Friday, June 8, 2007

Bards and the Law of Hywel - Part III

The first two sections of this post on Bards and the medieval Welsh laws have touched on the two highest classes of bards, the pencerdd and the bardd teulu. These are both bards attached to the King's court, and therefore of high status. The third class of bard mentioned in the Law of Hywel is the cerddor or minstrel. The Law has much less to say about the cerddor, and what it does say paints a different pattern.

The cerddor is not an officer, and has no specific rights and privileges more than those of any other free man. We know that he is likely to be that, at least, for the three arts a villein is not entitled to learn without his lord's permission are "clerkship and smithcraft and bardism." Like the master-smith, the pencerdd is entitled to the amobr-payment of the daughters of his subordinates, the cerddorion, on the occasion of their marriage.

The cerddor, however, can better his lot by education. The Law says, "Every harp pencerdd is entitled to twenty-four pence from the young cerddorion who want to give up the horsehair[-strung] harp and be competent cerddorion and to solicit." Furthermore, this payment is to be paid by "each cerddor after he leaves his instruction" - in effect, a payment for the master's teaching. The above passage hints at different levels among the cerddorion, as is only to be expected. Still, there is little sign of the highly organized grades of bards and poets that existed in Ireland at this period.

But that is a separate subject. For now, best wishes for the weekend - I'll be writing, not blogging!

Next: Bards and the Irish Laws


  1. This is wonderful and fascinating information, for someone who aspires to (someday) authentically portray a Welsh bard in the SCA. Thank you so much for sharing your research, and please please keep it up! I look forward to reading Storyteller.

  2. I'm glad you're enjoying it, Oscine. Please share the link with anyone else who you think would be interested! BTW, have you looked at the link to my Amazon listomania lists? I think the one on early Welsh bards would interest you.