Iolo Morganwg to Owen Jones, 20 September 1783
(BL 15024, Letter 6, ff. 196-7)
This letter from Iolo to Owen Jones discusses his marriage to Margaret and the detrimental effect that married life had on his poetic muse. The letter also includes a poem attributed to Dafydd ap Gwilym.
Iolo Morganwg to Owen Jones
20 September 1783
Address: Mr Owen Jones, No. 148 Upper Thames Street, or at Messieurs Kidney & Nutt, London Postmark: CARDIFF; 27/SE
Source: BL Add. 15024, ff. 196-7
Status and condition: slight tear, centre edge of f. 197a
Landaff, September 20th 1783
My dear friend,
It is now a long time since I wrote to you, and a longer time since you wrote to me. Are you like me married and consequently have no time to write? I have found the married life sufficiently happy, and upon the whole much more so than a single life, but I can assure you that what an ingenious Welsh author has observed I find to be in fact very true:
Bêdd yr Awen yw gwely priodas [The marriage bed is the grave of the Muse].
The married life with all its advantages has too many cares and anxieties, too much bustle and business, to allow a man, especially a man of narrow circumstances, to attend much to the Muses, to study, and litterary persuits or amusements. The memory of my old friends come often across my thoughts, hand in hand with a mournful recollection of the great happiness I once enjoy'd in their company and conversation. I long to see them, but will circumstances, will providence, ever allow me this happiness? Flattering hope says it is not improbable. I left St. Mary-Church last May and came here (to Landaff) to live, a place tollerably good for my trade. I have lately taken to a branch of business at Cardiff, our county town, which is only a mile from this place, and am going there to live in a few days. I am in this country a piece of a marble and freestone mason, a piece of a builder, a piece of a farmer, a lime burner for the use of the public. I have a small sloop trading in the Severn. In short, I am a Jack of all trades, and, if the old proverb is true, I shall never be rich. I have had some crosses and have met with some disagreable accidents in my affairs, but God be praised, they have not been hitherto more than I have been able to conquer. I hope your business answers your expectations, tho I fear it can hardly answer my wishes. Indeed, to tell the truth, that would soon make yo<u> too rich. I fear however that your life like most others in business is too full of bustle and vexation, for which I sincirely pity you. As for my part, I have not for some months had a single hour which I could well call my own. Did you but know how I am continually hurried from one thing to another, what cares and anxieties are daily attendant on me, you would not wonder at my long silence. You wou<ld> rather wonder how I gave care and labour the slip for the hour I now employ in writing this. Let us, my dear frie<nd>, write to each other as often as we can, and not too rashly charge each other with neglect when we are, and must be, unacquainted with the real cause of silence. Did you receive Mr Morris's elegy, which I sent you twice, once by a passenger in the Swansea coach, the other by post? If you did, what's your opinion of it? If the long winter nights will favour me a little better than the long summers days, I may possibly be able to send you something in the old way, particularly 5 or 6 pieces of Dafydd ab Gwilym, which you have not. You have one on the next page. If you have any kind of friendship for me, send me my own Welsh cywyddau with the post a<s> soon as possible, or with the coach. How are all my old friends at London, y Dû o Fôn, y Ceiriog &c, &c, &c, &c, &c? Cofia mi attynt bob un yn dracharedig a danfon imi lythr cyn gynted ag a allot os wyd yn un rhyw fesur yn cofio nag yn prisio am [Du of Anglesey, Ceiriog, &c, &c, &c, &c, &c? Remember me to them every one very kindly and send me a letter as soon as you can if you in any degree remember or value]
P.S. My wife desires her sincire respects to you.
Cywydd ymddiddan rhwng y prydydd a'r gôg
(o lyfr Mr Morgan Llywelyn o Gastell-Nêdd)
A mi yngoror gorallt
Yn aros oed dan goed gallt,
A bore Mai ar bawr maes,
A glanfodd ar lawr glynfaes,
Ag eginaw teg weunydd
A gerllaw'n blaguraw gwµdd;
Minnau i'm tôn yn sôn serch
I Forfydd - llyna f'eurferch! -
Bwrw golwg lemm ar dremm draw
Am wenn, ai mawr ddymunaw.
Golwg o lwybr bwy gilydd
A 'mûn gain ni chawn mewn gwµdd.
Nycha! clyw'n gog liosog lais
Yn geiriaw can a gerais.
Gwiwddestl i fardd y gwyddallt
Ei llafar ar warr yr allt.
Cyfarchais yn drylais draw
Well iddi'n gan iw llwyddaw.
Dydd da fo i'r gog serchoglef!
Aderyn wyd o dir nef
Yn dwyn newyddion yn dêg
A nodau haf, iawn adeg,
A haf yn hudaw hoywfun
<I> goed, a bardd gyda bûn,
<A> llenwi dail i'm llannerch
A *thwg ar ias amlwg serch.
Hoff gennyf dy gan landeg
Yn gan y serch fal y gwîn *sêg,
A thraserch i'th iaith *rwysog
Yn minio gwawd, fy mwyn gôg.
Dywaid i'th gân heb dewi
(A mwyn wyd), p'le mae 'mun i?
Y prydydd, pa ryw adwyth,
Sydd arnat ti 'leni'n lwyth?
Ni thâl porthi gofalon
Bun iach ymhellach am hònn.
