Taliesin on Mead

corner of the tenth-century manuscript of the Book of Taliesin in Middle Welsh

The Book of Taliesin is a late Middle Welsh version of the ales of Gwion Bach and Taliesin, mostly around the court of Maelgyn Gynedd.  It was written in the 1550s, the same time Henry VIII was on the throne (or maybe collected then? Middle Welsh is 12th-14th c, and Taliesin was tenth c).  This particular poem is about mead.  It’s part of the tale where young Taliesin has to free his foster-father and patron Elphin from Maelgwn Gwynedd’s prison.  Brave doings, cunning plans, and sparkling, golden mead – a fitting set of topics to muse on at the end of a year.  Enjoy!

I WILL adore the Ruler, chief of every place,
Him, that supports the heaven: Lord of everything.
Him, that made the water for every one good,
Him, that made every gift, and prospers it.
May Maelgwn of Mona be affected with mead, and affect us,
From the foaming mead-horns, with the choicest pure liquor,
Which the bees collect, and do not enjoy.
Mead distilled sparkling, its praise is everywhere.
The multitude of creatures which the earth nourishes,
God made for man to enrich him.
Some fierce, some mute, he enjoys them.
Some wild, some tame, the Lord makes them.
Their coverings become clothing.
For food, for drink, till doom they will continue.
I will implore the Ruler, sovereign of the country of peace,
To liberate Elphin from banishment.
The man who gave me wine and ale and mead.
And the great princely steeds, beautiful their appearance,
May he yet give me bounty to the end.
By the will of God, he will give in honour,
Five five-hundred festivals in the way of peace.
Elphinian knight of mead, late be thy time of rest.

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