Cadw y tir, ein ceidwad da,
Cynog o wlad Frecania!
Torres y gormes dy gig,Hywel Dafi, before 1500
Dy forddwyd di, o fawrddig.
Yno y daeth, enaid ethawl,
Arf i ti i orfod diawl
Keep safe the land, our good guardian,
Cynog of the land of Brecania!
The oppressor sliced your flesh,
your thigh, with great ferocity.
then, o select soul, there came
a weapon for you to overcome the devil …
St Cynog, about 1910, Brecon Cathedral, by James Powell & Sons. Photo: Martin Crampin
A fifteenth-century poem to St Cynog in the hand of Llywelyn Siôn, NLW Llanstephan 47, c.1590– c.1613.
Courtesy National Library of Wales
A fifteenth-century poem by Hywel Dafi tells a story of how Saint Cynog, son of Brychan Brycheiniog, sacrificed himself in a battle against monsters afflicting the people of Ceredigion and Brecon. The miraculous weapon he wields is the gold torque which is known to have been venerated as a relic in his church at Merthyr Cynog during the medieval period. Part of the story is also known from an eighteenth-century folk tale, however the allusive style of the medieval verse ensures that many details of the original tale remain unclear.
Over sixty such Welsh poems to saints survive from the Middle Ages: the genre is unusual in a European context and clearly grows out of the deeply rooted tradition of praise poetry to secular lords.