Welsh Nursery Rhyme

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DaRC
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Welsh Nursery Rhyme

Postby DaRC » 18 May 2015, 13:25

Whilst checking out Dormarth, the Welsh cthonic guardian dog (see the Black Shuck thread below), I came across this interesting piece
Dinogad's shift is speckled, speckled,
It was made from the pelts of martens.
`Wee! Wee!' Whistling.
We call, they call, the eight in chains.
When your father went out to hunt -
A spear on his shoulder, a club in his hand -
He called on his lively dogs,
`Giff! Gaff! Take, take! Fetch, fetch!'
He killed fish from his coracle
Like the lion killing small animals.
When your father went to the mountains
He would bring back a roebuck, a boar, a stag,
A speckled grouse from the mountain,
And a fish from the Derwennydd falls.
At whatever your father aimed his spear -
Be it a boar, a wild cat, or a fox -
None would escape but that had strong wings.

which# may or may not be entirely accurate. (I would welcome being corrected.)
From here - with the original and modern Welsh
https://www.cs.ox.ac.uk/people/geraint. ... nogad.html

What struck me was the druidic connotations of the roebuck, boar and stag, grouse and fish and it raised questions around just what is the 'eight in chains'?

# the web site author's translation
Most dear is fire to the sons of men,
most sweet the sight of the sun;
good is health if one can but keep it,
and to live a life without shame. (Havamal 68)
http://gewessiman.blogspot.co.uk Image

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Re: Welsh Nursery Rhyme

Postby Green Raven » 18 May 2015, 17:45

Hmm, interesting. Flicking through the Red Book of Carmarthen and the Taliesin, chains seem often seem to be a metaphor for death, as in those who have died and seek release. If this is the case, then ‘the eight who have died’. This would sit well with Dormarth’s ‘duties’ but gives no clue as to which eight.

The Taliesin has this verse in The Raid on the Otherworld:

Complete was the prison of Gweir in Caer Sidi,
Through the spite of Pwyll and Pryderi.
No one before him went into it.
The heavy blue chain held the faithful youth,
And before the spoils of Annwvyn woefully he sings,
And till doom shall continue a bard of prayer.
Thrice enough to fill Prydwen, we went into it;
Except seven, none returned from Caer Sidi.

Caer Sidi means the ‘Fortress of the Zodiac’ (sidydd = Zodiac modern Welsh)

Perhaps the seven plus Gweir could be the eight invoked? Eight who escaped death would be worth calling on for protection. Grasping at straws, I know, but the concept could be played around with for a more accurate conjecture.
“Listen, O little pig! are not the buds of thorns
Very green, the mountain beautiful, and beautiful the earth?”
- Myrddin Wyllt, Hoianau / Greetings (to a Pig)

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Re: Welsh Nursery Rhyme

Postby DaRC » 19 May 2015, 10:27

It is interesting the 'eight in chains', or could it relate to the funeral carriage? Within the Germanic myths Odin's horse Sleipnir has 8 legs which has been thought by some to relate to the legs of the funeral bearers (2 horses or 4 men).

I also saw another translation, which translates this
Pais Dinogad sydd fraith, fraith,
O groen y bela y mae'i waith.
into a smock made from the pelts of stoats, which could be ermine. This would probably be a better fit with it being speckled, speckled as ermine is speckled like the Duchy of Brittany flag is of ermine, this speckled pattern is still incorporated in the current flag.
Most dear is fire to the sons of men,
most sweet the sight of the sun;
good is health if one can but keep it,
and to live a life without shame. (Havamal 68)
http://gewessiman.blogspot.co.uk Image

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Re: Welsh Nursery Rhyme

Postby Green Raven » 19 May 2015, 12:59

I suppose it could be than we’ve been a little literal as my modern Welsh dictionary translates gaeth (‘in chains’) as ‘captives’ (as well as ‘addicts’!), which could just refer to the marten/ stoat pelts sewn together to make the smock/ cloak/ coat. Pretending that they are squealing – especially if the faces are still attached - is the sort of thing a mother would do.

The inclusion in Y Gododdin though does suggest deeper meaning or else why include it, as Geraint Jones queries. The Y Gododdin is a narrative about a particular series of events so it seems that, like 'Jack Horner' or 'Ring o' Roses', this rhyme is a part of the folk oral history. The animals with strong totem spirits may commemorate particular warriors slain by Dinogad's father. ‘Eight’ seems to allude to a specific legend as it is not a particularly magical number. Are you aware of any similar Britonnic myth/ legendary references? I’d be interested in whether ‘Welsh Mythology’ can rustle anything up. Not being a native Cymraeg speaker I am forever doomed to miss subtleties and historical/ political implications in these works.

