Mabinogion: Taliesin's Reply

This story is part of the Mabinogion unit. Story source: The Mabinogion, translated by Lady Charlotte Guest (1877).

Taliesin's Reply

And he answered the king in verse.

Primary chief bard am I to Elphin,
And my original country is the region of the summer stars:
Idno and Heinin called me Merddin;
At length every king will call me Taliesin.

I was with my Lord in the highest sphere
On the fall of Lucifer into the depth of hell.

I have borne a banner before Alexander;
I know the names of the stars from north to south;
I have been on the galaxy at the throne of the Distributor;
I was in Canaan when Absalom was slain;
I conveyed the Divine Spirit to the level of the vale of Hebron;
I was in the court of Don before the birth of Gwdion.

I was instructor to Eli and Enoc;
I have been winged by the genius of the splendid crosier;
I have been loquacious prior to being gifted with speech;
I was at the place of the crucifixion of the merciful Son of God;
I have been three periods in the prison of Arianrod;
I have been the chief director of the work of the tower of Nimrod;
I am a wonder whose origin is not known.

I have been in Asia with Noah in the ark,
I have seen the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra;
I have been in India when Roma was built,
I am now come here to the remnant of Troia.

I have been with my Lord in the manger of the ass;
I strengthened Moses through the water of Jordan;
I have been in the firmament with Mary Magdalene;
I have obtained the muse from the cauldron of Caridwen;
I have been bard of the harp to Lleon of Lochlin.

I have been on the White Hill in the court of Cynvelyn
For a day and a year in stocks and fetters.

I have suffered hunger for the Son of the Virgin;
I have been fostered in the land of the Deity;
I have been teacher to all intelligences;
I am able to instruct the whole universe.

I shall be until the day of doom on the face of the earth,
And it is not known whether my body is flesh or fish.

Then I was for nine months
In the womb of the hag Caridwen;
I was originally little Gwion,
And at length I am Taliesin.

And when the king and his nobles had heard the song, they wondered much for they had never heard the like from a boy so young as he.

And when the king knew that he was the bard of Elphin, he bade Heinin, his first and wisest bard, to answer Taliesin and to strive with him.

But when he came, he could do no other but play "blerwm" on his lips, and when he sent for the others of the four-and-twenty bards, they all did likewise and could do no other.

And Maelgwn asked the boy Taliesin what was his errand, and he answered him in song.

Puny bards, I am trying
To secure the prize, if I can.
By a gentle prophetic strain
I am endeavouring to retrieve
The loss I may have suffered;
Complete the attempt I hope,
Since Elphin endures trouble
In the fortress of Teganwy.
On him may there not be laid
Too many chains and fetters!
The Chair of the fortress of Teganwy
Will I again seek;
Strengthened by my muse I am powerful.
Mighty on my part is what I seek,
For three hundred songs and more
Are combined in the spell I sing.

There ought not to stand where I am
Neither stone neither ring,
And there ought not to be about me
Any bard who may not know
That Elphin the son of Gwyddno
Is in the land of Artro,
Secured by thirteen locks,
For praising his instructor,
And then I, Taliesin,
Chief of the bards of the west,
Shall loosen Elphin
Out of a golden fetter.

If you be primary bards
To the master of sciences,
Declare ye mysteries
That relate to the inhabitants of the world.

There is a noxious creature
From the rampart of Satanas
Which has overcome all
Between the deep and the shallow;
Equally wide are his jaws
As the mountains of the Alps;
Him death will not subdu,
Nor hand or blades:
There is the load of nine hundred wagons
In the hair of his two paws;
There is in his head an eye
Green as the limpid sheet of icicle;
Three springs arise
In the nape of his neck;
Sea-roughs thereon
Swim through it.
There was the dissolution of the oxen
Of Deivrdonwy, the water-gifted.

The names of the three springs
From the midst of the ocean:
One generated brine
Which is from the Corina,
To replenish the flood
Over seas disappearing;
The second, without injury
It will fall on us
When there is rain abroad
Through the whelming sky;
The third will appear
Through the mountain veins
Like a flinty banquet,
The work of the King of kings.

You are blundering bards,
In too much solicitude;
You cannot celebrate
The kingdom of the Britons.

And I am Taliesin,
Chief of the bards of the west,
Who will loosen Elphin
Out of the golden fetter.

(900 words)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments for Google accounts; you can also contact me at