse.

You can almost be there…     well  I have muttered enough…  and feel all brave now…    Heroic Defeat…  …   love it!   I am a Briton… and proud…  <sniff>  Read it all here – if ye dare >http://www.maryjones.us/ctexts/a01b.html


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