The Old Red Tongue book cover

The Old Red Tongue: Cyflwyno’r gorau o lenyddiaeth Gymraeg mewn un gyfrol / Presenting the finest Welsh literature in one volume

in Proficiency/The Old Red Tongue

The Old Red Tongue is a major anthology of over 300 Welsh texts – poems, plays, memoirs, essays, extracts from novels and short stories, hymns, eulogies, elegies, medieval prose, political and theological commentaries – from nearly 200 writers covering every period from the 6th century to the present day. As well as being a comprehensive anthology, it is unique in that every item has an English translation plus an introduction to the author and context. It is a perfect introduction to Welsh literature for parallel.cymru readers.

“Bydd The Old Red Tongue, rwy’n amau, yn dipyn o syndod i ddarllenwyr Saesneg. Mae llawer o ymfalchïo, wrth gwrs, yn yr ysgrifau hyn, ymfalchïo mewn gwlad, mewn iaith, mewn treftadaeth. Ond wrth bori drwy 1,000 tudalen fy nghopi adolygu i rwyf wedi cadw fy rhestr fy hun o’r holl amryfal deimladau fu’n codi ynof. Do, fe chwyddais gan falchder, wrth reswm, ond fe’m diddanwyd yn fawr iawn hefyd, a’m drysu, a’m synnu, a’m cyffwrdd yn arw gan bathos a symlrwydd, fy nerthu gan draddodiad, a’m gwneud yn hiraethus ac yn llawen ac yn flin ac yn obeithiol ac yn drist i gyd ar unwaith o achos athrylith ein cenedlaethau dirifedi.” Jan Morris yn Barddas.
“Much my most imposing book of the year was a terrific anthology of Welsh literature down the ages called The Old Red Tongue edited by Gwyn Griffiths and Meic Stephens. It is one of a series of such books dedicated to the lesser-used languages of Europe, and it covers the entire Welsh literary corpus, from the sixth century to the present, in the original and in English translation. It is almost 1,000 pages long, and I defy any sensitive reader to remain unmoved by its marvellous seductions of art, pride, pathos and imagination.” Jan Morris in The Spectator, Books of the Year 2017.

Here, Gwyn Griffiths, one of the co-editors, describes the project, an overview of its scope and how it came to be brought to life.

