databas cerddi guto'r glyn
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Hywel ab Owain of Llanbryn-mair, fl. c.1400–50/75

Hywel ab Owain is the subject of poem 40, an elegy. He was also elegized by Dafydd Llwyd of Mathafarn (GDLl poem 57) and Llawdden composed a poem for him and his two brothers, Dafydd and Llywelyn (GLl poem 6). Furthermore, Dafydd ap Hywel Swrdwal composed a poem for Dafydd, Hywel’s son (GHS poem 34), and Siôn Ceri composed a poem for one of Dafydd’s sons, namely Wmffre (GSC poem 29). See also Roberts 1965: 93.

The genealogical table below is based on WG1 ‘Elystan Glodrydd’ 42, 43, ‘Seisyll’ 2; WG2 ‘Elystan Glodrydd’ 43C. Those named by Guto in his poem for Hywel are shown in bold print, and the names of his patrons are underlined.

Lineage of Hywel ab Owain of Llanbryn-mair

As is shown, through his mother, Efa daughter of Llywelyn Gogof, Hywel was a cousin of Sieffrai Cyffin, another of Guto’s patrons.

There was another person with a similar name to that of Hywel ab Owain’s father living in the vicinity of Llanbryn-mair about the same time, namely Owain Fychan ap Gruffudd ab Ieuan Llwyd, descended from the tribe of Seisyll of Meirionnydd (WG1 ‘Seisyll’ 3) and praised by Lewys Glyn Cothi (GLGC poem 199). This has caused some confusion, for Ifor Williams (GGl 327), apparently on the basis of line 14 of Guto’s poem, where Hywel ab Owain is described as ŵyr Ieuan Llwyd ‘descendant of Ieuan Llwyd’, took this Ieuan Llwyd to be the grandfather of Hywel ab Owain and that Owain Fychan ap Gruffudd ab Ieuan Llwyd was another grandson of his. However, Hywel ab Owain’s grandfather was Gruffudd, and Ieuan Llwyd occurs as the name of his great-grandfather. Hywel was, therefore, a great-grandson, not a grandson, of his ancestor Ieuan Llwyd, and Owain Fychan a grandson of another man with the same name. Neither did Owain Fychan have a son called Hywel, a further reason for not linking him to Hywel’s pedigree. It was probably understanding ŵyr literally (‘grandson’) rather than in the looser sense ‘descendant’ that led Ifor Williams, initially, to confuse the two pedigrees. The confusion continues in GLGC 617, where it is stated that Llawdden addressed a poem to the three sons of Owain Fychan ap Gruffudd ab Ieuan Llwyd (ap Llywelyn), but they were the sons of Owain ap Gruffudd ab Ieuan ap Meilyr, and Owain Fychan had only one son, Ieuan Llwyd. There is nonetheless much in common between Lewys Glyn Cothi’s cywydd to Owain Fychan and the poems of Llawdden and Guto to the sons of Owain ap Gruffudd, such as the references to music, merriment and military activities. This is not surprising in view of the mutual proximity of the two families, and the poems may also reflect the taste and culture of the region generally.

His career
According to P.C. Bartrum, Hywel lived in ‘Y Gelli Dywyll, Llanbryn-mair’. I am not aware of a place called Y Gelli Dywyll in that area, although there are a number of instances of it in other places (ArchifMR s.n. Gelli Dywyll), but the description of him as eryr braisg Mair o’r bryn ‘the splendid eagle of Mary from the hill’ (40.8) shows that he lived in the vicinity of Llanbryn-mair, and the references to [M]athafarn (11) and Dyfolwern (12) suggest that his influence extended beyond. Guto praises him, among other things, as a soldier, athlete, musician and lawyer.

According to Bartrum, Hywel was of the generation born c.1400. It is difficult to know when he died but it is suggested that the elegy could have been sung around 1450–75. He was descended, on his father’s side, from Owain Cyfeiliog, the powerful prince of Powys in the twelfth century and patron and author of poems; and at the home of Hywel’s father in Rhiwsaeson by Llanbryn-mair there was a tradition of patronizing poets. In his striking and memorable praise cywydd to Hywel and his two brothers, Llywelyn and Dafydd (GLl poem 6), Llawdden praises the three of them in particular for their fondness of poetry and music as well as for their martial and athletic prowess, and Guto’s praise of Hywel is also very similar in this respect.

It may be, as Ifor Williams suggested (GGl 348), that the subject of the poem is to be identified with the Hywel ab Owain mentioned by Guto in a satirical poem aimed at Dafydd ab Edmwnd (66.45–6). Dafydd had angered the bardic fraternity and Guto urges poets from different parts of Wales to hunt him down. The fact that he mentions Hywel ab Owain between Llawdden and Gruffudd ap Dafydd Fychan and Syr Rhys of Carno (44–50) strongly suggests that Hywel too was a poet, and this tallies with what Guto says in the poem. Further, his exhortation to Hywel not to let Dafydd into Powys shows that it was perhaps in Cyfeiliog that Hywel lived.

Roberts, E. (1965), Braslun o Hanes Llên Powys (Dinbych)

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