Friday, 17 December 2010

I am Taliesin. I sing perfect metre. - Anonymous 13th Century

I am Taliesin. I sing perfect metre,
Which will last to the end of the world.
My patron is Elphin...
I know why there is an echo in a hollow;
Why silver gleams; why breath is black; why liver is bloody;
Why a cow has horns; why a woman is affectionate;
Why milk is white; why holly is green;
Why a kid is bearded; why the cow-parsnip is hollow;
Why brine is salt; why ale is bitter;
Why the linnet is green and berries red;
Why a cuckoo complains; why it sings;
I know where the cuckoos of summer are in winter.
I know what beasts there are at the bottom of the sea;
How many spears in battle; how many drops in a shower;
Why a river drowned Pharoah's people;
Why fishes have scales,
Why a white swan has black feet...
I have been a blue salmon,
I have been a dog, a stag, an axe in the hand,
A stallion, a bull, a buck,
A grain which grew on a hill,
I was reaped, and placed in an oven,
I fell to the ground when I was being roasted
And a hen swallowed me.
For nine nights was I in her crop.
I have been dead, I have been alive,
I am Taliesin.

Ah Taliesin, the Welsh wizard bard. He probally lived in the sixth century, was same age as the chieftain who became the 'King Arthur ' of later romance. Taliesin's legend and poems survive in the 'Mabinogion'. In legend and medieval Welsh poetry he is often referred to as Taliesin Chief of the bards / poets ( Taliesin Ben Beirdd) .
The witch Ceridwen once prepared in her cauldron a magic brew which, after a year's boiling, was to yield three blessed drops. Whoever swallowed these drops would know all the secrets of the pasrt, the present, and the future. The gift of prophecy. By accident this happened to be Gwion Bach, the boy who helped to tend the fire beneath the cauldron. When boiling drops fell on his finger, he put it in his mouth, and then, realising his danger, fled. Ceridwen pursued him relentlessly. After numerous transformations, the ravenous witch as a hen ate the fugitive boy disguised as a grain of wheat.
Thrown into the sea at last, he was caught in a fish -trap, and called Taliesin, the meaning of which is 'radiant brow'. His knowledge dumbfounded king's bards and amazed the common people. ' I have been dead, I have been alive... I am Taliesin.'

Taliesin yw fi.

Dw'in canu yn mesurydd perffaith,
Pa diwetha hyd ddiwedd y byd.
Fy noddwr yn Elphin...

Below of Taliesin (Bedd Taliesin) on the shores Lake Bala in Wales, believed to be his final
resting place.


  1. I love this poem so thank you for posting it. It's one of my favourites and I wanted a digital copy.

  2. is rather beautiful.

  3. Thank you for posting this poem! Where can find the full Welsh text?

  4. not completely sure, but from the mabinogian, I think, which has been translated a few times,the originals not a product of one singular mind though , guess this is how our talea survive,I have been trying to find a translation for ages, the welsh national library possibly holds a key. I guess a diligent Welh teacherI guess this is the ultimate difficulty of translation, would be able to help further, but I am sure you will agree, in the gift of any language, it is beautiful nevertheless, the mystery and wonder of folklore and language,an eternal poem , still setting paths of discovery at the end of the day.Think I personally discovered the path of Taliesin through the White Godess by Robert Graves. Regards, all the best.