databas cerddi guto'r glyn

Farming equipment

There were two important agricultural equipment in the fifteenth century: the plow and yoke. The plow was used to convert the land for sowing and planting, and the yoke was the piece of wood connecting two or more animals to the plough. Iolo Goch (c.1320-c.1398) gives a very detailed description of the plough in a poem to a laborer where he describes the plough as an 'extremely strong servant'.[1] According to Payne, ‘the object described by Iolo Goch was an unrestricted plough of the angular-swivel type with two handles and a mould-board...It was a common type of plough in the fourteenth century and its characteristic features are noted in contemporary manorial records and contemporary Welsh literature'.[2]
A farmer ploughing the land with a medieval plough in an Anglo-Saxon manuscript.
A medieval plough
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There is a poem attributed to Lewys Glyn Cothi to a plough and this seems to be a wheel plough of the angular-swivel type.[3] One section in the poem names and describes many parts of the plough. The frame was made o wood, but the blades used to cut the furrow free were made of steel, named the swch (‘ploughshare’). Steel was also used for the big blade and the cwlltwr (‘coulter’) a tilted blade in front of the ploughshare. While commenting on Abbot Dafydd ab Ieuan cultivating the land at Valle Crucis, Guto refers to the steel blades of the plough: Ei diroedd ef a drôi ddur (‘Steel would plough his lands’, poem 111.21).

To ensure that the animals were co-moving, it was necessarily to have a suitable piece of wood which was secured across the necks or by the horns of each pair of animal. This is the yoke and a familiar image in the poetry of this period is that a nobleman is carrying the yoke and therefore carries the burden of his responsibility for his community (see, e.g. the note on line 22, poem 31). [4] It is also common to use the image of a nobleman as the animal, namely the ox or a horse that pulled the plough when cultivating the land, to convey his dedication as a leader as he leads his people, see Framing animals.[5]

In a poem asking four noblemen to give Rhisiart Cyffin ab Ieuan Llwyd two oxen each, Guto’r Glyn states one of the oxen of one of the noblemen, Siôn Edward, could cut the tid (‘chain’) because they were so strong. The tid was the chain connecting the oxen to the plough. As Guto refers to the oxen of Dafydd Llwyd of Bodidris, he notes:

Piau’r iau fraisg a’r pâr fry? 
Pedwerydd, pwy a’i dyry? 
Dafydd, lliw dydd, Llwyd o Iâl 
Dewrder a chlod ei ardal, 
Haelaf a gwychaf o’r gwŷr 
Ond y tad, oen Duw, Tudur. 
Who owns the mighty yoke and the pair yonder?
The fourth pair, who will give them?
Dafydd Llwyd from Yale, like daylight,
the bravery and fame of his land,
the most generous and most excellent of men
except for his father, Tudur, the lamb of God.

(poem 108.31-6)

References to dôl in the context of the plough could simply refer to the land (‘meadow’). However, it could also refer to a particular type of an arch collar worn around the neck of an oxen under the yoke, named in English ‘oxbow’. [6] Seemingly, dôl could describe the oxen joined together and attached to the yoke in front of the plough.[7]

As well as the plough, there are references to other farming equipment in the poetry. After the land had been cultivated, a harrow, that is a frame with numerous ‘teeth’ was dragged over the land to cut the soil further, kill weed, or to cover the seeds with soil after it was sown.
Reaping in a calendar in the 'De Grey' Book of hours, NLW MS 15537C, f.7 (Digital Mirror).
Reaping in the 'De Grey Book of Hours'
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Guto’r Glyn uses the ‘teeth’ of the harrow twice as a metaphor, while complaining about the miserliness of Henry Griffith (poem 35.15) and when describing his own grief in an elegy for Siôn ap Madog Puleston (poem 72.36), and it seems that he also refers to the real work of the harrow in the quotation Llef y nos yn llyfnu ynn’ (‘their night cry harrowing the land for us’, poem 108.52).

A reaping-hook was needed to cut the corn for reaping and to bound it into neat sheaves as illustrated in the Luttrell Psalter (c.1340). The image of a reaping-hook is used twice by Guto. The shape of the blade of the hunting knife requested on behalf of Siôn Hanmer is described as crymanaidd (‘curved’) (poem 76.47) and the shape of the hunting horn is also described as Cafn crwm fal cefn y cryman (‘a convex trough like the sickle’s ridge’, poem 99.32). The sheaves were collected or cywain (‘harvested’), before being stored, as at Valle Crucis abbey:

I dri abad na phrior 
Nid oes dai na’i ŷd ystôr: 
Ŷd ar faes, a deuryw fedd, 
Ŷd o’r blaen o dair blynedd. 
No three abbots or priors
have such buildings as his nor his provision of corn:
corn in the field, and two kinds of mead,
corn [in store] in advance for three years.

(poem 112.37-40)



[1]: D.R. Johnston (gol.), Gwaith Iolo Goch (Caerdydd, 1988), poem no. XXVIII.
[2]: F.G. Payne, Yr Aradr Gymreig (Caerdydd, 1954), 74-5.
[3]: D. Johnston (gol.), Gwaith Lewys Glyn Cothi (Caerdydd, 1995), poem no. 236.
[4]: For examples of this imagery in the praise poems see Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, 2002 d.g. iau¹ (iau flaen and iau fôn) and 3749 d.g. ych¹ (ych bôn).
[5]: F.G. Payne, Yr Aradr Gymreig (Caerdydd, 1954), 4-5.
[6]: See, for example, ym mlaen dôl ‘at the front of the yoke’ (cerdd 108.46) and dôl ych ‘shape of an oxbow’ (poem 99.28).
[7]: See further Geiriadur Prifysgol Cymru, 1073, d.g. dôl,²; 'The Oxford English Dictionary' s.v. oxbow ‘a bow-shaped piece of wood forming a collar for a yoked ox, with the upper ends fastened to the yoke.’.
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