Gwra wnaeth gwenn gymmengall,
Gwiriwyd hi'n wraig i arall.
Ni chai'n gydwedd, clyw, heddyw,
Fardd *cûn, y fun yn dy fyw.
Taw! na'm gwatwor am forwyn,
Y llais ni chredaf i'm llwyn.
E'm rhoddes liw tes lº teg
(Ni chawn gan unferch chwaneg),
Llw a chrêd, myn y bedydd,
I mi dan gangheni gwydd.
A rhwymaw llaw yn y llwyn
Yn ddiddig a'i bardd addwyn,
- Myn Mair! - a bu'n offairiad
Madoc Benfras, mydrwas mâd.
Ni wra wènn y leni
Gºyr honn mi yw ei gwr hi.
Y gôg, rhy anwir yw'th gân,
Ni ddiodde neb d'ymddiddan.
Mae syched a masw achen
Meddwdod i'th orfod, i'th ên.
Adyn i'th newydd ydwyd,
Anefod yw, ynfyd ¡yd.
Ynfyd i'th clywaf Ddafydd
Yn awr yn siarad dan wµdd.
Gwrhaodd ferch, a serchud
Annhirion fu honn iw hud.
Ni chai Forfydd, werydd wenn,
Y fun eglur, fynyglwen.
Rhyfig yt garu hoywfun,
Bwa Bach a biau bun.
Am a genaist i'm gwanu
Yma'n y gwydd am wenn gu,
Deled yt ddyddiau gauaf
A throi'r haul a threio'r hâf,
A rhew yn dew ar y dail
A gwywaw coed a gwiail,
A'th ladd gan oerfel i'th lwyn,
Edn ynfyd a'th dôn anfwyn!
[A dialogue between the poet and the cuckoo on the cywydd metre
(from the book of Mr Morgan Llywelyn of Neath)
I stood on a hillside
Awaiting a tryst under the wooded slopes,
The May morning shining on the pasture of the open country,
And the plains of the valley floor beautiful in appearance,
The fair meadows sprouting,
And nearby trees budding.
Pronouncing my love in song
To Morfydd - behold my golden girl! -
I cast a quick glance upon the scene yonder
For the fair one, and greatly desired her.
I looked from one path to another,
But I could not find my fair girl in the woods.
Lo! I heard our cuckoo with its harmonious voice
Sounding a song which I loved.
Fitting for the poet of the wooded slope
Was her eloquence on the brink of the hill.
I saluted her there audibly,
With a song to speed her.
Good day to the cuckoo of the clamouring voice!
You are a bird from the land of heaven,
Pleasantly bringing news
With the notes of summer, a becoming time.
And summer entices the vivacious girl
<To> the woods, and the poet with her,
<And> fills our clearing with leaves,
And brings an *increase to the manifestation of love's passion.
I like your beautiful song,
A song of love like *sack wine,
And there is passion in your *vigorous language
Voicing exaltation, my sweet cuckoo.
Tell me in your song, without hushing
(You are indeed sweet), where is my girl?
Poet, what blight
Is a burden upon you this year?
It does not pay to feed the sorrows
Of a healthy girl any further for this one.
The wise and sensible fair one has taken a husband,
She has been declared the wife of another.
You shall not, for the life of you, have the woman
As your partner today, you listen to me, *delightful poet that you are.
Hush, do not taunt me about the maiden in my own arbour,
With a voice which I cannot believe.
She of the colour of sunshine gave me a fair vow
(I could not get more from any girl),
An oath and a pledge - by the waters that baptized me! -
To me under the branches of the trees.
And in the copse, she locked her hand,
Content, in that of her tender poet,
- By Mary! - and Madog Benfras,
Happy poet himself, served as our priest.
The fair one will not wed this year,
She knows that I am her husband.
Cuckoo, your song is very untrue,
No one will tolerate your account.
Your mouth is thirsty like a drunkard's,
And you come from a worthless lineage, as does your triumph.
You are a scoundrel because of your news,
It is disorder, you are insane!
Stupidly do I hear you, Dafydd,
Now speaking under the trees.
The girl has taken a husband, and as for love
She was not kind to its charm.
You shall not have Morfydd, the fair virgin,
The bright, white-throated maiden.
It is arrogance on your part to love the elegant woman,
Bwa Bach owns her.
Because of what you sang to wound me
Here in the woods, about the precious fair one,
May winter days come to you,
And may the sun turn in its course and cause the summer to retreat.
May frost form a thick cover over the leaves,
And cause the trees and twigs to wither,
And kill you, because of the cold, in your grove,
Foolish bird with your unkind tune!]
Dafydd ab Gwily<m>
*`Twg' - increase, whence `tygio' & `tyccio'.
*`Sêg' - Query: sack, wine?
*`Rhwysog' - vigorous (see `rhwys' in Richards)
*`Cûn' - pleasant, delightful, sweet. `Cºn' (Armoric) - sweet (<see> Archæologia Britannica). `Cun' is at this day very common in south Wales.
Send me my cywyddau and something else that you can, a letter and that a long one, with the Swansea fly, to be left for me at the Angel Inn, John Bradley, Cardiff, Glamorgan. It sets out every Tuesday and Saturday evenings at 5 o clock from the Angel Inn behind St. Clements Church in the Strand.