Gwaith Hywel Dafi: publishing the work of one of the most important poets of the fifteenth century

The Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies at Aberystwyth recently published Gwaith Hywel Dafi (The Work of Hywel Dafi) as part of its series, Beirdd yr Uchelwyr (The Poets of the Nobility). The work was edited by Dr A. Cynfael Lake, a reader at the Department of Welsh, Academi Hywel Teifi at Swansea University.

In 2012 Dr Lake (pictured) received a prestigious British Academy Fellowship worth £89,000 to undertake the task of editing Dafi's poetry.

CynfaelHywel Dafi is the most important poet of the fifteenth century, a 'Golden Age' in the history of Welsh literature, whose poetry has not been edited and published. This new publication, therefore, fills an obvious gap and gives due attention to an important poet who has been largely overlooked so far.

Hywel Dafi was a poet from Breconshire and was active between c. 1440 and 1485. At one point in his life he lived in Brecon, either in the county or in the vicinity. Approximately a hundred of his poems have been preserved and edited in Gwaith Hywel Dafi. Most are eulogies and elegies to the nobility of Breconshire, and significantly, the poet was related to several of them. His most important sponsor was William Herbert of Raglan, a right-hand man to King Edward IV. Judging from the evidence in the preserved poems, however, Hywel Dafi's main sponsors were members of the Tretower family. It was the step-brother of William Herbert, Rosser Vaughan, and his son, Thomas Vaughan, who lived in that home. A good percentage of poet's poems were preserved by the poet in his own hand in the manuscript, Peniarth 67. Of all the poets of the fifteenth century, only Lewis Glyn Cothi recorded more of his own poems.

Dr Lake is an expert on the work of Huw Jones of Llangwm, one of the best known authors of ballads and interludes in the eighteenth century, and he has edited the poems of several other poets from the Middle Ages which, like Gwaith Hywel Dafi, are published in the same series.

Discussing the work of Hywel Dafi, Professor Dafydd Johnston, Director of the Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies, said: "This edition is the result of detailed research of the highest quality and is a very valuable contribution to the series, Beirdd yr Uchelwyr."


Learn more about the Department of Welsh at Swansea University.