Dove descending interior old Augustus Lutheran Church Sanctuary, founded by Henry Melchior Muhlenberg, c. 1743 Providence (Trappe) PA, 18 Sept 2012.

07 February 2009

Taliesin (for Dave German)

In Memory of Dave German / Match Point Tennis Club

The main thing to account in remembering the dead is the mask we hang to honor them, the memory ledge on the heart. Three hundred had fallen of "bright Gwynedd's horde," it says, "Bright battalions with their blue bright swords." Among these warriors, three "returned from the battle's rage," the singer recalled, but "I who was bleeding to sing this song," is not numbered or named. Llyfr Taliesin, Book of Taliesin of the fourteenth century, pictures its agonies in threes, of war, the love of woman, the worship of God. Heroes are measured in epithets. No incident is completely described. Descriptions of battle are heightened with fusion from true poems, "kindled" eulogies of an oral history unknown. No source is given that encourages the mask. It sounds like our own lives when the editor of the Facsimile (1910), J. Gwenogbryn Evans, describes the text and says none has suffered like Taliesin: "hundreds of lines have been marred in transcription. Syllables, words, clauses, sentences, lines have been dropped, prefixes, endings, and catchwords repeated or substituted for the original phrasing." In later celebration, many and more mysterious poems were added to the elegies of 600 AD, so these poetic translations too have a last word. Taliesin Poems (1982) wakes to news of Dave's passing with a change of birth. "The Branch" must now read, "When the Lord of all descended into death...then we were enabled to receive him."

The Taliessin Poems (1982)

Llyfr Taliesin or Book of Taliesin of the thirteenth century, preserved in part in the fourteenth century Red Book of Hergest, is the main source of the fifty-eight attributed poems to Taliesin. The main thing is the memory of battle and the dead. Masks to honor them hung in villages. This honor, their passion, the memory of faces etched Taliesin's heart. Three returned from the battle's rage is no exact census, neither the three hundred fallen of "bright Gwynedd's horde / bright battlions with their blue bright swords." The singer has no name, he was left after reaping, merely "I who was bleeding to sing this song."

Biblical and prophetic subjects, mythologies, riddles, proverbs, elegies and praises in the mead hall, are added to elements from a ninth century Taliesin saga and the twelve historical elegies of the sixth. The three themes of the Red Book poet are the love of woman, the agony of war and the worship of God. The character of heroes is indicated in epithets. No incident is completely described. Battles mentioned in a line or two employ a method of kindling, heightening the lines by implanting them with allusions and quotations from other true poems. Epithets and allusions background eulogies with an oral history so well known no source is given. Archaism and anachronism occur here (the 1982 version) a little, for example in "Song" where the association is broadened from the three hundred who fell to include the later poet Sion Eos. Welsh and English verse being as different as their prosodies, verse forms occur that did not exist in either sixth or twelfth century Wales.

Imaginative reconstructions of bardic traditions attach universal peace and good will, free investigation of truth, (believe nothing and everything), truth in opposition to the world to those poems. Four traditional Welsh bards, Taliesin, Aneirin, Myrddhin and Llywarch Hen exist in manuscripts of the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Taliesin was attributed to various authors from the sixth through the fourteenth centuries, most by some anonymous person of the twelfth. The widely known Hanes Taliesin shows the difficulty. Additions made prior to the eighteenth century version stem from the twelfth century Mabinogin (or are coincident with it), but first take shape in the sixteenth century. J. Gwenogbryn Evans, editor of the Facsimile Text of the Book of Taliesin, (1910) says no text "has suffered like the Taliesin text at the hand of scribes. Hundreds of lines have been marred in transcription. Syllables, words, clauses, sentences, lines have been dropped; or prefixes, endings, and catchwords have been repeated, or substituted for the original phrasing.

Taliesin extends to the sixth century, but involves bardic traditions of which Caesar wrote in the conquest of Britain, tales of transformation mistaken for reincarnation. A dozen historical elegies originate in the sixth. Seekers of anonymity in the mask added mystical religious work to the traditional nucleus. Such circumstances also apply to the early Myrddhin of 575 AD who celebrates the Battle of Arfderydd of that date. Nennius, sixth century, says Taliesin and Merlin are historical, but his Historia Britonnum is twelfth century.

These poetic translations get the last words. Editorial comments at the time referred The Taliesin Poems (1982) to Charles Williams, his Taliessin through Logres (1938) and The Region of the Summer Stars (1944), but it is to the originals of the Matter of Britain they speak. Tennyson and Williams spell it Taliessin. Executors of common taste, editors urged to shun the anachronism of subject, battle, death, or homogenize for the modern ear their grasp of the literal. They lost the power to unconfirm.

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