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Aneirin

Aneirin

Aneirin: see Aneurin.
Aneirin or Neirin was a late 6th century Brythonic poet. He is believed to have been a bard or 'court poet' in one of the Cumbric kingdoms of the Old North or Hen Ogledd, probably that of Gododdin at Edinburgh, in modern Scotland. From the 17th century, his name was often incorrectly spelled Aneurin.

Poetry

The works attributed to Aneirin are preserved in a late-13th century manuscript known as the Book of Aneirin (or Llyfr Aneirin). The language has been partially modernized into Middle Welsh, but other portions in Old Welsh indicate that at least some of the poetry dates from around Aneirin's time, and its attribution, therefore, may well be genuine. The work would have survived through oral transmission until first written down, perhaps in the 9th century.

Aneirin's best known work is Y Gododdin, a series of elegies for the warriors of the northern Brythonic kingdom of Gododdin who, in circa 600, fell against the Angles of Deira and Bernicia at the Battle of Catraeth (probably Catterick in North Yorkshire). The poetry abounds in textual difficulties and consequently interpretations vary. One stanza contains what may possibly be the earliest reference to Arthur, as a paragon of bravery with whom one fallen warrior is compared : the identification is, however, conjectural. The poem tells us that Aneirin was present at this battle and, having been taken prisoner, was one of only four (or two) Brythonic survivors. He remained a captive until his ransom was paid by Ceneu ap Llywarch Hen.

Identity & reputation

Records of Aneirin amongst the sons of Caw, a chieftain from Strathclyde, are late and erroneous. Aneirin's mother, Dwywei, is, however, mentioned in 'Y Gododdin'. She may be the same lady who, according to Old Welsh pedigrees, married King Dunod, who is generally thought to have ruled in West Yorkshire. He was also kin to another Brythonic poet, Cian Gwenith Gwawd.

In the late 18th century attempts were made to identify Aneirin with the early 6th century writer, Gildas, based on the incorrect form of his name. Thomas Stephens later thought the poet was Gildas' son. Both ideas are now discredited.

The Welsh Triads describe Aneirin as "prince of bards" and "of flowing verse". Nennius praises him amongst the earliest Welsh poets or Cynfeirdd, a contemporary of Talhaearn, Taliesin, Bluchbardd and Cian. References to Aneirin are found in the work of the Poets of the Princes, but his fame declined in the later Middle Ages until the re-assertion of Welsh identity by antiquarian writers of the Tudor period. Today, the reputation of his poetry remains high, though the exact identity of the author is more controversial.

References

  • Peter C. Bartrum (1966). Early Welsh Genealogical Tracts. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
  • Rachel Bromwich (1978). Trioedd Ynys Prydein: The Welsh Triads. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
  • Rachel Bromwich & R. Brinley Jones (ed.) (1978). Astudiaethau ar yr Hengerdd. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
  • Kenneth H. Jackson (1969). The Gododdin: The Oldest Scottish poem. Edinburgh: University Press.
  • A. O. H. Jarman (1988). Aneirin: Y Gododdin, Britain's Oldest Heroic Poem. Llandysul: Gomer.
  • John Morris (1973). The Age of Arthur. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
  • William O. Pughe (1803). Cambrian Biography. London: E. Williams.
  • Thomas Stephens (1888). The Gododin of Aneurin Gwawdrydd. London: The Cymmrodorion Society.
  • Ifor Williams (1938). Canu Aneirin. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.

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