Dafydd ap Gwilym
(c. 1315/1320 – c. 1350/1370), is generally regarded as the greatest Welsh
poet of all time and amongst the great poets of Europe in the Middle Ages
. (Dafydd ap Gwilym scholar R. Geraint Gruffydd
suggests ca.1315-ca.1350 as his dates; other scholars place him a little later, ca.1320-ca.1370.)
Tradition has it that he was born at Brogynin, Penrhyn-coch (at the time Llanbadarn Fawr
. His father, Gwilym Gam, and mother, Ardudfyl, were both from noble
families. As one of noble birth it seems Dafydd did not belong to the guild of professional poets in medieval Wales, and yet the poetic tradition had been strong in his family for generations.
According to R. Geraint Gruffydd he died in 1350, a possible victim of the Black Death. Tradition says that he was buried within the precinct of the Cistercian Strata Florida Abbey, Ceredigion.
It is believed that about one hundred and seventy of his poems have survived, though many others have been attributed to him over the centuries. His main themes were love and nature. The influence of wider European ideas of courtly love
, as exemplified in the troubadour
poetry of Provençal
, is seen as a significant influence on Dafydd's poetry.
He was an innovative poet who was responsible for popularising the metre known as the "cywydd" and first to use it for praise. But perhaps his greatest innovation was to make himself the main focus of his poetry. By its very nature, most of the work of the traditional Welsh court poets kept their own personalities far from their poetry. Dafydd's work is full of his own feelings and experiences. His main theme is love, and many of his poems are addressed to women, but particularly to two of them, Morfudd and Dyddgu. He is also recognised as very fine nature poet. His best-known works include the following poems:
- Morfudd fel yr haul (=Morfudd like the sun), a poem to the wife of an Aberystwyth merchant that seems to have had a long affair with Dafydd, and whom he addressed in many poems;
- Merched Llanbadarn (=The girls of Llanbadarn), in which he speaks of going to church on Sunday purely in order to ogle the local women;
- Trafferth mewn tafarn (=Trouble in a tavern), in which he recounts an incident in a tavern that would be worthy of any slapstick film;
- Y Rhugl Groen (=The Rattle Bag), in which Dafydd's intercourse with a young girl is cruelly interrupted; and
- Cywydd y gal (=A poem in praise of the penis), a risqué piece of pure medieval erotica. Until recently not anthologised as Dafydd's for reason of editorial squeamishness.
- Rachel Bromwich, Dafydd ap Gwilym, Writers of Wales series. (Cardiff, 1974, University of Wales Press). An introduction in English.
- Rachel Bromwich, Aspects of the Poetry of Dafydd ap Gwilym (Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1986).
- Rachel Bromwich (ed.), Dafydd ap Gwilym : poems, Welsh Classics series (Llandysul, 2003, Gomer Press). ISBN.
- Helen Fulton (ed.), Selections from the Dafydd ap Gwilym apocrypha, Welsh Classics series (Llandysul, 1996, Gomer Press). ISBN-X.
- Helen Fulton, Dafydd ap Gwilym and the European context (Cardiff. 1989, University of Wales Press). ISBN.
- Thomas Parry (ed.), Gwaith Dafydd ap Gwilym (2nd revised ed., Caerdydd, 1963, Gwasg Prifysgol Cymru). Still the standard edition of Dafydd's work; edited texts with extensive notes.
- Gwyn Thomas (ed.), Dafydd ap Gwilym : his poetry(Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 2001). ISBN. Includes a complete translation of the poems and a useful introduction.