The Works of Gwerful Mechain
  • Publication Date: August 30, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781554814145 / 1554814146
  • 120 pages; 5½" x 8½"
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The Works of Gwerful Mechain

  • Publication Date: August 30, 2018
  • ISBN: 9781554814145 / 1554814146
  • 120 pages; 5½" x 8½"

Gwerful Mechain is the only Welsh female poet from the late middle ages whose poems have survived as a substantial body of work. One of the most immediately striking characteristics of her poetry is the easy coexistence in her oeuvre of devotional and erotic works. Even to those who may be familiar with the bawdiness of Chaucer or Boccaccio, Gwerful’s work is remarkably direct. Yet, as the introduction discusses, some sorts of coexistence of the erotic and the religious were not entirely untypical of medieval literary production in Wales; overall, indeed, one of the most important characteristics of Gwerful’s work is the degree to which it takes its place in the mainstream of medieval Welsh poetry. Her themes and techniques do not position her as a marginal or isolated figure, participating in some putative female sub-culture; on the contrary, she engages in poetic dialogues with her male contemporaries, using the same forms, tropes, and vocabulary as they do. Yet, she often speaks with a female voice and overtly sees things from a woman’s point of view, taking her peers to task for their male arrogance. She jousts with them verbally as their equal, confident in her own craft and opinions.

All of Gwerful’s known work is included here—as are several poems of uncertain authorship, and a number of other works that help to fill in the historical and literary context.

A unique feature of the volume is the provision, for each work of medieval Welsh poetry included, of two different translations. The first, a literal translation, is presented in facing page format opposite the original Welsh; a second, freer translation, with rhyme patterns approximating those of the original, follows.


Poems by Gwerful Mechain

  • Dioddefaint Crist / Christ’s Passion
  • Angau a Barn / Death and Judgement
  • Cywydd y cedor / To the vagina
  • I wragedd eiddigus / To jealous wives
  • I Lywelyn ap Gutyn / To Llywelyn ap Gytun
  • I ateb Ieuan Dyfi am gywydd Anni Goch / A response to Ieuan Dyfi’s poem about Red Annie
  • Gwerful Mechain yn holi Dafydd Llwyd / Gwerful Mechain questions Dafydd Llwyd
  • Gwerful Mechain yn gofyn i Dafydd Llwyd / Gwerful Mechain asks Dafydd Llwyd
  • Ymddiddan rhwng Dafydd Llwyd a Gwerful Mechain / A conversation between Dafydd Llwyd and Gwerful Mechain
  • Dafydd Llwyd yn ateb Gwerful Mechain / Dafydd Llwyd responds to Gwerful Mechain
  • I’w gŵr am ei churo / To her husband for beating her
  • Gwlychu pais / Wetting my petticoat
  • Llanc ym min y llwyn / A lad beside the bush
  • I’w morwyn wrth gachu / To her maid as she shits

Poems of uncertain authorship

  • Ynghylch ei thad / About her father
  • Pwy a gâr fwyaf? / Who loves more passionately?
  • Gwerful yn ateb Dafydd Llwyd / Gwerful responds to Dafydd Llwyd
  • Yr eira / The snow
  • Y bedd / The grave

In Context

  • Ieuan Dyfi , “I Anni Goch” / “To Red Annie”
  • Dafydd Llwyd, “Cywydd llateiaeth i Werful Mechain ac i yrru Llywelyn ap Gutyn iddi yn llatai” / “A love-message poem to Gwerful Mechain, sending Llywelyn ap Gutyn to her as a messenger”
  • Llywelyn ap Gutyn, “Ateb i’r cywydd llateiaeth” / “A response to the love-message poem”
  • Dafydd Llwyd, “Moliant i Gwerful Mechain” / “In praise of Gwerful Mechain”
  • Gwerful ferch Gutun o Dalysarn, “Cywydd i ofyn telyn rawn” / “To ask for a harp”
  • Dafydd ap Gwilym, “Cywydd y Gal” / “Cywydd to the Penis”
  • Anonymous, “Englyn i’r Gal” / “Englyn to the Penis”

Katie Gramich is Professor in English Literature at Cardiff University. The author of many books and articles on Welsh literature, she is also co-editor and translator of Welsh Women’s Poetry 1460-2001: An Anthology.