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362 Study Questions: Poetic Selections from Dafydd ap Gwilym (Longman Anthology, Rolfe Humphries translation)

Vocabulary: cenotaph, characterization, cywddau, dyfalu, humility topos, persona, poetic speaker

Character Identifications: Morvith

Introduction Questions: Who is usually considered the greatest Welsh poet? Why is he often called "the Chaucer of Wales"? When did ap Gwilym live? Who was the greatest influence on him? What French and Provençal genres influence him?

Reading Questions:

  • Why has the speaker in "One Saving Place" been wandering all over Wales? What has he been seeking?
  • Why is the speaker in "The Hateful Husband" so angry at the husband?
  • What are some of the vices of this husband according to his catalog of complaints?
  • How do we know the winter described in "The Winter" is particularly bad? i.e., what does it stop the poetic speaker from doing that he would normally do in all the other poems by ap Gwilym?
  • Explain the fanciful imagery in lines 14-28. What is the term for such fanciful comparisons in Welsh poetry?
  • How does the speaker characterize himself in lines 29-35? What kind of guy is he?
  • Why is the poet particularly nostalgic looking at the hovel in "The Ruin"; i.e., what happened in that hovel long ago?
  • List three signs of delapidation in "The Ruin."
  • What do you suppose the poet means by a "rune-ghost"? Why is the pillar and post only "the lost wreck of a riddle"? Why is looking at a ruined building like trying to solve a riddle? What riddle might the speaker be trying to solve about his own life or the nature of time?
  • What is the "little" saved by the graveyard cross?
  • Is the final epitaph on the lovers' grave a positive one? Negative? Hopeful? Despairing? Why?

Lecture Questions: Be able to describe some of the conventions of Welsh poetry.

Passage Identifications:

A: What wooer ever walked through frost and snow,
Through rain and wind, as I in sorrow?
My two feet took me to a tryst in Meirch.
No luck; I swam and waded the Eleirch,
No golden loveliness, no glimpse of her;
Night or day, I came no nearer
Except in Bleddyn's arbors, where I sighed
When she refused me, as she did beside
Masalga's murmuring water-tide.

B: . . . I have gone
Through the mountain-pass of Meibion,
Came to Camallt, dark in my despair,
For one vision of her golen hair.
All for nothing. I've looked down tfrom Rhiw,
All for nothing but a valley view.

C: There's no vale, no valley, no
Stick or stump where I failed to go,
Only Gwynn of hte Mist for guide,
Without Ovid at my side.

D: "'Tis sorrow and pain,
'Tis endless chagrin
For Dafydd to gain
HIs dark-haired girl.
Her house is a jail,
Her turnkey is a vile,
Sour, yellow-eyed, pale,
Odious churl."

E: I know he hates play:
The greenwood in May,
The birds' roundelay
Are not for him....

F: "O starling, O swift,
Go soaring aloft,
Come down to the croft
By Dovekie's home.
This message give her,
Tell her I love her,
And I will have her,
All in good time."

G: "Out of my house
I will not stir
For any girl
To have my coat
Look like a miller's
Or stuck with feathers
Of eider down."

H. "Nothing but a hovel now
Between moorland and meadow,
Once the owners saw in you
A comely cottage, bright, new,
ow roof, rafters, ridge-pole, all
Broken down by a broken wall."

I. "A day of delight was once there
For me, long ago, no care
When I had a glimpse of her
Fair in an ingle-corner.
Beside each other we lay
In the delight of that day."

J. "Pillar and post, it would seem
Now you are less than a dream.
Are you taht, or only the lost
Wreck of a riddle, rune-ghost?

"Dafydd, the cross on their graves
Marks what little it saves,
Says, They did well in their lives."



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