"Then, behold, poets came to perform a poem for Arthur. And no one understood the poem, apart from Cadyriaith himself, except that it was in praise of Arthur."

The earliest recorded poems in Welsh* are those of Aneirin and Taliesin, dating from the 6thcentury. Welsh medieval poets are generally divided into three groups. The first group, who composed poetry between the 6th and 11th century, were known as the Cynfeirdd. The second group, known as Beirdd y Tywysogion (‘The Poets of the Princes’), were court poets active between the end of the 11th century and the conquest of Wales by Edward I in 1282. The third group were known as Beirdd yr Uchelwyr (‘The Poets of the Noblemen/landed gentry’) and were active from the end of the 13th century until the decline of the Welsh bardic tradition in the 16th century. It is believed that early Welsh poetry was performed to the accompaniment of a harp, crwth, or the rhythmic pounding of a stave.

(* A version of Welsh was spoken in parts of Northern England and Southern Scotland during the period of Aneirin and Taliesin)

The comment above about the poets who came to perform for Arthur is a satirical one. ‘Rhonabwy’s Dream’ is thought to have been written during the 13th century, so the remark is probably directed at ‘The Poets of the Princes’. The implication is that their work is obtuse, and that they have lost touch with their audience.

Click here to read about some experimental work on the link between poetry and music in medieval Wales.