databas cerddi guto'r glyn


Unlike the other weapons mentioned in the poetry, gunpowder weapons were comparatively new in Guto’s day, having reached Britain, it seems, in the early decades of the fourteenth century. It took some considerable time for them to become effective and reliable, but by the final phase of the Hundred Years War - when Guto’r Glyn was a young soldier in France (see Guto’r Glyn’s career) - guns of varying sizes were being used extensively on the battlefield and in siege warfare.[1]

It is no wonder, then, that Guto refers to cannonballs or main gwns (a term corresponding to the English word ‘gunstones’) in poems dating from this time. In a praise poem to Matthew Gough he describes his soldiers as Main gwns tir Maen ac Aensio (‘cannonballs of the lands of Maine and Anjou’, poem 3.36), whilst cannonballs appear in a different metaphorical guise in his poem describing the ‘battle’ of the bards against the wine of Thomas ap Watkin:

Pob gwas dewr, pawb a gais da, 
Pob un a ladd pib yna, 
Cydsaethu, iawngu angerdd, 
Gwin coch â main gynnau cerdd. 
Every brave lad, all who seek benefit,
every one will kill a barrelful there,
shooting all together, truly affectionate ferocity,
red wine with the cannonballs of song.

(poem 4.53-6)

Guto also used the imagery of the gun to praise his patrons directly. His reference to Sir John Burgh as a Maen gwn traws mewn genau trin (‘powerful cannonball in the heat of battle’, poem 80.28) refers, it seems, to the forceful way in which Sir John fought. Similarly, it may be that Guto intended to praise the military prowess of Ieuan Fychan ab Ieuan when he stated, in a poem of reconciliation, that he had ‘the nature of a gun’ (anian gwn, poem 106.13), though there may also be a suggestion here that Ieuan had an ‘explosive’ temper![2]


[1]: K. DeVries, Guns and men in medieval Europe, 1200-1500 (Aldershot, 2002), 1-15, and K. DeVries and R.D. Smith, Medieval Weapons: an illustrated history of their impact (Santa Barbara, 2007), 196-202.
[2]: For further discussion of guns in medieval Welsh poetry see D.F. Evans (1998), ‘ “Y carl a’i trawai o’r cudd”: Ergyd y Gwn ar y Cywyddwyr’, Dwned, 4: 75-105.
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