Roedd yr The Old Red Tongue yn brosiect uchelgeisiol a gymerodd tua phedair blynedd i’w gwblhau. I wlad fach gydag iaith na fu ganddi erioed fwy na miliwn o siaradwyr mae iddi draddodiad llenyddol rhyfeddol gyfoethog. Bûm yn gyd-olygydd cyfrol gyntaf cyfres Francis Boutle o antholegau o ieithoedd lleiafrifol Ewrop – sef y flodeugerdd Lydaweg, The Turn of the Ermine. Hon sefydlodd y patrwm i’r antholegau eraill. Cymerais ddiddordeb yn y cyfrolau ddaeth wedyn – Manaweg, Galego, Malteg, Ocsitaneg ac yn y blaen – a’r un pryd cawn fy atgoffa gan y cyhoeddwr ei bod yn hen bryd i’r Gymraeg gael ei lle yn y gyfres. The Old Red Tongue was an ambitious project that took four years to complete. For a small country with a language that may never have been spoken by more than a million people it has a phenomenally rich literary tradition. I was joint editor of the first volume in the Francis Boutle series of anthologies from Europe’s lesser used languages – the Breton anthology, The Turn of the Ermine. This became a template for the other anthologies. I took an interest in those ensuing volumes – Manx, Galician, Maltese, Occitan and so on – while being reminded from time to time by the publisher that the Welsh language deserved an anthology.
Cytunais, ond roeddwn i’n ymwybodol ei fod yn brosiect brawychus. Roedd y Gymraeg yn wahanol i’r lleill – ag eithrio Ocsitaneg efallai – gan fod iddi gymaint o gyfoeth a byddai’r dewisiadau’n anodd. Ffenest siop fyddai’r Old Red Tongue i’n traddodiad llenyddol, ond gyda’r cynllun o gyflwyniadau Saesneg, testun gwreiddiol a chyfieithiad o’r testun hwnnw, byddai yma olwg o hanes Cymru hefyd. Golwg weithiau’n wahanol i’r hyn yr ydym yn gyfarwydd ag e, a weithiau’n cynnig gwybodaeth anghyfarwydd i’r darllenydd cyffredin.I agreed, but I knew that it was a terrifying project. Welsh was different from the others – with the exception, perhaps, of Occitan – in that it had an embarrassment of riches and difficult choices would have to be made. The Old Red Tongue would be a shop window to our literary tradition, but with its format of English introductions, original text followed by a translation of that text we had the opportunity to present a view of Welsh history, too. A view that is sometimes different from what we may be familiar with, and sometimes offering information unfamiliar to the ordinary reader.
Ased mwyaf y prosiect oedd Meic Stephens. Mae ei wybodaeth o lenyddiaeth Cymru’n rhyfeddod ac y mae ei lyfrgell enfawr, wedi’i threfnu’n ofalus, bron cyn bwysiced. Yn ogystal, roedd gennym Clive Boutle o gwmni cyhoeddi Francis Boutle, gŵr amyneddgar, llawn hiwmor a brwdfrydedd i’n tywys a’n hannog i ben y daith. The greatest asset for the project was Meic Stephens. His knowledge is formidable and his vast, carefully catalogued library equally important. Added to that we had Clive Boutle of Francis Boutle Publishers, whose patience, good humour and enthusiasm saw us through to the end.
Caf fy synnu’n aml fod Cymry, hyd yn oed, yn anwybodus ynglŷn ag oed yr iaith Gymraeg a bod y farddoniaeth gynharaf ynddi wedi’i ysgrifennu yn yr ‘Hen Ogledd’ gan Aneirin a Taliesin oddeutu’r 5ed a’r 6ed ganrif. Dilynwyd hynny gan gorff o farddoniaeth a ysgrifennwyd yn yr hyn sydd bellach yn Orllewin Canolbarth Lloegr, gweithiau a briodolir i Lywarch Hen, a chylch ‘Heledd’ o gerddi. Os, fel yr ydym yn ei amau, yr ysgrifennwyd cerddi ‘Heledd’, sy’n galaru’r golled a dinistr Neuadd Cynddylan, gan ferch, yna yn y Gymraeg y cafwyd y farddoniaeth gynharaf gan ferch mewn unrhyw iaith Ewropeaidd sy’n parhau i gael ei siarad heddiw. I am often surprised that people even within Wales don’t know that the Welsh language is very old and that the earliest Welsh poetry was written in the ‘Old North’ of Scotland and England by Aneirin and Taliesin around the 5th and 6th centuries. That was followed by a body of poetry written in what is today the West Midlands of England, some of it attributed to Llywarch Hen, and the ‘Heledd’ cycle. If, as we suspect, the ‘Heledd’ poems grieving the loss and devastation of the Hall of Cynddylan were written by a woman then the Welsh language has the oldest poetry written by a woman in any living European language.
Roedd i’r bardd le pwysig yn llysoedd brenhinoedd a thywysogion Cymru, fel ag yr oedd gan y Trwbadwriaid yn llysoedd de Ffrainc, y Sgald yn Norwy ac Ynys yr Iâ a beirdd Iwerddon.The poet played an important role in the courts of the Welsh kings and princes, much like that of the Troubadours in the courts of southern France, the Skald poets of Norway and Iceland and the Irish poets.
