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Dafydd ap Gwilym

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Subject: Rachel Bromwich, Wales in the Late Middle Ages, Cân i Gymru, List of Welsh writers, History of the Welsh language
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Dafydd ap Gwilym

Dafydd ap Gwilym
Sculpture of Dafydd ap Gwilym by W Wheatley Wagstaff at City Hall, Cardiff
Occupation Poet
Nationality Welsh
Period c. 1340-1370
Genre love poetry, erotica
Notable works Trafferth mewn Tafarn, Y Rhugl Groen, Merched Llanbadarn, Morfudd fel yr Haul, Cywydd y gal

Dafydd ap Gwilym (c. 1315/1320 – c. 1350/1370), is regarded as one of the leading Welsh poets 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 parish), Ceredigion. 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. This burial location is disputed by supporters of the Talley Abbey theory who contend that burial took place in the Talley Abbey Churchyard:

On Saturday 15 September 1984 a memorial stone was unveiled by a Prifardd to mark the site in the churchyard at Talley where a deeply-rooted tradition asserts that the poet Dafydd ap Gwilym lies buried. For many centuries the rival claims of Talley and Ystrad Fflur have been debated as the burialplace of Wales’ foremost poet.[1]

The first recorded observation that Dafydd ap Gwilym was buried in Talley was made in the sixteenth century.[1] Talley is located about 30 miles from Strata Florida (Welsh: Ystrad Fflur).


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 who 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.

According to Charles Johnston's explanatory notes on the Astrée / Naïve CD 'Beethoven: Irish, Welsh & Scottish Songs' (2001), the words to WoO155 '26 wallisische Lieder', Nr.14 'Der Traum' (1810), were "translated from the Welsh of Dafydd ap Gwilym". This would be Dafydd's dream-vision poem 'Y Breuddwyd'.

See also


  • 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).
  • Helen Fulton (ed.), Selections from the Dafydd ap Gwilym apocrypha, Welsh Classics series (Llandysul, 1996, Gomer Press).
  • Helen Fulton, Dafydd ap Gwilym and the European context (Cardiff. 1989, University of Wales Press).
  • Richard Morgan Loomis, Dafydd ap Gwilym: The Poems. Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies, Binghamton, New York, 1982. English translations.
  • 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). Includes a complete translation of the poems and a useful introduction.


  1. ^ a b "Y Llychau Issue 6, 2007; p. 16". Parochial Church Council of St Michael & All Angels, Talley. 

External links

  • Dafydd ap Gwilym and Welsh literary tradition on the BBC History website.
  • Trafferth Mewn Tafarn - Two English translations of Dafydd ap Gwilym's 'Trafferth Mewn Tafarn'
  • Mis Mai a Mis Ionawr - An English translation of Dafydd ap Gwilym's 'Mis Mai a Mis Ionawr'
  • A new edition of the work of Dafydd ap Gwilym by a team of academics from the University of Wales
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