Dafydd ap Gwilym

30. Dafydd ap Gwilym

Creatives (281 votes)

1315/20 – 1350/70

Key literary figure of the Middle Ages who brought spark and spice to Welsh language poetry

Dafydd ap Gwilym’s poetry is full of themes, which would still make some people blush to read them. Gywydd i’r Gal, a poem of rhyming couplets in strict metre dedicated to the penis, is one example. He was a breath of fresh air compared with the formality of his contemporaries and he used the everyday language of the people in dealing with familiar subjects – the basic pleasures and problems of life.

According to tradition, he was born some five miles from Aberystwyth in Brogynin, Penrhyncoch and was buried in Strata Florida Abbey in Ceredigion. He belonged to the gentry who, by then, were fervent supporters of the English Crown.

Although Wales’ last independent Prince had died forty years before Dafydd was born, he was very familiar with the Poetic Art of the ‘Poets Of The Princes’, who would visit the courts singing the praises of their patrons in their well-crafted poems in strict metre.

In most of Dafydd’s poems, he aired his feelings of love towards a girl, and he even dared to serenade them even though they were married. He often has amusing stories of embarrassing incidents when he had to flee the clutches of an irate husband. As for the Girls Of Llanbadarn, he writes: “…A plague on the parish girls/Since…I have never had one of them”.

The English had Shakespeare, but two centuries earlier the Welsh had Dafydd ap Gwilym. He still holds his own among the greatest of European poets.

What you said

Britain's greatest medieval poet.

One of the worlds greatest poets. One of Wales' best kept secrets.

The man who taught us that our poetry could be funny, personal, and sexy as well as beautifully constructed.

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