databas cerddi guto'r glyn


One of the most traditional treatments for patients was bathing in hot springs, for which the old Roman baths at Bath were especially famous. There are many references to springs in the poetry, indicating that they were still widely used in the fifteenth century. When Guto’r Glyn was suffering from aches in his bones, he states that it was customary for a patient to seek a cure by bathing in these springs:

Iach fyddaf yr haf o’r haint, 
Iach o fewn o chaf ennaint. 
Dwfr o gladd ennaint Baddwn, 
Difa’r haint a wna’r dwfr hwn. 
I’ll be healed from the disease in the summer,
healthy inside if I have a medicinal bath.
Water from the depths of one of Bath’s springs,
this water will cure the disease.

(poem 81.5-8)

However, he goes on to insist that he actually had no need water from the depths of one of Bath’s springs, for the feast given by Joan Burgh at Wattlesborough, was enough to heal him. The same theme occurs in a poem to Abbot Dafydd ab Ieuan of Valle Crucis and Rhisiart Cyffin ap Ieuan Llwyd, dean of Bangor, when Guto again needed healing:

Ni bu raid i’r barwyden 
Ennaint y Badd ond o’i ben; 
Nac oel gwyrdd nac eli gwan 
Nis ceisiaf yn oes cusan. 
The flank had no need of
the unguent of Bath except from his lips;
I shall not seek green oil or weak ointment
during the life of a kiss.

(poem 109.47-50)

A chart showing the parts of the body to be bled for different diseases (NLW MS 3026C, 11).
Bleeding the body in a 15th century manuscript
Click for a larger image
Water from wells dedicated to saints was also believed to possess the power to heal diseases, see Religion. Another belief related to medical treatments in the Middle Ages was that the moon, stars and planets had an influence on health. It was believed that the human body had four different ‘humours’, and when astrological factors affected the balance between these humours, it would cause an illness or a disease. This is discussed in detail in an assortment of texts contained in a manuscript (dating to 1488-89) by the poet Gutun Owain (see NLW 3026C). It explains the need to bleed or drain the body during certain periods of the year to keep it healthy and pure.

From the middle of the fourteenth century onwards there are several manuscripts that devote considerable attention to medicine. The best-known text is ‘the Physicians of Myddfai’, named after a family of ‘doctors’ (a father named Rhiwallon and his three sons) from Myddfai in Carmarthenshire, who lived in the thirteenth century.[1] The collection of medical texts associated with them has survived in various manuscripts. [2]

The contents of these medical texts are quite peculiar from a modern perspective. Similar collections exist in countries throughout Europe, which might indicate that they derive from classical sources. Among them are recipes, astrological texts, lists of vegetables, and instructions for surgical procedures.

The healing properties of vegetables and herbs, when mixed together with the right ingredients, were well known by this period. This is also emphasized in the poetry. A cywydd and englynion attributed to Dafydd Nanmor mention the curative powers of herbs and vegetables. It seems that an understanding of the virtues of vegetables and other remedies formed part of a poet’s education.[3] It is further suggested by Owen that the poets would ‘take an active interest in medicine as healers and it was beneficial for them, or their patrons to memorise the content of medical books’.[4]

Praising the ‘healing’ virtues of a feast given by a patron is a theme of Guto’s work. He seems to have known that nutritious food was essential to maintain a healthy life. Here, he commends the feast he received from Joan Burgh of Wattlesborough for healing his wounds:

Ansawdd arglwyddes Fawddwy 
A fyn i hen fyw yn hwy, 
A’i gwledd hi a giliodd haint, 
A’i gwin oedd well nog ennaint, 
A’i llyn a’m gwnâi’n llawenach, 
A’i thân onn a’m gwnaeth yn iach. 
Nid rhaid ym waith antred mwy, 
Meddig ond ladi Mawddwy. 
Lady Mawddwy’s delicacies
make the old live longer,
and her feast caused illness to retreat,
and her wine was better than a medicinal bath,
and her drink made me merrier,
and her ash-wood fire made me healthy.
I need no physician’s plaster any more,
only lady Mawddwy.

(poem 81.65-72)

The poems exchanged between Guto'r Glyn and Llywelyn ap Gutun discuss the treatment Guto underwent when he was suffering from a disease that affected his skin (see Guto’s illness). Llywelyn insists that Guto must chew pieces of bread made from wheat-flour ‘in order to purge his bowels’ (Guto, er ysgwrio’i gau, / A gny penial gnopennau, poem 101a.17-18). Bread made from wheat flour was thought to be especially nutritious. The treatment will result in a full recovery, but rest at home will also be also needed, as noted by the poet. However, a full recovery will only be possible if Guto goes to Valle Crucis Abbey, where he will receive the nourishing food required to make him better:

Mi a wn lle mae ennaint 
A dynn hwn o donnau haint: 
Aed i nef, i fod yn iach, 
Llanegwestl, lle enwogach. 
I know where there is ointment
that can pull him from the waves of disease:
to be healthy may he go to the heaven
of Llanegwystl, a more famous place.

(poem 101a.41-44)


[1]: M. Stephens (gol.), Cydymaith i Lenyddiaeth Cymru (ail arg., Caerdydd, 1997), 398.
[2]: M.E. Owen, 'Meddygon Myddfai, a preliminary survey of some medical writings in Welsh', Studia Celtica ix/x (1995), 210-33.
[3]: B.O. Huws, '‘Llawer dyn … / Â chywydd a iachawyd’: Guto’r Glyn yr iachawr' yn B.J. Lewis, A. Parry Owen a D.F. Evans (goln), ‘Gwalch Cywyddau Gwŷr’: Ysgrifau ar Guto'r Glyn a Chymru'r Bymthegfed Ganrif (Aberystwyth, 2013), 00-00.
[4]: Owen 2001: 210-33***.
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