A slight detour, whilst on the subject of totem animals, are you aware of any native mythology that includes the lynx? The name is of the same root as Lugh, pertaining to the reflection of light from the eyes, and it did not die out until the 700s, but no British legends (unless that of the Palug cat?). Strange.
“Listen, O little pig! are not the buds of thorns
Very green, the mountain beautiful, and beautiful the earth?”
- Myrddin Wyllt, Hoianau / Greetings (to a Pig)

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Re: Welsh Nursery Rhyme

Postby DaRC » 20 May 2015, 13:10

I know of nothing within British folk-lore that ties into the Lynx, most cat references tie into various witch related folk-lore.
Although I will check my books on British folk-lore.
Within the the Germanic strand there is similarly little about cats - only that Freyja's chariot is drawn by 2 cats and one myth where Thor attempts lift a cat (which is actually the Midgard serpent).
Most dear is fire to the sons of men,
most sweet the sight of the sun;
good is health if one can but keep it,
and to live a life without shame. (Havamal 68)
http://gewessiman.blogspot.co.uk Image

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Re: Welsh Nursery Rhyme

Postby Welsh Mythology » 23 May 2015, 08:58

Yes, its 'eight captives', not 'eight in chains'. The line refers either to the eight captives that Dinogad's father uses as his hunting party, or to the eight dogs he uses, 'captive' in the sense that they are tethered for part of the hunt. The father calls to the dogs in lines 8-9 so the earlier calling may just be a precursor. You would assume that a huntsman whistled ("Chwid, Chwid . . .") to his dogs, but he may well have had captives bound to him. Who can say?

As an aside, chains do symbolise the condition of death at times in Welsh poetry of this period, but we see a clearer example of that in stanza 48 of the Gododdin.

'Pais Dinogad' is generally considered to be a nursery rhyme sung by a mother to a boy called Dinogad, telling him about the fine pelt shift / smock he is wearing for his bed-time, made from animals his heroic huntsman father caught. It can be dated roughly to the same period as the Gododdin proper but isn't part of the epic. It was more than likely incorporated by an unwitting scribe copying an addition made to a manuscript on a spare page. If you only look at the simpler vocabulary in the poem it could pass as a Gododdin stanza to the untrained eye. There's other examples of this kind of thing happening in the text.

Ifor Williams was all for locating the poem in the Old North, hence assuming Derwennydd to be either the Derwent in Cumbria or the one in Yorkshire. If that's the case the poem was probably transmitted through the same oral lineage as the Gododdin. Its heroic in the same sense as Aneirin's classic and serves the same ideals. There is no reason to assume that this is anything but a well crafted nursery rhyme in a traditional style.
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Re: Welsh Nursery Rhyme

Postby Green Raven » 23 May 2015, 12:48

Thank you, Welsh Mythology, much appreciated. A scholar’s learnéd interpretation always adds steadying ballast to these conversations.

Musing generally, wisdom can be gained from children’s rhymes and tales though – I remember reading a thoughtful little piece called ‘The Tao of Pooh’ that used A.A.Milne’s creation very effectively, and many expositions have been written on Carroll’s ‘Alice’ works.

The ‘Pais Dinogad’ and ‘Y Gododdin’ were written at a time when dual belief systems were prevalent and their influences would be there in the authors’ psyches. Whether the creator’s personal gnosis has influenced this work does not seem to be apparent but it is certainly an excellent opportunity to ponder on what influences and traditional heritage may have been going through his (or her) mind. All nations travelled and traded so the author may have been familiar with the Norse or Germanic lore. Is there an echo, however faint, in this though?

One online piece seemed to be of the opinion that the name ‘Dinogad’ points to the rhyme being of early origin due to the retention of the vowel ‘o’ in the middle. Apparently by the time of the ‘Y Gododdin’, the name was more commonly ‘Dingad’ as today. There was no reference supplied with this though, so can anyone confirm or repudiate that assertion?

On my aside about the lynx, I should have mentioned, but thought it a distraction at that point, that there is some discussion on whether the ‘wildcat’ mentioned is a lynx or not as the term used is apparently unusual. Also, If DaRC’s link to Geraint Jones’ original piece is followed, and the link that the original comprises is clicked, a beautiful performance reading of this is downloaded. (It all seems to be clean of malware)
“Listen, O little pig! are not the buds of thorns
Very green, the mountain beautiful, and beautiful the earth?”
- Myrddin Wyllt, Hoianau / Greetings (to a Pig)

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Re: Welsh Nursery Rhyme

Postby Welsh Mythology » 24 May 2015, 22:09

No worries. The article is probably referencing Ifor Williams' opinion regarding Dinogad (Canu Aneirin, p.321). Vowels tended to be dropped and consonants softened as Brythonic became Welsh, not unlike the evolution of many other languages. Yes, Dingad would be the later form.
Welsh Mythology blog and courses:

http://www.welshmythology.com

. . . and making music:

http://gwilmor.com


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