23. Moliant i Dydecho
edited by Eurig Salisbury
This important poem of praise for Tydecho by Dafydd Llwyd of Mathafarn is the sole authority on the saint’s life. No prose life has survived, and references to the saint in other poems are few and far between (some are referenced below, cf. GLGC 7.32, GDID X.42, GLM LXXXI.56). The absence of vaticinatory references in this poem, as well as the fact that it is a cywydd addressed to a single saint, set it apart from the bulk of Dafydd Llwyd’s surviving work (cf. his awdl to David, DewiDLl, the only other poem in which he addresses an individual saint, and also the only surviving awdl by his name).
In the first part of the poem (ll. 1–18), Tydecho is praised in conventional terms with reference to his association with Mawddwy, a commote in Meirionnydd, and to the illustriousness of his lineage as the grandson of Emyr Llydaw and a relation of Arthur. In the Latin life of Padarn (VSB2 254), Titechon is named (along with Padarn, Cadfan and another saint called Ketinlau) as one of four leaders of saints who migrated to Brittany from Wales, but the poem makes no reference to this except perhaps obliquely in mentioning Emyr Llydaw. The suggestion in lines 7–10 is that Tydecho, along with Dogwel and Tegfan, was one of the gwyrda ‘good men’ who departed from Llandudoch (St Dogmaels) in Pembrokeshire (see l. 8n) to found churches elsewhere. The association of Tydecho with Llandudoch – based solely, in all likelihood, on the similarity of their names – may have supplanted the tradition that Tydecho came to Wales from Brittany, but he may have arrived first at Llandudoch before making his way to Mawddwy. It is nonetheless clear that Tydecho settled in Mawddwy, where he founded a church and became a farmer, devoting his life to God (19–26; cf. GMBr 15.31–6).
The next part of the poem (27–58) describes the troubles between Tydecho and Maelgwn Gwynedd, the arch-enemy of the saints. On giving Tydecho a gift of some horses, Maelgwn sarcastically instructed that they be fed with prayers. On being released to the mountain by Tydecho, the horses were transformed from white to gold and became stout and strong despite the wintery weather. On taking the saint’s oxen in retribution to prevent Tydecho from ploughing his fields, Maelgwn found the land being worked in their place by stags and a wolf (cf. GMBr 15.37–40; GLl 23.31). Maelgwn then sat with his hounds on a rock above the valley, probably to plot his next scheme, but suddenly found that he could not rise up from the spot. It seems that Tydecho released the king, who at last made amends by returning the saint’s oxen and recognizing Tydecho’s claim to his land. This area was measured by how far Tydecho’s servant, Meilyr, could travel from the church through the surrounding forest in one day.
Dafydd Llwyd then turns his attention to matters involving the law on Tydecho’s land (59–66), in particular the way in which it was upheld resolutely in contrast, perhaps, with other less lawful regions. Taking cattle (or livestock) and kidnapping was outlawed, and trespassing cattle were seized. Burning property, murder and the violation of people’s rights were not tolerated without recompense. Tydecho is then praised for his ability to heal the sick, the blind and the deaf, but his powers of aggression are also illustrated by a miracle in which he struck blind a band of plunderers one night with a shining burst of light (67–74). The suggestion is that Tydecho performed this miracle when his sister Tegfedd was taken, probably by evil-doers sent by Cynon, who later compensated the saint with a gift of land in Garthbeibio along with the safe return of his undefiled sister (75–80). Dafydd Llwyd then returns to more legal matters, this time in more detail (81–90). He names four types of payment – ebedyw, [c]am, gorddwy and gobr merch – that were apparently not in force on Tydecho’s land, an exception to secular law that is described as an anrheg ‘gift’ authorized by both the pope and Hywel Dda (further, see ll. 81–90n). Dafydd Llwyd’s reference to these breiniau ‘privileges’ that resulted in rhydid mawr, gwaredol ‘great, redeeming freedom’ is reminiscent of the idealism of much of his vaticinatory poetry.
The last miracle mentioned is Tydecho’s vanquishing of a large occupying army. His generosity is praised in the closing lines as Dafydd Llwyd urges everyone who may be in adversity to seek the saint’s support (91–100). The fact that episodes from the life of Tydecho and references to the independent nature of his church are interwoven from line 59 onwards hints perhaps at the raison d’etre of the poem, namely to further the cause of Tydecho’s church or churches in the 15c.
For another of Tydecho’s miracles not mentioned in this poem, namely causing the upper reaches of the river Dyfi below Aran Fawddwy to turn to milk, after which it was named Llaethnant, see GDLl 81.9–10; GMBr 15.41–2; Henken 1991: 211.
Thomas Pennant referred to this poem in his Tours in Wales (Pennant 1883, ii, 220–2). Many local traditions about the saint in Mawddwy were recorded by ‘Glasynys’ (O.W. Jones) in a prize-winning essay at Eisteddfod Dinas Mawddwy on 2 August 1855, which was later published in Y Brython in 1863. Relevant sections of this essay (Jones 1863) are referenced in the explanatory notes (see especially l. 8n Llandudoch). (On ‘Glasynys’, who kept a school in Llanfachreth, not far from Mawddwy, from 1855, see ByC Arlein.) ‘Glasynys’ is mentioned in a similar article by ‘Cadvan’ (J.C. Davies) in Y Genhinen in 1888, much of which is probably derived from the essay in Y Brython (Davies 1888). Note Lewys Morris’s take on the poem’s historical merit in The Bardic Museum (Jones 1802: 46): ‘Thus far goes the historical part of this poem, which, though mixt with superstition and folly, yet contains some valuable hints, if judiciously handled.’ For recent oral traditions that echo parts of this poem, see TWS 212–16.
Dafydd Llwyd’s floruit is given as c.1400‒c.1490. The high percentage of lines containing cynghanedd groes suggests a date during the second half of the century, see the section below on metre and cynghanedd.
GDLl poem 52. Due consideration was also given to three published copies of the poem: in The Bardic Museum, including notes by ‘the late Antiquary, Lewis Morris, Esq. in 1761’ (Jones 1802: 45–6); in The Cambrian Register, edited by William Owen Pughe (1799: 375–8); and in Y Brython, an article by ‘Glasynys’ (Jones 1863). Griffith Edwards (1895: 39–42) translated this poem (rather loosely) into English (from the texts of Jones and Pughe), as well as Mathau Brwmffild’s poem of praise to Mawddwy (GMBr poem 15).
Metre and cynghanedd
Cywydd, 102 lines.
Cynghanedd: croes o gyswllt 1% (1 l.), croes 43% (43 l.), traws 25% (25 l.), sain 27% (27 l.), llusg 6% (6 l.). Line 32 is counted as a cynghanedd groes, but it could also be counted as a cynghanedd sain. Note that the cynghanedd sain in line 53 is a cynghanedd sain gadwynog.