A Christmas Revel

I have seen a court, and a dozen courts,
And no court have I seen as gracious
As the court I love for its chieftain’s sake,
Not weak is my praise, like Celliwig :
Heaven’s bounty on earth in Bachelldref,
Where there is a revel each Christmas,
A crowd of kinsmen, a lake of liquor,
Bright the honour of Meurig’s homeland,
Many a minstrel and merry fiddler,
And much the mirth on a polished floor,
And a sound of strings, a deluge of drinks,
And the constant cadence of singing,
And a red-hued lance of Cadwaladr’s line,
A blood-gushing blade, promise of meat,
And minstrels’ swaying, and children chirping,
And the bustle of boys bringing food,
The cup-bearer weary, kitchen sore-tried,
And three kinds of wine for the thirsty.

Three customs there are, a merry country,
At Dafydd’s high court, blameless boldness :
Whoever you are, whatever you sing,
And whatever the thing you’re known for,
Come whenever you wish, take what you see,
And once come, stay as long as you like!

This splendid poem, called Croeso mewn Llys (‘A Welcome in a Court’) in the original Welsh, was written by ‘Sypyn Cyfeiliog’ — Dafydd Bach ap Madog Wladaidd (fl. 1340 – 1390).

He wrote it as a thank you note to a country gentleman at whose house (‘Bachelldref’) he was welcomed as an honoured guest. Wandering across Wales, as poets, singers and musicians in many parts of Europe used to do in those days, he had called at the house some days before Christmas and had been invited to stay but had decided to decline, preferring to stay at another and more notable mansion some distance away.

However, the weather worsened and he was forced to turn back. Having no other option he returned to the house he had so recently spurned.

Far from being given a cool reception he was received with courtesy and style, made the honoured guest of the family and treated royally. Touched to the heart by this true spirit of Christmas he wrote what is regarded as his finest praise poem. The original Welsh version of the famous last two lines (Dyred pan fynnych, cymer a welych, a gwedy delych, tra fynnych trig.) have acquired the status of a proverb.

Together with the English version, they have been adopted by Cardiff’s Newtown Association, set up to remember the former Irish community on the edge of the dockland area.

The translator, Professor Clancy, of New York (“I had three Irish grandparents and one French!”), discovered Welsh literature and its language in the late 1950s. His published translations, including ‘The Earliest Welsh Poems’ (Macmillan, 1970) in which ‘A Christmas Revel’ was published, have become part of the canon of Welsh writing. He is now retired and living in Wales.


Gorgysylltiadau i’r Gymraeg / Nascanna don Bhreatnais / Links to Welsh.

Christmas Box