Cerdd Dant

(Medieval Welsh String Music)

  

By permission of the British Library, Robert ap Huw, MUSICA, Additional 14905.

 

Robert ap Huw Manuscript, c. 1613, p. 57 (detail),

harp tablature for kaingk Ryffydd ab adda ab dafydd.

This music is played on the crwth to accompany

the englyn sung in the musical example below.

 

 

 

'Englyn satirising the tabor, pipe and fiddler' (mp4)

from the album 'Kaingk'.

 

'Englyn satirising the tabor, pipe and fiddler' - .zip

About 648 KB

 

[Peniarth MS 146 ]

 

E:d:ir Tabwrdd / pib ar ffidler

 Englyn satirising the tabor, pipe and fiddler.

[i.e. musicians other than crwth-players or harpers].

 

ffei dabwrdd dwmbwrdd difwynder / kanu
ffei or kene sy iw harfer
ffei or bib, nid offer ber
ffei o adlais y ffidler./
 

Sion Mowddwy

 

Translation.

Fie dinning tabor, unenjoyable song,
Fie the knave who uses it;
Fie the pipe, not a sweet instrument,
Fie the fiddler's echo.

 

The verse above is from 'Detholiad o Englynion' Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies,
Part III, (1953), p.187.

 

 

In Wales, during the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, two arts flourished side by side: cerdd dafod (the craft of the tongue, poetical craft) and cerdd dant (the craft of string music). The poets and musicians were part of an all-embracing bardic system. The poets wrote verse of an occasional nature, praising the exploits and virtues of their patrons: the Welsh nobility and high-ranking clergy. They also provided elegies, devotional poetry, commemorated the generous acts of their patrons and satirised certain people in verses which might have the intensity of curses. The art of poetry was learnt orally, i.e. examples were learnt by heart and exercises given as spoken instruction. Part of the poet or musician's craft was the ability to remember the important work of previous generations. One of the spurs to the active and generous patronage of poets must have been the prospect that one's name and deeds would live forever.

 

In descending social order came: poet, harper, crwth player and the specialised singer of bardic verse, datgeiniad. The crafts of poetry and instrumental music were interdependent and the performance of a new poem, at its most splendid, probably required the services of the datgeiniad, harpist and/or crwth player; no doubt superintended by the poet. Between the beginning of the 14th century and the end of the 16th century Welsh poetical forms were brought to an extreme pitch of elaboration.

 

  

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