The counterfeit material

The material which Iolo Morganwg added to the body of Welsh historical and literary sources helped Victorian scholars create an instant national past which fitted into the dominant historical discourse and assisted in ensuring the survival of the Welsh nation. In this endeavour Iolo's legatees were so bent on creating a venerable history for their people that they closed their minds firmly to the possibility of forgery and fraud. Of particular interest to them were Iolo's additions to the body of material about the early history of Wales and the British Isles in the form of the triads; the pantheon of cultural heroes, among them Hu Gadarn and Dafydd ap Gwilym, which Iolo had assembled; and the bardic tradition of south Wales, particularly the county of Glamorgan, which was maintained by scholars such as T. C. Evans (Cadrawd).


The material which Iolo had added to the historically attested corpus of triads was reproduced in many eisteddfod essays and periodicals, and became so ubiquitous that Y Punch Cymreig coined new, satirical triads.



In 1873 a contributor to Bye-Gones wondered whether Charles Darwin had derived some of his theories from the Druids:
Druidism, the ancient religion of the Welsh, in one of its doctrines, seems near akin to Darwinism. Druidism was not the religion of a barbarous and savage people, but rather of a race who had attained a certain state of civilization and intellectual refinement. One of its chief tenets was that the soul never dies, but transmigrates, after the decease of the body, into another. This doctrine, as explained by the following extract, seems to involve something not at all unlike what is laid down in the comparatively modern doctrine of Darwinism . . . basically: the earth was initially covered by water, . . . 'in course of the ages, man ultimately appeared, the most perfect receptacle of the soul on earth', if soul did evil, it lapsed again into some lower being; if it was attached to good, it would then contain all the wisdom in its next incarnation, so that the world was constantly evolving to a state of perfection . . . May we venture to append the query 'Has Darwin borrowed from the Druids?' - Z.

Hu Gadarn

Hu Gadarn

Hu Gadarn

One of the most warmly received 'cultural heroes' whom Iolo created from shadowy references in medieval manuscripts was Hu Gadarn, the agriculturist and peace-giver, who was said to have led the Welsh from their original home, Deffrobani, to the British Isles. An image depicting him stepping ashore from a coracle holding a plough remained popular throughout the nineteenth century.

Dafydd ap Gwilym.

Some of the most popular Dafydd ap Gwilym poems of the nineteenth century had, in fact, been composed by Iolo Morganwg. 'Yr Haf' was translated as 'The Summer' as early as 1834:

THOU Summer! Father of delight,
With thy dense spray and thickets deep;
Gemmed monarch, with thy rapt'rous light,
Rousing thy subject glens from sleep!
Proud has thy march of triumph been,
Thou prophet, prince of forest green!
Artificer of wood and tree,
Thou painter of unrivalled skill,
Who ever scattered gems like thee,
And gorgeous webs on park and hill?
'Till vale and hill with radiant dies,
Became another Paradise!
And thou hast sprinkled leaves and flow'rs,
And goodly chains of leafy bow'rs;
And bid thy youthful warblers sing
On oak and knoll the song of spring.
And blackbird's note of ecstacy
Burst loudly from the woodbine tree,
Till all the world is thronged with gladness -
Her multitudes have done with sadness!
Oh, Summer! Do I ask in vain?
Thus in thy glory wilt thou deign
My messenger to be?
Hence from the bowels of the land
Of wild, wild Gwyneth to the strand
Of fair Glamorgan - ocean's band -
Sweet margin of the sea!
To dear Glamorgan, when we part,
Oh, bear a thousand times my heart!
My blessing give a thousand times,
And crown with joy her glowing climes!
Take on her lovely vales thy stand,
And tread and trample round the land -
The beauteous shore whose harvest lies
All sheltered from inclement skies!
Radiant with corn and vineyards sweet,
And lakes of fish and mansions neat,
With halls of stone where kindness dwells,
And where each hospitable lord
Heaps for the stranger guest his board!
And where the gen'rous wine-cup swells;
With trees that bear the luscious pear
So thickly clust'ring every where,
That the fair country of my love
Looks dense as one continous grove!
Her lofty woods with warblers teem,
Her fields with flow'rs that love the stream,
Her vallies varied crops display,
Eight kinds of corn, and three of hay;
Bright parlour, with her trefoiled floor!
Sweet garden spread on ocean's shore!
Glamorgan's bounteous knights award
Bright mead and burnished gold to me;
Glamorgan boasts of many a bard,
Well skilled in harp and vocal glee:
The districts round her border spread
From her have drawn their daily bread -
Her milk, her wheat, her varied stores,
Have been the life of distant shores!
And court and hamlet food have found
From the rich soil of Britain's southern bound.
And wilt thou then obey my power,
Thou Summer, in thy brightest hour?
To her thy glorious hues unfold
In one rich embassy of gold!
Her morns with bliss and splendour light,
And fondly kiss her mansions white;
Fling wealth and verdure o'er her bow'rs,
And for her gather all thy flow'rs!
Glance o'er her castles white with lime
With genial glimmerings sublime;
Plant on the verdant coast thy feet,
Her lofty hills, her woodlands sweet;
Oh! lavish blossoms with thy hand
O'er all the forests of the land,
And let thy gifts like floods descending
O'er every hill and glen be blending;
Let orchard, garden, vine express
Thy fulness and thy fruitfulness -
O'er all the land of beauty fling
The costly traces of thy wing!
And thus mid all thy radiant flowers,
Thy thick'ning leaves and glossy bowers,
The poet's task shall be to glean
Roses and flowers that softly bloom,
(The jewels of the forest's gloom!)
And trefoils wove in pavement green,
With sad humility to grace
His golden Ivor's resting place!