Nod yr Old Tongue Tongue yw cyflwyno naws a blas yr hyn sydd orau mewn llenyddiaeth Gymraeg, o’r cyfnod cynnar i ddatblygiadau gwych heddiw. Yn unigryw ymhlith antholegau o lenyddiaeth Gymraeg mewn cyfieithiad, mae’n cynnwys rhyddiaith yn ogystal â barddoniaeth.The Old Red Tongue has aimed to give a taste of all that is best in Welsh language literature, from the very earliest times to the flourishing renaissance of today. Unique among anthologies of Welsh language literature in translation, it includes prose as well as poetry.
Mae Beirdd y Tywysogion a Beirdd yr Uchelwyr yn rhoi cipolwg o fywyd yn y cyfnodau cyffrous a pheryglus hynny. Mae Dafydd ap Gwilym yn cael y sylw haeddiannol un o feirdd mwyaf Ewrop ei gyfnod. Ysgrifennodd Iolo Goch yn ystod cyfnod cynnar Owain Glyndwr, ac mae gennym feirdd yn ysgrifennu tra ar ffo wedi diwedd gwrthryfel Owain Glyndwr. Mae yma feirdd a ganmolodd y Tuduriaid ac a fu’n allweddol i achos y Tuduriaid, a rhai a surodd wrth y Tuduriaid. The Poets of the Princes and the Poets of the Gentry give insight into what life was like in those turbulent times. Dafydd ap Gwilym gets all the attention due to one of Europe’s greatest poets of his time. Iolo Goch wrote in the time of Owain Glyndwr, and we have poets who wrote while in hiding after the Owain Glyndwr uprising had burned itself out. We have poets who wrote in praise of the Tudors and were vital to the Tudor cause, and those who became disillusioned with the Tudors.
Yn gefndir i’r cerddi hyn y mae datblygiad y ffurf ryfeddol hwnnw o ganu caeth – y gynghanedd. Nodwedd o draddodiad barddol gogledd Ewrop yw cyflythreniad ac y mae odl fewnol yn nodwedd bwysig o farddoniaeth trwbadwriaid de Ewrop. Ai cyfuniad o’r ddau draddodiad yna roddodd i ni berffeithrwydd cymhleth a swynol y gynghanedd. Ai dylanwadau allanol roddodd gychwyn i ddatblygiad y gynghanedd? A background to these poems is poetic embellishments such as alliteration – a feature of the northern European poetic tradition – and internal rhyme – a feature of the poetry of the southern troubadours evolving into the intricate and the musical perfection of cynghanedd. Were there external influences on the development of cynghanedd?
Mae rheswm dros gredu i draddodiad llenyddol Cymru greu argraff ar y Normaniaid. Awgrymodd W. J. Gruffydd na fyddai’r Mabinogi wedi goroesi i’n dyddiau ni, oni bai am chwaeth dda’r Normaniaid. Awgrymodd Bobi Jones y gallai ffynonellau’r Tair Rhamant – Peredur / Perceval, Iarlles y Ffynnon / Owein neu The Lady of the Fountain, a Geraint fab Erbin fod wedi dablygu yr un pryd yn y Gymraeg a’r Ffrangeg mewn cymdeithas ddwyieithog.There is reason to believe that the Normans were impressed by the literary tradition of Wales. W. J. Gruffydd suggested that the Mabinogi may not have come down to us today were it not for the good taste of the Normans. Bobi Jones suggested that the sources of the Three Romances – Peredur / Perceval, Iarlles y Ffynnon / Owein or the Lady of the Fountain, and Geraint son of Erbin may have evolved simultaneously in Welsh and French in a bilingual society.
Mentrwyd cynnwys ambell gyfieithiad – ceir dau ddarn byr o gyfieithiadau o’r Beibl sy’n hŷn na William Morgan a cheir darn byr o gyfieithiad gorchestol William Morgan oherwydd ei ddylanwad mawr ar yr iaith lenyddol Gymraeg. Rydyn ni wedi cynnwys Ystorya Trystan ac Esyllt, stori Gymraeg mewn cerdd a rhyddiaith sy’n annhebyg i stori Trystan ac Esyllt fel yr ydym ni’n gyfarwydd â hi. Ceir darnau o gynghorion Meddygon Myddfai, sy’n awgrymu cysylltiadau meddyginiaethol ledled Ewrop. Ceir darn o Historia Gruffudd vab Kenan sy’n disgrifio Brwydr Mynydd Carn. In prose we included translations from other languages – there are two short snippets of translations of the Bible into Welsh pre-dating William Morgan. There is a short extract from William Morgan’s magisterial translation of the Bible, because of its huge influence on literary Welsh. We have included Ystorya Trystan ac Esyllt, a Welsh tale in prose and verse that bears little resemblance to the story of Trystan and Esyllt as we know it. There are extracts from the Physicians of Myddfai, who must have been part of some pan-European medicinal tradition. There is an extract from Historia Gruffudd vab Kenan, about the Battle of Mynydd Carn.
