databas cerddi guto'r glyn

The hunting horn

An image of a hunting horn on a tomb at Valle Crucis Abbey.
A hunter blowing his hunting horn
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Illustrations of horns in manuscripts show that they varied in length, diameter and shape as well as in construction. Hunting horns were given as expensive gifts by the English gentry and some were adorned with gold and silver. A waxed cow’s horn, however, was the most usual type of horn carried by ordinary hunters. Perhaps it was a horn of this kind that Guto requested from Sieffrai Cyffin of Oswestry on behalf of Siôn Eutun of Parc Eutun.[1] It is said to be ‘an object the shape of an oxbow’ (llun dôl ych, poem 99.28) and is further described as follows:

Corn mawr ymysg y cyrn mân, 
Cafn crwm fal cefn y cryman, 
Coedwr a’i waedd yn cadw’r ŵyn, 
a great horn among the lesser horns,
a convex trough like the sickle’s ridge,
a woodsman’s shout protecting the lambs,

(poem 99.31-3)

Guto goes on to describe the horn as cloch ceirw ‘deer’s knell’, hanner cylch cerwyn ‘half a curved cask’ and as a mynci ‘collar’ (poem 99, lines 34-5). It seems that Siôn intends to wear it on some kind of belt or cord extending across his body from shoulder to thigh:

Yn gam, yn wynnog o’i ôl, 
Yn geunant yn ei ganol, 
Ar glun Siôn Eutun yn iau, 
O’r glun ar gil ei enau. 
crooked, windy in its wake,
a gorge inside,
a yoke on Siôn Eutun’s thigh,
from the thigh to the edge of his mouth.

(poem 99.47-50)

But the main focus is on the sound produced by the horn:

Bwmbart i ŵr a’i bumbys, 
Brig llef hyd ar barc y llys, 
Bwa genau’n bugunad, 
Bôn trwmp a’i ben tua’r iad, 
Gwiber dolef ac ubain 
 genau mawr ac un main. 
O bydd cynydd a’i cano 
Organ fawr i gŵn yw fo, 
a bombard for a man and his five fingers,
the height of a cry across the court’s park,
a mouth’s bow bellowing,
the butt-end of a trumpet with its head facing towards the pate,
a clamouring and howling viper
with a great mouth and a smaller one.
If a huntsman should blow it
he’s a great organ for dogs,

(poem 99.39-46)

Hunting horns would be used to produce combinations of long notes, short notes and pauses, with each note having the same pitch. Their main role in the hunt was communication (see Hunting: Hunting gear).

There are some medieval illustrations of hunting horns from Wales, as for example in the series of ceramic tiles, formerly in Neath Abbey, which depict a hunting scene (c.1340).


[1]: See further S. Harper, ‘Musical Imagery in the Poetry of Guto’r Glyn’, in B.J. Lewis, A. Parry Owen and D.F. Evans (eds.), ‘Gwalch Cywyddau Gwŷr’: Essays on Guto’r Glyn and Fifteenth-Century Wales (Aberystwyth, 2013), and for a wider discussion, see J. Cummins, The Art of Medieval Hunting: The Hound and the Hawk (London, 1988), 160-71.
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