Mabinogion: The Wisdom of Taliesin

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

The Wisdom of Taliesin

Taliesin's answer continues:

Be silent, then, ye unlucky rhyming bards,
For you cannot judge between truth and falsehood.
If you be primary bards formed by heaven,
Tell your king what his fate will be.

It is I who am a diviner and a leading bard,
And know every passage in the country of your king.

I shall liberate Elphin from the belly of the stony tower
And will tell your king what will befall him.

A most strange creature will come from the sea marsh of Rhianedd
As a punishment of iniquity on Maelgwn Gwynedd:
His hair, his teeth, and his eyes being as gold,
And this will bring destruction upon Maelgwn Gwynedd.

Discover thou what is
The strong creature from before the flood
Without flesh, without bone,
Without vein, without blood,
Without head, without feet;
It will neither be older nor younger
Than at the beginning;
For fear of a denial
There are no rude wants
With creatures.

Great God! How the sea whitens
When first it comes!
Great are its gusts
When it comes from the south;
Great are its evaporations
When it strikes on coasts.

It is in the field, it is in the wood,
Without hand and without foot,
Without signs of old age,
Though it be coeval
With the five ages or periods,
And older still,
Though they be numberless years.

It is also so wide
As the surface of the earth;
And it was not born,
Nor was it seen.

It will cause consternation
Wherever God willeth.

On sea and on land
It neither sees nor is seen.

Its course is devious
And will not come when desired;
On land and on sea
It is indispensable.

It is without an equal;
It is four-sided;
It is not confined,
It is incomparable;
It comes from four quarters;
It will not be advised;
It will not be without advice.

It commences its journey
Above the marble rock;
It is sonorous; it is dumb;
It is mild;
It is strong; it is bold.

When it glances over the land,
It is silent; it is vocal;
It is clamorous:
It is the most noisy
On the face of the earth.

It is good; it is bad:
It is extremely injurious.

It is concealed
Because sight cannot perceive it.

It is noxious; it is beneficial.
It is yonder; it is here.

It will discompose,
But will not repair the injury.

It will not suffer for its doings,
Seeing it is blameless.

It is wet; it is dry.

It frequently comes,
Proceeding from the heat of the sun
And the coldness of the moon.
The moon is less beneficial,
Inasmuch as her heat is less.

One Being has prepared it
Out of all creatures
By a tremendous blast
To wreak vengeance
On Maelgwn Gwynedd.

And while he was thus singing his verse near the door, there arose a mighty storm of wind, so that the king and all his nobles thought that the castle would fall on their heads.

And the king caused them to fetch Elphin in haste from his dungeon and placed him before Taliesin. And it is said that immediately he sang a verse, so that the chains opened from about his feet.

I adore the Supreme, Lord of all animation,
Him that supports the heavens, Ruler of every extreme,
Him that made the water good for all,
Him who has bestowed each gift, and blesses it;
May abundance of mead be given Maelgwn of Anglesey, who supplies us
From his foaming meadhorns with the choicest pure liquor.
Since bees collect and do not enjoy,
We have sparkling distilled mead, which is universally praised.

The multitude of creatures which the earth nourishes
God made for man with a view to enrich him;
Some are violent; some are mute: he enjoys them,
Some are wild; some are tame: the Lord makes them.
Part of their produce becomes clothing;
For food and beverage till doom will they continue.

I entreat the Supreme Sovereign of the region of peace
To liberate Elphin from banishment,
The man who gave me wine and ale and mead,
With large princely steeds of beautiful appearance;
May he yet give me, and, at the end,
May God of his good will grant me in honour
A succession of numberless ages in the retreat of tranquillity.

Elphin, knight of mead, late be thy dissolution!

(700 words)

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