Ni ddylid anghofio rhai o ddisgynyddion y rheini a ddaeth i Gymru yn sgil y Normaniaid. Daethant i ysbeilio, ond daethant o hyd i draddodiad llenyddol y daeth rhai ohonynt i’w fwynhau a daeth rhai o’u disgynyddion yn well Cymry na’r Cymry eu hunain. William Salesbury, er enghraifft, a sylweddolodd bwysigrwydd y wasg argraffu ac onibai amdano ef mae’n debygol na fyddai’r iaith Gymraeg wedi goroesi i’n dyddiau ni. Mae ei ddatganiad yn ei gyflwyniad i’r diarhebion Cymraeg a gasglwyd gan Gruffydd Hiraethog yn faniffesto dros oroesiad yr iaith, yn apêl i’w chyweirio a’i pherffeithio i’w gwneud yn gymwys ar gyfer pob defnydd a phob pwnc. Mae Gruffydd Robert Milan yma, Sion Dafydd Rhys, Cyflwyniad Richard Davies i gyfieithiad William Salesbury o’r Testament Newydd. Syniadau Dyneiddiol cain mewn rhyddiaith ardderchog...Let us not forget some of the descendants of those who came in the wake of the Normans. They came to plunder, but found a literary tradition which some came to enjoy and their descendants became better Welshmen than the Welsh themselves. William Salesbury, for example, who realised the importance of the printing press and without whom the Welsh language may not have survived to this day. His preface to the Welsh proverbs collected by Gruffydd Hiraethog is a manifesto for the survival of the language, an appeal to repair and perfect the language to make it suitable for all uses and all subjects. Gruffydd Robert Milan is here, Sion Dafydd Rhys, Richard Davies’s Introduction to Wiliam Salesbury’s translation of the New Testament. Fine Humanist ideas in splendid prose...
Awn rhagom drwy’r canrifoedd yng nghwmni Morgan Llwyd, Elis Wyn, y Ficer Rhys Prichard at yr emynwyr mawr, Williams Pantycelyn ac Ann Griffiths. Wedyn daeth radicaliaid a heddychwyr 19eg ganrif – Samuel Roberts, Gwilym Hiraethog a Henry Richard. Yn yr 20fed ganrif gwelwyd adfywiad rhyfeddol a adlewyrchir yn y ffaith bod hanner y llyfr wedi’i neilltuo i’r ganrif honno. T. Gwynn Jones, O. M. Edwards, Saunders Lewis, Waldo Williams, Gwenallt, Parry-Williams, Williams Parry – mae’n rhestr ddiddiwedd. And on through the centuries with Morgan Llwyd, Elis Wyn, the Vicar Rhys Prichard to the great hymn writers, Williams Pantycelyn and Ann Griffiths. The hymn writers and the Revivals were followed by the radical writers and pacifists of the 19th century – Samuel Roberts, Gwilym Hiraethog and Henry Richard. The 20th century saw an astonishing renaissance which is reflected in the fact that half the book is devoted to that century. T. Gwynn Jones, O. M. Edwards, Saunders Lewis, Waldo Williams, Gwenallt, Parry-Williams, Williams Parry – it is an endless list.
Lle mae cyfieithiadau da yn bodoli fe’u defnyddiwyd. Y tri meistr mwyaf diwyd o gyfieithwyr o’r Gymraeg i’r Saesneg yn yr 20fed ganrif oedd Gwyn Williams, Tony Conran a Joseph Clancy. Ychwanegaf enw Meic Stephens at y tri nodedig yna am ei gyfraniad enfawr fel cyfieithydd llawer o awduron yr 20fed ganrif, yn eu plith Saunders Lewis, Islwyn Ffowc Elis a Rhydwen Williams. Yr ydym wedi cynnwys cyfieithiadau gan eraill, y cynharaf mae’n debyg oedd Ieuan Brydydd Hir yn y 18fed ganrif. Roeddent yn bwysig er mwyn i’r darllenydd gael blas o gyfieithiadau o ganrifoedd eraill.Where fine translations exist they have been used. The three masters of translations from Welsh into English in the 20th century were Gwyn Williams, Tony Conran and Joseph Clancy. I shall add the name of Meic Stephens to that distinguished trio for his huge contribution as translator of many of our 20th century writers including Saunders Lewis, Islwyn Ffowc Elis and Rhydwen Williams. We have included translations by others, the earliest I think was Ieuan Brydydd Hir in the 18th century. We thought it important that readers should have a taste of translations from other centuries.
Ac eithrio rhai testunau Lladin, yn arbennig er mwyn bwrw golwg ar hanes cynnar yr Eglwys Geltaidd, ac ychydig o ddarnau byr gan Gildas, Nennius, Sieffre o Fynwy a Gerallt Gymro, rydym wedi osgoi cynnwys testunau o unrhyw iaith heblaw’r Gymraeg. With the exception of some Latin texts notably those casting light on the history of the Celtic Church, and a few short extracts from Gildas, Nennius, Geoffrey of Monmouth and Gerald of Wales we have avoided including texts from any other language but Welsh.
Gwyn Griffiths, mis Tachwedd 2017.Gwyn Griffiths, November 2017.

Nod yr Old Tongue Tongue yw cyflwyno naws a blas yr hyn sydd orau mewn llenyddiaeth Gymraeg, o’r cyfnod cynnar i ddatblygiadau gwych heddiw.

Cyhoeddir The Old Red Tongue (golygyddion: Gwyn Griffiths a Meic Stephens) gan Francis Boutle, Llundain, pris £30 / The Old Red Tongue (editors: Gwyn Griffiths and Meic Stephens) is published by Francis Boutle, London, price £30.

Gwyn Griffiths (ar y chwith) a Meic Stephens (ar y dde).

Gwyn Griffiths a Meic Stephens
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