This contribution by Cadrawd on 'Ploughing with Oxen in Glamorgan' (1883) illustrates the way in which genuine and invented material had become intertwined:
As far as I have been able to ascertain, there was not in any part of Wales anything so systematic with regard to ox-driving as in "Gwent and Morganwg." It was customary to sing to the oxen in Brecknock, Caermarthen, and other counties besides; but it does not appear that there was any set measure. In Glamorgan the metre was invariably the ancient Triban, and the old airs which were sung over the broad corn-fields of Morganwg have, according to Edward Williams (Iolo Morganwg), been brought down to us from the time of the Romans . . . In Cyfrinach y Beirdd (which is the best authority on Glamorganshire Metres) we are informed that the Triban had been from a remote period one of the recognised metres of the 'Bardic Chair of Glamorgan', but was rejected by the Chairs of Gwynedd, Powys and Dyfed up to a recent date. It was restored to its proper place in 1819, at the Carmarthen Eisteddfod. It would be trespassing on your valuable space to quote from Cyfrinach y Beirdd, but another eminent authority is at hand, possessed of - 'As great a souls as ever Warmed a Welshman's breast' . . . An example given in Cyfrinach y Beirdd, of a Triban in its modern style, is as follows: -
Anhyfryd beth yw methu,
A ffwyl ar ddyn yw ffaelu;
Ni wel fwynder glwysber glân,
Nag unawr gân a gwenu.

Iolo Morganwg's bardic mottos and bardic script were to be found on banners, gravestones and public monuments. His teachings influenced Welshmen as far afield as Patagonia and organizations such as the German Vereinigte Alte Orden der Druiden (United Old Order of Druids).

Bardic mottos

How many of Iolo's proverbs and mottos regularly appeared on public occasions was apparent from the description of the pavilion at the National Eisteddfod of Wrexham in 1888. It was adorned with a selection of well-known mottos such as:
'A laddo a leddir', 'Y gwir yn erbyn y byd', 'Dan nawdd Duw a'i dangnefedd', 'Iesu na'd gamwaith', 'Goreu gwr, gwr y gadair', 'Câs gwr na charo'r wlad a'i macco', 'Nid da lle gellir ei well', 'Myn y gwir ei le', 'Coel clywed, gwir gweled', 'Nid byth ond byth bythoedd', Tra môr tra Brython', 'Hwy pery clod na golud', 'Goreu arf, arf dysg', 'Deffro, mae'n ddydd', 'Môr o gân yw Cymru i gyd', 'Duw a phob daioni', and 'Calon wrth Galon'.

Bardic script

In 1916 the names of the thirteen counties of Wales were carved in bardic alphabet on the stones erected for the Gorsedd of the National Eisteddfod at Aberystwyth.
Bardic script on a Gorsedd stone

Bardic script on a Gorsedd stone


In 1881 William John Roberts (Gwilym Cowlyd) granted the right to convene Gorseddau in 'New Wales' and in 'Welsh colonies' all over the world to Griffith Griffiths (Gutyn Ebrill) of Patagonia.]

Vereinigte Alte Orden der Druiden

This German order had been put in touch with the Gorsedd by the Bavarian-born artist Sir Hubert von Herkomer (1849-1914), Slade Professor of Art at Oxford from 1885 to 1895, who was patronized by Charles William Mansel Lewis of Stradey Castle. Herkomer himself had become a member of the Welsh Gorsedd in 1895 and designed the robes and the grand sword that are used at the Gorsedd ceremonies to this day. (See the image of Hwfa Môn in the robes which Herkomer designed for him in his role as Archdruid)